The sport of boxing carries a certain mystique. In order for a fighter to be successful, they must have a unique combination of skill and determination. Over the past century, several boxers have risen from the rest of the pack to become legends. Today, we’re going to look at 10 true boxing legends known around the world.
“The hero and the coward both feel the same thing. But the hero uses his fear, projects it onto his opponent, while the coward runs. It’s the same thing, fear, but it’s what you do with it that matters.” – Cus D’amato
Fans love to debate who the best boxers of all time are. In reality, it’s impossible to narrow it all down to just one fighter. Each of the boxers listed below accomplished greatness and will be remembered for years to come.
Perhaps no boxer is as well-known as Muhammad Ali. He managed to transcend sports, becoming a global icon against the Vietnam War and social injustice. Inside the ring, he was a master at using his footwork and lightning-fast hand speed to overwhelm his opponents.
Muhammad Ali Career Stats
Height: 6 ft 3 in
Reach: 78 in
Career: 1960 – 1981
Age Retired: 39
Muhammad Ali was at the top of the heavyweight boxing division at its “Golden Age.” He began his career with 19-straight victories before earning his first championship opportunity against Sonny Liston. Leading up to the fight, Ali taunted Liston with every opportunity he was given.
Most boxing analysts expected an easy victory for Liston. Ali was a clear talent, yet his true skills were unknown at the time. It took just six rounds for Muhammad to prove the doubters wrong.
Over the next four years, Muhammad Ali defended his titles nine times. In 1967, he was stripped of his boxing license for refusing to take part in the Vietnam War. After a lengthy court battle, he returned to the ring and defeated Jerry Quarry.
Over the next decade, “The Greatest” defeated names such as Joe Frazier, George Foreman, and Ken Norton. After two brutal losses, he retired from the sport.
You can’t mention famous boxers without bringing up Muhammad Ali. He was one of the most vibrant and charismatic stars outside the ring and one of the most skilled fighters inside of it.
Floyd Mayweather Jr.
One of the things people love about boxing is the massive range of different styles fighters can possess. In Floyd Mayweather’s case, that’s a defensive-minded style that no one else could match. With a career record of 50-0, he’s widely considered one of the true boxing legends and may even return for a fight in the future.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. Career Stats
Height: 5 ft 8 in
Reach: 72 in
Career: 1996 – 2017
Age Retired: 40
It’s easy to see why many analysts consider Floyd Mayweather to be the most skilled boxer of all time. Early on in his career, he was known for fast, powerful combinations that made his opponents unconscious. By the end of his run, he relied on almost superhuman reflexes to avoid shots and land his own.
Floyd’s first championship came in 1998 against Genaro Hernandez. At 18-0, he was still fairly green as a boxer. He didn’t look like it in the ring, out-boxing Genaro and ultimately stopping him in the eighth round.
And after eight defenses of his title, “Pretty Boy” Mayweather moved up in weight to capture the WBC lightweight title against Jose Luis Castillo. Less than three years later, he earned the WBC super lightweight title in a dominant stoppage victory over Arturo Gatti.
After a close victory over Oscar De La Hoya in 2007, Floyd became one of boxing’s true superstars. He became “Money Mayweather” and began looking for the fights capable of selling pay-per-view events. Over the next decade, he defeated fellow boxing legends, including Shane Mosley, Manny Pacquiao, and even gave Saul “Canelo” Alvarez the only loss of his career.
Floyd is a controversial figure in the world of boxing and in the world of sports betting. No one can deny his skillset, though. At the time of writing, rumors are circulating that he may even make a comeback sometime in the future. Only time will tell whether or not this tarnishes the career of one of boxing’s most elite fighters.
At his peak, Mike Tyson was probably the hardest-hitter in the history of boxing. He was an absolute destroyer during his run as champion and captured the public’s interest in a way we hadn’t seen since Muhammad Ali. Tyson may not be the best heavyweight in history, but he’s undoubtedly one of the true boxing legends still alive today.
