The Top 50 Pound-for-Pound Boxers of All Time
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Any ranking of the best fighters in boxing history is subjective. It is prone to overrating, underrating and disagreements of all sorts.
This will be no different.
Picking the best athletes in any sport is a daunting task. It's even more so in an individual sport like boxing.
Do you favor wins and losses? World championships? Quality of opposition?
Or maybe it's longevity, or mainstream appeal?
It's a measure of a fighter at his peak and how he compared to and fared against the other great fighters of his era.
No matter how you slice it, no two people will ever have the same list.
But that's the beauty of boxing.
With that, we present one man's view of the best 50 fighters in the history of boxing.
50. Salvador Sanchez
Sanchez's career was cut tragically short. Photo Credit: Associated Press.
Record: 44-1-1, 32 KO
Years Active: 1975-1982
Championships: WBC Featherweight
If not for his tragic death in an automobile accident in 1982, many boxing observers feel that Salvador Sanchez may well have become the greatest featherweight fighter of all time.
In his short but impressive career, Sanchez compiled wins over high-level opposition, including Danny "Little Red" Lopez twice, Ruben Castillo, Juan Laporte, Wilfredo Gomez and Azumah Nelson.
It's unfortunate that we never got a chance to see how great he could have truly been.
49. Wilfredo Gomez
Record: 44-3-1, 42 KO
Years Active: 1974-1989
Championships: Three world titles in three weight classes (WBC Super Bantamweight, WBC Featherweight, WBA Junior Lightweight)
"Bazooka" Gomez is the best fighter to come out of Puerto Rico. He is known for his devastating punching power, at one point winning 32 straight fights by knockout, and his wars with Mexican legends Carlos Zarate, Salvador Sanchez and Lupe Pintor.
The fight with Zarate still holds the record for highest combined knockout percentage of any two fighters to step foot inside a ring. Zarate entered at 55-0 with 54 KOs, while Gomez was 32-0-1 with 32 KOs.
It was Gomez who would win by, you guessed it, knockout in the fifth round.
48. Ted "Kid" Lewis
Official Record: 192-32-14, 79 KO
Newspaper Decisions: 40-13-12*
Years Active: 1909-1929
Championships: World Welterweight Championship
If anyone knows a thing or two about boxing, it's the late boxing historian Bert Sugar. And he ranks Ted "Kid" Lewis far higher, 33rd best of all time, than many others.
Lewis won the World Welterweight Championship on several occasions and is perhaps best known for his 20-fight series with the man he continually traded the belt with, Jack Britton.
In their epic series, which dwarfs the four-fight series we saw culminate this past week, Lewis went 3-4-1 with 12 no-decisions.
*Newspaper decisions were common in the old days of boxing. If neither fighter was knocked out, the bout would be declared a no-decision, but often sportswriters at ringside would come to a consensus on the winner and print it in their papers. These often didn't affect the fighters' actual win-loss records.
47. Oscar De La Hoya
Don't underrate The Golden Boy.
Al Bello/Getty Images
Record: 39-6, 30 KO
Years Active: 1992-2008
Championships: Won 10 world championships in six weight divisions (WBO Super Featherweight, WBO/IBF Lightweight, WBC Junior Welterweight, WBC Welterweight (2X), WBA/WBC (2X) Junior Middleweight, WBO Middleweight)
If this list were based on star power alone, you'd have a hard time finding anyone bigger than "The Golden Boy." He generated more money than any boxer in history and was one of the few modern fighters to become a transcendent star—bridging the gap between boxing and the rest of the sports world.
He was also quite accomplished in the ring, holding victories over 17 world champions and capturing 10 world titles of his own.
His resume is a virtual who's who of every big-name fighter of his era, and he could easily lay claims to victories over Shane Mosley (in their rematch) and Felix Trinidad, two fights that many felt he won.
46. Mike Tyson
There will never be another.
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Record: 50-6, 2 NC, 44 KO
Years Active: 1985-2005
Championships: Undisputed Heavyweight Championship, IBF Heavyweight, WBC/WBA Heavyweight (2X each)
"The Baddest Man on the Planet" was a force in the heavyweight division during the late 1980s and early 1990s. His punching power and persona were enough to intimidate most anyone, and many fighters were defeated before they ever stepped in the ring.
Tyson is the youngest man in history, at just 20 years and a shade over 4 months old, to win the Undisputed Heavyweight Championship. In doing so, he became the first man to ever unify and hold the WBC, IBF and WBA heavyweight titles at the same time.
