Top 12 All-Time Greatest Featherweights

We’ve ranked the all-time greatest middleweights, bantamweights, light heavyweights and flyweights. Now we turn to the featherweights and offer our list of the all-time best to lace up the gloves at 126 pounds. As noted in our previous divisional rankings, we limit boxers to only one of the traditional eight weight classes, which makes it a little easier to spread the glory around and recognize more fighters. Thus, you won’t find George Dixon or Terry McGovern listed here as they hold prominent positions in our bantamweight rankings.

12. Freddie Miller: The fighting pride of Cincinnati scored more than two hundred pro wins including victories over such fellow greats as Panama Al Brown, Petey Sarron, Al Dundee and Baby Arizmendi.

greatest southpaws
Cincinnati’s Freddie Miller.

11. Jim Driscoll: The boxer they called “Peerless,” one of the most cerebral of pugilists, holds wins over such immortals as George Dixon and Abe Attell.

“Peerless” Jim Driscoll

10. Vincente Saldivar: One of the finest southpaws in boxing history, “Zurdo de Oro” owns victories over Ismael Laguna, Sugar Ramos, Howard Winstone and Jose Legra.

Vincente Saldivar

9. Salvador Sanchez: His career was cut short as, at the age of only 23, he died in a car accident, but over the course of only three years Sanchez secured boxing immortality with an amazing streak of championship wins including victories over Danny Lopez, Wilfredo Gomez, Juan LaPorte and Azumah Nelson.

Salvador Sanchez: Ink drawing by Damien Burton.

8. Johnny Kilbane: A tough, clever boxer and one of the sport’s longest-reigning world champions, Kilbane holds wins over Abe Attell, Jimmy Walsh and George Chaney.

Kilbane reacting to his decision win over Attell in 1912.

7. Alexis Arguello: While the great Nicaraguan gained fame as a lightweight and in his unforgettable battles with Aaron Pryor, his best years were at 126 and 130 as he scored wins over such elite talents as Ruben Olivares, Leonel Hernandez, Alfredo Escalera and Bobby Chacon.

Arguello pounds Escalera.

6. Johnny Dundee: With over 330 matches to his credit, including tough battles against such luminaries as Benny Leonard, Johnny Kilbane, Lew Tendler and Willie Ritchie, the legacy of the great “Scotch Wop,” aka Giuseppe Curreri, is forever secure.

The great Johnny Dundee.

5. Kid Chocolate: Cuba’s first ever world champion, Eligio Sardiñas Montalvo boasts victories over such fistic greats as Fidel LaBarba, Benny Bass, Eddie Shea, Battling Battalino and Al Singer.

The fighting pride of Cuba, Kid Chocolate.

4. Abe Attell: One of the cleverest of ring artists, the reputation of “The Little Hebrew” took more abuse than the fighter himself ever did after he was involved in the famous “Black Sox Scandal” of 1919, but wins over George Dixon, Battling Nelson, Johnny Kilbane, Owen Moran and Jimmy Walsh guarantee him ATG status.

Talk about high-level sparring: Joe Gans and Abe Attell.

3. Sandy Saddler: One of boxing’s hardest punchers and most prolific champions, the dominant Saddler boasts victories over Willie Pep, “Flash” Elorde, Jimmy Carter, Paddy DeMarco and Joe Brown.

The great Sandy Saddler

2. Henry Armstrong: The greatness of “Homicide Hank” was most firmly established at 126 pounds as this pound-for-pound legend devastated the division, racking up over eighty wins in less than seven years, in the process overwhelming such top-flight talents as Frankie Klick, Petey Sarron, Benny Bass, Chalky Wright, and Baby Arizmendi.

Homicide Hank: Ink drawing by Damien Burton.

1. Willie Pep: The all-time king of the featherweights, the amazing “Will O’The Wisp” put together an incredible 229 pro wins against only eleven defeats, with all of those victories at 126 pounds.

Honorable Mentions: Young Griffo, Azumah Nelson, Eusebio Pedroza, Benny Bass, Baby Arizmendi, Erik Morales, Battling Battalino, Wilfredo Gomez, Chalky Wright, Harry Jeffra, Benny Valgar, Davey Moore, Marco Antonio Berrera, Danny Lopez, Owen Moran, Young Corbett II.

10 thoughts on “Top 12 All-Time Greatest Featherweights

  • January 30, 2019 at 2:40 am
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    I think a notable omission is Ghana’s Azumah Nelson. Nelson should be included in the top five.

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    • August 27, 2019 at 7:20 pm
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      Nelson was a much better junior lightweight than featherweight. That’s why he can’t be rated in this elite group.

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  • August 14, 2019 at 2:52 pm
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    Where’s Jeff Fenech and Danny Lopez?

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    • August 27, 2019 at 7:21 pm
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      Fenech also was better at another weight, not here.

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  • August 16, 2019 at 9:20 am
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    Remember Alton Black?

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  • March 29, 2020 at 11:45 am
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    Salvador Sanchez should be a top 5 at least and I believe should be considered the 2nd best… He was never really hurt in any of his Championship matches and in his early 20’s outclassed all his opponents… Understated due to his early death but still had a 44-1-1 record and 10 successful Featherweight title defenses by his death at the age of 23… He destroyed a 32-0-1 with 32 KO’s Wilfredo Gomez who is considered one of the best of all time in any division

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    • October 15, 2021 at 2:30 pm
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      Agree. I think really right behind Pep and Armstrong.

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  • October 17, 2021 at 6:33 pm
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    I believe Salvador Sanchez was such a great fighter. He could have beaten any of the other 11 featherweights listed here, but that’s the great thing about sports: you can argue about who was the greatest for years and it’s all based on your own opinion. We’ll never know for sure. It’s a great sport.

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  • November 10, 2021 at 5:56 pm
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    Would have rated Armstrong as welter. Leaving this aside – since Saddler beat Pep 3-1, why Pep over him?

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  • December 10, 2021 at 1:16 pm
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    Saddler has to be number 1, certainly above Willie Pep.

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