Floyd Mayweather and the 25 Most Popular Boxers of All Time

Justin Tate@justindavidtateCorrespondent IOctober 19, 2011

Floyd Mayweather and the 25 Most Popular Boxers of All Time

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    Floyd Mayweather is just one of many popular boxers who have emerged from the sport. Through various routes—some through the ring, some outside it or a combination of both—these boxers connect with the people.

    Whether they make people hate them or love them dearly, they make people care about what they do and how they do it and that is what matters most.

    Here are the 25 most popular boxers of all time.

25. Mickey Ward

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    What Makes Him Popular?

    Ward was a borderline journeyman in the beginning of his career, but a comeback in the late 1990s brought him a chance to win the WBU Light Welterweight Championship for the first time against undefeated British prospect Shea Neary.

    Ward knocked him out in the last round before moving on to "fight of the year" battles against Emanuel Augustus and his widely celebrated trilogy with Arturo Gatti.

    Outside the Ring

    Ward chronicled his life up to Shea Neary in the hit 2010 film The Fighter starring Mark Wahlberg as Ward.

24. Prince Naseem Hamed

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    What Makes Him Popular?

    Prince Naseem became an attraction in the 1990s with his extravagant ring introductions that often including performing somersaults into the ring and a wild style of mocking his opponents as he mercilessly beat them to victory.

    After losing for the only time in his professional boxing career to Mexican legend Marco Antonio Barrera, he retired.

    Outside the Ring

    Naseem continuously left open whether he would ever come back into the ring before he finally admitted that he was done with boxing in 2008 because of his hand problems.

23. Arturo Gatti

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    What Makes Him Popular?

    Arturo Gatti may not be the most skilled fighter in the world, but he is one of the most exciting fighters to ever step in the ring.

    He gets hit a lot and has a lot of power. Many times, Gatti has come back from an impending loss with just one punch that would either knock out or down his opponent, or at least buckle their legs to give him a chance to win.

    His most famous series of fights became his breathtaking trilogy with Mickey Ward. Two of the fights between Ward and Gatti won fight of the year in 2002 and 2003.

    Outside the Ring

    Gatti was found dead in his hotel room in Brazil on July 11, 2009. Gatti's death was ruled a suicide, but after further investigation, his death was ruled a homicide.

    The fight over his belongings by his family and the ongoing investigation still make headlines to this day as his fans mourn a true boxing hero.

22. Jake LaMotta

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    What Makes LaMotta popular?

    LaMotta was a tough, beloved, Italian fighter known for his mob connections and great ability to take a punch.

    One famous incident where his mob ties and his boxing career coincide occurred November 14, 1947 at Madison Square Garden where he took a dive against Billy Fox.

    Fox made it hard for LaMotta to make him look good, so hard that many knew even before investigations were made that the fight was fixed.

    LaMotta was paid $20,000 and given a title fight against famous Frenchman Marcel Cerdan.

    He's been widely said to have one of the greatest chins in boxing history as demonstrated in his famous six-fight series against rival Sugar Ray Robinson.

    Outside the Ring

    He was heavily investigated by the FBI for his involvement in the mob. After boxing, LaMotta became an actor and stand-up comedian, appearing in over 15 films including The Hustler starring Paul Newman.

    His career was given a burst of popularity thanks to the 1980 movie, Raging Bull that was based on his life.

    LaMotta didn't hold back on the rougher details of his life when helping director Martin Scorsese make a film of his life including stories of his abuse of his wife and arrest.

21. Miguel Cotto

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    What Makes Him Popular?

    He's exciting, hard-hitting and never backs down from a good fight. Cotto's no-frills, serious attitude may not jump out at his audience, but his personality still shines enough in front of the camera to capture a significant following for himself.

    He has victories over the likes of Shane Mosley and Zab Judah. His only two losses come from Antonio Margarito (who was suspended for a year after being caught cheating in his next fight six months later) and the current pound-for-pound No. 1 fighter in the world, Manny Pacquiao. 

