Although fists were used as weapons for millennia, pugilism as a sport is much more recent – its current rules have been codified in 1867, in England.
Still, the biggest personalities of the sport have fought their way into history in the United States. During sports history, many great fighters wrote their names in the annals of boxing, mentioning them all would take ages. That’s why we are focusing on the ones considered the greatest of them all. Most major title matches take place in Las Vegas, a global meeting point for boxing fans, tourists, and gamblers.
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Below. you’ll find a short list of the greatest – and most popular – boxers in history:
William Harrison “Jack” Dempsey, also known as The Manassa Mauler, has become a cultural icon in the 1920s. Out of his 85 matches, he won 65 (51 times by KO). He held the World Heavyweight Champion title between 1919 and 1926. His style was aggressive and his punching power was huge, which made him one of the most popular boxers in history. Most of his fights beat attendance records – and financial records, too. He was also a very entertaining fighter, which he made use of – after winning the World Championship title, he traveled around the country, making appearances at circuses and staging exhibitions.
John Arthur “Jack” Johnson, also known as the Galveston Giant, was the first African-American fighter to win the Heavyweight World Champion title in 1908, holding on to it in the next seven years. For years, he was the most famous – and the most notorious – African-American of the world. He lost the title to Texas fighter Jess Willard in the 26th round of a 45-round match in Havana.
Born Walker Smith Jr., Sugar Ray Robinson is often cited as the greatest fighter of all time. As an amateur, Robinson had a record of 85-0, while out of his 200 fights, he only lost 19 (and won by KO 108 times). The two-time “Fighter of the Year” was well-known outside the ring as well for his flamboyant lifestyle.
Michael Gerard “Mike” Tyson holds the record as the youngest boxer to win the WBA, WBC, and IBF heavyweight titles – he was 20 at the time. During his professional career, Tyson fought 58 matches, winning 50 of them (44 by KO). As a newcomer, he won his first 19 matches by KO, 12 times in the first round. He was known as a ferocious and intimidating fighter, often controversial in his behavior.
Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., is widely considered one of the most significant – and certainly one of the most celebrated – sports personalities of the world. He won the WBA and WBC heavyweight titles in 1964, at the age of 26. Out of his 61 professional fights, Ali won 56 (37 times by KO). The greatest boxer of the 20th century passed away this June, at the age of 74.