Originally Posted by Mendoza
Who were the most durable heavyweights ever? I’ll define durability as being able to take shots to the head or body without going down, and staying strong through the contest. Chins and bodies are best tested when they are hit, and can be verified if they were hit by punchers. This should not be confused with a loss due to injury or a nervous breakdown in the ring.
The rules of boxing have changed over the decades. Old timers had lighter gloves, no mouth guards, and protective gear that would be considered dangerous by today’s standards. As such taking a punch was harder in the 1950’s, and significantly harder at the turn of the century. Modern fighters have better protective gear, and heavier / softer gloves, but in general face more powerful opponents. So I believe it evens out.
Here are ten names in no particular order:
Oliver McCall. McCall is one of two Ring Magazine champions never to be floored by a punch. Interestingly enough he said Bert Cooper, not Lennox Lewis hit him the hardest. While McCall had some iron in his bones, he was in serious trouble vs. Bruce Seldon ( visibly hurt and shaken up ) late in the match until he rallied to stop Seldon late.
Ross Purrity. Purrity was in the ring with a who’s who list of punchers, and passed most of the time. He took more blows than a crash test dummy. While Purrity was the ultimate survivor, and often played defense, I believe he belongs here.
Vitali Klitschko. Like McCall he has never been floored by a punch in his entire career. That automatically makes the list. In my opinion Vitali has taken perhaps the hardest shots on film without going down.
James Jeffries. Never floored in his prime, Jeffries had a combined 84 rounds with Choynski, Fitzsimmons, and Sharkey. Each man landed their best, and Jeffries passed with flying colors. Jeffries was only stopped once in his career, and that happened after a 5 year layoff when he was out of shape, and rusty in the desert heat in round 15 vs. a prime version of Jack Johnson.
Ray Mercer. Mercer was only down once in his prime, and happened when Holfyeifld wore him down and caught him with a hook. Lewis clubbed Mercer but could not dent him. As an older fighter, he caught a careers worth of power punches from Wladmir Klitschko. During the post fight interview, Wladimir said he has been in there with lots of guys, and Mercer’s chin was the best.
George Chuvalo. Although he was legitimately floored by Bonevvna, Chavalo’s was never officially knocked down. Chavalo didn’t last long vs. Frazier or Foreman, and these two were the best punchers he faced. However it is clear that Chuvalo had a top level durability, and has a clear mind past the age of 70, which is rare for a guy who took a lot of punches.
Randall Texx Cobb. Cobb had no real amateur career. As such he wasn’t hard to hit cleanly. A poster boy for having an iron chin, Cobb was often on the receiving end of the blows. Shavers, Holmes, Norton, and Mercado could not hurt or floor Cobb. Shavers did not come close to landing his best vs. Cobb. Cobb was stopped later in his career, but in his prime he was never floored or hurt on film.
Larry Holmes. Holmes only has one KO defeat in his long career, and that one happened vs. a prime Mike Tyson when Holmes was in-active and older. Holmes faced a who’s who list of punchers, sometimes taking viscous shots along the way vs. Shavers, Cooney, Norton, Witherpsoon, and Snipes.
Muhammed Ali. Ali had a great but inconsistent chin in the sense that he could be knocked down or hurt, but he also had amazing recuperation powers. Ali meet many punchers like Foreman, Frazier, Liston, Norton, and Shavers. Some of them were able to hurt Ali, but none were able to finish him. Like Holmes, Ali was only stopped once in his career, and that happened when he was well past his prime.
David Tua. Only floored once in a long career ( by Rhaman ), Tua certainly belongs. His war with Ibeabuchi was legendary give and take for 12 rounds. Others like Lewis, Rahman, Maskaev failed to finish Tua.
Honorable Mention who I would include if this was a top 20 list. Rocky Marciano, Evander Holyfield, Sonny Liston, Mike Tyson, George Foreman, Nikolai Valuev, Zelko Mavrovic, Joe Jeannette, Marion Wilson and Gene Tunney.