No matter what sport you discuss, it is difficult for people to agree on which athletes were the best of all time. Boxing is no exception to this rule, and while some people will argue for Muhammad Ali, others will list Joe Louis. No matter whom your favorite boxer might be, the following list of the boxing’s greatest fighters takes into consideration the talent, the skill, the records and showmanship of each boxer. You might not personally like one or more of these guys, but there is no denying their influence on the sport.
It is not difficult to make a case for Muhammad Ali as the greatest boxer in history, and Ali himself would probably agree. His amateur career included 100 wins and just five losses, as well as taking the gold medal in the light heavyweight division during the 1960 summer Olympic games in Rome. As a pro, he won 56 fights and lost just five bouts, three of them coming at the end of his career. He also defeated some of boxing’s toughest competitors, including George Foreman, Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier and Floyd Patterson.
Joe Louis was similar to Ali as not only was he an extraordinary boxer, he was a beloved American hero. He lost only three bouts, including a famous 1936 fight against German boxer Max Schmeling. Despite the fact that the bout lasted 12 rounds, this loss was touted by the Nazi’s as proof of the superiority of the Aryan race. In 1938, Louis faced Schmeling again, this time knocking out his German opponent in just two minutes. This is considered one of the greatest fights in history. In all, Louis won 69 professional boxing matches, knocking out the vast majority of his opponents. He also held the heavyweight title from 1937 to 1949, far longer than any fighter before or after.
Boxers typically don’t want for self-confidence, after all Muhammad Ali called himself the “Greatest.” However, even he admitted that he thought the best boxer in the world was Sugar Ray Robinson, calling this esteemed fighter his idol. Robinson won 173 of his 200 fights, and if that was not impressive enough, more than 100 of those fights ended with him knocking out his opponent. Robinson was both welterweight and middleweight champion, defeating everyone from Jake La Motta to Rocky Graziano.
While he is usually not at the top of the list, Rocky Marciano certainly deserves a spot in the Top Ten fighters of all time. Not only was he undefeated in all of his 49 pro fights, 43 of them were wins by knockout. Although Marciano did not face the same caliber of opponents as greats such as Joe Louis or Muhammad Ali, he is the only heavyweight champion to remain undefeated during his entire career.
One of the first truly great and notable fighters of the modern era was Jack Johnson. While his record is not quite as strong as some of the aforementioned fighters, he did win 80 of his 114 pro fights. Johnson is also notable as he was the first African American world heavyweight champion and was the victor in the “Fight of the Century,” a battle between Johnson and former champ James Jeffries. This fight was not only seen as a huge victory for Johnson but also for the progression of African Americans in sports in general.