The middleweights have traditionally been regarded as one of boxing’s true “glamour” divisions, boasting some of the best talent to ever lace ’em up and some of the fight game’s biggest draws. Our ranking here of the very best is restricted to those who fought at or near 160 pounds during most of their prime, thus allowing us to not have to worry about where to fit in greats Sam Langford, Mickey Walker, Billy Conn, and of course the great Sugar Ray Robinson. (Charles, Langford and Conn figure prominently on our list of all-time great light heavyweights, while Robinson and Walker are ranked at welterweight.) Check ’em out:
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 automatically puts Flowers among the elite. 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 fourteen straight title defenses mark “Escopeta” 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. He cleaned out the division in the late 70’s before finally getting a chance at the world championship in 1980. “The Marvelous One” was so dominant that top contenders thought twice before agreeing to fight him for the title. Wins over Willie Monroe, Bennie Briscoe, Alan Minter, Vito Antuofermo, Tony Sibson, Juan Roldan, Roberto Duran, John Mugabi and Thomas Hearns.
2. Bob Fitzsimmons: The man they called “The Fighting Blacksmith” 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 pounds for most of his career, guarantee him high standing here. As he said after knocking out James J. Corbett with a single body blow for the heavyweight championship: “I’m only a bleeding middleweight!”
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 world title in 1923. Greb went on to score legendary wins over Billy Miske, Tommy Gibbons, Jeff Smith, Mike Gibbons, Tommy Loughran, Mickey Walker and Gene Tunney, losing only eight times in over three hundred bouts.
Honorable Mentions: Jeff Smith, Dick Tiger, Marcel Cerdan, Mike McCallum, Billy Papke, Gene Fullmer, Tommy Ryan, Kid McCoy, Jack “The Nonpareil” Dempsey, Gennadiy Golovkin, Holman Williams, Mike O’Dowd, Rocky Graziano, Ceferino Garcia, Rodrigo Valdez, Joey Giardello, Teddy Yarosz, Marcel Thil, Les Darcy, Emile Griffith, Frank Klaus, Benny Briscoe.