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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / Top 10 Pound for Pound Boxers of all time

Top 10 Pound for Pound Boxers of all time

Publish Date: 11/10/2023
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa

The Greatest

10) Roberto Duran

At Lightweight, he was an all time great. He moved up to Welterweight, dominated Carlos Palomino, and won a razor-close decision over Sugar Ray Leonard in their first battle.

The rest of his career was a little up and down as he quit against Leonard because he wasn’t in shape, he was dominated by Benitez but fought competitively against Marvin Hagler. He was then brutally knocked out by Thomas Hearns, Again people will say he was unprepared and I will say that’s why he is this low on this list.

He had a couple of notable wins against Davey Moore and Iran Barkley in the last decade of his long career.

Video: HBO Roberto Duran (Hands of Stone) Highlights

HBO Roberto Duran (Hands of Stone) Highlights

9) Willie Pep

Pep, utilized an elegant style that bewitched featherweights for years. Along his path to 230-11-1 record – winning his first 63 fights and taking over the world-ranked featherweight crown from Hall-of-Famer Chalky Wright for four years before Sandy Saddler stole it back. Pep managed to retake it and cement his legacy as one of boxing’s giants by returning for 1949’s Fight of the Year matchup against Saddler, once more firmly cementing his place among boxing giants in 1949’s Fight of the Year bout against Sandy Saddler.

Video: Willie Pep Highlight Tape

Willie Pep Highlight Tape

8) Sugar Ray Leonard

Leonard beat legends like Benitez, Dyran, Hearns and Hagler. Please stop it! The Hagler fight was a close fight that could have gone either way, and nobody gave Leonard a real chance at beating Hagler. He made Duran quit in the rematch, and the first fight was a razor-close decision.

Leonard is as good as any fighter on this list, and his lack of fights because of a detached retina in 1982 slowed his career down for five years. Leonard was a terrific puncher and boxer, he could do it all; he was one of the most intelligent fighters in ring history.

Video: Boxing Masterclass - Sugar Ray Leonard

Boxing Masterclass – Sugar Ray Leonard

7) Muhammad Ali

He was the fastest heavyweight who ever lived, and he had a chin of granite. Ali’s wins list includes two over Liston, Frazier, and Norton. Also beat Foreman, Lyle, Quarry, Patterson, Shavers, Bonavena, and Chuvalo. His resume blows every other Heavyweight who ever lived out of the water.

Ali was probably the most known man in the world at the height of his powers. Like most of the men on this list his losses came towards the end of his career.

Video: Muhammad Ali In His Prime - Blinding Speed

Muhammad Ali In His Prime – Blinding Speed

6) Benny Leonard

Growing up poor in New York ghettos, Leonard had the misfortune to be Jewish in an Irish neighborhood; due to bullying and harassment from neighbors, street brawls ensued, which helped Leonard develop skills needed to defend himself later on in life.

Leonard emerged from his difficult upbringing with a more cerebral boxing style than that of Dempsey. Leaning on his back foot while staying out of reach of opponents, Leonard would use counterpunching early on before using expert footwork to dodge or roll punches when challenged by opponents and remain at center ring. Leonard knew from experience that being trapped against ropes makes you vulnerable, so he avoided making that error in judgment. He earned himself the nickname of Ghetto Wizard due to this ability.

Ray Arcel, his trainer of choice, said about Benny Leonard: “Boxing is about mind over brawn; no matter your ability, if you can’t think, then you are just another bum in the park. People ask me who was my favourite boxer; either Benny Leonard or Ray Robinson come to mind, though Leonard outshone all others regarding mental energy.”

Leonard used his left jab and deadly accuracy and speed to jab at opponents, while Henry Armstrong would bully them against the ropes, scoring knockouts with devastating accuracy and speed. Leonard went on to become lightweight world champion for nearly 8 years until 1925 – reigning supreme for nearly 8 of those years until his retirement.

Video: The Legendary Benny Leonard

The Legendary Benny Leonard

5) Henry Armstrong

Henry Armstrong wasn’t off to a stellar start as a boxer – failing to qualify for the 1932 US Olympic Trials and dropping both pro fights early – yet managed to become one of boxing’s premier lightweights in an archaic era. He quickly rose through weight classes constantly while challenging top contenders.

Homicide Hank earned his moniker due to his relentless pressure fighting style in boxing. Pressure fighters aim to displace opponents through sheer volume of punching; the closer they get, the greater their success will be.

Armstrong famously won the lightweight championship in 1938 – famously by swallowing cups of his own blood to hide injuries and force a stoppage – before also becoming champion across featherweight and welterweight divisions, becoming one of the first fighters ever to do so – setting an impressive precedent that many other boxers on this list have followed since.

Armstrong died of cardiac arrest in 1988, as noted in an ESPN special about Homicide Hank: his heart had been discovered to be one-third larger than average upon autopsy, which didn’t come as any shock.

