It may as well be humanity’s oldest sport. People have been punching each other in the face as long as there’ve been people.
Below is a list of the five greatest boxers ever to take the ring. Not just records, but their impact on the sport will be considered in this list.
Without further adieu, here are the top five men who perfected the art of boxing, made the sport better and have paved the way for future fighters.
5. Jack Dempsey
The Manassa Mauler first came onto the scene in 1914 and not much is recorded of his early career, but those who knew him when he was just getting started all took note of how tough he was.
Dempsey’s real rise to success and fame began in 1917 when he faced Fireman Jim Flynn and Gunboat Smith, losing to the former and defeating the latter.
Flynn was the only boxer ever to defeat Dempsey by knocking him out in the first round.
In 1918, Dempsey’s success really began as he went 15-1 with a single no decision and got revenge on Flynn by knocking him out in the first round. Dempsey also won a cavalcade of big matches that year, including against Light Heavyweight Champion Barney Lebrowitz.
1919 was the year that changed it all for Dempsey though as he won his historic fight against world heavyweight champion Jess Willard who had a height and weight advantage, mercilessly taking him down in the first round.
This win earned Dempsey the world heavyweight title which he was the undisputed owner of for the next seven years.
All in all Dempsey’s numbers and ferocity in the ring speak for themselves. He went 68-6-9 with 53 knockouts and became an icon of the 20’s while doing it.
4. Joe Louis
Joe Louis may be one of the most likable boxers in the history of the sport and is an incredibly important figure in American history.
His record of 69 fights with 66 wins, 52 by KO and and only 3 losses would be enough, but that’s understandably not what he’s best known for.
His swift, one round victory over Germany’s heavyweight champion Max Schmeling in 1938 was a pivotal moment in the history of sports and was massively significant in showing the growing tensions around the world against the rise of Hitler and the Nazis.
It was both a huge win for Louis and a symbolic victory for America and democracy in general as he showed that the US would not give in to Nazi aggression.
On top of being a champion, Louis established himself as someone who would always fight for the rights of his people and became one of the first African-Americans to achieve the status of a hero in the US.
He paved the way for future Black boxers to achieve success worldwide and continues to leave a legacy that has greatly benefitted the sport.
3. Floyd Maywether Jr.
You don’t get the nickname “Money” without living up to it. Floyd Mayweather has been easily the most successful boxer of the 21st century, both in and out of the ring.
His boxing record is a whopping 50-0 with 27 wins by knockout. Try and wrap your head around that. He has not lost a bout ever and likely never will as he has entered into retirement.
While his out of the ring exploits don’t make him the best ambassador for professional boxing, he’s undeniably made a better career out of it than almost anyone. He’s amassed a net worth of $450 million and has turned himself into a brand in the process.
His ferocity and unwillingness to back down in the ring won’t be forgotten and his wins against fighters like Manny Pacquiao, Marcos Maidana and the always controversial Conor McGregor (among many others) have turned him into a worldwide superstar and one of the most famous athletes of the last two decades.
2. Sugar Ray Robinson
When a boxer has 201 career fights and 174 career wins, it’s impossible not to put them at the top. Sugar Ray Robinson is one of the greatest boxers ever both pound-for-pound and by the numbers.
He was a cultural icon for over two decades and cemented himself as an American sports icon.
When the mafia tried to get him to throw fights for quick cash he refused as his integrity for the sport and himself wouldn’t allow it.
His combination of raw speed and strength in the ring are unmatched and the quickness with which he took over boxing was something that had rarely, if ever, been seen before.
He finished his career with 109 wins by KO, more than Jack Dempsey and Mike Tyson combined and was both a Welterweight and Middleweight champion.
1. Muhammad Ali
When your nickname is “The People’s Champion” and you speak arguably the most iconic quote in sports history, it’s hard not to choose someone as the GOAT at their respective sport.
Muhammad Ali’s wins and KO numbers may not be as high as some on this list, but it’s his impact on the game which will be remembered forever. He finished his career 56-5 with 37 wins by KO and took part in three of the most famous fights in boxing history, all within a decade.
His victories against George Foreman, Joe Frazier and Sunny Liston remain the stuff of sport legends, and his picture after knocking out Liston in their 1965 bout has become arguably the most iconic photo in sports history.
While Ali had his flaws, he stood up for Black people at a time when that was very dangerous and feared nobody in or out of the ring.
His impact on his respective sport is comparable to only that of Babe Ruth, in that he changed the history of the sport forever and established himself as the greatest at what he did.