The Best Boxing Legends of All Time
There can be few sports with such a depth of past legends as boxing. Any attempt to reduce the hundreds of greats to have stepped into the ring to a short and 'definitive' list will always be fraught with controversy, and we don't expect our attempt here at Top 10 Sports Betting Sites to be met with any different a reaction!
However, it's still well worth zooming in on the stories of some of the most accomplished figures to have ever strapped on a boxing glove, if only to give an even greater sense of the sheer magnificence of this sport.
Here - in no particular order – is our selection of the best boxing legends of all time.
- Total number of Bouts: 212
- Number of Battles won: 85
- Number of Battles lost: 5
- KOs: 69
- Most famous battle: Fighting (and knocking out) left-handed Lew Tendler
With his swift feet, solid defensive capabilities and explosive punching power, Leonard made full use of his talents from an early age, being born in a Jewish Manhattan slum and beginning to fight in the street. He went on to become the longest reigning lightweight champion of all time.
Even when he made an enforced return to the ring after his initial retirement due to the 1929 stock market crash wiping out almost his entire fortune, Leonard still won 18 of his 19 bouts. His career ended with a defeat to future champion Jimmy McLarnin on 7th October 1932.
- Total number of Bouts: 181
- Number of Battles won: 151
- Number of Battles lost: 21
- KOs: 101
- Most famous battle: Finally winning against Fritzie Zivic in a ten-round decision.
Any boxer who faces 17 world champions over his career and defeats 15 of them has to be worthy of inclusion on this list. However, the Columbus, Mississippi native has another remarkable distinction to his name: holding titles in three different weight divisions, all at the same time, during an era when there were only eight weight divisions.
The divisions he won were featherweight (1937), welterweight (1938) and lightweight (1938), a feat that he, today, remains alone in achieving.
- Total number of Bouts: 117
- Number of Battles won: 103
- Number of Battles lost: 8
- KOs: 60
- Most famous battle: Scoring two victories over light heavyweight champion Maxie Rosenbloom.
The "Brown Bomber" was a legend well outside the ring - no African-American had arguably ever before risen to national hero status in the United States in quite the way he did. He rose from a poor family of eight kids to become an international superstar.
All of that was, of course, powered by his truly remarkable boxing record, most distinguished by his reign as world heavyweight champion from 1937 to 1949 - a spell of 140 consecutive months, during which he participated in 26 championship fights.
- Total number of Bouts: 242
- Number of Battles won: 230
- Number of Battles lost: 11
- KOs: 65
- Most famous battle: His four-fight series against Sandy Saddler.
When Willie Pep was voted as the number one featherweight of the 20th century by the Associated Press in 1990, few would have had reason to argue - after all, the man they called "Will o' the Wisp" had held the World Featherweight title twice between 1947 and 1950.
Surely even more impressive was his busy career encompassing 1,956 rounds in 241 bouts - 229 of each were victorious, with 65 knockouts. It's an even more astounding feat when one considers the serious injuries that he suffered in a plane crash in 1947, a year in which he fought 10 bouts without defeat.
Sugar Ray Robinson
- Total number of Bouts: 202
- Number of Battles won: 175
- Number of Battles lost: 19
- KOs: 106
- Most famous battle: His 'St Valentine's Day Massacre'.
You would struggle to find a more automatic pick for this list than the man whose welterweight and middleweight performances prompted sportswriters' creation of the pound-for-pound rankings for fighters.
Born Walker Smith Jr, he continues to be regarded as one of the finest pound-for-pound boxers who ever lived, on account of a career in which he was near-perfect at welterweight level, and although less dominant at middleweight, still accomplished enough to win the title five times. Only one of his first 123 fights ended in defeat - to Jake LaMotta, who he went on to beat five times.
- Total number of Bouts: 61
- Number of Battles won: 56
- Number of Battles lost: 5
- KOs: 37
- Most famous battle: Losing to Joe Frazier in the 15th round.
It seems to have become fashionable in some circles lately to in some way play down Ali's achievements and place in the boxing history books. As far as we're concerned, the obviousness of picking the man formerly known as Cassius Clay for this list should in no way diminish the singularity of a career that far transcended the boxing ring.
But let's look solely at his boxing record. He remains the only three-time lineal heavyweight champion, having achieved this feat in 1964, 1974 and 1978, and triumphed in such iconic encounters as the "Thrilla in Manila" against Joe Frazier and "The Rumble in the Jungle" versus George Foreman. From February to September 1964, he was the undisputed heavyweight champion.
Such career attainments are even more remarkable given that he arguably lost his best years in the ring to suspension, due to his refusal to be inducted into the armed forces. It kept him out of the ring from the age of 25 - arguably his peak - to almost 29. Nonetheless, his list of defeated opponents is still a magnificent one, also including such distinguished names as Sonny Liston, Henry Cooper, Ken Norton and Floyd Patterson.
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