Ring Magazine's 80 Best Fighters of the Last 80 Years

In 2002, the writers of Ring Magazine published a ranking of the 80 best fighters of the previous 80 years. The entirely subjective nature of any list comparing fighters across different weight categories and different eras is bound to be fodder for debate. This list was no exception. Meet Ring Magazine's top 10 fighteres.

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Sugar Ray Robinson (May 3, 1921–April 12, 1989)

Sugar Ray Robinson
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Sugar Ray Robinson set the bar by which all other modern boxers are judged. As an amateur, he made a name for himself by going 86-0 before turning pro in 1940. Robinson went on to win his first 40 matches. He won the world welterweight title in 1946 and held it for five years, then captured the world middleweight title in 1957. Robinson retired 25 years later with a record of 175-19 and 110 knockouts. 

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Henry Armstrong (Dec. 12, 1912–Oct. 24, 1988)

Henry Armstrong
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Armstrong, born Henry Jackson Jr., turned pro in 1931. He won 11 straight matches in 1933 and then 22 consecutive bouts in 1937. That same year, he won the world featherweight title. The following year, he bulked up to fight for and win the world welterweight title, then slimmed down and captured the world lightweight belt. Armstrong retired in 1946 with a record of 151-21-9 with 101 knockouts.

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Muhammad Ali (Jan. 17, 1942–June 3, 2016)

Mohammad Ali
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Born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., Muhammad Ali began boxing at the age of 12 and won a gold medal in the 1960 Rome Olympics. He turned pro that same year, winning his first 19 matches and capturing the world heavyweight title in 1964. Ali was arrested in 1966 for refusing to be inducted into the U.S. Army, a case that did not end until the U.S. Supreme Court exonerated him in 1971. During that five-year period, he was stripped of his boxing titles and banned from fighting. Ali returned to fighting in 1971 and won the heavyweight title twice more before retiring in 1981 with a record of 56-5 and 37 knockouts.

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Joe Louis (May 13, 1914–April 12, 1981)

Joe Louis
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Nicknamed "Brown Bomber" for his fearsome fists, Joe Louis is considered one of the best heavyweight boxers of all time. In an era when segregation was still legal, Louis' athleticism made him one of the few African-American celebrities of his time. After a standout amateur career, he turned pro in 1934. Just three years later, he won the world heavyweight title, which he would retain until 1949 when he retired. During his career, went 66-3 with 52 knockouts. After leaving boxing, he became the first African-American to play on the Professional Golfers Association tour.

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Roberto Duran (Born: June 16, 1951)

Roberto Duran
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A native of Panama, Duran is considered to be the best lightweight fighter in modern boxing history. In a pro career that began in 1968 and lasted until 2001, he won titles in four different divisions: lightweight, welterweight, light middleweight, and middleweight. Duran retired with a record of 103-16 with 70 knockouts.

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Willie Pep (Sept. 19, 1922–Nov. 23, 2006)

Willie Pep
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"Willie Pep" was the stage name of Guglielmo Papaleo, an American boxer and two-time world featherweight champion. Pep, who went pro in 1940, fought in an era when matches were scheduled far more often than today. During his career, he fought 241 bouts, a remarkably high number by modern standards. When he retired in 1966, he had a record of 229-11-1 with 65 knockouts.

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Harry Greb (June 6, 1894–Oct. 22, 1926)

Harry Greb
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Known for his ability to deliver (and withstand) a furious beating, Harry Greb was a remarkably physical fighter. He held the welterweight, middleweight, light heavyweight, and heavyweight titles during a career that began in 1913 and lasted until 1926 when he retired. Greb, whose face had taken a beating over the years, died later that year during cosmetic surgery.

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Benny Leonard (April 7, 1896–April 18, 1947)

Benny Leonard
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Leonard learned how to fight on the streets of New York City, where he grew up in the Jewish enclave on the Lower East Side. He turned pro in 1911, still a teen. He won the world lightweight title in 1916, going 15-0 during that run. By the time he retired in 1925, he had a record of 89-6-1 with 70 knockouts. He remained active in boxing, refereeing frequently until dying of a heart attack while officiating at a match in 1947.

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Sugar Ray Leonard (Born: May 17, 1956)

Sugar Ray Leonard
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During a pro career that ran from 1977 to 1997, "Sugar" Ray Leonard won titles in a remarkable five divisions: welterweight, light middleweight, middleweight, super middleweight, and light heavyweight. He also won a gold medal at the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics. Leonard retired with a record of 36-3-1 with 25 knockouts.

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Pernell Whitaker (Born: Jan. 2, 1964)

Pernell Whitaker
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Left-handed Pernell Whitaker made a name for himself by winning gold medals at the 1983 Pan American Games and 1984 Summer Olympics. He turned pro after the Olympics and went on to win titles in the lightweight, light welterweight, welterweight, and light middleweight divisions. Whitaker retired in 2001 with a record of 40-4-1-1 with 17 knockouts.

Other Boxing Greats

Who are the rest of the best? According to the editors at Ring Magazine, this is how the rest of the top 80 shakes out.

11. Carlos Monzon

12. Rocky Marciano

13. Ezzard Charles

14. Archie Moore

15. Sandy Saddler

16. Jack Dempsey

17. Marvin Hagler

18. Julio Cesar Chavez

19. Eder Jofre

20. Alexis Arguello

21. Barney Ross

22. Evander Holyfield

23. Ike Williams

24. Salvador Sanchez

25. George Foreman

26. Kid Gavilian

27. Larry Holmes

28. Mickey Walker

29. Ruben Olivares

30. Gene Tunney

31. Dick Tiger

32. Fighting Harada

33. Emile Griffith

34. Tony Canzoneri

35. Aaron Pryor

36. Pascual Perez

37. Miguel Canto

38. Manuel Ortiz

39. Charley Burley

40. Carmen Basilio

41. Michael Spinks

42. Joe Frazier

43. Khaosai Galaxy

44. Roy Jones Jr.

45. Tiger Flowers

46. Panama Al Brown

47. Kid Chocolate

48. Joe Brown

49. Tommy Loughran

50. Bernard Hopkins

51. Felix Trinidad<

52. Jake LaMotta

53. Lennox Lewis

54. Wilfredo Gomez

55. Bob Foster

56. Jose Napoles

57. Billy Conn

58. Jimmy McLarnin

59. Pancho Villa

60. Carlos Ortiz

61. Bob Montgomery

62. Freddie Miller

63. Benny Lynch

64. Beau Jack

65. Azumah Nelson

66. Eusebio Pedroza

67. Thomas Hearns

68. Wilfred Benitez

69. Antonio Cervantes

70. Ricardo Lopez

71. Sonny Liston

72. Mike Tyson

73. Vicente Saldivar

74. Gene Fullmer

75. Oscar De La Hoya

76. Carlos Zarate

77. Marcel Cerdan

78. Flash Elorde

79. Mike McCallum

80. Harold Johnson

Source: Ring Magazine (2002)