Light Heavyweight World/Lineal Champions (175lbs)
Georges Carpentier (12/10/1920 nd-w co 4 Battling Levinsky – 24/9/1922)
Following a successful defence of the world title against Ted Kid Lewis, Carpentier would next defend the title against the wild, hard-hitting Battling Siki, a Senegalese plying his wares in France, who had wins over Rene De Vos, Tom Berry and Harry Reeve (3). In 61 contests, he had 49 wins, three draws and nine defeats since starting out in 1912.
Battling Siki (24/9/1922 w co 6 Georges Carpentier – 17/3/1923)
Stripped of the IBU version of the world title, Siki’s first defence of the lineal title would come against the clever, box-fighting Mike McTigue, who had put 122 contests (55 wins, two draws, nine defeats, two no contests and 54 no-decision affairs) under his belt since starting out in 1914, beating men such as Al Thiel (3), Frank Carbone, Jackie Clark (2), Alex Costica (2), George Robinson, Gus Platts, Buck Crouse (2), Jeff Smith, Young Fisher, Johnny Basham and Harry Reeve. Many of his bouts were of the no-decision variety, but they had helped furnish him with the skills required to operate at the highest level.
Mike McTigue (17/3/1923 w pts 20 Battling Siki – 30/5/1925)
Having successfully defended against Tommy Loughran, Young Stribling (2), Frank Carpenter, Jimmy King and Mickey Walker and with Gene Tunney seemingly preparing for an assault on the heavyweights, McTigue’s sixth defence of the lineal title would be against Paul Berlenbach. Known as ‘Paralysing Paul’ due to his tremendous punching power, Berlenbach was an open, walk-in fighter who had got his opportunity to challenge for the title after beating the former champion, Battling Siki (w rsc 10 at Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York on 13 March), in what was an eliminating contest. An interesting character who had become deaf-mute when contracting scarlet fever as a youngster, Berlenbach had also been a double Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) champion wrestler before turning to boxing. In a record comprising 28 contests, Berlenbach had put together 24 wins, two draws and one loss as well as participating in a no-decision affair.
Paul Berlenbach (30/5/1925 w pts 15 Mike McTigue – 16/7/1926)
Even though they had failed to recognise a world light heavyweight champion since stripping Battling Siki, the members of the IBU voted at their conference in July to accept the winner of the forthcoming Berlenbach v Jack Delaney contest as the supreme title holder. Despite losing to Berlenbach in his previous attempt to win the title, following wins over Mike McTigue (w rsc 4 at Madison Square Garden on 15 March 1926) and Maxie Rosenbloom (w pts 10 at The Arena, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 22 March 1926), Delaney quickly earned himself a return. With 73 fights on the clock, comprising 60 wins, two draws, seven defeats, two no-decisions and two no contests, the sharp-shooting Delaney had also posted victories over George Robinson (2), Steve Choynski, Frank Carbone, Jack McCarron, Lou Bogash, Augie Ratner, Jackie Clark (2), Tommy Loughran, Frank Moody, Tiger Flowers and Johnny Risko. Prior to this, Berlenbach had turned back challenges by Tony Marullo, Jimmy Slattery, Delaney and Young Stribling.
Jack Delaney (16/7/1926 w pts 15 Paul Berlenbach – 10/8/1927)
Although the Ring Record Book shows Delaney as having relinquished the world title in June 1927 after just one defence against the Jamaica Kid, the 9 August edition of Boxing (normally three weeks out of date) reported that Delaney would be relinquishing the championship sometime during the following week in order to fight the Spanish heavyweight, Paulino Uzcudun. Finally, on 10 August, Delaney confirmed that he was relinquishing the title forthwith in a letter to the NYSAC. Further to Delaney moving on, when Tommy Loughran, who had won the NYSAC version of the title when outscoring Mike McTigue on on 7 October 1927, was matched against Jimmy Slattery, the NBA title holder, the world title would also be on the line. Prior to meeting Slattery, the skilful Loughran had run up 102 contests, comprising 47 wins, five draws, seven losses and 43 no-decision affairs. As an excellent counter puncher, who could hit back hard when he had to, he had beaten men of the calibre of Young Fisher, Harry Greb, Ted Moore, Johnny Wilson, Tony Marullo (3), Yale Okun (2), Georges Carpentier, George Manley, Johnny Risko (2), Chuck Wiggins and Young Stribling. His opponent, Slattery, with speed and accuracy to spare, had won the vacant NBA title when outpointing Maxie Rosenloom over ten rounds on 30 August 1927 and was coming to the ring with 88 wins, five defeats and two no-decision contests under his belt since turning pro in November 1921.
