Compiling boxing lists is an ardous task at the best of times. Taking every top fighter from the last 30 years and discussing their inclusion on who ranks highest has been extremely difficult. Leaving out gloried names such as James Toney, Wladimer Klitschko, Shane Mosley, Juan Manuel Marquez and Ricardo Lopez wasn't easy, but that demonstrates just how decorated the last three decades has been.
1: Manny Pacquiao
Recently defeated by Yordenis Ugas whilst trying to win another world title, Manny Pacquiao’s loss made no difference to his overall legacy. Climbing from flyweight to 154lbs destroying legendary names along the way, Pacquiao’s rise was nothing short of stunning. It’s almost certain that his accomplishments will never be matched.
2: Floyd Mayweather
Craving mainstream appeal as well as world titles, Floyd Mayweather finally achieved his goal when defeating Oscar De La Hoya in 2007. Trading his “Pretty Boy” moniker for “Money,” Mayweather became a household name as he added the likes of Miguel Cotto, Canelo Alvarez and Manny Pacquiao to his incredible ledger.
3: Roy Jones
If Roy Jones remains at heavyweight in 2003 and adds another title or two to the WBA strap he famously won from Johnny Ruiz then there’s every chance he tops this list. Instead, what came afterwards defied belief.
Still participating in exhibition bouts today, it’s hard to imagine Jones as the fighter who barely lost a round to Bernard Hopkins and James Toney during his dominant phase of the 1990s.
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4: Bernard Hopkins
Bernard Hopkins has been proving people wrong since his first professional fight. Losing his debut, Hopkins refused to wilt and what followed was a career that saw him still fighting at the highest level into his 50s. Felix Trinidad, Antonio Tarver, and Kelly Pavlik all felt the force of “The Executioner,” and he was a major underdog on all his biggest nights.
5: Pernell Whitaker
One of boxing’s most natural talents, Pernell Whitaker was a defensive genius. An Olympic gold medallist in 1984, Whitaker entered the 1990s as one of boxing’s best fighters and his performances didn’t wane in the new decade. Even past his best, Whitaker was a nuisance to boxing’s newest stars such as Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad before he finally departed the sport in 2001. In 2019, Whitaker was killed when crossing the road in Virginia Beach.
6: Oscar De La Hoya
With more favouritism from the judges, Oscar De La Hoya could've been a lot higher on this list. A multi-weight champion, “The Golden Boy” of the Barcelona Olympics didn’t duck a single challenge as a fighter. A major attraction, De La Hoya bowed out of the sport as a serious fighter in 2008 after losing to Manny Pacquiao. In retirement, De La Hoya has become a successful promoter guiding the likes of Canelo Alvarez and Jaime Munguia to world titles.
7: Felix Trinidad
After celebrating one of the best welterweight runs of the modern era that included wins over Oba Carr, Pernell Whitaker and Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad was intent on adding more honours to his impressive ledger. A spell at 154lbs saw memorable wins over David Reid and Fernando Vargas, before jumping to middleweight to destroy William Joppy. A loss to Bernard Hopkins in 2001 took it out of Trinidad as he only fought four more times over the next seven years.
8: Lennox Lewis
After bursting onto the scene in a big way following a destructive win over Donovan Ruddock in 1992, Lennox Lewis was arguably the best heavyweight for the bulk of the following decade. Further wins over legendary names such as Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson would follow before Lewis left the sport on his own terms with a win over Vitali Klitschko in 2003.
9: Evander Holyfield
After securing his cruiserweight legacy in the 1980s, Evander Holyfield, an undersized heavyweight with a huge heart, was desperate to prove himself amongst boxing’s biggest men. A series of terrific rivalries with Riddick Bowe, Michael Moorer and Mike Tyson saw the Atlanta man upset the odds on more than one occasion as heavyweight boxing enjoyed one of its greatest ever periods.
10: Canelo Alvarez
Canelo Alvarez’s potential was identified at an early age. A professional at a schoolboy’s age, Canelo’s quest to be the best was admirable but those plans were derailed in 2013 when he was humbled by Floyd Mayweather. Since that loss, Canelo has regrouped brilliantly to register wins over Gennadiy Golovkin, Miguel Cotto and Sergey Kovalev. Still only 31, Canelo could accomplish even more.
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