In boxing, there are only a few physical attributes that could easily be quantified. This is not to mean that they are tell-all about the individual under consideration. While a boxer can change his weight class, height, and reach remains the same during the course of their careers.
Both height and reach can easily be measured. For height, all you need is to stand on a flat surface and measure from the top of the head to the floor. It is even simpler to calculate reach; you do not even need a flat surface or stand up, it can be done lying down or sitting. All one has to do is stretch your arms horizontally and take the distance from fingertip to fingertip. In simple terms, just appraise the arm span.
The height of a boxer is important and a natural trait. So is his reach, after all, boxing is about throwing punches with your arms. But why is such a simple statistic so integral to the sweet science. An oversimplified answer to this is that it defines the boxing technique. It will also have a significant impact on their strategy for their opponents.
In this article, we will talk about 10 boxers with the longest reaches in history. This list is full of heavyweights, but we will jump up, and down the weight classes to give you a good account of how these boxers used their natural gifts to their advantage.
Worth noticing is that reaches below are relative to the weight class (not absolute).
Longest Reaches (Relative to Weight Class) in Boxing History
10. Thomas Hearns – Welterweight
The average reach in welterweight is about 71.2 inches. Thomas Hearns’ arm span was 78 inches, far greater than what is considered normal in the category. Perhaps this is the reason why he was successfully able to move up five weight classes all the way up to light heavyweight. The Memphis native was a devastating puncher and put many to sleep. But this is not why he was nicknamed “Motor City Cobra.” Standing at 6’1”, his reach was greater than his height and allowed him to out box anyone who came across him from a distance.
9. Charley Burley – Middleweight
Let’s move up from welterweight and into the middleweight category. Successful champions on average have a reach of 72.9 inches, Charley Burley had a reach of 75 inches. Not bad for a diminutive boxer who stood at only 5’9″. Burley held the World Colored Middleweight Championship and was never given a chance for the world title. Even Sugar Ray Robinson ducked in fighting him, and it says a lot about him. He was a careful boxer who used his long reach to good use with a devastating jab.
8. Tommy Burns – Heavyweight
Mike Tyson was a small heavyweight by everyone’s standards. However, Iron Mike looks huge when you consider Tommy Burns. The only Canadian heavyweight boxing champion, Burns stood at 5’7,” but it was his 73-inch reach that set him apart from his peers. Marvin Hart was five inches taller than Burns when they met for the world title. The height advantage would account for nothing as Hart was beaten, and the Canadian boxer would go on to defend his title 11 more times. Burns stood out from his contemporaries, not just in size. He broke barriers by becoming the first heavyweight champion to give Jewish and African American boxers a shot at the title.
7. Panama Al Brown – Flyweight
Panama Al Brown started at flyweight and changed his weight class to bantamweight and then featherweight. The average reach for a champion 64.6 to 66.7 inches. No one in these weight classes came close to Brown’s 76-inch arm span. He made history when he beat Gregorio Vidal by a fifteen round decision to become the first Latin American world champion. He successfully defended his title 12 times before losing it to Baltasar Sangchili. He would later defeat his Spanish boxer to reclaim his IBU bantamweight title.
6. Roger Mayweather – Featherweight
At featherweight, the reach of boxers are lesser than their fellows in higher weight classes but not for Roger Mayweather. And while Flloyd Mayweather Jr. does not make our list, his uncle makes the cut. At an arm span of 73.5 inches, he easily had a 7-inch advantage over his contemporaries. Roger put his advantage to good use in the ring and became a two-weight world champion from 1983 to 1984 when he claimed the WBC light welterweight and added it to his WBA and lineal super featherweight titles. He is remembered as one of the more active fighters of his generation, getting in the ring 72 times, and getting his hand raised an impressive 59 times.
5. Tyson Fury – Heavyweight
The Gypsy King had to be on this list. He is an active boxer who uses his reach to his advantage. Not to say that this is why he is successful. Ask Deontay Wilder, and he will agree that the 85-inch was not the only reason he lost the fight. The Manchester native is unbeaten in 31 matches and should have won the WBC heavyweight title but was made to wait an extra fourteen months for it. He has an awkward fighting style that feeds into his game plan. The Covid-19 pandemic postponed his rematch with Wilder, and he has kept busy with involvement in the WWE, amongst other things.
4. Michael Grant – Heavyweight
Let’s get a bit shorter and add that to the wingspan. Michael Grant is two inches shorter than Fury at 6’7,” but at 86 inches has greater reach than the Irishman. The Chicago, Illinois native had an orthodox stance and used it to good effect to claim IBC heavyweight title. He would add the NABF heavyweight title but would lose it all to the equally wide Lennox Lewis. Grant spent time in the shadows but was in championship reckoning again when he claimed the NABA USA heavyweight title in November 2008. Before taking up boxing as his profession, the Big was a three-sport star at Chicago’s Harper High School, being equally talented in baseball, basketball, and football.
3. Efe Ajagba – Super Heavyweight
At 6’6” and with a 88” reach, the Nigerian Efe Ajagba is a physical wonder to behold. The 26-year-old is a Bronze medalist at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and followed it up with a gold medal in the 2015 African Games. During his amateur career, he fought at super heavyweight and is now enjoying life in the all-encompassing heavyweight category. Ajagba is unbeaten in his 14 professional fights, getting his hand raised in 11 through knockouts. With the Fury and Wilder trilogy postponed, the Nigerian boxer is on the shortlist to take on the Gypsy King for a December 2020 fight. He also has the record for the fastest victory when his rival left the ring within one second.
2. Julius Long – Heavyweight
The average reach for a heavyweight is around 76.3 inches, but as we know that many are not bound by the law of averages and stand beyond them. Julius Long is the outlier. The Romulus, Michigan native, grew to over 7’1,”, but this was still smaller than his 90” reach. However, it was his height that earned him the nickname “Towering Inferno”. Long’s exceptional reach did not do him favors in the ring, and he has a negative record against his name. He has only won 18 of his 43 fights, losing 24. His last fight last year ended in a draw. Despite this, Long did manage to contend for the World Boxing Foundation World heavyweight title, which he lost to Peter Graham. However, he did lay claim to the WBA Oceania heavyweight title in 2016 but did not defend it in a competitive match.
1. Gogea Mitu – Heavyweight
Julius Long has the record for the largest documented reach amongst professional boxers. However, we have to go back over a century for the man with the unofficial record in this category. It is easy to understand these claims as Dumitru Stefanescu, better known as Gogea Mitu, was 8 feet and 2 inches tall (8’2”). He suffered from gigantism, which adds to the claims that he had an arm span of over 100 inches. In addition to claims about his reach, the Goliath of Romania is also listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the tallest professional boxer ever. Mitu was trained at the Paris School for Boxing but only managed two professional fights under his belt as he died at the tender age of 26.