Monday, December 11, 2023  |


The best of all time A to Z: Armstrong

Fighters Network

This is the first in a 26-part series in which endeavors to name the best boxers of all time based on last name – A to Z. We’ll post one letter each day for 26 days. Our criteria in making the selections were fairly simple: Accomplishments in the ring, with heavy emphasis on strength of opposition, as well as impact on the sport. This wasn’t easy, as our first installment – the letter “A” – demonstrates. However, we’re confident that our choices are arguably the best. We also are including five more fighters for each letter to indicate others that were considered. Also, noted author and boxing historian Bert Sugar – whose book “The Ultimate Book of Boxing Lists,” co-written with Teddy Atlas, is due out soon – gives us a thought on each selection and we indicate where our choices rank on his most-recent Top 100 list. And, finally, we’d love to get your thoughts on the project. Here goes ÔǪ first up: “A.”

Lifespan: 1912-88
Hometown: St. Louis (later Los Angeles)
Record: 149-21-10 (101 KOs)
Active: 1931-45
Weight classes: Featherweight to middleweight
Titles: World featherweight, lightweight, welterweight
Sugar’s ranking: No. 2
The thought process: Wouldn’t you know it? The first installment in our series – the letter “A” – turns out to be one of the most-difficult choices in the alphabet. Henry Armstrong or Muhammad Ali? We suspect that many fans will assume that Ali would be the choice based on his accomplishments and unrivaled fame. Armstrong is known primarily by boxing aficionados with too much time on their hands. Let’s break it down. Ali, originally Cassius Clay, was one of the greatest – maybe THE greatest – heavyweight ever. As Clay, between 1960 and 1964, his breathtaking speed and agility seemed to make him unbeatable. And, after his return from forced hiatus, he dominated the division’s unrivaled Golden Era as much with guile as ability and became an international icon. Hard to top that. Now let’s look at Armstrong, a swarming brawler who overwhelmed his opponents with volume punching like no one before or since. The St. Louis native was 12-6 in fights against 10 Hall of Famers. And he might’ve had the greatest accomplishment in the history of boxing: He held the featherweight, lightweight and welterweight titles simultaneously – three of the eight championships. He also lost a close fight to middleweight champion Ceferino Garcia that would’ve given him a fourth title – or half the championships! Imagine someone today holding titles from 126 to 147 pounds – five divisions – at the same time. Ali is “The Greatest.” Armstrong is just a little greater.
Five more (alphabetical order): Alexis Arguello, Muhammad Ali, Lou Ambers and Sammy Angott and Abe Attell.
Sugar quote: “I don’t know how many people know this but Armstrong had one of the most-amazing streaks in history in 1937 and ’38 – 37 straight victories, with 35 knockouts.” And that wasn’t to start his career. He fought some of the best fighters of the era during that period.