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The 30 greatest boxers of all-time

The 30 greatest boxers of all-time

Boxing

Nicknamed “The Greatest,” Muhammad Ali was the first boxer to win the heavyweight championship of the world three times. But who had better records than him?

30. Tony Canzoneri: 137-24-10 (44 KOs)

In an era of great fighters, Tony Canzoneri was one of the best. The three-time world champion is one of only a select few of boxers to hold titles in three or more weight divisions at the same time. He won the world featherweight championship in February 1928 when he was just 19 years old.

Tony Canzoneri

(Photo by Wikimedia Commons/Chicago Daily News)

Canzoneri held a total of five world titles throughout his career, fighting in four different weight divisions. One of the American boxer’s most memorable victories came in 1930, when he knocked out Al Singler to win the lightweight championship in 1930. He also holds victories over Jimmy McLarnin and Kid Chocolate.

29. Barney Ross: 72-4-3 (22 KOs)

One of the most courageous boxers of all-time, Barney Ross became a world champion in three weight divisions. In 81 professional matches, including several against legendary fighters, Ross was never knocked out. In 1933, Ross defeated Tony Canzoneri to claim both lightweight and junior welterweight titles.

Barney Ross

(Photo by ACME/Wikimedia Commons)

Ross’ most memorable fight came in a bout against Henry Armstrong, in which Ross attempted to defend his World Welterweight Championship. Ross took an insane beating, but he refused to allow the fight to be stopped. Though he loss, Ross ended the fight on his feet. Ross went on to become a decorated veteran of World War II.

28. Julio Cesar Chavez: 108-6-2 (87 KOs)

One of the most legendary Mexican fighters of all-time, Julio Cesar Chavez began his career by winning his first 87 professional fights. Chavez was named Fighter of the Year for 1987 and 1990 by several publications, and he was later inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Julio Cesar Chavez

(Photo by Holly Stein/Getty Images)

Chavez was known for his heavy hands and fierce fighting style. He holds records for the most total successful defenses of world titles (tied with Omar Narvaez with 27), most title fight victories (31), most fighters beaten for the title (31), and most title fights (37). The legendary fighter’s 1993 win over Greg Haugen at Estadio Azteca set the record for the largest attendance for a boxing match at 132,274.

27. Ted Lewis: 173-30-14 (71 KOs)

British boxer Ted “Kid” Lewis was a two-time World Welterweight Championship titleholder and is widely regarded as one of the greatest boxers in history. Lewis won the British featherweight title when he was just 18 years old, and he added the European crown four months later. After a phenomenal career, he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Ted Lewis

(Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Lewis had a serious rivalry with Jack Britton. In 1915, he defeated Britton to win the world welterweight title. Britton then regained the title, before losing it back to Lewis, who eventually lost it to Britton once more. The two battled 20 times, with 12 of those bouts ending in no-decisions.

26. Floyd Mayweather Jr: 50-0 (27 KOs)

Arguably the greatest promoter and defensive boxer in history, Floyd Mayweather Jr. is one of the more fascinating fighters the sport has seen. Mayweather Jr. has the highest plus-minus ratio in recorded boxing history, making him the most accurate puncher since the existence of CompuBox. He’s won eight championships in five different weight divisions.

Floyd Mayweather Jr.

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

With a record of 26 consecutive wins in world title fights, 23 wins in lineal title fights, 24 wins against former or current world titlists, and two wins against International Boxing Hall of Fame inductees, Mayweather Jr. is unquestionably one of the greatest boxers in the history of the sport.

25. Stanley Ketchel: 52-4-4-1 (49 KOs)

Nicknamed “The Michigan Assasin,” Stanley Ketchel is one of the biggest what if’s in boxing history. With a victory over Jack Sullivan, Ketchel secured the world middleweight championship, which he never lost. In just three years, the boxer defended his title three times.

Stanley Ketchel

(Photo by George Grantham Bain Collection – Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons)

Taking on heavyweight champion Jack Johnson in 1909, Ketchel managed to knock down the legend despite being outweighed by 35 pounds. Later that fight, however, Johnson knocked Ketchel out cold. At the age of just 24, Ketchel — still the middleweight champion — was murdered at a ranch in Conway, Missouri. He will always be remembered as one of the bravest boxers in history.

