Before we start our list, I wanted to take some time to comment on 2 fighters that may have strong support in certain communities for being among the best ever, but truly do not have a place on the list.
Rocky Marciano – Won 49 Lost 0, 43 KO
Ask any Italian who the greatest boxer ever was, and you will never hear the names Ali, Louis or Sugar. Nope. You will only hear the name Rocky Marciano, the only heavyweight champion to retire undefeated. To his credit, Rocky Marciano did make a habit of beating up his opponents in the ring. Add the fact that his most notable victory was over his childhood idle, Joe Louis, whom he sent back into retirement. But Joe was well past his prime. He also beat Archie Moore, but he also was already in his early forties. So to the entire nation of Italy and her children I say to you, Rocky Marciano could not beat any of the champions in my Top T.E.N.
Lennox Lewis – 41 wins, 2 losses, 1 draw, 32 KO
Lewis will most likely go down as one of the most intelligent, calculated champions ever. But that is not what pound for pound is based on. Lennox was able to capitalize on Tyson’s jail term to reign as champion, then got out before the Klitchko brothers could undo the legacy he has manufactured for himself. He stayed an extra 4 years as an amateur to win a gold metal against younger opponents (Riddick Bowe for the medal bout). He then became champion only because Bowe gave up the title. He backed out of Tyson’s way (accepting a huge multi-million dollar payoff from Don King as payment for Tyson taking his ranking) as he was climbing back up to regain the championship that was handed to him. I believe that history will judge him for the fake that he truly is.
And now, to the top ten best pound for pound boxers:
10 – Mike Tyson – 50 wins, 5 losses, 2 no contests, 44 KO
No other fighter has been called “the baddest man on the planet”. Mike Tyson was perhaps the most feared person in boxing history. Up until Buster Douglas embarrassed Iron Mike, Mike Tyson made fighters give up. Going up through the amateur ranks, boxers actually lost on purpose so as to not fight Tyson in tournaments. How ironic that Tyson’s worst defeat was not to a boxer, but to a beauty pageant contestant named Desiree Washington. There is a great chance that had Tyson not suffered a 3-year setback, he would have easily moved up and be universally recognized as one of the best ever.
9 – (Big) George Foreman – Won 76 lost 5, 68 KO
Foreman’s biggest enemy opponent has always been himself. He could not accept defeat. After making his name as one of the most dominant fighter ever, his loss to Ali took him out of professional boxing for over a year. He made his first comeback attempt in 1977, knocking out his next 5 opponents (including Frazier, again), only to retire after losing a 12 round decision. A decade later, Foreman made an improbable comeback at the age of 38. Foreman made it again near the top of the boxing rankings, and despite suffering setbacks against Holyfield and Tommy Morrison, Foreman shocked the world when he stunned Michael Moore with a knock out in the 10th round. His next few bouts further proved that even unto his late 40th, Foreman was still a formidable force.
8 – (Sugar) Ray Leonard – 36 Wins, 3 Loss, 1 Draw, 25 KO
Leonard has to be on this list if only for the pure psychology he was able to inflict on his opponents. Only Ali could get into his opponents head more. Add to that all the titles his has own, in multiple weight divisions, and you have your number 8 all time. Like most great fighters, he just did not know when to quit, so you will have to ignore the last few fights of his career. Sugar Ray beat them all, from Duran (No Mas, No Mas), to Hagler, then Hearns, Sugar Ray’s stock only dropped because of his own issues. He first retired due to a detached retina, and it can be argued that a serious cocaine habit between 84 and 89 further damaged his career.
7 – (Marvelous) Marvin Hagler – 62 Wins, 3 Losses, 2 Draws, 52 KO
Yes, we have the Marvelous one ahead of Leonard, even though Leonard beat Hagler in their one encounter. Hagler was so distraught by that loss that he left before, and even refuses to talk about that fight today. Hagler’s only 2 losses were early on in his career, and he responded to them by beating both fighters. He would have continued to dominate the middleweight division had he not suffered the mentally debilitating loss to Leonardon yahoo. While Hopkins has been middleweight champion longer, with more title defenses, it can be argued that he never faced opponents the caliber of Duran and Hearns, both of whom Hagler defeated.
