By Khuram Ahmed: The term pound for pound refers to the best, regardless of weight, to grace the sport. A purely subjective term with no final outright conclusion is based on legacy more than records. As a result, this topic is, as described by Bert Sugar, a bar argument. There are no set criteria that can be followed when making a pound for pound list.
For fans of the modern era are left bamboozled by names they have never heard of and baffled by the omitting of some modern day legends when an “expert” announces a “greatest fighters ever” list. Some analysts do add names of fighters for the sake of it – with all due respect the fighters of the past may have done huge amounts for the sport but there are modern achievers who have the attributes to outrank them. There seems to be a fear of leaving a name out.
In making my decision for my own list I took into account modern achievers and compared them with the success of boxers of the past, some historic names were omitted and some modern names included, as with most lists mine is open for debate.
1) Sugar Ray Robinson 2) Henry Armstrong 3) Mohammad Ali 4) Willie Pep 5) Roberto Duran 6) Sugar Ray Leonard 7) Henry Armstrong 8) Joe Louis 9) Jack Johnson 10) Marvin Hagler 11) Pernell Whitaker 12) Roy Jones Jr. 13) Thomas Hearns 14) Harry Greb 15) Julio Cesar Chavez 16) Salvador Sanchez 17) Ezzard Charles 18) Joe Frazier 19) Carlos Monzon 20) Bernard Hopkins
The inclusions which may cause the most debate are that of Pernell Whitaker, Roy Jones Jr, and Bernard Hopkins. The positioning of Sugar Ray Leonard above Archie Moore may also fuel discussion. I will explain my reasoning.
Pernell Whitaker is vastly underrated. This is due to the amount of decisions that unfortunately went against him in vital bouts. Anytime Michael Buffer says “many experts believe this man has never lost a fight inside the ring” during the pre fight introductions it is clear that he was robbed. His defence is second to only that of Willie Pep. At his prime he could make you miss, counter you, make you miss again and then counter you again. His sheer skills elevate him above so many fighters from the past.
Roy Jones Jr at his prime was the most untouchable fighter there has been. There was no body in his division who could test him. Shocking KO power and cat like reflexes. He dominated the middleweights and then became only the second man in history to win the middleweight and heavyweight championships. This achievement alone elevates him to superstardom. Unfortunately, like the majority of my list, Jones went on boxing far too long. However pound for pound refers to a fighter being at their prime and at this prime he certainly was “Mr. Untouchable, Mr. unstoppable, and Mr. unbeatable!”
Bernard Hopkins could have fought in any era. His smartness is underestimated. As he grew older he knew he couldn’t rely on his reflexes and instead learnt more and more skills in order to dominate his opponents at the tender age of 46. A defensive genius who keeps on defying age and shaming younger fighters. His dominance of the middleweight division through the 90s and early 2000s is up there with the reign of Marvin Hagler (what a fight these two could have had) and his dominance earns him a spot in this list.
It must once again be remembered that this is only my opinion. I feel Archie Moore’s number of KO’S (131) is great however Ray Leonards skills were awe inspiring and his victories against the best fighters of that time (and there were many) are some of the greatest fights of all time therefore he deserves a higher spot. Jack Johnson was the first black heavyweight champion but that doesn’t mean he should be in the top 5 for that reason. And JC Chavez’s near 100 fight unbeaten streak was legendary, his body attack was like no other and he could have held his own with any fighter in any era.
My decisions are based on the fighter facing the best of his era at their prime and winning. Simple. When casual boxing fans claim Floyd Mayweather Jr or Mike Tyson should be on the list I say one thing – who have they beat? Mayweathers’ greatest victories are over Diego Corrales and Oscar de la Hoya. Does that make him a top 20 best fighter of all time? De la Hoya was past his prime anyway. Mayweather had the opportunity to face the best of this era at their prime but chose not to. Tyson didn’t beat any credible name, he may have had a high KO ratio but if those Kos are against punch bags then what does it matter? People blame his time in prison for ruining his chances of being great but a true great fighter comes back stronger from any time away. Ali came back strong enough after he was stripped of his title.
The debate will now go on and I am sure people will have a lot to say in regards to my list. The purpose of this list was to introduce a modern perspective to the issue and break the age old tradition of putting older fighters above younger ones just because they were “the first” to do something and to also press the issue that legacies determine greatness, not records or title wins.