Forget about strategy and tactics. Forget about defense. None of that 'best pound for pound' methodology. This list is about guys who are warriors.
Guys I would pay to watch fight knowing it was going to be a war from start to finish. Some of them are not the most talented fighters, and probably on nobody's pound-for-pound list. They just laced them up and brought it every time.
They're the type of fighters that inspire something deep within each of us. Maybe it's just an appreciation for risking life and limb without any regrets. Or the absolute courage it takes to get into a ring and take the level of punishment, and keep doing it over and over.
None of them were really braggarts. They held, and hold, a humility and reverence for the sport.
The list is dominated by Mexican fighters, and that's no accident. I've sparred, and trained, within the Mexican community, and it's within their blood and culture, to bring it every single round, and to respect both the sport and their opponent.
There's no chronological order to the list; it would be impossible to rank a fighter based upon heart and guts and stamina.
Just go out and watch the Ward-Gatti trilogy and that will tell you everything you need to know. Micky Ward was a throwback to the fifties. A throwback to the time of Willy Pep and Jake LaMotta. An absolute brawler.
'Chico,' may he Rest In Peace, was always worth the price of admission. His wars with Jose Luis Castillo were some of the best fights of the decade. I honestly have never witnessed the type of punishment he could take early in a fight, and then come back and win it in the later rounds.
RIP. Again, the Ward-Gatti fights were some of the best of the decade. Arturo never ducked anyone. He was never a world-class fighter, losing convincingly to both Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Oscar De La Hoya.
But 'Thunder' brought it everytime and had a deep and loyal following up and down the East Coast (especially in his native New Jersey).
Marco Antonio Barrera
His wars with Eric Morales and Manny Pacquiao cemented him within Mexican folklore. He fought anyone and everyone and never takes a step backwards.
Pacquiao, Barrera, and Morales have to be included on this list. They fought each other a total of eight times and each fight was a battle royale (except for Morales last fight with Pacquiao).
Jose Luis Castillo
His wars against Diego Corrales were some of the best fights of the decade. He also fought Floyd Mayweather Jr. (twice), losing both times. Many experts, myself included, felt he should have won one of those bouts.
Juan Manuel Marquez
A counter-puncher, and perhaps not the most entertaining fighter to watch. But JMM is one of those Mexican fighters who took three punches just to land one (like Julio Cesar Chavez) and has a chin of granite.
Not only the best fighter of the past ten years, but the epitome of what a fighter should be and how one should act.
Manny is a class act through and through. Never badmouthing his opponent, almost congenial in his approach. Once he's in the ring, it's all business and nobody has done it better for the past ten years.
Ronald 'Winky' Wright has fought anyone and everyone from Bernard Hopkins to Paul Williams to Ike Quartey and Shane Mosley.
He's never gotten the credit he deserves. He just goes about his business with a quiet work ethic and gets the job done.