Before we begin our list, I wanted to take some time to comment on 2 fighters who may have strong support in certain communities for being among the best in history, but they don’t really have a place on the list.
Rocky Marciano – Won 49 Lost 0.43 KOs
Ask any Italian who was the greatest boxer of all time and you will never hear the names of Ali, Louis or Sugar. No. You’ll only hear the name of Rocky Marciano, the only heavyweight champion to retire undefeated. To his credit, Rocky Marciano had a habit of hitting his opponents in the ring. Add in the fact that your most notable victory was over your childhood idler Joe Louis, whom you felt again in retirement. But Joe was past his prime. He also beat Archie Moore, but he was also in his early forties. So, to the entire nation of Italy and their children I say, Rocky Marciano couldn’t beat any of the champions in my Top TEN.
Lennox Lewis: 41 wins, 2 losses, 1 draw, 32 KOs
Lewis is likely to become one of the smartest and most calculated champions in history. But that’s not what it’s based on pound for pound. Lennox was able to cash in on Tyson’s prison sentence to reign as champion, and then got out before the Klitchko brothers could undo the legacy he has created for himself. He stayed 4 more years as an amateur to win a gold metal against younger opponents (Riddick Bowe for the medal fight). He then became champion only because Bowe gave up the title. He got out of Tyson’s path (accepting a large multi-million dollar reward from Don King as payment for Tyson to take his ranking) as he climbed back up to regain the championship that was handed to him. I think history will judge it by how fake it really is.
And now, to the top ten pound-for-pound boxers:
10 – Mike Tyson – 50 wins, 5 losses, 2 no contests, 44 KOs
No other fighter has been called “the baddest man on the planet.” Mike Tyson was perhaps the most feared person in boxing history. Until Buster Douglas embarrassed Iron Mike, Mike Tyson made the fighters give up. Moving up the amateur ranks, boxers actually lost on purpose not to fight Tyson in tournaments. How ironic that Tyson’s worst loss was not for a boxer, but for a beauty pageant contestant named Desiree Washington. There’s a strong chance that if Tyson hadn’t suffered a 3-year setback, he would have easily risen up and been universally recognized as one of the best ever.
9 – (Big) George Foreman – Won 76 lost 5, 68 KO
Foreman’s greatest enemy has always been himself. He couldn’t accept defeat. After making a name for himself as one of the most dominant fighters in history, his loss to Ali knocked him out of professional boxing for more than a year. He made his first comeback attempt in 1977, knocking out his next 5 opponents (including Frazier, again), only to fold after losing a 12-round decision. A decade later, Foreman made an unlikely comeback at the age of 38. Foreman was back near the top of the boxing rankings and despite suffering setbacks against Holyfield and Tommy Morrison, Foreman shocked the world when he surprised Michael Moore with a knockout. in the tenth round. His next tips further proved that even into his 40s, Foreman remained a formidable force.
8 – (Sugar) Ray Leonard – 36 Wins, 3 Losses, 1 Draw, 25 KO
Leonard has to be on this list if only for the sheer psychology he was able to inflict on his opponents. Only Ali could get more into the heads of his opponents. Add to that all the titles you have, in multiple weight divisions, and you have your all-time # 8. Like most great fighters, he just didn’t know when to quit, so you’ll have to ignore the last fights of his career. Sugar Ray beat them all, from Duran (No More, No More), to Hagler, then Hearns, Sugar Ray’s stock only fell due to his own problems. He first retired due to a retinal detachment, and it can be argued that a severe cocaine habit between the ages of 84 and 89 further damaged his career.
7 – (Wonderful) Marvin Hagler – 62 wins, 3 losses, 2 draws, 52 knockouts
Yes, we have the Marvelous ahead of Leonard, even though Leonard beat Hagler in their only encounter. Hagler was so distraught over that loss that he left earlier, and is even refusing to talk about that fight today. Hagler’s only 2 losses were early in his career, and he responded by beating both fighters. He would have continued to dominate the middleweight division had he not suffered the mentally debilitating loss to Leonard. While Hopkins has been a longer middleweight champion, with more title defenses, it can be argued that he never faced opponents of the caliber of Duran and Hearns, both of whom Hagler defeated.
6 – Archie Moore – 181 wins, 24 losses, 9 draws and 1 without a contest, 145 KOs
Looking at the record, it is easy to see why “Old Mongoose” or “Old Archie” has made the list. Archie’s career spanned more than 4 decades, and he was the only fighter who faced Rocky Marciano and Muhammed Ali. Archie was a better light heavyweight than pure heavyweight. His light heavyweight title was taken from him twice because he was too busy fighting in a higher weight class. No other fighter has knocked out as many professional opponents as Archie.
