Top 12 All-Time Greatest Middleweights

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 WalkerBilly 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:

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.

Zale knocking out Rocky Graziano.
Zale knocking out Rocky Graziano.

11. Bernard Hopkins: While he presided over perhaps the weakest middleweight division in history, no one can dispute the skill, intelligence and longevity of “The Executioner.”

Bernard Hopkins

10. Jake LaMotta: “The Bronx Bull” beat a long list of terrific fighters, including one of the greatest of all middleweights, Ray RobinsonFritzie Zivic, Tommy Bell, Holman Williams, Marcel Cerdan, George Costner and Tony Janiro are among those LaMotta bested.

best chins
The Bronx Bull. Ink drawing by Damien Burton.

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.

Mike Gibbons (right) putting on an exhibition with brother Tommy.

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.

An autographed photo of the great Tiger Flowers.

7. Freddie Steele: Solid wins over Fred Apostoli, Ceferino Garcia, Gus Lesnevich, Vince Dundee and Babe Risko. Record of 124-6-8. ‘Nuff said.

Freddie Steele

6. Carlos Monzon: The Argentine’s long championship reign and fourteen straight title defenses mark “Escopeta” as one of the very best.

A Fistful Of Murder
Monzon battling fellow great Bennie Briscoe.

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.

The great Stanley Ketchel.

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.

The great Charley Burley. Drawing by Damien Burton.

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.

Southpaw Hagler
Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Painting by Damien Burton.

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!”

Bob Fitzsimmons. Ink drawing by Damien Burton.

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.

The legendary Harry Greb. Painting by Damien Burton.

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.

23 thoughts on “Top 12 All-Time Greatest Middleweights

  • April 20, 2015 at 4:39 pm
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    Where the hell is Mickey Walker????

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  • April 21, 2015 at 11:28 pm
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    “The Toy Bulldog” appeared to be a safe bet to make the list when we began putting it together, but as time went on his ranking slowly fell, and then fell again, until he had slipped right out of the list. The principal reason for this is that Walker’s achievements at 160 are in fact rather slim. His title winning effort against Tiger Flowers was universally viewed as a terrible decision and he went on to defend the championship only three times. His accomplishments as a welterweight are much more impressive. Walker remains one of the best fighters of his era and a pound-for-pound great, but his exploits at 160 are not the basis of that status and on their own do not compare well to that of other middleweight greats.

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  • May 3, 2015 at 10:16 am
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    Why should the tall, strong, wiry guy get all the advantages over the short, muscular guy ? They are taller, have a longer reach, usually faster. Graziano + LaMotta are criticized for fighting welters but if they were fighting Robinson, Costner, Bell, Arnold, etc. fully clothed in a back alley most people would be rooting for the “little guy” (Graz, LaMotta etc.) to beat the bigger guy. I believe there should be some type of a weight handicap match to even things out for the little short guy. By the way LaMotta had many fights (and wins) against middleweights who would agree to fight him, many would not fight him so he boxed welters, who thought they could maybe outspeed him to victory. And Rocky did fight middleweight Zale to a standstill in their first two matches. I have stood next to Rocky and I know he was no more than around 5′ 6″

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  • October 31, 2015 at 3:17 pm
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    Charley Burley???? who the hell is Charley Burley. One of Burley’s reletives wrote a book on Burley, with most of that book fictitious, fabricated and lies. Burley was nothing special and should not be listed in the Top 50 Greatest Middleweights. never mind the top 10

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    • September 24, 2017 at 10:28 am
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      Burley is from my Hometown of PITTSBURGH, PA and was a Member of “Black Murderers Row!” – Look it up on YouTube buddy. Burley was a BAD DUDE!

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      • April 15, 2019 at 12:39 am
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        Burley was THE guy. None of the top fighters wanted to take him on, chief amongst them being Sugar Ray Robinson. Burley and the other Black Murderers Row guys were primo fighters who would have destroyed the field given a chance.

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    • January 10, 2022 at 9:16 am
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      Roy Jones jr is best

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  • May 29, 2016 at 4:48 pm
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    Can’t agree with that list. A few names here don’t fit.

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  • October 10, 2018 at 7:30 am
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    This List cant be Real having Hopkins at 11

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  • November 7, 2018 at 10:57 pm
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    Any list that fails to have the Great Marcel Cerdan as a top 10 middleweight isn’t worth its salt. How can you place Bernard Hopkins higher than Cerdan. Let’s start there. Marvin Hagler too. Who did Hopkins beat at middleweight? Who did Hagler beat (and don’t say Duran and Hearns—a Lightweight and Welterweight) who did he beat? John Mugabi? Notice I’m not even mentioning anybody Hopkins beat? Meanwhile Cerdan conquered Europe and when he was finally allowed to come to the USA , whipped the asses of Georgie Abrams and Holman Williams and then destroyed Tony Zale in his title bid that he finally got after 110 fights and serving in world war 2, against only 2 defeats. He lost to Jake LaMotta after fighting that animal with one arm for 9 brutal rounds after dislocating his shoulder in the first round. Ok? Forget about Europe if you need, just Abrams, Williams and Zale are better than ANYBODY Hagler ever fought and especially Hopkins who fought nobody worth even mentioning.

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    • November 10, 2020 at 2:06 pm
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      It’s kind of like the Babe Ruth dilemma. Can we really acknowledge any athlete the likes of Cerdan & Greb when they came up in an era that didn’t allow minorities in the sport ?

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    • June 7, 2021 at 9:52 pm
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      Are you retarded? Seriously? Who did Hagler beat? Jesus Christ! Lie down you muppet if you think Cerdan was better. Hagler, Monzon and Greb are the greatest middleweights. Hagler was never even hurt by another boxer. He faced a count once and went on to give Roldan 68 stitches in the face. Cerdan lost to aka Motta who had fuck all skill compared to Hagler and poor conditioning.

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  • June 17, 2019 at 5:17 am
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    Jones Jr beat Hopkins easily at middleweight. EASILY.

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  • November 11, 2019 at 9:42 am
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    None of these guys could’ve defeated Monzon, furthermore, they don’t have the stats to show that they could.

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  • February 24, 2020 at 10:37 pm
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    My wife’s grand-dad was Bob Fitzsimmons. Great to see him on the list. Linda will be well happy.

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  • September 6, 2020 at 3:44 am
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    Whoever put this list together doesn’t know squat about boxing. Sugar Ray Robinson, considered by most experts to be the best ever pound-for-pound isn’t even on the list, while a fighter be beat not once, or twice, but five times is on the list!

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  • February 10, 2021 at 9:42 am
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    Greatest Middleweights:
    1. Carlos Monzon
    2. Harry Greb
    3. Jake LaMotta
    4. Marvelous Marvin Hagler
    5. Roberto Duran
    6. Roy Jones Jr
    7. Stanley Ketchel
    8. Nino Benvenuti
    9. Marcel Cerdan
    10. ‎Saul Canelo Alvarez

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    • November 6, 2021 at 11:16 pm
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      Do you actually think Jake Lamotta and Roberto Duran would beat Stanley Ketchel in the middleweight division?

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  • June 22, 2021 at 1:10 pm
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    If Roy Jones Jr. ain’t on your list you’re not credible.

    Reply

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