The Middleweight division has a ton of history behind it. Today we look at the top 10 Middleweights of all time. The criteria are the strength of the opposition, and the strength of opponents lost to. We do not ranked on basis of who would beat who except in rare circumstances where the differences in a resume are small.
He presided over the weakest Middleweight division in history, but you can’t deny the skill he fought with. He would give anybody on this list issues for a while at least. He got better as he got older, and his best wins, in a lot of cases, were above the middleweight division.
With solid wins over Fred Apostoli, Ceferino Garcia, Gus Lesnevich, Vince Dundee and Babe Risko in 2018, your record now stands at 124-6-8.
Tony Zale, affectionately known as “Man of Steel,” is best remembered for his longstanding rivalry with Rocky Graziano.
Zale was twice Middleweight Champion of the World and held that title for much of the 1940s. Ultimately, he lost it to Marcel Cerdan in 1948; with a career record of 67(45)-18-2.
Many boxing experts consider Marcel Cerdan to be the greatest boxer ever to come out of France. As a dominant European champion at both welterweight and middleweight, his success served as an important stepping stone towards competing for the World title.
In September 1948, Cerdan defeated Tony Zale in 12 rounds to claim the world middleweight championship. Unfortunately, he lost to Jake Lamotta when his shoulder separated during the opening round and prevented him from continuing past the 10th – tragically dying tragically in a plane crash before they could rematch for the title.
LaMotta proved his abilities in the ring by beating Marcel Cerdan and Lamont Dauthuille, and of course, he was the first man to beat Sugar Ray Robinson. LaMotta fought Robinson six times, winning one but his reputation as an iron chin fighter was cemented as Robinson could never get LaMotta on the floor in the six encounters.
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After reigning at Welterweight, he moved up to middleweight, defeating Emile Griffith for the world title. Rematching Griffith he lost it again but eventually came out on top in their third fight. Losing out on that title to Carlos Monzon in what at the time was seen as an upset but is now seen as Monzon’s rise as a dominant figure.
He made 20 defenses of his middleweight title before falling narrowly and controversially to Canelo in their first fight. The first 17 defenses were knockout victories.
Golovkin enjoyed an illustrious career that saw him go nearly a decade without going the distance. This 24-fight KO run culminated with a points win against Daniel Jacobs at Madison Square Garden. The division was weak when GGG reigned but he left no doubt in almost all of his fights.
Flowers won the title from the great Harry Greb and beat him 2 out of 3! It was an older Greb, but those are legendary wins. Flowers also dropped a controversial decision to Mickey Walker and beat many middleweight contenders.
Ketchel may be best known for knocking down Jack Johnson in a battle for the heavyweight title but his prime was at middleweight. In 1908 he easily dispatched Mike “Twin” Sullivan to receive general recognition as the World Championship, a title that did not officially exist. Ketchel fought a murderous four-fight series with Billy Papke and also beat the great light-heavyweight Philadelphia Jack O’Brien. Ketchel died at an early age or he may have been much higher than this.
Gibbons never won the world title, but he was widely considered one of the finest boxers at 160 pounds – not to mention one of the smartest and cleverest around, regardless of weight class. His record includes victories over some top talent including Mike O’Dowd, Ted “Kid” Lewis, Al McCoy, Jeff Smith and Harry Greb.
Walker, as I mentioned above, won the controversial decision against Tiger Flowers, managed 4 defenses, and never lost his title in the ring. Walker was one of the toughest fighters during the “Roaring 20s” and was competitive fighting all the way up to heavyweight.
Burley was one of boxing’s great fighters, yet he never won a title but he managed to score impressive victories over Holman Williams, Fritzie Zivic, Archie Moore, Billy Soose and Georgie Abrams despite never winning a title.
Tiger beat the very tough Gene Fullmer to win the World Middleweight Title. He drew with Fullmer in a rematch then knocked him out in their third meeting. He split a four-fight series with Joey Giardello and also had two wins over one-time light heavyweight champion Jose Torres. Tiger was one of the greatest fighters during the decade of the 1960s, arguably the greatest African boxer ever, and twice Ring Magazine named him Fighter of the Year.
Fitzsimmons was an all-time great fighter who would eventually challenge the best at heavyweight, and even then he was not far from the middleweight limit. In 1891 he won the Middleweight Championship of the World from the legendary Jack “The Nonpareil” Dempsey. In a brutal fight, Fitzsimmons reportedly knocked Dempsey down 13 times and begged him to quit. Fitzsimmons gets overlooked by many but he shouldn’t as he was a truly great champion.
Robinson was probably the greatest welterweight of all time and a strong case can be made that he was the greatest middleweight of all time also. Robinson recorded victories over all the best 160-pound fighters of the era–fellow Hall-of-Famers like Jake LaMotta, Gene Fullmer, Bobo Olson, Rocky Graziano, and Carmen Basilio. Solid, tough competition, but I have Robinson at number four in the end, but it is very close.
Monzon was a tough, relentless fighter. Monzon won the title by beating Nino Benvenuti and in his first defense became the first man to knockout Emile Griffith. In a later rematch, he outpointed Griffith. He lost only three fights, but those were early in his career. At the end of his career, he had recorded 87 victories, with 59 coming by way of knockout. A case can be made for Monzon being number one on this list as the first 4 fighters on the list are closely matched.
Hagler was one of the most avoided boxers in history and was the number one contender for years in the middleweight division. He finally got a shot at the title in 1979 and was robbed of glory after the three blind mice in Vegas scored a draw. In his next title shot a year later Hagler would leave no doubt, knocking the new champion Alan Minter out in the third round. All in all, Hagler dominated the division for the better part of the decade.
A case can be made that Greb is number one in a few divisions and all-time he has to fit into anybody’s top-5. I know the youngsters will quickly scream, “There is no film!”, but I can read. Even without film look at the people he was able to beat, more Hall of Famers than anyone.
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