Fight fans the world over are still trying to come to terms with the sad, shocking and wholly unexpected passing of the great Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Gone at age 66, this at a time when the former long-reigning middleweight king had so much more living to do, Hagler’s passing is incredibly hard to make sense of. Hagler kept himself in great physical shape, he had no health concerns that we know of, and he was still to reach what anyone could really call old age. ‘Marv’ will be missed, that’s for darn sure.
For many people, be they fans, be they boxing historians, be they fellow fighters, Hagler ranks as THE greatest middleweight of all time. Champion for seven years, unbeaten at one point for a staggering 11 years, and making 12 successful defences of the crown, Hagler sure made a huge impact on the division and on the entire sport. Maybe, as strong, as clever, as powerful, as determined and as willing to fight the absolute best as he was, Hagler is deserving of the distinction of being the best to ever do it at 160 pounds. Some people may point to Sugar Ray Robinson, others to Carlos Monzon, but Hagler is, at the very least, Top-3.
But with the sad passing of Marvelous Marvin, who is the greatest living middleweight? The middleweight division is a special division, it is traditional and it has, over the decades, boasted some incredible fighters and world champions. But which of these greats are still with us today? Who are the five greatest living middleweights?
See if you agree with this list (note, no active fighters are listed, only retired fighters):
1: Bernard Hopkins
2: Roy Jones – wins over: Bernard Hopkins, Thomas Tate, Jorge Castro
3: Thomas Hearns – wins over: Juan Domingo Roldan, James Shuler, Doug DeWitt, fought an all-time great war with Hagler.
4: James Toney – wins over: Michael Nunn, Mike McCallum, Reggie Johnson.
5: Mike McCallum – wins over: Sumbu Kalambay, Herol Graham, Michael Watson, Steve Collins, boxed a controversial draw with Toney.
So Hopkins gets the nod in this article. Why? Hopkins, an amazing fighter who got better with age, made an incredible 19 world middleweight title defences and he defeated, among others, these fine fighters: Glen Johnson, Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya, William Joppy, Keith Holmes, John David Jackson. Hopkins was great at making guys fight his fight and, like Hagler before him, he lost the middleweight title via hugely debatable decision, his 2005 split decision to Jermain Taylor being seen by most as a Hopkins win.
Hopkins lost to Jones in 1993, this a time when B-Hop was far from the finished article he would become. After that points loss, Hopkins went unbeaten in 26 fights, these fought over the course of 12 long years.
Bernard Hopkins is, for now, the greatest living middleweight.
(Sugar Ray Leonard is absent from the list as he only had one fight at 160 pounds, the epic (and hugely debated, to this day, win over Hagler); Sugar Ray being at his best as a welterweight. In fact, for many people, Leonard is the greatest living fighter, regardless of weight class. Roberto Duran also had a short stay at 160, managing one great win, this the upset win over Iran Barkley. A case can perhaps be made for Duran being in the Top-5 greatest living middleweights, though, as Duran pushed Hagler hard in their 1983 fight, the Panamanian dropping a close and hard-fought 15 round decision that could have gone his way. As it is, it’s a toss-up between Duran and Leonard as far as who is THE greatest living fighter, pound-for-pound.)