Top 10 Middleweights in Boxing History
The Middleweight division in boxing is probably the most competitive in the history of the sport. The name itself implies that this is the category for the "average" weight fighter. Not to heavy, not to light.
A bad thing is that many fighters have put one foot in that division while fighting light heavyweights, and stooping a little lower and fighting welterweights.
In the middle of the past century it was not uncommon for fighters to fight each other five or six times. The top middleweights beat each other more than once.
Of the ten top fighters in this list, three of them have beaten the No. 1 fighter, while he has beaten four of them.
The '40s through the '60s was an extremely competitive era.
Let us now lift the curtain and reveal the Top 10 Middleweights in boxing history.
10. Stanley Ketchel
He was born in 1886 as Stanislaw Kiecal to Polish parents. The Michigan Assassin is the only fighter of the early years of the 20th century on the list.
To "get up" for a fight, Ketchel would imagine that his foe said some very insulting things about his mother and he would use that to build his fury.
Ketchel's opponents had a combined won/lost pct. of .817, the highest on this list.
His career record is 51-4-4 with 48 KOs.
His more notable wins came against Philadelphia Jack O'Brien, Billy Papke, Frank Klaus.
In a failed attempt to win the heavyweight crown he was knocked out in 10 rounds by Jack Johnson, who outweighed Ketchel by more than 30 pounds.
He also suffered a "newspaper" loss to the great Sam Langford in a six-round decision.
9. Gene Fullmer
"The Cyclone" won the middleweight division by beating the legend, Sugar Ray Robinson in 1957. In 1959, he fought Carmen Basilio in Ring Magazine's Fight of the Year. Fullmer won by TKO in the 14th round.
Fullmer's opponents had a combined won/lost pct. of .776.
His notable wins came against Sugar Ray Robinson, Rocky Castellani, Carmen Basilio, Florentino Fernandez, and Benny "Kid" Paret.
His career record is 55-6-3 with 24 KOs.
8. Bobo Olson
Carl "Bobo" Olson won the middleweight crown by beating Randy Turpin for the vacant title. He held the title for three years, the longest middleweight run in the '50s.
He successfully defended his title with wins over Kid Gavilan, Rocky Castellani, Pierre Langlois.
While still holding the middleweight title, he challenged Archie Moore for the LHW title and was knocked out. He then lost his title by way of a second-round KO by Sugar Ray Robinson.
His opponents had a combined won/lost pct. of .769.
His career record is 97-16-2 with 47 KOs. He ranks third on this list in career wins.
His notable wins came against Kid Gavilan, Rocky Castellani and Randy Turpin and Joey Giambra. He has lost to some impressive fighters as well: Sugar Ray Robinson, Jose Torres, Doug Jones (future heavyweight) and Archie Moore.
7. Joe Calzaghe
Joe Calzaghe, "The Pride of Wales" is one of the few fighters to retire undefeated.
Although most widely recognized as a super middleweight I am including him in the middleweights, as I am not ranking the super and light classes.
He won the Super Middleweight title in 1997 by beating Chris Eubank. He has beaten two legends on his journey, Roy Jones, Jr and Bernard Hopkins.
He retired as the undefeated WBA, WBC and WBO Super Middleweight champion.
His opponents had a combined won/lost pct. of .786
His career record is 46-0 with 32 KOs.
His notable wins include Roy Jones Jr., Bernard Hopkins, Mikkel Kessler, Jeff Lacy, Charles Brewer, and Mario Veit.
6. Joey Giardello
1930 - 2038
Carmine Orlando Tilelli was born in 1930 and created the name Joey Giardello in order to attempt to enlist in the armed forces while under age.
In 1960 he fought Gene Fullmer for the title, but the fight was declared a draw. In 1962, he won a decision over Henry Hank which was Ring Magazine's Fight of the Year.
In 1963 he upset Sugar Ray Robinson and was then the No. 1 contender for the title. Later that year he beat champion Dick Tiger to win the Middleweight Title at 33.
In 1964 he successfully defended his title against Rubin "Hurricane" Carter. After the 1999 movie "The Hurricane" many people felt that Joey was handed the decision unjustly.
The majority of sports writers present at the fight said Joey won fair and square and Hurricane himself admitted defeat.
Giardello's opponents had a combined won/lost pct. of .764
His career record is 101-26-7 with 33 KOs. His 101 wins is second on this list.
His notable wins came against Sugar Ray Robinson, Dick Tiger, Gene Fullmer, Henry Hank, Hurricane Carter, Rocky Rivero and Holly Mims.
Losses to quality opponents include Billy Graham, Pierre Langlois, Charlie Cotton, Joey Giambra, and Terry Downes.
5. James Toney
James "Lights Out" Toney is a very good defensive fighter. He has been hurt (actually hurt) very few times.
In 1990, Toney won his first championship as he beat Richard Bryant for the vacant IBC title. He handed Merqui Sosa his first loss in a title defense.
In 1991, he upset previously unbeaten Michael "Second To" Nunn by TKO in the 11th round for the IBF Middleweight title.