24. Carlos Monzon: 87-3-9-1 (59 KOs)

Argentine Carlos Monzon is best known for holding the undisputed world middleweight championship for 7 years. Known for his speed, punching power and work rate, Monzon successfully defended his title 14 times. Even more impressively, he went undefeated over the final 81 fights of his career.

Carlos Monzon

(Photo by Wikimedia Commons)

However, Monzon’s life outside of boxing spun out of control. He lived a glamorous but violent life and was accused many times of domestic violence, as well as beating up paparazzi. The boxer was charged with the murder of his wife in 1988 and sentenced to 11 years in jail. He died in a car crash in January 1995.

23. George Foreman: 76-5 (68 KOs)

One of the most iconic boxers of all-time, George Foreman is best known for his upset of Joe Frazier to win his first title in 1973. Foreman defended his title twice before his first professional loss, which came to Muhammad Ali at “The Rumble in the Jungle” in 1974.

George Foreman

(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images)

After leaving the sport for 10 years, Foreman came back and regained a portion of the heavyweight championship at age 45. As of 2019, Foreman remains the oldest heavyweight champion in boxing history and the second oldest in any weight class. Outside of boxing, Foreman is known for his entrepreneurial career. He promoted the George Foreman Grill and sold the naming rights for $138 million.

22. Thomas Hearns: 61-5-1 (48 KOs)

Tommy “Hitman” Hearns is one of the most decorated boxers in the history of the sport. Most notably, he’s the first man to win four world titles in four weight divisions — and the first to win five titles in five divisions. Hearns was named Fighter of the Year by multiple publications in 1980 and 1984.

Thomas Hearns

(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Hearns was a part of some incredible fights, facing opponents like Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, and Roberto Duran. Though the fighter lost to the first two of those opponents, he bested Duran to defend his WBC junior middleweight title. Hearns was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2012.

21. Mickey Walker: 131-25-5-2 (60 KOs)

One of boxing’s earliest stars, Mickey Walker was a champion World Welterweight and World Middleweight boxer. In January 1925, Walker became the lightest man to ever challenge for the light heavyweight title. At the time, he weighed less than 150 pounds.

Mickey Walker

(Photo by Chicago Daily News/Wikimedia Commons)

Walker didn’t take a light schedule, often fighting more than a dozen times in a year. He often faced stiff competition, beating fighters like Jack Britton and Tiger Flowers. The boxer made nine title defenses throughout his career, despite only holding two belts. Many boxing historians and publications have placed him among their best middleweights of all-time. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame as a first-class member in 1990.

20. Archie Moore: 186-23-10-1 (131 KOs)

A victim of racism for most of his career, Archie Moore didn’t get a shot at his first world title until he’d fought 168 times and turned 39 years old. Moore won the bout and became a champion. He fought an additional 52 bouts after becoming champion and lost just four of them.

Archie Moore

(Photo by Wikimedia Commons)

As of 2019, Moore remains the oldest world champion in history at 48 years, 59 days old when he last held the belt. The boxer’s 131 career knockouts are also the most of all-time. After he retired from boxing, Moore spent a brief stint as a trainer. Among those who he trained: Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, and James Tillis.

19. Sandy Saddler: 144-16-2 (103 KOs)

A tall, skinny featherweight, Sandy Saddler was one of the most feared punchers in boxing history. Saddler won the featherweight world championship twice. He also held the super featherweight title. Throughout his 12-year career, the boxer scored 103 knockouts. Saddler was only knocked out once, in his second professional fight.

Sandy Saddler

(Photo by George Stroud – Stringer/Getty Images)

The boxer may be best known for his four fights with the legendary Willie Pep, of which he won three. Saddler reclaimed his final championship from Pep in 1950 and held onto the title until 1956. He retired a champion in January 1957 due to vision problems that stemmed from a car crash. Saddler is also known for being an uncle to the famed DJ Grandmaster Flash.