    Outside the Ring

    He has an endorsement deal with fashion designer Marc Ecko

20. Marvin Hagler

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    What Makes Him Popular?

    Hagler was a very dominant middleweight in the 1970s and became even more dominant in the 1980s after he attained what had always eluded him: the middleweight world championship.

    He defended the undisputed middleweight world title for nearly seven years before losing to Sugar Ray Leonard in what has gone down as one of the most controversial decisions ever in a boxing match.

    Other famous matches that Hagler has participated in include a fight with Hearns that has been called the greatest three rounds in boxing history and a fight with Roberto Duran.

    Outside the Ring

    He moved to Italy after retiring from his boxing career out of frustration with the decision in his fight with Leonard. He is known to star in Italian action films and is currently married to an Italian woman.

19. Tommy Hearns

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    What Makes Him Popular?

    Hearns became a young, talented, fast-rising, undefeated fighter in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

    His two fights against Sugar Ray Leonard, two-round destruction of Roberto Duran and "war" against Marvin Hagler in the ring that resulted in possibly the most famous three-round fight in boxing's history have made him an essential icon of the 1980s.

    Outside the Ring

    Hearns has a promotion company entitled "Hearns Entertainment." He promoted the Mike Tyson vs. Andre Golota fight of 2000. Hearns continues to promote fights and act as an ambassador to the sport of boxing.

18. Shane Mosley

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    What Makes Him So Popular?

    In the 1990s, Mosley was an amazingly quick knockout artist with a slew of accomplishments under his belt at the lightweight division.

    His fame would grow immensely when he moved up to the welterweight division to hand Oscar De La Hoya two losses and Antonio Margarito his first and only knockout loss.

    Outside the Ring

    He's appeared on the George Lopez Show and other late-night talk shows. He's currently helping his son Shane Jr. step into the ring to be a professional boxer himself.

    He also is a member of PETA, protesting the use of animal fur whenever he can.

17. Roberto Duran

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    What Makes Him Popular?

    Duran built an entire career in the late 1960s and 1970s as one of the greatest lightweight world champions of all time.

    Called the "Hands of Stone," Duran is known as one of the hardest punchers pound-for-pound in any division.

    He built a record of 71 wins and one loss before he met Sugar Ray Leonard for the welterweight division in 1980.

    Duran beat Leonard by unanimous decision, sparking what would become one of the most famous boxing trilogies of all time.

    Though Duran would lose many of his matches against the likes of Marvin Hagler, Tommy Hearns and Wilfred Benitez, he gave Hall of Fame-worthy efforts across various weight classes going all the way up to the super middleweight division.

    Duran retired from boxing at age 50 in 2001. He is one of a very small number of boxers to have professional boxing wins in five decades.

    Outside the Ring

    Duran is a member of the World and International Boxing Hall of Fame. He appears in the 1992 documentary Panama Deception and in the hit 1979 movie Rocky II.

16. Rocky Marciano

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    What Makes Him Popular?

    Marciano is the only heavyweight world champion to retire undefeated. He beat a who's who of the 1950s including Jersey Joe Walcott, Ezzard Charles, Archie Moore and an old but still beloved Joe Louis.

    His fists have caused many beautifully brutal knockouts that have inspired fans and made him very likely the greatest Italian boxer of all time.

    Outside the Ring

    After retiring with 49 wins, 43 knockouts and no losses, Marciano was so popular that he and Ali were considered a fantasy fight for the ages. Both were filmed sparring and a computer simulated the fight using probability formulas.

    The 1969 film The Super Fight was played in over 1,500 theaters with the result being Marciano knocking Ali out in Round 13.

    Marciano died of a plane crash the year he filmed the fight. He was 45 years old.

15. Roy Jones Jr.

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    What Makes Him Popular?

    His slick boxing style mixed with his speed, power and immensely cocky swagger in the ring created many a fan for Jones in the 1990s.

    He seemed invincible at the time and created many memorable performances—from his defeating Bernard Hopkins for his first world title at middleweight to his beatdown of an undefeated James Toney to his snatching of a heavyweight world title from John Ruiz, Jones seemed like he could do it all.

