3. Willie Pep (229-11-1)
“They call Ray Robinson the best fighter, pound for pound. I’m the best fighter, ounce for ounce.”
Papaleo Gugliermo better known as Willie Pep (born September 19, 1922 in Middletown, United States and died on November 23, 2006) was an American world champion featherweight boxer. The Ring magazine placed him at number 6 on the list of the best pound for pound boxers historical.
Pep made his professional debut on July 25, 1940 in Connecticut, USA, beating Joey Marcus at points in four rounds. Pep was characterized as a quick and intelligent boxer with many technical qualities, it was said that he gave boxing lessons to his rivals. Until 1943 Pep held a spectacular record of 62-0- (23KO), but it was the March 19, 1943 when Pep faced Sammy Angot at the legendary Madison Square Garden, the Italian-American lost by unanimous decision in 10 rounds It was the first defeat for Pep as a professional.
World title fight
After getting many notable victories, Pep was granted the opportunity to fight for the world title, on the June 7, 1946 at Madison Square Garden he faced the king of the division Sal Bartolo. Pep mostly use dscience and stood in long distance dominating Bartolo with accurate effective jabs and when the champion left holes in his defence, Pep blew quick combinations, then returned to the long distance, in the twelfth round Pep lands a right to the jaw and eventually drops Bartolo: The referee starts the count that reached 10 determining the knockout. Bartolo was on the canvas for several minutes; when he took him to the hospital it was discovered that Pep forehand broke the jaw of former champion. Willie Pep had won the world featherweight title by knockout in the twelfth round.
The October 29, 1948 at Madison Square Garden, Pep faced a great rival of his career, Sandy Saddler, the fight for the world featherweight title featured a clash of styles, Pep was quick and clever who worked on the distance Saddler was the puncher with power in his fists, he sought the fight at short distance. Saddler dropped Pep twice in the third round and tugged the champion again in the fourth round, this fall was final because the referee reached the count of 10, Willie Pep lost his world featherweight title.
After losing the title, Pep won two fights on points in 10 rounds, the chance to fight again for the world title came early, but also the title was also a rematch with Saddler. The fight was on February 11, 1949 at Madison Square Garden, Pep wore his best boxing to keep controlled of the champion, the plan was effective and the fight lasted 15 rounds, cards left Pep as the winner by unanimous decision becoming featherweight world champion again. This fight was voted fight of the year by Ring Magazine.
On September 20, 1949 in Connecticut, Pep defended the world title against Eddie Compo. Pep floored Compo twice in the fifth round and again in the seventh and the fight was stopped, Pep won by TKO in the seventh round. Willie Pep again exposed his title against Charley Riley on January 16, 1950 in Saint Louis, the fifth round Pep placed a right uppercut to Riley jaw, leaving him on the canvas for a count of 10, Pep retained his title by knockout in the fifth round.
On September 8, 1950 for the third time he faced Sandy Saddler at Yankee Stadium, New York. Pep defended the title against the great rival of his fight career. In the third round Saddler trips Pep, the champion stood when the count of the referee was nine, despite the fact that Pep fell he still had control of the fight and in fact had more rounds in his favour when he finished the seventh round both fighters returned to their corners, the bell rang calling the eighth round, but Pep did not come out to fight because he had dislocated his right shoulder, Saddler won by TKO in the eighth round. Pep lost for the second time with Saddler and lost the world title against the same opponents.
On September 26, 1951 at the Polo Grounds in New York, a classic boxing match took place, because Willie Pep faced for the fourth time Sandy Saddler, like the previous fights, the world featherweight title was discussed. Pep fought with extra caution which was common, tried to block all attacks, the fight turned messy until they came to fall simultaneously on the canvas for the “tricks” they both used, even though the fight was dirty, Pep had control of the fight, using his knowledge the Italian-American was up in cards, but in the same way that the former champion had control of the shares, Saddler had caused a deep cut on his right eyebrow and lost to Saddler in the ninth round. This was the last meeting between these two fighters, the duel between the two remained at 3 wins 1 win for Saddler and Pep.
Willie Pep was world featherweight champion twice, the first reign was from 1946 to 1948 and the second reign from 1949-1950 with three successful defences, besides being considered the best featherweight in history, he would dispute Sugar Ray Robinson’s condition of the best pound for pound boxer in history. Pep’s record is one of the most outstanding in the history of boxing throughout his career of 26 years, Pep recorded record 229-11-1- (65KO). The November 23, 2006 Willie Pep died of Alzheimer’s disease, it was in a retirement home for the elderly in their home town Rocky Hill, Connecticut.