Tommy Loughran (12/12/1927 w pts 15 Jimmy Slattery – 3/9/1929)
Loughran relinquished his title on 3 September, following successful world title defences against Leo Lomski, Pete Latzo (2), Mickey Walker and Jim Braddock, in order to campaign as a heavyweight. Supported by the NBA, when Maxie Rosenbloom met Jimmy Slattery, the NYSAC champion, the world title would next be at stake on 25 June 1930. Rosenbloom would never satisfy everybody with his style of boxing, always moving, cuffing and making himself a difficult target. Prior to taking on Slattery, a man who had four victories over him, he had put together 138 contests, made up of 94 wins, ten draws, 17 defeats and 17 no-decisions, beating George Courtney, Frank Moody, Dave Shade (2), Lou Scozza, Jamaica Kid, Johnny Wilson (2), Tiger Flowers, Tony Marullo, Pete Latzo, Jack McVey (2), Ted Kid Lewis, Tiger Thomas, Leo Lomski (2), Charley Belanger, Slattery, Joe Skyra, Jim Braddock, Yale Okun and Ace Hudkins. A former NBA champion, Slattery, with 104 wins, eight defeats, three no-decisions and one no contest on his tab, had won the vacant NYSAC version of the title when beating Lou Scozza on 10 February 1930.
Maxie Rosenbloom (25/6/1930 w pts 15 Jimmy Slattery – 16/11/1934)
On 19 July 1934, after Rosenbloom had been instructed by the NYSAC to sign for a defence against either Knight or Bob Olin within 30 days, it was announced that he would meet the latter in New York on 16 August. Prior to this, he had made two defences of the world title, against Abie Bain and Jimmy Slattery, and had successfully defended the lineal crown against Lou Scozza, Adolf Heuser, Bob Godwin, Mickey Walker and Joe Knight after the NBA had decided not to support him in September 1931. However, on 2 August 1934 it was learned that contracts of the prospective contest had not even been submitted to the NYSAC due to an enquiry in progress which was looking into whether Frank Bachman, Rosenbloom’s manager, was also involved with Olin in a financial capacity. The fight was finally given clearance by the NYSAC on 5 October 1934 when it was announced that it would go ahead on 16 November. Olin had hardly set the world alight, but in 61 contests, of which he had won 44, drawn four and lost 13, he had boxed his way to number three in the ratings with two recent wins over Bob Godwin and had beaten fighters such as Joe Banovic, Al Gainer, Willie Bush and Don Petrin along the way. A hurtful puncher, he was clever with good defensive skills and was durable.
Bob Olin (16/11/1934 w pts 15 Maxie Rosenbloom – 31/10/1935)
Within a few weeks of his victory over Rosenbloom the NBA stated that they would be happy to recognise Olin as the champion, but would look to him to meet the winner of a fight between John Henry Lewis and Tony Shucco, won by the former on points over ten rounds at Madison Square Garden on 14 December. Having secured a lineal title shot, Lewis would come to the ring with a record of 48 wins, four draws and six defeats, beating among others, Yale Okun (2), Jim Braddock, Fred Lenhart, Lou Scozza, Maxie Rosenbloom (2), Don Petrin, Emilio Martinez and Olin. However, somewhat surprisingly, he lost to Rosenbloom and Abe Feldman immediately prior to meeting Olin.
John Henry Lewis (31/10/1935 w pts 15 Bob Olin – 19/6/1939)
Following five successful defences of the lineal title, against Jock McAvoy, Len Havey, Olin, Emilio Martinez and Al Gainer, and further to his defeat at the hands of Joe Louis in a crack at the heavyweight title, Lewis went forward to defend against Dave Clark in the latter’s home city on 31 March. However, the fight was prevented from taking place when two doctors failed Lewis regarding his eyesight. At this point, John Roxborough, Clark’s manager, claimed the title on behalf of his charge, while Grippo wrote to the NBA asking them to consider Melio Bettina, the NYSAC title holder, as their champion. Both claims were immediately rebuffed. Nat Fleischer, of The Ring magazine, then attacked the NYSAC for allowing Lewis to fight Joe Louis when it must have been obvious that his eyesight had already failed. It did not stop there, however. With Lewis still claiming the championship, he travelled to England to make a defence against Len Harvey in London, but after the BBBoC doctors inspected his eyesight on arriving he was immediately stopped from fighting in Britain. Prior to that, the NBA had actually implied that Lewis’ eye damage was not as bad as first thought and were still considering him to be their champion. Back in America, Lewis was forced to retire on 19 June 1939 when banned by the NBA from fighting due to failing eyesight. Lewis’ enforced retirement was followed by a match made between the top-rated Bettina and Billy Conn, ranked second. With the vacant NBA and NYSAC titles on the line the contest should be seen as providing a new lineal champion. Conn, who had won 45 and drawn two of 56 since turning pro at 17 four years earlier, had twice beaten the reigning NBA middleweight champion, Solly Krieger, as well as the NYSAC equivalent, Fred Apostoli. Fast on his feet with hand-speed to match, Conn was a box-fighter of the highest order. With 45 wins, two draws and six defeats on his record since October 1934, Bettina had won the vacant NYSAC version of the title when stopping Tiger Jack Fox inside nine rounds on 3 February 1939 and as a clever southpaw would not be an easy man to cast aside.
