By Ted Sares
It's time to start stir up things on The Forum so here my first top twenty pound-for-pound best fighter list. But what makes this list different is that I have actually witnessed each boxer fight at one time or another, and I don't mean by video. Of course, I carefully analyzed their records, ko percentages, skill-sets, the era in which they fought, entire body of work, quality of opposition and other important criteria as well.
1) Sugar Ray Robinson. 175 (109 ko's) - 19 - 6- 2. In a career that spanned three decades, Sugar Ray embodied the essence of the sweet science. He was a world welterweight champion and held the middleweight title five times. Incredibly, he was so great for so long that he won his first Fighter of the Year award in 1942 and his second award in 1951.
2) Joe "The Brown Bomber"Louis. 69 (55 ko's) - 3. Joe successfully defended his title an astounding 25 times. He fought such great as Charles, Walcott, Schmeling, Max Baer, Buddy Baer, Billy Conn and many other tough customers. In 1950 he returned to the ring, but after a series of wins, he was knocked out in 1951 by contender Rocky Marciano, after which he permanently retired. When I was a kid, Joe Louis was everyone's hero. And even as a young, albeit observant, child, I was amazed at how much power he could generate with such a short punch and just how fast he threw that punch. Heck, he "invented" the one-two.
3) Ricardo "Finito"Lopez. 51 (38 ko's)- 0- 1. Lopez had an amazing 25-0-1 (ko's) championship record. He was like a miniature Joe Louis. His last victory, a KO victory over recent world champion Zolani Petelo, book-ended his career with solid efforts and showed that his skills remained intact throughout his career. He was a world champion for over 10 years. Like Rocky Marciano, you can't argue with perfection. At the end of the fight, its whose hand the referee raises that matters.....and Finito's hand was raised 51 out of 52 times!.
4) Salvador "Chava" Sanchez. 44 (32 ko's) -1-1. At the time of his death, he was considered one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world. An unusually slick boxer, Sanchez possessed solid power in both hands but was not a brawler. Instead, he used his amazing counter punching ability and foot work to skillfully breakdown and stop his opponents. In the ninth defense of his WBC featherweight title, "Chava" battled an unknown Ghanaian, Azumah Nelson, at Madison Square Garden. The relentless Nelson proved to be a stern test and gave Sanchez all he could handle. Sanchez managed to drop Nelson in the seventh round but he kept coming. In the last round and with the fight close, he took matters into his own hands by finally putting his punches together in a punishing and decisive combination that dropped Nelson for the second time in the fight. Nelson rose but was hurt. "Chava" quickly closed matters.On August 12, 1982, he died in a fatal car accident at the age of twenty-three
He had many great matchups awaiting him.......fighters like Pedroza, Arguello, and Chavez lurked. As well, there was the potential for super rematches against Gomez and Nelson. How he would have fared is conjectural but that is part of the legend of Salvador Sanchez. I had the pleasure of witnessing his two fights with Danny "Little Red," Lopez and the great Azumah Nelson, as well as against "Rocky" Garcia and Pat Cowdell. He was very special.
5) Carlos "Escopeta" Monzone. 87 (59 ko's) - 3 - 9. He captured the World Middleweight Boxing Championship in a shocking upset over the highly favored Nino Benvenuti. Overnight, he became the toast of the boxing world. Handsome and macho, he became a superstar and a favorite of the jet set. He also became only the second man to stop former three-time world champion Emile Griffith in 14 rounds He was unbeaten over the last 81 bouts of his career, a span of 13 years! Sadly, Monzon, like Sanchez, died in an car accident in 1995.
6) Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins. 47 (32 ko's)- 4-1-1. Through the late 90's and early 2000's, contender after top contender fell at his hands. After losing two controversial decisions to Jermain Taylor, he came back in June 2006 to brutalize Antonio Tarver over 12 rounds and win the IBO Light Heavyweight Title and end his great career with another demonstration of ring artistry. Excellent skills, movement and punching power, versatility (he could fight aggressively or counterpunch), deceptive hand speed, accurate combinations, old school toughness and durable, physically strong and always in top shape, great defensive skills and successful at the highest levels of competition. What more is there to say?The difference between Hopkins and Monzon is hair thin.
7) Roy Jones Jr. 50 (38 ko's) - 3. He is a former Middleweight, Super Middleweight, Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight boxing champion. He was Ring Magazine's Fighter of the Year in 1994 and was voted the "Fighter of the Decade" in 1999 by the Boxing Writers Association of America. Between 1999 and 2003, he was considered as the best pound for pound fighter in the world. After shocking ko losses to Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson, he recently launched a comeback with an impressive win over Prince Badi Ajamu in which he showed shades of his past greatness.There are many unanswered questions that only the future will resolve.....but those answers could move him Roy Jones up or down on this list.
