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Top 10 Pound for Pound Boxers of the 1980s: Who is the best Leonard, Hagler, Duran?

Publish Date: 09/09/2023
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis
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The 80s

The 80s were a great decade for boxing, and it was a time when fights were still shown on free television. Today we look at the greatest of this great decade!

10) Mike McCallum

The Body Snatcher was a great fighter; he beat Sean Mannion on the undercard for the Hagler/Hamsho rematch at Madison Square Garden. He destroyed Julian Jackson, one of the hardest punchers in boxing history, and followed it up with Donald Curry’s and Milt McCrory’s dominating stoppages. He finished the decade off with a win over Herol Graham.

Video: 10 Mike McCallum Greatest Knockouts

10 Mike McCallum Greatest Knockouts


9) Evander Holyfield

The bulk of Holyfield’s career was fought in the 90s, but it’s hard to leave off a man that in half a decade established himself as the greatest Cruiserweight of all time and by the end of the decade was a top contender for the heavyweight title. Holyfield was a member of the legendary 1984 Olympic Boxing team. From there, he won the Cruiserweight title in his hometown of Atlanta in 1986, winning the war over the veteran champion Dwight Muhammad Qawi. In less than two years, he had unified the title beating Carlos DeLeon, Rickey Parkey, and Ossie Ocasio. He then moved up to heavyweight to beat James Tillis, Pinklon Thomas, and an undefeated Alex Stewart.

Video: Evander Holyfield - The Real Deal (Highlight Reel)

Evander Holyfield – The Real Deal (Highlight Reel)

8) Larry Holmes

Holmes was an all-time great Heavyweight, dominating the heavyweight division until 1985. My only issues are that after Gerry Cooney win in June of 1982, he did not fight the best competition he could have fought. Instead of fighting Michael Dokes, Gerrie Coetzee, and Greg Page’s of the heavyweight division, he fought Lucien Rodriguez’s, Scott Frank’s and Marvis Frazier’s of the division. He would lose his title in 1985 to Michael Spinks and seemingly regained it in a rematch that somehow was scored for Spinks. Holmes is an all-time legendary champion, but I wish he would have fought the best guys out there.

Video: 10 Larry Holmes Greatest Knockouts

10 Larry Holmes Greatest Knockouts

7) Julio Cesar Chavez

Chavez’s most famous fights were in the 1990s, but the 80s is where he made his name. Chavez beat Mario Martinez to win his first belt and would go on to stop Roger Mayweather twice during the decade. Chavez would win two very close decisions against Rocky Lockridge and Juan LaPorte, leading to a huge matchup with Edwin Rosario. Chavez dominated Rosario and stopped him in the 11th round. Chavez level of competition was not always great, and he could have lost both decisions to Rocky Lockridge and Juan LaPorte.

Video: Julio César Chávez - Mexican Legend (Highlight Reel)

Julio César Chávez – Mexican Legend (Highlight Reel)

6) Roberto Duran

Duran is hard to place on this list because he had some unbelievably great moments during the decade, but he also had losses to Kirkland Laing and Robbie Simms. The great moments though, make him a must-have on this list. He beat Sugar Ray Leonard in one of the greatest fights ever fought at the welterweight division. WHe quit against Leonard in the rematch and didn’t show up in the runner match. Then his career looked over; he stopped Pipino Cuevas and beat Davey Moore for the Junior Middleweight championship. He went the distance with Marvelous Marvin Hagler, and then in 1989, he beat the always tough Iran Barkley to win the Middleweight title.

Video: HBO Roberto Duran (Hands of Stone) Highlights

HBO Roberto Duran (Hands of Stone) Highlights

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5) Salvador Sanchez

He only fought for two and a half years before his tragic death in a car accident. In those two and a half years, he won 11 fights against very good competition. He won the title against Danny Lopez and then beat Lopez in a rematch. He dominated the Featherweight division beating the likes of Ruben Castillo, Pat Ford, Robert Castanon, Juan LaPorte, and Pat Cowdell. He won an epic battle against the great Wilfredo Gomez, dominating Gomez and stopping him in the eighth round. His final fight was against the unknown Azumah nelson, who he stopped in the fifteenth and final round. Nelson would be a legend, and Sanchez, with his untimely death, would go on to be one of the biggest what if’s in boxing history.