5 – Roy Jones Jr – 49 wins, 3 losses, 38 KOs
This particular selection is highly debatable and may end with Roy’s removal from the list entirely. While there is no denying his talent, there is a question as to whether his showmanship and section of opponents unfairly propelled him to his status. Winning a championship fight after playing paid basketball on the same day was unheard of. Like becoming a champion from middleweight to heavyweight. Before his last two fights, Jones’ only loss was a fake call after he was disqualified against Montell Griffin, who quickly got his revenge. Jones has at least deserved due consideration and an initial entry to the list.
4 – Joe (Brown Bomber) Louis – Won 68 Lost 3, 54 KO
While there seems to be some dispute over whether 5 of his KO wins were exhibition matches or not, there is a consensus not to take 2 of his 3 losses in failed comeback attempts seriously. The last and most humiliating loss was an eighth round KO through the ropes of Rocky Marciano. The brown bomber was so in debt that he tried to return well past his prime. The fact that so much cultural identity rested on his shoulders made Joe Louis not only one of the greatest pure fighters, but a true icon for the second-class citizens of America. Joe will be best known for his first-round KO of German Max Schmeling in 1938. Schmeling beat favorite Louis in 12 years just a few years earlier. Even when Joe won the heavyweight title by knockout, he refused to be called champion until he settled the score with Schmeling. It is this attitude that made him a national hero despite his color.
3 – Julio Cesar Chavez – Won 104 Lost 5, 2 draws, 80 KO
Julio is a Mexican world champion boxer who won world titles in 3 different divisions. Among the world champions that Chávez defeated in his career are Edwin Rosario, José Luis Ramírez, Rocky Lockridge, Meldrick Taylor, Roger Mayweather, Sammy Fuentes, Héctor “Macho” Camacho, Juan Laporte and Tony López. Chávez spent 13 years before not winning a fight, with a draw against Pernell Whitaker, and it was a year later before suffering his first loss that he avenged 4 months later. In the last 8 years of his 24-year career alone, Chávez counted 4 of his 5 losses to 3 different opponents. He was able to avenge his loss to Willey Wise, but failed on the second attempt at Oscar De La Hoya.
2 – Muhammed (Louisville Lip) Ali – won 56 Lost 5, 37 KO
In my book, Ali will also go down as one of the greatest human beings of all time. As a purely boxer, only one “what could have been” during his 3-year hiatus after refusing to go to Vietnam prevents him from being the best of all time. He came back after 3 years to lose the first of three by asking Joe Frazier. They were both undefeated at the time. The same thing happened with Ken Norton. In both cases, Ali came back to spank them in the next 2 fights. Although the two became friends later, Ali is also credited with knocking out Foreman in the ring, outside of boxing, and in the pulpit. Leon Spinks landed Ali during his declining years, but Ali still came back to beat him in 1979. What happened to Ali in the next two fights against Holmes and Berbick is eerily similar to what is happening now with Roy Jones Jr. no case, in case those 2 fights are included in what would otherwise be a spectacular race.
1 – (Sugar) Ray Robinson 179 wins, 19 losses, 6 draws, 2 no contests, 109 KOs
While many fighters have had that nickname over the years, none have been as sweet as Ray Robinson, whose real name was actually Walker Smith Jr. Robinson won the middleweight title an unprecedented five times. Even Muhammed Ali referred to Sugar Ray as the greatest fighter of all time (Rumor has it that Robinson actually refused to give Ali an autograph when Ali met him when Ali was still young, and Clay). Unlike Moore, most of Robinson’s losses occurred late in his career.
Floyd Mayweather Jr – 32 wins, 0 losses, 21 knockouts
Now considered (arguably) the best pound-for-pound active boxer
Roberto Duran: 103 wins, 16 losses, 69 knockouts
He will always be marked by his work in the eighth round of giving up Sugar Ray Leonard.
Evander (Real Deal) Holyfield: 38 wins, 7 losses, 2 draws, 25 KOs
He was the undisputed cruiserweight and heavyweight champion of the world. He was also the man who destroyed the aura who was Mike Tyson. It will have its place in boxing history, but not as one of the greatest in history.
(Smokin ‘) Joe Frazier – 32 wins, 4 losses, 1 draw, 27 KOs
Also one of the most feared fighters ever, but 2 losses to Ali and Foreman will keep him off this list.
Thomas Hearns – 59 wins 4 losses 1 draw, 46 KOs
Also known as “Hit Man” and “Motor City Cobra,” Hearns won seven world championships in six weight classes during his 22-year professional career. But losses to Leonard (his first in history) and Hagler will keep him off the list.
Bernard Hopkins – 45 wins, 2 losses, 1 draw, 1 NC, 32 KO
More than Hagler, Hopkins had a slow start to his career. When he finally won the belt, he has defended himself against the best of the 1990s and 2000s. He may end up in the top 10.