45. Alexis Arguello
The Explosive Thin Man should make it for his nickname alone.
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Record: 77-8, 62 KO
Years Active: 1968-1995
Championships: Three in three weight divisions (WBA Featherweight, WBC Super Featherweight, WBC Lightweight)
Alexis Arguello is consistently rated as one of the greatest punchers of all time and was voted by the Associated Press as the greatest junior lightweight in history. He also has the distinction of having never lost one of his world championships in the ring, instead relinquishing them to pursue titles in other weights.
Arguello is best known for his unsuccessful and controversial challenges of Aaron Pryor for the Junior Welterweight Championship.
44. Pernell Whitaker
Sweet Pea is one of the best pure boxers of all time.
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Record: 40-4-1, 1 NC, 17 KO
Years Active: 1984-2001
Championships: Six in three weight divisions (IBF/WBC/WBA Lightweight, IBF/WBC Welterweight, WBA Junior Middleweight)
You'd be hard pressed to find a better pure boxer than Pernell "Sweet Pea" Whitaker. He tends to get underrated a bit because of his style and lack of devastating punching power.
But Whitaker won six world titles, including unifying the lightweight division, and holds wins over Greg Haugen, Jose Luis Ramirez, Azumah Nelson and Buddy McGirt.
Whitaker was robbed more than once in his career, in his first world title challenge against Ramirez and again in the draw against Julio Cesar Chavez.
Whitaker clearly won both fights, and you could also argue that he deserved a win over Oscar De La Hoya as well.
43. Carlos Monzon
Record: 87-3-9, 1 NC, 59 KO
Years Active: 1963-1977
Championships: WBA/WBC Middleweight Champion
Carlos Monzon was a great fighter and a deeply troubled person. On the one hand, he is known for becoming the unified WBC/WBA middleweight champion and defending it a then-record 14 times.
On the other, he is known for his violent out-of-ring lifestyle, culminating with his conviction in 1989 for murder.
In the ring, Monzon was a monster. He holds career defining victories over two other entrants on this list—Emile Griffith and Jose Napoles.
42. Larry Holmes
The Easton Assassin was one of the biggest, toughest heavyweights of all time.
Holly Stein/Getty Images
Record: 69-6, 44 KO
Years Active: 1973-2002
Championships: WBC/IBF Heavyweight Champion
Larry Holmes won his first 48 fights, held the WBC Heavyweight Championship for five years and the IBF title for two years. During his reign, he made 20 successful defenses. This is second in heavyweight history to only the great Joe Louis.
Holmes' left jab is still considered one of the most lethal weapons in the history of the sport.
41. Eder Jofre
Record: 72-2-4, 50 KO
Years Active: 1957-1976
Championships: World Bantamweight Championship, WBC/WBA Bantamweight Championship
Eder Jofre is a well-kept secret amongst boxing fans largely due to his rare appearances outside his native Brazil. He was undefeated in his first 50 fights, a record later broken by Julio Cesar Chavez, before losing in Japan to "Fighting" Harada.
Harada would be the only man to ever defeat him, and Jofre would go on to win the World bantamweight and newly created WBA and WBC bantamweight titles.
40. Tommy Hearns
The Hitman fought in a loaded era.
Mike Powell/Getty Images
Record: 61-5-1, 48 KO
Years Active: 1977-2006
Championships: Six titles in five weight divisions (WBA Welterweight, WBC Junior Middleweight, WBC Middleweight, WBO Super Middleweight, WBC/WBA Light Heavyweight)
Tommy "Hitman" Hearns holds, among his many distinctions, the distinction of being the first man to win four world titles in four weight divisions and then five in five divisions.
He is best known for his tremendous fights with Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler and Roberto Duran. It was a loaded time for the sport of boxing, and while Hearns was only able to defeat Duran amongst this group, there is no shame in that fact.
39. Roy Jones Jr.
Jones won so many world titles, they created new ones for him.
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Record: 55-8, 40 KO
Years Active: 1989-Present
Championships: Eight world titles in four weight divisions (IBF Middleweight, IBF Super Middleweight, WBC/WBA Light Heavyweight (2X each), IBF Light Heavyweight, WBA Heavyweight)
Roy Jones Jr. held so many world titles at one point, he needed an entire entourage just to carry the belts to the ring. He is one of the most dominant light heavyweight's in history, and in his prime, rarely found a legitimate challenge.
Jones often receives criticism for having dominated an era without many serious foes. But he does hold wins over Bernard Hopkins, James Toney, Mike McCallum and Virgil Hill.
