I’ve been thinking about making this list for a long time and after putting a lot of thought into it, I decided that I would finally show you the list of my 10 Favorite Fighters of all Time. I would like to stress that this list is not about who is the greatest fighter of all time so please don’t get bent out of shape because you disagree with me.
10) Sugar Ray Robinson (Favorite Fight: Robinson vs Randy Turpin II)
Le gasp, I have the man regarded as the greatest fighter of all time at the bottom of this list rather than the top! Is this sacrilege? Probably. Do I care? Not in the least. Yes, he is the greatest fighter of all time, winning the welterweight championship and then moving up to middleweight where he would win the title five times. There was nothing this man couldn’t do in the ring; he could knock you out moving backwards, forwards. He possessed great footwork, ability to fight on the inside and could dig deep when he really needed to (See his rematch with Randy Turpin). He inspired multiple generations of boxers and will continue to do so generations from now. If there is one regret about Robinson, it’s that there is no film of him ever fighting at welterweight.
9) George Foreman (Favorite Fight: Foreman vs Michael Moorer)
I’ll be honest. When I was a little kid watching Jeopardy with my dad, there would always be advertisements for Meineke featuring Foreman. But given the excitement and big smile he was always showing off, I assumed that he was an actor or a stand-up comedian. It was actually my mom who told me he was a boxer. Imagine how shocked I was when I learned that he was heavyweight champion of the world in the 1970s and how he lost his title to Muhammad Ali. What surprised me even more than that was my discovery that he was like a successor to Sonny Liston and a predecessor to Mike Tyson.
The story of George Foreman is almost stranger than fiction and I’m surprised that no one has made it into a movie by now. Unless you count that exhibition he had in Toronto where he fought five men in one night, has Foreman ever been in a dull fight? From his two round destruction of Joe Frazier all the way to his come from behind knockout of Michael Moorer over 20 years later, George Foreman possessed a punch that will echo through boxing history for years to come.
8) Pernell Whitaker (Favorite Fight: Whitaker vs Julio Cesar Chavez)
“How the hell is he doing that?” asked a classmate of mine when I showed them a video highlight of perhaps the best defensive fighter of all time. I wanted to answer her but I couldn’t. You could be standing just a foot away from Whitaker and he’d still have you frustrated by your inability to land a solid punch. Watching it was mesmerizing because what he was doing looked so simple but anyone who’s stepped in a boxing ring knows that doing it isn’t as easy as you think. He might not have been able to knock everyone out and on occasion he was the victim of bad luck (Loss to Ramirez, draw with Chavez) but more often than not, Whitaker didn’t need luck but just his natural skills which still leave me and boxing fans in awe.
7) Sugar Ray Leonard (Favorite Fight: Leonard vs Duran I)
At first, I wasn’t a big fan of Leonard. I found him too arrogant and I wasn’t a big fan of his constant retiring/comeback routine. However it was when I watched his first fight with Roberto Duran in Montreal back in 1980 that I really became a fan. I had never seen the fight before and had no idea what the outcome would be. I think it’s one of the few fights I’ve watched where I was unconsciously throwing punches as I watched the action. Leonard dared to be great that night as he went toe to toe with the great Duran. He lost a decision but was able to comeback in one of the best ways possible by humiliating the legendary Duran into quitting. Wins over Wilfred Beniztez, Thomas Hearns, Marvin Hagler and Duran once again showed that this pretty face wasn’t afraid to get hit once in a while. He may have gone on longer than he should have but no one can say they never watched to a Ray Leonard fight and weren’t dazzled.
6) Joe Frazier (Favorite Fight: Frazier vs Ali I)
This man epitomized the word tough. Sometime this was to his downfall but that was what made him so fun to watch sometimes. Watching Frazier absorb so much punishment but still willing to come forward and hammer you with hooks until he had you out, it was like watching a real life version of the Terminator. Muhammad Ali might have gotten under his skin with all the insults he made about him but in 1971, Frazier fists spoke louder than any of Ali’s words as he fought my Favorite fight of all time. One of the great tragedies of Frazier’s life is that despite being recognized as an all time great, it wasn’t until after he died that the city of Philadelphia decided to erect a statue of him in his honor even though fictional boxer Rocky Balboa had his own statue for years.
