Boxing Simulation All-Time Heavyweight Champion Part 1 History

About a computer simulation ran in 1967 to determine the all-time heavyweight championship boxer of the world.

The All-Time Heavyweight Championship of the World

One night in 1967, 3 men locked themselves into a small room over a savings and loan office in Miami, and proceeded to record on tape one of the most unusual boxing matches in the history of the sport. By the time the evening had ended, 2 prizefighting immortals had fought 13 bloody rounds for the All-Time Heavyweight Championship of the World.

The fight was the climax of 15 elimination bouts among the greats of heavyweight boxing, from John L. Sullivan through Joe Louis to Muhammad Ali, and it had been created entirely in the flickering innards of a National Cash Register Model 315 computer.

The human brains behind this electronic diversion belonged to Murry Woroner, a Miami promoter and radio-TV producer, and Henry Meyer II, head of a computer firm. Broadcast nationwide to some 380 radio stations, their tournament became a roaring success. On the evening of December 18, more than 16 million Americans abandoned television and leaned into radio sets for the final match. The real Dempsey and Marciano listened to their epic battle at a radio station in Los Angeles, where a large room had been converted to a simulated gymnasium, complete with ring and punching bags.

Radio advertising receipts for the tournament were estimated at more than $3 million.

Ring experts questioned whether a computer, fed a set of human variables, could predict a fair outcome to a fight between men of different eras, styles, and abilities. If so, they reasoned, why go to the trouble of staging sporting events at all?

But Murry Woroner, a fight fan himself, saw infinite possibilities in the idea. He felt that modern electronics could resolve any sporting argument, including the one over which fighter was the all-time best.

Woroner began by gathering a small group of boxing experts, including Nat Fleischer, editor of The Ring magazine, and Hank Kaplan, past president of the World Boxing Historians Association, who owned one of the most complete libraries of information on the subject. With their help, Woroner created a rating sheet that broke the skill of boxing down into 58 "factors." These factors included such things as speed, hardness of punch, accuracy, prior injuries, susceptibility to cuts, courage, ability to defend, and killer instinct. He sent the sheet to 250 boxing experts and writers and asked them to rate the fighters. Using this information, he reduced the field to 16 contenders:

Jack Dempsey v. Jim Corbett

John L. Sullivan v. Jim Braddock

Bob Fitzsimmons v. Jack Sharkey

Jim Jeffries v. Joe Walcott

Joe Louis v. Jess Willard

Max Baer v. Jack Johnson

Rocky Marciano v. Gene Tunney

Muhammad Ali v. Max Schmeling

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