Video: The Legendary Henry Armstrong

The Legendary Henry Armstrong

4) Ezzard Charles

Ezzard Charles had the misfortune of following in the footsteps of Joe Louis, whose remarkable boxing abilities caused such shockwaves throughout the heavyweight division that anyone who followed was doomed never to become as popular. Ezzard Charles became known as The Cincinnati Cobra, an outstanding boxer known for his speed and agility who never became popular after Joe Louis had left.

Charles was another fighter trained by Ray Arcel, who first began as a middleweight at around 160 pounds but was denied an opportunity by then-white champion Tony Zale for any title shot at that weight class. To combat his being denied title contention, he moved up weight classes, beating Joey Maxim and Archie Moore but again being denied any shot at being considered for title fights.

Charles swiftly transitioned to heavyweight, beating Joe Louis for the title, he saw some nice success at heavyweight defending the title multiple times.

Charles defeated nine out of ten Hall-of-Famer before losing to Rocky Marciano; thanks to his superior athleticism, he fought at three weight classes, consistently beating out their top fighters, earning him a spot on this list.

Video: Ezzard Charles - Beautiful Violence

Ezzard Charles – Beautiful Violence

3) Sam Langford

ESPN Boxing once described Sam Langford as being “the greatest unheralded boxer you have never heard of”.Mr. Langford had talent that was truly generational: known by some at the time as the Boston Bonecrusher with long muscular arms delivering punishing blows in the ring, he was considered one of the most devastating punchers during the early 1900s and employed excellent technique and footwork to open new avenues of attack against his opponents and complete destruction jobs on them.

Langford stood out as an extraordinary individual thanks to his bravery in taking on nearly any fighter in the ring despite only being 5’7 inches and 155 pounds himself. He defined “pound for pound”, often facing men nearly 60 pounds heavier and defeating them without mercy. One opponent described Langford this way: “He’s toughest little SOB I ever saw”. Unfortunately, avoided by both white boxers due to race concerns and black boxers due to fear of losing, Langford never became world champion due to both sets of circumstances.

His impressive record includes 314 fights – more than any other on this list – with 210 wins, 43 losses, and 53 draws.

Video: Sam Langford - The Boston Bonecrusher

Sam Langford – The Boston Bonecrusher

2) Harry Greb

Harry Greb was an extraordinary fighter with unparalleled abilities. Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1894, Greb was known for his unflinching approach and volume punching style, which left opponents battered from all directions by consistent blows from him that often overwhelmed through sheer quantity alone. Though not known for knockout punches per se, over time this accumulation of hard blows took their toll.

Greb was an aggressive fighter, taking the fight right to his opponents and knocking them out quickly and violently. You might think Greb might not measure up to Benny Leonard’s genius or Roberto Duran’s reflexes, or Ezzard Charles’ timing and counterpunching. Yet, I believe Greb’s world-class chin held firm against anyone even trying to use fire against him, never being knocked out during his prime period.

Gene Tunney famously described fighting Greb as being like fighting an “octopus”, yet unlike most great middleweights of his era, he didn’t mind sparring with some of the bigger boys; from 1918-1926, he boxed anywhere from middleweight up to heavyweight class and defeated some of the top fighters of his era.

Greb’s high-energy fighting style discombobulated all his opponents. His speed made it nearly impossible to counterpunch him back, and by the time he reached you it was over. Even more impressively, Greb fought with one eye blinded since 1921 but still scored impressive wins despite this physical handicap – thus deservingly earning himself his position at #2 on our list of superhuman athletes.

Video: Harry Greb - Remember The Pittsburgh Windmill

Harry Greb – Remember The Pittsburgh Windmill

1) Sugar Ray Robinson

Boxing writers unanimously consider Robinson the greatest pound-for-pound fighter of all time, his style combining elements from Ali, Pep, Charles and Greb to achieve supremacy in his weight classes. His boxing was quick like Ali; defensively skilled like Pep; powerful like Charles; unrelenting like Greb.

Robinson was unparalleled regarding versatility, mastering every punch and style available – from counterpunching, rugged brawling and smooth dancing.

From 1943-1951, Robinson ran up an impressive 91-win streak in the welterweight division, defeating world-renowned fighters like Jake LaMotta, Kid Gavilan, Tommy Bell, Carl Olson, Gene Fullmer, Carmen Basilio, among many others. Robinson displayed incredible punching power during their sixth fight – pummelling LaMotta with nearly 48 unanswered punches to the head before the referee intervened and ended it early.

Even after his successful reign at welterweight, Robinson wasn’t content. After an initial short retirement period, he switched up to middleweight and managed to defend it five times, defeating fighters up to ten years younger with hard-won victories or hard-fought defeats. Finally retiring in 1965 with an astounding record of 174 wins against 19 losses – 18 of them coming after turning 30 years old.

As the International Boxing Hall of Fame noted, “Robinson combined an athlete’s grace and powerful punches into an almost unbeatable combination during his prime. Such an exceptional athlete will forever remain one of the greatest fighters ever.

Video: TOP 10 SUGAR RAY ROBINSON KNOCKOUTS

TOP 10 SUGAR RAY ROBINSON KNOCKOUTS

 

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