Mike Tyson Career Stats
Height: 5 ft 10 in
Reach: 71 in
Career: 1985 – 2005
Age Retired: 38
The Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn has produced some of the best boxers of the past few decades. But no fighter exemplifies the tough, grittiness of Brooklyn quite like Mike Tyson. He began his professional career at the age of 18 and immediately made a name for himself with blitzing speed and devastating power.
Those in the game knew that Tyson was a fighter to watch. He was a student of Cus D’Amato and grew under the tutelage of trainers like Kevin Rooney and Teddy Atlas. It’s safe to say that Tyson was expected to be successful.
No one knew just how talented Mike truly was. He quickly racked up 27 straight victories, only two of which went to the judge’s scorecards. On November 22nd, 1986, “Iron Mike” became the youngest heavyweight champion in history by knocking out Trevor Berbick.
This win alone could earn him a spot on a list of famous boxers. Tyson wasn’t done, though. Over the next 10 years, he only lost once and defeated several legendary fighters, such as Larry Holmes, Frank Bruno, and Donovan Ruddock. He was the smaller man against almost every one he faced, yet no one could match his punching power.
Outside-the-ring issues continued to deter Mike’s success. He began to decline in the late ‘90s and retired in 2005 after a lackluster performance against Kevin McBride. He’s since become a successful businessman and is even gearing up for charity boxing matches, one against Roy Jones Jr.
Not long ago, fans and analysts held a debate on who was the greatest welterweight of the past decade. Most felt that Manny Pacquiao deserved the title. He’s the only man to ever win world championships in eight different weight classes and is among the true boxing legends to compete in the lower divisions.
Manny Pacquiao Career Stats
Height: 5 ft 5 in
Reach: 67 in
Career: 1995 –
Age Retired: Active
Manny Pacquiao is the only fighter on this list of legendary boxers to still be competing. Incredibly, his illustrious career is not over. We may still see the fighting pride of the Philippines add another world championship to his resume.
It’s amazing to see what Manny has accomplished when considering his upbringing. He grew up extremely poor in Manila, using boxing as a way to stay out of trouble while earning money. It didn’t take long for trainers to realize that Pacquiao had something special.
Unlike some of today’s boxing legends, Manny faced adversity early on in his career. He was knocked out in his 12th fight. Three years later, he was once again finished with strikes. That loss proved to be a pivotal moment in his career.
Over the next decade, Manny Pacquiao became arguably the most successful boxer in history earning championship after championship in different weight classes. He lost only once between 1999 and 2011 and quickly avenged that loss.
Pacquiao is still competing with the top fighters at 41 years old. Most recently, he defeated Keith Thurman for the WBA Super Welterweight title. No fighter is as respected as Manny Pacquiao. We’ll need to wait and see how the final chapter of this legendary boxing icon plays out but his next step seems to be a fight against Conor McGregor sometime in 2021.
Much like how Muhammad Ali was competing during the heavyweight division’s “Golden Age,” “Sugar” Ray Leonard was at the top of the welterweight division when it was at its best. He stood out when fighters like Roberto Duran, Marvin Hagler, and Thomas Hearns were fighting. It’s no surprise why Ray is universally considered one of the real boxing legends.
Ray Leonard Career Stats
Height: 5 ft 10 ½ in
Reach: 74 in
Career: 1977 – 1997
Age Retired: 40
Ray Leonard began his boxing career as a successful amateur fighter, winning several titles across the country. Trainers and analysts immediately locked him as a future champion, yet he had no intention of rushing things. Leonard remained in the amateurs en route to a gold medal at the 1976 Olympic Games.
This accomplishment pushed him to enter the professional game. He racked up 23 straight wins over solid competition, including Dicky Ecklund and Floyd Mayweather Sr. In 1979, “Sugar” captured the NABF Welterweight title against Pete Ranzany.
Ray continued to find success throughout the late 1970s. On June 20th of 1980, he faced off with Roberto Duran in what was one of the biggest fights of the year. To the surprise of almost everyone, Duran defeated Leonard via unanimous decision.