After a 1991 draw with Mike "The Body Snatcher" McCallum, Toney ran a string of 16 wins before suffering his first pro loss to Roy Jones Jr.
After that loss, he went on to win championships in Super Middleweight, Light Heavyweight, Cruiserweight and Heavyweight divisions.
His opponents had a combined won/lost pct. of .812, second highest on this list.
Toney's career record is 72-6-3 with 44 KOs.
His notable wins include Michael Nunn, Doug Dewitt, Mike McCallum, Merqui Sosa, and Iran Barkley.
4. Jake LaMotta
Giacobbe LaMotta was born in the Bronx in 1921. "The Raging Bull" is the first man to beat legendary Sugar Ray Robinson in the second of their six fights.
In 1949 Jake won the crown by beating champion Marcel Cerdan in Detroit. Cerdan was killed in a plane crash prior to their scheduled rematch.
He lost the title in '51 to Robinson.
His opponents had a combined won/lost pct. of .785.
His career record is 83-19-4 with 30 KOs.
His most notable wins came against Sugar Ray Robinson, Fritzie Zivic, Marcel Cerdan, Holman Williams, Tiberio Mitri and Laurent Dauthuille.
3. Marvin Hagler
Marvelous Marvin Hagler is remembered most for his three-round knockout of Tommy Hearns in 1985 in one of the best fights in history.
Hagler was the No. 1 contender for the middleweight crown for years before getting a title shot. In 1979 he fought for the WBC and WBA versions of the middleweight title but it was declared a draw and champ Vito Antuofermo retained his title.
In 1980 he had to fly to London to knock out champ Alan Minter in the third round. In 1985 he added the IBF title by beating Wilfred Scypion in four rounds.
In 1987 he was beaten in a controversial decision to Sugar Ray Leonard. Hagler retired immediately after the fight.
His opponents had a combined won/lost pct of .764.
His career record is 62-3-2 with 52 KOs.
His more notable victories came against Tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran, Bennie Briscoe, Alan Minter, Vito Antuofermo, Mustafa Hamsho, Juan Roldan, and John Mugabi.
2. Carlos Monzon
1942 - 1995
Carlos "Shotgun" Monzon won the Middleweight Championship in 1970 in Ring Magazine's Fight of the Year. He knocked out champ Nino Benvenuti in the 12th round.
He held the title for seven years and defended it successfully a (then) record of 14 times.
He retired in 1977 after beating Rodrigo Valdez for the second time, as the undisputed middleweight champion. His last defeat was in 1964 giving him 13 years of undefeated fighting.
He was imprisoned for the murder of his common law wife and was killed in an automobile accident while on furlough from prison.
On the independent computer-based ranking of boxrec.com he is listed as the third best middleweight boxer of all time, after Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Robinson.
His opponents had a combined won/lost pct of .758
His career record is 87-3-9 with 59 KOs. He is on Ring Magazine/s 100 Best Punchers of All Time.
His notable wins include battles against Emile Griffith, Jose Napoles, Nino Benvenuti, Rodrigo Valdez, Bennie Briscoe, and Tony Mundane.
1. Sugar Ray Robinson
1921 - 1989
Robinson was born as Walker Smith Jr. in Ailey, Ga. (according to his birth certificate).
In 1947 he was to defend his title for the first time against Jimmy Doyle. Robinson had a dream that he accidentally killed Doyle in the fight. He almost pulled out from the fight but a priest and a minister convinced him to go through with the fight.
He knocked Doyle out in the eighth round. Doyle was transferred to a hospital where he never regained consciousness.
In 1946 he won the welterweight title against Tommy Bell. He won the middleweight crown in 1951 in a rematch with Randy Turpin which resulted in Turpin being KOd in the 10th round.
In 1952 he fought Joey Maxim for the LHW crown and although ahead on all cards, was forced to retire on his stool at the end of 14 rounds due to heat prostration.
Robinson retired after the fight and didn't fight again for three years. In '55 he knocked out Bobo Olson in the second round to regain his middleweight title. In '57 he lost the title to Gene Fullmer by unanimous decision.
Four months later he knocked Fullmer out in the fifth round to regain it once again. He lost it again in '57 to Carmen Basilio in Ring Magazine's Fight of the Year.
He won it back in '58 against Basilio in Ring's Fight of the Year . He was beaten in 1960 by Paul Pender who wrested the title from him.
He failed in two more attempts to win back the title against Paul Pender and Gene Fullmer.
His opponents had a combined won/lost pct of .735.
His career record is 173-19-6 with 108 KOs.
His notable wins came against Jake LaMotta, Henry Armstrong, Gene Fullmer, Kid Gavilan, Fritzie Zivic, Rocky Graziano, Bobo Olson, Carmen Basilio, Randy Turpin, Rocky Castellani, Denny Moyer and Holly Mims.
Honorable Mentions in no particular order:
Tony Zale, Rocky Graziano, Dick Tiger, Charlie Burley, Marcel Cerdan, Holman Williams, Terry Downes, Joey Giambra, Paul Pender, Nino Benvenuti, Denny Moyer, and Rodrigo Valdez.