He is also the only man in history to begin his career below middleweight, Jones started at 154 pounds, and still win a share of the heavyweight title.
38. Marvin Hagler
Hagler was middleweight champion for seven years.
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Record: 62-3-2, 52 KO
Years Active: 1973-1987
Championships: Undisputed Middleweight Champion, WBC/WBA/IBF Middleweight Champion
Marvelous Marvin Hagler, that's his legal name, was one of the most dominant middleweights in modern history. His reign as undisputed champion lasted for seven years, from 1980-1987, before he was narrowly, and controversially, defeated by Sugar Ray Leonard in a split decision.
Hagler is known for his granite chin, and he measured up well against other contemporary legends. Even with the loss to Leonard, he holds a decision victory over Roberto Duran and a knockout win over Tommy Hearns in The Ring's 1985 Fight of the Year.
37. Billy Conn
Record: 64-12-1, 15 KO
Years Active: 1934-1942, 1946-1948
Championships: NBA (later WBA) Light Heavyweight Champion, Undisputed Light Heavyweight Champion
Billy Conn, better known as "The Pittsburgh Kid," was a former undisputed light heavyweight champion. But his most notable fights, without a doubt, came when he challenged Joe Louis for the heavyweight title.
Both Conn and Louis lost a good deal of their primes when they were called up and served in World War II. Their first fight took place in 1941, before they entered the military, with Conn relinquishing his light heavyweight crown to face Louis.
Incredibly, Conn did not attempt to put on weight and fought the bigger Louis from the light heavyweight limit. After 13 rounds, Conn had a lead on two of three scorecards when Louis came from behind and stopped him with two beautiful right hands.
The two would meet again after the war, with Louis winning more decisively.
36. Emile Griffith
Photo Credit: Corbis Images
Record: 85-24-2, 1 NC, 23 KO
Years Active: 1958-1977
Championships: World Welterweight (2X), WBC/WBA Welterweight (2X), WBC/WBA Middleweight (2X)
Emile Griffith was a world champion at welterweight and middleweight multiple times. Some even consider him a three-division champion, though a junior middleweight title was not yet recognized.
Griffith is best known for his three-fight series with welterweight champion Benny Paret in which Griffith won two of the three. Their third fight was highly controversial, as Paret died due to injuries sustained in the bout.
Griffith also had notable trilogies with Luis Rodriguez and Nino Benvenuti. He also prominently fought, but lost to, Carlos Monzon and Jose Napoles, both fighters on this list.
35. Terry McGovern
Official Record: 59-5-4, 44 KO
Newspaper Decisions: 6-1-4
Years Active: 1897-1908
Championships: World Bantamweight Champion, World Featherweight Champion
"Terrible" Terry McGovern was born in Pennsylvania but made his name fighting out of Brooklyn, New York. He won the world championship at both bantamweight and featherweight.
He holds a notable victory over Joe Gans, though Gans later said he threw the fight.
He is listed by The Ring as one of the greatest punchers of all time and is rated by many as one of the top featherweights in history.
34. Manny Pacquiao
Pacquiao is an eight-division champion.
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Record: 54-5-2, 38 KO
Years Active: 1995-Present
Championships: Recognized as having won 10 world championships in eight weight divisions (Flyweight, Super Bantamweight, Featherweight, Super Featherweight, Lightweight, Junior Welterweight, Welterweight, Junior Middleweight)
Manny Pacquiao is the first man in boxing history to win world championships in eight different weight divisions. It is a marvel that a man who began his career at 108 pounds has been able to compete at an elite level in the upper weight classes against other top-level fighters.
Even with his defeat Saturday night at the hands of longtime rival Juan Manuel Marquez, Pacquiao's standing in boxing is secure. It was an absolutely stunning knockout defeat that might signal the end of a great career.
But there's no reason to hang your head.
There is no shame in losing to a fellow great fighter as long as you stand up to the challenge. And Pacquiao deserves credit for understanding the critics and his place in the sport and choosing to face Marquez four times when most elite-level fighters refused to face him once.
33. Jose Napoles
Record: 80-7, 54 KO
Years Active: 1958-1975
Championships: WBC/WBA Welterweight Champion (3X)
Jose "Mantequilla" Napoles was a Cuban-born, but Mexico-adopted, fighter who ranks amongst the greatest welterweight fighters in history.
