Top 12 All-Time Greatest Bantamweights

A while back we published our list of the greatest middleweights of all time and when we did we promised to follow-up with additional rankings for all of the original eight weight divisions. So next up, the all-time best bantamweights, a division as deep in legendary talent as any other. One peculiar characteristic about the men who fought in the rooster division is the lack of argument to be made regarding the greatest bantam of them all. In fact, that name surely deserves more mentions when the topic of the greatest boxers of all time comes up. But for the other eleven, there is of course plenty of room for debate, so forthwith, our Top 12. Let the arguments commence!

12. Johnny Coulon: “The Chicago Spider” boasts wins over Pete Herman, Frankie Burns, Kid Murphy, Jim Kendrick and Charlie Goldman.

Coulon with Muhammad Ali in 1966.
Coulon with Muhammad Ali in 1966.

11. Charles “Bud” Taylor: With victories over such greats as Battling Battalino, Joe Lynch, Benny Bass, Abe Goldstein, Tony Canzoneri, and Jimmy McLarnin, there’s no question “The Blonde Terror of Terre Haute” deserves a spot on this list.

The Terror of Terre Haute.

10. Fighting Harada: A tough and gritty battler, Harada won both the flyweight and bantamweight titles. Boasts wins over Pone Kingpetch, Nobuo Chiba, Ray Perez, Antonio Herrera and the great Eder Jofre.

Harada victorious.
Harada victorious.

9. Carlos Zarate: One of the hardest punchers in bantamweight history, Zarate has 63 knockouts in seventy wins. Victims include Alfonso Zamora, Alberto Davila, Andres Hernandez, Paul Ferreri, and Rodolfo Martinez.

Zarate is definitely in the top 5.
Zarate is one of Mexico’s greatest champions.

8. Manuel Ortiz: A two-time world champ, Ortiz was a complete fighter and a veteran of 23 world title fights. He bested Little Pancho, Jackie McCoy, Luis Castillo, Harold Dade, Benny Goldberg and many others.

Ortiz (left) battling Howard Dade in 1947.

7. Panama Al Brown: Boxing’s first Hispanic world champion was a top bantam for more than a full decade, not to mention the world champ for six. A sharp boxer with an iron chin, Brown was floored just a single time in 168 fights.

Panama Al Brown
Panama Al Brown

6. Kid Williams: The aggressive Williams, aka John Gutenko, battled a who’s-who of great fighters, losing only seventeen in more than two hundred contests. Johnny Coulon, Pete Herman, Eddie O’Dowd, Joe Dundee, Charley Goldman, Young Montreal and Midget Smith were among those who succumbed to his non-stop attack.

Gutenko
Kid Williams

5. Terry McGovern: “Terrible” Terry was an aggressive battler and a powerful puncher. While his win over the great Joe Gans is considered suspect, he holds legit victories over a long list of formidable opposition including George Dixon, Tim Callahan, Frank Erne, Aurelio Herrera and Oscar Gardner.

Terrible Terry
Terrible Terry

4. Ruben Olivares: There’s no doubt “El Puas” belongs on any list of top bantams. A four time world champ, he defeated such top talents as Chucho Castillo, Lionel Rose, Art Hafey, Efren Torres and Bobby Chacon.

Olivares vs Rudkin JJJ
Olivares: an elite KO artist for many years.

3. Pete Herman: Arguably, no bantam champion faced stiffer opposition than “Kid Herman.” He defeated a long list of terrific battlers, including Kid Williams, Jimmy Wilde, Young Solzberg, Abe Friedman, Frankie Burns, Joe Lynch, Young Zulu and Johnny Coulon.

The great Pete Herman

2. George Dixon: A pugilistic innovator and the first black man to hold a world crown, “Little Chocolate” has been hailed as the finest fighter of the 19th century by Monte Cox and the greatest bantam of all-time by Nat Fleischer. Champion for almost a full decade, he fought in twenty-three title bouts, the most ever until Joe Louis broke the record.

George Dixon was the first of many black boxing champions.
George Dixon’s brilliance influenced generations of boxers.

1. Eder Jofre: Few historians do not rank Jofre as the best bantamweight of them all. His splendid career is one of the most impressive in the history of the sport. With only two losses in eighty fights, both to Fighting Harada, and more than fifty knockouts, Jofre is clearly one of the greatest boxers of all time.

Jofre 0002 333
Is Jofre ‘TBE’?

Honorable Mentions: Orlando Canizales, Khaosai Galaxy, Lupe Pintor, Joe Lynch, Jeff Chandler, Sixto Escobar, Frankie Burns, Jose Becerra, Rafael Herrera, Jimmy Carruthers, Abe Goldstein, Memphis Pal Moore, Jeff Fenech, Rafael Herrera, Raul Macias, Lionel Rose, Miguel Lora, Veeraphol Sahaprom, Harry Jeffra.

4 thoughts on “Top 12 All-Time Greatest Bantamweights

  • May 6, 2020 at 6:01 pm
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    Where is Wilfredo Gomez? He beat one of the guys on this list via KO and there is no legitimate greatest bantamweight list without him.

    Reply
    • May 14, 2020 at 5:03 am
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      But Gomez was a super bantamweight who then became a featherweight. Salvador Sanchez knocked him out as a featherweight and later Azumah Nelson.

      Reply
      • February 23, 2021 at 10:18 pm
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        So there’s no place for super bantamweights!

        Reply
  • August 26, 2020 at 2:22 am
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    Olivares in my opinion is the best Bantamweight boxer of all time, no disrespect to Jofre because he is great also. Going into his second fight with Chucho Castillo, his record was 61-0-1. He could have retired undefeated prior to that fight because he had little left to prove to that point. He didn’t he kept boxing and moved up two weight classes to fight the likes of Arguello who he almost defeated, Danny Lopez, Bobby Chacon, and Pedroza. Ultimately he did win two more world titles at Featherweight. I just think his competition was better than Jofre’s and for me, Olivares is the greatest there ever lived!

    Reply

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