All “greatest of all time” lists — whether they’re about Disney movies or TV series finales — cause a certain amount of controversy. The world would be a boring place if everyone had the same opinion, right? But a recent list of the greatest boxers of all time by record-keeping boxing website BoxRec got a lot of people seriously wound up. A BoxRec representative explained their point-based system, which rewards each boxer’s annual division performance.
“A boxer can get up to 200 points per year for defeating No. 1 or No. 2 in the division,” Martin Reichert told Bad Left Hook. “Another criteria additionally rewards the boxer’s annual P4P performance. A boxer can get up to another 200 points per year for defeating No. 1 or No. 2 over all divisions. Top wins per year are avenged by losses against lower-rated opponents in the referenced year, the year before and the year after. Top wins are rewarded much higher than medium-scale wins. The points per year are reduced to 1/2 for defeating No. 3, to 1/3 for defeating No. 4, 1/4 for defeating No. 5 etc. So defeating No. 11 earns only a 1/10 of defeating No. 1 or No. 2.”
It sounds like as good a way as any to determine the greatest boxers of all time. Here are the results — what do you think?
25. James Toney (925 points; 77-10-3)
American James “Lights Out” Toney held multiple world championships during his professional career (1988-2017) and wowed audiences with thrilling performances at middleweight, super-middleweight, cruiserweight and even heavyweight levels. He also knew how to make an impressive comeback, emerging from the late 1990s scrapheap to become Fighter Of The Year in 2003.
“[Toney was] the also best defensive fighter of the late 20th century and slipped punches better than any of his contemporaries,” wrote Donald McRae in The Guardian.
24. Jose Napoles (928.7 points; 81-7-0)
Nicknamed Mantequilla (“Butter”) due to his smooth boxing style, the late Jose Napoles was a two-times world welterweight champion who dealt 54 knockouts during his professional career. For 40 years, he shared the record of the most wins in unified championship bouts in boxing history with Muhammad Ali, until it was overtaken by Wladimir Klitschko in 2015. Napoles died in August 2019, the last surviving member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame’s inaugural class of 1990.
23. Jack Johnson (930 points; 71-11-11)
Jack (born John Arthur) Johnson, a.k.a. the Galveston Giant, became the first African-American world heavyweight boxing champion after his victory over the reigning world champion, Canadian Tommy Burns, at the Sydney Stadium in Australia in 1908. Two years later, Johnson fought James J. Jeffries in what was billed the “fight of the century.”
As well as being a world champion boxer, Johnson was a controversial, flamboyant figure, whose triumphs over his white opponents led to race riots. His life was chronicled in “Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson,” a 2005 documentary by acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns.
22. Gene Tunney (936.4 points; 79-1-4)
James Joseph “Gene” Tunney, known as “The Fighting Marine,” held the world heavyweight title from 1926 to 1928, and the American light heavyweight title twice between 1922 and 1923. Tunney was “a clever strategist with excellent footwork, superb defense and tremendous courage,” said The Fight City.
He was inducted into the Ring Boxing Hall of Fame in 1955 and the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.
21. Larry Holmes (964.4 points; 69-6-0)
During his professional career spanning nearly three decades, Larry Holmes (“The Easton Assassin”) reigned as world heavyweight champion for a record-breaking seven and a half years and was Muhammad Ali’s former sparring partner. Writing for ESPN, Don Steinberg called Holmes’ left jab “one of the great weapons in sports history” and Bill Caplan included him in his list of all-time heavyweights. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2008.
20. Roy Jones Jr. (972.8 points; 66-9-0)
As of August 2019, Roy Jones Jr. holds the record for the most wins in unified light heavyweight title bouts in boxing history (12). He is a three-time winner of the Best Boxer ESPY Award (1996, 2000 and 2003) and has earned many other accolades as well. He is the only boxer in history to start his career as a junior middleweight and go on to win a heavyweight title, and the Boxing Writers Association of America named him as the Fighter of the Decade for the 1990s.
19. Harry Greb (986.6 points; 262-17-18)
Edward Henry “Harry” Greb, known as “The Pittsburgh Windmill,” was the American light heavyweight champion from 1922 to 1923 and world middleweight champion from 1923 to 1926. He fought a staggering 298 times in his 13-year career, and was the only boxer to defeat world Heavyweight champion, Gene Tunney, in what Real Sport described as “one of the bloodiest fights in history.”
“In the ring, Greb was the perfect example of the unreconstructed ring-warrior,” wrote Real Sport’s Garry White. “He didn’t much care where and with what he hit his opponents and was infamous for his dirty tactics. He would happily attack with his elbows, forearms and laces.”