Despite his nickname, which in English means "butter," Napoles was a vicious power puncher. He won his first title from Curtis Cokes in brutal fashion, a feat he would repeat in a rematch, and also defeated Emile Griffith and Ernie "Indian Red" Lopez.
After unsuccessfully stepping up to challenge middleweight champion Carlos Monzon, Napoles returned to welterweight where he had another successful reign as champion before retiring after losing the title to John Stracey.
32. Sandy Saddler
Record: 144-16-2, 103 KO
Years Active: 1944-1956
Championships: World Featherweight Championship (2X), World Super Featherweight Championships
Sandy Saddler was one of the most feared punchers of his time and is one of the most highly rated featherweight champions of all time. He is best known for winning three of his four fights with the famed Willie Pep.
Saddler is also one of the only fighters in history to score over 100 knockouts in his career and will go down in history as one of the strongest, most devastating punchers the sport has ever produced.
31. Marcel Cerdan
Record:111-4, 65 KO
Years Active: 1938-1949
Championships: Various European Titles, NBA (later WBA) Middleweight Championship
Marcel Cerdan is considered to be the greatest French boxer of all time. Cerdan made his biggest name by fighting in France's colonial possessions, such as Algeria, where he was born, and Morocco.
While he only fought a handful of times in the United States, he did score a notable win over middleweight champion Tony Zale to secure the NBA Middleweight Championship. The fight was declared the 1948 Fight of the Year.
Cerdan would lose the belt to Jake LaMotta three fights later.
30. Ruben Olivares
Record: 89-13-3, 79 KO
Years Active: 1965-1988
Championships: WBA/WBC Bantamweight (2X each), WBA Featherweight, WBC Featherweight
There was a long stretch where Ruben Olivares was considered far and away Mexico's greatest fighter. In the eyes of this man, though, he is still the greatest bantamweight in history.
Olivares holds notable wins over Bobby Chacon and Jose Luis Ramirez, and like the man who supplanted him at the top in Mexico, he is a national celebrity.
His best known defeat came in a fight that he was leading against Alexis Arguello.
29. Floyd Mayweather Jr.
There is no questioning Mayweather's talent.
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Record: 43-0, 26 KO
Years Active: 1996-Present
Championships: Eight in five weight divisions (WBC Super Featherweight, WBC Lightweight, WBC Junior Welterweight, IBF Welterweight, WBC Welterweight (2X), WBC Junior Middleweight, WBA Junior Middleweight)
There might never again be a fighter with the pure talent level of Floyd Mayweather Jr. He's a defensive specialist with a boxing IQ that may never be matched.
He has won multiple world titles in three weight divisions and has beaten an impressive list of opponents. But this also provides a level of criticism against him as well. There are many who argue that Mayweather has never truly measured himself against a top-level contemporary fighter while both were in their primes.
Those people must have missed his 2001 demolition of Diego Corrales. Whether you love him or hate him, there is no questioning his place amongst the all-timers.
28. Ezzard Charles
Record: 93-25-1, 52 KO
Years Active: 1940-1959
Championships: NBA (later WBA) Heavyweight Champion, World Heavyweight Champion
"The Cincinnati Cobra" Ezzard Charles has the distinction of being rated as one of the top fighters of all time in both the light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions. There are many who even argue that he is the greatest light heavyweight to ever compete.
Charles holds victories over a good number of fellow Hall of Fame fighters, including Archie Moore, Jimmy Bivins, Jersey Joe Walcott, Joey Maxim and—the cherry on top—Joe Louis.
27. Bernard Hopkins
B-Hops is a throwback and could compete in any era.
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Record: 52-6-2, 2 NC, 32 KO
Years Active: 1988-Present
Championships: Five world titles in two weight divisions (IBF/WBC/WBA/WBO Middleweight, WBC Light Heavyweight)
Bernard Hopkins is a physical marvel, a true freak of nature with a skill set and boxing intelligence that would allow him to compete in any era of the sport.
His list of accomplishments is legendary. Hopkins is a former undisputed middleweight champion who made a record 20 successful defenses of his title, shattering the record previously held by Carlos Monzon.
Hopkins also is the first fighter to defend, and retain, the world championships of all four major sanctioning bodies and The Ring in one fight. In 2011, he became the oldest man to ever win a world title when at age 46 he outpointed Jean Pascal for the WBC light heavyweight title.
And it's a feat he hopes to replicate sometime next year when he seeks to raise the bar further and win a world championship at age 48.
