Muhammad Ali may be considered (by some) to be the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time, but was he the best athlete ever to get into the ring? We have a discussion about the greatest boxer ever, which considers skill. In a poll of the Greatest Boxing Athlete of All Time conducted on the ESPN Sport Science website in 2012, the voting was based on the best athlete (not overall boxer) who has a combination of strength, speed, endurance, quickness, durability and the other attributes that make an athlete elite. See more about the ESPN Sport Science poll to determine the Greatest Athlete of All Time.
Who is the greatest boxing athlete of all time?
- Muhammad Ali — Throughout his entire career, he only lost one fight by knockout. first-ever three-time World Heavyweight Champion. Won 22 heavyweight Championship fights with 19 successful defenses. 56-5 career record with 37 knockouts.
- Julio Cesar Chavez — professional record of 107-6-2 with 88 knockouts.
- Floyd Mayweather — 43-0 professional record, with 26 knockouts.
- Sugar Ray Robinson — 175-19-6 record, with 109 knockouts.
- Mike Tyson — 44 of his 50 victories were by knockout.
And the winner is ...
- More about boxing
- A discussion about the greatest boxer ever
- The ESPN Sport Science poll to determine the Greatest Athlete of All Time.
Commenting is closed on this page, though you can read some previous comments below which may answer some of your questions.
- Your list of the best athletes is wrong,Ali and Mayweather have the worse record of most of the greatest boxers,Foreman,Archie Moore,Manny Pacquiao have a way more successful record than Ali and Mayweather,why are you putting out misinformation? ((John, March 2021)
- Ummm why isn't Rocky Marciano on the list 49-0 43 KOs? Jason Micheal S (2018)
- Because this is an absolutely awful list and the writer doesn't know anything about boxing. Jacob Lovins (2018)
- Max Francis Jacob Lovins (2020)
Well Tyson and Mayweather shouldn't be on there and no Joe Louis either or Henry Armstrong.
- Daniel Arellano Max Francis (2020)
In my opinion there have been legendary fighters including some in here. Rocky Marciano , Jack Dempsey, and others should be there too.
- Tyler e Taylor Jason Micheal S (2020)
They really messed up!!!
- Paul TTT Jason Micheal S (2019)
100% pound for pound better than these 5 choices. 15oz gloves, 15 rounds and better KO ratio than all of them.
- Ceasar Isabel Paul TTT (2020)
hell no are you insane? sugar ray is the reason they made the term "pound for pound" in the first place, literally, search it up dude, and most definitely he isn't beating Julio cesar chavez
- Ewan Leaper (2018)
Load of pants, Robinson is No 1 and the likes of Willie Pep, Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran faced better fighters than Ali and Mayweather ever did. Chavez wasn't as good as Pernell Whittaker either.
- Sandlugs Ewan Leaper (2018)
Amen. No heavyweight is ever likely to be the best pound for pound.
- Asshole Ewan Leaper (2020)
Damn right Pernal was better that Julio Cesar Chavez, unfortunate how he got robbed many times.
- Michael Young-Lorenzo Ewan Leaper (2019)
What do you mean ? Ali faught everyone.
- Ewan Leaper Michael Young-Lorenzo (2019)
Ali did fight everyone credible, I have full respect for him, I simply don't believe guys like Frazier, Foreman and Norton compare to the likes of Hagler, Duran, Hearns and Benitez and wouldn't place Ali above Leonard for that reason, they were all fairly basic in a P4P comparison sense.
- Toby Mitchell Bolinger Ewan Leaper (2019)
why is everyone forgetting Rocky Marciano I mean for real people lol
- Ewan Leaper Toby Mitchell Bolinger (2019)
Marciano is a legend, he beat two guys who I would place in the Top 15 of all time (Charles and Moore) and another that would make the Top 20 in Joe Louis. Walcott and LaStarza were also superb boxers, Marciano is very high on my list.