18. Rocky Marciano (1,007 points; 49-0-0)
Rocco “Rocky” Marciano became the World Heavyweight Champion in 1952 after defeating Jersey Joe Walcott and is the only title holder to have retired undefeated as champion. A regular on greatest of all time lists, he has a knockout-to-win percentage of 87.76 percent — one of the highest in heavyweight boxing history.
“Marciano was a crude stylist whose ferocious right‑hand punches were thrown from the solid platform provided by his powerful legs,” wrote Richard Williams for The Guardian. “Genial and gregarious out of the ring, with his gloves on he turned into a merciless brawler whose appetite for destruction drew star‑studded audiences including Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, J Edgar Hoover and General Douglas MacArthur.”
17. Pernell Whitaker (1,027 points; 40-4-1)
Four-weight world champion Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker won gold for the U.S. at the 1984 Olympics, after which he turned professional. Five years later, he first became a world champion as a lightweight.
After learning of Whitaker’s death in July 2019, his former opponent Gary Jacobs, who challenged Whitaker for the WBC welterweight title in Atlantic City in August 1995, said about Whitaker, “If you want to learn boxing, watch his fights. His ringcraft was just incredible. He was so clever. He was almost impossible to hit cleanly. His skills were truly remarkable. People talk about great fighters, particularly at lightweight with men like Roberto Durán and Floyd Mayweather, but I think that he was the best of the lot.”
16. Juan Manuel Marquez (1,033 points; 56-7-1)
Juan Manuel Márquez Méndez competed from 1993 to 2014, becoming the third Mexican boxer (after Érik Morales and Jorge Arce) to become a world champion in four weight classes. A speedy, technical boxer, Marquez held nine world championships, including the World Boxing Association (Super), International Boxing Federation (IBF) and World Boxing Organization (WBO) featherweight titles between 2003 and 2007 and the WBO junior welterweight title from 2012 to 2013. In early 2019, Marquez announced his return to the ring — as a boxing promoter.
15. Ray Leonard (1,121 points; 36-3-1)
Ray Charles Leonard, best known as “Sugar” Ray Leonard, was one of the so-called “Fabulous Four” who fought each other throughout the 1980s — Roberto Duran, Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns made up the rest of the quartet. Leonard is widely considered to be one of the greatest boxers of all time. During his 20-year professional career, he won world titles in five weight divisions, the lineal championship in three weight divisions and the undisputed welterweight title. He was also the first boxer to earn more than $100 million in purses, and was named “Boxer of the Decade” in the 1980s.
14. Floyd Patterson (1,121 points; 55-8-1)
In 1956, at the age of 21, Floyd Patterson became the youngest boxer in history to win the World Heavyweight Champion title. Four years later, he was also the first heavyweight to regain the title after losing it, when he knocked out Ingemar Johansson of Sweden.
Paying tribute to Patterson after his death in 2006, fellow boxer Ricky Hatton said, “Floyd was a gentleman and really polite and that is exactly what being a champion is all about. I should imagine a lot of boxing hearts have been broken today.”
13. Marvelous Marvin Hagler (1,149 points; 62-3-2)
The undisputed middleweight champion of the world from 1980 to 1987, “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler was named The Ring Fighter of the Year and the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) Fighter of the Year in 1983 and 1985.
“Hagler was a breathtaking hurting machine at his best, a very good, aggressive boxer with tremendous punching power and one of the best chins of all time,” wrote The Ring. Hagler was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993.
12. Roberto Duran (1,170 points; 103-16-0)
After Jack Johnson, Roberto Duran is the second boxer to have achieved a professional career spanning five decades. His mighty defense and menacing punches earned him the nickname “Manos de Piedra” (“Hands of Stone”). The Associated Press voted him as the best lightweight of the 20th century, and boxing historian Bert Sugar ranked him the 17th greatest boxer of all time.
11. Evander Holyfield (1,188 points; 44-10-2)
The BWAA Fighter of the Year in 1996 and 1997, Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield remains the only boxer in history to win the undisputed championship in two weight classes (cruiserweight and heavyweight).
When he defeated Mike Tyson in 1996 to reclaim the WBA title, Holyfield became the first boxer since Muhammad Ali to win a world heavyweight title three times (he later won a fourth). Tyson later named Holyfield as the best opponent he’d ever faced, describing him with these words: “Great champion: chin, heart, determination, work ethic, demeanor.”
10. Julio Cesar Chavez (1,201 points; 107-6-2)
A multiple world champion in three weight divisions (super featherweight, lightweight and light welterweight), Mexican Julio Cesar Chavez competed professionally from 1980 to 2005. He holds the record for the most successful defenses of world titles (27), and enjoyed an unbroken run of 87 wins before his first professional loss to Frankie Randall in 1994. His 1993 win over Greg Haugen at the Estadio Azteca set a new record for the largest attendance for a boxing match at the time; they fought before a 132,274-strong crowd.