5) Lennox Lewis (Favorite Fight: Lewis vs Hasim Rahman II)
My first exposure to Lennox Lewis was when he guest starred on an episode of Mad TV where he was constantly hounded by ‘Mike Tyson’ hoping to get a fight with him. While Lennox might not be much of an actor, he was one hell of a boxer. When he declared that he was a pugilistic specialist, it wasn’t just something he made up as a marketing gimmick. He saw every opponent and knew exactly how he had to fight them and even in times he came up short (Oliver McCall, Hasim Rahman) he was able to come back bigger and better than ever. His favorite fight of mine is probably his final fight with Vitali Klitschko, where even though I know what’s going to happen, I still get caught up in the excitement that Lewis might get knocked out. He was smart to retire after that (A rematch with Vitali would have been awesome though) and ever since boxing has longed for a heavyweight that donned a similar presence like his.
4) Manny Pacquiao (Favorite Fight: Pacquiao vs Erik Morales II)
The only active fighter on this list, Manny Pacquiao has been bringing excitement to the sport for as long as I’ve been watching. Oddly enough, I didn’t start paying a lot of attention to him until he lost to Erik Morales back in 2005. I saw the way he improved and it seemed just so superhuman. Also his meteoric rise to superstar status after demolishing Oscar de la Hoya and Ricky Hatton are nothing short of extraordinary. He probably doesn’t have too many fights left in his career and I doubt we’ll ever see the megafight with Floyd Mayweather but if I can be honest, Manny’s never needed it. He’s fought the tough wars against the best opposition. He challenged himself by fighting dangerous opponents like Oscar, Cotto and Marquez. Right now he has another fight with Juan Manuel Marquez coming up. Should he lose that fight he will probably retire but at the same time, what a wild ride it’s been.
3) Paul Williams (Favorite Fight: Williams vs Antonio Margarito)
When I first got into boxing, I briefly wondered what I would have been like if I had gone to a gym at the age of 12 or younger, stuck with it and decided to turn pro. Aside from the colour of our skin, I think Paul Williams is the answer to that question. We both had the long arms, the tall stature, southpaw stance. What I also admired was that he never truly hid behind his long reach and leave the audience snoring. Watch his fight with Antonio Margarito and you’ll see that even though he’s dominating, you can still sense that there’s danger in Margarito’s punches, particular in the later rounds where he really puts on the pressure. Despite being tired, Paul came into the last round and won it strong to secure the victory.
Another thing that I really enjoyed was his constant weight jumping. Top people avoiding him…I didn’t enjoy that too much. I was so eager to see his fight with Kelly Pavlik but sadly it was never to be and that’s probably one of the best fights we as fans we’ll never see (I saw Williams winning by TKO in 9). Yes, sometimes he didn’t show the best defence and he might have been given a gift against Erislandy Lara, but Paul always fought his heart out and win or lose, fans were never bored.
2) Muhammad Ali (Favorite Fight: Ali vs George Foreman)
A lot of people would give anything to be like Muhammad Ali. If we could just look like that, act like that, talk like that, fight like that…we would do anything. And he could do everything.
He could move on his feet like a lightweight, punch like any heavyweight and befuddle his opponents before the opening bell.
There’s not too much you can say about Muhammad Ali that hasn’t already been said before so let me just say that he inspired me and no doubt he’ll inspire countless others for generations to come.
1) Thomas Hearns (Favorite Fight: Hearns vs Leonard II)
When I first heard of him, it was in the movie Million Dollar Baby where the character called Danger calls out, “The Motor City Cobra, Thomas ‘Hit Man’ Hearns!” Naturally, I thought that there was no way a boxer with such a long name could ever exist. Then as I began to go through the history of boxing, I was shocked to see that he was real and he wasn’t someone famous for having more than one nickname, but for having one hell of a right hand.
What also made me a fan of Hearns was his physique. When you’re a skinny kid from Essex, there aren’t a lot of role models who look like they spend less than 8 hours in the gym. But Hearns…it was freaky. He looked borderline anorexic at 147 and yet every time he landed a big right hand his opponents would drop like they had bit hit with a shot gun blast. Also admirable was underrated boxing skills. He could have tried to knock Ray Leonard out for 15 rounds in the first fight but when he saw that Leonard was on the attack, he began to outbox him. If you really want to see how great his skills are, watch his 154lb title fight with Wilfred Benitez. Hearns was the last of the Big Four (Himself, Leonard, Hagler and Duran) to retire but his place is secure in the International Boxing Hall of Fame, history, and as my favorite fighter of all time.