- Josh Toomey Toby Mitchell Bolinger (2019)
I completely agree Rocky Marciano would fight anyone they put in the ring with him and his body weight was never above 190
- Aravindh Toby Mitchell Bolinger (2020)
ESPN wrote and I quote : the voting was based on the best athlete (not overall boxer) who has a combination of strength, speed, endurance, quickness, durability and the other attributes that make an athlete elite.
- Rogue Warrior Aravindh (2020)
So, it was a popularity contest, rather than.a ranking of boxers.
- Hillary ilinsky Ewan Leaper (2020)
ali fought a lot of bums too. always held behind the head.
- Josh Toomey Ewan Leaper (2019)
You must not know too much about boxing because Muhammad Ali boxing record has several Hall of Fame fighters on it that he faced while they were in their Prime and Cassius Clay as I call him was past his prime when he fought these guys after his four-year layoffs
- Ewan Leaper Josh Toomey (2019)
I know a heap about boxing, that's why I possess the knowledge to look at Ali's record and not be as impressed as I am with guys like Robinson and Duran.
- Zach Keatts (2013)
Sorry, the winner from this list is Julio Cesar Chavez. Ali didn't win 89 fights in a row before finally losing one. Ali only fought over a span of 20 years while Chavez fought for 25. Chavez also defeated 15 different world champions. He never ducked a fight, and also fought opponents in between "title fights". Heck, Chavez was even undefeated for 13 years and for 9 of those years he was champ. Ali went 6 years as champ, yet 3 of them he wasn't allowed to fight, so that stat is boosted in favor of Ali. Ali only had a 66% victory by KO, versus a remarkable 80% for Chavez. In virtually every area Chavez outclassed Ali over the span of his career.
- It is perplexing how any comparison can be made here. Ali was hyped big time, was golden for the media, fought in the "darling weight class", and delivered some remarkable performances so I can see how perceptions are skewed, but to put him next to Chavez is simple preposterous. Just think about this, Chavez has one more loss than Ali (6 vs. 5), but 51 more wins (Ali already had 2 losses by the time he hit 51 wins).
- The comment written below about Rocky Marciano is also golden. He's not even on the list? Please
- Kerfegar Minocheherhomji Zach Keatts (2018)
Ali also had a four year suspension, out of which he served for 3 years ! Later he did what he said ! Onky one knockout in his entire career , tht too after the age of 35 ! Yee idk but maybe Sugar Ray Robinson is the best fighter ever ! But sureoy when we talk about heavyweight championship ,no one is close to Ali ! N dont talk about current fighters ! They hve much more facilities , a lot of attitude , no respect for each other outside the ring at all !all facilites provided , use of sports science n physio ! Better traveling n comfort ! So plz dont compare some1 as pious n great like Muhammad Ali
- Floyd Kerfegar Minocheherhomji (2018)
Manny pacquio is the geeatest of all time.. he fougth in 10 division ,winning 8 division, 5 lineal division champ.,no 1 close to his achievement.. the fighter offthe decade and the oeoples champ pacquio..
- Jacob Lovins Floyd (2018)
That might be the dumbest take I've ever heard. Manny is fantastic, but isn't even a top 20 fighter of all time... Saying something like this I can only assume that you've only started watching boxing in the past 10 years and have simply ignored the entire history of the sport.
- Isaiah anderson Jacob Lovins (2020)
Just cause he isn't an old fighter doesn't mean he isn't top 20. never give newer athletes credit and its annoying.
- Roger Griffith Zach Keatts (2016)
I would agree with you 100% if we were talking about two heavyweights. Ali faced much heavier hitters. You can't compare stats between someone who fought in a weight class that includes any weight over 200 lbs. with any other weight division.
- Wilfredo Santana Roger Griffith (2016)
Yea they hit harder in those heavy weight divisions but they also can take heavier punches.
- Bob Wilfredo Santana (2018)
Not in the head.
- Derrick Rahman Zach Keatts (2018)
Ali was the best boxer ever!!! Hands down!! Julio had all those fights and nobody can name 20 of the boxers he faced!! I don't count bar brawls as fights!!!!