Billy Conn (13/7/1939 w pts 15 Melio Bettina – 3/6/1941)
At the end of December, the NBA withdrew recognition from Conn in favour of a match between Anton Christoforidis, who had recently beaten Jimmy Bivins (w pts 10 at The Arena, Cleveland, Ohio on 2 December), and Melio Bettina for their version of the vacant title. According to NBA rules, Conn relinquished the light heavyweight title on 16 December, the day he signed to meet Joe Louis for the heavyweight crown. At that time, Conn had defended the lineal title on three occasions, against Bettina and Gus Lesnevich (2). Then, with the likelihood that Conn would remain among the heavyweights, the NYSAC set up an elimination series in which Jimmy Webb, The Ring magazine’s number one rated light heavy, stopped Tommy Tucker in the ninth round of a scheduled 15 at Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York on 21 February 1941. Ultimately, it would be a long and fruitless wait for Webb as Conn only vacated the NYSAC version of the title on 3 June 1941. Webb went on to lose his next three fights to Mose Brown, thus putting him out of further contention. Following the decision by Conn to move on, the NBA champion, Gus Lesnevich, was matched against Tami Mauriello. With the vacant NYSAC title on the line the contest would also involve the lineal title. The rugged, hard-hitting Lesnevich, with 51 wins, five draws and seven defeats on his slate, had won the NBA title when outscoring Anton Christoforidis on 22 May 1941, while the tough, pressure fighting Mauriello had suffered just one defeat at the hands of Billy Soose in 33 fights since joining the paid ranks in July 1939. In what would be his first big fight up at light heavy, Mauriello had beaten men of the stature of Erich Seelig, Steve Belloise and Steve Mamakos among the middleweights. Although shown in some record books as being born on 4 January 1920, according to his family he first saw the light of day on 24 May 1923, which would have made him 18 at the time of the fight.
Gus Lesnevich (26/8/1941 w pts 15 Tami Mauriello – 26/7/1948)
Having already had an unsuccessful crack at Lesnevich two years earlier when holding the British version of the world title after defeating Len Harvey, Freddie Mills signed up to meet the American in a return match. Known as ‘fearless Freddie’ due to his penchant for taking on much bigger men than himself, he would come to the ring as the British, British Empire and European champion. A hard hitter, favouring the left hook, Freddie had 75 wins, six draws and 16 defeats on his record and had twice beaten Jock McAvoy on his way to the top. Prior to the contest, Lesnevich had defended the lineal title against Mauriello and turned back Mills and Billy Fox (2) for the world title.
Freddie Mills (26/7/1948 w pts 15 Gus Lesnevich – 24/1/1950)
With Mills contracted to fight South Africa’s Johnny Ralph in November for the right to meet the British and British Empire heavyweight champion, Bruce Woodcock, during the following summer, the NBA set up an eliminating contest between Joey Maxim and Lesnevich to decide his next opponent. Billed for the American title, Maxim outpointed Lesnevich over 15 rounds at The Garden, Cincinnati, Ohio on 23 May 1949, which was followed by the London promoter, Jack Solomons, provisionally booking the winner to meet Mills for the world title early in 1950 in what would be the latter's first defence. Having been a pro since 1941, Maxim, who could both box and punch, had run up 88 fights, losing 16 mainly against heavyweights, and had recently lost a 15-round split decision to Ezzard Charles in a heavyweight elimination tournament. With wins over Lee Oma, Nate Bolden (2), Red Burman, Lou Brooks (2), Curtis Sheppard (2), Buddy Scott, Buddy Walker (2), Ralph DeJohn, Phil Muscato (2), Jersey Joe Walcott, Jimmy Webb, Bob Foxworth, Olle Tandberg, Tony Bosnich, Joe Kahut (2), Bob Satterfield, Jimmy Bivins and Pat McCafferty, he was certainly ready.
