This popular panel game show ran on CBS-TV from 1950 to 1967. This is Sugar Ray Robinson – the show was shot on July 1, 1956 – almost 57 years ago. Sugar Ray is considered the greatest boxer of all time in any weight class by experts in boxing. The phrase “pound for pound” was invented just for him when they compare any boxer of any era. I am sharing a photo that he autographed for me at a local amateur boxing show in my home town of Santa Barbara, California in 1986. This photo was taken in New York on September 23, 1958; he is with Hogan “Kid” Bassey (left) displaying their world championship belts. Click below on link to view: What’s My Line episode.
By David Martinez / Boxing Historian
I have been asked many times “who is the greatest boxer of all time in any weight division at the height of his career” and that answer is the easiest for me to come up with – Sugar Ray Robinson.
I could go on and on about his career but I will go on record to say that at his pinnacle years he was clearly the best.
I was fortunate to meet him at a local amateur boxing show in 1986 where I was a referee for the kids. It was truly a highlight that stands out in my over fifty years of being associated with the sport of boxing.
The photos I am including here, along with an excellent highlight video, are Sugar Ray with my daughter Laura who was just 9 years old at the time, as well as Ray with his wife Millie. To shake his hand, get his photo and an autograph that evening will forever live in my mind. I am also including the Sugar Ray Robinson postage stamp which was introduced in April 2006. The only other boxer placed on a U.S. stamp is Joe Louis.
Here is my list of the 15 best punchers in the heavyweight division from the start of the Marquis of Queensberry era, (i.e.) 1892 to the present. A formula that I am using to help illustrate this for each boxer is to show their percentage of knockouts which is calculated by the number of wins they had with the number of knockouts in those wins. This formula isn’t intended to determine the order in which I have placed them; the order also includes my opinion of them as punchers.
I am not concerned about “who beat who”, how many times they were knocked out themselves or the results if they would have fought each other. Their physical size or if they were a world champion has no bearing – this is strictly based on strength of punching power with the opponents they fought. Why isn’t Muhammad Ali on this list? Personally, I would take Ali to beat any of these punchers on my list – but mostly by decision wins and not by knockouts. When I write rankings of boxers in any capacity I always get disagreements and feedback, so please know that I respect your opinions, and hope you will respect mine.
#1) Joe Louis (66 wins / 52 by KO = 78.7 %) Heavyweight champion 1940-1949. Defended title a record 25 times. He was a smooth, deadly puncher with tremendous power in either hand. His combinations had perfect accuracy with overwhelming power.
#2) George Foreman (76 wins / 69 by KO = 90.7 %) Two time heavyweight champion 1973-1974 and 1994-1997. He is recognized as one of the hardest hitters ever in boxing in any weight division. He is forth on my list in the percentage category of knockouts.
#3) Sonny Liston (50 wins / 39 by KO – 78.0 %) Heavyweight champion 1962-1964. The most intimidating heavyweight ever, his left jab alone was so powerful that it knocked opponents out – the jab – and his left hook was nothing less than devastating.
#4) Rocky Marciano (49 wins / 43 by KO = 87.7 %) Heavyweight champion 1952-1956. He retired undefeated. Had limited skills and had a weight disadvantage, but his tremendous will to win overshadowed that with bigger opponents; his fights averaged a remarkable fewer than 5 rounds per bout. Was responsible for the greatest knockout in heavyweight history in his 1952 title win over Jersey Joe Walcott in round 13 despite being behind on all scorecards.
By David Martinez / Boxing Historian
One of the most asked questions that is asked of me is – who do I think is the greatest boxer of all time?
That is very easy for me to answer, in my opinion – it is – Sugar Ray Robinson.
At the peak of his career he was the best ever, and although we have had many greats in boxing – he was the greatest.