Last week, boxing magazine ‘The Pugilist’ listed the 50 greatest boxers of all time. A tough gig. Whether it be songs, movies or sporting achievements, comparing greats fuels endless discussions. As always, choosing the best in any sporting endeavour across eras is subjective and usually controversial. Boxing is especially challenging. How do you compare different weight divisions and past champions who fought hundreds of times with contemporary boxers who fight just a couple of times a year? How do you consider quality of opponents? And so on. Putting all that aside, how did they go?
Sugar Ray Robinson assumed pole position in the top 50 list. An African American Pro middleweight, welterweight, lightweight and light heavyweight, Sugar Ray’s career spanned an amazing 25 years. His pro boxing years starting in 1940 and finishing in 1965. Professionally, he fought a staggering 200 times, winning 173, 109 by KO. True greatness.
Right behind, the boxer self-proclaimed the greatest (and with many million boxing fans in agreement), come in next at number 2. Muhammed Ali. Competing during the golden years of heavyweights, he survived a rumble with George Foreman, fought a torturous thriller with Joe Frazier and floored the fearsome Sonny Liston. Johnny Wakelin called him the black superman. Ali talked the talk and walked the walk. Away from boxing, fiercely determined to overcome racial inequality, he stood as a champion for those without a voice. At the peak of his boxing powers, he spent 3 years in exile for his political beliefs, specifically his decision to say no to the Vietnam war draft. Great inside and outside the ring. “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”.
Of those current or active, the Philippine dynamo, the Pacman, Manny Pacquiao ranked highest at number 11. Much further down the list, Floyd Mayweather Jnr, arguably the greatest counterpuncher and defensive boxer, rated a surprisingly low 39th.
Roy Jones Jnr and Mike Tyson, both due to pair off in an exhibition fight in November 2020, rated 14th and 49th respectively.
Any fighter carrying the trio of nicknames Homicide Hank, Hurricane Hank and Hammerin’ and achieving world champion status in three separate weight divisions at the same time is surely of the highest pedigree. Enter the seminal Henry Armstrong. The prototype of the modern infighter. Powerful, constant pressure, relentless. Always moving forward. A non-stop puncher. Described as “calculating chaos”, Armstrong was an infighter with almost inhuman endurance. An abnormally slow heat beat and larger than normal size heart allowed him to maintain a fervent and fierce pace in the ring for the duration of the fight. Another scribe described him as a “fistic” phenomena. Once again, boxing greatness.
Roberto Duran. Hands of Stone. Chin of granite. Rarely took a backwards step. Number 9 on the hit list. A technical brawler with formidable in-fighting skills. Duran versus Armstrong. Now, there’s a mouth-watering fantasy bout. Two of the greatest boxers of inside control.
Purely from a numbers perspective, Jimmy Wilde has the longest unbeaten streak in pro boxing history. Competing from 1911 to 1923, the Welsh flyweight went a whopping 94 fights before experiencing defeat. Number 24 on the list.
CONCLUSION: The DEBATE CONTINUES
Debates can rage endlessly and opinions can and will differ. No matter how long you chew the fat, no two people will “chew” it quite the same and choose the same list. The beauty is no one is right and no one is wrong. Such lists always generate healthy, lively and sometimes heated debate. Disagreements are inevitable. The greatest boxers are …
Train hard. Train smart. Be the best that you can be.
Yours in Boxing,