Joey Maxim (24/1/1950 w co 10 Freddie Mills – 17/12/1952)
Having successfully defended the world title twice, against Bob Murphy and Sugar Ray Robinson, Maxim would make his next defence against Archie Moore. At the age of 39 and after 161 fights (133 wins, eight draws, 19 defeats and one no contest), and almost 17 years in the ring, Moore would finally get the chance he richly deserved. A crafty fighter with superb ring sense who conserved his energy and had a good shot in either hand, Moore’s victims read like a veritable who’s who of the leading men of the day. They included Sammy Slaughter, Ron Richards (2), Fred Henneberry, Jack Chase (4), Nate Bolden (2), Lloyd Marshall (2), Cocoa Kid, Holman Williams, Colion Chaney, Curtis Sheppard (2), Rusty Payne, Bert Lytell (2), Jimmy Bivins (4), Charley Doc Williams (3), Oakland Billy Smith (3), Leonard Morrow (2), Alabama Kid (2), Bob Satterfield, Harold Johnson (3), Chubby Wright, Jimmy Slade and Clarence Henry. Although Moore beat most of the men who posted wins over him, he had failed to overcome both Ezzard Charles and Eddie Booker on three occasions, while Charley Burley defeated him in the only contest between them.
Archie Moore (17/12/1952 w pts 15 Joey Maxim – 9/2/1962)
Further to eight successful defences of the world title, against Maxim (2), Harold Johnson, Carl Bobo Olson, Yolade Pompey, Tony Anthony and Yvon Durelle, and turning back Giulio Rinaldi in a battle for the lineal championship after the NBA had stripped him on 25 October 1960, Moore forfeited NY/EBU recognition on 9 February 1962 for failing to defend against either Harold Johnson or Doug Jones. At the same time the lineal title automatically became vacant. Although the NBA champion, Harold Johnson, had remained idle while waiting to accommodate Archie Moore, following the NYSAC taking the latter’s title away it was announced that the winner of Johnson v Jones would be recognised by them as the champion. The skilful Johnson, who been around since 1946, had been beaten four times by Moore, twice in world title fights, but had won the vacant NBA title when defeating Jesse Bowdry on 7 February 1961 prior to making successful defences against Von Clay and Eddie Cotton. With a record of 66 wins and eight defeats to his name, including a win over Moore, Johnson had victories over men such as Arturo Godoy, Henry Hall (3), Jimmy Bivins, Bert Lytell, Clarence Henry, Bob Satterfield (2), Nino Valdes, Jimmy Slade (2), Paul Andrews (2), Marty Marshall, Sonny Ray and Eddie Machen. Having turned pro in August 1958, Jones had put together 19 wins and one defeat at the hands of Machen in his previous contest. A good puncher, Jones had beaten Von Clay (3), Carl Bobo Olson and Peter Rademacher.
Harold Johnson (12/5/1962 w pts 15 Doug Jones – 1/6/1963)
Following his win over Gustav Scholz in a world title defence the authorities were looking for Johnson’s second defence of the world title to be against the number one contender, Mauro Mina. After Mina beat Eddie Cotton (w pts 10 at the National Stadium, Lima, Peru on 18 January 1963), the way was clear for the match to be made. Unfortunately, within a matter of weeks of the announcement that Johnson would be meeting Mina in Nevada on 4 May 1963 it was reported that Mina had an arthritic right hand, as well as a serious eye problem, and was out of the fight. It was then announced that Henry Hank would replace Mina, the date being shifted to 1 June 1963, but before anyone could even hold their breath Hank suffered a fractured cheekbone in training. Following that, Willie Pastrano, having beaten Wayne Thornton (w pts 10 at the Convention Centre, Las Vegas, Nevada on 4 May 1963), was quickly drafted in. Known as ‘Willie the Wisp’ for his movement around the ring, his hand-speed and ability to avoid punches coming his way, Pastrano had turned pro at 16 as a welterweight and had boxed for long periods as a heavyweight. Not even rated when he got the call, Pastrano had won 57 of 76 contests, beating the likes of Jimmy Martinez (2), Jacques Royer-Crecy, Bobby Dykes, Al Andrews, Joey Maxim, Chuck Spieser (2), Paddy Young, Rex Layne, Pat McMurtry, Charley Norkus, John Holman, Dick Richardson, Willi Besmanoff, Brian London (who won their return), Joe Bygraves, Franco Cavicchi, Jerry Luedee, Alonzo Johnson, Sonny Ray, Tom McNeeley and Thornton.
Willie Pastrano (1/6/1963 w pts 15 Harold Johnson – 30/3/1965)
Having come through two successful world title defences, against Gregorio Peralta and Terry Downes, Pastrano’s next challenger would be Jose Torres, who beat the former middleweight champion, Carl Bobo Olson (w co 1 at Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York on 27 November), in what was an eliminating contest. Prior to the fight, Teddy Brenner, the Madison Square Garden matchmaker, had announced that the winner would probably meet Pastrano on 1 March 1965, which was ultimately pushed on a few weeks. Beaten by Laszlo Papp in the 1956 Olympic finals, Torres turned pro in 1958 and was soon making an impression, beating Joe Shaw, Al Andrews, Randy Sandy (2), Don Fullmer, Jose Gonzalez, Wilbert McClure, Gomeo Brennan and Olson. As a tough, aggressive fighter with a solid punch in both hands, coming into the fight his record comprised 34 wins, one draw and a single defeat.
