I was going to write an intro to all of this when I was finished, but 5000+ words later I lost interest. The title says it all really; I'm counting down the 10 best unbeaten fighters of all time. Who will come in at #1? (Don't cheat and scroll down to the bottom!)
10. Edwin Valero (27-0, 27 KOs): Valero, a former WBA champion at super featherweight and WBC champion at lightweight, killed himself at the young age of 28 after allegedly murdering his wife but left behind credentials just good enough to make this list (barely). The spot would have gone to Harry Simon if I actually believed he deserved to beat Winky Wright 15 years ago. I might add that the now 41 year old Simon is scheduled to fight for the vacant IBF International light heavyweight title later this month on September 28th against Geard Ajetovic. But let's get back to Valero. El Inca's best victories came over the likes of Vicente Mosquera and Antonio DeMarco, with a secondary mention to an old Antonio Pitalua that had just come off knocking out Jose Armando Santa Cruz (best known for getting robbed by Joel Casamayor). Anyways, Valero's resume was hardly impressive for a two weight world champ but the manner in which ALL of his fights ended was special. He's the only world champion in history with a perfect knockout ratio. Before he died in 2010 Valero was hotly anticipated to be a fight or two away from challenging Manny Pacquiao.
9. Laszlo Papp (27-0-2, 15 KOs): Papp, like Valero, never had the opportunity to live up to his full potential. In Papp's case the Hungarian government put an end to his professional career by revoking his permission to travel abroad to stage fights, as pro boxing was outlawed in Hungary and they resented his circumvention. It's a shame because Papp was on the verge of a world middleweight title shot. Despite a somewhat lackluster pro resume the bar was set especially high with Papp as he was a three-time Olympic Gold Medalist. In those Olympics he defeated Spider Webb and Jose Torres, both of which went on to successful pro careers. Papp would never get victories that good as a professional but did retire Ralph Tiger Jones (best known for upsetting Sugar Ray Robinson). "Laci" additionally has victories over French middleweight champion Hippolyte Annex, Spanish middleweight champion Luis Folledo, and German middleweight champion Peter Mueller. Two years before Papp passed away in 2003 he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF), primarily based off the strength of his amateur pedigree and general sentiments about what his pro career would have been living in a free country. Papp was expected to dethrone middleweight kingpin Joey Giardello but was never given the chance.
8. *Chris John (48-0-3, 22 KOs): John, one of two active fighters to make this list, has been the premier featherweight champion of the world ever since making his 5th WBA title defense against the great Juan Manuel Marquez in 2006. That decision was questionable to say the least (I had Marquez winning) but there were enough swing rounds to make it not-a-terrible-robbery. But what do I know? I had Marquez beating Pacquiao all 4 times yet losing to Freddie Norwood. Anyways, John has gotten all the way up to 18 title defenses since then and has been world champion for a decade. With accomplishments that strong it's somewhat odd to rate him this low, but the lack of depth to his resume and general perception that he wouldn't be unbeaten otherwise cannot be ignored. Additional victories over Osamu Sato, Derrick Gainer, Rocky Juarez, Daud Cino Yordan, and Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo range from respectable to pretty good, but will they get John into the hall of fame?
7. Joe Calzaghe (46-0, 32 KOs): Next on the list is the "Pride of Wales," who wasted most of his career making trivial WBO super middleweight title defenses before coming to America to slap two faded legends silly. By no coincidence have I found it difficult to separate Calzaghe's legacy from John's. Calzaghe gets the edge because in his later years he was actually still considered the best in his respective divisions rather than someone revered yet considered ripe for the pickings. I touched upon Calzaghe's career accomplishments earlier this year when I discussed future IBHOF inductions. And I'm not the type of guy that likes to repeat himself. That being said, I do expect Calzaghe to go down as the greatest super middleweight of all time, unless of course Andre Ward decides to stick around 168 for a few more years.