8) Muhammad Al. 56-5 37 Ko's. He was the dominant fighter of the 1960s and 1970s. A fighter of exceptional speed and flair, he won the world heavyweight title on three separate occasions over a period of 15 years, but his trilogy with Kenny Norton, two mediocre fights against Leon Spinks and controversial wins against Henry Cooper and Jimmy Young tarnished, at least to some degree, his nickname. On the other hand, his two hard fought wins against Joe Frazier, his wins over Sonny Liston, and his upset of George Foreman truly enhanced his reputation. His wins against Shavers, Lyle, Williams and Quarry were memorable as well. His fight against an old Zora Folley at Madison Square Garden in 1967 perhaps showcased him at his brilliant best.
9) Larry "The Easton Assassin" Holmes. 69 (44 Ko's) - 6. Holmes, an "old school" type, was always ready and eager to enter the ring, sometimes fighting nine times in one year. Arguably, his was the best jab in modern boxing history. The "Assassin" never backed down from any contender throughout his career. His second loss to Michael Spinks is considered among the worse decisions in boxing history. The quality of his opposition was arguably greater than that of any other fighter with the possible exception of Evander Holyfield. It included guys like Mike Weaver, Oliver McCall. Michael Spinks, Jerry Cooney, Mike Tyson, Ray Mercer, Carl Williams, James 'Bonecrusher' Smith, Tim Witherspoon, Renaldo Snipes, Trevor Berbick, Muhammad Ali, Ernie Shavers, Ken Norton, Roy "Tiger" Williams, Brian Nielsen, and Evander Holyfield.
10) Marvelous Marvin Hagler. 62 (52 ko's) - 3 - 2. The quintessential "blue collar" fighter, the rugged Hagler was known for his great work ethic and fierce looks. He often traveled to other fighters' hometowns for fights and some of his most memorable pre-title competition came in boxing-crazy Philadelphia. Hagler made 12 successful title defenses. Among his victims were Vito Antuofermo,Tony Sibson, Fulgencio Obelmejias, Mustafa Hamsho, Wilford Scypion, Roberto Duran, Juan Roldan, and John Mugabi. His thrilling three-round unmitigated shootout with Thomas Hearns is regarded as one of the best fights of all-time. He did one thing very well and that was to win.
11) Sugar Ray Leonard. 35 (25 KO'S) - 3-1. Like Ali, he was equipped with speed, ability and charisma, Sugar Ray Leonard filled the boxing void left when Muhammad Ali retired in 1981. With the American public in search of a new boxing superstar, Leonard came along at just the right moment. An Olympic Gold Medal winner, he was named Fighter of the Decade for the 1980s. He won an unprecedented five world titles in five weight classes and competed in some of the era's most memorable bouts. He beat Hearns, Hagler, Duran and Benitez, Kalule and that alone was a platform for entry into the Hall of Fame. There were few better and more ruthless closers in boxing history.
12) Roberto "Manos de Piedra Duran." 103 (70 ko's) -16. Regarded by many as the greatest lightweight of all-time and one of the top 5 best pound for pound fighters ever. He held world titles at four different weights: lightweight (1972-79), welterweight (1980), junior middleweight (1983-84) and middleweight (1989). He was also the only boxer to have fought in five different decades. After he mounted a comeback, he beat hall of Famer Pepino Cuevas by knock-out. Against WBA Junior middleweight champion Davey Moore in June 1983, he showed his savage side by trying to deliberately hurt him as much as possible. Finally, the fight was stopped in the eighth round as Moore was taking a horrific bloody beating. Duran had won his third world title and the crowd was up and roaring, "Dooooooran, Dooooooran...." He later beat Iran "The Blade" Barkley to cop his final championship.
13) Aaron “The Hawk” Pryor. 38 (35 KO'S) - 1. Not unlike Tito Trinidad, Saad Muhammad, Danny "Little Red" Lopez and Jaime Garza, Pryor would frequently get off the canvas to knock out his opponents. And this only added to the excitement of his fights. His immense skill-set and determination earned him the chance to fight legendary Colombian champion, Antonio Cervantes in August of 1980. Pryor stopped Cervantes in four dominant rounds, and his career took off. After a number of wins, he fought and stopped Alexis Arguello in a classic ebb and flow battle in 1982. Ring Magazine called it both the fight of the year and the fight of the decade. He easily ko'd Arguello in their rematch. The "Hawk" defended his title as the Jr. Welterweight champion 11 times before retiring in 1991.
14) Sandy Saddler. 144 (103 ko's)-16- 3. One of the greatest fighters ever, Joseph "Sandy" Saddler was a two time featherweight champion of the world, and also held the junior lightweight title. Over his 12 year career, 1944-1956, he scored an astounding 103 knockouts. He was stopped only once in his career, in his second fight. He is best known for his four bout series with boxing legend Willie Pep, 230-11-1, who is also regarded as one of the greatest boxers of all time. Saddler first fought Pep in 1948. Pep was the reigning featherweight champion of the world, and had an amazing record of 135-1 at the time. Saddler, who was one of the hardest pound for pound puncher of all time, captured the title by knocking Pep down four times on his way to a four round knockout victory in an extremely dirty fight.
