Muhammad Ali, Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson: Every WBC world heavyweight champion

Planet Sport looks through the history of boxing, starting with every WBC heavyweight world champion since 1963.

It's fair to say when the heavyweight division is booming there's no better division.

Tyson Fury - the current WBC titlist - is set to make a first defence to determine the first undisputed champion since 1999 against fellow British fighter Anthony Joshua.

The pair are expected to collide on August 14 for the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO titles in Saudi Arabia.

The WBC, formed in 1963, is arguably the most prestigious governing body in boxing and to celebrate, Planet Sport takes a look at every heavyweight to have held the famous green-and-gold strap.

Charles L. "Sonny" Liston: 1963-1964

The "Big Bear" was the first man to win the inaugural green-and-gold belt after defeating Floyd Patterson via KO in the opening round. His reign ended with just one defence.

Cassius Clay / Muhammad Ali: 1964-1970 & 1974-1978

Cassius Clay - later known as Muhammad Ali - would enjoy a golden run of nine consecutive defences before a three-year exile from the sport.

Muhammad Ali is regarded as the greatest heavyweight of all-time
Muhammad Ali is regarded as the greatest heavyweight of all-time

His stance on the Vietnam War and refusal to serve his country in the armed forces saw every state deny him a boxing license until 1971.

The Greatest would enjoy another run with the title in 1974 - defeating George Foreman in their famous Rumble in the Jungle encounter - before defending it another nine times.

Joe Frazier: 1970-1973

Smokin' Joe won the vacant strap in 1970 with victory over Jimmy Ellis and inflicted the first defeat of Ali's career in his second defence - known as the Fight of the Century

Frazier had another chance to become WBC champion in 1975 but Ali stopped him in the penultimate round of their trilogy showdown titled as the Thrilla in Manilla.

Leon Spinks: 1978

A split-decision win against a faded Ali saw Leon Spinks crowned WBC king.

He never got the chance to put it on the line though, after refusing to face mandatory challenger Ken Norton. Three years later, he challenged Larry Holmes but fell short.

Ken Norton: 1978

Despite never winning the world title, Ken Norton was named WBC champion but lost the title in his first defence.

The American failed in two previous attempts at world glory to Ali and Foreman. He is fondly remembered for his trilogy series with Ali.

Larry Holmes: 1978-1983

The most title defences in one reign belongs to this man.

Holmes - who is the only fighter to have stopped Ali inside the distance - was renowned for his snappy jab.

The Eastern Assassin fell one win short of equalling Rocky Marciano's 49-0 record.

Tim Witherspoon: 1984

A regular sparring partner to Ali, Witherspoon finally came out of his shadow with victory over Greg Page.

Second cousin Chazz Witherspoon followed in his footsteps as a heavyweight and last fought in 2019 against Oleksandr Usyk.

Pinklon Thomas: 1984-1986

Despite nearly two years as champion, Thomas only had two fights as champion.

Known for entering the ring in pink trunks - Thomas had another crack at becoming WBC champion but was knocked out by Mike Tyson in a brutal 15 punch flurry.

Trevor Berbick: 1986

The Jamaican-Canadian is remembered for beating the likes of Iran Barkley, John Tate and Page but took a peppering against Tyson.

Mike Tyson: 1986-1990 & 1996

A two-time WBC heavyweight champion and boxing's youngest ever heavyweight king at 21, "Iron Mike" will always be regarded as one of boxing's hardest-hitters alongside Foreman.

Mike Tyson returned to the ring in 2020 and fought Roy Jones Jr in an exhibition bout
Mike Tyson returned to the ring in 2020 and fought Roy Jones Jr in an exhibition bout

He single-handedly transformed boxing and wins over the likes of Holmes and Berbick will be remembered for Tyson wanting revenge for Ali - whose final two fights ended in defeat to the duo.

He became a two-time champion of the belt with a knockout win over Frank Bruno.

James "Buster" Douglas: 1990

Literally a one-hit wonder.

