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Top 25 Greatest Boxers of All Time

Boxing is perhaps the oldest and most simple sport known to man. The origins of hand-to-hand combat are pre-historic, but the first form of boxing as an organized sport that we know of dates back to the Greeks, where it became an Olympic sport in BC 688, although we have basic depictions of the sport dating as far back at the 3rd millennium BC. The sport in a form close to that which we know it today has been dated back to late 1600s Britain.

The debate over who is the greatest pound-for-pound boxer of all time is one which is eternal and creates endless debates among boxing fans. There are of course elements such as world titles, successful title defenses and unbeaten runs which one can look at, but the strength of the division, era and opponents all add complications to such a system. As such, there will never be unanimity regarding this topic, but I have attempted to justify my selections and order here.

The system by which we can compare all boxers - heavyweights to flyweights and everything in between - is by the pound-for-pound ranking system, an idea that was introduced in the 1940's, largely because of Sugar Ray Robinson. Boxing has such a long and incredible history and so many great names have blessed the sport that we must first start with the honorable mentions. Here are the top 25 greatest boxers of all time:

26 Honorable Mentions: Gene Tunney, Marvin Hagler, Julio Cesar Chavez, Manny Pacquiao & The Klitschko's

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

25 Stanley Ketchel 

via boxingnewsonline.com

24 Joe Calzaghe

via fightnights.com

23 Mike Tyson

via mirror.co.uk

22 George Foreman

via georgeforeman.com

21 Archie Moore

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20 Lennox Lewis

via miketysonlive.com

19 Mickey Walker

via sikids.com

18 Joe Frazier

via craveonline.com

17 Jimmy Wilde

via welshamericanbookstore.com

16 Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

15 Joe Gans

Police Gazette

14 Harry Greb

via boxingnewsonline.com

13 Sam Langford

via thefightcity.com

12 Jack Johnson

via badassofthweek.com

11 Roberto Duran

via standnfight.com

10 Sugar Ray Leonard

via independent.co.uk

9 Jack Dempsey

via britannica.com

8 Rocky Marciano

via celebritybase.com

7 Benny Leonard

via thefightcity.com

6 Sonny Liston

via craveonline.com

5 Willie Pep

via boxing.com

4 Henry Armstrong

via sikids.com

3 Joe Louis

via indiewire.com

2 Sugar Ray Robinson

via boxingscribe.com

As alluded to earlier, it is precisely because of the prowess of Sugar Ray Robinson in the middleweight division that the need for a pound-for-pound system came into being. He is regarded by many as the greatest pound-for-pound boxer to have ever lived. He became welterweight world champion in 1946, a title he held for five years until stepping up to the middleweight division, where he became world champ once more.

1 Muhammad Ali

via comicvine.com

There has been an attempt recently to re-write the history books and somehow diminish the legacy of Muhammad Ali by some. It seems to have become cool or quirky to claim that Ali is or was overrated. It may be cliche and it may be obvious, but Ali thoroughly deserves top spot on this list. He is the greatest boxer of all time. There has never been a heavyweight fighter who moved like Ali. In his early days when he was known as Cassius Clay, Ali's claims that he would dance around his opponents were only part humoring. At that stage of his career he really did dance around his opponents, just take a look at his fight against Cleveland Williams in 1966 if you don't believe me.

The Ali of that time was the greatest heavyweight boxer to have lived. He was suspended at the age of 25, arguably at his best, and didn't return to the ring until he was almost 29. His first defeat came at the hands of Joe Frazier, who he beat convincingly in the two rematches. Ken Norton was the only other man to beat Ali, before the regrettable final few years of his career, when he was a shadow of his former self. Ali fought in the toughest weight division during its Golden Era, and emerged the greatest. His list of defeated opponents include Henry Cooper, Sonny Liston, Floyd Patterson, Joe Frazier, Ken Norton and George Foreman. Despite losing his finest years, Ali remains the only three-time Heavyweight World Champion in history.

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Top 25 Greatest Boxers of All Time