Jose Torres (30/3/1965 w rsc 9 Willie Pastrano – 16/12/1966)
Despite recently losing his world middleweight title Dick Tiger was given an immediate crack at Torres, who would be making his fourth world title defence, having turned back Wayne Thornton, Eddie Cotton and Chic Calderwood. With a record of 53 wins, three draws and 17 defeats, the durable Tiger had already proved himself as a middleweight and was backing himself to do likewise at light heavy.
Dick Tiger (16/12/1966 w pts 15 Jose Torres – 24/5/1968)
After defeating Torres in a return and beating Roger Rouse, Tiger’s next world title defence would be against Bob Foster, who had taken part in 33 contests (29 wins and four defeats) since turning pro in March 1961. A dangerous power-puncher who made good use of his height-and-reach advantages over the majority of opponents, Foster had wins over Henry Hank (2), Andres Antonio Selpa and Eddie Cotton (w co 3 at The Coliseum, Washington DC on 8 May), in what was effectively an eliminator with both men weighing in at 174lbs.
Bob Foster (24/5/1968 w co 4 Dick Tiger – 16/9/1974)
Foster relinquished the world title on announcing his retirement on 16 September, having come through ten successful defences of the world title, against Frankie DePaula, Andy Kendall, Roger Rouse, Mark Tessman, Vicente Rondon, Mike Quarry, Chris Finegan, Pierre Fourie (2) and Jorge Ahumada, and Hal Carroll, Ray Anderson, Tommy Hicks and Brian Kelly for the lineal crown after temporarily forfeiting WBA recognition. This was followed by a match made for the vacant WBC title between the top-rated Ahumada and the number two-ranked John Conteh. The contest should also be seen as involving the lineal crown. Ahumada was a tough operator who had risen to the top of the ratings despite being beaten three times inside the distance by his compatriot, Victor Galindez, and had put together 41 wins, two draws and five defeats since turning pro in 1968. His opponent, Conteh, a box-fighter with a great left hand, was seen as one of the best British fighters produced for a long time. He was also a solid puncher with both hands, having scored 20 inside-the-distance wins from 26 fights, with just one defeat.
John Conteh (1/10/1974 w pts 15 Jorge Ahumada – 17/6/1978)
Having made three successful defences of the lineal title, against Lonnie Bennett, Yaqui Lopez and Len Hutchins, Conteh was matched against Mate Parlov who had beaten Miguel Angel Cuello to win the WBC title that was taken away from him. After defeating Conteh, the new champion would make his first lineal title defence against Conteh in a return. A former top amateur, who was a world champion, and a gold medallist at the Olympic Games and European Games (2), Parlov would bring a 23-fight pro record into his contest with Conteh, comprising 21 wins, one draw and one defeat. Although amateurish at times Parlov was a skilful southpaw who was difficult to pin down, despite coming unstuck when opposed to Matthew Franklin (Matthew Saad Muhammad).
Mate Parlov (17/6/1978 w pts 15 John Conteh – 2/12/1978)
Parlov would make his first lineal title defence against Marvin Johnson, a fellow southpaw, who had beaten Eddie Owens, Ray Anderson and Tom Bethea. A big puncher, in a record comprising 21 wins and two defeats only Matthew Franklin and Lottie Mwale had got the better of him.
Marvin Johnson (2/12/1978 w rsc 10 Mate Parlov – 22/4/1979)
Johnson’s first lineal title challenger would be Matthew Franklin, a man who had stopped him inside 12 rounds of a battle for the vacant NABF title at the Spectrum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 26 July 1977. Since then Franklin had successfully defended three times at the same venue, against Billy Douglas, Richie Kates and Yaqui Lopez, and fully warranted a crack at the championship. The big-hitting Franklin would come to the ring with 23 wins (15 inside the distance) wins, two draws and three losses.
Matthew Saad Muhammad (22/4/1979 w rsc 8 Marvin Johnson – 19/12/1981)
Having beaten Mike Rossman and James Scott in his last two fights, and rated at number three by The Ring magazine, Dwight Braxton (Dwight Muhammad Qawi) would be the man selected for Muhammad's ninth lineal title defence, John Conteh (2), Louis Pergaud, Yaqui Lopez, Lottie Mwale, Vonzell Johnson, Murray Sutherland and Jerry Martin having been turned back. The heavy-handed, two-fisted Braxton had lost just once in 17 contests against Johnny Davis, before gaining revenge at a later date. The fight against Scott, held in Rahway Prison, New Jersey, where the latter was serving time, was made even more interesting by the fact that Braxton had also served a term there.