18. Ruben Olivares: 89-13-3 (79 KOs)

Mexican boxer Ruben Olivares is widely considered as the greatest bantamweight champion of all-time. He holds the record for the most wins in unified title fights in bantamweight history, with six. The incredibly popular fighter held both the WBA and WBC Bantamweight titles two times each, as well as the WBA and WBC Featherweight titles one time apiece.

Ruben Olivares

(Photo by Jam Media/Getty Images)

Participating in more than 100 fights and knocking out 79 opponents, Olivares was a dominant fighter for his time. With notable wins over Bobby Chacon and Jose Luis Ramirez, the hard-hitting Olivares became a national celebrity in Mexico. In fact, the fighter’s popularity led to some cameo appearances in some Mexican movies.

17. Jimmy Wilde: 132-3-1-5 (99 KOs)

One of the smallest yet most destructive fighters ever, Jimmy Wilde was the first world flyweight champion in the history of boxing. He’s one of the greatest fighters to ever come out of Europe and is considered by many to be the greatest flyweight boxer ever.

Jimmy Wilde

(Photo by Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons)

Wilde holds the longest unbeaten streak in the history of boxing, having won 104 consecutive matches. Reigning as the world’s greatest flyweight, he would take on bantamweights and even featherweights, winning many fights by knockout. Due to his punching power, Wilde earned nicknames like “The Mighty Atom,” “The Tylorstown Terror,” and “Ghost with the Hammer in His Hand.”

16. Jack Britton: 239-57-43-5 (30 KOs)

A three-time world welterweight boxing champion, Jack Britton is not just one of the best boxers of his era, but one of the best of all-time. He holds the world record for the number of title matches fought in a career with 37, 18 of which ended in no decisions. Many of those matches were against his arch-rival, Ted “Kid” Lewis, who he fought 20 times.

Jack Britton

(Photo by Wikimedia Commons)

After a 25-year career, Britton was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame as a first-class member. The welterweight also made his way into pop culture: It’s said that Ernest Hemingway’s short story “Fifty Grand” is based on one of Britton’s fights.

15. Joe Gans: 120-8-9 (85 KOs)

Considered by many to be the greatest lightweight boxer of all-time, Joe Gans was the first black man to ever win the lightweight title. The boxer was a trailblazer whose success guided the path for many African-American fighters. Gans held the lightweight title for a six-year stretch between 1902 and 1908, dominating his competition over the course of that stretch.

Joe Gans

(Photo by H.M. Smith/Wikimedia Commons)

The Hall of Fame boxer became the first African-American World Boxing Champion of the 20th century. He earned the nickname “Old Master” by taking a scientific approach to the sport of boxing. He once fought three times in a single night.

14. Harry Greb: 105-8-3 (48 KOs)

Nicknamed “The Pittsburgh Windmill,” Harry Greb was a freak of nature. Fighting 298 times in his 13-year career — third-most of any boxer in history — Greb battled the best opposition he could come across throughout the 1910s and 1920s. Though he began his career around 140 pounds, the boxer would frequently match up against light heavyweights and even heavyweights.

Harry Greb

(Photo by Wikimedia Commons)

Greb became a light heavyweight champion and world middleweight champion, and he won 100 of his 104 bouts by knockout. Despite becoming mostly blind in his left eye, Greb defended his title six times over three years before finally surrendering it to Tiger Flowers. He was also the only fighter to ever defeat future heavyweight champion Gene Tunney.

13. Gene Tunney:  65-1-1-1 (48 KOs)

With only one loss in his professional career, Gene Tunney was one of the most efficient fighters of all-time. Holding the world heavyweight title from 1926 to 1928 and the American light heavyweight title twice between 1922 and 1923, Tunney was a force to be reckoned with.

Gene Tunney

(Photo by Paul Thompson – FPG – Stringer/Getty Images)

Known as “Fighting Marine,” Tunney was never defeated as a heavyweight. He only lost one fight in his career, against middleweight legend Harry Greb. Tunney’s successful title defense against Jack Dempsey is one of the most famous fights in the history of boxing, and it has come to be known as “The Long Count Fight.”

