a defining boxing sequence). While Hagler’s hard-luck ways returned when Sugar Ray Leonard received a long-debated decision, leading to Hagler’s retirement, his run stacks up well historically.

Bettmann-Getty Images


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title: ‘9. Sugar Ray Leonard’,
description: ‘

Sublimely skilled, Leonard parlayed his Olympic gold medal into becoming the post-Muhammad Ali face of boxing. Leonard’s welterweight wins over Wilfred Benitez, Roberto Duran (after a close loss) and Thomas Hearns gave him career-defining moments before he turned 26. But Leonard’s prime ended early. Had the eye injury not intervened, we are likely talking about a top five all-time fighter. Leonard (36-3-1) may not have deserved the decision over Marvin Hagler, but even being competitive against a heavily favored middleweight after essentially a five-year layoff showed the vast tool box the charismatic star possessed.

Focus On Sport-Getty Images

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title: ‘8. Benny Leonard’,
description: ‘

In an era when fighters were far more active than they are today, Leonard’s numbers stand out. The longest-reigning lightweight champion (from 1917-25), Leonard ended his career 85-5-1 with 69 knockouts. Three losses came before his 21st birthday, a fourth occurred at the hands of Hall of Famer Jimmy McLarnin after Leonard emerged from retirement and the fifth came because of a disqualification in a welterweight title fight he was likely winning. In between, the slick 5-foot-5 boxer-puncher was peerless. 

PA Images-Getty Images

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title: ‘7. Joe Louis’,
description: ‘

The longest reigning heavyweight champion, Louis ruled boxing when it stood atop the American sports hierarchy. The vicious puncher won the belt in 1937 and defended it a record 25 times, beating the likes of Billy Conn and Jersey Joe Walcott. He also knocked out the five previous heavyweight champs, including Max Baer and Max Schmeling. After Schmeling beat Louis in 1936, “The Brown Bomber” floored the German two years later in what was probably the most anticipated fight in boxing history. Late-career losses to Ezzard Charles and Rocky Marciano do not detract from one of the sport’s defining legacies.

The Ring Magazine-Getty Images

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title: ‘6. Roberto Duran’,
description: ‘

One of the most ferocious competitors in boxing history, Duran ruled the 1970s lightweight scene. While “El Cholo” finished 103-16 over a 33-year career, he was 54-1 in the ’70s. A warlord at 135, Duran’s signature work came at welterweight. He made Sugar Ray Leonard brawl with him in their first fight, taking Leonard’s belt in an underrated classic — underrated because of the “No Mas” rematch going rather poorly for a suboptimal Duran. His 1980 triumph was one of the greatest wins in boxing history, however, setting the tone for a second act that featured junior middleweight and middleweight titles. 

Focus On Sport-Getty Images

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title: ‘5. Willie Pep’,
description: ‘

Pernell Whitaker’s top competition for boxing’s defense GOAT, Pep deployed a silky smooth style that bedeviled featherweights for years. En route to a 230-11-1 mark, Pep won his first 63 fights. Already residing as the world’s top-ranked featherweight, Pep took the 126-pound belt from Hall of Famer Chalky Wright in 1944 and kept it for four years. Unfortunately, injuries from a 1947 plane crash sapped some of Pep’s wizardry, leaving him vulnerable. Sandy Saddler took Pep’s belt in 1948, but Pep managed to recapture it in 1949’s Fight of the Year and further his claim as one of the sport’s giants.

Bettman-Getty Images

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title: ‘4. Harry Greb’,
description: ‘

Regarded by many ring experts as the best middleweight ever, Greb cleaned out multiple divisions in the 1910s and ’20s. He is the only man to have beaten eventual heavyweight champion Gene Tunney; this happened once, and, per most press in attendance, their first rematch should have gone Greb’s way. A 160-pound champ with a rugged, oft-labeled dirty, style, Greb regularly fought and beat light heavyweights and defeated heavyweights who’d beaten Jack Dempsey. Greb (105-8-3) dispatched fellow all-time great Mickey Walker at middleweight, rounding out one of the sport’s most diverse resumes.

The Stanley Weston Archive-Getty Images

,

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title: ‘3. Henry Armstrong’,
description: ‘

Perhaps joined by Babe Ruth’s 1927 or Usain Bolt’s 2008-09, Armstrong’s nine-month run from from November 1937 to August 1938 is in the discussion for greatest sports year ever. “Homicide Hank” went 27-0 (with 26 knockouts) in 1937 and won the featherweight title. The next year the relentless attacker captured Barney Ross’ welterweight belt and won the lightweight strap. Boxing had eight weight divisions in 1938; Armstrong (151-21-9) held three titles at once. Many felt he should’ve won the middleweight belt in a 1940 draw. He nonetheless beat 16 champions and made a record 19 welterweight title defenses. A virtuoso talent.

Keystone-Getty Images

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title: ‘2. Muhammad Ali’,
description: ‘

Had the Vietnam War not occurred, Ali probably submits a historic, uninterrupted run of brilliance. No heavyweight could do what 1960s Ali did, his movement picking all comers apart. But Ali cemented his legend after his hiatus. Dropped into the most loaded era in heavyweight history, Ali (56-5) prevailed over his rivals and beat everyone there was to beat in the ’70s. Ali 2.0 never regained all of Ali 1.0’s skills, but his brilliance derailed George Foreman and his will broke Joe Frazier in Manila in probably the greatest fight in boxing history. A three-time champion, Ali will be a towering sports figure throughout time.

Bettmann-Getty Images

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title: ‘1. Sugar Ray Robinson’,
description: ‘

But the term “pound-for-pound” entered the mainstream vernacular largely because of Robinson, who threw his unparalleled speed-power arsenal at the welterweight and middleweight divisions in the 1940s and ’50s. He beat a stacked slate of competition, winning the 160-pound title five times. Prior to first taking the middleweight belt via the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, he was a demon at 147. Robinson, who lost once in his first 123 fights, also nearly took Joey Maxim’s light heavyweight belt, but scorching heat forced him to quit on his stool. Less of a superpower after a two-and-a-half-year retirement, Robinson (175-19-6) still became the Associated Press’ fighter of the 20th century.

Bettmann-Getty Images

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The best pound-for-pound boxers of all time

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