Top 10 Middleweight Boxers of All Time
The world of boxing is a dynamic one. Today, successful fighters can make millions of dollars in prize money, appearances and other deals which are brokered through managers and agents. But, the history of middleweight boxing is a long one, and it stretches back through the 20th century in America in the period where the country was just developing.
In boxing, middleweight is a class division that includes boxers who weigh between 154lbs and 160lbs. The designation of the middleweight class started in the 1840s, but it did not become strictly enforced for many years.
The greatest middleweight fighters are not known for being small or light. Many of these fighters had the ability to take on opponents who were much heavier than they were. One of the greatest accolades a boxer can have is the ability to fluidly move between weight class divisions, knocking out reigning champions as they go.
Many of the best middleweight boxers are also known for being some of the greatest fighters of all time. Their dedication, versatility and skill made them valuable in more areas than just their weight class. This is why so many modern fighters take their inspiration from some of history’s best boxers.
Deciding upon the best fighter of all time in the middleweight category is a challenge. There have been so many controversies in boxing that the disputes over titles seem endless. While some legends have been stripped of championship titles, others seem to be able to defend them for close to a decade.
The names that have earned a spot on this prestigious list are subject to disagreement and debate. Because of the contradictions and enormous talent, ranking these fighters is a subjective effort. With that in mind, read on to learn more about the top 10 middleweight fighters of all time.
Roy Jones Jr.
Roy Jones Jr. is a boxer from Pensacola, Florida. Born on the 16th of January in 1969, Roy Jones Jr. reached the height of his career in 1988 when he won the silver medal in the light middleweight category at the Olympics. His win was contested, however, and many believed that he should have won gold.
Jones was a rock star in the ring. He began boxing when he was a young man and took many victories during his teenage years. He was the U.S. National Junior Olympics champion in 1984. He also won the U.S. National Golden Gloves in two different weight classes in two different years.
When Jones won the silver medal at the Olympics, he had been undefeated during the games. The final match for the medals was fought against Park Si-Hun, a South Korean boxer. Jones lost the match by decision, and many people protested this decision. After an investigation, it was revealed that the judges had spent time with South Korean officials. However, this did not affect the decision and Jones kept his silver medal.
After the Olympics, Jones became a professional boxer. He debuted in 1989 and earned his first professional title in 1992. During his professional career, he managed to earn the title of WBC Continental Americas super-middleweight champion. He also earned the title of IBF middleweight and IBF super-middleweight.
His career was punctuated by his ability to move freely between weight classes and take championships from champions in other classes. He is the second light-heavyweight ever to achieve a heavyweight title.
Sugar Ray Robinson
Sugar Ray Robinson is considered to be not only one of the top middleweight fighters of all time, but one of the best boxers of all time. He was born on May 3rd in 1921. His birth certificate says that he was born in Georgia but in his biography, he said his place of birth was Detroit. Regardless, the boxer spent his childhood in Detroit before being moved across the country to Harlem when he was 11.
Life was hard for Robinson, who was born Walker Smith Jr., in New York. The family had little money and Sugar Ray worked to earn spare change in Times Square. He began boxing in matches in 1936, and it was at this time that he took on his new name, Ray Robinson. He borrowed the card of another boxer from the Amateur Athletic Union with this name, and then kept the name for his entire boxing career. He picked up the name Sugar from a friend who owned a boxing club. He decided to keep it because he liked how it sounded with the rest of his new name.
Robinson’s career lasted 25 years from 1940 until 1965. During his years as a pro boxer, he achieved the distinction of gaining 175 wins and 19 losses. He also had 110 knockouts.
Robinson also achieved 40 victories in a row during the first years of his career. While he was considered to be the ‘uncrowned champion,’ he was not allowed to fight for a championship or the world welterweight title until after the end of World War II. He got his fight in 1946, and he held the title until the year 1951.
After achieving the welterweight title, Robinson captured the middleweight title. The wins piled up and 18 years after his career began he had won the divisional world championship title no less than five times. He was the first boxer to do so.
Robinson was another boxer whose strengths included crossing weight classes and stripping former champions of their titles. Robinson’s legacy lived on in the many boxers he inspired. Muhammad Ali referred to Robinson as his idol.
Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin is the current IBO middleweight and WBA champion. He currently holds the highest knockout ratio in the middleweight class. He knockout ratio is currently 90.9%. He was born on April 8th, 1982 in the city of Karagandy in Kazakhstan, and he has been ranked as the number four boxer in the world as well as Fighter of the Year by The Ring magazine.