    His beating of Ruiz for the heavyweight title made him the first middleweight world champion to become heavyweight world champion in over 106 years.

    Outside the Ring

    Jones had a rap career from 2001-2004 that included two successful albums and plenty of memorable hit singles such as "I Smoke, I Drank" and "Y'all Must've Forgot."

14. Lennox Lewis

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    What Makes Him Popular?

    The dreaded British 1988 Olympic gold medalist didn't come into his own as a true superstar until the mid-1990s when he got revenge against Oliver McCall, who had given him his only loss at the time.

    Lewis' wake of destruction at the heavyweight scene would earn him big paydays against Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson.

    Lewis suffered one more loss to Hasim Rahman, which he also avenged before retiring in 2003.

    Outside the Ring

    Lewis has appeared on the World Series of Poker and Celebrity Apprentice since retiring.

13. Larry Holmes

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    What Makes Him Popular?

    His early wins over a much-faded Muhammad Ali and Ken Norton may not have inspired claims of greatness but they caught the attention of a public well acquainted with those famous names of the 1970s.

    Holmes would use his jab and power to build a great reputation with wins over a previously undefeated Gerry Cooney and a plethora of great heavyweight contenders before participating in exciting superfights with Michael Spinks and Mike Tyson that he would be on the losing end of physically but the winning end financially.

    Outside the Ring

    Holmes became an investor. He currently owns various restaurants, slot machines, an office complex, a nightclub, a training facility and more.

    Starting in 2006, Holmes began co-hosting a talk show called What the Heck Were They Thinking?

12. Joe Frazier

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    What Makes Him Popular?

    Frazier became a feared presence in the late 1960s and 1970s, especially during the three-year period that Muhammad Ali was banned from boxing for protesting the Vietnam draft.

    When Ali came back in 1971, Ali-Frazier was dubbed "Fight of the Century." Frazier gave Ali his first loss in the first of what has become the greatest trilogy of all time, culminating in the dramatic Thrilla in Manila in 1976.

    Frazier would only suffer losses to Ali and George Foreman in his highly decorated career as a heavyweight titlist.

    Outside the Ring

    He's appeared with Roddy Piper in wrestling programs from the WWE (then named WWF) in the 1980s. He's appeared in the movie Rocky and in an episode of The Simpsons. 

    Fun Fact

    Frazier's real-life training routine inspired the meat-hitting scenes and famous scene of Sylvester Stallone running up and down the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the film Rocky.

11. Joe Louis

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    What Makes Him So Popular?

    He was one of the most dominating heavyweights of all time. He still holds the record for the most defenses of the world heavyweight title with 25 and the longest heavyweight reign of 11 years.

    Louis became the first widely accepted African-American heavyweight world champ mostly because of his rematch against Nazi Germany-backed boxer Max Schmeling.

    The was around the time of World War II, and Louis was representative of the U.S. while Schmeling represented Germany.

    Schmeling had given Louis his first loss and even the president of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, told Louis he had to win.

    In response, Louis knocked Schmeling out in the first round.

    Outside the Ring

    Throughout his life, he was a supporter of the American Army and was heavily involved in recruitment of American soldiers during World War II.

    He also enjoyed and was a heavy supporter of professional golf. A street near New York's Madison Square Garden is named in his honor.

10. Sugar Ray Robinson

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    What Makes Him Popular?

    Robinson is widely considered the greatest boxer of all time. From Muhammad Ali to Joe Louis to Sugar Ray Leonard, all believe him to be the greatest boxer of all time.

    His six-fight series against Jake LaMotta is the most famous series of fights in boxing's history. His wins include many popular names such as Henry Armstrong, Kid Gavilan, Bobo Olson, Carmen Basilio and others.

    Outside the Ring

    Robinson owned numerous businesses which all went out of business and prompted him to make a comeback in boxing in 1955 after already compiling a record of 131 wins, three losses and one draw.

    Robinson also had a career as a tap dancer and singer.

9. Julio Cesar Chavez

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    What Makes Him Popular?