6. Jack McAuliffe (exact record unknown): McAuliffe, dubbed The Napoleon of The Prize Ring, became the lightweight champion of the world in a transitional era between London Prize Ring Rules (bare knuckle) and the Marquess of Queensberry Rules (modern boxing). He learned his craft under the tutelage of the great Nonpareil Jack Dempsey, who was also his sparring partner. When Dempsey moved up to middleweight he named McAuliffe his heir apparent in the lightweight division. But while McAuiliffe received the title so easily, defending it was another matter entirely. He first defended his title against Jack Hopper, a man he previously beat the month before despite nearly being knocked out. The rematch would go 17 rounds, outdoors, in a snowstorm. McAuliffe was so cold he supposedly couldn't even feel his punches land. McAuiliffe would go on to have similar crazy stories in subsequent title defenses that lasted up to 74 rounds and 4.5 hours. Ultimately he fought the best of his day, often under extreme adversity, and walked away unbeaten. Where you place him on this list really just comes down to how much respect you give to the era he fought in. All I can say for sure is that it certainly wasn't an era with numerous undefeated world champions, a far more common occurrence today. McAuliffe's last great win came in 1890 against Jim Carroll. After getting the hell beat out of him through 46 rounds McAuliffe turned it around in the 47th and took Carroll out. In his later years McAuliffe did win a 10 round decision over rising great Young Griffo, but reports indicate it was a gift. Ironically both fighters were unbeaten going into that bout, and both would later be inducted into the IBHOF.
5. Jimmy Barry (58-59 wins, 9-11 draws, 2-3 NC/ND/EX): Jimmy Barry fought so long ago that he retired over a decade before the flyweight division existed. If he was fighting today would have started out as a strawweight. Nonetheless, he's still considered 1 of the greatest bantamweights of all time. His explosive yet clever fighting style made his larger opponents respect his power and struggle to find him. In a 1897 bid to go from bantamweight champion of America to champion of the world "Little Tiger" fatally stopped Englishman Walter Croot in the 20th and final round. After that fight Barry's KO percentage dropped from 64.5% to 55.6% as he never stopped another opponent. The tragedy haunted Barry for the rest of his life and his last 8 straight bouts were declared draws (a number of which may have been previously agreed upon as long as there was no stoppage). After reportedly receiving a gift in his final outing against Harry Harris, Barry walked away for good. Barry and Harris would both be inducted into the IBHOF in 2000 and 2002 respectively. According to Cyber Boxing Zone in 1927 Joe Choynski said Barry was the greatest fighter he'd ever seen. If this is the same Joe Choynski who fought Philadelphia Jack O'Brien, Joe Walcott, Charles Kid McCoy, James J. Jeffries, Bob Fitzsimmons, James J. Corbett, and Jack Johnson among other Hall-of-Famers, then that says a WHOLE LOT.
4. Packey McFarland (64-69 wins, 0-1 losses, 5 draws, 34-39 ND): Like Jimmy Barry before him, Packey McFarland was born and bred in Chicago, Illinois. Unlike Barry, his official claim to being unbeaten is disputed. Supposedly Dusty Miller bested a green McFarland sometime between 1903 and 1904. The question is which McFarland did Dusty actually beat, Patrick or Eddie (no relation)? Up until 1908 it was generally thought that Packey was unbeaten until Dusty came forth to "prove" otherwise. If you look up Dusty's record you'll find both McFarlands on it within a period of 8 months according to 1 set of dates and on the exact same day according to another. Quite frankly I don't buy the coincidence. Thus he makes my list. Got a problem? Well, that's what the honorable mentions are for (listed at the end). Anyways, Packey bested Hall-of-Famers from lightweight to middleweight (although some unofficially). He went 1-0-2 against lightweight champion Freddie Welsh. He took 2 newspaper decisions over welterweight champion Jack Britton after initially and officially drawing with him. And he won a split newspaper decision over middleweight title claimant Mike Gibbons in his retirement match. McFarland was inducted into the IBHOF in 1992.
3. Ricardo Lopez (51-0-1, 38 KOs): And then there was Finito. Listed ratings that follow (Lopez related and beyond) are from The RING unless stated otherwise.
Finito's resume at first glance: Rocky Lin (#6 strawweight 1998, #7 strawweight 1999), Saman Sorjaturong (#1 junior flyweight 1995-1998), Kermin Guardia (#9 strawweight 1999), Rosendo Alvarez (#2 strawweight 1998, #3 junior flyweight 1999, #5 junior flyweight 2000, #4 junior flyweight 2001), Zolani Petelo (#3 strawweight 1998, #1 strawweight 1999, #9 junior flyweight 2001), and Will Grigsby (#4 junior flyweight 1998, #8 junior flyweight 1999 & 2000).
None of the above fighters were past their prime when Lopez fought them. He fought Lin in 1992 (RING Ratings did not exist for the strawweight division until 1998), Sorjaturong in 1993, Guardia in 1994, Alvarez twice in 1998, Grigsby in 1999, and Petelo in 2001. This is as far as the RING Ratings analysis will take us, but his early career is far too good to ignore.
