Many standout fighters have showcased their brilliant abilities in the squared circle. However, the five pugilists below have been the most successful over the last three decades.
1. Sugar Ray Leonard
Leonard (36-3-1, 25 KOs), a gold medalist at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, won five world titles in five weight classes. Named the “Boxer of the Decade” for the 1980s, Leonard trumped future International Boxing Hall of Fame inductees Wilfred Benítez, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran and Marvelous Marvin Hagler.
“Sugar Ray,” the first prizefighter to earn in excess of $100 million in purses, lost as a shopworn, quasi-geriatric to Terry Norris in February 1991 and Hector Camacho in March 1997. Hence, Leonard’s only valid loss came at the hands of the legendary Duran in June, 1980.
2. Bernard Hopkins
Hopkins (55-7-2-2, 32 KOs), the oldest champion in history, defended the middleweight belt a record 20 consecutive times from 1995 through 2005. Nicknamed “The Alien,” Hopkins has overcome Felix Trinidad, William Joppy, Oscar De La Hoya, Antonio Tarver, Winky Wright, Kelly Pavlik, Jean Pascal and Roy Jones, Jr.
Despite being a half-century old, Hopkins is an elite athlete and modern sensation who continues to defeat the world’s premier pugilists at 175 pounds.
3. Lennox Lewis
The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Lewis (41-2-1, 32 KOs) remains the last undisputed heavyweight champ. Lewis, a Canadian gold medalist at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, overwhelmed bruisers Vitali Klitschko, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Andrew Golota, Ray Mercer, Tommy Morrison and Donovan “Razor” Ruddock.
The mammoth Brit, who was knocked onto the canvas by Oliver McCall in September 1994 and Hasim Rahman in April 2001, avenged both his losses and retired atop the heavyweight division in February 2004. Lewis was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2009.
4. Floyd Mayweather Jr.
The 38-year-old Mayweather (47-0, 26 KOs), The Ring “Fighter of the Year” in 1998 and 2007, has been considered the pound-for-pound king since 2007. The 5-foot-8 Mayweather is a five-division titlist who has outdone Diego Corrales, Jose Luis Castillo, Arturo Gatti, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Juan Manuel Marquez, Miguel Cotto and Saul Alvarez.
Loosely labeled “The Best Ever,” Mayweather wants to surpass Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 mark and leave the sport as its most celebrated fighter. If Mayweather outperforms Pacquiao in May and retires without a loss, he may ascend and sit atop this list.
5. Roy Jones Jr.
The 46-year-old Jones (61-8, 44 KOs) continues to compete and fatten his resume versus a fleet of tomato cans. Still, as one of history’s supreme pound-for-pounder’s, Jones was an untouchable superstar in his prime who was named the 1990s “Fighter of the Decade” by the BWAA. Junior is a six-time world titlist who has collected crowns in four weight divisions.
Jones’s peak moment as a pro likely occurred in March 2003 when he blanked John Ruiz to become the first middleweight king to capture a heavyweight belt in more than 100 years.