Floyd Mayweather and the 25 Greatest Black Fighters of the Last 25 Years
Floyd Mayweather helped reaffirm his position as the greatest American fighter of this generation with his recent victory over Miguel Cotto.
Black fighters such as Mayweather have made headlines in the sport as far back as Jack Johnson's heavyweight championship victory in 1910.
The focus on modern fighters is meant to highlight recently accomplished Black fighters rather than hound on the well-known greats such as Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson.
To make sure not too many old fighters sneak onto this list, the cutoff year is 1987.
If a fighter's career began before 1987, they have to had fought at least five times between 1987 and now to be considered.
If a fighter is officially considered, his whole career will be examined. That includes his career before 1987.
Without further ado, here's the 25 greatest Black fighters of the past 25 years.
Honorable Mention: Michael Nunn
Michael Nunn (58-4, 37 KO) created a buzz for himself with ninth-round knockout of the undefeated Frank Tate to win his first middleweight world title.
Nunn defeated the likes of Iran Barkley by decision and Sumbu Kalambay by first-round knockout before being knocked out by James Toney.
Nunn would defeat Victor Cordoba for a super middleweight world title before losing in an upset to journeyman Steve Little and then again to Freddie Roach-trained fighter Frankie Liles.
Notable Fighters That Didn't Make It
The rules stated in the beginning of this slideshow indicate that a fighter must have at least five fights between 1987 and now.
Here's a list of fighters who do not qualify based on this rule:
Marvelous Marvin Hagler (62-3-2, 52 KO)- He fought once in 1987 against Sugar Ray Leonard and retired.
Michael Spinks (31-1, 21 KO)- He fought once in 1987 against Cooney and once in 1988 against Tyson and retired.
Aaron Pryor (39-1, 35 KO)- He fought four times between 1987 and 1990 before retiring. If he had one more fight after 1987, I'd rank him very high (likely top 15).
25. Winky Wright
Ronald "Winky" Wright (51-5-1, 25 KO) is one of the most unappreciated boxers of all time.
His style of defense was hard to break through. With his long arms held up "peek-a-boo" style, his body and his face were covered.
He had plenty of power and enough hand speed to catch the fast guys like Shane Mosley and Jermain Taylor.
After suffering a loss at junior middleweight to Paul Williams in 2008, Wright hasn't stepped into the ring.
He plans to return against the younger Peter Quillin on June 2 on Showtime's quadruple-header.
24. Julian Jackson
Julian Jackson (55-6, 49 KO) is one of the hardest hitters of all time. His quest toward a light middleweight world championship was bathed in the bodies of many foes.
He fell into a stumbling block when Mike McCallum put him down and eventually out, but Jackson eventually won his first world title and then moved up to middleweight to win more world titles.
Along his way into boxing history, Jackson took down the likes of Terry Norris and Herol Graham in title fights that lasted less than five rounds.
23. Mark Johnson
Mark Johnson (44-5, 28 KO) became the first black American fighter to win a world flyweight title in 1996.
It's been said that many fighters avoided him, including Michael Carbajal, Ricardo Lopez and Johnny Tapia.
For whatever reason, Johnson wouldn't net any marquee names until 2003, when he faced an undefeated Fernando Montiel, boxed his socks off and scored a knockdown in Round 5.
Johnson gained a junior bantamweight world title but lost two fights in a row at bantamweight against Rafael Marquez.
In the first fight, Johnson was deducted two points for holding, which made the difference as to who won the split decision. In the second fight, he was knocked out in Round 8.
Johnson would eventually retire after suffering consecutive knockout losses to Ivan Hernandez and Jhonny Gonzalez.
22. Jermain Taylor
Jermain Taylor (30-4-1, 18 KO) defeated Bernard Hopkins twice to interrupt the greatest middleweight win streak in boxing history.
What a way to get noticed, huh?
Taylor would never repeat a feat as notable as that, but he did engage in an exciting fight with Winky Wright that resulted in a draw.
