by Paul Magno
For Part 1 of this feature, #25-#18, click here: https://thebluecorner.wordpress.com/2009/04/16/a-quarter-century-of-greatness-boxings-25-best-over-the-last-25-years-part-1/
For Part 2 of this feature, #17-#11, click here: https://thebluecorner.wordpress.com/2009/04/19/a-quarter-century-of-greatness-boxing%e2%80%99s-25-best-over-the-last-25-years-part-2/
10) Evander Holyfield: 42-10-2 (27 KO), 1984-2008
Key Wins: Dwight Muhammad Qawi (2), Carlos DeLeon, Buster Douglas, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, Riddick Bowe (1-2), Michael Moorer (1-1), Ray Mercer, Mike Tyson (2), John Ruiz (1-1-1), Hasim Rahman
Key Losses: Riddick Bowe (2), Michael Moorer, Lennox Lewis, John Ruiz, Chris Byrd, James Toney, Larry Donald, Sultan Ibragimov, Nikolay Valuev
“The Real Deal’s” first mark on professional prize fighting was as the greatest Cruiserweight of all-time. As a Heavyweight, Holyfield used heart, soul and old-school toughness to beat more than his fair share of Boxing’s best big men. Even well past his prime, Holyfield never cheated the public with a sluggish performance or a half-hearted effort; Evander was a real warrior, through and through.
9) James Toney: 71-6-3 (43 KO), 1989-Present
Key Wins: Michael Nunn, Reggie Johnson, Mike McCallum (2-0-1), Iran Barkley, Tim Littles, Charles Williams, Vassiliy Jirov, Evander Holyfield, Hasim Rahman (D)
Key Losses: Roy Jones Jr., Montell Griffin (2), Drake Thadzi, Samuel Peter (2)
Freddie Roach, Toney’s ex-trainer, recently said that an in-shape Toney had the potential to be the best fighter ever. Few who saw Toney at his best would rule out Roach’s assesment as pure fantasy. “Lights Out” outclassed fighters from 160 all the way up to 190, giving his opponents lessons in classic, old-school combat. With quick hands and a supremely tight defense, Toney’s only apparent weakness was at the dinner table where he probably ate away a few prime years of his otherwise stellar career.
8.) Manny Pacquiao: 48-3-2 (36 KO), 1995-Present
Key Wins: Jorge Julio, Marco Antonio Barrera (2), Juan Manuel Marqez (1-0-1), Erik Morales (2-1), Oscar Larios, Jorge Solis, David Diaz, Oscar de la Hoya
Key Losses: Medgoen Singsurat, Erik Morales
Boxing’s true “Mexicutioner,” Pacquiao has beaten a virtual Mt. Rushmore of Mexican greats in Barrera, Morales, Marquez and Larios. Over the course of his career “The Pac-man” has transformed himself from a wild rush of southpaw fury into a sharp and focused, division-jumping, pro. His most recent domination of De la Hoya proved all critics and, most experts, wrong. Boxing’s current Pound for Pound king has established himself as the force to reckon with in every division from 130 to 147.
7) Lennox Lewis: 41-2-1 (32 KO), 1989-2003
Key Wins: Donovan Ruddock, Tony Tucker, Frank Bruno, Ray Mercer, Oliver McCall (1-1), Andrew Golota, Shannon Briggs, Evander Holyfield (1-0-1), Frans Botha, David Tua, Hasim Rahman (1-1), Mike Tyson, Vitali Klitschko
Key Losses: Oliver McCall, Hasim Rahman
Maybe the most controversial placement on this list because Lewis seems to bring up vastly different assesments of his abilities and accomplishments. What can’t be disputed about Lennox, though, was the fact that he fought everyone in the division who was willing to fight him and mosltly won convincingly. His only two losses were avenged brutally. When Boxing has time to reflect, Lewis will be remembered as the best Heavyweight since prime Larry Holmes and, maybe, the best since Ali.
6) Floyd Mayweather Jr.: 39-0 (25 KO), 1996-Present
Key Wins: Genaro Hernandez, Diego Corrales, Carlos Hernandez, Jesus Chavez, Jose Luis Castillo (2), DeMarcus Corley, Zab Judah, Carlos Baldomir, Oscar De la Hoya, Ricky Hatton
Key Losses: None
One of the most gifted and best-schooled fighters of this era, “Pretty Boy/Money” Mayweather lit up the 130-135 lb division, beating the best of those divisions and displaying skills and abilities on an “all-time” level. Above 140 lbs, received criticisms for not fighting the very best, but still found a way to become 140, 147 and 154 lb. champ and true, lineal champ at Welterweight. In all fairness to Mayweather, actual timelines and business issues stood in the way of the one fight he could actually be accused of skipping- against Miguel Cotto.