Following three lineal title defences, against Jerry Martin, Saad Muhammad and Eddie Davis, Qawi’s next contest would be against Michael Spinks, the 1976 Olympic gold medal winner at middleweight, and would involve the world title. Spinks had beaten Eddie Mustafa Muhammad to win the WBA title and had made successful defences against Vonzell Johnson, Mustafa Wasajja, Murray Sutherland, Jerry Celestine and Johnny Davis, having previously defeated men such as Murray Sutherland, Yaqui Lopez, Willie Taylor and Marvin Johnson (w co 4 at the International Resorts Centre, Atlantic City, New Jersey on 28 March 1981) in what was effectively an eliminator. With 22 straight wins, 16 of them inside the distance, Spinks had already shown that his left jab could keep opponents at bay prior to him unloading heavy shots to both head and body.
Michael Spinks (18/3/1983 w pts 15 Dwight Muhammad Qawi – 3/11/1985)
After Spinks had won the IBF version of the heavyweight championship from Larry Holmes (w pts 15 at the Riviera Hotel, Las Vegas on 21 September), he was stripped of the 175lbs title by the WBC on 10 October under their ruling that no champion could hold titles in more than one division at the same time. That was followed by the WBA vacating the title on 3 November when he showed no interest in defending his 175lbs crown. At a press conference held on 5 November Spinks officially relinquished the world title after making four successful defences, against Oscar Rivadeneyra, Eddie Davis and David Sears. The lineal title was next up for grabs when Virgil Hill, rated the top man in the division, defended his WBA title against the third-ranked Thomas Hearns. Unbeaten after 30 fights, Hill had won the WBA title when beating Leslie Stewart on 5 September 1987 and had successfully defended the belt against Rufino Angulo, Jean-Marie Emebe, Ramzi Hassan, Willie Featherstone, Bobby Czyz, Joe Lasisi, James Kinchen, David Vedder, Tyrone Frazier and Mike Peak. A champion at five different weights, Hearns, who had won 49 (40 inside the distance) fights, drawn one and lost three of 53 contests, had beaten Dennis Andries to win the WBC title on 7 March 1989 before dropping back down to middleweight a few months later. Both men had excellent skills, but Hearns was the more devastating one-punch hitter.
Thomas Hearns (3/6/1991 w pts 12 Virgil Hill – 20/3/1992)
Iran Barkley, the former WBA middleweight champion and current IBF super middleweight champion, would be Hearns' first lineal title challenger. Barkley, who already held a victory over Hearns and had a reputation as a big puncher, would be bringing a record comprising 28 wins and seven defeats. Never afraid to take chances, along with Hearns, Barkley had also beaten Wilford Scypion, James Kinchen, Michael Olajide and Darrin Van Horn, while losing to Robbie Sims, Sumbu Kalambay, Roberto Duran, Michael Nunn and Nigel Benn.
Iran Barkley (20/3/1992 w pts 12 Thomas Hearns – 10/4/1992)
Failing to make a defence of the lineal title, Barkley relinquished the WBA version of the light heavyweight title on 10 April to concentrate on defending his IBF super middleweight crown. Further to that, the lineal title remained vacant for over four years until the top-ranked Henry Maske defended his IBF belt against the WBA champion, Virgil Hill, in a unification battle. Hill was rated at number two by The Ring magazine. Maske, a skilful southpaw, had won the IBF title when beating Charles Williams on 20 March 1993 and had successfully defended it against Anthony Hembrick, David Vedder, Ernesto Magdaleno, Andrea Magi, Iran Barkley, Egerton Marcus, Graciano Rocchigiani (2), Duran Williams and John Scully, while racking up 30 straight wins since turning pro in May 1990 after winning Olympic and world titles as an amateur. In his second term as WBA champion, Hill had regained his old title when defeating Frank Tate on 29 September 1992 and had turned back Adolpho Washington, Fabrice Tiozzo, Segio Merani, Saul Montana, Guy Waters, Tate, Crawford Ashley, Drake Thadzi and Lou Del Valle.
Virgil Hill (23/11/1996 w pts 12 Henry Maske – 13/6/1997)
Hill’s first lineal title challenger would be the former European amateur champion, Dariusz Michalczewski, who had won the WBO title when beating Leeonzer Barber 10 September 1994 and had successfully defended it against Roberto Dominguez Perez, Paul Carlo, Everardo Armento, Phillippe Michel, Asluddin Umarov, Christophe Girard (2) and Garciano Rocchigiani. With 33 (24 inside the distance) wins since turning pro in September 1991, Michalczewski was a hard-punching, aggressive pressure fighter.