15) Jose "Mantequilla"Napoles. 77 (54 ko's) -7. Born in Cuba, Mantequiila made 13 successful title defenses. Napoles was also one of the top lightweights and junior welterweights of the 60's. In 1967, he moved up to welterweight and earned a title fight against champion Curtis Cokes. Although his nickname was "Mantequilla" (which means butter and referred to his smooth style), the faces and bodies of his victims reflected something more savage. At the Inglewood Forum in April 1969, Napoles gave Cokes a terrible beating, cutting him inside his mouth, blooding his nose and swelling both eyes before the slaughter was halted in the 13th round. Napoles easily handled Cokes in the rematch by TKO in 10 and then beat future Hall of Famer Emile Griffin in 15 and Ernie "Indian Red" Lopez (TKO 15). .
16) George "Big George" Foreman. 76( 68 Ko's)- 5. Foreman was one of the strongest heavyweights who ever entered the ring and also one of the hardest hitters; He possessed a strong jab and uppercut; His weakness was his lack of stamina and endurance, but this was academic in most of his bouts since he usually ko'd his opponent before he had a chance to tire. This, of course, was during his first career, one in which he beat George Chuvalo, Boone Kirkman, Miguel Angel Paez, Joe Frazier (twice), Jose Roman, Ken Norton, and Ron Lyle....but after defeats to Muhammad Ali and then later to Jimmy Young, he retired to become an ordained minister. He made a sensational comeback beginning in 1987 that culminated in his winning the Heavyweight Championship for the second time at the age of 45 years in 1994......the oldest man to ever win the title. "Big" George Foreman really had two boxing careers.....and he achieved the pinnacle in both.
17) Rocky "The Brockton Blockbuster" Marciano. 49 (40 ko's)- 0. To define Rocky Marciano's career, one only needs to know: 49-0. That is it. Forty-nine fights, forty-nine wins. No defeats, repeat, no defeats. He did what he had to do against all the leading opponents of his era...tough guys like Lastarza, Harry 'Kid' Matthews, Vingo, Rex Layne, Charles, Moore, Lee Savold, Walcott, and an aging Louis. Who can argue with his dedication, toughness, ability to impose his will, and ultimate success? He was a relentless brawler who just kept coming, boring in and hurting his opponents with shots to the arm, shoulder and other exposed parts of the body until they broke down at which point he would close matters decisively. His record is not open to debate....period.
18) Floyd "Pretty Boy" Mayweather. 36 (24 ko's) - 0. He is undefeated since making his pro debut on October 11, 1996. And since 2005, he has been rated by The Ring magazine as the number one pound-for-pound boxer in the world. Incredibly, Mayweather has won four world boxing championships in four different weight classes and we may not yet have seen his best. Clearly, he is one of the most talented young fighters in the world. Blessed with speed, power and great defense, he is presently at the top of most Pound- For-Pound rankings in the world. Some of his victims have included Arturo Gatti, Phillip N'dou, DeMarcus Corley, Zab Judah, Jose Luis Castillo (twice), and, of course, Diego Corrales. He is now scheduled to fight tough Carlos Baldomir, but hardcore boxing fans would rather see him duke with the likes of Antonio Margarito. At any rate, it is entirely possible that given his skills and age (29), "Pretty Boy" could move up on this list.
19) Archie "Old Mongoose" Moore. 183 (141 ko's)- 24 - 10. He fought for an incredible 27 years and knocked out more opponents than anyone else in the history of boxing. He became the light heavyweight champion at the age of 39 and is the only man to have fought both Rocky Marciano and Muhammad Ali. And get this:he fought 61 times against Top Ten fighters and 15 times against future Hall of Famers. His 1958 ebb and flow classic with Canada's Yvonne Durelle was one that all hardcore boxing fans must see.
20) Luis Manuel "El Feo" Rodriguez. 107 (49 ko's)-13. "El Feo," a stylist capable of accomplishing anything in the ring, fought incredibly tough competition and only fight aficionados knew who he was as this Cuban slickster stayed under the radar screen for may years. I was one who knew who he was and that's why he is on this list. Among his victims were Isaac Logart, Holly Mims, Wilbert McClure, Yama Bahama, Emile Griffith, Denny Moyer, Joey Giambra, Curtis Cokes, Virgil Akins, Joe Miceli, Benny 'Kid' Paret, Chico Vejar, Juan Padilla, Johnny Gonsalves, Rubin Carter (twice), George Benton, Bennie Briscoe (twice), Percy Manning, Vicente Rondon, Bobby Cassidy, Tony Mundine, Garnet Hart ad Dave Hilton. If that isn't a imposing list, then I don't know one. He and Emile Griffith fought four times and each fight was razor thin close. He favored throwing the bolo punch. He was so stylish that Muhammad Ali reportedly incorporated many of his moves into his own repertoire when they both trained at Miami's 5th Street Gym.