By James Slater: With Bernard Hopkins’ odds-defying, history-making win over Jean Pascal, comes the hard task of finding a suitable place for the amazing 46-year-old in the all-time lists. Right now, on various web sites and in various publications, writers are debating and trying to figure out just where to rank B-Hop amongst the best boxers in history.
Of course, the man who now holds the distinction as THE oldest man to have ever won a major title insists he is far from done yet, and ’Nard has spoken of fighting until he nears the age of 50. Perhaps, then, we should wait until the Philly master’s career comes to its very end before we evaluate his place amongst the immortals; after all, wins over a couple more notable fighters, with Hopkins further besting Father Time, would add even more glory to his rep.
But as excited as we are after the wonderful thing we witnessed in Canada this past Saturday, we can’t help thinking right now about Hopkins’ place amongst the very best of all time. Just where do his current achievements place the former middleweight and current light-heavyweight king?
Sure to get shot down by some, hopefully agreed with by others, here is my list of the 20 greatest fighters to have ever lived. See if you agree with the placing I have given to “The Executioner.”
1: Sugar Ray Robinson. 173-19-6(108). Utterly amazing numbers compiled by the man born Walker Smith Junior. A world champion at welterweight and middleweight, Robinson still deserves to be ranked far higher than does Hopkins, even if Bernard has outdone Robbie in terms of longevity. Was there anything Robinson couldn’t do in the ring? Whether it be fighting while coming forward, fighting while going backwards, fighting on the inside, out-boxing or out-punching or out-toughing his foe, Robbie rarely came up short.
2: Henry Armstrong. 149-21-10(101). Yet more numbers that seem unimaginable today. The man born Henry Melody Jackson won world titles at featherweight, lightweight and welterweight. Also fought a draw most people thought he won for the middleweight crown. Fought an amazing 27 times in the year 1937!
3: Muhammad Ali. 56-5(37). Ali had it all: longevity (not to the extent of Hopkins admittedly), arguably the best era of heavyweights to fight amongst, speed, power, guts and chin. A three time ruler, Ali was pretty much on top for 18 long years.
4: Ezzard Charles. 93-25-1(52). The greatest light-heavyweight in history, even though he never won the world title at 175. Three-time conqueror of the great Archie Moore, Charles was also good enough to move up and win the world heavyweight crown. Came within a whisker of defeating the legendary Rocky Marciano at a time when he was past his best.
5: Roberto Duran. 103-16(70). As his numbers that rival even the pre-war greats show, Duran was simply born to fight. Arguably the best lightweight ever, Duran also won world titles at welterweight, light-middleweight and middleweight. Fought in five separate decades!
6: Archie Moore. 185-23-10(131). The original ageless wonder! Consider these facts concerning Archie: he has the world record for most KO’s ever scored by any pro boxer, he was made to wait until he was 39-years-old before getting a title shot and, he was able to defy time back in the ’40s and ’50s – imagine how much more effectively he would have been able to do so had he had today’s modern day knowledge and technology regarding diet, conditioning and the like. Moore was retaining his world light-heavyweight crown at the age of 44 at a time when the average life expectancy was far lower than it is today.
7: Willie Pep. 229-11-1(65). Truly astonishing numbers. Arguably the best defensive fighter of all-time, the masterful Pep once won a round without throwing a single punch. The long-time world featherweight king boxed until he was 43 and what’s more, he only lost four of his last 24 outings. Pep was almost as ageless as Hopkins.
8: Benny Leonard. 183-23-8(70). Another defensive master, Leonard is many experts’ choice as the best-ever lightweight. Stooped just five times as a pro, four times during the very early stages of his career when still a boy, Leonard was quite simply one of the slickest fighters to have ever put on gloves.
9: Julio Cesar Chavez. 107-6-2(86). Another born fighting machine, Chavez, Mexico’s greatest fighter, was unbeatable before age and weight caught up with him. Impossible to hurt in his prime and possessing one of the most lethal body attacks the sport has ever known, Julio marched through the super-featherweight and lightweight ranks. It was only when he went up to light-welter and welterweight that Chavez was seriously tested.
10: Sugar Ray Leonard. 36-3-1(25). The only fighter after Ray Robinson to be genuinely deserving of the “Sugar” nickname. Leonard had plenty of flash, but he backed it up in spades with grit, power, heart and sheer class. And Leonard’s balance was legendary. A world ruler at welterweight, light-middleweight, middleweight, super-middleweight and light-heavyweight, Ray was at his spellbinding best at 147.
The next ten:
11: Marvin Hagler.
12: Manny Pacquiao.
13: Roy Jones Junior.
14: Harry Greb.
15: Jack Johnson.
16: BERNARD HOPKINS.
17: Carlos Monzon.
18: Pernell Whitaker.
19: Jimmy Wilde.
20: Joe Louis.