He also defeated Cory Spinks before suffering back to back losses to Kelly Pavlik and then brutal knockout losses to Carl Froch and Arthur Abraham at super middleweight.
Taylor has returned to the middleweight division today and won two fights in a row so far.
21. Antonio Tarver
Antonio Tarver (29-6, 16 KO) may beg the question for some as to whether one punch qualifies a fighter to be one of the best fighters of the past 25 years.
Though he is famous for his perfectly-timed second-round knockout of Roy Jones, Tarver has made himself into a great light heavyweight in such a short amount of time.
Tarver defeated Montell Griffin and Eric Harding. He split bouts with Glen Johnson before being defeated by Chad Dawson twice.
Tarver has gave some great performances, even in losing, but his trilogy with Jones will likely stay his most memorable accomplishment.
He made Jones into a human who could not only be beat, but knocked out and Tarver deserves credit for this discovery.
20. Meldrick Taylor
Meldrick Taylor (38-8-1, 20 KO) was an Olympic gold medalist. There was a considerable amount of expectations for him to live up to. He did more than that.
Taylor's 24-0 beginnings, which included a 12th round TKO of Buddy McGirt, rocketed those expectations into pound for pound status and the IBF world championship.
Next came the controversial fight with Julio Cesar Chavez. Chavez was a legend, possibly the greatest Mexican boxer of all time.
Taylor gave Chavez a schooling unlike any had ever done before to Chavez. The shock that the 69-0 Chavez could possibly lose caused many to glue their eyes to a TV set that evening.
With the scorecards in his favor, Taylor just needed to survive the final round. Chavez managed to knock down a tired Taylor. Taylor got to his feet with less than ten seconds left in the fight.
The referee asked if he heard his command, and Taylor didn't respond and the fight was waived off with two seconds to spare. The defeat was devastating to Taylor.
He was never the same afterward and would go on to do very little else in the light welterweight, welterweight or light middleweight divisions he would compete in.
19. Shane Mosley
Shane Mosley (46-8-1, 39 KO) was an unstoppable lightweight in the 1990s. Mosley KO'd his way through 34 opponents before finding his way to Oscar De La Hoya.
The two put on the fight of a lifetime. Mosley beat De La Hoya by decision and beat him again three years later.
Though Mosley would suffer back to back losses to Vernon Forrest and again to Winky Wright, he bounced back with two vicious knockouts of Fernando Vargas at light middleweight.
Then, after Miguel Cotto edged him in a fight of the year candidate in 2007, Mosley bounced back with a knockout win over Antonio Margarito.
Though he hasn't officially announced his retirement, he's lost his last three major fights against Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao and Saul "Canelo" Alvarez. The end of a great career seems near.
18. Nigel Benn
Nigel Benn (42-5-1, 35 KO) is one of the hardest hitters ever in the sport.
He obliterated his middleweight opposition, including Iran Barkley and former middleweight champ Doug DeWitt.
This eventually earned him a shot at Chris Eubank. In one of the greatest fights of the past three decades, Benn and Eubank took each other through hell.
Though Benn would lose the match by stoppage in Round 9, he continued to be a force in the super middleweight division.
Benn fought Gerald McClellan, one of the best fighters of the 1990s. Despite being knocked down in Round 1 and 8, Benn fought his way back into the fight.
Benn got McClellan down in Round 10 for the knockout, but McClellan would never be the same. He suffered brain damage that resulted in paralysis, partial blindness and partial deafness.
Benn would mentally never be the ferocious beast he was before and retired shortly afterwards.
17. Gerald McClellan
Gerald McClellan (31-3, 29 KO) was a fast and powerful body puncher. He decimated John Mugabi in Round 1 to win his first middleweight title.
He later knocked out Julian Jackson twice, including a first-round knockout, and he recorded the fastest knockout in a championship fight against undefeated middleweight contender Jay Bell (17 seconds).
His career unfortunately met its end too soon. In 1995 McClellan moved up to super middleweight to face Nigel Benn.
