The Greatest Fighters Of All-Time (Part Two)

By Chris Le

Yesterday, I began to compile a list of the best fighters ever. My inspiration came from Floyd Mayweather and his ridiculous boasts of being the GOAT, when in fact he’d be lucky to crack the top 40. Judging solely on in-ring performances and physical talent, it is perhaps true that the current welterweight and junior middleweight champion of the world is as good as anyone in history, but he has yet to consistently prove it against elite-level opposition. The men on this list have.


5. Roberto Duran, 104-16 (69 KOs) – “Manos de Piedra,” or “Hands of Stone,” was the epitome of machismo, possessing a stubbornness and fury few have ever witnessed in boxing. His tenaciously aggressive style often overshadowed his magnificent skill as a technician; he had very little flaws, if any. If inclined, he could box an opponent’s ears off from the outside for a full 15 rounds, but what Duran loved more than anything was a toe-to-toe slugfest. Don’t be mistaken though, Duran brawled like a Tasmanian devil, but not at the expense of technique — his defense, particularly on the inside, was subtle yet masterful, even when it didn’t always appear so. In one of the most talent-rich eras in boxing history, a period that featured Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler in their primes, Duran was pound-for-pound the best of them all. And he was a bona fide badass, who took pleasure in dishing out sustained beatings. You didn’t want to mess with a man like him. Notable Victories: W15 Sugar Ray Leonard, KO 11 Esteban DeJesus, KO 13 Ken Buchanan, KO 8 Davey Moore, W 12 Iran Barkley

4. Henry Armstrong, 150-21-9 (100 KOs) – Mayweather claims that he has never been tired in his 38 professional bouts. That’s easy when you throw one punch at a time. If you want to see a real display of endurance, check out the incomparable Henry Armstrong, who tirelessly threw punches from impossible angles, methodically breaking down his opponents for as long as it took. This whirlwind approach to boxing was enough for him to dominate a long list of fellow Hall of Famers and allowed for him to be the only man to hold three world titles in the same number of weight classes at the same time. Yes, you read correctly. From 1937 to 1939, “Homicide Hank” held the featherweight (126 pounds), lightweight (135 pounds) and welterweight (147 pounds) championship belts simultaneously, and this was in an era of one belt per division and no junior/superweight divisions. Armstrong has legitimate claims to being in the top three greatest ever in each of the weight classes in which he held titles. I can’t think of another fighter that can say the same. Notable Victories: W 15 Barney Ross, W 15 Lou Ambers, W 10 Midget Wolgast, W 10 Baby Arizmendi, KO 3 Chalky Wright

3. Sam Langford, 164-35-33 (115 KOs with 48 no-decisions and 3 no-contests) – “The Boston Tar Baby” is the only fighter in this top 10 to never have won a world title — an insignificant detail in my eyes, as Langford did not need a title to prove that he was the best in the world. It should not be held against him that belt-holders at the time refused to face him out of fear and more specifically, because of the color of his skin. Though Langford deserved a shot at the title, he defeated enough quality foes to be the third greatest fighter in my estimation. Having fought from lightweight (135 pounds) to heavyweight (unlimited), Langford beat and knocked out nearly anyone and everyone he could get to step in the ring with him. It was almost unfair how impossibly crafty and intelligent he was. And whether they were smaller and quicker or bigger and stronger, Sam, a natural 175-pounder, probably could have beaten any fighter in the world on any given day. He was simply way too good for his time. Notable Victories: KO 2 Tiger Flowers, W 15 Joe Gans, W 15 Joe Jeannette, KO 5 Philadelphia Jack O’Brien, KO 13 Sam McVea, KO 14 Harry Wills

