The history of the World Lineal Heavyweight title

Sports correspondent & historian
with Sideline Sid

There is plenty of noise around Joseph Parker's next fight in Saudi Arabia, against Deontay Wilder, on the 23rd December 2023.

Parker will go into battle in the ring, on the undercard of the former two-time heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua verses Swede Otto Wallin headliner, which will attract a massive television audience across the globe.

When Gisborne born Tom Heeney challenged Gene Tunney for the world heavyweight crown in 1928, the world heavyweight championship, was the biggest event in world sport.

To real boxing aficionados, in today's world of numerous alphabet soup world boxing titles, the World Lineal Heavyweight title signals the true champion.

Simply put, the lineal title is the man that beat the man (champion), which can be traced back to the first gloved heavyweight champion, John L Sullivan in 1892.

New Zealand figures in the early days of the world lineal heavyweight championship, courtesy of Bob Fitzsimmons. Born in Cornwall England, Fitzsimmons moved with his family to Timaru as a ten year old in 1873, before becoming a world champion boxer.

Fitzsimmons, took the Heavyweight crown from James J Corbett, who had taken the title from John L Sullivan. So started a heritage linkage that continues to this day.

Jack Johnson became the first black world heavyweight champion, when he stopped Tommy Burns in Sydney, during 1908.

The fight was held in Australia, due to outrage in America with an african-american challenging for the biggest prize in world sport.

Joe Louis, who was nicknamed “the Brown Bomber”, is widely regarded as one of the greatest boxers of all time, resisted 25 title challenges before retiring in 1949.

Ezzard Charles beat Jersey Joe Walcott in June 1949, to fill the championship vacancy - before losing his crown to Walcott, who then lost the title to Rocky Marciano. Marciano is still the only heavyweight title holder to have retired with an undefeated record (49-0).

Muhammad Ali, dominated the headlines of the heavyweight division during 1960’s and 1970’s, like no other pugilist.

Ali is on the list of world lineal heavyweight champions, three times, beating Sonny Liston in 1964 and regaining the heavyweight title after defeating George Foreman (1973) and Leon Spinks (1978). The Foreman victory in the “ Rumble in the Jungle” is one of the most recognised boxing fights of all time.

From the Ali retirement, the list traverses such well recognised fighters as Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and  Riddick Bowe.

Remarkably, George Foreman regained the heavyweight world title when he knocked out Michael Moorer in 1994, at forty five years of age. A piece of useless information for boxing tragics, is that he wore the same red trunks as he wore against Ali in Zaire, 20 years earlier.

Foreman was followed by Shannon Briggs, who lost to Lennox Lewis, who lost to Hashim Rahman, who lost to Lennox Lewis.

Lennox Lewis’s retirement brought Wladimir Klitschko to the lineal lineup in position number 43. The Ukrainian boxer dominated the world heavyweight championship for six years before being unseated by Tyson Fury.

The World Lineal Heavyweight title, will next be on the line when Tyson Fury touches gloves with Oleksandr Usyk, in Saudi Arabia on February 17, 2024



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