Slater: The Ten Greatest Fighters Ever; Pound-For-Pound

06.04.06 - By James Slater: Right now, most boxing fans agree when it comes to answering the question - who is the best fighter on the planet, pound-for-pound? Practically everyone agrees Floyd Mayweather holds the distinction. However, we boxing fans do not usually find it so easy to avoid disagreeing. But how many personal opinions would be vehemently defended were a top ten list of the Pound-for-pound greatest fighters in history brought up? Never could such a list please everyone, surely? Deep down though, us fans love contesting other's beliefs when it comes to one boxer's superiority over another. And nothing is more guaranteed to get some (friendly) arguments going than a list of the ten finest boxers of all-time. Such a topic is a dead cert to inspire some fun, back and forth, debating. And, let's never forget, someone's opinion remains only that, an opinion.

With that said, I would now like to list my ten choices for the greatest ever boxers, pound-for-pound.

1. Sugar Ray Robinson. Incomparable. Quite simply the finest fighter in history. Ray was a man who could do it all - fight while coming forward or backing up. He could both give and take a punch and his speed, accuracy, stamina and courage were amazing. What's more, he displayed all the aforementioned qualities whilst fighting opposition of the highest merit.. Even guys who were never champion in Robinson's day would more than likely become so today. Hell, even the journeymen were tough! And one last point - Ray, in over two hundred pro bouts, was never legitimately KO'd.

2. Henry Armstrong. Another phenomenal fighter. Armstrong once held world titles at three different weights at the same time! Possibly the finest lightweight ever, Armstrong also captured world honours at featherweight and welterweight. Came within a whisker of winning the middleweight title also. Threw an absolutely astonishing amount of punches in a round. Aside from his pro debut, which amazingly he lost in three rounds, "Homicide Hank" was only KO'd once - by Fritzie Zivic, at a time when Henry was far past his peak.

3. Muhammad Ali. The greatest ever heavyweight. Ali was blessed with supernatural speed and agility. He was also fortunate enough to have had a ton of worthy contenders willing to try their hand at beating him. Because Ali fought, and dominated, in a golden era for the heavyweights (the 1970's) his true greatness was revealed. Also had in his possession the finest chin in all of boxing. Was as brave as any fighter in history. Enjoyed shocking the world time and again.

4. Ezzard Charles. The best light heavyweight in boxing history. Although never world champion at 175, was clearly the best. Went 3-0 with the legendary Archie Moore, even knocking Moore flat on one occasion. Also twice defeated the slick Charley Burley."The Cincinnati Cobra" eventually moved up to heavyweight where he did become world champ. Perhaps best known for giving the great Rocky Marciano his hardest fight- losing a gruelling and close fifteen round decision. In a return match he came desperately close to beating him again, by inflicting a savage cut on Marciano's nose. His finest weight though was definitely 175.

5. Roberto Duran. If Armstrong wasn't the finest ever at 135, then Duran was. Simply born to fight, Roberto was as mean and tough as any man who ever stepped into the ring. Won his first world title by manhandling the experienced Ken Buchanan, when aged only twenty. Had brutal three fight series with Esteban De Jesus, going 2-1, before moving up to 147 and handing Ray Leonard his first loss. His legacy is hurt somewhat due to second fight with Leonard. Still had lots to offer post 1980, however, including the capturing of two more world titles. Capped off his great fighting days with excellent win over the much bigger Iran Barkley. Only ever counted out once, in his fight with Thomas Hearns.

6. Willie Pep. Superb defensive fighter. Legend has it he once won a round without throwing a single punch, such was his defensive wizardry and ability at making the other guy look foolish. Went unbeaten in first sixty three fights! Captured featherweight world title in 1946 against Sal Bartola. At this point in career had only lost the one bout, on points to Sammy Angott, unbeaten in other ninety nine! Remembered for violent four fight series with murderous punching Sandy Saddler. Probably the best featherweight in history.

7. Archie Moore. Scored more KO's than any other boxer in history. Was made to wait until almost forty before getting crack at light heavyweight title. Won it handily with fifteen round decision over Joey Maxim and kept it for nearly ten years. Only guy he couldn't master was Ezzard Charles. Like Charles moved up to heavyweight and fought Marciano. Scored knockdown in second round and until dying day maintained that if benevolent referee hadn't aided "The Rock" he would have scored KO win. Also fought the much younger Floyd Patterson and Cassius Clay. Became fine trainer after retirement from fighting.

8. Benny Leonard. Incredible lightweight. Some say the best ever at the weight. Fought a who's who of great lightweights including - Johnny Dundee, Ted "Kid" Lewis, Rocky Kansas and Lew Tendler. First won title in 1917, against Freddie welsh. Held it until 1924, when he retired after a win over Pal Moran, thus vacating title. Made comeback seven years later but only a shadow of what he once was. Also to be noted, Leonard twice fought for the welterweight title, his fight with "Kid" Lewis being a no-decision and his fight with Jack Britton being ruled a disqualification win for Britton. Tragically, Leonard died aged only fifty one, while refereeing a boxing match.

9. Sugar Ray Leonard. A boxer blessed with many fine attributes. Speed, power, athleticism and personality. Captured Olympic gold in 1976 and from then on could seemingly do no wrong. Soon won world welterweight title in fine fight with Wilfred Benitez. Even when losing to Duran in 1980 earned many plaudits for showing heart and fighting Duran's fight. Made "Hands of Stone" say "No Mas" and quit in rematch later in same year. Then unified welterweight titles with arguably greatest win - a fourteenth round stoppage of Thomas "The Hitman" Hearns. Retired shortly thereafter due to retina problems, only to return five years later( after one disappointing Tune-up) and shock Marvellous Marvin Hagler. However, popularity suffered shortly afterwards as many felt Sugar was beneficiary of unjust verdict. Also tarnished image by carrying on too long and suffering humbling defeats to Terry Norris and Hector Camacho. During prime years, however, was one of the best ever welterweights.

10. Charley Burley. To many the finest fighter to never win a world title. Was avoided like the plague. Rumoured to be the only man Ray Robinson ducked. Literally begged for a shot at a world title. One man who did fight him( in a non-title affair) was Archie Moore. Moore was beaten handily on points, with Archie on the floor three times. Also defeated quality men such as - Fritzie Zivic, Billy Soose and Holman Williams. Burley retired in 1950, never having been stopped. One of the gravest wastes of talent in the history of the ring. Deserved a title shot far more than many men who received one.

Article posted on 07.04.2006

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