- Richard Huddleston Zach Keatts (2018)
pernell whitaker beat chavez AND WAS CHEATED
- Matthew Coppins Richard Huddleston (2018)
Oh please! Pernell got ko'd!
- Joseph Vargas Richard Huddleston (2018)
I was there he was not cheated it was not as explicit on TV as to the physical beating he endured. The referee made the correct decision. If he had been hit one more time he might have been a dead champion. Evident by the fact he was never the same.
- Jason Hearne joseph Vargas (2018)
I think you are talking about Meldrick Taylor not Pernell Whitaker.
- Mojib Sparrow Zach Keatts (2018)
Well actually Ali is the greatest of all time, he was even stronger than Cesar Chavez. Ali' boxing license was ban for some years by the government of USA. And that affected on Ali's career. But even though he was many years away from boxing, he was still very strong. He knocked out Gorge Former, and he won Joe Frazier. His boxes weighted 50 Kilograms ( 110 pounds). Therefore Ali is the greatest of all the time in boxing.
- Bill Irwin Zach Keatts (2014)
Rocky Marciano should be 2nd!!!
- Tass Zach Keatts (2013)
The list is the greatest ATHLETE. Chavez basically was blessed with a granite face. And Meldrick Taylor, by the way, while his OWN face was a bleeding mess, WAY outhit Chavez, was WAY up in rounds won, and Don King's favorite little monkey ref (wind up the tune to play, and he screws the pooch accordingly, for Don), after Chavez finally landed a heavy enough blow to fell Taylor, and Taylor GOT UP, looked to his corner as he SHOULD, CALLED THE FIGHT with LESS THAN TEN SECONDS LEFT IN THE FIFTEENTH ROUND, such robbery, to PRESERVE his record. That said; Ali held the title from Feb of '64 through maybe the fall of '67--that's FOUR YEARS. They stripped him until sometime in 1970, 3 years and 7 months, while NEVER DEFEATED but WITHOUT THE TITLE. He won it back in 1974 vs. Foreman, and lost it and won it a third time to and over Spinks, both in 1978. The TWO separate reigns then total about 8 years (not 6), and the 3 years and 7 months of exile DO NOT DETRACT from these reigns, as he DID NOT HAVE IT, WRONGFULLY, WITHOUT A LOSS IN THE RING. ADD, not subtract these nearly 4 more years of wrongful exile (overturned later, UNANIMOUSLY, by the SUPREME COURT), and you get 12 years (Ali was beginning his peak say '66 vs. Williams, so ALL 37 MONTHS OR MOST, HE WOULD HAVE ONLY GOTTEN BETTER) of reign--same 12 years as Joe Louis, only against FAR BETTER competition. How anybody can consider Chavez a better ATHLETE (the subject of this article) than ALI is beyond comprehension. Stone chin, just took all those little guy's punches and kept wading in. ALI, as an ATHLETE, was a 6'3, 212 at his peak (209-212 Dundee liked him best at) GAZELLE, who apart from two (just TWO) great left hooks barely got TOUCHED pre exile. Banks felled him (he had a great left hook)--in Clay's 11th pro bout--and Clay rose and knocked him out, same round. Cooper (another great left hook) hit him with a FANTASTIC one near the end of the 4th (same round I believe as Banks), Ali half between the ROPES on the canvas, and AGAIN, UP AT THE COUNT OF THREE, same as with banks, walks to his corner as the bell then rings, and comes out in the 5th and KNOCKS COOPER OUT, JUST AS PREDICTED. Then the boxing arseholes and United States Politically motivated legal system robbed Ali and THE WORLD of seeing what was developing still into THE GREATEST HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION EVER, 37 months of PRIME for a boxer, NEVER SEEN. He came back, his legs no longer able to dance, stick, NOT be hit period, 3 mins of a round for a full 15 rounds. Not close. He learned how to be a NEW fighter, that he COULD punch, and TAKE a punch with THE BEST WHO EVER FOUGHT, and with his unmatched ring smarts, dominated THAT decade just as he did the previous