Leonard avenged that loss just five months later. He continued his fighting career, briefly returning in both 1982 and 1984. None of these retirements lasted for long.
“Sugar” Ray Leonard had incredible hand speed and an unusual ability to put combinations together. He ended his career with a record of 36-3, defeating some of the most respected lower-weight division fighters of all time. From a talent standpoint, Leonard is one of the most successful boxing legends to ever compete.
The vast majority of boxing historians consider Joe Louis to be the greatest puncher of all time. He became a national hero at a dark time during the nation’s history and a symbol of anti-Nazi sentiment leading into World War 2. Louis is the prime example of what it means to be a boxing legend.
Joe Louis Career Stats
Height: 6 ft 2 in
Reach: 76 in
Career: 1934 – 1951
Age Retired: 37
Joe Louis was born in LaFayette, Alabama, in 1914. He grew up poor and eventually moved with his family to Detroit, Michigan. Around that time, the Great Depression began, and Louis began looking for ways to spend his time in a productive way.
He started out as an amateur, winning the Golden Gloves and Chicago Tournament of Champions. In 1934, Joe officially began his professional boxing career.
Louis had everything needed to become a champion. He had heart, power, and a true understanding of boxing fundamentals. He quickly amassed a record of 24-0 before facing off with Germany’s Max Schmeling. Louis was knocked out in the 12th round in a fight most predicted he would easily win.
Joe didn’t let the loss deter him. Over the next two years, he defeated 10 men to earn a rematch with Schmeling. The rematch was one of the biggest fights of the 20th century. It represented the USA vs. Nazi Germany at a time when hostilities between the countries were growing.
It took Joe Louis less than three minutes to earn the knockout, making him one of the true boxing legends of his era. He continued to fight more than 30 times after that bout, losing only two of them. It speaks volumes that after nearly a century after the end of his career, Louis is still considered one of the best boxers of all time.
“Sugar” Ray Robinson
We’re sticking with the famous boxers of the early 20th century here. In the heavyweight division, Joe Louis reigned supreme. In the lighter weight classes, however, no man was as dominant as “Sugar” Ray Robinson.
Ray Robinson Career Stats
Height: 5 ft 11 in
Reach: 72 ½ in
Career: 1940 – 1965
Age Retired: 44
It’s easy to say that the best years in welterweight boxing occurred in the ‘80s. Many forget how many incredible fighters were competing in the 1940s. That includes Jake LaMotta, Henry Armstrong, and Tommy Bell. Most agree that “Sugar” Ray Robinson was the best of them all.
His record of 173-19 is almost enough to guarantee Leonard a spot on this boxing legends list. In reality, though, it’s the opponents he beat and the manner in which he won that makes him a fighting icon. He was quick, powerful, and is considered to be the godfather of modern boxing.
In the early ‘40s, boxing technique was still fairly rudimentary. Most fighters took a head-first, tough-man approach to the sport. Robinson switched things up by using a quick jab and solid footwork to pick his opponents apart.
“Rhythm is everything in boxing. Every move you make starts with your heart, and that’s in rhythm or you’re in trouble.” – Ray Robinson
“Sugar” Ray went 40-0 before suffering his first loss to Jake LaMotta in 1943. He quickly avenged that loss just a few weeks later. It wasn’t until eight years later that he tasted defeat again and earned victories over some of the best fighters of the era.
Things began to turn for the worst late in his career as he alternated wins and losses. During his prime, however, Robinson was almost untouchable. He helped to change the sport and is rightfully considered one of the boxing legends that young fighters look up to.
Earlier, we mentioned that Mike Tyson is widely considered the hardest hitter in professional boxing history. The one man capable of challenging that theory would be George Foreman. He ruled the heavyweight division with thunderous punches and took part in some of boxing’s most memorable fights.
George Foreman Career Stats
Height: 6 ft 3 in
Reach: 81 in
Career: 1969 – 1997
Age Retired: 48
It’s hard to list the accomplishments of George Foreman on a single page. You could spend hours going over his career. Some feel his biggest goal was becoming the oldest heavyweight champion in boxing history at 46.
