The Best Boxers from the United States in History:
Take a look at the top 5 boxers in history from the United States. The USA was the absolute center of the boxing world for the entirety of the 20th century. That means compiling a list of the best American boxers ever is a daunting task to say the list, and in many ways, it mimics a top 5 or 10 list of the all-time top pound for pound fighters in the sport.
- Sugar Ray Robinson (Career: 1940-1965): The best to ever lace ‘em up. While every other commonly held belief has a ton of alternate theories, very few have really questioned Robinson’s standing as the greatest fighter who ever lived. Robinson was a perfect fighting machine. The greatest Welterweight Champion who ever lived moved up to middleweight—winning that title 5 times. After over a decade in the world-class ranks, his record sat at 128-1-2, his only loss to a 16-pounds heavier Jake LaMotta, a man Robinson also beat 5 times. Holds 21 wins over fighters in the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
- Henry Armstrong (Career: 1931-1945): At one point held titles in 3 different weight classes. This was when there were only 8 divisions, meaning Armstrong at one point single-handedly had a stranglehold on almost 40% of all the titles in the sport. In his prime, “Hammering Hank” was an ultra-aggressive and imperturbable fighting force. Among the greats Armstrong bested were Midget Wolgast, Baby Arizmendi (three times), Juan Zurita (twice), Frankie Klick, Benny Bass, Petey Sarron, Chalky Wright, Barney Ross, Lou Ambers, Ceferino Garcia, Pedro Montanez, Lew Jenkins, Fritzie Zivic, Tippy Larkin, Sammy Angott, and Willie Joyce. Won 22 title fights and revolutionized the sport.
- Willie Pep (Career: 1940-1966): The peerless “Will o’ the Wisp” was a boxing and defensive master—virtually untouchable in his prime. Loss at age 20 to Hall of Famer Sammy Angott was his only defeat in his first 136 fights. A near-fatal 1947 plane crash took away some of his ability, but he remained champion until running into the great Sandy Saddler. Beat Saddler in a rematch in the 1949 Fight of the Year. Record of 229-11-1 even more impressive when considering Pep took several dives.
- Harry Greb (Career: 1913-1926): The middleweight great’s list of accomplishments is stunning. Fought absolutely everybody during a glorious era. Holds newspaper wins over Willie “KO” Brennan (3 times), Al McCoy (twice), Jeff Smith (five times), George Chip (twice), Jack Dillon (twice), Willie Meehan (twice), Mike McTigue (twice), Battling Levinsky (five times), Billy Miske (twice), Bill Brennan (four times), Mike Gibbons, Tommy Gibbons, Kid Norfolk, Tommy Loughran (twice), Tiger Flowers, Jimmy Delaney, and Maxie Rosenbloom.
Greb also holds non-newsy wins over Bill Brennan, Jeff Smith, Tommy Gibbons, Gene Tunney (the Heavyweight Champ’s only defeat), Tommy Loughran (twice), Johnny Wilson (three times), Jimmy Delaney (three times), and Mickey Walker. In total, holds 25 wins over fighters in the IBHOF. Looking at his mind-numbing accomplishments, it’s no wonder why a few from the hardcore set consider “The Pittsburgh Windmill” the greatest of them all.
5. Benny Leonard (Career: 1911-1932): Not only did he dominate his division, but he was head and shoulders above arguably the most demanding era at lightweight. Considered by many to be the greatest ever at 135. Knocked out 4 times early in his career in 1911-12, would only have one DQ loss all the way until 1932. The clever “Ghetto Wizard” beat a great champ in Freddie Welsh (KO 9) in 1917, before cleaning out the division, beating Johnny Kilbane, Johnny Dundee, Willie Ritchie, Charley White, Richie Mitchell, Rocky Kansas, and Lew Tendler—before retiring as champion. Also beat Jack Britton (2 nws), and fought a controversial draw with Welterweight Champion Ted “Kid” Lewis.
Hopefully you enjoyed our list of the best boxers from the United States in the history of the sport. Clearly this list is up for debate, as there could have been any number of additional fighters that worked their way into the top 5 all-time. It’s hard to do justice to America’s rich tradition of boxing, particularly from the talent-loaded first half of the century with such a short list, but nevertheless take a look and feel free to chime in with your own thoughts on who should be the top 5 best American boxers of all-time.