Going back to the beginning Lopez won the lineal and WBC strawweight championship in 1990 from Hideyuki Ohashi. Ohashi would come back to win the WBA strawweight title before retirement. The next year (1991) Lopez defended his crown against former IBF strawweight champ Kyung-Yun Lee. Two years later (1993) he defeated Saman Sorjaturong (future WBC, IBF, and lineal junior flyweight champ). Sorjaturong long reigned as the #1 junior flyweight in the world until Lopez took over in 1999 (unfortunately without a rematch). Later in 1993 Lopez also defeated former IBF strawweight champ Manny Melchor. In 1994 he defeated future WBO strawweight champ Kermin Guardia. Then, after a subpar 9 straight title defenses, save perhaps Ala Villamor, Lopez unified his WBC title with Alex Sanchez's WBO strap in 1997. In 1998 he also picked up the WBA strawweight title by defeating reigning champion Rosendo Alvarez. Alvarez would go on to win the WBA junior flyweight title before retirement.
However, before conquering Alvarez, Lopez suffered the lone blemish in his career via a 7-round technical draw to the same man earlier that year. Judge Tom Kaczmarek had Lopez by 3, judge Samuel Conde Lopez had Alvarez by 5, and judge Dalby Shirley had it a draw. The 2nd round knockdown Alvarez scored proved crucial. While I agreed with the draw, all scorecards made sense. Ultimately Alvarez was done in by the WBC rule to automatically deduct a point in the event of an accidental head clash (which resulted in a 9-9 round 7). The point of this rule is to level the playing field as the victim will be negatively impacted for the remainder of the bout. The thing is - the fight ended immediately after that round, Alvarez was clearly winning before the head clash, and Alvarez did no better after it occurred. Fortunately there was a rematch and Lopez pulled out the win without any funny business. One judge still gave it to Alvarez but it should be noted that he missed weight by over 3 pounds (coming in over the limit in the NEXT division).
After finally putting Alvarez behind him (in a fight of the year candidate) Lopez vacated his strawweight crown and moved up to junior flyweight to defeat reigning IBF champion Will Grigsby in 1999. Grigsby immediately rebounded by winning the WBO title in his very next bout but was stripped for taking America's favorite performance reducing drug, marijuana. He'd later rebound again by regaining his IBF title long after Finito retired. In 2000 Lopez defended his newly won title against former IBF strawweight kingpin Ratanapol Sor Vorapin (21-0 in IBF world title fights before losing to Zolani Petelo in 1997). Subsequently Petolo was the last conquest of Lopez, a bout which took place in 2001. The battle of IBF strawweight champion vs IBF junior flyweight champion ended in both fighters and the referee (Arthur Mercante Sr) all retiring afterward (although Petelo would unwisely come out of retirement 4 years later for 2 final bouts).
When all was said and done Ricardo Lopez's rap sheet reads a little like this: he was THE strawweight champion from 1990 to 1999. Then he was the #1 junior flyweight from 1999 to 2001. Overall he beat 10 world champions and was 25-0-1 in world title fights, beating every man he ever faced. He also reigned in the top 10 pound for pound from 1993 to 2001 before making the IBHOF on the 1st ballot in 2007. As early as 1994 Lopez was rated the greatest strawweight of all time and I haven't seen anyone come along since then to suggest otherwise. Even Ivan Calderon (likely to make the IBHOF as well someday) is a distant 2nd. Had Lopez additionally added the likes of Michael Carbajal and Humberto Gonzalez to his resume, he might rate as high as #1 on this list. Or he might have missed it entirely (not exactly guaranteed wins). Even Leo Gamez and/or Melchor Cob Castro would have given Finito's resume a boost. But it is what it is. Even without moving up 3 pounds before Gonzalez and Carbajal retired, Lopez's career was still great.
2. Rocky Marciano (49-0, 43 KOs): A few years ago The Brockton Blockbuster would end up atop just about every historian's greatest unbeaten fighters list, but today he'll have to settle for #2. Here's why:
Marciano competed in 11 bouts against 8 different top 10 ranked fighters within a 5.5 year timespan from beginning to end (3 years short of his entire career). Three of the names on his resume are top 30 all-time pound for pound greats: Joe Louis, Ezzard Charles, and Archie Moore. Charles and Moore are also widely considered the 2 best light heavyweights of all time while Louis is arguably the greatest heavyweight. No one else on today's list can claim feats of such magnitude. So what's the catch?
