There was a time in this country when boxing was huge. During their prime, many of the best boxers of all time were considered among the biggest sports stars in the world, not just boxing. However, boxing has seen a dip in popularity over the years. Whether that decline is due to an increase in brain injury awareness or the rise of other combat sports such as Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), boxing just isn’t as popular as it used to be.
Speaking of brain injury awareness, researchers from the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Brain Health Center found that both boxers and MMA fighters may have signs of long-term brain injuries in their blood. Researchers from the clinic studied blood samples that measured two biological markers of brain injury: neurofilament light chain (NFL) and tau. Both of these elements of nerve fibers can be detected in the blood when the fibers are injured.
Although researchers might be able to detect long-term brain injuries through blood tests, that doesn’t reduce the chances of a combat athlete developing certain diseases. Another study found that playing contact sports such as boxing, football, or hockey, significantly increases the chances of developing Lewy Body Disease (LBD), which can lead to Parkinson’s.
These types of findings combined with the rise of other combat sports definitely aren’t helping the sport of boxing. Parents and coaches simply aren’t pushing quality athletes into the sport. Still, though, there are more dangerous games to consider than boxing or MMA.
According to a recent study, horseback riding is more dangerous than other sports including football, motorcycling, skiing, and yes, boxing. Most of the injury risk associated with horseback riding involves chest injuries and more lethal injuries to the head and neck. Need least to say, anytime the word lethal is associated with a sport, it’s dangerous.
As you can see, it’s evident professionals in the ring put a lot on the line o rise to the top. StudyFinds did some research, consulting 10 sports websites and reviews in an effort to find the five best boxers of all time. Our list is comprised of the top five boxers most frequently listed across these sites. As always, feel free to share your picks with us in the comments section below!
The List: Best Boxers of All Time, According to Critics
1. Muhammad Ali
Topping the list of the best boxers of all time is none other than Muhammad Ali. Appearing in the top spot across 40 percent of the lists we consulted, Ali is a clear choice for one of the best boxers of all time. Although most of us didn’t get to witness Ali’s magic in the ring, there are countless documentaries about his boxing career and his life in advocacy. Still, Ali’s boxing career is indisputably one of the greatest of all time.
“Muhammad Ali tops this list of the top 10 boxers. After a successful amateur career with multiple trophies, national titles and an Olympic Gold Medal, Ali transitioned smoothly to the professional setting in 1960. After a 19-fight unbeaten streak, he earned his title shot and beat Sonny Liston in February 1964. He defended it 11 times before Joe Frazier gave him his first career loss,” explains Bet MGM.
Although his wins were extremely memorable, Ali was a treat to watch in the ring. “Muhammad Ali was an anomaly in the boxing world. Despite being a heavyweight boxer, Ali had a punching speed and reflexes similar to welterweight boxers. During his career, he fought and defeated famous boxers like Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, Joe Louis, Ernie Shavers, and George Foreman” writes The Karate Blog.
One thing is for sure, Muhammad Ali transcended boxing and for a time, he was one of the most well-known athletes in the entire world. “[Ali] was one of the most popular and well-known people in the world in his prime, and stands he made, such as refusing to fight in the Vietnam War, which earned him a temporary ban from boxing, just added to his legend. He fought 61 times, winning 56 of those fights. He knocked his opponent out 37 times. He suffered five losses, most coming in the twilight of his career when he was past his best,” adds Bleacher Report.
2. Sugar Ray Robinson
Weaving into the second spot on the list is Sugar Ray Robinson. He made a strong case for the top spot on our list, barely losing out to Muhammad Ali. In fact, Robinson has been called the greatest boxer of all time by many of the great fighters who came after him.
“Many boxing greats, such as Joe Louis, ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard, and even Muhammad Ali have acknowledged Robinson as the greatest ever. The pound-for-pound rankings were developed for Robinson, so he could get the credit he deserved,” explains Bleacher Report.
Robinson’s praise aside, he also had one of the greatest starts to a boxing career we’ve ever seen. “Prior to first taking the middleweight belt via the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, he was a demon at 147. Robinson, who lost once in his first 123 fights, also nearly took Joey Maxim’s light heavyweight belt, but scorching heat forced him to quit on his stool,” adds Yardbarker.
Still, no one can dispute the fact that Robinson won several boxing titles over the span of his illustrious run in the ring. “Robinson became the middleweight champion five times throughout his career. He became the world middleweight champion in 1951 after one-sidedly dominating Jake LaMotta. The fight was popularly called The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre,” explains The Karate Blog.
