Our updated list of the best ever at 160 marks the first in a series of all-time divisional rankings which The Fight City will compile and offer fight fans in the months to come. The middleweights have traditionally been regarded as one of the sport’s true “glamour” divisions, boasting some of the best talent to ever lace ’em up, pound-for-pound. Our ranking here of the very best is restricted to those who fought at or near 160 lb. during most of their prime, thus allowing us to compose the list without worrying about where to fit in greats Ezzard Charles, Sam Langford, Billy Conn, and of course the great “Sugarman,” Ray Robinson.
12. Tony Zale: Wins over Al Hostak, Georgie Abrams, Rocky Graziano and Fred Apostoli set “The Man of Steel” apart. One of the best body punchers in boxing history.
11. Bernard Hopkins: While he presided over perhaps the weakest middleweight division in history, no one can dispute the skill and longevity of “The Executioner.”
10. Jake LaMotta: “The Bronx Bull” beat a long list of terrific fighters, including one of the greatest of all middleweights, Ray Robinson. Fritzie Zivic, Tommy Bell, Holman Williams, Marcel Cerdan, George Costner and Tony Janiro are among those LaMotta bested.
9. Mike Gibbons: He never won the world title, but Gibbons was widely regarded as one of the very best at 160, not to mention one of the sharpest and cleverest boxers around, regardless of weight. His record shows wins over a long list of elite talent including Mike O’Dowd, Ted “Kid” Lewis, Al McCoy, Jeff Smith and Harry Greb.
8. Tiger Flowers: Competing with Mickey Walker and Harry Greb when both were in their primes automatically sets Flowers apart. He gave Greb two tough battles and his loss to Walker was widely viewed as a robbery. Racked up an incredible 118 wins in less than a decade.
7. Freddie Steele: Solid wins over Fred Apostoli, Ceferino Garcia, Gus Lesnevich, Vince Dundee and Babe Risko. Record of 124-6-8. ‘Nuff said.
6. Carlos Monzon: The Argentine’s long championship reign and 14 straight title defenses mark him as one of the very best.
5. Stanley Ketchel: “The Michigan Assassin,” known for his astonishing power and general viciousness, had his career tragically cut short, but not before establishing himself as the terror of the middleweights with wins over Billy Papke, Joe Thomas and Philadelphia Jack O’Brien.
4. Charley Burley: One of the greatest to never win a title, Burley was avoided by many of the top boxers of his time, yet he still scored big wins over Holman Williams, Fritzie Zivic, Archie Moore, Billy Soose and Georgie Abrams.
3. Marvelous Marvin Hagler: Hagler was the best middleweight in the world for over a full decade, during which he lost only one fight.
2. Bob Fitzsimmons: The great “Speckled Bob” is famous for his exploits at heavier weights and for being boxing’s first triple crown champ. But his amazing punching power, huge win over Jack “The Nonpareil” Dempsey, and the fact Fitz remained near 160 lb for most of his career, guarantee him high standing on this list.
1. Harry Greb: “The Smoke City Wildcat” is forever the greatest of them all at 160 as he rarely weighed more and was clearly the best in the division for years before he finally won the title in 1923. Greb went on to score legendary wins over Mickey Walker and Gene Tunney, losing only eight times in over 300 bouts.
Honorable Mentions: Jeff Smith, Marcel Cerdan, Dick Tiger, Gene Fullmer, Tommy Ryan, Kid McCoy, Mickey Walker, Roy Jones Jr., Jack “The Nonpareil” Dempsey, Holman Williams, Billy Papke, Rodrigo Valdez, Joey Giardello, Les Darcy, Emile Griffith, Frank Klaus, Benny Briscoe.