Despite knocking Benn down twice, Benn was strong enough to put McClellan down in Round 10. McClellan never got back up.
Suffering brain damage that resulted in paralysis and partial eyesight and hearing loss, Roy Jones helped organize a foundation to help McClellan's family with his medical bills.
16. James Toney
James Toney (74-7-3, 45 KO) did exceptionally well in the middleweight division, knocking out Michael Nunn and beating Mike McCallum, Iran Barkley and Doug DeWitt.
He moved up to super middleweight and challenged Roy Jones in a match that would serve as his first loss.
Toney eventually blew up to the cruiserweight and heavyweight divisions where he knocked out Evander Holyfield and almost won a heavyweight title against John Ruiz.
He tested positive for steroids and the win over Ruiz was declared a no-contest.
15. Mike McCallum
Mike McCallum (49-5-1, 36 KO) was called the "body snatcher" for a very good reason.
He was an expert at knocking out his foes with relentless and well-placed body shots.
Julian Jackson fell victim to Mike McCallum's body shots in his first loss and handed McCallum his first light middleweight world title.
McCallum also handed Steve Collins his first loss. McCallum would suffer setbacks against James Toney at middleweight before securing world title at light heavyweight vs. the highly underrated Jeff Harding.
McCallum would soon retire a legend after consecutive losses to Roy Jones and Toney.
14. Michael Moorer
Michael Moorer (52-4-1, 40 KO) won the light heavyweight title in his first year as a pro in 1988, winning all 12 fights that year by knockout.
He moved up to heavyweight in 1991, winning four fights by knockout for an impressive total knockout streak of 26.
Moorer disposed of Bert Cooper for his first world heavyweight title in 1992. His most impressive accomplishment came in a decision victory over Evander Holyfield in 1994.
Moorer would fall victim to a knockout against Foreman to suffer his first loss. He continued to stumble down a path that included knockout losses to David Tua and Holyfield in a rematch before retiring.
13. Riddick Bowe
Riddick Bowe (43-1, 33 KO) became a heavyweight superstar by handing Evander Holyfield his first loss in one of the great heavyweight fights of the 1990s.
Their subsequent rematches would result in the greatest trilogy in the heavyweight division since Ali-Frazier of the 1970s.
What hurt Bowe's career was his perceived ducking of Lennox Lewis.
Some say Bowe ducked Lewis because Lewis knocked him out in two rounds during the Olympic finals in 1988 before they turned pro.
Whatever the reason, Bowe's legacy took a hit. Otherwise, he had a fantastic heavyweight career filled with some amazing fights and breathtaking finishes.
12. Chris Eubank
Chris Eubank (45-5-2, 23 KO) went 28-0 as a middleweight, including a close fight against Michael Watson and an exciting showstopping fight with Nigel Benn that ended in a ninth-round knockout.
Eubank moved up to super middleweight to rematch Watson and defeated him, but not without tragic consequences. Watson suffered paralysis. Eubank lost his killer instinct.
Instead, Eubank finished most of his fights on the scorecards. He drew with Benn in a rematch and later lost to Steve Collins and a young undefeated Joe Calzaghe.
11. Mike Tyson
Mike Tyson (50-6, 44 KO) was the youngest heavyweight champ in history at age 20.
He bullied the likes of Trevor Berbick, Michael Spinks and Larry Holmes until he suffered possibly the greatest upset of all time against Buster Douglas in 1990.
He went to prison for a while and came out in 1995, never to win any of his most important fights. He was knocked out by the likes of Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis before retiring in 2005.
10. Evander Holyfield
Evander Holyfield (44-10-1, 29 KO) is a great former cruiserweight and heavyweight world champion.
Holyfield defeated Dwight Muhammad Qawi in one of the best fights of the 1980s and then slaughtered him in under four rounds in the rematch.
Holyfield also participated in the best heavyweight trilogy of modern times against Riddick Bowe.
His dominating knockout of Mike Tyson (despite Tyson being past his best) is likely Holyfield's most remembered performance.
