So let me get this straight, he was rated first in September of 1937, and rated last in November of 1939. Yet he is not listed in the 1938 annual ratings, meaning he must have fallen out of the top 10 numerous times along the way. I assume 007 means he was rated 7 out of the 27 months along the way?Boxer Weight 1st-Rated Last-Rated Months-Rated Best-Rating
Zengaras, George 135 1937/09 1939/11 007 08*
Savvy?Experts seem to agree that Sugar Ray Robinson was, pound for pound, the greatest fighter in boxing history. But that argument is not as clear-cut as it might seem.
There's no denying that an extremely strong case can be made for the five-time middleweight champion.
If there was ever a perfect fighting package, Robinson was probably it. He was fast and elusive, he was clever, and he had power in both hands.
How tough was he? He fought 200 times as a professional and was stopped just once. And it wasn't a true knockout. He collapsed from heat exhaustion after the 13th round of a fight he was winning – against world light heavyweight champion Joey Maxim.
So good was Sugar Ray that he could boast a record of 123-1-2 – before he turned 30. He remained good after his 30th birthday, and was able to beat the best middleweights in the world when he was past 35.
Robinson fought until he was 44, finishing with 173 wins, 19 losses and six draws, with 108 knockouts. Two of his bouts were declared no contests. His record includes wins over all-time greats like Jake LaMotta, Gene Fullmer, Rocky Graziano, Carmen Basilio and Kid Gavilan.
Twenty years after his death, Robinson still holds impressive titles. The Associated Press ranked him as the best fighter of the 20th century; The Ring magazine, in 2004, rated him as the best fighter of the past 80 years. ESPN declared Robinson as the all-time best in 2007.
But there's a chance that Robinson was not the greatest of all time. In fact, there's a chance he wasn't even the greatest middleweight. A fighter named Harry Greb has some good arguments of his own.
Who Was Harry Greb?
Greb, known as the "Pittsburgh Windmill," fought from 1913 to 1926. His official record stands at 105-8-3 with 48 knockouts, and 183 no-decisions.
In Greb's time, fights that went the distance were often not scored by judges, so unofficial decisions rendered by ringside reporters were used to determine who held the upper hand. With those "newspaper decisions" taken into account, Greb has 260 wins, 19 losses and 19 draws according to BoxRec.com.
In any case, Greb was an indomitable force. He wasn't a huge puncher, but he was fast and shrewd. He'd swarm his opponents and engulf them with punches thrown from every angle.
Like many of the brawlers of his day, Greb wasn't above fighting dirty. But he was also rugged and durable. In a career that included nearly 300 bouts, he was stopped only twice.
The first occasion came in his seventh bout, in 1913, when a 19-year-old Greb was halted in the second round by an opponent who outweighed him by 14 pounds. The second came in a 1915 bout, when he suffered a broken arm and was forced to retire after the second round.
But usually, Greb wore his opponents down, as his stamina was legendary.
And remarkably, he compiled his incredible record by age 32. That's when he died as a result of complications from eye surgery in 1926.
Greb Fought All Comers
Like Robinson, Greb faced a number of former, current and future world titleholders, and he also reigned as a world champion in two weight divisions -- middleweight and light heavyweight, in his case.
While a color line existed during Greb's career, he ignored it and fought all comers. He also tended to ignore weight classifications. The 5-foof-9 Greb was perfectly willing to square off with heavyweights. He fought a number of big names from that weight division and more than held his own.
Greb was the only man to beat the great Gene Tunney, winning a convincing 15-round decision in 1922. The two fought four more times, with Tunney winning three decisions and another bout ending in a draw. Tunney would go on to defeat Jack Dempsey to claim the heavyweight championship.
Greb also tangled with International Boxing Hall of Fame members like Mickey Walker, Jack Dillon, Tiger Flowers, Tommy Gibbons, Battling Levinsky, Tommy Loughran and Tommy Burns.
Greb Fought While 'Stone Blind' in Right Eye
Amazingly, Greb fought the final five years of his career with a severe eye injury that reportedly led to blindness in his right eye.
On Oct. 23, 1926, shortly after Greb's death, the New York Times reported that Greb's personal physician "broke a five-year silence and issued a statement to the effect that Greb had been stone blind in his right eye for that length of time and had carried a glass eye since August of this year."
The physician, Dr. Carl S. McGivern, said the fateful injury was inflicted during a 1921 bout with heavyweight Kid Norfolk, the Times reported. That would mean Greb fought 85 times -- including all five bouts with Tunney -- without vision in his right eye.
Greb's death came less than two months after his final bout -- a controversial decision loss to Flowers. Ironically, Flowers, who had earlier dethroned Greb to become the first African-American middleweight champion, would die a year later, also because of complications from eye surgery.
The Greb vs. Robinson Debate
Robinson fought an awful lot, but Greb fought even more – and he did so more frequently against bigger men.
Sugar Ray was actually a better welterweight than he was as a middleweight. In fact, he had well over 100 bouts before he began to campaign full-time in the higher weight division.
It might be said that Robinson's most famous exploits came when he was already past his prime. Yet even he couldn't keep it up together forever. Ten of his 19 losses came after his 40th birthday.
As for Greb, his rough patches came early in his career. He did lost two of his last four bouts, but both were close, controversial decisions to fellow hall-of-famer Flowers – someone Greb had beaten earlier.
One can only speculate what would have happened with Greb if he hadn't died so early. Maybe his career would have gone into a steep decline.
But one can only speculate how good he would have been if he had two good eyes for the final five years of his career.