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The greatest boxers from every decade


Over the next several weeks, three pound-for-pound stars will be challenged to their limits by elite-level opposition.

On Saturday, May 4, the great Canelo Alvarez will defend his undisputed super middleweight championship against the 43-0 Jaime Munguia at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

WATCH: Canelo Alvarez vs. Jaime Munguia, live on DAZN

Two days later, approximately 6,000 miles away in Tokyo, Naoya Inoue will make the maiden defense of his undisputed super bantamweight crown against the hard-hitting double world champ Luis Nery.

Finally, on May 18 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, unified heavyweight champ Oleksandr Usyk will enter the ring as the underdog against WBC counterpart Tyson Fury in the first undisputed fight that boxing’s glamour division has seen for almost 25 years.

The current pound-for-pound No. 1 is the brilliant multi-weight world champion Terence Crawford. However, when the dust settles following the aforementioned showdowns, there’s no guarantee that “Bud” will still reign supreme.

When this decade ends, who will stand alone as the finest fighter of the 2020s? Will Crawford, Inoue or Usyk be regarded as the best of the best, or will a new force emerge and steal all the acclaim? There’s a long way to go, but whoever it is they will stand tall amongst a pantheon of greats.

The Sporting News goes back a full century to select Fighter of the Decade from the 1920s to the 2010s.

Even though Greb’s prime was over 100 years ago, his reputation among boxing historians has hardly diminished.

Regarded as one of the greatest middleweights of all time, “The Pittsburgh Windmill” has the numbers and the resume to back up his position as the finest fighter of the Roaring Twenties.

He fought 32 times in 1925 alone and maintained a breakneck schedule through his years at elite level. Signature wins came against Tommy Loughran, Gene Tunney, Mickey Walker, Maxie Rosenbloom and Tiger Flowers, all of whom are Hall of Famers.

Although no fight footage exists of Greb, reports indicate that he was a fearless aggressor who wasn’t beyond bending the rules.

Honorable mentions: Jack Dempsey, Benny Leonard, Gene Tunney, Mickey Walker

MORE: Canelo Alvarez vs. Jaime Munguia: The top-7 best Cinco de Mayo fights ranked

Despite the 1930s producing a multitude of certified boxing legends, there was only going to be one winner for this decade.

Armstrong, known as “Homicide Hank,” is the only fighter in boxing history to have held three undisputed divisional championships at the same time (featherweight, lightweight and welterweight) and he made a record 19 defenses of the welterweight crown.

Regardless of an opponent’s size, Armstrong would go on the front foot with a savage and relentless attack. He even came close to winning a version of the middleweight title but had to settle for a draw against Ceferino Garcia, whom he’d already beaten at welterweight.

Other notable victories came against a who’s who of greats: Baby Arizmendi, Midget Wolgast, Benny Bass, Petey Sarron, Chalkey Wright, Barney Ross and Lou Ambers

Fight fans will never see the likes of Armstrong again… ever.

Honorable mentions: Tony Canzoneri, Joe Louis, Jimmy McLarnin, Barney Ross.

Decades before Floyd Mayweather was bragging about winning 50 straight fights over 21 years, Pep had gone 62-0 between 1940 and 1951.

An exquisite boxer-mover, legend has it that Pep’s defensive skills were so finely tuned that he once won a round without throwing a single punch (round three against Jackie Graves in 1946). Fight reports dispute this, but there’s no challenging the fact that Pep made his bones across two title reigns and took on the best featherweights in the world.

Among his victims were Sammy Angott, Jackie Wilson, Manuel Ortiz, Paddy De Marco and Sandy Saddler. The four-fight rivalry with Saddler is one of the most famous in boxing history.

Honorable mentions: Ezzard Charles, Joe Louis, Ike Williams, Sugar Ray Robinson

MORE: Floyd Mayweather Jr.: Sporting News men’s boxing Athlete of the Decade

The original Sugar Ray is still the consensus choice for greatest fighter that ever lived.

Robinson was 73-1-1 before securing a shot at the welterweight title and he peaked in this weight class. However, it was his exploits as a legendary five-time middleweight champion that made him.

Despite being dwarfed by light heavyweight champ Joey Maxim, the great Sugar Ray came within six minutes of winning a third divisional title in New York. However, the outdoor heat scored a 13th-round TKO and Robinson was pulled out while way ahead on points.

Sugar Ray’s Hall of Fame victories throughout the 1950s are of the highest caliber: Bobo Olson, Jake LaMotta, Randolph Turpin, Rocky Graziano, Gene Fullmer and Carmen Basilio.

He was blessed with speed, power, exemplary technique and the courage of a soldier. Robinson was poetry in motion.

Honorable mentions: Carmen Basilio, Jake LaMotta, Rocky Marciano, Archie Moore

He came into this decade as Cassius Clay and left it as Muhammad Ali — the fastest and most gifted fighter the glamour division had ever seen.

After putting together a 19-fight win streak — some of which he predicted down to the round — the former Olympic light heavyweight champion was the No. 1 contender for the heavyweight title.

On February 25, 1964, Ali completely outclassed the seemingly invincible Sonny Liston with an eyepopping blend of rapid-fire punching and movement. He made nine defenses of the championship before being stripped of his boxing license for refusing induction into the U.S. armed forces to fight in the Vietnam war in April 1967.

Ironically, Ali’s greatest ring victories over Joe Frazier, George Foreman and Ken Norton took place in the 1970s. However, his fistic ability and athleticism were unmatched during his sixties prime.

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