Who Is The Best Boxer Of My Generation?

I performed a Google search of the term generation. Among the definitions, one stated that the period of time for a generation spans about 30 years. Another defines it as all of the people born and living at the same time.

For purposes here, I’ll use a 30-year range to rank the five best fighters from 1980-2010. You might ask, "how on earth can I claim that Sugar Ray Leonard and Manny Pacquiao fought in the same generation?"

My response is: "please leave a comment and state your beef!"

5. Bernard Hopkins (52-5-2, 32 KO’s). I’ll admit that this selection has a lot to do with the Executioner’s latest achievement-defeating Jean Pascal to capture a share of the light heavyweight title, making him the oldest fighter (46 years old) in history to capture a major boxing championship.

If that was not enough, he was the only man to knockout (via ten-count) Oscar De La Hoya, the first man to defeat all-time great welterweight Felix Trinidad, and had more middleweight title defenses than any fighter in history.

Spanking lineal champions Antonio Tarver (light heavyweight) and Kelly Pavlik (middleweight) is just icing on the cake.

4. Pernell Whitaker (40-4-1, 17 KO’s). For the greater portion of the 90’s, the man popularly known as "Sweet Pea" took on all comers and beat nearly everyone of note from 135-147 pounds. He even beat long-time titlist Julio Cesar Vasquez in his lone fore into the 154-pound division.

I’ll admit that I am biased. Whitaker was one of my favorite fighters of all-time based on his willingness to fight anyone, anytime and anywhere. He somehow mastered the ability to fight right in front of opponents without getting hit much. Combined with the fact that he did not pack a wallop in his fists, makes his fighting skill all the more amazing.

If you need any proof, look no further than Whitaker’s virtuoso performance against Mexican great Julio Cesar Chavez.

3. Manny Pacquiao (53-3-2, 38 KO’s). I know that I am going to take some shots from the "80’s fan boys" who believe these past 10-15 years of boxing have been watered down by middling competition, a plethora of belts and their resulting alphabelt champions.

But what makes Pacquiao stand out to me, is the fact that he started fighting at 106 pounds and has ascended to ring supremacy at 147 pounds today. His list of victims is a proverbial "who’s who of the 2000’s."

The list includes: Marco Antonio Barrera (twice), Erik Morales (twice), Juan Manuel Marquez, Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto, Ricky Hatton, Shane Mosley-all champions, and all, likely Hall of Famers.

2. Roberto Duran (103-16, 70 KO’s). Arguably the greatest lightweight of all-time, "Manos de Piedra" is not just one of the greatest boxers of the past 30 years. He is one of the greatest boxers to ever don gloves.

Similar to the number four guy on my list, his best work was done while ruling the135 pound division as its undisputed champion.

But as we would all find out, Duran had a lot more left past his lightweight prime. He defeated fellow legend Sugar Ray Leonard in 1980 in perhaps the greatest moment of his career. Many fans remember the infamous "No Mas" fight in which he quit against Leonard in their rematch, but those same fans seem to conveniently forget that he was the first man to defeat Sugar Ray as a professional.

1. Sugar Ray Leonard (36-3-1, 25 KO’s). Whether named Walker Smith, Jr. or Ray Charles Leonard, Sugar Ray is always near the top of the boxing heap. If I confused you, Walker Smith, Jr. is the government name of Sugar Ray Robinson (the greatest boxer of all-time). Ray Charles Leonard, aka Sugar Ray Leonard, was named after him.

And for good reason.

The Olympic, gold medal-toting Leonard was Oscar De La Hoya before Oscar De La Hoya, combining elements of Ali’s outside-the-ring charisma, Robinson’s in-ring skill and will, and promoter Don King’s match-making guile.

But unlike the more recent Golden Boy, his flash was matched by significantly more substance. What fighter can say that he defeated three (Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler) of the top dozen boxers of the past 30 years, in or not too far from their fighting primes?

Notable omissions from my list, include: Julio Cesar Chavez; Felix Trinidad; Marvin Hagler; Roy Jones, Jr. and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. for various reasons.

If you do not agree with my list, please tell me who you think should be on it!


  1. Briggs Seekins says

    Interesting list. I would probably leave off Roberto Duran if you are just looking at 1980-2010, although Duran is one of my top ten all-time non heavyweights. I’d also put Hopkins, along with Roy Jones Jr. and James Toney, just on the other side of the bubble.