Dariusz Michalczewski (13/6/1997 w pts 12 Virgil Hill – 13/6/1999)
Although remaining the WBO champion, Michalczewski forfeited the lineal title on 13 June due to him failing to meet a top-five rated opponent for two years despite him making successful defences against Nicky Piper, Darren Zenner, Andrea Magi, Mark Prince, Drake Thadzi and Muslim Biarslanov. Further to that, the top-ranked Roy Jones, the holder of the IBF, WBA and WBC titles, should be seen as the lineal champion. Jones had first picked up the WBC light heavy title after Fabrice Tiozzo was stripped on 1 February 1997 due to continued inactivity. On the decision, Jones became a world champion at three different weights, having been an undefeated IBF champion at both middleweight and super middleweight. Quick of hand and foot, with power to spare and superb balance, he would bring 40 wins and one defeat to the ring when defending all three belts plus the lineal title against David Telesco. After beating men of the calibre of Jorge Vaca, Jorge Castro, Glenn Wolfe, Bernard Hopkins, Thulani Malinga, Thomas Tate, James Toney, Antoine Byrd, Vinny Pazienza, Tony Thornton and Eric Lucas, the memory of being cheated out of a gold medal at the 1988 Olympic Games was all but extinguished. Although losing the title by disqualification to Montell Griffin at the first time of asking, Jones regained his belt by a first-round kayo before adding the WBA title to his list of honours when defeating Lou Del Valle. Further to successfully defending both belts against Richard Frazier, he next added Reggie Johnson’s IBF title to his collection.
Roy Jones (13/6/1999 Appointed Champion – 15/5/2004)
Having successfully defended the lineal title against David Telesco, Richard Hall, Eric Harding, Derrick Harmon, Julio Cesar Gonzalez, Glen Kelly and Clinton Woods, and following the closeness of Jones' eighth defence against Antonio Tarver, the latter was signed up for a return. At this stage of his career the hard-hitting southpaw had lost just twice in 23 fights, and having reversed the defeat by Eric Harding he was looking to do likewise with Jones. A top-class amateur, winning a World Championship gold medal in 1995, as a pro he had wins over John Williams, Reggie Johnson and Montell Griffin, beating the latter for the vacant IBF and WBC titles prior to handing back both belts in order to take on Jones.
Antonio Tarver (15/5/2004 w rsc 2 Roy Jones – 18/12/2004)
Tarver's next contest would be against the dangerous Glen Johnson in a fight that would be recognised by The Ring magazine as being for the lineal title. An out-and-out warrior, with 41 wins, two draws and nine defeats to his name, Johnson won the vacant IBF title when beating Clinton Woods on 6 February 2004, having drawn their first encounter. After making a successful defence against Roy Jones to set up the meeting with Tarver it came as no surprise when Johnson handed back the IBF belt on 8 November.
Glen Johnson (18/12/2004 w pts 12 Antonio Tarver – 18/6/2005)
Following Johnson's victory over Antonio Tarver, both men were signed up for an immediate return after what had been a close encounter.
Antonio Tarver (18/6/2005 w pts 12 Glen Johnson – 10/6/2006)
The 41-year-old Bernard Hopkins would be Tarver’s first defence of the lineal title, having moved up from middleweight after two defeats at the hands of Jermain Taylor. He had held all four belts at 160lbs as well as the lineal title, and in 52 contests, comprising 46 wins, two draws, one of them being technical, and four defeats, he had proved to be an extremely adept box-fighter who could punch hard with either hand. Throughout his career, Hopkins had been happy to take on and beat the very best, including men of the calibre of Lupe Aquino, Segundo Mercado (2), John David Jackson, Glen Johnson, Andrew Council, Robert Allen (2), Antwun Echols (2), Keith Holmes, Felix Trinidad, William Joppy, Oscar De La Hoya and Howard Eastman. Apart from Taylor only Roy Jones had beaten him.
Bernard Hopkins (10/6/2006 w pts 12 Antonio Tarver – 19/4/2008)
Further to moving up from super middle, having been the IBF/WBO and lineal champion, and with a perfect record of 44 straight wins, Calzaghe would be Hopkins' second lineal title challenger after the latter had turned back Ronald Wright. All that the skilful, hard-hitting Welsh southpaw wanted at this stage of his career was a chance to meet the best, and Hopkins was certainly in that category.
Joe Calzaghe (19/4/2008 w pts 12 Bernard Hopkins – 5/2/2009)
Following a victory over Roy Jones in his only defence, when Calzaghe announced his retirement on 5 February 2009, the lineal title automatically became vacant. Further to that, when the third-ranked Jean Pascal defended his WBC title against the top-rated Chad Dawson on 14 August 2010 it would also involve the lineal title. Pascal had won the WBC title when outpointing Adrian Diaconu on 19 June 2009 and had made successful defences against Silvio Branco and Diaconu, while running up 25 wins in 26 fights. His opponent, Dawson, a tall southpaw with a solid jab and right cross, had earlier won the WBC title when beating Tomasz Adamek on 3 February 2007. Dawson had then gone on to make successful defences against Jesus Ruiz, Epifanio Mendoza, Glen Johnson and Antonio Tarver (2) before handing back the belt on 27 May 2009, and with 29 wins and one no contest under his belt he was no easy touch.
