Floyd Mayweather Jr. made his professional debut on October 11, 1996, winning by second-round knockout. 16 years later, Mayweather is the best fighter in the world and holds a win-loss record that his most loyal of fans are never shy of proclaiming as the very best ever.
In Mayweather’s 16-year career, he has amassed an impressive record of 44-0-0; a record that Harry Greb took just one year to exceed.
To call Greb’s life in 1919 “fast paced” would be gross understatement. He was nicknamed “The Pittsburgh Windmill” for his rapid, in-your-face swarming style of attack. And that’s just how he lived his life as well.
Greb returned home from service in the Navy in January of 1919. As soon as his feet touched dry land, he announced he was to marry his girlfriend of three years, Miss Mildred Kathleen Reilly; they said their vowels on Jan. 20. Greb celebrated his first year of marriage by fighting a mind-boggling 45 times.
And he won every one of those fights.
And these weren’t tomato cans Greb was fighting, mind you. These were the world’s very best middleweights, light heavyweights and even heavyweights.
(Keep in mind Greb weighed in over 168 pounds just once during this year, and only did so because he weighed in with his clothes on at 178 pounds.)
Greb opened his fistic campaign of 1919 with a 12-round points win over standout middleweight Leo Houck on Jan. 14. The Boston Daily Globe reported, “Greb won easily.”
He picked up four more victories in the month of January—including a victory over Soldier Bartfield.
From February through May, Greb defeated Len Rowlands, Chuck Wiggins (two times), Leo Houck (two more times), Tommy Robson, heavyweights Clay Turner and Willie Meehan, Hall of Fame heavyweight Billy Miske and two more Hall of Famers in Bill Brennan and Battling Levinsky (each, two times).
Even the greatest of Hall of Fame fighters couldn’t put a halt to this cyclone as Greb won four more times in June, the most notable of which being his 10-round decision victory over the all-time great, Mike Gibbons.
Through the first six months of 1919, Greb was 27-0-0—and showed no signs of slowing down.
July came and went. And so did four more triumphs. The victims: George “KO” Brown, Bill Brennan (for the third time and also over 15 rounds), Joe Chip and Battling Levinsky (also for the third time).
August and September were relatively slow months for Greb as he only had five fights between the two. (Who else in history could this be considered a “slow” 2-month stretch for?) But, nonetheless, that was five more victories under Greb’s belt. These included fourth wins over Bill Brennan and Battling Levinsky, Silent Martin and another Hall of Famer in Jeff Smith.
Greb was on an incredible pace and was looking to at least break 50 fights for the year. But according to Bill Plaxton in his wonderful Greb biography, The Fearless Harry Greb: Biography of a Tragic Hero of Boxing, in the end of September, after his victory over Silent Martin, “Greb had to cancel three fights due to illness.” He was suffering from boils that severely weakened him.
It wasn’t until Oct. 13 that Greb was healthy enough to step back into the ring. But in, what would turn out to be his only fight in October, Greb broke his left hand against Sailor Ed Petroskey.
Greb wouldn’t fight again until Nov. 11.
Altogether, in the final two months of the year Greb would fight "just" eight times. This included wins over notable heavyweight Clay Turner (two more times) and future light heavyweight champion Mike McTigue.
Which brings Greb’s total record for the year of 1919 to a remarkable 45-0-0. Considering, that Greb was slowed down towards the end of the year and fans are lucky to see world-class fighters, today, fight twice in the same year—makes this accomplishment all the more incredible.
So incredible, that it will never be repeated.