5) Julio Cesar Chavez: 107-6-2 (86 KO), 1980-2005
Key Wins: Roger Mayweather (2), Rocky Lockridge, Juan La Porte, Edwin Rosario, Bazooka Limon, Jose Luis Ramirez, Meldrick Taylor, Hector Camacho, Frankie Randall (2-1), Joey Gamache, Ivan Robinson
Key Losses: Frankie Randall, Oscar De la Hoya (2), Willy Wise, Kostya Tszyu, Grover Wiley
In his prime, there was nobody who better represented the classic Mexican style and the classic Mexican fight ethic than “El Gran Campeon Mexicano.” With brutal body work, a calculated temper and a cast-iron chin, Chavez bullied his way to dominance from the Super Featherweight division all the way up to Welterweight. Chavez’s toughest enemy was his own weakness for partying and the last couple of years of his career saw him be a shadow of his true self. Prime Chavez is of the “all-time” class and Top 5 of the last 25 years.
4) Oscar De la Hoya: 39-6 (30 KO), 1992-2008
Key Wins: Jorge Paez, John John Molina, Rafael Ruelas, Genaro Hernandez, Jesse Jame Leija, Julio Cesar Chavez (2), Miguel Angel Gonzalez, Pernell Whitaker, Wilfredo Rivera, Ike Quartey, Oba Carr, Javier Castillejo, Fernando Vargas, Felix Sturm, Ricardo Mayorga)
Key Losses: Felix Trinidad, Shane Mosley (2), Bernard Hopkins, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Manny Pacquiao
The tired, old cliche about “The Golden Boy” is that he “never won the big ones.” Well, it could also be said that only one fighter, Shane Mosley, ever really beat De la Hoya in the roughly 7 years of his his prime, from 135 to 147 lbs. Oscar not only became the face of boxing for more than a decade, but he did so with class and dignity. His resume has more big names than the Warsaw phone book- he fought the best of his generation. Were some of those names older or naturally smaller than De la Hoya? Yes, but his fame drew the best fighters to the table and, much more often than not, Oscar fought them.
3) Bernard Hopkins: 49-5-1 (32 KO), 1988-Present
Key Wins: John David Jackson, Glen Johnson, Simon Brown, Antwun Echols (2), Keith Holmes, Felix Trinidad, Carl Daniels, William Joppy, Oscar De la Hoya, Antonio Tarver, Winky Wright, Kelly Pavlik
Key Losses: Roy Jones Jr., Jermain Taylor (2), Joe Calzaghe
The symbol of technical excellence and old-school toughness, Hopkins has been boxing at the highest levels for more than 15 years. “The Executioner’s” numbers can’t be argued with- He was the sport’s last unified, 4-belt champ, 20 successful defenses as a Middleweight, and at 41 years of age he embarked on a second career run that saw him become the true, lineal champ at Light Heavyweight. For the vast majority of his career, B-Hop labored under the burden of being an outsider, shunned by promoters and sanctioning bodies for his outspoken tirades against Boxing’s injustices. B-Hop has had the final laugh and is evidence to the fact that superb conditioning and hard-earned ring intelligence are a boxer’s two greatest weapons.
2) Roy Jones Jr.: 53-5 (39 KO), 1989-Present
Key Wins: Bernard Hopkins, Thulani Malinga, James Toney, Mike McCallum, Montell Griffin, Virgil Hill, Reggie Johnson, Eric Harding, Clinton Woods, John Ruiz, Antonio Tarver (1-2)
Key Losses: Montell Griffin, Antonio Tarver (2), Glen Johnson, Joe Calzaghe
Jones was one of the most physically gifted fighter of all-time and, definitely, the most gifted of this era. Jones easily dominated world class fighters with an almost super human hand speed and uncanny reflexes. Literally untouchable for the better part of a decade, “RJ” ruled the world from 160 to 175 lbs and collected belts like matchbook covers, acquiring straps that most never even knew existed. The last flash in his career was his move up to heavyweight to capture the WBA title from John Ruiz. As his physical gifts diminished with age, Jones became vulnerable and beatable, but nobody can ever take away from the total excellence Jones displayed in his, 16-punch combination, pre-fight basketball-playing, prime.
1) Pernell Whitaker: 40-4-1 (17 KO), 1984-2001
Key Wins: Roger Mayweather, Greg Haugen, Jose Luis Ramirez (1-1), Freddie Pendleton, Azumah Nelson, Jorge Paez, Rafael Pineda, Buddy McGirt (2), Julio Cesar Chavez (D), Julio Cesar Vazquez, Jake Rodriguez, Wilfredo Rivera
Key Losses: Jose Luis Ramirez, Oscar De la Hoya, Felix Trinidad, Carlos Bojorquez
“Sweet Pea” was quite frankly, the best boxer of these last 25 years. With the best defense since Willy Pep and the inherent ring smarts of a Sugar Ray Robinson, Whitaker set about a pace of utter dominance from Lightweight to Welterweight, with the two blights on his record (a loss to Ramirez and a draw to Chavez) being complete robberies. Most amazing was the fact that not only did Pernell beat the best of his class, but for a long period of time, he rarely even lost a round! Pernell Whitaker was the perfect combination of gifted athlete and learned student of the game…and he was Boxing’s Best Over The Last 25 Years.
Honorable Mention (in no particular order): Michael Nunn, Ricky Hatton, Terry Norris, Johnny Tapia, Humberto Gonzalez, Michael Carbajal, Nigel Benn, Iran Barkley, Virgil Hill, Chris Eubank, Naseem Hamed, Meldrick Taylor, Kostya Tszyu
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