3. Floyd Mayweather Jr.
You may know him as Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather Jr. Mayweather. He was the only boxer besides Ali and Robinson to garner any first-place love on the lists we referenced and for good reason. Mayweather’s undefeated streak continues to this day and it doesn’t look like anyone is going to change that.
“The record-holder for the most wins without a loss in boxing is Floyd Mayweather Jr. He has an immaculate record of 50 wins and no defeat, including 27 victories via stoppage. After a successful amateur career that saw him win a bronze medal in the Olympics, Mayweather jumped to the paid ranks and instantly became a star with his flawless defense,” writes Bet MGM.
Mayweather’s defense is what got him to this point in his career. Unlike some of the other boxers on this list, Floyd Mayweather Jr. made his living in the ring on defense and his ability to both land and avoid punches. “MONEY held multiple world titles in five weight classes and is not only regarded as one of the greatest defensive boxers ever but the most accurate. Forbes listed the champion as the highest earning athlete in the world from 2012 to 2015,” explains Daily Telegraph.
Mayweather didn’t just dominate one weight class or division, either. “Many argue that he fought fighters out of, or before, their prime but it still does not change the fact that Mayweather won 50 of his bouts comfortably. He is also a 5-division World Champion. His impressive record of 50-0 alone deserves a place on our list of the greatest boxers of all time,” adds Sportco.
4. Joe Louis
One of the most powerful boxers of all time is Joe Louis who had a remarkable boxing career and is easily considered one of the top heavyweight fighters in history.
Mar 1, 1949 Joe Louis retired as heavyweight boxing champion after holding the title for a record eleven years and eight months. pic.twitter.com/qjyqShRu2N
— Maurice W (@iamMauriceW) March 1, 2023
“The Brown Bomber made headlines because of his power that saw 52 of his 66 opponents go down. Due to this power, Louis set the record as the longest-tenured world heavyweight champion for over 11 years. Also, he is the lone active heavyweight champion to serve in the military during his reign,” explains Bet MGM.
Obviously, Joe Louis’s record as a heavyweight is beyond impressive. The number of records Louis set during his boxing career keeps going, too. “He fought 72 times in his career, winning 69 of them. Of those 69, 55 came by knockout. He was only beaten three times in his entire career, one by the great Rocky Marciano,” writes Bleacher Report.
This level of greatness isn’t possible without being truly skilled, and Louis was exactly that. His ring savvy and poise were always on display, and Louis’s counterpunching ability has been called “genius” at times.
“Louis was a terrific genius when it came to boxing, he had a perfect punching form, and his primary fighting style revolved around counters. During the bout, he would identify his opponent’s tendencies or habits and punish them through deadly counters. Among all boxers, Joe Louis can be considered the smartest boxer of all time,” adds The Karate Blog.
5. Mike Tyson
Also known as the ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson, everyone knows that he isn’t without his fair share of controversy and criticism, but one thing that can’t be disputed is that he had one of the most dominant runs in the history of the heavyweight division in boxing.
“The baddest man on the planet, Mike Tyson was perhaps the most feared boxer in history. He was the undisputed heavyweight champion for over two years. He is well known for controversial acts both in and out of the ring,” explains Bleacher Report.
“Mike Tyson was the youngest ever heavyweight champ ever and won his first 37 fights before being upset by James ‘Buster’ Douglas in 1990,” adds NBC Sports.
Tyson won those first 37 fights in stunning fashion. Iron Mike’s ability to quickly dispose of his opponents kept spectators glued to their seats anticipating a knockout. “Mike Tyson was feared as an opponent because of his power, he stopped Michael Spinks in 91 seconds while knocking out Marvis Fraizer in the first round. During his professional career, Mike Tyson won against famous boxers like Larry Holmes, Tony Tucker, Trevor Berbick, and Razor Ruddock. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2011,” explains The Karate Blog.
You Might Also Be Interested In:
- Best NFL Quarterbacks of All Time
- Best NBA Players of All Time
- Best Women’s Tennis Players of All Time
- Best Pro Wrestlers of All Time
- Best Men’s Golfers of All Time
- Bleacher Report
- NBC Sports
- Bet MGM
- The Delite
- The Karate Blog
- The Daily Telegraph
- Give Me Sport
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.