Fifty odd years ago in 1958 Nat Fleischer, founder of Ring magazine, published for the first time his all time divisional boxing ratings. In those ratings Nat rated men in only one division. In 2005 I participated in the IBRO (International Boxing Research Organization) all time poll. In that poll we decided to avoid debates over what division a multi-division champion should be rated by having the voters vote for boxers in each division they were eligible. In my personal ratings however, I have rated boxers only in one division preferring to rate them at their best weight. For instance, men like Gene Tunney and Ezzard Charles are considered at light-heavyweight and not at heavyweight, while Bob Fitzsimmons is rated at middleweight and Ray Robinson at welterweight and so on. Since Fleischer first offered his ratings there have been 50 more years of boxing history. In 1958 by my ratings Jack Dempsey would be the # 2 all time heavyweight. But since then there have been some men who deserve to be rated above him.
It is most important when rating fighters to be objective. Some will not give credit to modern fighters. Others do not give credit to the greats of the past. So many commentators and fans do not seem to be able to keep from crossing that threshold of objectivity, either over estimating the abilities of the legends and ascribing them abilities that are not present on film or not having the knowledge to understand what some of the greats brought to the ring. Both views are completely wrong. My researched ratings are both fair and balanced. Here is Cox’s Corner’s all time boxing ratings.
As one can see my list has changed slightly since my 2005 IBRO ratings. Some historians lists have not changed in 30 years, but a keen open minded observer will constantly reassess his position. Numbers one and two have not changed. The truth is if Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali are not rated in the top two at heavyweight then the list is just wrong. There is no argument. Joe Louis had the most successful defenses and longest reign, and more importantly he was fundamentally flawless, the most complete fighter in division history. See my video The Subtle Skills of Joe Louis. Muhammad Ali faced and defeated the best competition in division history and dominated boxing for most of the 60's and 70's. If Ali and Louis are not in the top two then the list is not credible, I don't care whose list it is.
Just Missed: Rocky Marciano, Jim Jeffries, Evander Holyfield
Frazier or Marciano?
Marciano and Frazier are about equals. Both were swarming style heavyweights who came in low and attacked the body then ripped to the head. Both were tough fighters. With only one being able to fit in the top 10 what separates them? Is it Rocky's undefeated record but low level of opposition or Frazier's better opposition with losses to only men in the top 3? In the end I believe Frazier achieved a win that Marciano could never hope to duplicate by defeating Muhammad Ali in Superfight 1. Marciano would lose to both Ali and Foreman, the only men to ever beat Frazier and with all other things being equal Frazier did beat Ali in the biggest fight in heavyweight history. Frazier's better overall competition and big win over Ali gives him a spot in the top 10.
George Foreman is Cox's Corner's # 3 all time heavyweight. Read George Foreman: King of the Super Heavyweights to find out why.
Why Jim Jeffries has dropped in my rankings:
While I do not question Big Jeff's athleticism, strength, or endurance there are 3 reasons for dropping him from my list:
If one is considering all era's and all rules, e.g. 45 round fights to the finish, both 5 and 10 oz gloves, bare knuckles, rules that allowed a lot of holding etc., then Jeffries could be argued into the top 5. However, when assessing boxing as a modern sport the standard should be a 20 foot ring, 8-10 oz gloves, modern rules and a 15 round standard that dominated most of the last 100 years.
Evander Holyfield is a borderline top 10 all time heavyweight. The reason he doesnt make the top 10 is two-fold:
All time greats Jack Dempsey and Jack Johnson have dropped a few spots, but remain among the 10 greatest heavyweights in history.
Jack Dempsey has dropped a few notches. I do believe that Dempsey was a very viscious fighter and ruthless attacker but also realize that he excelled against certain types of opponents, on film he struggled against clever boxers. For more on this see Frank Lotierzo's expose' Jack Dempsey: An Observation Through The Lens
Jack Johnson is moving down my list and has faced a serious drop in his rating. Although in terms of sheer talent I think he is right up there with Muhammad Ali, he did not have Ali’s concrete chin and durability and I am also concerned that some of the things he did would not hold up against a more sophisticated attack. The fact that he drew the "color line" against his own race to a great extent also factored into his rating.
In his book 50 Years at Ringside Fleischer rated the all time heavyweights in a number of categories. Here is Cox’s Corner’s up to date list.
Note: Floyd Mayweather’s career does not give him a top 10 spot. Luis Rodriguez, for example, had a better career than Floyd beating Emile Griffith, Benny Paret, Hurricane Carter, Curtis Cokes, Georgie Benton and Bennie Briscoe. I cannot in all honesty put Mayweather in the top 10 welterweights based on a career of hand picked opponents and having never unified a major title. Floyd avoided fights with Mosley, Margarito and Pacquiao when they meant something. He waited for these opponents to slow down and fade before considering facing them. Mayweather just does not have the competition to be considered a true all time great. I am not convinced that Floyd would beat any of the top 10 all time welterweights.
All Time Pound 4 Pound
Sugar Ray Robinson in his prime
The final spot was a close race between Ray Leonard, Willie Pep, Bob Fitzsimmons, Jack Dempsey, Jimmy Wilde and Eder Jofre. Ray Leonard could beat you in more ways than could Pep who was a pure boxer or Fitz, Dempsey and Wilde who relied more on their punch. Eder Jofre was as talented but Leonard simply beat better competition.