    I’d go:

    5. Manny Pacqiao
    4. Pernell Whitaker
    3. Thomas Hearns
    2. Marvin Hagler
    1. Sugar Ray Leonard

  2. Briggs Seekins says

    You’ve got to consider Aaron Pryor and Michael McCallum for this list, too.

  3. says

    @Briggs You made some good selections here. Another guy who could’ve been considered, and also one of my favorite fighters of all-time, is the great Alexis Arguello. And for the record, “Lights Out,” although not the greatest fighter of all-time, is possibly my favorite. My “Fave Five” are: Pernell Whitaker; Evander Holyfield; Floyd Mayweather; Thomas Hearns, and James Toney.

  4. says

    Thanks for writing but I respectfully disagree with your top 3 to a GREAT EXTENT. Tyson wasn’t the best heavyweight of his era (that title would go to Holyfield and/or Lennox Lewis). King Kotsa was a great fighter at 140 but has very few signature wins (Judah, and old Chavez?) to speak of (and got stopped by the somewhat overrated Ricky Hatton). Oscar was the greatest star but hsi ring accomplishment don’t match his star.

  5. says

    @Ja Dawson:
    Oscar fought the best no backward step no easy fight he even said “i want to fight the best” no ducking, he lost a fight to an unbeaten trinidad which possibly should have gone to Oscar had a very close fight in mosely 1 should have won 2 ok so he lost to bernard with a shock body shot but he was not destroyed by Bernard and he wasn’t a natural middleweight. Bernard was quite comfortable there when he fought Floyd i thought he made the fight, Floyd was in his prime Oscar was closing the show on his career then when he fought Pacquiao well i think every great fighter has to end somewhere look at Ali at the end losing to Holmes and Berbick you think they would have touched Ali in his prime NO WAY! fighters accumilation record that he lost too was 235-12-3 umm.

  6. says

    @Ja Dawson:
    Kostya was BRILLIANT! very underated by most Americans, but he was solid. The way he just lined you up with that right punishing i know if i was a manager back then i would not want my fighter to face him. He only lost to Hatton because it was the end of his career too and he took the fight to Hattons home town now that is a gentlemen knows he’s finished and passes the batton down. Mind you Hatton was undefeated and very strong then Floyd wrecked Hatton he was never the same.

  7. says

    @Ja Dawson:
    If any Heavyweight of any era faced Tyson in his prime they would have been destroyed. Even Ali said he was scared of Tyson and that he would not beat him (Tyson) in his prime.

  8. says

    Julio Cesar Chavez went 89 fights undefeated before he lost to Frankie Randall, which was a split-decision. Lethal body puncher and Mexican LEGEND! to be a legend in Mexico is a great accomplishment.

  9. says

    @Ja Dawson:
    do i need to say anything about Sugar ray Leonard. Anyway Pacquiao and Mayweather should be there but i prefer fighters that have finished there career. I think Saul Alvarez will be the next great if he keeps going 37 wins undefeated at the age of 20 MAN!

  10. says

    I dunno Nathan. I think Holyfield would’ve always troubled him! Tyson never seemed too willing to fight him (remember the bizarre rib injury?) and when he finally did, everyone thought Evander was shot.

  11. says

    JC Superstar was indeed that…but I don’t rank him as high because he wasn’t that dominant outside of two weight classes. That doesn’t diminish his overall greatness but it does hurt him when considering my list. In addition, we all know he lost decisively to Pernell and was luck to escape with that TKO against Meldrick Taylor. So it’s not like his “undefeated” record was without question (and I won’t even bring up the lack of competition that he faced for the bulk of those initial 20-30 wins). But he was still great. :)

  12. says

    @Nathan:I think King Kotsa was a very good champion, but, in my humble opinion, he doesn’t have many signature wins, despite the fact that there were many very good fighters in his weight area (140-he never challenged himself and moved up to 147) that he did not face (for various reasons-not necessarily all his fault). Mayweather, Trinidad, Oscar, etc. And he did get starched by Vernon Phillips in his prime (that’s not a good loss).

  13. says

    Oscar a very good (not great) fighter who did a ton to keep boxing relevant (to casual fans) in the non-heavyweight, post-Mike Tyson era. He lost just about all of his biggest fights against very good/great fighters in/near their primes, except against Fernando Vargas and Ike Quartey . He lost to Mosley twice (although I thought he may have deserved the second decision), he got stretched by Hopkins “liver” shot, and he lost to Tito (although I though he eked that one out). The losses to Pac-Man and Mayweather were later, so I’ll give him a pass somewhat…but to say he gave Pacquiao a fight is a joke (that was a blood-letting!!!). He also should’ve lost to Felix Sturm and got a somewhat controversial win against a past-prime Pernell Whitaker. This is not the resume of a top 5 fighter of the last 20 or so years my friend Nathan.