12. Jack Dempsey: 54-6-9 (44 KOs)

The world heavyweight champion from 1919 to 1926, Jack Dempsey defined heavyweight boxing in the late 1910s and early 1920s. Nicknamed “The Manassa Mauler,” Dempsey was an aggressive puncher whose style was popular with many fans. In fact, many of his fights set financial and attendance records.

Jack Dempsey

(Photo by American Stock Archive/Getty Images)

Dempsey won won the World Heavyweight Title by shattering Jess Willard’s jaw. When he eventually lost the title in a battle with Gene Tunney, it was in front of the largest paid attendance in the history of boxing. Dempsey is a a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, and in 1950, he was voted as the greatest fighter of the past 50 years.

11. Rocky Marciano: 49-0 (43 KOs)

The only undefeated heavyweight world champion in history, Rocky Marciano is massively popular due to his punching power and relentless passion for fighting. He won the heavyweight championship in 1952 and made six title defenses before eventually retiring in 1956. His defenses came against Jersey Joe Walcott, Roland La Starza, Ezzard Charles (twice), Don Cockell, and Archie Moore.

Rocky Marciano

(Photo by Hulton Archive – Stringer/Getty Images)

With an 87.76% knockout-to-win percentage, Marciano is easily one of the most powerful heavyweights ever. Fans adored his tremendous heart, and he’s widely regarded as one of the top-1o heavyweight boxers of all-time. Marciano is one of very few fighters to retire without a loss and the only heavyweight to do so.

10. Willie Pep: 229-11-1 (65 KOs)

Two-time world featherweight champion Willie Pep is widely considered one of the quickest and most durable fighters in the history of boxing. Despite suffering near-fatal injuries in a 1947 plane crash, Pep went on to win more than 200 matches throughout his career. Kid Campeche said “fighting Willie Pep is like trying to stamp out a grass fire.”

Willie Pep

(Photo by Keystone – Stringer/Getty Images)

The Hall of Fame boxer was voted as the top featherweight boxer of the 20th Century by the Associated Press, and many consider him to be the best featherweight of all-time. During his 26-year career, Pep boxed for an incredible total of 1,956 rounds.

9. Sam Langford: 180-29-39 (128 KOs)

Perhaps the greatest fighter to never win a world title, Sam Langford was a devastating boxer who was denied numerous opportunities as a result of racism in the sport at the time. The Canadian lightweight fought all the way up to heavyweight, and he dominated throughout his career — even after becoming almost completely blind in one eye.

Sam Langford

(Photo by Agence Rol/Wikimedia Commons)

Many consider Langford to be the best Canadian boxer of all-time, but the question of “what if” will always surround his impressive career. He was denied many World Championship fights, due to the color bar and because Jack Johnson refused to fight him. If Langford had a chance to compete for a title, his career likely would’ve been even more impressive.

8. Jack Johnson: 77-13-14 (48 KOs)

The first black heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson is one of the most iconic figures in sports history. The boxer transcended the sport he played in, becoming part of the culture and a major figure in the history of racism in the United States. Johnson became a champion in 1908, and he held onto the title until 1915.

Jack Johnson

(Photo by Bain News Service/Wikimedia Commons)

Despite finally getting his chance to compete for (and win) a title, Johnson was driven in exile for much of his reign as champion. To avoid facing charges under the racist Mann Act, he lived and fought in Europe and South America. In his most notable fight, Johnson dominated James. J. Jeffries in the “Fight of the Century.”

7. Benny Leonard: 89-6-1-4 (70 KOs)

The longest-reigning lightweight champion ever, Benny Leonard held the title from May 1917 to January 1925, when he retired as a champion. After a seven-year retirement, Leonard returned to boxing and won 18 of 19 fights. One of the quickest and smartest fighters ever, the boxer is considered either the best or second-best lightweight of all-time by virtually every publication.

Benny Leonard

(Photo by El Grafico/Wikimedia Commons)

At one point in his career, Leonard fought 154 consecutive bouts without losing. The world-class boxer went on to become a referee after he retired. While he was reffing a match in New York, Leonard collapsed and died in the ring.