Marciano fought his first top 10 contender 26 fights into his career, winning a highly controversial split decision over Roland LaStarza (37-0 at the time). It sounds unflattering today but at the time Rocky was not considered a deity. Five months earlier, Rocky, according to local Rhode Island newspaper, received a gift decision over journeyman Ted Lowry (who was riding a 7 fight losing streak). It was not surprising that Marciano couldn't do any better against the first true contender he ever faced.
Anyways, it took another 10 fights before Marciano fought another top 10 contender in Rex Layne (rematching and defeating Lowry legitimately in the interim). Layne had momentum coming into the fight with wins over Jersey Joe Walcott and Bob Satterfield in recent years, making him a 9-5 favorite. But after Marciano dispatched him with a right hand, his career pretty much fell apart (while simultaneously laying the foundation for future Marciano opponents).
Two fights after knocking out Layne within 6 rounds Rocky fought the legendary Joe Louis. Coming into the fight Louis had a record of 65-2-0 with 51 KOs. However, after coming out of retirement, he was most recently 8-1 with only 3 KOs. Louis was 37 years old and never fought again after Marciano knocked him out in the 8th round.
The next top contender Rocky fought was Harry Kid Matthews. Matthews, a solid fighter with a record of 81-3-5, was a former middleweight and only really developed into a light heavyweight. Matthews had just come off a win over Rex Layne and had not lost a fight in nearly 9 years. Rocky knocked him out in 2 rounds.
After defeating Matthews, Rocky captured and immediately defended the world heavyweight championship against Jersey Joe Walcott. In the original meeting Marciano knocked Walcott out in the 13th round after trailing on all scorecards. Walcott controlled the fight from the onset after flooring Marciano in round 1 with a left hook but eventually faded in the later rounds. Going in Walcott had a record of 51-16-2, losing 2 of his previous 4 fights against Ezzard Charles and Rex Layne. In the rematch Rocky knocked the 39 year old out in the first round. Walcott then retired, never to fight again.
Next LaStarza, advertised as the man who had come closest to defeating Marciano, was given a rematch. You could say LaStarza earned the title shot by winning a split decision over the fading Rex Layne, but he also dropped painful decisions to Dan Bucceroni and Rocky Jones along the way. On the other hand, Bucceroni and Jones were Philadelphia fighters and LaStarza did avenge those losses. But what can I say; the writing was on the wall. Rocky stopped LaStarza in 11 rounds after shades of fight 1 in the first half.
Then Rocky was set to defend his title against the legendary Ezzard Charles. Charles was 82-10-1 when Rocky first met him, coming off of 2 losses in his last 4 fights against Nino Valdes and hall-of-famer Harold Johnson (who was mainly a light heavyweight). Charles would go the distance with Marciano the first time around, losing a close but not disputed decision. Charles, aged from his many battles in the ring, was given a rematch in exactly 3 months. Many believe(d) Charles was not given sufficient time to recover from the damage he took in the first fight. Nonetheless, Charles almost stopped Rocky on cuts before Marciano rallied back to knock him out in the 8th. In a way, nearly stopping Rocky was Ezzard's final moment of greatness, much like Shane Mosley's 2nd round against Floyd Mayweather. Afterward Charles had fallen victim to Lou Gehrig's Disease but fought on regardless, a shell of his former self. Like Charles, Mosley continues to fight on past his expiration date. He even walks around with a pet monkey these days. I worry about him...
But I digress. Next Rocky took on Don Cockell in his second to last fight. Cockell had a record of 66-11-1. He was stopped 6 times before he met Rocky, including a bout with former middleweight champion Randy Turpin (in which Turpin was outweighed by 12 pounds). Be that as it may, Cockell was ranked in the heavyweight top 10 thanks to recently besting Harry Matthews thrice and Roland LaStarza once. Thus Cockell "earned" his showdown and Marciano and was subsequently knocked out inside 9 rounds. Cockell then went on to get knocked out in both of his remaining fights against Nino Valdes and Kitione Lave.