26. Jake LaMotta
Record: 83-19-4, 30 KO
Years Active: 1941-1954
Championships: NBA (later WBA) Middleweight, World Middleweight Championship
"The Raging Bull" was a brilliant tactical boxer, which he combined with fierce aggression to earn his nickname and become one of the most dominant middleweights in history.
LaMotta was able to take virtually anyone's shots and is known for his epic six-fight series with Sugar Ray Robinson. In the series, LaMotta handed the legendary champion the first defeat of his career, but lost the other five bouts.
25. Joe Frazier
Photo Credit: Associated Press
Record: 32-4-1, 27 KO
Years Active: 1965-1981
Championships: WBC/WBA Heavyweight
Smokin' Joe Frazier is best known for defeating Muhammad Ali in 1971's "Fight of the Century." But he also strung together many other impressive wins over Jerry Quarry, Oscar Bonavena and Jimmy Ellis.
Frazier would hold the heavyweight championship until facing a young, power-punching superstar named George Foreman, who knocked him out in the 1973 The Ring Fight of the Year.
He would never regain the title, but would engage in two more notable fights—both losses—against Ali, including the famed "Thrilla in Manila."
24. Tony Canzoneri
Official Record: 137-24-10, 44 KO
Newspaper Decisions: 4-0
Years Active: 1925-1939
Championships: NBA (later WBA) Featherweight, World Lightweight (2X), World Junior Welterweight (2X)
In an era sporting so many great fighters, Canzoneri was one of the best. His contemporaries included Jimmy McLarnin, Barney Ross and Henry Armstrong. Not bad company.
Like Armstrong and Ross, he held world titles in three weight divisions at the same time. Measured against his contemporaries, he holds victories over McLarnin and Kid Chocolate, but dropped two fights to Barney Ross.
23. Jimmy McLarnin
Record: 54-11-3, 21 KO
Years Active: 1923-1936
Championships: World Lightweight, World Welterweight (2X)
Jimmy McLarnin didn't let his nickname fool you. Despite being called the "Baby-Faced Assassin," McLarnin had great power in both hands, even though you wouldn't know it by his record.
McLarnin engaged in a three-fight series with fellow legendary welterweight Barney Ross, and despite losing two of three, accounted for himself very well.
He closed out his career by defeating fellow legend Tony Canzoneri and Lou Ambers.
McLarnin is widely considered a top-five all-time welterweight.
22. Barney Ross
Official Record: 72-4-3, 22 KO
Newspaper Decisions: 2-0
Years Active: 1929-1938
Championships: World Lightweight, World Junior Welterweight, World Welterweight (2X)
Barney Ross is notable for a few reasons. For one, he was never knocked out in 81 professional bouts, including several against legendary fighters.
Ross holds victories over fellow legends Tony Canzoneri and Jimmy McLarnin.
In 1938, Ross defended his World Welterweight Championship against Henry Armstrong.
Despite taking a hellacious beating, Ross refused to allow the fight to be stopped and ended it on his feet. He would lose that night, but this has consistently been hailed as one of the most courageous performances in boxing history.
21. Stanley Ketchel
Official Record: 51-4-4, 48 KO
Newspaper Decisions: 2-1-1
Years Active: 1903-1910
Championships: World Middleweight (2X)
Ketchel was a middleweight who often liked to fight men much bigger than himself. Most notable was his war with heavyweight legend and world champion Jack Johnson.
In the bout, Johnson outweighed Ketchel by 35 pounds, but despite this disadvantage, Ketchel performed well. He even floored Johnson in the 12th round.
Johnson rose to his feet and then promptly knocked Ketchel out.
Even with the loss, Stanley Ketchel goes down as one of the bravest fighters in boxing history.
20. George Foreman
Few have ever hit with more of a thud than Big George.
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Record: 76-5, 68 KO
Years Active: 1969-1997
Championships: World Heavyweight, IBF/WBA Heavyweight
Even amongst the legends of the heavyweight division, "Big" George Foreman stands out. He was an Olympic gold medalist, and won his first world title by upsetting Smokin' Joe Frazier in 1973.
In his youth, and even later in his career, Foreman was known as an absolutely devastating puncher.
He was also a heavy favorite against Muhammad Ali in the "Rumble in the Jungle" heavyweight title bout contested in the Congo before being upset in stunning fashion.
Soon after, Foreman retired from the sport only to come back a decade later in 1994, and at 45 years old became the oldest man in history to win a heavyweight title.
19. Julio Cesar Chavez
The Grand Champion of Mexico. There was none better.
