20 Best Cruiserweight Boxers of All-Time

20 Best Cruiserweight Boxers of All-Time

There are 17 different weight divisions in professional boxing and while each division produces their fair share of greats, cruiserweight boxers are often some of the most overlooked. They don’t always get the respect they deserve, but we’re going to salute our hats to them today. 

The cruiserweight division, also known as the junior heavyweight division, was created by the World Boxing Council (WBC) in 1979. At the time, there were several smaller heavyweights that couldn’t quite keep up with the bigger heavyweights. They set the original weight limit at 190 lbs. 

In 1982, the World Boxing Association (WBA) created a junior heavyweight division. The International Boxing Federation followed in 1983 and the World Boxing Organization (WBO) finally followed suit in 1989. Today, the weight limit for cruiserweight boxers is 200 pounds. 

RELATED: 20 Best Super Featherweight Boxers of All-Time

Who Are the Best Cruiserweight Boxers Ever?

20 Best Cruiserweight Boxers of All-Time
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Cruiserweight boxers have come a long way since debuting in 1979. The first WBC title fight occurred on December 8, 1979 between Marvin Camel and Mate Parlov, but the fight ended in a draw. The first champion was Camel after he defeated Parlov in the March 1980 rematch. 

Ossie Ocasio became the first WBA champion in 1982 and Camel returned to the world stage as the first IBF cruiserweight champion in 1983. Boone Pultz was the first WBO champion in 1989. Since then, there have been a number of cruiserweight boxers to write their own legacy.

In fact, we’re going to highlight some of those cruiserweight boxers below in our top-20 list of the best cruiserweight boxers of all-time. Camel, Parlov, Ocasio, and Pultz had legendary careers as some of the firsts, but you won’t find them on our list of greats – let’s see who made the list:

20. Carl Thompson

Carl Thompson, also known as ‘The Cat,’ is a retired British boxer that made his pro debut on June 6, 1988 and fought his final bout on November 26, 2005. He finished his career with a 34-6-0 record and 25 knockouts. He was 6’0’’ with a 75’’ reach and fought in an orthodox stance.

Thompson started his career 8-0, but lost three of his next four fights before going on a nine-game winning streak. He won the WBO cruiserweight title in 1997 and defended the title twice. He then won the IBO title in 2001, lost it in 2001, regained it in 2004, and defended it once.

19. Magne Havnaa

Magne Havnaa is a retired Norwegian boxer that made his professional debut on October 3, 1986 and fought his final fight on February 12, 1993. He finished his career with a 19-3-0 record and 11 knockouts. He was 6’3’’ and tragically died in a boat accident in 2004 at the age of 40.

Havnaa started his career by winning his first 14 fights, but lost to Angelo Rottoli and Boone Pultz in back-to-back fights in 1989 – the Pultz fight was for the WBO cruiserweight title. He later won the rematch in 1990 to gain the title and defended it twice – once in 1990 and again in 1991. 

18. Orlin Norris

Orlin Norris, also known as ‘Night Train’ and ‘The Juice,’ is a retired American boxer that made his professional debut on June 16, 1986 and fought his final bout on November 3, 2005. He finished his career with a 57-10-1 record and 30 knockouts. He was 5’9’’ with a 70’’ reach. 

After five years of competing as a heavyweight, Norris moved down to the cruiserweight division where he immediately won the vacant WBC-NABF cruiserweight title. Two years later, he won the WBA cruiserweight title and defended his title four times between 1994 and 1995. 

17. Jeff Lampkin

Jeff Lampkin, also known as ‘Prime Time,’ is a retired American boxer that made his pro debut on June 18, 1980 and fought his final fight on June 27, 1997. He finished his career with a 39-19-1 record and 34 knockouts. He was 6’1’’ and usually fought with an orthodox stance.

Lampkin started his professional career 16-0 and was even 21-3 in 1983, but fell to 28-13-1 by 1988. Between 1988 and 1992, he went on a nine-fight win streak and won the IBF cruiserweight title – a title he defended once in 1990. He went just 2-6 between 1992 and 1997 when he retired.

16. Virgil Hill

Virgil Hill, also known as ‘Quicksilver,’ is a former American boxer that made his pro debut on November 15, 1984 and fought his final bout on February 28, 2015. He finished his career with a 51-7 record and 24 knockouts. He was 6’0’’ with a 77’’ reach, and fought in an orthodox stance. 

Hill spent most of his career as a light heavyweight, starting 30-0 before suffering his first loss. By 1988, he was a two-time WBA, one-time IBF, and lineal champion as a light heavyweight. He then became a two-time WBA cruiserweight champion towards the end of his illustrious career. 