Finally, the last fight Marciano had was against the one and only Archie Moore. Moore was less than 3 months away from his 42nd birthday with a record of 148-19-9. Over a long 20 year career Moore endured numerous battles with the likes of Charley Burley, Holman Williams, Ezzard Charles, Jimmy Bivins, Joey Maxim, Harold Johnson, Lloyd Marshall, and Teddy Yarosz among others. However, of all the great fighters on Moore's resume, only Charles was a great Heavyweight. Incidentally Charles beat Moore every time they fought, once by KO. Needless to say it was no surprise that Marciano KOed Moore inside 9 rounds. Perhaps the only surprise that night came when Marciano hit the deck in round 2, courtesy of a counter right from Moore. Marciano was off balance after missing badly with an overhand right.
Now let's take a look at Marciano's 8 rated opponents from a purely numeric perspective.
Moore - Height: 5'11" || Weight: 188 lbs || Reach: 75"
Cockell - Height: 5'11" || Weight: 205 lbs || Reach: 71"
Charles - Height: 6'0" || Weight: 185 ½ & 192 ½ lbs || Reach: 73"
LaStarza - Height: 6'0" || Weight: 187 & 184 ¾ lbs || Reach: ??
Walcott - Height: 6'0" || Weight: 196 ½ & 197 ¾ lbs || Reach: 74"
Matthews - Height: 5'10 ¾" || Weight: 179 lbs || Reach: ??
Layne - Height: 6'1 || Weight: 193 lbs || Reach: ??
Louis - Height: 6'2" || Weight: 213 ¾ lbs || Reach: 76"
From the information seen here we can deduce that the only top 10 world ranked opponent over 6 feet tall and 200+ pounds was Joe Louis. And we all know that the Brown Bomber's feeble condition was well documented in the movie Coming to America:
That obviously was a joke, but the point remains: Louis was old. So why were the other opponents so small? Well, let's look at Marciano's own dimensions:
Height: 5'10" || Average Weight: 185 lbs || Reach: 67"
Rocky Marciano had the shortest reach of any heavyweight champion in the history of the sport. Even flyweights have comparable arm lengths. Can we really mark it up as a coincidence that Rocky never fought top guys with sizeable physical advantages over him? Were there top contenders in Marciano's era of larger dimensions that he didn't fight? Of course there were:
Nino Valdes [#1 in 1954] - 6'3" - 214¾lbs - (31-8-3) - 78" reach
Nino Valdes [#1 in 1953] - 6'3" - 214lbs - (26-8-3) - 78" reach
Bob Baker [#2 in 1955] - 6'2" - 219¼lbs - (44-5-1)
Dan Bucceroni [#3 in 1953] - 6'2" - 193½lbs - (46-3-0)
Tommy Jackson [#3 in 1955] - 6'2" - 199lbs - (25-4-1) - 80" reach
John Holman [#4 in 1955] - 6'3" - 205½lbs - (24-11-1)
Bob Baker [#4 in 1954] - 6'2" - 218lbs - (37-5-1)
Earl Walls [#5 in 1954] - 6'2½" - 196lbs - (32-9-0) - 78" reach
Earl Walls [#5 in 1953] - 6'2½" - 194lbs - (28-7-0) - 78" reach
Karel Sys [#5 in 1951] - 5'11" - 200½lbs - (105-12-9)
Bob Baker [#5 in 1950] - 6'2" - 210lbs - (18-0-0)
Nino Valdes [#6 in 1955] - 6'3" - 215lbs - (33-11-3) - 78" reach
Heinz Neuhaus [#6 in 1954] - 6'2" - 214¾lbs - (32-2-5)
Tommy Jackson [#8 in 1954] - 6'2" - 194½lbs - (17-3-1) - 80" reach
Heinz Neuhaus [#8 in 1952] - 6'2" - 211¾lbs - (25-1-4)
Karel Sys [#9 in 1952] - 5'11" - 211¾lbs - (110-13-9)
Young Jack Johnson [#9 in 1955] - 6'3" - 208lbs - (12-5-1)
Bob Baker [#9 in 1951] - 6'2" - 225lbs - (25-1-1)
Coley Wallace [#10 in 1953] - 6'2" - 209lbs - (20-3) - 78" reach
The above list shows a fighter's rating in a given year with his highest weight (that year) and record at year's end.
7 of these 10 fighters weighed above 200 lbs. 6 of that 7 were at least 6'2". The remaining 3 fighters were between 6'2" and 6'2 ½". Given the dimensions of the top contenders Marciano did fight, there seems to be a severe disparity in size compared to the one's he didn't. Even Jersey Joe Walcott publically stated (and resented) that Marciano never had to fight the same kind of fighters all the other top Heavyweights did. Marciano and his management simply had no interest in physically imposing threats that they could avoid. Yet history mostly gives Marciano a pass for sidestepping them (as if he spent most of his time fighting better opposition).