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Record: 108-6-2, 87 KO
Years Active: 1980-2005
Championships: Six world championships in three weight divisions
When it comes to Mexican fighters, there is none better than Julio Cesar Chavez.
Chavez began his career with an impressive 87 fights without a loss. He was a warrior in the ring with a fierce and swarming style that few fighters have ever been able to replicate.
He was the consummate stalker-style fighter with a granite chin.
In a career of countless legendary moments, Chavez is possibly best known for coming from way behind on the scorecards to stop Meldrick Taylor with literally seconds remaining on the clock in the final round.
Among his other notable victories are dominant wins over Greg Haugen, the late Hector "Macho" Camacho and Edwin Rosario.
18. Mickey Walker
Official Record: 94-19-4
Newspaper Decisions: 37-7-1
Years Active: 1919-1935
Championships: World Welterweight, World Middleweight
Mickey Walker didn't believe in taking a light schedule, often fighting more than a dozen times in a year. This was not all that uncommon during this era of the sport.
Walker won the World welterweight and World middleweight titles during his career and holds wins over notable fighters such as Jack Britton, whom he won the welterweight title from, and Tiger Flowers.
He also has notable defeats at middleweight to Harry Greb and at heavyweight to Max Schmeling.
17. Jimmy Wilde
Official Record: 132-4-1, 98 KO
Newspaper Decisions: 7-1
Years Active: 1919-1935
Championships: Various European Titles, World Flyweight Champion
Jimmy WIlde is considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest, fighters to ever come out of Europe. It was there that he spent much of his career winning various titles.
Wilde is also credited with being the first officially recognized world champion in the flyweight division.
16. Archie Moore
Record: 185-23-10, 131 KO
Years Active: 1935-1963
Championships: World Light Heavyweight
"The Old Mongoose" had one of the longest spanning careers in the history of boxing and is considered by most to be the greatest light heavyweight in history.
During his long career, he defeated several greats, including Joey Maxim, who beat Sugar Ray Robinson, Jimmy Bivins and Lloyd Marshall.
While he was dominant at light heavyweight, he was less successful at heavyweight, challenging and losing to such notables as Ezzard Charles and Rocky Marciano.
15. Rocky Marciano
Record: 49-0, 43 KO
Years Active: 1948-1955
Championships: World Heavyweight
Rocky Marciano is one of the few fighters to retire from the sport without a loss. He is in fact the only heavyweight champion in history to accomplish this feat.
Marciano won the title from Jersey Joe Walcott in The Ring's 1952 Fight of the Year. He would defend it six times, including wins over Walcott, Ezzard Charles (twice) and Archie Moore.
14. Gene Tunney
Official Record: 65-1-1, 48 KO
Newspaper Decisions: 15-0-3
Years Active: 1915-1928
Championships: World Heavyweight
Gene Tunney broke the mold of heavyweight fighters in his era by being more of a tactical boxer than an all-out slugger. He would use his left jab to box and break down his opponents rather than fighting the traditional highly aggressive heavyweight style.
He was the world heavyweight champion and is known for twice defeating the great Jack Dempsey. The only loss of his professional career came against middleweight legend Harry Greb.
Tunney was never defeated as a heavyweight.
13. Sam Langford
Official Record: 179-30-40, 120 KO
Newspaper Decisions: 32-14-15
Years Active: 1902-1926
Championships: World Colored Middleweight, World Colored Heavyweight (5X)
Sam Langford had absolutely devastating power, but is often overlooked due to the fact that he was denied many opportunities as a result of the pervasive racism in the sport at the time.
Even Jack Johnson, a fellow black fighter and heavyweight champion, refused to fight him once he became champion. Langford did, however, compete for, and win, the World Colored Heavyweight Championship on five occasions.
Langford holds victories over Stanley Ketchel at middleweight, and many feel he deserved one when he fought Jack Johnson before he won the world championship. It was a close fight, and Johnson got the nod, but many felt this was the wrong decision.
12. Joe Gans
Official Record: 145-10-16
Newspaper Decisions: 14-2-4
Years Active: 1893-1909
Championships: World Lightweight
Joe Gans is often credited with being the greatest lightweight fighter of all time. He is notable for being the first African-American world champion in the sport.
Gans held the lightweight title for a stretch of six years, between 1902 and 1908, and helped blaze the path for African-American fighters.
11. Harry Greb
Official Record: 104-8-3, 48 KO
Newspaper Decisions: 157-11-15
Years Active: 1913-1926
Championships: World Middleweight
Harry Greb was a freak of nature, logging over 300 bouts in his career. These were often bouts against the other highly regarded, and highly dangerous, fighters of his era, and few of them were easy.
