Youngest Heavyweight Champions of All Time

8 Youngest Heavyweight Champions of All Time

Heavyweight is a weight class in combat sports and professional wrestling, with the technical classification being boxers who weight over 200 pounds, according to the standards of the International Boxing Federation.

Achieving the heavyweight championship title is no small feat. Being worthy of the title requires any boxer to prove his skills and consistency time and time again, and it is often a journey that requires decades of training before accomplishing the feat.

While most wrestlers obtain the heavyweight championship title when they are well into their 20s, there were several boxers who were in their early 20s when they experienced the honor. In this list, we’ll be taking a look at eight of the youngest heavyweight champions in the world.

8. James J. Jeffries

Year of birth: April 15, 1875
Age at championship: 24 years, 1 month, 25 days
Date won: June 9, 1899
Nationality: American

James J. Jeffriesphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

James Jackson Jeffries claimed the heavyweight championship by beating Bob Fitzsimmons in the eleventh round of their fight. Jeffries started to wrestle professionally at age 20. Out of 24 fights, he records a win of 19 fights, 16 of which were knockouts.

Nicknamed “Boilermaker,” the fight promoter extended his left hand and delivered impactful punches that distinguished him from many professional boxers. On March 3, 1953, Jeffries died of a heart attack at the age of 77.

Did You Know?

Jeffries holds the record for the quickest knock out at 45 seconds. This was achieved when defending his title for the second time against Jack Finnegan. In 1990, he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

7. Joe Frazier

Year of birth: January 12, 1944
Age at championship: 24 years, 1 month, 21 days
Date won: March 4, 1968
Nationality: American

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Joseph William Frazier was born in South Carolina. He faced off against fighter Jimmy Ellis, and won the heavyweight title at Madison Square Garden in New York. Frazier debuted as a fighter after his Uncle Israel’s comment that Frazier would be the next Joe Louis because of his build.

Nicknamed “Smokin’ Joe,” the left-handed wrestler was inducted into both the World Boxing Hall of Fame and the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Did You Know?

Frazier was the first wrestler in history to beat Muhammad Ali. He won a gold medal as an amateur wrestler at the Summer Olympics of 1964. Frazier could not straighten his left arm fully after he fell on a brick and broke it.

6. George Foreman

Year of birth: January 10, 1949
Age at championship: 24 years, 12 days
Date won: February 22, 1973
Nationality: American

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

George Edward Foreman was a professional wrestler who earned the title of heavyweight champion after defeating Joe Frazier. Foreman wears many hats as a minister, author, and entrepreneur. He is known for his household invention, the George Foreman Grill.

Foreman began boxing in his late teens. He was initially interested in football, but discovered his true love for boxing later on.

Did You Know?

Foreman was a two-time winner of the heavyweight championship and an Olympic gold medalist. The second time he won the heavyweight title championship title, he was 46 years old, making him the oldest heavyweight champion in history.

5. Jack Dempsey

Year of birth: June 24, 1895
Age at championship: 24 years, 10 days
Date won: July 4, 1919
Nationality: American

Jack Dempseyphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Born William Harrison Jack Dempsey, the boxing pro won the heavyweight championship title after defeating opponent Jess Willard. He knocked his opponent down seven times during the first round. Willard went home with broken teeth and ribs.

Nicknamed “Kid Blackie,” Dempsey used to visit saloons and challenge people to fights, most of which he won for a handsome payout. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.

Did You Know?

Dempsey left home at the age of 16, and began his formal wrestling career. He fought 85 fights with 64 wins. He used strategic defense to earn his wins.

4. Joe Louis

Year of birth: May 13, 1914
Age at championship: 23 years, 1 month
Date won: June 22, 1937
Nationality: American

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Born Joseph Louis Barrow, Joe Louis was the first African American to earn the status of hero in the United States. He defeated James J. Braddock to claim the heavyweight championship title in 1937. Barrow made his wrestling debut as a 17-year-old.

Barrow’s mother wanted him to get involved in the arts and play the violin, but Barrow’s love for boxing could not be quelled – he hid his boxing gloves in his violin case! Later on, he established his reputation as a successful boxer, winning awards such as the “Chicago Golden Gloves.”

Joe Louis died on April 12, 1981 from cardiac arrest.

Did You Know?

Barrow holds the record for the most consecutive title defenses in all weight categories. They were 25 in total. He published a book about his boxing experiences written under his nickname, “The Brown Bomber.”

3. Muhammad Ali

Year of birth: January 7, 1942
Age at championship: 22 years, 1 month
Date won: February 25, 1964
Nationality: American

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Born Cassius Marcellus Clay Junior, Muhammad Ali is one of the most significant professional wrestlers of the 20th century.

Beginning his boxing career at age 12, Ali won a gold medal in the light heavyweight category at 18 years of age. He went on to become the world’s heavyweight champion in 1964 by defeating Sonny Liston.

Nicknamed “the Greatest,” Ali fought in highly publicized fights, such as “The Fight of the Century,” which was against Joe Frazier. Ali lost the fight. He retired in 1981, and passed on June 3, 2016, at the age of 74.

Did You Know?

There is a monument dedicated to the legend called The Muhammad Ali Center in Los Angeles. He was a successful artist of the spoken word, and received 2 Grammy nominations for his works. He was an entertainer, an activist, and a philanthropist.

2. Floyd Patterson

Year of birth: January 4, 1935
Age at championship: 21 years, 10 months
Date won: November 30, 1956
Nationality: American

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Floyd Patterson experienced much success in the boxing ring as a teenager. By the time he was 18 years old, he already had a gold medal and a championship under his belt. In 1956, he became the youngest heavyweight champion by defeating Archie Moore.

Patterson was named the “Fighter of the Year” by Ring Magazine in 1956 and in 1960, he received the same title from Boxing Writers Association of America. He died in May 11, 2006 after suffering from prostate cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

Did You Know?

Patterson won a gold medal at the 1952 Summer Olympics in the middleweight category as an amateur boxer. Patterson’s adopted son, Tracy Harris Patterson, was a 1990s champion, and the two won world titles together as father and son. In 1991, Patterson was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

1. Mike Tyson

Year of birth: June 30, 1966
Age at championship: 20 years, 4 months
Date won: November 22, 1986
Nationality: American

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Michael Gerard Tyson is the youngest heavyweight champion in the world. The former professional boxer reigned as the world’s undisputed heavyweight champion from 1987 to 1990. Nicknamed “The Baddest Man on the Planet,” Mike Tyson has fought 58 fights, recording 50 wins.

Born in Brooklyn, the 55-year-old is a retired fighter, and has been recognized as one of the greatest heavyweight boxers in history.

Did You Know?

Tyson was the first heavyweight champion to hold three titles simultaneously: WBC, WBA, and IBF. He holds positions in the International Boxing Hall of Fame and the World Boxing Hall of Fame.



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