But no matter how kind we are to Rocky, can we really let a Nino Valdes fight not happening slide? Valdes, one of Cuba's finest pro fighters, enjoyed an 11 fight winning streak between 1953 and 1955 that included victories over Ezzard Charles, Charley Doc Williams, Heinz Neuhaus, Karel Sys, and Tommy Jackson. He truly earned his spot as Marciano's #1 contender. Valdez was 5 inches taller, 25-30 pounds heavier, and 11 inches longer than Marciano. From the footage I'm seen of each fighter Rocky didn't even have a hand or foot speed advantage. Stylistically the matchup was a nightmare. Marciano could have felt much like most Klitschko opponents do today. Thus Marciano instead took unnecessary rematches with LaStarza and Charles, followed by a shameful fight with Don Cockell (whom Valdes finished off in a third of the time it took Marciano). For those of you that have never seen Nino Valdes before, here's his 2nd round TKO victory over Hurricane Jackson:
The man was clearly a flawed fighter and I'm definitely not suggesting Marciano wouldn't have beaten him. But fights are won in the ring. Working out fantasy matchups to rate a fighter among people he actually could have fought is ridiculous. At the end of the day it's not like Marciano was beating better fighters instead. Don't even get me started on Bob Baker (who Marciano basically ducked throughout his entire career). To make a long story short they both emerged as rated fighters in 1950 (with Marciano rated lower at #10) and later retired with similarly impressive winning resumes. Yet they never ran into each other. Hmmm.
But you know, I really don't mean to run the great Rocky Marciano down. I just needed to explain to his die hard legions why he isn't coming in at #1. 49-0 is still the greatest unblemished numerical record in the history of world boxing champions. 87.76% is still the best KO percentage in heavyweight world champion history (assuming you include losses and draws in the calculation). 7-0 is still the longest unbeaten record (not streak) in heavyweight world title fights. Marciano additionally bested 4 hall of famers, took part in 3 "Fights of the Year," and made both the WBHF and IBHOF on the inception years (1980 and 1990 respectively). He was also named "Fighter of the Year" for 1952, 1954, and 1955. Some still rate him as the greatest heavyweight of all time. Personally, after looking at his resume and size, the best I can rate him is #13. Still, not bad for a 5 foot, 10 inch, 185 pound man.
1. *Floyd Mayweather Jr. (45-0, 26 KOs): I know what you're thinking. After reading the last two entries you're saying to yourself, "holy @#^&, how long is this one going to be?" Relax. It's not going to be that long. I'll write more about the career of "Money" Mayweather after he retires (for real). For all I know he won't even be on this list in a few years (yes, it is conceivable that he loses a fight, however unlikely).
With Floyd Mayweather's most recent victory over Saul "Canelo" Alvarez it marked the 19th world title holder that came up short against the pound for pound king. Want a list? Here's one presented by Floyd himself:
The above image is from a Mayweather-Canelo countdown show that I watched on Fox Sports 1, thus Canelo's name is not included. What's interesting is that DeMarcus Corley, former WBO light welterweight title holder, also wasn't included. In actuality the WBO wasn't particularly taken seriously back in 2003 (when Corley last held the title) and it's probably not a coincidence that everyone else on the list sported WBA, WBC, and IBF belts. It would have been nice to see the same people do a countdown for De La Hoya-Mayweather, where they might have only given Oscar credit for titles in 4 weight divisions instead of 6, but that's a discussion for another time...
In a world where we accept WBO title holders from any time as legitimate, Floyd Mayweather thus far has bested a total of 19 world champions. If that's not the record then Floyd is certainly on his way to locking it down (4 fights left in his contract). Right now I believe he's tied with Oscar De La Hoya. But given the cheapened state of world championships today, Floyd Mayweather has undecorated opponents at or above the level of some of the world champions he's faced. My personal favorites consist of Phillip N'dou, Emanuel Augustus, and best of all Angel Manfredy. Coincidentally they brought out some of the most exciting and sensational performances of Mayweather's career.