6. Sugar Ray Leonard: 36-3-1 (25 KOs)

Seven-time champion Sugar Ray Leonard fought the best boxers of his era, beating each and every one of them. Among those he beat are some huge names: Wilfred Benitez, Tommy Hearns, Marvin Hagler, and Roberto Duran. Over a 20-year career, Leonard won world titles in five weight divisions, the lineal championship in three weight divisions, and the undisputed welterweight title.

Sugar Ray Leonard

(Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Leonard was named “Boxer of the Decade” in the 1980s, earning more than $100 million in purses over the course of his career. Leonard won an Olympic gold medal in 1976 and is widely regarded as a top-10 boxer of all-time.

5. Roberto Duran: 103-16 (70 KOs)

With a career spanning five decades, Roberto Duran was a seemingly unstoppable lightweight who dominated his competition. The first man to ever defeat Sugar Ray Leonard, Duran was known for his versatility, technique, and ability to create pressure in a fight.

Roberto Duran

(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

The Panamanian held world championships in four different weight classes: lightweight, welterweight, light middleweight, and middleweight. He also held the undisputed and lineal lightweight titles, as well as the lineal welterweight title. Duran’s formidable punching power earned him the nickname of “Manos de Piedra,” or “Hands of Stone.” Voted as the best lightweight of the 20th century by the Associated Press, Duran is considered by many to be the greatest lightweight boxer ever.

4. Henry Armstrong: 151-21-9 (101 KOs)

The only boxer to simultaneously hold world titles at three different weights, Henry Armstrong was easily one of the greatest boxers in the history of the sport. Impressively, the boxer held those three titles when there were only eight recognized divisions at the time. Armstrong faced 17 world champions throughout his career, and he defeated 15 of them.

Henry Armstrong

(Photo by Carl Van Vechten/Wikimedia Commons)

After he won the World Welterweight Championship in 1938, Armstrong defended his title a record 18 times before eventually dropping it in 1940. Most publications have Armstrong ranked in the top-five greatest boxers of all-time, and many of them have him ranked as one of the top two or three.

3. Joe Louis: 66-3 (52 KOs)

The world heavyweight champion from 1937 to 1949, Joe Louis is one of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all-time. He held the title for 140 months, successfully defending it a record 25 times. Louis earned the nickname “Brown Bomber” due to his punching power. Some all-time boxing rankings list him as the top fighter on their lists.

Joe Louis

(Photo by Keystone-France/Getty Images)

In addition to his boxing prowess, Louis is known as one of the first people of African-American descent to become a nationwide hero within the United States. He had a major impact in integrating the game of golf, becoming the first African-American to play a PGA Tour event. He was one of the most popular champions of all-time.

2. Muhammad Ali: 56-5 (37 KOs)

Nicknamed “The Greatest,” Muhammad Ali was the first boxer to win heavyweight championship of the world three times. He’s one of the most significant and celebrated sports figures in American history, and most publications rank him as the greatest heavyweight boxer of all-time.

Muhammad Ali

(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Ali was involved in several historic boxing matches and feuds, and his refusal to serve in the armed forces during the Vietnam War made him an icon in the civil rights movement. The boxer was not only one of the best in his sport, but he was unmatched when it came to putting on a performance for fans. To many, he’s the definition of a champion.

1. Sugar Ray Robinson: 173-19-6-2 (108 KOs)

The best pound-for-pound fighter in history, Sugar Ray Robinson won 126 straight fights to begin his career. He was seemingly unstoppable, defeating legends such as Jake LaMotta, Carmen Basilio, Gene Fullmer, Randy Turpin, Carl “Bobo” Olson, Henry Armstrong, Rocky Graziano, and Kid Gavilan. Robinson became the first boxer to win a divisional world championship five times and was named “fighter of the year” in 1942 and 1951.

Sugar Ray Robinson

(Photo by Hulton Archive – Stringer/Getty Images)

Robinson was the most complete fighter to ever take the ring, dominating the competition throughout his career. In fact, three of his six total titles came after a two-and-a-half-year retirement. There will never be another fighter like Sugar Ray Robinson.

Connor Howe has been working in the sports industry for more than a half-decade, having spent time on the writing side as well as the marketing side of professional sports. He's spent time with the San Diego Chargers, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation, among others, and is excited to bring his knowledge and experience to Tiebreaker.

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