The Greatest Fighter From Each Of The Last Six Decades

by James Slater: It takes a very special fighter to dominate a full decade. To have fought the best consistently for ten years, and to have beaten the same over the time period, is an incredible fistic achievement.

Here are my choices for the six men who did it during the last six decades:

1950 to 1959

"Sugar" Ray Robinson - welterweight/middleweight.

During the years 1950 to '59, the fighter born walker Smith Junior fought mostly at middleweight. However, during this period the original "Sugar" Ray defended his world welterweight title too (once) before moving up in poundage. The 50's saw some truly amazing ring performances from Robinson. Ever so slightly past his absolute physical peak he may have been once the 1940's came to an end, but Ray was still the definite best fighter of the golden decade of boxing that was the 1950's.

Consider the quality fighters Robinson defeated during this ten year period; Carl "Bobo" Olsen, Jake La Motta, Randy Turpin, Rocky Graziano and Gene Fullmer fell at the feet of Robbie during this time, while capable men like Charley Fussari and Carmen Basilio were out pointed. Robinson was a FIVE-TIME world champion at middleweight during the decade he dominated. Sure, Robbie lost a few times during this time frame (5 times, to be exact) but, boy, how he came back to extract his revenge! Robinson's KO over the rock-jawed Fullmer, for example, was THE KO of the whole decade.

1960 to 1969

Muhammad Ali - Heavyweight.

The 1960's were fortunate enough to have seen the very peak Muhammad Ali. Boxing at his sharpest, fastest and when his sublime skills were clicking in absolutely perfect harmony, Ali did things no other heavyweight ever had (or has). Blindingly speedy on his feet, and throwing out stinging punches that came from hands that were nothing but an unseen blur at times, the man formerly known as Cassius Clay bamboozled all those who entered the ring with him. He may have reached his peak, fame-wise, in the following decade, but in the'60's Ali's boxing brilliance was never better.

The following men were beaten by Ali before his greatness was cut short via an enforced layoff of over three years; Sonny Liston (twice, both times inside the distance) Floyd Patterson, George Chuvalo, the awkward and 49-2-3 Karl Mildenberger, Cleveland Williams, Ernie Terrell and Zora Folley. Ali avoided no worthwhile challenger in the period of the 1960s he was world champion.

1970 to 1979

Roberto Duran - Lightweight/light-welterweight/welterweight.

The fighter known as "Hands of Stone" was at his absolute best during the '70s. Boxing primarily as a lightweight during this period, when he was 135 pound world champion, Duran was peerless. Ferocious, fearless and well conditioned and well schooled, Duran was willing to take on any fighter who dared challenge him during this time frame. Called perhaps the best lightweight of all-time by many experts, Duran eventually ran out of worthwhile contenders at 135 pounds, and moved up to 140 and then 147. It's possible his finest win, the one he is best known for, came in 1980, but Duran was at his best in the '70s - as was he the decade's absolute best.

Who did Duran beat back then? The following all fell to his hands of stone; Ken Buchanan, Esteban De Jesus (twice, after having out-pointed Duran in their first of three fights) Ray Lampkin and Monroe Brooks. The following men were outscored by Roberto; Edwin Viruet (twice) Saoul Mamby and Carlos Palomino. Quite simply, during the 1970s Duran was a lean, mean fighting machine.

1980 to 1989

"Sugar" Ray Leonard - welterweight/light-middleweight/middleweight/super-middleweight/light-heavyweight.

Ray Charles Leonard won no less than four world titles at different weights during the 1980s, as well as regaining his first world title (welterweight) with a revenge win over the great Duran. Boxing a number of fellow all-time greats, Leonard lost just the once - to Duran. Dazzling both the fans who were desperate for someone to fill the shoes of the finished Ali, and his opponents, who couldn't cope with his deadly blend of speed and power, Leonard was a true superstar. He wasn't as active as some other ring greats, but the magnitude and true "event" quality of the super fights he did give us more than make up for it. "Sugar" Ray was almost ludicrously gifted.

The following men tried and failed to defeat Leonard during the decade in which the welter and middleweights took over boxing; Roberto Duran ( twice, in the infamous "No Mas" affair, and again when both were past their absolute best in December '89) Thomas Hearns (twice, the long awaited return being a draw) Ayub Kalule, Marvellous Marvin Hagler (in one of boxing's most truly astonishing comebacks) and Donny Lalonde (for a version of the light-heavyweight title). A superb resume, despite what Leonard's critics may try and say.

1990 to 1999

Roy Jones Junior - middleweight/super-middleweight/light-heavyweight.

The peak Roy Jones was something very special. Possessing an absolutely lethal combination of speed and punch power, talented fighters simply could not get near him. Blessed with astonishing reflexes, Jones' punches were almost faster than the naked eye! Athletic, incredibly strong and well conditioned, R.J had it all. Able to defy the boxing basics, as well as rival fighters who relied on them, Jones's speed enabled him to get away with things no fighter had a right to. Seemingly unbeatable for a time, his eventual downfall, in the early 2000s, when his reflexes had dimmed at least a fraction, was genuinely shocking. During his prime time, however, it was only Roy's opponents who got shocked.

Some fine fighters were bested by Jones during the '90s; Bernard Hopkins, James Toney, Mike McCallum, Lou Del Valle and Reggie Johnson were beaten out of sight on points, while Thomas Tate, Antoine Byrd, Vinny Pazienza, Tony Thornton, Merqui Sosa, Montell Griffin (after controversially beating Jones via a DQ in an initial meeting) and Virgil Hill were despatched inside the distance. He's still fighting today, but the world may never see any fighter quite like the peak Roy Jones Junior again.

2000 to 2009

Floyd Mayweather Junior - super-featherweight/lightweight/light-welterweight/welterweight/light-middleweight

Arguably, no, definitely, the toughest decade to make a pick from. Had Mayweather and Pacquiao fought by now as we all know they should have (say in 2009), picking between the two would have been a whole lot easier. From the start of the 2000s to the beginning of the 2010s, Floyd and Manny have dominated - the only question is: who dominated the most? After a tough decision, I leant “Money’s” way.

Still at his peak and looking all but unbeatable at age 35, Mayweather has used his blend of speed, power, defence, desire, sheer savvy and impeccable conditioning to dominate at five different weights. Some of the fine fighters Mayweather has dealt with: Genaro Hernandez, Diego Corrales, Jose Luis Castillo (twice), Arturo Gatti, Zab Judah, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Juan Manuel Marquez and Sugar Shane Mosley.

And to think, Floyd took a number of long layoffs during the years 2008 and 2009. How greater still could this Fighter of The Decade have been had he been more active?

Article posted on 06.03.2012

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