Phillip N'dou knocked out 30 of his 31 victims with a lone decision victory over Cassius Baloyi (incidentally his best opponent before Mayweather). N'dou and Mayweather were both featherweight Olympians in 1996 but never faced each other until they met in the pro ranks. And what a fight it was. N'dou, unlike a certain Mexican with red hair, knew his limitations going in and did not try to out box the master boxer. Instead he tried to out fight Mayweather. He failed, naturally, but in the process he forced Mayweather put on 1 of the best offensive performances of his career and fans were treated a power punching war. Round 5 in particular was a serious candidate for the best of 2013.
Emanuel Augustus, then Emanuel Burton, on paper was just a journeyman. He was 22-16-4 and had lost 4 of his last 6. But anyone who had actually seen him fight, in a fight that he actually trained for, knew better. Floyd Mayweather didn't call him the toughest opponent of his career for nothing, even if that's an exaggeration. The "Drunken Master" could fight. Did he actually deserve any rounds against Floyd? Probably not. But he sure put Floyd through hell along the way. To this day it's my favorite Mayweather fight of all time. Augustus walked through Mayweather's best shots, smiled, and relentlessly kept firing back. The pace was so severe that Mayweather, THE Floyd Mayweather, actually gassed and looked sloppy in spots. He even bled. It was just a great fight all around, arguably the most competitive and entertaining shutout I've ever seen. Offensively Augustus did as well against Mayweather as anyone; it's just that he never seemed to care about keeping his hands up to protect himself. Augustus, despite being slick, often welcomed punches to the face like his name was Antonio Margarito. It was honestly pretty foolish, but it made for great fights. This was one of them.
Then last but not least comes "El Diablo." Manfredy, 25-2-1, was "rocked" to the ring by Kid Rock before getting his brain stem rocked by Mayweather's combinations. Although the abrupt 2nd round ending might have suggested a mismatch, Manfredy was riding a 23 fight winning streak that included victories over Calvin Grove, Wilson Rodriguez, Jorge Paez, John Brown, and most notably a 29-1 Arturo Gatti. He was a damn good fighter who easily would have become world champion if he had the luxury of fighting weak titlists or taking vacant title fights. Unfortunately his only opportunities came against the likes of Mayweather, Stevie Johnston, Diego Corrales, and finally Paul Spadafora. Manfredy had seen better days by the time he got the shot against Spadafora, but that was the 1 world title fight he had a case to winning. Personally I had it a draw.
So forget the number 19. As far as I'm concerned Floyd Mayweather has 22 world championship caliber opponents on his resume. That's 22 notable opponents out of 44 (rematch with Jose Luis Castillo not counted), exactly 50%. Compare that to Marciano's 9 out of 44 (rematches with Ted Lowry, Roland LaStarza, Gino Buonvino, Jersey Joe Walcott, and Ezzard Charles not counted), 20.45%. I gave Rocky an extra credible opponent in Lee Savold to be kind as I know Emanuel Augustus wasn't officially a top 10 rated fighter, like, ever... But nit picking aside, it's pretty obvious who spent more of his career taking on respectable opposition. It's not even close. For a guy who some claim spent most of his career ducking fighters, I'll match Mayweather's credible to stay-busy fight ratio with anyone in the business today. He might not have taken the fights you wanted when you wanted them, but he still took a lot of good fights. And quite frankly that's unheard of for undefeated fighters, which is why Mayweather is the greatest of them all.
Additional Mayweather accolades that solidify his #1 ranking:
- He claims lineal titles in four out of the five weight classes where he's been world champion (the sole exception being junior welterweight).
- He's been rated the Fighter of the Year in 1998 and 2007. He may also get the nod for 2013.
- Over that 15 year timespan he's also been rated among the top pound for pound fighters in the sport, and often #1.
- He was an Olympic Bronze medalist with an overall amateur record of 84-6 (generally considered robbed in Olympics).
- He's at least 22-0 in world title fights (lineal title fight with Mosley to consider).
- He was 27-0 with 20 KOs as a super featherweight, his best weight class, and is widely regarded as the best at the weight bar Alexis Arguello.
- The only other weight class where Mayweather is definitely a top 10 fighter throughout history is junior middleweight, ironically his most vulnerable division.
Honorable Mention: *Harry Simon, Ike Ibeabuchi, Sven Ottke, *Paul Spadafora, Pichit Sithbanprachan, Terry Marsh, Young Mitchell, Ji-Won Kim
%Questionable reports indicate McFarland lost a newspaper decision to Dusty Miller, but as newspaper decisions are not official results, McFarland qualifies as unbeaten either way.