When it comes to sports, few boast as much history as boxing. There is evidence of fistic duels taking place during Egyptian times in 3000 BC. It was included during the first Olympic Games in ancient Greece. Then it received a sharp increase in popularity via bare-knuckle prize fights in London during the 18th century.
With this type of background, there have been many boxing legends over the years. This article will take a closer look at some of the biggest names to have graced the sport.
There’s no better place to start than with boxing’s biggest – and most controversial – figure. Muhammad Ali is widely regarded as the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time, and this is backed up with wins over other legends like George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Sonny Liston, and Floyd Patterson.
Aside from his in-ring exploits, Ali was arguably the most iconic sporting figure of the 20th century. His boisterous boasts, refusal to serve at the Vietnam War, religious stance, and crossover appeal all combined to create a figure that transcended boxing.
Sugar Ray Robinson
The Ring magazine recognizes Sugar Ray Robinson as the best boxer to ever live – and they’re not alone in that regard. His incredible 174-19-6 record tells part of the story, but it doesn’t illustrate the majestic ability he displayed in the ring. His combination of offensive skills, punching power, and defensive capabilities saw him defined as the complete fighter.
To put his record into a greater perspective, Robinson won 30 times against a current, former, or future world champion. Plus, this was a time when being a world champion meant exactly that – there were no multiple titles spread across a large number of weight divisions.
If you were to judge boxers purely on their net worth, there’s one boxer that clearly comes out on top: Floyd Mayweather. In the list of the richest sports league by Cash Lady, Mayweather has reportedly earned a massive $400 million over his career. In comparison, George Foreman – who has a famous grill empire behind him – is second on the list at only $250 million.
Yet you cannot say he hasn’t deserved this accolade. The ultimate self-promoter, Mayweather, is generally regarded as the best boxer of his era. Wins over Manny Pacquiao, Oscar De La Hoya, and Canelo Alvarez secured his legacy, while a money-spinning boxing vs. MMA bout with Conor McGregor secured his bank balance.
If you asked any boxing history aficionado about their all-time favorite pugilist, a sizeable portion would list Roberto Duran. Boxing out of Panama, Duran was one of the sport’s most complete fighting machines. He had the perfect blend of aggressiveness and defensive skills, and these contributed to him going an astonishing 63-1 in his career at lightweight.
Yet it was his exploits up in weight, where he dueled with Tommy Hearns, Marvin Hagler, and Sugar Ray Leonard, which truly etched his name in boxing folklore. In fact, his victory over Ray Leonard in their first bout is seen, in some circles, as the greatest single win in boxing history.