Gennady’s boxing career began in the early 2000s when he won a scholarship from the Olympic Solidarity program. The program allowed him to enter big competitions like the World Amateur Boxing Championships. He entered the 2003 competition in Bangkok where he won the gold medal, and he then went onto the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens where he won the silver medal.
High highlights as an amateur boxer also included a win at the Junior World Championships in 2000 and a win at the 2002 Asian Games in Busan. Gennady became a fully-fledged professional boxer in 2005, and he signed a deal with Universum Box-Promotion and began his first professional fight in 2006.
His early professional career was impressive. He stood 14-0 at the end of 2008. However, his fights had mostly been with easy competitors. Despite his potential, his representation continued to pit him against easy targets.
When he left his contract in 2010, he told the press that he wanted the chance to advance his career by taking on bigger fights.
Gennady is known for his smile. He is constantly grinning both in the ring and out. Many fans note that his smile is knowing, goofy and bemused even when he is up against top opponents.
Tony Zale was born in Gary, Indiana in 1914. He was often referred to as the Man of Steel. The reason that Tony Zale is remembered as a top middleweight boxer is because of the epic bouts he had with Rocky Graziano in 1946 and 1947. These fights were for the World Middleweight Championship. It took 21 months of the fights to take place but they are remember as some of the most exciting matches in all of boxing history.
The fights began in 1946. Zale had not had a professional fight in several years because he had been serving in the Second World War, and after four years, Zale was itching to get back into the professional ring. The first of the three epic matches took place at Yankee Stadium in New York City. While Zale was coming back from war, Rocky Graziano seemed to be at the top of his game. The first match saw Zale floor Graziano during the first round, but then Graziano nearly knocked Zale out. By the sixth round, Zale had rallied enough to knock out Graziano.
There was a rematch in 1947 in Chicago. During the rematch, many spectators thought they were seeing a repeat of the match a year earlier. Zale delivered some powerful punches, but in the end Graziano knocked Zale out. After six rounds, Graziano took the title of middleweight champion of the world from Zale.
The final fight happened in New Jersey in 1948. This was when Zale took back his title from Graziano by knocking him out in the third round. Unfortunately Zale lost the title again later in the year. However, Rocky Graziano would tell the press years after the fight that he had recurring nightmares about being in the ring with Tony Zale.
Carlos Monzon was another boxer who was known not just as a great middleweight boxer, but as one of the best boxers of all time. He was born in 1942 in San Javier in Argentina. He grew up poor and one of twelve children. He would sell newspapers, shine shoes and deliver milk to earn money to get by. When he grew up, he began boxing in a local gym.
What many people remember about Monzon was that he looked and acted differently than many other boxers. He had movie star good looks that had not been marred by years of boxing. His body looked as though he had walked straight out of a Hollywood picture. His disposition matched his face and he remained cool even when the ring was hot.
Monzon’s professional career began in 1963. He had only three defeats during his career; but he went after each of those defeats and turned them into wins. His final record was 87 wins and 3 losses with 9 total knockouts. He had one no contest match which rounded up his career matches to an even 100.
Although his looks did not make him a better fighter, they led to his fame outside of the ring. He was a successful boxer who was able to travel in the circles of celebrities, movie stars and society’s elite.
All of this changed when Monzon was stripped of his World Boxing Council title in 1974. Although he maintained and defended his World Boxing Association title, this signaled the end of his career. When he quit boxing, he lost the outlet of rage that he had been using as a child. After his professional career was over, he spent time in prison and was charged with killing his wife, Alicia Muniz.
Freddie Steel was born in Seattle, Washington in 1912. As a child, he clambered after Tod Morgan, a boxer who would become a World Champion. His family moved around the Pacific Northwest as a child but eventually they settled in Bellingham, Washington. It was here, at age 13, that Steele began his boxing career.
Even his first match was highly publicized. In 1926, he fought Red Kid Benedict in Bellingham. The fight lasted three rounds and Steele won the match. After this, he continued on a long streak of wins first as an amateur and then as a professional boxer.
Some research suggests that Steele was more than just a great boxer, he was an all-round athlete. During his youth, he played baseball and basketball at school. His love of baseball lasted from 1926 to 1928, and he spent the warmer months immersed in the sport.
After 1929, though, he showed so much promise n boxing that he was convinced by a manager that he should stick to boxing so that he could avoid injuries from other sports. He is said to have ignored this advice and to have secretly started playing football that year. He also enjoyed horseback riding, swimming and golf.