15. Al Cole

Al Cole is a retired American boxer that made his professional debut on March 25, 1989 and fought his final fight on September 3, 2011. He finished his pro career with a 35-16-3 record and 16 knockouts. He was 6’4’’ with an 80” reach and normally fought in an orthodox boxing stance. 

Also known as ‘Ice,’ Cole started his career 15-0 before suffering his first loss in 1990. Over the next year, he won three consecutive USBA Cruiserweight titles before winning the IBF cruiserweight title. He retained the title five times before moving up to the heavyweight division.

14. Guillermo Jones

Guillermo Jones is a retired Panamanian boxer that made his professional debut on July 17, 1993 and most recently fought on August 13, 2021. He finished his career with a 41-4-2 record and 30 knockouts, including his most recent loss that came after four years of being inactive. 

Jones started his career 21-0 as a welterweight and eventually moved to the super welterweight division before settling on the cruiserweight division in 2002. He lost the WBO cruiserweight title that year, but later won the WBA cruiserweight title in 2008 and defended the title three times.

13. O’Neil Bell

O’Neil Bell is a former Jamaican boxer that made his professional debut on February 19, 1998 and fought his final fight on December 17, 2011. He finished his pro career with a 27-4-1 record and 24 knockouts. He stood 6’0’’ tall, had a 75’’ reach, and fought in an orthodox boxing stance. 

Bell won his first pro fight, but lost his second. After that, he went on a 17-fight win streak as he became the NBA and NABF cruiserweight champion. A draw in 2002 opened an eight-fight win streak where he won the IBF, WBC, WBA, and The Ring titles (undisputed and lineal champion).

12. Vassily Jirov

Vassily Jirov is a retired Kazakhstani boxer that made his professional debut on January 18, 1997 and fought his final bout on October 17, 2009. He finished his pro career with a 38-3-1 record and 32 knockouts. He was 6’2’’ with a 74’’ reach and fought in a southpaw stance. 

Jirov won a gold medal at the 1996 Olympics in the light heavyweight division. After an illustrious amateur career, he joined the cruiserweight division and won his first 31 fights. He won the IBF title in 1999 and retained the title five times before losing it to James Toney in 2003. 

11. Marco Huck

Marco Huck is an active German boxer that made his professional debut on November 7, 2004 and most recently fought on August 29, 2020 – a unanimous decision victory. He currently has a 42-5-1 record and 28 knockouts. He’s 6’2’’ with a 77’’ reach and fights in an orthodox stance.

Huck started his pro career with 19 straight wins before suffering his first loss in 2007 – a bout for the IBF cruiserweight title. He then went on a 15-fight win streak that saw him win the WBO cruiserweight title and defend the title 13 times – a record in the division that still stands today.

10. Anaclet Wamba

Anaclet Wamba is a retired Congolese-French boxer that made his pro debut on November 27, 1982 and fought his final fight on December 30, 1994. He finished his pro career with a 46-2-1 record and 23 knockouts. He was 6’3’’ with a 79” reach and fought in an orthodox stance.

Wamba won the first 13 fights of his pro career before suffering his first loss to Horace Notice in 1985. He then won his next 17 fights and won the EBU cruiserweight title. After losing the WBC title in 1990, Wamba won it 1991 and defended the title six times before retiring in 1994. 

9. James Toney

James Toney is a retired American boxer that made his professional debut on October 26, 1988 and fought his final fight on May 13, 2017. He finished his pro career with a 77-10-3 record and 47 knockouts. He stood 5’10’’ tall, had a 72” reach, and fought in an orthodox boxing stance. 

Also known as ‘Lights Out,’ he started his career 20-0, winning the IBC middleweight title after his 20th win. He won the IBF middleweight title and defended that title six times before winning the IBF super middleweight title and IBF cruiserweight title. He was a three-division champ.

8. Johnny Nelson

Johnny Nelson is a retired British boxer that made his professional debut on March 18, 1986 and fought his final bout on November 26, 2005. He finished his pro career with a 45-12-2 record and 29 knockouts. He was 6’2’’ with a long 81’’ reach and fought in a southpaw boxing stance.

Nelson lost his first three pro fights, but won 21 of his next 24 fights. He then lost seven of his next 11 fights, but went 20-0-1 in his final 21 fights. During that time, he won the WBO title and defended it 13 times – a cruiserweight division record he still shares with Marco Huck today. 

7. Dwight Muhammad Qawi

Dwight Muhammad Qawi is a retired American boxer that made his professional debut on April 19, 1978 and fought his final fight on November 25, 1998. He finished his career with a 41-11-1 record and 25 knockouts. He stood just 5’5’’ with a 71” reach, fighting in an orthodox stance.

