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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / The 10 Most Underrated Boxers in Boxing History

The 10 Most Underrated Boxers in Boxing History

The 10 most underrated boxers in history
Publish Date: 02/16/2024
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa

The fighters on this list were all great fighters. Some are on the list because racial prejudice at the time they fought kept them from being champions. Others were beaten by all-time great fighters and were overshadowed by all-time greats.

10) Carlos Palomino

31(19)-4-3 is a classic case of an outstanding fighter overshadowed by greater contemporaries. But he held the welterweight title for three years and seven defenses, including two legendary wars with Armando Muniz, before dropping a split decision to Wilfredo Benitez.

After losing to Benitez, Palomino lost a one-sided unanimous decision to Roberto Duran. Even though the Duran fight was one-sided, it was still a very competitive fight. Check out our top ten underrated boxers of the 1980s!

Video: Carlos Palomino - Highlights & Knockouts

Carlos Palomino – Highlights & Knockouts

9) Wilfred Benitez

If Carlos Palomino was an outstanding fighter overshadowed by his great contemporaries, Wilfredo Benitez, 53(31)- 8(4)-1, is a great fighter overshadowed by his (perhaps) slightly greater contemporaries.

He lost by TKO to Sugar Ray Leonard in a 15th-round stoppage that has been criticized often over the years. He was badly cut but still seemed more than capable of defending himself through the last seconds of the fight.

It should be noted that he was alert enough to be among the very first people to congratulate Leonard after the stoppage. But he was also clearly behind on points.

Benitez beat Duran at the start of 1982 and lost a majority decision at the end of the year to Thomas Hearns. After that, his career went downhill quickly.

He was a defensive wizard and a boxing prodigy with a track record for hanging tough in the deep waters. On his best night, he is a major problem for any fighter at 147 pounds. Where does Benitez rank in the top 10 boxers of the 1980s?

Video: Wilfred Benitez - Amazing Defense

Wilfred Benitez – Amazing Defense

8) Bob Fitzsimmons

A matter of historical record is that he was the first man to hold world titles in three weight classes—middle, light heavyweight, and heavyweight. Furthermore, Fitzsimmons is still the only middleweight champion ever to go all the way up and take the world title from the Lineal Heavyweight title.

I rarely see his name high up on pound-for-pound lists. I’m not sure how high I rank him myself—it’s just too hard to know what to do with a fighter who fought in a radically different era and often under an older set of rules.

But there is no doubt that he routinely beat the biggest and best opponents in the world; he was truly a great fighter in his time.

Video: How BOB FITZSIMMONS USED His Blacksmith STRENGTH To KO HEAVYWEIGHTS

How BOB FITZSIMMONS USED His Blacksmith STRENGTH To KO HEAVYWEIGHTS

7) Billy Graham

102(27)-15-9 was a durable defensive technician, notable among other things for having never been knocked down during his entire career. As usual, though, defensive fighters find it hard to respect the average boxing fan.

During the early 1950s, he engaged in highly competitive rivalries and recorded victories over celebrated middleweight champions Kid Gavilan, Carmen Basilio, and Joey Giardello.

Video: Billy Graham - Beautiful Boxing

Billy Graham – Beautiful Boxing

6) Esteban De Jesus

When boxing critics list Roberto Duran as the greatest lightweight in history, part of their judgment is based upon the work he did against, DeJesus 58(33)-5(3).

De Jesus gave Duran the first loss of his career. In the rematch, he knocked Duran down before falling to “Hands of Stone” by TKO in 11. Finally, Duran KO’d De Jesus in the rubber match. De Jesus was a great fighter and to take on a prime Duran three times and to extend Duran the way he did shows you how great a fighter he was.

Video: Esteban De Jesús - Tribute

Esteban De Jesús – Tribute

5) Sam McVea

62(48)-12(5)-8 was a contemporary of Sam Langford, likewise, shut out of many opportunities because of his race. The two Sams fought each other nearly two dozen times, often for what was billed as “The Colored Championship.”

Langford had the better record, but McVea won his share, and many of their bouts were draws. This would absolutely suggest that McVea deserves a fairly high all-time ranking, but he remains an obscure figure.

Video: Sam McVey - Hall of Fame Heavyweight of the Early 20th century

Sam McVey – Hall of Fame Heavyweight of the Early 20th century

4) Juan Manuel Marquez

53(39)-6-1 is one of the greatest fighters of the present and recent past. He has been consistently underrated throughout his career.

He didn’t get his first title shot for six years. Then, after he lost his first attempt against Freddie Norwood, it was four more years before he got another chance.

That’s two title shots in 10 years for an all-time great, first-ballot Hall of Famer. Check out the Boxing rivalry as we countdown our top 10 Mexico vs Puerto Rico Boxing matches!

He finished his series with Manny Pacquiao with one of the most convincing knockouts in boxing history, and a case can be made that he won every fight against Manny.

Video: Juan Manuel Marquez - Counter-Punching

Juan Manuel Marquez – Counter-Punching

3) Jimmy Bivins

86(31)-25(5)-1 was one of the top light heavyweight and heavyweight contenders during the late 1940s and early 1950s, during the post-war era when boxing was undergoing a huge resurgence in popularity.

Although he never managed to win a belt, Bivins did record victories over a laundry list of former and future world champions, such as Archie Moore, Ezzard Charles, and Joey Maxim. However, he went the distance with Joe Louis and lost to Jersey Joe Walcott via split decision.

You could argue that most of Bivins’ contemporaries who rank ahead of him deserve it. But I consider him a classic example of a much better guy than anybody can really appreciate from across the decades.

Video: FORGOTTEN WARRIORS #15 Jimmy Bivins

FORGOTTEN WARRIORS #15 Jimmy Bivins

2) Luis Rodriguez

107(49)-13(3), went 1-2 against Emile Griffith, one of the elite welter and middleweights of the past fifty years. Both losses were split decisions and could have gone either way.

The late Angelo Dundee said this about Rodriguez, “Rodriguez, in my opinion, is one of the most underrated boxers ever.” He further rates Rodriguez as the boxing equal of Ray Leonard, with quicker hands.

Dundee is known to overhype his fighters, but Reading it in the words of the legendary trainer added some merit to having him on this list.

Video: Luis Manuel Rodriguez - Cuban Champ (Highlight Reel)

Luis Manuel Rodriguez – Cuban Champ (Highlight Reel)

1) Holman Williams

145(36)-30(3)-11 is another all-time great who never got his shot at the title. Williams was a defensive wizard who was largely avoided by the top welterweights and middleweights of his era.

I rated him ahead of Burley because I just think fewer people have heard of him. He fought fellow underrated contemporary Charley Burley multiple times, splitting the series, and he also owned a win over the legendary Archie Moore.

Video: Holman Williams vs Young Gene Buffalo 3 1941 March 27

Holman Williams vs Young Gene Buffalo 3 1941 March 27

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