Greb would often fight out of his weight class against light heavyweights and heavyweights.
Greb was known for being aggressive and having a swarming type of style that most fighters couldn't handle. This is evidenced by his 100 knockouts in 104 official victories. He put a lot of great fighters to sleep.
And he often did it dirty, never hesitating to use anything in the arsenal to his advantage.
Greb is the only man to defeat heavyweight legend Gene Tunney and holds a win over Mickey Walker.
10. Sugar Ray Leonard
Leonard fought 'em all and he beat 'em all.
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Record: 36-3-1, 25 KO
Years Active: 1977-1997
Championships: Seven championships in five weight divisions (WBC Welterweight (2X), WBA Welterweight, WBA Junior Middleweight, WBC Middleweight, WBC Super Middleweight, WBC Light Heavyweight)
Sugar Ray Leonard fought the best of his era and beat every single one of them. And he fought in an era with several high-profile Hall of Fame fighters who are also amongst the greatest of all time.
Leonard won world championships in five divisions from welterweight to light heavyweight. He fought and beat Wilfred Benitez, Tommy Hearns, Marvin Hagler and Roberto Duran, giving him one of the most impressive resumes you'll ever find.
9. Benny Leonard
Official Record: 90-6-1, 70 KO
Newspaper Decisions: 93-18-7
Years Active: 1911-1932
Championships: World Lightweight
Benny Leonard was an extremely fast, slick boxer who is considered to be amongst the top lightweight fighters of any era. He is also ranked amongst the smartest in-ring boxers of all time.
Despite his technical prowess and speed, Leonard also had tremendous punching power and registered 70 knockouts in 90 official wins.
He secured the World Lightweight Championship but failed in his attempt to step up to welterweight when he was disqualified for hitting champion Jack Britton while he was down.
8. Jack Dempsey
Official Record: 61-6-9, 34 KO
Newspaper Decisions: 4-0-2
Years Active: 1914-1927
Championships: World Heavyweight, NBA (later WBA) Heavyweight
In many ways, Jack Dempsey was heavyweight boxing in the late 1910s and early 1920s. He could hit you and hurt you with both hands and had crushing power.
"The Manassa Mauler" won the world title from Jess Willard in 1919 and held it until 1926 when he was defeated by Gene Tunney.
A knockout win over Jack Sharkey positioned him for a rematch with Tunney, which he also lost by decision.
Dempsey appears on everyone's lists as one of the best heavyweights of all time.
7. Jack Johnson
Official Record: 53-11-9, 34 KO
Newspaper Decisions: 14-0-3
Years Active: 1897-1931
Championships: World Colored Heavyweight, World Heavyweight
Jack Johnson is an iconic figure for many reasons—not the least of which was his rising to prominence in the sport at a time when African-American boxers were actively kept out.
Despite being one of the top heavyweights in the world and having won the World Colored Heavyweight Championship, Johnson was not allowed to compete against heavyweight champion James J. Jeffries. The heavyweight title was off limits to black fighters.
Finally, in 1908, six years after Joe Gans had become the first African-American world champion at lightweight, Johnson fought for and won the heavyweight title.
The white boxing community couldn't stand the idea of a black champion and coined the phrase "great white hope" to induce white challengers to step up to Johnson.
He defeated several notable ones, including Stanley Ketchel and Jeffries, who came out of retirement only to be dominated by Johnson in the Fight of the Century.
6. Roberto Duran
Record: 103-16, 70 KO
Years Active: 1968-2001
Championships: Five titles in four weight divisions (WBA/WBC Lightweight, WBC Welterweight, WBA Junior Middleweight, WBC Middleweight)
"Manos de Piedra" was in his prime a trash-talking, aggressive brawler who fought and beat many of the best of his (and possibly any) era. He is considered by many to be the greatest lightweight fighter in history and held world titles in four weight classes.
Duran's epic career spanned five decades and over 100 professional victories, most notable of which making him the first man to ever defeat Sugar Ray Leonard.
5. Joe Louis
Record: 66-3, 52 KO
Years Active: 1934-1951
Championships: World Heavyweight
"The Brown Bomber" Joe Louis' reign as heavyweight champion is legendary. He held the title for 140 months and successfully defended it a record 25 times.
He was known for his punching power, often rating as high as first on all-time rankings, and for becoming the first African-American to achieve mainstream stardom in a United States still brimming with racism.
