By: Oliver McManus
Last week we kicked off a new series for Boxing Insider by looking at the heaviest professional boxers of all time. In the second edition of Boxing Befuddlements we’ll be looking at the tallest boxers of all time.
As with the heaviest fighters there is an obvious starting point for the category in Nikolay Valuev. We profiled his rise to world glory as part of that heavyweight feature so won’t repeat the same information but the Russian giant goes down in history as the tallest and heaviest world champion of all time. Standing at a mighty 7ft (213cm), Valuev’s height is not as a result of genetic dominance, his parents were both a mere 5ft 5inches (167cm) but rather the gigantism, enhanced by acromegaly, he was born with.
Since his retirement in 2009 Valuev has become an ambassador for the Russian national sport of bandy, as well as as member of the State Duma, in case you were wondering what he was up to.
Of course being the tallest champion of all time doesn’t immediately mark you out as THE tallest, full stop. If it did this would be a very short article.
Taishan Dong gives Valuev a very close run for his money, equalling the Russian’s height at 7ft. Initially a basketballer in his home country of China, Dong first foray into combat sports was actually through kickboxing. In 2013 he floored, former UFC fighter, Bob Sapp in an exhibition contest.
Nicknamed ‘The Great Wall’ he quickly adopted the forename Taishan due to his gargantuan stature bringing comparisons with the Shandong mountain of the same name. He moved to America in 2014 and made his debut in July of that year, a 2nd round stoppage of Alex Rozman. Offered a contract with Top Rank, he opted to sign with Golden Boy and gained a cult notoriety before his career stalled at the beginning of 2016. Three years on and he still hasn’t been back in the boxing ring, leaving his record at 6-0.
For a few weeks he was contracted to the WWE roster but that came to a swift end in December last year and the mystery continues.
Before we progress onto who exactly the tallest boxer is – yes, we will keep you waiting – it seems kind of inevitable that these giants are all going to come from the heavyweight division, such is the nature of boxing, so let’s dip into the lower weights and see who’s got something to shout about.
Cast your eyes over to Canada and the name Tony Pep might ring a few bells in the cacophonous chambers of your mind. A professional between 1982 and 2008 (although he only had six of his 53 fights after 2000), Pep was a world challenger, and Commonwealth champion, at super featherweight.
At 6ft 1.5inches (187cm) Pep would have stood head and shoulders, quite literally, over Miguel Berchelt, the current super featherweight world champion. Whilst it’s true the Canadian drifted in weight divisions – as high as 143lbs – the majority of his success was found in the super featherweight division. He also had the pleasure of sharing the ring with Floyd Mayweather and Ricky Hatton so he’s seen his fair share of sights.
The streets of Coachella, California, are the home of a literal giant among men. At 21 years of age it’s questionable as to whether Sebastian Fundora technically qualifies as a man – states laws in America being infinitely more varied than in the United Kingdom – but given his height and physique I won’t be the one to argue it.
The Towering Inferno , as he’s known, has been a professional since he was 18, ticking over in 2016. Since then he’s notched up an unbeaten record of 12-0. Fundoa fought largely Mexico at the beginning of his career but, via a solitary bouts in Uruguay and Argentina, is back making a name for himself in the States. Genuinely talented, as well, he isn’t being placed in the ‘novelty tall man’ drawer. I think it’s safe to say he’s putting the ‘fun’ in Fundora.
That’s the end of our small detour through the twists and turns of ‘The Tall City’ – which is, actually, what they call Midland, Texas – and it’s time for the grand reveal. Officially coming in as the tallest professional boxer of all time, even appearing in the Guinness Book of World Records, is Gogea Mitu.
Born as Dumitru Stefansecu and trading as “the Giant of Marsani”, Mitu was a Romanian heavyweight in the 1930s. There is plenty of conflicting information out there on the internet about him but official records show he was born a just two weeks before World War One broke out. He was the oldest of 11 children, his mother just 16 when she gave birth to him.
Towering over the small village he was from, Mitu was 7ft 4inches (224cm) tall and was offered a job as a literal “greatest showman” in the Prague ‘circus of human rarities’. It was there that he met Umberto Lancia who would teach him how to box. A debut came in Bucharest, June 1935, in which he swept aside Saverio Grizzo – himself 6ft 7.5inches (202cm) – within a round. Four months later he would do the same to Dimitru Pavelescu.
In the summer of 1936, just as his career was starting in earnest, he was travelling back from Istanbul when he caught a cold. After a few days of stagnant conditions, he was taken to the local hospital. Whilst there he would contract poisoning and pass away on June 22nd.
A tragic tale but one that all “tall boxers” will eternally live in the shadow of. Mitu, quite literally, raised the heights and makes the modern day behemoth seem positively miniature in comparison.