The fabulous five
Glenn McCrory explains why Armstrong, Ali, Greb, Louis and Robinson are the best boxers the world has seen.
Last Updated: 27/06/12 8:59am
A couple of weeks ago on Ringside, historian Bob Mee, Boxing News writer Matt Christie and myself were charged with the difficult task of picking the 10 fighters we considered as the greatest of all time.
After much deliberation, I came up with the following boxers: Sugar Ray Robinson, Joe Louis, Harry Greb, Muhammad Ali, Henry Armstrong, Archie Moore, Jimmy Wilde, Jack Dempsey, Carlos Monzon and Rocky Marciano.
However, I feel that my top five deserve a more in-depth mention so read below to find out why, in reverse order, I chose them as the best boxers the world has ever seen...
5) HENRY ARMSTRONG - 1912-88
Henry Armstrong was a great champion and fought at featherweight, lightweight, welterweight and middleweight, as well as becoming a three-weight world champion. Making the jump up in divisions was so difficult back then because there were thousands more fighters than there are today. He was a whirlwind of a fighter and never stopped throwing punches. I have seen tapes of him and he is one of the greatest ever.
4) MUHAMMAD ALI - 1942-
Muhammad Ali was my hero and the reason I got into this game. He was bigger than the sport and belongs in a list of world greats, not just boxing greats. He will never be forgotten and that's why he figures so highly in my list. He wasn't the greatest out-and-out fighter of all time, he wasn't the greatest technician, he didn't throw hooks that well, he let his hands drop - but he could mesmerise other fighters and make them look silly. Boxing is not about fighting, it's about winning and that's what Ali did. People were overawed by his reputation and scared to death before they set foot in the ring. Ali was a master of winning the mental battle and, ultimately, the physical one.
3) HARRY GREB - 1894-1926
Harry Greb is kind of an unknown legend but anyone who knows about the game will have him very close to being the greatest. His legend has been somewhat quashed by an untimely early death, but this a man that fought so many times a year and had over 300 recorded fights before he passed away at the age of 32. He lived for fighting and was the only man ever to beat Gene Tunney. He also defeated Micky Walker, while Jack Dempsey wouldn't fight him. I can't quite put him as the greatest but he is certainly my favourite fighter. He is the epitome of everything I love about boxing; he was a wild, cantankerous, macho, quick-punching man. I fell in love with a book about Greb called Give Him to the Angels when I was 12-years-old and I think it is the greatest movie never made. He was a windmill of a man who was blind in one eye and half-blind in the other, who loved the women. He was a wonderful character and a terrific fighter.
2) JOE LOUIS - 1914-81
Louis was the favourite fighter of my dad and granddad - which means he must have been good! His record was immaculate, spending over 11 years as world heavyweight champion. In the last conversation I had with my granddad, he asked me who the best in the world was. I said Ali and he said Louis would have kicked Ali's butt! They don't seem to make heavyweights like they used to and in Joe's time, during the war, under the spectre of the Nazi regime, people had a lot more to fight for. He was a hero and his fights with Germany's Max Schmeling have gone down in folklore. He was fighting against oppression, did his county proud and only falls short of my number one spot because of the brilliance of one man.
1) SUGAR RAY ROBINSON - 1921-89
I watched a video of Robinson many times as a kid. It was called Pound for Pound, and I would encourage anyone who has not seen footage from that to check it out. He is head and shoulders above any other fighter that I've seen; he is the god of boxing and showed everybody the way, boxing like a ballet dancer and with pure artistry. He glided around the ring with his good looks and slicked back hair and looked a million dollars, but he could also rip it up with all these hard guys and tear them to bits; he was a fully-fledged tiger. I used to look at the tapes of him and think they had been sped up. As a boxing trainer you try to get your guys to throw two or three punches, he would throw combinations of 20! He was unbelievable and without doubt the greatest of all time.
The guys listed above are all from past generations, but I have been fortunate to witness some great fighters since I have been working for Sky Sports, from Oscar de la Hoya to Julio César Chávez.
I also respect Floyd Mayweather's achievements, even though he is not my kind of fighter; he is very gifted defensively but not super aggressive.
But my favourite fighter from more recent times would have to be Roberto Duran. He had terrific technique and a ferocious streak.
One of the most memorable fights I have ever seen, though, is Ricky Hatton's coming-of-age bout with Kostya Tszyu. Ricky was very popular and very well managed by Frank Warren, but that match was his greatest night.
He was never quite the same after that fight but on that evening everything clicked and he was sensational. That was his Everest.
Who do you think are the greatest fighters of all time, and why? Let us know using the feedback form below...