6 – Archie Moore – 181 wins, 24 losses, 9 draws and 1 no contest, 145 KO
Looking at the record, it is easy to see why the “Old Mongoose” or “Ancient Archie” has made it to the list. Archie’s career spanned over 4 decades, and it the only fighter to have faced by Rocky Marciano and Muhammed Ali. Archie was a better Light Heavyweight than he was a pure Heavyweight. He had his light heavyweight title stripped from him twice because he was too busy fighting at a higher weight class. No other fighter has knocked out as many professional opponents as Archie.
5 – Roy Jones Jr – 49 wins, 3 losses, 38 KO
This particular selection is highly debatable, and may end with Roy’s removal from the list completely. While there is no denying his talent, there is question as to if his showmanship and opponent section unfairly propelled him into his status. Winning a championship fight after playing paid basketball the same day was previously unheard of. As was becoming a champion at middleweight all the way up to heavyweight. Before his last two fights, Jones’ only defeat was a bogus call after he was disqualified against Montell Griffin, which he quickly avenged. Jones has at least warranted due considering, and an initial entry to the list.
4 – Joe (Brown Bomber) Louis – Won 68 Lost 3, 54 KO
While there seems to be some dispute over whether 5 of his victories by KO were exhibition matches or not, there is a consensus not take seriously 2 of his 3 losses in failed comeback attempts. The last, and most humiliating defeat was an 8th round KO through the ropes by Rocky Marciano. The Brown Bomber was so much in debt, that he tried to come back well past his prime. The fact that so much cultural identify was thrust upon his shoulders, made Joe Louis not only one of the greatest pure fighters, but a true icon for America’s 2nd class citizens. Joe will be best known for his 1st round KO over Germany’s Max Schmeling in 1938. Schmeling beat the favored Louis in 12 years only a few years earlier. Even when Joe won the Heavyweight title by knockout, he refused to be called champion until he settled the score with Schmeling. It is this attitude that made him a national hero despite his color.
3 – Julio Cesar Chavez – Won 104 Lost 5, 2 draws, 80 KO
Julio is a Mexican world champion boxer who won world titles in 3 different divisions. Among the world champions that Chávez defeated in his career are Edwin Rosario, Jose Luis Ramirez, Rocky Lockridge, Meldrick Taylor, Roger Mayweather, Sammy Fuentes, Héctor “Macho” Camacho, Juan Laporte, and Tony López. Chavez went 13 years before not winning a fight, with a draw to Pernell Whitaker, and it was another year later before he suffered his first defeat which was avenged 4 months later. Only in his last 8 years of his 24 year career did Chavez acount for 4 of his 5 losses to 3 different oppenents. He was able to avenge his lose to Willey Wise, but failed in second attempt to Oscar De La Hoya.
2 – Muhammed (Louisville Lip) Ali – won 56 Lost 5, 37 KO
In my book, Ali will also go down as one of the greatest human beings of all time. As purely a boxer, only a “what could have been” during his 3 year lay off after refusing to go to Vietnam prevents him from being the best ever. He came back after 3 years to lose his first of three asking Joe Frazier. Both were undefeated at the time. The same happened with Ken Norton. In both cases, Ali came back to whup them in the next 2 fights. Although the two became friends later on, Ali is also credited with knocking Foreman out in the ring, out of boxing, and onto the pulpit. Leon Spinks got Ali during his declining years, but Ali still come back to beat him in 1979. What happened to Ali in the next two fights against Holmes and Berbick is eerily similar to what is happening now with Roy Jones Jr. In neither case, should those 2 fights be included into what was an otherwise spectacular career.
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