Jean Pascal (14/8/2010 w tdec 11 Chad Dawson – 21/5/2011)
Having drawn with Pascal in the latter's first lineal title defence on 18 December 2010 the 46-year-old Hopkins (175) got the rematch he badly wanted in his next contest.
Bernard Hopkins (21/5/2011 w pts 12 Jean Pascal – 28/4/2012)
Following a second-round technical draw against Chad Dawson in defence of his WBC and lineal title last time out, Hopkins was contracted to meet Dawson again. A former undefeated WBC champion, Dawson's record stood at 30 wins, one defeat, one no contest and the technical draw.
Chad Dawson (28/4/2012 w pts 12 Bernard Hopkins – 8/6/2013)
Dawson’s first challenger for the WBC and lineal titles would be Adonis Stevenson, a heavy-handed southpaw with 20 (17 inside the distance) wins and one defeat on his record. The defeat at the hands of Darnell Boone was avenged immediately prior to meeting Dawson. He had also knocked out Jesus Gonzalez in an IBF eliminator and stopped Noe Tulio Gonzalez Alcoba.
Adonis Stevenson (8/6/2013 w rsc 1 Chad Dawson – 24/11/2015)
Although still recognised as the WBC champion, Stevenson forfeited the lineal title on 24 November after failing to meet a top-five-rated opponent for over two years despite defending his belt six times, against Tavoris Cloud, Tony Bellew, Andrzej Fonfara, Dmitry Sukhotsky, Sakio Bika and Tommy Karpency. At this moment in time, the top-ranked Sergey Kovalev, the holder of the IBF/WBA and WBO belts, should be seen as the lineal champion. With 28 wins and one technical draw currently on his tab, the heavy-handed Kovalev had taken the WBO title from Nigel Cleverly on 17 August 2013 and made successful defences against Ismayl Sillakh, Cedric Agnew and Blake Caparello before adding Bernard Hopkins’ IBF and WBA belts to his collection. He then defended all three belts against Pascal and Nadjib Mohammedi before giving Pascal another opportunity.
Sergey Kovalev (24/11/2015 Appointed Champion – 19/11/2016)
Having left the super middleweight division towards the end of 2015 as a former undefeated WBA/WBC champion, and becoming the fourth-ranked fighter in the light heavies, Andre Ward would be Kovalev’s third lineal title challenger after the latter had turned back Jean Pascal and Isaac Chilemba. Extremely effective on the front or back foot and lightning quick, Ward, who was unbeaten in 30 contests since turning pro in December 2004, was looking to become a champion at two weights.
Andre Ward (19/11/2016 w pts 12 Sergey Kovalev – 21/9/2017)
Following Ward’s announcement that he was retiring on 21 September, after beating Sergey Kovalev in a return, the IBF, WBA, WBO and lineal titles were automatically vacated. Further to that, when the top-rated Kovalev was signed up to defend his WBO title against Eleider Alvarez, ranked at number five, it would also involve the lineal title. The hard-hitting Kovalev had regained one of his old titles when stopping Vyacheslav Shabranskyy on 25 November 2017 and had successfully defended it against Igor Mikhalkin. His opponent, a former top amateur who turned pro in 2009, Alvarez had run up 23 wins since turning over, beating the likes of Shawn Hawk, Edison Miranda, Isaac Chilemba, Robert Berridge, Lucian Bute and Jean Pascal.
Eleider Alvarez (4/8/2018 w rsc 7 Sergey Kovalev – 2/2/2019)
With a rematch clause involved Alvarez and Sergey Kovalev would meet next time out for the WBO and lineal titles.
Sergey Kovalev (2/2/2019 w pts 12 Eleider Alvarez – 2/11/2019)
After defeating Anthony Yarde, Kovalev’s second defence would be against Saul Alvarez, the current lineal middleweight champion, who had also been a former lineal champion at junior middle. In 55 contests, which included two draws, the only man to have beaten him had been Floyd Mayweather Jnr by a majority decision.
Saul Alvarez (2/11/2019 w rsc 11 Sergey Kovalev – 17/12/2019)
After Alvarez announced on 17 December 2019 that he was concentrating on defending his middleweight title, Artur Beterbiev should be recognised as the lineal champion having already unified the IBF and WBC titles.
Artur Beterbiev (17/12/2019 Appointed Champion –