  14. says

    @Ja Dawson:
    The only reason Tyson bite Holyfields ear off was because Holyfield kept punching his face with his shoulder, you watch the fights he always comes in close with an extra shoulder hit too the face. I guess Tyson just got sick of it (not excusing his behaviour) Holyfield knew Tysons power and these are the days of no Cus.

  15. says

    @Ja Dawson:
    Kostya would have beaten all 3. The only reason i put Oscar ahead of Kostya is beacause of his resume and money he made from the sport, the highest earner of all-time (boxing) you don’t win 10 world titles in 6 weight classes being good.

  16. says

    Hey JA love the fight predictor idea and it is at a competitive price also, my website runs predictions on fights based on a statistical method created by me check out some of my predictions on Fighters Rated twitter which you are a follower of. This kind of stuff has intrigued me since well back to the future part 2 with the almanac, you know the one. They always say 2 heads are better than 1.

  17. Englishman says

    Why is Joe Calzaghe not seen as a World Class Boxer, when he defeated Bernard Hopkins and Jeff Lacey, hes unbeaten, maybe something to do with hes not American

  18. says

    Calzaghe’s world-class in my book; just not top 5 of “my” generation, that’s all. He was a great fighter in my opinion, although I would’ve liked to see him fight Bernard and/or Roy Jones a tad earlier in his career.

  19. says

    Nathan, I have a hard time believing that Kotsa would’ve defeated a prime Mosley (too fast and an overall better boxer), Mayweather (too fast and too skilled, i.e. defensively), or De La Hoya (too tall, too much reach and too much speed). Kotsa was VERY GOOD, just a hair short of great in my opinion. What’s his greatest win–against Zab Judah (and that’s with all due respect to a young Judah)…but that’s not a resume of greatness to me.

  20. says

    Sorry Nathan, Tyson was looking for a way out! Holyfield was about to stop him again. And I find it hilarious to think Tyson, who was well-known for his elbows, etc. in the ring, all of a sudden lost it because someone was being dirty back. My thing: be dirty back then…but DON’T get yourself disqualified!!! He did it twice…I’ll even given the first one a pass of sorts, but to do it the second time, clearly shows that he wanted an out!

  21. tom says

    the holy- lewis rates no. 1 on my list. no 2 is the pastrano- johnson fight scored only by the ref. i maintain that at least five judges should be used for championship fights. they could easily use two of the press working at ringside.

  22. says

    @tom Very interesting proposal regarding the additional press judges. However Tom, if everyone is biased, it may not matter if you have 3, 5, 7, 10 or whatever.

  23. stephen haith says

    1.floyd mayweather — defense to good
    2.samart paykroon — thai boxer held belts in muay thai and american boxing
    3.manny paq
    4.jc superstar — best mexican boxer ever
    5.zab judah — i think he would be the best ever if not for the bs ko 2 Kostya Tsyzu

  24. stephen haith says

    yes tyson is great but he’s a brawler not a true boxer he just kos people. boxing is a science and after cus, tyson’s pure boxing never showed again like when he was amateur, but he was still a very entertaining fighter.

  25. stephen haith says

    @Ja Dawson:
    many could trouble him but one tyson puch would have dropped him, plus tyson’s head was not straight with don king fing him, and his wife incident—if he had a clear head and cus was there he would have beat him…the sport is 90% mental 10% physical

  26. Ja dawson says

    Andy…Let’s exclude some of the paper belts and look at his performance in his career’s biggest fights: Ruelas to unify lightweight titles-good accomplishment; Chavez (2x)-good wins against a past-prime legend; razor thin win over aging Whitaker; razor thin win over titlist Quartey; narrow loss to Trinidad in which he ran away from victory in final rounds (for the record, I felt he won); two losses to Mosley (second was debatable); never challenged Winky Wright nor Margarito; win over juiced up/chin-light Vargas; KO loss to Hopkins; win over Sturm (which he really lost); close lose to Mayweather past his own prime, and an obliteration at the hands of Pacquiao past his own prime. Not a bad resume and surely hall of fame worthy, but unlike a Ray Leonard, Duran, Whitaker, and more recently Mayweather and Pacquiao, that’s not a stellar record in super fights-and that’s how legends are judged. That’s all I’m saying. 

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