one, against what is generally considered by boxing folks as THE GOLDEN AGE OF HEAVYWEIGHTS, all past his prime, hell, ROBBED of his prime, never seen. Joe Frazier was at his PEAK OF PEAKS against Ali the first time (NEVER the same, FOREMAN noted WHOMEVER fought Frazier next might make short work of him, since Ali damn near killed him in a loss, with only TWO TUNE UP FIGHTS after those nearly 4 years of inactivity, hospitalized for weeks, no post fight interview after being the FIRST to beat ALI...manager Yancy Durham lobbying for Joe to RETIRE...Ali goes on and fights 10 times the next two years, and Joe fights just 2 times, gets MANDATED to defend by boxing powers against FOREMAN, sitting idle so long, damaged--ALI softened up Joe for George, no doubt). Joe had EVERYTHING ELSE, along with being at his peak, going for him, as well in the first fight--Ali idle so long, then taking just TWO tune ups, and since Ali saw the establishment that stripped him putting Joe in power, he poured on some mean spirited promoting, and Joe got the added incentive of HATE to fuel him. And many saw Ali winning even THAT fight. I don't think he did. But the rest is true, and I believe no exile, no loss to Joe Frazier. Hell, maybe no losses, period.
- I never understand how Rocky Marciano never gets the respect he so deserves. He fought 49 professional bouts, never dodging anyone, and never lost a single bout. Plus, he only had 12 total amatuer bouts. My amatuer record is way better than his, but I could have never done what he did in his career. Of his 49 bouts won, 88% of them were decided by KO. Only 3 opponents managed to make it through their career without being KO'd by the Rock (while Charles & La Starza went the distance in their first bouts, Rock KO'd them in the rematch). In the 49 bouts, they averaged less than 5 rounds (& this was in the 15 round days). Over 4 years, he won 7 Championship Bouts before retiring at the age of 32, after, in his words, fighting everyone out there to fight and having nothing else to prove. And while many lists have Joe Louis as one of the greatest boxers ever, Rock sent him knocked out through the ropes and out of the ring in their bout. And in the "Superfight" (the fake bout generated as a "what if" bout), that was put on b/w Rocky and Ali, that over 250 boxing experts determined, Rocky won by KO. Also, he fought in what many consider as the "Golden Age of Boxing", defeating greats such as La Starza, Louis, Walcott, Charles, the Old Mongoose, Archie Moore, etc. and knocked them all out. Yet f****ing Mayweather is #3!!! Ok, he's undefeated at 46-0. So even if he wins 4 more to beat Marciano's record, he still has already had almost 3 times as many wins by decision as Marciano, 17-6 (some being a little suspect...José Luis Castillo, Oscar de la Hoya), and KO's are 26-43 (one including the cheap shot win over Victor Ortiz). (from boxer3420, Apr 2013)
- I've never ever seen the likes of an athlete such as Ali. He not only was great, he had style and grace. He was michael Jackson B4 Michael Jackson. U could watch hours of just him, and the Ali shuffle, was breath taking. I've seen movies, i watched Sugar Ray Leonard, and no1 2date, could imulate that move ... And though it was an entertainment 2us, it was a boxing strategy 4 him. Leonard did it 2just entertain us, Ali did it 2confuse the opponent. I noticed in some old Jack Johnson fights, that Ali had studied Jack, he saw that Jack had style, Jack had stamina, Jack was quick on his feet, and Jack was entertaining. Sugar Ray Robinson had the speed, the smarts, but he didn't have the jaw that Jack an Ali had.Ali is, not was, the Bruce Lee of boxing. Boxing is dead now only Bcuz the younger newer fighters don't get what we got, that made young men want2 enter boxing Bcuz they wantt 2B the next, Ali, the greatest of all time! :-)