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What makes a great boxer

CONRAD M. CARIÑO
CONRAD M. CARIÑO

Last of two parts
The BoxRec Greatest of All Time listed 25 top boxers from the sport’s history up to the present, with Floyd Mayweather Jr. at number one. Our very own Manny Pacquiao was in second.

While I do believe both Mayweather and Pacquiao deserve to be any list for the greatest boxers of all time, my opinion is Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali should top any list for such.

But I will not devote more space to discussing why Robinson and Ali should land in the two top spots in any greatest of all list for boxing. Instead, I will discuss briefly the criteria in determining the greatest boxers of all time: title reign; skills and punching power; quality of opposition; “quality” of losses; and impact on the sport.

The quality or prominence of the reign of a boxer who should belong to the all-time great list should not be limited to number of defenses and number of titles won. I state this because there were very competitive eras where it was impossible for one boxer to be really dominant, with the era of Sugar Ray Leonard, Wilfredo Benitez, Thomas Hearns and Roberto Duran proving that. So it was impossible for any of those to emulate Mayweather or even Pacquiao, as both fighters also benefited from boxing having more divisions and sanctioning bodies today.


But the simple criterion of a boxer winning at least one world title, and figuring and winning in a big number of titles bouts is a must. In the case of Robinson, he was welterweight (147 pounds) champion and middleweight (160 pounds) champion five times. There still were no “junior” or “super” divisions during Robinson’s time.

As for Ali, he was three-time world heavyweight champion three times. During the eras of Robinson and Ali, there were only one or two world sanctioning boxing organizations, so it was very common to see during their times very good contenders who never became world champions.

Of course, to become a world champion, a boxer must have good skills and punching power, or both, or a combination of both to a certain degree. And I believe that even great boxers considered to have relied more on punching power to become world champions are actually skilled in their own right. I am referring to the likes of Rocky Marciano, Joe Frazier, George Foreman and Mike Tyson who, upon close scrutiny, have their own unique skill set to land their haymakers.

Quality of opposition should also be a criteria and this is where things could be quite tricky. For example, an era where the opposition was weak may demote a boxer to a lower ranking in the all-time greats. Case in point are Marciano and Joe Louis, who never had the quality of opposition that Ali enjoyed during his era. I mean, Ali’s era also had great heavyweight champions like Frazier and Foreman, and contenders like Earnie Shaver and Ken Norton who could have been champions if their division was not that crowded during their time.

Also, as to when another boxer beats another boxer should be taken into account. Or if a boxer only feasts on former champions who were already fading or have sustained many losses, then that boxer deserves a lower ranking in the all-time greats. Or what if the boxer simply takes on no-name fighters in defending his title? No wonder, Louis still ranks lower than Ali in most all-time great list I have come across.

“Quality” of losses may sound queer to some boxing observers, but I believe that any fighter who should be included in any all-time great list for boxing should not have suffered many knockout losses, especially in high-profile fights. And a boxer who avenges a knockout loss should also deserve a higher ranking. For the record, Ali nor Robinson were never counted out, even if their records show each of them having one stoppage or technical knockout loss.

As for impact on the sport, this is quite subjective. But how can anybody deny how Oscar Dela Hoya set the trend of fighters below heavyweight getting bigger paychecks? Or how Tyson helped set the benchmarks for pay-per-views? Or how Robinson demonstrated that a welterweight champion could become the dominant middleweight titleholder?

I am sure many will disagree with my views here. But one thing is very clear — every all-time great list will surely cause debates.

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Today’s Front Page December 10, 2019

Today’s Front Page December 10, 2019