Louis is well known for a 1936 loss to Max Schmeling, in the Fight of the Year, and for wins over James J. Braddock, Billy Conn, Jersey Joe Walcott and a later first-round knockout of Schmeling to avenge his earlier defeat.
4. Muhammad Ali
Ali was truly the greatest.
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Record: 56-5, 37 KO
Years Active: 1960-1981
Championships: WBA Heavyweight (4X), WBC Heavyweight (2X)
"The Greatest" is the best heavyweight of all time. Ali fought with a style and a flamboyance that made you either love him or hate him. But regardless of where you come down, nobody can deny his place in boxing history or as a cultural icon.
Ali, then fighting under his birth name of Cassius Clay, won his first heavyweight title at 22 years old against Sonny Liston.
He later converted to Islam and became a controversial figure for refusing to serve in the Vietnam War, a conflict he opposed on religious and moral grounds. Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title and did not fight for four years as a result.
Ali is known for his trilogy with Joe Frazier, losing the first but winning the next two, and for utilizing his famed "rope-a-dope" style to upset George Foreman in the Congo in 1974 to regain his titles.
The tactic caused Foreman to expend tremendous energy firing punches in Ali's guard. Most of the shots were deflected or blocked and led to Ali stopping an exhausted Foreman in the eighth round.
In his illustrious career, Ali also holds victories over Bob Foster, Ken Norton, Jimmy Ellis and Floyd Patterson. He is the first man (and thus far, only man) to ever hold the Lineal Heavyweight Championship three times.
3. Willie Pep
Record: 229-11-1, 65 KO
Years Active: 1940-1966
Championships: World Featherweight
Willie Pep is believed to be one of the quickest and most durable fighters in boxing history. His number of fights is huge, even considering the era in which he fought.
Pep won his first 62 professional bouts and was the dominant featherweight fighter of his, and really any, era, holding the title until losing just his second bout against Sandy Saddler in 1948. Pep would avenge the defeat in a rematch and regain his title.
Overall, Pep went 1-3 against Saddler, but dominated virtually every other fighter in his division during this era, leading many to conclude that he's amongst the top fighters in history.
2. Henry Armstrong
Record: 150-21-10, 101 KO
Years Active: 1931-1945
Championships: World Featherweight, World Lightweight, World Welterweight
Henry Armstrong was so good that it's a legitimate coin flip between him and Sugar Ray Robinson for greatest of all time.
Armstrong is one of the few fighters in history to simultaneously hold world championships in three weight divisions. This is made even more impressive given that there were only eight recognized divisions at the time.
Armstrong took on and defeated many of the notable fighters of this era. He won the World featherweight title from Petey Sarron in 1937, but quickly jumped up in weight.
He won the World Welterweight Championship in 1938 from Barney Ross and defended it a record 18 times before controversially dropping it to Fritzie Zivic in 1940.
During his welterweight reign, he also captured the World Lightweight Championship, making him the featherweight, lightweight and welterweight champion at the same time.
1. Sugar Ray Robinson
Record: 173-19-6, 108 KO
Years Active: 1940-1965
Championships: World Welterweight, World Middleweight (5X)
Sugar Ray Robinson is credited with being the reason for the creation of the mythical pound-for-pound rankings that today occupy so much of the debate and discussion that goes on in the boxing world.
Robinson's run is truly remarkable. He was undefeated as an amateur fighter, winning all 85 of his fights, and wasn't defeated until he faced Jake LaMotta in his 41st pro fight. That's a stretch of 126 straight victories and would be unheard of today.
Robinson won the welterweight title in 1946 and held on to it until he jumped to middleweight and took the title there from LaMotta, avenging the earlier defeat.
Sugar Ray spent two-and-a-half years in retirement after failing in his attempt to capture the light heavyweight title from Joey Maxim in 1952. When he returned, he once again captured the middleweight title, something he'd do five times in his illustrious career.
Reading Sugar Ray Robinson's record, you'd think you stumbled into a who's who of fighters during this era. And this era was on par with, and probably superior to, any in boxing history.
He fought, and beat, literally everyone.
Jake LaMotta, Carmen Basilio, Gene Fullmer, Randy Turpin, Carl "Bobo" Olson, Henry Armstrong, Rocky Graziano, Kid Gavilan.
Robinson beat them all, and he did it with speed, a tremendous jab and power in both hands. There wasn't a punch in the arsenal he couldn't throw and throw with bad intentions.
There will never be another like him.