2. Harry Greb, 115-8-3 (51 KOs with 183 no-decisions) – Short, stumpy and wholly unorthodox with a swarming, non-stop style (think Henry Armstrong) but without an inkling of power, it’s hard to imagine that Greb is the greatest middleweight ever. Nevertheless, he made up for his deficiencies with an iron chin, unfeasible quickness, Herculean stamina and a propensity to be dirty as all hell. Nicknamed “The Human Windmill” for his prolific activity, he wasn’t shy about using his head, thumbs or elbows to gain an advantage. This was all enough for Greb, a 160-pounder, to beat some of the best welterweights, middleweights, light heavyweights and heavyweights of his day. No one, outside of possibly the two men who sandwich Greb on this list, has faced such an abundance of great fighters with such frequency. And to think, Greb accomplished all this while blind in one eye from 1921 on. Imagine what he could’ve done with two good eyes. Notable Victories: W 15 Gene Tunney, W 15 Tommy Loughran, W 15 Mickey Walker, KO 1 Gunboat Smith, W 15 Johnny Wilson

1. Ray Robinson, 175-19-6 (109 KOs with 2 no-contests) – The true “Sugar” of boxing, Robinson raised and set the bar of pugilistic excellence that few have ever approached. With knockout power in either fist, the hand speed to match, beautiful balance and the footwork of Fred Astaire, it is no hyperbole to say that he was the closest this world has come to seeing a perfect fighter. Even better than his physical prowess though, was his thirst for a fight. In the ring, he didn’t run or play defensive (even when he had the skill and reflexes to do so); his iron chin and willingness to duke it out made him a fight fan’s dream. In his prime, he was near impossible to beat, compiling a 128-1-2 record at the height of his ability, with the one loss being against his chief adversary, Jake LaMotta who outweighed Robinson by 15 pounds — Ray subsequently beat LaMotta in their next five meetings. At 160 pounds, though slightly over the hill, he was still able to dominate at a time when the middleweight division was overflowing with talent. In all, no fighter has beaten more Hall of Famers, and it’s a tribute to his greatness that even Muhammad Ali admitted that Robinson was pound-for-pound the greatest fighter to ever live. Notable Victories: KO 13 Jake LaMotta, KO 5 Gene Fullmer, W 15 Carmen Basilio, W 15 Kid Gavilan, W 15 Tommy Bell, KO 10 Randy Turpin

Now, for your viewing pleasure, the greatest fighter of all-time. Sit back and stare in awe at a boxer than can only be described as being as sweet as “Sugar”:

Barely missing the cut: Joe Gans, Archie Moore, Eder Jofre, Bob Fitzsimmons, Jimmy Wilde, Ray Leonard, Carlos Monzon



5 responses to “The Greatest Fighters Of All-Time (Part Two)

  1. I have a problem with duran being so high. He was at his best at light weight. When he moved up he lost to the top contenders of his day though he beat leonard once

  2. rocky marciano?

  3. nice top 5 chris le.. my top 5 ray robinson is #1…harry greb is #2…roberto duran is # 3…..henry armstrong is 4….eder jofre.. langford would of hit no 5 yet those news paper decisions i dont know? salvador sanchez..carlos monzon…both versions of foreman…

  4. jaylen demarco, its what duran did at the higher weights in the modern era that sets him apart. he got smoked by hearns, yes duran was up in weight and fading, did he pack it in? he kod moore for the jrmiddle title. it was roberto that fought hagler toe to toe i might add for 15 rounds not 12 like ray, i might also add duran faced marvin 3 plus years younger while the fire was still burning in haglers eyes. done deal. duran is the man..

  5. Anthony, from what i’ve seen and heard, Eder Jofre was a perfect fighter with essentially no weakness. His comeback form retirement victory over Jose Legra at 37 years old is more impressive than Foreman winning the heavyweight belt at age 45, in my opinion. He’s just outside my top 10.

    As for Langford and his no-decisions, in an attempt to avoid thrown bouts at the turn of the century, if a knockout did not occur the fight became a no-decision. But many newspapers of the day still scored the fights, and Langford won the lion’s share of his no-decisions.

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