Also known as ‘Camden Buzzsaw,’ Qawi was just 1-1-1 after his first three pro fights. That spurred an 18-fight win streak that saw him win the WBC and The Ring light heavyweight titles. He won the WBA cruiserweight title in 1985 and defended the title once against Leon Spinks.

6. Jean-Marc Mormeck

Jean-Marc Mormeck is a retired French boxer that made his professional debut on March 25, 1995 and fought his final fight on December 5, 2014. He finished his career with a 37-6-0 record and 23 knockouts. He was 5’11’’ with a 74” reach and fought in an orthodox boxing stance.

Also known as ‘The Marksman,’ Mormeck started his career 3-2 before going on a 28-fight win streak – which included the unified WBA (four defenses), WBC, and The Ring titles. He regained those titles in a rematch one year later, but failed to defend them before switching divisions. 

5. Juan Carlos Gomez

Juan Carlos Gomez is a former Cuban boxer that made his professional debut on May 20, 1995 and fought his final bout on November 28, 2014. He finished his pro career with a 55-4-0 record and 40 knockouts. He was 6’3’’ with an 81” reach and fought in the southpaw stance. 

Also known as ‘Pantera Negra,’ Gomez started his career 37-0 before suffering his first loss in 2004. During that time, he won the WBC cruiserweight title and defended it 10 times. He then moved up to the heavyweight division and enjoyed win streaks of 5, 5, and 6 to end his career. 

4. David Haye

David Haye is a retired British boxer that made his pro debut on December 8, 2002 and fought his final fight on May 5, 2018. He retired with a 28-4-0 record and 26 knockouts. Also known as the ‘Hayemaker,’ Haye stood 6’3’’ tall with a 78” reach and fought in the orthodox stance. 

Haye won his first 10 fights and won the English cruiserweight title in 2003. After losing to Carl Thompson for the IBO title, he went on a 15-fight win streak and won the European and unified WBA, WBC, and The Ring titles (one defense). He was also a WBA heavyweight champ. 

3. Carlos De León

Carlos De León is a retired Puerto Rican boxer that made his professional debut on August 3, 1974 and fought his final bout on November 24, 1995. He finished his pro career with a 53-8-1 record and 33 knockouts. Known as ‘Sugar,’ he was 6’0’’ tall and fought in the orthodox stance. 

De León won 29 of his first 31 fights before defeating Marvin Camel for the WBC cruiserweight title. He retained that title in a rematch before losing it the next fight. He then won the WBC and The Ring titles off and on for the next six years before winning eight of his final 10 pro fights. 

2. Oleksandr Usyk

Oleksandr Usyk is an active Ukrainian boxer that made his professional debut on November 9, 2013 and most recently fought on September 25, 2021 – a win against Anthony Joshua. Usyk is currently 19-0-0 with 13 knockouts, but has returned home to fight in the Ukraine-Russia war. 

By 2015, Usyk was a WBO Inter-Continental cruiserweight champ and defended it four times. In 2016, he won the WBO cruiserweight title, defended it three times, added the WBC title in 2018, and added the WBA, IBF, and The Ring title six months later to become undisputed champion. 

1. Evander Holyfield

Evander Holyfield is a retired American boxer that made his professional debut on November 15, 1984 and fought his final fight on May 7, 2011. He finished his pro career with a 44-10-2 record and 29 knockouts. Many know him from getting his ear bitten off by Mike Tyson. 

Also known as ‘The Real Deal,’ Holyfield started his career 11-0 before winning the WBA cruiser title. He defended it once before adding the IBF title to his belt. He then defended both of those titles twice before adding the WBC title to his belt. Holyfield then moved up to the heavyweight division, where he won the WBA, WBC, and IBF titles off-and-on for the next 10+ years. 

Who Are the Best Cruiserweight Boxers Right Now?

The cruiserweight division is one of the most overlooked, yet most exciting divisions in boxing. The current cruiserweight champions are Arsen Goulamirian (WBA), Ilunga Makabu (WBC), Mairis Briedis (IBF), and Lawrence Okolie (WBO). They’re some of the best in the division. 

Goulamirian has defended his title twice since May 31, 2019 and is currently 26-0 with 18 knockouts. Makabu (29-2) has two title defenses since January 31, 2020 and Okolie (18-0) has two title defenses since March 20, 2021. Briedis has one defense since September 26, 2020. 

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Outside of the four current champions we listed above, some of the other top cruiserweight boxers include Yuniel Dorticos, Thabiso Mchunu, Michal Cieslak, Krzysztof Glowacki, Ryad Merhy, Alexei Papin, Mateusz Masternak, Kevin Lerena, and Richard Riakporhe.

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