Light Heavyweight champions and former champions moving up to Heavyweight isn’t a new thing, but with Antonio ‘The Magic Man’ Tarver setting his sights on the division it seems a fitting time to have a look at how some of the others have managed the jump.
1-John Henry Lewis Vs Joe Louis (1939)
The fighters were good friends with The Brown Bomber being the heavyweight champion and John Henry Lewis being the Light Heavyweight champion who has been in over 100 fights with out being stopped. Louis was a destructive force making the 5th defence of his title, having just stopped Max Schmeling in 124 seconds of controlled violence. Sadly for the great Light Heavyweight Louis would need less than a round to stop his friend and send him into retirement, in just his 20’s. Lewis was dropped 3 times in 149 seconds for to see Louis scoring the second successive 1st round TKO of his title reign that would extend until the 1940’s.
2-Ezzard Charles Vs Joe Louis (1950)
Although Louis was a shell of his former self Charles was a fine fighter at Light Heavy, with a a solid dig, and good skills. He would show those skills as he beat an aging legend who was forced back to the ring due to money problems and making only his second appearance in a ring in 27 months (including an exhibition wih Johnny Shkor). Charles’ reign as champion was relatively short lived however as he lost the title 10 months later to Jersey Joe Walcott after defending the belt 4 times. Louis would fight 9 times, winning all but the final one to the emerging Rocky Marciano.
3-Archie Moore Vs Rocky Marciano (1995)
Moore had beaten a who’s who of Light Heavyweights in the 1950’s such as Harold Johnson (thrice), Joey Maxim (twice) and had also twice beaten Nino Valdes before advancing into a Heavyweight world title fight with Marciano who had won the title 3 years previous by stopping Jersey Joe Walcott. Moore would drop Rocky in the second round and seriously hurt him, though the referee managed to buy time for Marciano who cleared his head and stopped The “Ol Mongoose” in the 9th. The fight would be Marciano’s final whilst Moore would continue until 1963.
4-Michael Spinks Vs Larry Holmes (1985)
Holmes had been 48-0 as a professional, closing in on the infamous 49-0 of Marciano, he had been a champion since 1978 when he had won the WBC title from Ken Norton and held that title until the early 1980’s when he gave it up to become the inaugural IBF champion at the weight. Spinks had also been unbeaten, though was 27-0 and had been the undisputed Light Heavyweight champion, holding the WBC, WBA and IBF titles before moving up. Spinks would go on to cause the 1985 upset by winning a controversial decision over Holmes using his tricky style to avoid the potent jab of “The Easton Assassain” and become the first man to jump from Light Heavyweight champion to Heavyweight to win the title since Ezzard Charles.
5-Roy Jones Jr v John Ruiz (2003)
Roy Jones was seen as a special fighter, he had gone from Middleweight to Light Heavyweight with ease, beating every one in front of him and avenging his only loss (a controversial DQ against Montell Griffin). He was fast, clever and always seemed to have more time than anyone else and was generally regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet, his move to heavyweight was merely an attempt to become the first man since Bob Fitzsimmons to move from Middleweight champion to Heavyweight champion. Ruiz however was the weak link in the division, slow, clumsy and lacked concussive power. He was seen as a title holder there for the taking and Jones was the man to take it, running rings around Ruiz using his superior speed to dance in and out to take the decision win and the WBA Heavyweight title.
Whether or not Tarver can follow in the footsteps of rival Jones is up for debate, though at 41 he’s in the twilight of his career and his up coming fight with Nagy Aguilera could quickly end with Tarver retiring.
This isn’t a definitive list, of course it misses fighters like Jack Root, Georges Carpentier and Gene Tunney off the list amongst others and only includes Light Heavyweights taking on a Heavyweight champion (either NBA/NYSAC/WBA/WBC/IBF or WBO) which is why Tomasz Adameks recent campaign at the weight isn’t included.