This was an incredible achievement, considering he was far past his fighting prime. Foreman’s best years were from the late ‘60s into the late ‘70s. It was at this time that he took on Muhammad Ali at the “Rumble in the Jungle.”
Foreman ended up losing that bout and briefly retired just three years later. He came back in 1987 and put together a winning streak that no one saw coming. For three years, he went undefeated and beat world-class competition such as Gerry Cooney, Bert Cooper, and Adilson Rodrigues.
George continued to fight well into his 40s and captured the WBA and IBF heavyweight titles in 1994. Three years later, he finally hung up the gloves for good. He’s since become the face of the George Foreman grill, earning him an incredible amount of wealth to retire on.
Had Muhammad Ali never been born, George Foreman would possibly be considered the best heavyweight boxer of all-time. His power was almost unfathomable, and he had good enough defense to continue fighting into his late 40s. He’s one of boxing’s legends and continues to represent the sport in the right way.
When most people hear the name Evander Holyfield, they instantly think back to the infamous biting incident with Mike Tyson. Hardcore boxing fans, however, think back to one of the most skilled boxers to ever compete in the heavyweight division. Using perfect technique and unshakable confidence, he became one of the most dominant forces in boxing for years.
Evander Holyfield Career Stats
Height: 6 ft 2 ½ in
Reach: 77 ½ in
Career: 1984 – 2011
Age Retired: 48
In many ways, boxing is a cruel sport. It’s bad enough that fighters must take blows to the body and head to become victorious. What’s even worse is that a single loss can completely derail their aspirations for a major title.
Evander Holyfield never let a loss bring him down. There are many reasons why he’s considered a real boxing legend. Perhaps that, over anything else, sets him apart from the rest of the fighters he faced.
Holyfield began his professional career with 28-straight wins. In 1992, he was defeated by Riddick Bowe for the first time. Two years later, he lost again to Michael Moorer. Less than a year after that, he was knocked out by the aforementioned Bowe.
Many fighters would have hung up the gloves by this point. Evander had other plans. He went on to defeat Mike Tyson twice. He then avenged his loss to Moorer. Holyfield took part in some legendary fights between 1999 and 2007, sometimes winning and sometimes losing.
Evander doesn’t possess the incredible record that many other famous boxers do. Instead, he was known as a skillful, determined boxer capable of defeating anyone on any given day. Incredibly, “The Real Deal” claims he’s interested in making a comeback to the ring.
Remember at the top of this page when we claimed it was impossible to narrow down one fighter as being the best to ever compete? It’s easier to understand when fighters like Rocky Marciano are brought up. He went 49-0 as a professional and defeated true boxing legends such as Joe Louis. Rocky still has a loyal fan base decades after his retirement, and some believe he would have beat anyone alive today.
Rocky Marciano Career Stats
Height: 5 ft 10 ½ in
Reach: 68 in
Career: 1947 – 1955
Age Retired: 32
The sport of boxing back in the 1940s looked considerably different than it did today. Slick movement and defensive counters were almost nonexistent back then. In some ways, it was a head-down brawl to see which man was tougher. No one did that better than Rocky Marciano.
He racked up 37 professional wins between 1947 and 1951. After years of fans debating who was better, Rocky took on Joe Louis. It was a huge fight with fans and media outlets coming from around the country.
It took eight grueling rounds for Marciano to get the stoppage over Louis. Some feel that Joe was past his prime and didn’t have the same drive as he did early in his career. Rocky got the win, though, and that’s what’s remembered now.
A year later, Rocky Marciano captured the NBA, The Ring, and the Lineal heavyweight championships from Jersey Joe Walcott. He defended these titles six more times. After a win over Archie Moore in 1955, he decided to retire from the sport.
There’s a certain allure to Rocky Marciano. Many question how he would have fared against the next wave of heavyweight contenders. We’ll never really know. He’s unquestionably one the great boxing legends and is one of just a handful of fighters to retire with an undefeated record.
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