9. Oscar De La Hoya (1,262 points; 39-6-0)
Oscar De La Hoya started boxing at the tender age of five and went on to become one of the most popular boxers in the world. He won ten world titles in six divisions and earned more money in his boxing career than any fighter before him.
After he retired in 2009, De La Hoya focused on his business, Golden Boy Promotions, which has since promoted some of the greatest fighters of all time, including Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. In 2018, De La Hoya was instrumental in helping Canelo Alvarez sign the largest sports deal in history: a 5 year, $365-million contract sports streaming service DAZN.
8. Archie Moore (1,289 points; 186-23-10)
Archie Moore, a.k.a. “Mongoose,” is the longest-reigning world light heavyweight champion of all time. He also holds the record for the most knockouts by any boxer (145). The secret to his success? “Aways exercise the mind and never keep track of time,” was the advice he gave.
7. Joe Louis (1,466 points; 66-3-0)
Joe “Brown Bomber” Louis, one of the first black athletes to achieve national hero status in the U.S. for his victory over Max Schmeling of Germany in 1938, was heavyweight champion from 1937 to 1949. During that time he defended his title 25 times to become the longest-reigning world heavyweight champion of boxing of all time. He volunteered to enlist as a private in the army in 1942 and reached the rank of sergeant before his release in 1945. In 1993, he became the first boxer to be honored by the U.S. Postal Service, when a Joe Louis 29-cent commemorative stamp was issued.
6. Bernard Hopkins (1,470 points; 55-8-2)
During his 28-year career (1988 to 2016), Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins held multiple world championships at middleweight and light heavyweight. In 2004, when he defeated Oscar De La Hoya for the WBO title, Hopkins became the first male boxer to simultaneously hold world titles by all four major boxing sanctioning bodies. When he won the light heavyweight title in 2011 at the age of 46, he became the oldest boxer in history to win a world championship, breaking the record set by George Foreman in 1994 at age 45.
5. Sugar Ray Robinson (1,473 points; 174-19-6)
Sugar Ray Robinson, hailed by Muhammad Ali as “the king, the master, my idol,” was the inspiration for the “pound for pound” ranking, used to describe a boxer whose skill in the ring puts him above every other fighter in the world, in any weight division. He was the welterweight champion for five consecutive years (1946 to 1951) and a five-time middleweight champion between 1951 and 1960). Another boxing legend, Sugar Ray Leonard, was quoted as saying, “Someone once said there’s a comparison between Sugar Ray Leonard and Sugar Ray Robinson. Believe me, there’s no comparison. Sugar Ray Robinson was the greatest.”
4. Muhammad Ali (1,485 points; 56-5-0)
Hailed by many as the greatest boxer of all time — he even called himself “The Greatest” — Muhammad Ali can’t be overtaken when it comes to cultural and political influence. His record was affected by a four-year career break caused by his refusal to fight in the Vietnam War, but his comeback was impressive. He twice reclaimed his heavyweight championship and continued to be an ambassador for peace. In 2005, he received the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, at a White House ceremony.
3. Carlos Monzon (1,588 points; 87-3-9)
Before Argentine playboy Carlos Monzon was sentenced to 11 years in prison for killing his girlfriend Alicia Muniz in 1988, he held the undisputed middleweight championship for seven years. “He remains both a violent, flawed idol and one of the greatest middleweights in history,” wrote Steve Bunce for The Independent. In 1995, after a home visit, Monzon died in a car crash.
2. Manny Pacquiao (1,628 points; 62-7-2)
The only active boxer on the list and the only eight-division world champion in the history of boxing, Manny Pacquiao has delivered some of the sport’s most memorable performances in the ring. He annihilated Oscar De La Hoya in 2008, wiped out Ricky Hatton (in less than six minutes) in 2009 and overwhelmed Miguel Cotto a few months later. However, Pacquiao lost to Mayweather in the “Fight of the Century” in 2015. Today, Pacquiao also serves as a senator in the Philippines.
1. Floyd Mayweather Jr. (2,256 points; 50-0-0)
Always keen to come out of retirement to celebrate his 50-0-0 in the ring, Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. was quick to share the BoxRec “Greatest of All Time” list on his Instagram page. “Numbers don’t lie and BoxRec told the truth. It is what it is,” his caption read. With a total of 2,256 points, Mayweather is over 800 points ahead of second-place Pacquiao on the list. According to Forbes, Mayweather was the highest-earning athlete in the world in 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2018.