Video: The Legendary Salvador Sanchez

The Legendary Salvador Sanchez

4) Thomas Hearns

Hearns had legendary power, and he always came to fight. Some fans overlook his boxing abilities, but if you watch the middle rounds of his first fight with Sugar Ray Leonard, you will see how great his abilities were. , In 1985 he lost that WAR to Marvelous Marvin Hagler, but it was one of those fights that were so great that there was no loser. After losing that classic fight to Leonard, Hearns rebounded, beating the great Wilfred Benitez by 1982. He would win the Light Heavyweight title over Dennis Andries and the Middleweight title over Juan Roldan before seemingly avenging his loss to Sugar Ray Leonard in a rematch he seemed to win. The judges saw it otherwise, scoring the fight a draw.

Video: Thomas Hearns with a Vicious Knockout of Roberto Duran | ON THIS DAY

Thomas Hearns with a Vicious Knockout of Roberto Duran | ON THIS DAY


3) Marvelous Marvin Hagler

Marvin Hagler at the start of the decade was damn near unbeatable, and he cleaned out the middleweight division with relative ease. He beat a lot of good middleweights for the first five years of the decade, and he made them all look ordinary. During those five years, his most brutal fight was against the legendary Roberto Duran, and while a lot of people claimed it was a close fight, it wasn’t, as Hagler won 10 of the 15 rounds. In 1985 his breakthrough came stardom wise when he fought Thomas Hearns in one of the greatest action fights in boxing history. With a blood-covered face, Hagler would viciously knock out the Hitman in the third round. He would beat the tough John Mugabi, who entered their fight undefeated, and nobody had even been able to last the distance with the beast. Hagler would stop Mugabi in the eleventh round of a brutal battle. He finished his career with a disputed loss to Leonard, but the greatness of the Marvelous one can never be disputed.

Video: Marvin Hagler vs Tommy Hearns Round 1 | GREATEST ROUND OF BOXING | ON THIS DAY

Marvin Hagler vs Tommy Hearns Round 1 | GREATEST ROUND OF BOXING | ON THIS DAY

2) Michael Spinks

Spinks was the greatest Light Heavyweight Champion of all time and dominated the division for the first half of the decade. He beat Eddie Mustapha Muhammad to win the title and, before winning the title, beat the likes of Marvin Johnson and Yaqui Lopez. He beat Dwight Muhammad Qawi to unify the titles and then moved up and became the first Light Heavyweight Champion to win the Heavyweight title in 1985, beating the undefeated Larry Holmes. He defended the title beating Holmes in a rematch, and then had a fifth-round stoppage of Gerry Cooney.

Video: Michael

Michael “Jinx” Spinks – Highlights & Knockouts

1) Sugar Ray Leonard

Leonard was one of the greatest boxers of all time. He was fast with his feet and his hands. He lost at the start of the decade to Roberto Duran. The rematch was a dominant Leonard performance, and he made Duran quit. From there, he fought the undefeated Thomas Hearns, and it was this fight showed his skill and heart. Leonard was being outboxed by Hearns headed into the championship rounds. He then became the aggressor, walked Hearns down, and knocked him out in the 14th round. Ray retired shortly after because of a detached retina but would return to fight Kevin Howard in 1984. Leonard was dropped in the 4th round by Howard but recovered to stop Howard in the ninth round and then retired yet again. He would return three years later to beat the seemingly invincible Marvelous Marvin Hagler via a close split decision. From there, Leonard challenged Light Heavyweight champion Donny LaLonde. Leonard trailed entering the ninth round but would stop LaLonde in that round with devastating power. Leonard would later get a gift draw in a rematch with Thomas Hearns and easily defeat Roberto Duran.

Video: Sugar Ray Leonard Highlights

Sugar Ray Leonard Highlights

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