Everyone talks about the complete decline of the heavyweight division, especially in America. Well, everyone is right. The heavyweight division has been a complete disaster the last 10 years.

What everyone doesn’t talk about is the last great era of the heavyweight. I’m sure most people will immediately think back to the 1960s and 1970s with Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, etc… That was certainly a golden age for the heavyweights. 

But the 1990s had a boatload of quality heavyweights. If not for some legal problems and a string of bizarre behavior, the 1990s could’ve rivaled the success the division had in the 1960s and 1970s.

Think that is a bit of a stretch, here is a list of the leading heavyweights of the 1990s. What you’ll find is a lot of highly skilled heavyweights.

Riddick Bowe (43-1, 33 KOs) – Bowe falls into that “what should’ve been” category. His three-fight epic against Evander Holyfield will be talked for years. Unfortunately, there were several more matchups we only wished would’ve taken place. A Bowe-Mike Tyson matchup could’ve set PPV records that might still be standing. He was only 29 after his second bout against Andrew Golota in 1996. After that came several bizarre incidents that kept Bowe out of the ring for eight years. Impact on the sport: He could’ve been one of the greatest. He had the skill and the charisma to be a world wide star.

George Foreman (76-5, 68 KOs) – Foreman, who returned to the ring in 1987 after a 10-year absence, was great in the 1990s, finishing in 1997 with a 12-3 mark. His biggest win of the decade was a 10th-round KO of Michael Moorer for the WBA and IBF titles. It would’ve been nice to see him fight Mike Tyson, Riddick Bowe or Lennox Lewis. Impact on the sport:  Foreman captured the WBA and IBF titles at 44 years of age, proving that old men can still bring it.

Evander Holyfield (43-10, 28 KOs) – Holyfield, fought just about everyone who was worth fighting in the 1990s. Three fights against Riddick Bowe, two bouts Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis and Michael Moorer. Where Holyfield stands in boxing history is up for debate. He’s had some great wins –Bowe once, Tyson twice (once by disqualification).  Impact on the sport: He was a warrior, who was willing to fight anyone, anywhere at anytime. There’s no way he still should be fighting today at 47, but what he looks like now is not indicative of the fighter he was in his prime.

Lennox Lewis (41-2, 32 KOs) – Outside of a terrible loss to Oliver McCall and a draw against Evander Holyfield (one of the worst decisions ever), Lewis was flawless in the 1990s. Although Lewis was one of the most skilled heavyweights ever to put on the gloves, his career doesn’t get the respect it deserves, because he never got into the ring with some of his era’s top heavyweights. No fights against Riddick Bowe or Michael Moorer. He didn’t get to face Mike Tyson in his prime and didn’t get into the ring with George Foreman. But he did dominate Evander Holyfield and beat several highly rated contenders, including Tommy Morrison, Ray Mercer, Razor Ruddock and Frank Bruno. Impact on the sport: He was a big man with the skills of a great welterweight. He probably should be considered an all-time great, but his lack of big-time victories could hold him back.

Michael Moorer (52-4, 40 KOs) – Moorer might have been the most underrated heavyweight of the 1990s. He scored a major decision victory over Evander Holyfield, capturing the WBA and IBF titles. He promptly lost both to George Foreman in his next bout. That notwithstanding, Moorer was a very skilled fighter with wins over Alex Stewart and Axel Schultz in the 1990s. Impact on the sport: Moorer didn’t have enough quality wins to be considered a great heavyweight, but he was an excellent second-tier fighter who can’t be overlooked.

Mike Tyson (50-6, 44 KOs) – “Iron Mike’s” place in boxing history will be hotly debated for years to come. You can’t argue with the man’s skill. He had power in both hands, he was quick and had such a low center of gravity that made him difficult to hit with a good shot. The fall of Tyson began after his loss to James “Buster” Douglas in 1990. But he was still a quality puncher with wins over the likes of Alex Stewart, Razor Ruddock (twice) and Frank Bruno. None of those fighters are world-beaters, but they weren’t slouches, either. Unfortunately, we never got to see Tyson against Bowe or Foreman. Nor did we get to see Tyson square off against Holyfield or Lewis while he was still in his prime. Impact on the sport: Tyson was as dominant as they come in the mid to late 1980s. He couldn’t carry that dominance into the 1990s, but he will always be considered one of the most feared fighters in boxing history.

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The best of the rest of the 1990s: These guys weren’t all-time greats, but they made the 1990s interesting.

Frank Bruno

James “Buster” Douglas

Oliver McCall

Ray Mercer

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Tommy “The Duke” Morrison

Donovan “Razor” Ruddock

Axel Schultz

Alex Stewart