2. Harry Greb (261-17-19)
“Prizefighting ain’t the noblest of arts and I ain’t the noblest artist” – Harry Greb
Almost 300 fights, what was this guy eating? Not many people heard of Edward Henry Greb also known as “The Pittsburgh Windmill”. He was born in the USA on June 6th 1894 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
He started boxing in the year 1913, rising quickly, managing to fight quality opponents early, and in 1922 became the world Light-Heavyweight Champion and from the year 1923 until 1926 he was the reigning defending Middleweight Champion of the world.
As a prizefighter Harry Greb was very aggressive in the ring but also very fast, trying to overwhelm his opponents with a flurry of punches and if that failed he was known to dirty fight a lot too, using odd tactics. Despite all of that he was very durable and would have fought anyone especially in a time where many white boxers refused to fight afro-americans, but the 298 professional fights he was in, took a toll him. In 1921 while fighting Light heavyweight Kid Norfolk (actual name William Ward) he was poked in the right eye suffering retinal damage and still fought like a champion and winning a 10 round war (via newspaper decision) and receiving a chance to fight for the middleweight title.
In 1922 Harry Greb got the chance to fight with Gene Tunney, who was the light heavyweight champion of the world and was undefeated at the time, this boxing match would be what really defined Harry Greb’s career.
It was bloodbath from the beginning, in the first round Harry Greb fractured Tunney’s nose in two places and managed to make a cut over Tunney’s left eye leaving the champ with a bloody face and keep in mind the fight was set for fifteen rounds, fifteen round in which Greb dominated repeatedly asking the referee to stop the fight and to wipe his gloves off blood. After fifteen rounds, Greb was the new light heavyweight champion of the world, winning by unanimous decision and giving Tunney his first and only professional career loss.
Harry Greb retired after his last fight with Tiger Flowers and wanted to help a friend who was opening a new boxing gym in downtown Pittsburgh. Following the incident in the Kid Norfolk fight, Harry Greb had his right eye removed in September 1926. After 198 fights and some car accidents Harry decided to check himself in an clinic for surgery to repair the damaged to his nose and respiratory tract but unfortunately there were complications and he died of heart failure on October 22 same year. He will always be remembered for his fighting spirit and the will to face everything.
1. Sugar Ray Robinson (193-19-6)
“Rhythm is everything in boxing. Every move you make starts with your heart, and that’s in rhythm or you’re in trouble.” – Ray Robinson
Sugar Ray Robinson, for some the greatest of all time, had an outstanding 173 wins in the rings as a professional and across 2 divisions, gaining the middleweight and welterweight belts multiple times. In fact, his numerous wins in the 2 divisions forced sports writers to create the pound for pound division, where a fighter was classified regardless of the weight division he was fighting in. At the age of 19 he turned professional and managed to win 40 fights in a row before facing the famous Jake LaMotta, losing to a decision but he managed to beat Jake LaMotta 2 fights later for revenge.
Robinson had an uninterrupted string of 91 victories, the third in the history of professional boxing. Robinson held the world welterweight title from 1946 until 1951 and won the world middleweight title in 1952. In the same year he retired, but returned two years and a half later to take the title back in 1955. According to the descriptions of the time, Robinson was effective with both hands and the master all the shots.
The second place on the ESPN ranking is occupied by Muhammad Ali, who admitted, that by the pound for pound criteria, indeed Sugar Ray Robinson is the greatest.
When dreams come true
Not to mention, Sugar Ray Robinson actually killed a boxer in the ring, it happened in 1947 when Sugar Ray Robinson was challenged by Jimmy Doyle for the Welterweight World Title, the night before the fight Robinson had a dream where he killed his opponent in the ring, the next day he tried to stop the fight because he believed the dream would come true, calling the promoters and even a priest but they let the fight go on, in the sixth round Robinson put Jimmy Doyle on the floor with a single hook leaving him rigid and ending the fight, Doyle was able to regain consciousness but died at the St. Vincent’s Charity Hospital few hours later. Some sources claim that Jimmy Doyle was fighting that night to buy his mother a new house, a heart broken Ray Robinson gave some of his earnings to Doyle’s mother so she could afford that new house.
He managed to win the fighter of the year award twice and being the first pugilist in boxing history to win a world championship five times must get you some fame right? Yup, and Robinson knew that, he was renowned for his flashy lifestyle outside the world of boxing, it is said that he is the creator of the modern sports entourage and he even tried his hand on show biz a while after he retired on November 11, 1965 with a round number of 200 fight under his belt.