He made valiant efforts in a draw and then decision loss to Lennox Lewis, but has become a shell of a shell of his former self in recent times, still fighting at age 49 going on 50.
9. Larry Holmes
Larry Holmes (69-6, 44 KO) is sandwiched between two of the greatest and most popular reigns in heavyweight history.
Holmes came after Muhammad Ali and before Mike Tyson, yet Holmes arguably had an even greater reign as champion than they.
His record of 20 defenses is only bested by one fighter, Joe Louis.
During his reign, Holmes ruled with an iron left jab, one of the greatest weapons in boxing history.
Holmes' list of victims grew to include hard-punching Earnie Shavers (twice), Ken Norton, a way-past-his-prime Muhammad Ali, Leon Spinks, Mike Weaver, Trevor Berbick, Randall Cobb and many others.
Gerry Cooney and Holmes were both undefeated when they staged a magnificent heavyweight event where Holmes overcame Cooney in the 13th round to win by TKO.
Holmes was 48-0, trying to go for the heavyweight undefeated record of 49-0 that belonged to Rocky Marciano, when he finally lost in 1985 against the younger Michael Spinks. He lost again later to the young monster that was Mike Tyson.
Holmes career continued far past his best, yet his jab still picked up notable wins, including one over Ray Mercer.
Holmes was definitely the best heavyweight of the 1980s and one of the greatest heavyweights ever.
8. Lennox Lewis
Lennox Lewis (41-2-1, 32 KO) is one of the few heavyweight world champions to defeat everyone he ever fought.
His two losses to Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman were avenged by knockout. His controversial draw against Evander Holyfield was avenged by an even clearer unanimous decision.
Lewis knocked out the likes of Michael Grant, Mike Tyson and Tommy Morrison. In his last title defense in 2003, Lewis came close to losing to a young Vitali Klitschko.
A cut caused by a Lewis punch stopped the fight in Round 6, helping him pick up the win. He retired shortly afterwards with a well-accomplished body of work.
Without a doubt Lewis is the greatest British fighter of all time.
7. George Foreman
George Foreman (76-5, 68 KO) is a fighter who had immense success in the 1970s with famous quick and brutal knockouts of Joe Frazier and Ken Norton.
After the infamous "Rumble in the Jungle," Foreman began to fall apart. After a surprise loss to Jimmy Young, he retired for 10 years.
During those 10 years, his conversion of his faith would be critical to his future success.
He came back plowing through youngsters. Old Foreman was successful in maintaining an 18-fight knockout streak.
Foreman began to step his competition up, losing to Evander Holyfield and Tommy Morrison by decision before shocking the world.
While behind points in what served as his last chance at a heavyweight world championship, Foreman was looking for a miracle and found it in Round 10. He struck Michael Moorer down for the knockout.
Foreman was the oldest heavyweight world champion ever at age 45. For him to dominate two entirely different generations makes him certainly one of the greatest to ever lace up a pair of gloves.
6. Roy Jones Jr.
Roy Jones (55-8, 40 KO) was the star of the decade during the 1990s.
His athleticism, his pure boxing skill and his unmatched combination of speed and power meant every great opponent he faced would look very ordinary by comparison.
Jones was to be feared after he gave losses to Bernard Hopkins, an undefeated James Toney and Virgil Hill.
He won world championships from middleweight all the way to heavyweight before his dazzling career came to a halt.
In a move to win the light heavyweight world title again, Jones faced Antonio Tarver and won, but he didn't look the same.
He faced Tarver again and was knocked out in two rounds. From then onward, Jones has looked noticeably less and less like the pound-for-pound superstar he was before.
That still doesn't stop the need to celebrate his achievements in the ring. He was a strong champion that inspired a generation.
5. Tommy Hearns
Tommy Hearns (61-5-1, 48 KO) was made of solid heart and two long powerful jabbing machines for arms.
Hearns built a record of 32-0 before losing by TKO to Sugar Ray Leonard in arguably the greatest fight of the 1980s.
