A Quarter Century of Greatness: Boxing’s 25 Best Over The Last 25 Years (Part 1)

by Paul Magno

Lists like this are always subjective and this one is no different. There is simply no way to take all of the sport’s best since 1984 and make a list that would make everyone happy…so, here’s my take on things and if you have a difference of opinion, feel free to comment here or let loose on our message board: www.boxingtimes.com .

I based my list on overall quality of opposition and inherent skill. To keep things fair, I excluded a fighter’s performance from when he was well past his prime. My focus was on the young fighter coming up and the champion in and around his prime…Let the debate begin:bowe_riddick

25) Riddick Bowe: 43-1 (33 KO), 1989-Present

Key Wins: Bert Cooper, Tony Tubbs, Bruce Seldon, Evander Holyfield (2-1), Andrew Golota (2)

Key Losses: Evander Holyfield

Bowe was perhaps the most physically gifted of his contemporary Heavyweights yet, aside from his series win over Holyfield, he has little to show for it. Solid wins litter his resume, but talent and respectable competition don’t cut it on any all-time list. Names like Lewis, Tyson, Moorer and Mercer were around…Bowe had the potential to beat them all.

24) Joe Calzaghe: 46-0 (33 KO), 1993-2009

Key Wins: Chris Eubank, Robin Reid, Byron Mitchell, Jeff Lacy, Mikkel Kessler, Bernard Hopkins, Roy Jones Jr.

Key Losses: None

After a solid win over an older Chris Eubank to become WBO Super Middleweight Champ, Calzaghe went about setting a record of 21 straight title defenses against mostly 2nd and 3rd tier opposition. His saving graces were his total domination of Lacy and 2 respectable wins over Kessler and Hopkins.

23) Azumah Nelson: 39-6-2 (28 KO), 1979-2008 azumah20nelson

Key Wins: Wilfredo Gomez, Juan LaPorte, Jeff Fenech (1-1-1), Calvin Grove, Rafael Ruelas (2), Jesse James Leija (1-2-1)

Key Losses: Salvador Sanchez, Pernell Whitaker, Jesse James Leija, Jeff Fenech, Genaro Hernandez

The world first caught a glimpse of  the very young Azumah when he went toe-to-toe with the great Salvador Sanchez…and the heart he displayed that day carried on throughout the rest of his career.  “The Professor” was never the most physically gifted fighter, but he used his experience, superb conditioning and blue-collar work ethic to become one of the very best and the measuring stick for fighters in the Featherweight and Super Featherweight divisions for almost 15 years.

22) Mike McCallum: 49-5-1 (36 KO), 1981-1997

Key Wins: David Braxton, Julian Jackson, Milton McCrory, Donald Curry, Herol Graham, Steve Collins, Michael Watson, Sumbu Kalambay (1-1)

Key Losses: Sumbu Kalambay, James Toney (2), Fabrice Tiozzo, Roy Jones Jr.

Aside from having one of the coolest nicknames in the history of the sport, “The Bodysnatcher” was almost a blueprint for the perfect boxer. He was a “most feared man” before the term became popular and many of the sport’s best avoided him until the very end of his career. Still, McCallum was able to have a great deal of success on the European circuit and he accounted for himself well, even when he was past his prime. corrales2x

21) Diego Corrales: 40-5 (33 KO), 1996-2007

Key Wins: Roberto Garcia, Derrick Gainer, Angel Manfredy, Jose Luis Castillo (1-1), Joel Casamayor (1-2) Acelino Freitas

Key Losses: Floyd Mayweather Jr, Joel Casamayor, Jose Luis Castillo

People forget just how much “Chico” Corrales terrorized the Super Featherweight division. With 27 brutal KO’s in his first 33 fights, Corrales just may have been the heaviest-handed 130 pounder in the history of the sport. Plus, who could ever forget his classice performance against Castillo in what could arguably have been the greatest fight of the last 25 years? RIP Chico.

20) Juan Manuel Marquez: 50-4-1 (37 KO), 1993-Present

Key Wins: Agapito Sanchez, Manuel Medina, Derrick Gainer, Marco Antonio Barrera, Rocky Juarez, Joel Casamayor, Juan Diaz)

Key Losses: Freddie Norwood, Chris John, Manny Pacquiao

Despite treading water in the early part of his career, Marquez has come on strong and has shown his excellence across 3 divisions. 2 of his key losses, against John and Pacquiao, have been of the controversial variety and the draw came in a fight with Pacquiao where he was dropped three times in the first. Marquez has the skill and drive to work his way up on this list and could very well find himself Top 5 or Top 10 by the time he retires.

19) Ricardo Lopez: 51-0-1 (38 KO), 1985-2001

Key Wins: Kermin Guardia, Alex Sanchez, Rosendo Alvarez (1-0-1), Will Grigsby, Ratanapol Sor Vorapin

Key Losses: None

The only negative about “Finito” Lopez was that there were no competitors in his weight class who were capable of giving him a quality tussle. With picture-perfect technique and the cold, calculating mind of an assasin, Lopez was as close to perfect as a human could be. There’s little doubt that if he were born 30-40 lbs. heavier, he would be at the very top of this list.miguel-cotto

18) Miguel Cotto: 33-1 (27 KO), 2001-Present

Key Wins: Cesar Bazan, Carlos Maussa, Randall Bailey, DeMarcus Corley, Paulie Malignaggi, Carlos Quintana, Zab Judah, Shane Mosley

Key Losses: Antonio Margarito

Miguel Cotto at 140 lbs was as dominant a champion as you’ll ever find and, at 147, he’s proven himself a fighter who will fight (and can beat) anyone in front of him. One of the best offensive fighters of this era, his lone defeat at the hands of Margarito can be called into question due to Margarito’s controversial use of plaster-laced handwraps. Loss to Margarito or not, Cotto has become the standard-bearer at 147.

To Be Continued…

#17-#11,  Friday April 17th

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2 responses to “A Quarter Century of Greatness: Boxing’s 25 Best Over The Last 25 Years (Part 1)

  1. Pingback: A Quarter Century of Greatness: Boxing’s 25 Best Over The Last 25 Years (Part 2) « The Boxing Times Blue Corner

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