    He's a Mexican hero. He hits hard, has a good chin and represents the quintessential spirit of Mexican boxing with exciting fights and dramatic come-from-behind victories.

    He's broken numerous records in his number of successful title defenses and world title bouts but perhaps his most often-repeated accomplishment is his 87-fight winning streak, the longest in boxing history.

    Outside the Ring

    He currently works as a boxing narrator for Mexican television network TV Azteca. He owns various businesses and gas stations in both the United States and Mexico. Two of his sons, Omar and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., are undefeated professional boxers.

8. Evander Holyfield

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    What Makes Him Popular?

    Holyfield blew through the cruiserweight division in the mid-1980s before making his heavyweight debut in the late 1980s. 

    Holyfield was hyped to be the undefeated fighter to give an invincible Mike Tyson a challenge at the time until Tyson was upset by Buster Douglas.

    Holyfield trumped Buster Douglas and George Foreman on his way to becoming the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.

    In the 1990s, he gave the boxing world a thrilling trilogy against Riddick Bowe and two megafights apiece against Lewis and Tyson.

    He still boxes today even at age 48.

    Outside the Ring

    He has made appearances one Dancing with the Stars and WWE professional wrestling programs.

    At his height, Holyfield had his own video game for the Sega Genesis called Evander Holyfied Real Deal Boxing and he appeared in advertisements for Coca-Cola and Diet Coke.

7. Manny Pacquiao

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    What Makes Him Popular?

    His backstory as a poor Filipino who became a rich boxer in America embodies the American dream and is a classic, endearing, rags-to-riches story.

    He's defeated a plethora of Mexican legends including Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera and Juan Manuel Marquez but possibly his biggest name under his belt is none other than Golden Boy, Oscar De La Hoya.

    Outside the Ring

    He has a singing career, a television/film career (in the Philippines) and is a congressman in his native Philippines and plans to run for vice president some day.

    He has endorsement deals with Nike and McDonald's among others. He is also a regular guest on the Jimmy Kimmel Show, usually shortly before a big fight.

6. Floyd Mayweather Jr.

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    What Makes Him Popular?

    Mayweather is a bit of a late-bloomer. He had immense talent, speed and even knockout power in the beginning of his career. Unfortunately, the audience didn't seem to care.

    Roy Jones Jr., Oscar De La Hoya and Shane Mosley were among the boxers who overshadowed his early career thanks to their popularity at the time.

    But as De La Hoya and the gang grew older, Mayweather came into his own through a unique brand of extravagance and trash talk inspired by hip-hop culture.

    This brand of trash talk would earn his his first pay-per-view showdown against Arturo Gatti in 2005. After a trio of successful pay-per-views, Mayweather was offered a showdown with De La Hoya.

    In 2007, De La Hoya-Mayweather sold over 2.5 million pay-per-views, breaking and still holding the record for the most pay-per-views ever sold.

    Outside the Ring

    From Dancing with the Stars to guest appearances on WWE wrestling programs, Mayweather has made an impression on audiences worldwide.

    His endorsement deals in the past include Reebok footwear and AT&T.

    Memorable Quote

    "I’m running my mouth a lot and I’m looking for a guy to shut me up. If you don’t shut me up I’m going to keep running my mouth. "

5. George Foreman

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    What Makes Him Popular?

    He became as feared a puncher as any boxer ever has or ever will be in the early 1970s, maybe more than Sonny Liston was in the 1960s.

    He compiled a record of 40 wins and no losses with 37 knockouts before facing Muhammad Ali. He had scary second-round knockouts of Ken Norton and Joe Frazier.

    Then Ali defeated him in the Rumble in the Jungle, perhaps the most famous boxing match of all time.

    Foreman retired a few years later and came back 10 years after that to fight his way back to the top of the heavyweight division. At age 45 in 1994, he would become the oldest heavyweight world champion ever.

    Outside the Ring

    He's used his late-aged comeback to help power his new image as a bald, clean, family man, a complete turnaround from the scary knockout monster he had been vilified as in the 1970s. 