After losing his world title, Hearns moved up to light middleweight and proceeded to beat Wilfred Benitez and decapitate Roberto Duran in one of the most brutal knockouts of all time.
After moving up to middleweight to lose in the three-round war with Marvelous Marvin Hagler that became an instant classic, he knocked out Dennis Andries for a light heavyweight title.
Hearns would gain a draw in a rematch with Leonard and drop a split decision in a rematch with Iran Barkley who originally gave Hearns a third-round knockout.
After handing Virgil Hill his first loss, Hearns would have minor successes in boxing until finally retiring in 2006.
4. Pernell Whitaker
Pernell Whitaker (40-4-1, 17 KO), otherwise known as "Sweet Pea," is the defensive pound-for-pound king of modern boxing.
His unorthodox style of dipping, shucking and jiving around the ring while clowning to embarrass his opponents has become a trademark act of Whitaker's.
He's won world titles from lightweight to light middleweight, but Whitaker's style also comes with a tendency to be robbed of decisions.
Many times, a more aggressive fighter who just merely threw punches at him would either get a favorable decision despite missing far more punches or would have a closer-than-reality scorecard.
Whitaker suffered unjust defeats to Jose Luis Ramirez and a young Oscar De La Hoya, but the biggest robbery of all came against Julio Cesar Chavez.
Chavez was out-schooled, out-brawled and out-fought. Whitaker made Chavez look normal and not like the special fighter he once was. In the end, however, Whitaker could only win a draw.
He retired in his late 30s after suffering his first two clear-cut losses to Felix Trinidad and Carlos Bojorquez.
3. Bernard Hopkins
Bernard Hopkins was an unusual fighter. He had great defense and an awkward style that made even his faster opponents unable to effectively use their speed.
Hopkins won the middleweight world title in 1995, then defended it for 10 years across a record successful 20 defenses before being dethroned by Jermain Taylor.
His 20 defenses included one of the quickest knockouts ever against Steve Frank, a beautiful body shot knockout of Oscar De La Hoya and a knockout of Felix Trinidad, who suffered his first loss.
Hopkins would go on to have success at light heavyweight, beating Antonio Tarver, Winky Wright, Kelly Pavlik and Jean Pascal in a win that would make him the oldest world titlist of all time at age 46.
After losing to Chad Dawson, it's possible Hopkins may finally retire at age 47, but he is still competitive. He has never been knocked out and hardly ever been knocked down. If he retires, his legacy is great enough.
2. Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Floyd Mayweather (43-0, 26 KO) began his career in 1996. After pummeling through just 17 foes, he faced the legendary Genaro Hernandez.
Mayweather dominated him for eight rounds before the beatdown came to a halt. To top off 1998, Mayweather stopped noteworthy contender Angel Manfredy in just two rounds.
As Mayweather continued his career, he would defeat the likes of Diego Corrales, Jose Luis Castillo, Arturo Gatti, Ricky Hatton, Shane Mosley and Oscar De La Hoya.
Mayweather most recently moved up to junior middleweight for only the second time in his entire career to defeat Miguel Cotto by decision.
The only thing that can put Mayweather over the top is a win over pound-for-pound rival Manny Pacquiao in the welterweight division. That accomplishment would be the cherry on top of his legacy.
1. Sugar Ray Leonard
Sugar Ray Leonard (36-3-1, 25 KO) makes a great case for being the best fighter of the past quarter-century and was certainly the best fighter of the 1980s.
He began the decade by defeating Wilfred Benitez and showing heart in his first loss to Roberto Duran before totally outclassing Duran with style and cocky flair during their rematch.
By the end of the 1980s, Leonard gave two great performances against Tommy Hearns: a TKO victory in their first fight and a very hard-fought draw in the second.
His most controversial win was a split decision against Marvelous Marvin Hagler in 1987 after being three years removed from the sport and at a weight he'd never fought at.
Leonard won the middleweight championship off style and speed alone. Then he would win titles at super middleweight and light heavyweight as well before fading in the 1990s and calling it quits in 1997.
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