Monday, May 29, 2023  |


Who is the greatest fighter alive? No. 1 revealed

Fighters Network
NEW ORLEANS - NOVEMBER 25,1980: Sugar Ray Leonard (R) looks to throw a punch against Roberto Duran during the fight at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. Sugar Ray Leonard  won the WBC welterweight title by a TKO 8. (Photo by: The Ring Magazine/Getty Images)

Leonard (right) frustrated the great Roberto Duran into quitting in their rematch. Photo/ THE RING

The question was raised early this year as a group of knowledgeable boxing people – writers, publicists and others who have been around the sport for many years – had dinner the night before a big fight in Las Vegas:

Who is the greatest living fighter, pound for pound?

The first name out of almost everyone’s mouth was Muhammad Ali, arguably the greatest heavyweight of all time and one of the best without regard to weight. “The Greatest” was truly the greatest.

Since that meeting, sadly, we lost Ali. So the answer to the question that was asked that evening in Las Vegas isn’t quite as cut and dry.

Who is it? Who is the greatest living fighter?

THE RING editors, with input from knowledgeable contributors, came up with a Top 10 list of best living fighters. We know our choices will spark debate – they did so among ourselves – but we feel they’re a good place to start.

Note: The November issue is available NOW in its digital format, within which this feature appears in full. To purchase the latest issue click the new cover below.

For Nos. 6 through 10 click here, for No. 5 click here, for No. 4 click here, for No. 3 click here and for No. 2 click here


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Birthplace: Wilmington, N.C.

Active: 1977-97

Record: 36-3-1 (25 KOs)

Major titles: RING welterweight (1979-80 and 1980-82), WBC welterweight (1979-80 and 1980-82), WBA welterweight (1981-82), RING junior middleweight (1981-82), WBA junior middleweight (1981), RING middleweight (1987), WBC middleweight (1987), WBC super middleweight (1988-90), WBC light heavyweight (1988).

Key victories: Wilfred Benitez (first world title) TKO 15, 1979, Roberto Duran (“No Mas” rematch) TKO 8, 1980, Thomas Hearns (first fight) TKO 14, 1981; Marvin Hagler SD 12, 1987.

Summary: Sugar Ray Leonard burst upon the scene with a dazzling array of tools – athleticism, speed, power, fighting spirit, charisma and a million-dollar smile – in the 1976 Olympics and built a pro career that allowed him, more than anyone else, to fill the void when Muhammad Ali stepped away. When Leonard did the same in 1997, he was a beloved icon and remains so today. And it should be noted that he attained that status even though a detached retina stole a number of his best years. Leonard left no doubt about his ability as a pro by outboxing and then stopping prodigy Wilfred Benitez to win his first title in 1979. Leonard avenged his loss to the great Roberto Duran in their immediate rematch, the “No Mas” fight, in which Duran was so frustrated that he quit. Leonard was never better. And then, the following year, he rallied to stop Thomas Hearns in the 14th round to become the undisputed king of boxing. Leonard “retired” with the eye injury in 1982 but had one more indelible moment. In 1987, having been out of the ring for almost three years, he did the impossible in perhaps the most magic moment of his career: He beat Marvelous Marvin Hagler to win the middleweight championship. Greatness.