Douglas snared the world title away from Tyson in Japan's capital but his fall from grace would be a heavy one. He lost the belt in his next bout against Evander Holyfield.

The fame had clearly caught up with Douglas, who turned up to the bout massively out of shape compared to a ripped Holyfield. On the plus side, his purse was more than $24million so not too shabby.

Evander Holyfield: 1990-1992

The "Real Deal" is the first fighter to have unified the cruiserweight division and jump up to win world titles at heavyweight - the other being David Haye. His time as champion included victory over Foreman.

Riddick Bowe: 1992

After their first encounter in 1992, Riddick Bowe and Holyfield would fight another two times with Bowe winning the trilogy series 2-1.

Bowe was stripped of the WBC title soon after the first bout after he infamously threw his belt into a bin.

Lennox Lewis: 1992-1994, 1997-2001 & 2001-2004

Due to Bowe's reluctance to fight Lennox Lewis - who he lost to in the 1988 Olympic Games final - the Lion was upgraded as their champion.

A memorable win over fellow Briton Frank Bruno stands out in his first period. Victories in other reigns include famous wins over Holyfield, Tyson and Vitali Klitschko - the latter being the final fight of his illustrious career.

In total, Lewis made 14 defences of the WBC title.

Oliver McCall: 1994-1995

"The Atomic Bomb" is remembered for his upset win against Lewis in 1994, which triggered Lewis to hire iconic trainer Emanuel Steward.

Oliver McCall made one successful defence, outpointing a faded Holmes before relinquishing it in 1995.

Frank Bruno: 1995-1996

BRUNO, BRUNO, BRUNO!

One of the most satisfying wins in British boxing saw the "True Brit" crowned as world heavyweight champion in his fourth attempt.

His previous three chances had seen him fall short to Witherspoon, Lewis and Tyson but this time round Bruno finally had his hand raised at Wembley Stadium with a unanimous decision win over McCall.

That was the good news.

The bad news, however, was that Iron Mike was next up. It ended in tears for Bruno, who was stopped inside three rounds and forced to retire from the sport after advised to do so by his doctor.

While the reign lasted just six months, Bruno continues to be adored by the UK public.

Hasim Rahman: 2001 & 2005

A 20-1 underdog, Rahman stunned the world in 2001 by banging out Lewis in his native via stoppage in the fifth round.

After a court settlement, the pair had a rematch and Lewis would avenge his shock upset loss in style at the MGM Grand.

It would take three years for Rahman to get another victory with defeats to Holyfield and John Ruiz but he did regain the WBC title in 2005 although by default.

His first defence ended in a majority draw against James Toney - a former three-division champion.

Oleg Maskayev: 2006-2008

The Russian, who defeated Rahman to become champion and overcame Okello Peter in his next fight.

Samuel Peter: 2008

The Nigerian Nightmare lost the title in his first defence to Vitali Klitschko.

Vitali Klitschko: 2004-2005 and 2008-2013

Following Lewis' decision to retire, Vitali defeated Corrie Sanders for the vacant WBC belt in 2004 and enjoyed a second reign in 2008 after four years out of the ring.

Klitschko made nine successful defences of the crown and retired at the top of the throne after negotiations with David Haye stalled.

Bermane Stiverne: 2014-2015

The Haitian-Canadian outpointed Chris Arreola for the vacant WBC crown in 2014 and lost it in his next fight to Deontay Wilder.

He would rematch Wilder two years later and got knocked out in the first round.

Deontay Wilder: 2015-2020

The heavy-hitting star made 10 successful defences of the world title, including two victories over Cuban rival Luis Ortiz.

Wilder tasted the first defeat of his career in 2020 to Tyson Fury, who knocked him out in the seventh round at the MGM Grand.

Tyson Fury: 2020-present

Yet to defend the WBC strap because of the coronavirus pandemic, Fury is likely to put it on the line against Joshua this summer.

Fury is just the second heavyweight to have held all four major titles after Riddick Bowe having previously defeated Wladimir Klitschko for the WBA, IBF and WBO belts.