    He's been a spokesman for a variety of products and used his name for video games including George Foreman's KO Boxing, but his most famous product by far is the George Foreman Grill.

    Acclaimed for its fat-reducing ability, the George Foreman Grill has helped burn fat for its customers and print money around a sum of over $200 million for Foreman ever since its induction in the early 1990s.

    Memorable Quote

    "The question isn't at what age I want to retire, it's at what income." 

4. Sugar Ray Leonard

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    What Makes Him Popular?

    The former Olympic gold medalist's quickness and finesse in the ring made him a legend, but his willingness to stage superfights with the best of his era made him a popular superstar for the ages.

    Roberto Duran, Tommy Hearns, Wilfred Benitez and Marvin Hagler are just a few of the names Leonard built his awe-inspiring legend off of during the 1980s.

    Outside the Ring

    Leonard started a boxing reality show called The Contender. He has been a contestant on Dancing with the Stars and worked as an adviser for the film Real Steel.

    Memorable Quote

    "I want my fights to be seen as plays that have a beginning, a middle and an end."

3. Oscar De La Hoya

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    What Makes Him Popular?

    He was called the "Golden Boy" during the 1992 Summer Olympics and the media heavily covered his quest to fulfill his mother's dying wish for him to win the gold medal, which he did.

    Upon turning pro, De La Hoya quickly capitalized on his newfound following from the Olympics by going through a string of great opposition, including an undefeated Genaro Hernandez, Hector Camacho and Pernell Whitaker.

    His greatest boost of popularity came with his two victories over the great but aging Julio Cesar Chavez. With these victories, De La Hoya became the first fighter to knock Chavez out and the only fighter to do so twice.

    Later fights would include superfights against an undefeated Felix Trinidad, Bernard Hopkins, Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao and Shane Mosley.

    Outside the Ring

    De La Hoya has a children's book entitled Super Oscar. In the height of his fame, he released a successful and surprisingly good self-titled Spanish pop album.

    Memorable Quote

    "Whatever comes next for me, as far as boxing is concerned, I have no regrets. I would never change what I've accomplished and the history I've made.”

2. Mike Tyson

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    What Makes Him Popular?

    He was the toast of the late 1980s. "The baddest man alive" and "Kid Dynamite" were just a few names for the youngest heavyweight world champion in history at age 19.

    He captured the world with his aggressive knockouts of Larry Holmes, Trevor Berbick and Michael Spinks.

    He unfortunately suffered a dramatic upset to Buster Douglas, but came back in the mid-1990s to produce memorable but losing efforts to Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis in what became the highest-selling heavyweight pay-per-views of all time.

    Outside the Ring

    He memorably appeared in Nintendo's Mike Tyson's Punchout, a classic video game still loved to this day by millions of grown adults with fond memories.

    Tyson regularly makes interesting appearances on talk shows such as from the Arsenio Hall Show to the Oprah Winfrey Show.

    Between the funny and insightful moments on reality shows, Tyson has also produced infamous moments including angry outbursts at reporters, interviewers and other boxers with some of these moments gaining new life through YouTube.

    Today, he has a new reality show on Animal Planet called Taking on Tyson that focuses on his raising of a collection of pigeons.

1. Muhammad Ali

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    What Makes Him Popular?

    His mouth and his fist. His mouth talked whole lot of talk and his fist backed it up in the ring. He was quick, he was smooth and he was possibly the greatest heavyweight of all time.

    Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, Sonny Liston and an undefeated George Foreman are just a few of the names under his belt.

    Outside the Ring

    He was beloved for being black and proud in a time when being either could bring scrutiny, violent retaliation and sometimes death.

    Ali became a symbol of the civil rights movement in the 1960s and a symbol of black pride in the 1970s.

    His interviews with Howard Cossell, a well-respected sports analyst, became the stuff of legend with their back-and-forth retorts in arguments.

    Memorable Quote

    "A rooster crows only when it sees the light. Put him in the dark and he'll never crow. I have seen the light and I'm crowing."