Steele’s career was short lived and his career went into decline after his manager died. Though he continued fighting for a while, he officially ended his career in 1945. He told the press that he had fought 165 professional fights but lost only five.
Marvelous Marvin Hagler
Marvin Hagler, known as Marvelous, was born in Newark in 1954. His professional record is outstanding and he currently holds the highest knockout ratio out of each of the middleweight champions. In his professional career, he has knocked out 78% of his opponents in each match.
Hagler was the Undisputed World Middleweight Champion. He held this title for many years including from 1980 to 1987. The only boxer to ever hold this title longer than him was Tony Zale. He has also been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame as well as the World Boxing Hall of Fame.
Hagler was ranked as the #1 middleweight boxer for many years, but he could not find any high profile fighters willing to face him. This limited his chances to advance his career. However, he eventually made a breakthrough when he was offered the opportunity to fight Willie ‘the Worm’ Monroe.
After his boxing career was over, Hagler became an action film star.
Harry Greb was born in Pittsburgh in 1894. His career was short-lived because he died at age 32. However, in his short career, he managed to pack in over 200 fights. He also had a rags to riches story. He started his working life laying roofs in Pittsburgh for $12 each week and was soon making $33,000 per year.
Greb’s fighting career began in 1913 as an amateur but by 1917 he was winning huge fights and making money by taking part in exhibitions. Soon, he became a middleweight boxing champion. Shortly after winning his title, he got into a car accident in which he suffered from fracture ribs and injuries to his back and chest.
Greb died in 1925 after suffering complications after an eye surgery.
Stanley Ketchel was born Stanislaw Kiecal in the year 1887. His parents had been Polish immigrants and had arrived in Michigan before he was born. Stanley was the ultimate early 20th century boxer. He was wily, mischievous and the product of his early life in the Western frontier of America.
When Stanley was only 12, he ran away from home and traveled to Montana where he worked different jobs in order to survive. He started out working in a hotel as a bellhop before moving onto a job as a bouncer. A bouncer in Montana was bound to get into plenty of fights on the job, and it is no surprise that his talent for fighting was quickly noticed. He was known as the best fighter in Butte, Montana.
Before long, Ketchel began fighting for money in the back rooms of local establishments. He would earn around $20 a week, but his confidence got the better of him and he began to travel the state looking for new opponents. In 1907, he moved further west to California where he knew he could make more money as a fighter.
Ketchel was famous for taking on heavyweights. Only a middleweight himself, he would sometimes take on men that weighed 30 pounds more than he did. On 1908, he became the World Welterweight Champion. He rarely fought at the welterweight level and fought more at the level of a light middleweight instead.
Ketchel earned a phenomenal amount of money in the ring. In his time, he took in around $100,000. That is the equivalent of $2.4 million today. However, a series of unfortunate events caused a downward spiral for Stanley. Although his career was cut short, he became known as one of the best middleweights in the sport.
Gene Fullmer was born in 1931 in Utah. During his career, he won the world middleweight championship to become world champion. Fullmer’s career as a professional boxer started in 1951. His career was like a rocket, and he won each of his first 29 fights. What is more impressive is that he won 19 of these fights by knockout.
In 1957, Fullmer beat Sugar Ray Robinson, a boxing legend, to take the world middleweight championship by decision. The fight lasted 15 rounds. The pair had a rematch later in the year. Even though it looked as though Fullmer might win, Robinson knocked him out with a shot that is often referred to as the perfect left hook.
Fullmer got another shot at the title in 1959 when the National Boxing Association stripped Robinson of the title of middleweight champion. He won but was unable to hold onto the title for very long.
The world of middleweight boxing has been an exciting and dynamic place for well over a century. To make it as a middleweight boxing champion, fighters need more than talent and dedication. They need to have that something special that sets them apart from the other fighters on the scene.
Whether it’s his well-rounded athleticism or just pure rage, a boxer requires more than just a good manager to make it on this list. Many of these men have had to overcome more than just tough opponents or unfair judgments. Many overcame the turmoil of their times, poverty and other disadvantages that would have stopped many athletes before they even started.
Whether it was an internal drive to be the best or a way to channel their long-standing anger, the men who are known as the best middleweight boxing champions continue to inspire this generation of boxing fighters. Even as new talent emerges that threatens the legacies of these men, the achievements that they accomplished during their careers have thus far stood up to the test of time.
Some of these men were awarded long careers in the ring. Others saw their careers or even their lives cut short by an outside means. The only thing that it is true each of the men on the list of the top 10 greatest boxers of all time is that while they may hold the same title, they each have a different story to tell.