I WAS asked to join a debate on the local radio station as to who is the greatest sports person that Great Britain has ever produced – the views ranged from motor racing legend Stirling Moss to elite rower Sir Steve Redgrave – which got me thinking as to who is/was the greatest boxer the world has ever produced.
The first names that came into my head were Floyd Mayweather Jnr, Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Robinson and Archie Moore. I discounted Floyd Mayweather straight away because, although he has a fantastic record, he does his greatness no favours by fighting in his Las Vegas backyard time after time.
Ali, a great champion and probably the best heavyweight ever, but in his heyday he was a controversial figure who split opinion.
Which leads us to Robinson, who scored an incredible 173 wins against 19 losses, was the world welterweight and (five-time) middleweight champion, made his debut at lightweight and operated in world class all the way up to light-heavy. Robinson, often the universal choice when fans and historians name their greatest fighter of all-time, but let me put the case forward for my choice: The one and only “Old Mongoose”, Archie Moore.
His record of 185-23-10 (131) boasts the most knockouts by any single fighter in boxing history, and made his debut in 1935 before his eventual retirement, 28 years later, in 1963. In his final 30 fights – when he was closing in on his 50th year – the only man he didn’t beat was a young Cassius Clay (before he changed his name to Muhammad Ali). Prior to that loss, when Moore was already well past his best, he held future world light-heavyweight champion Willie Pastrano to a draw.
Moore fought in Mexico, the Philippines, Italy, Canada, Brazil, Germany, Great Britain, Argentina, Uruguay, Panama and Australia. Let’s not forget travel was not that easy between countries between then; I know because my dad worked in the States in the 1940s and 1950s and it used to take him three weeks to get to America.
Moore had compiled 159 fights, and was 37 years old, before he got the chance of a world light-heavyweight title fight – beating Joey Maxim – and went on to reign in a truly golden era for almost 10 years. It was always his dream to win the heavyweight title and though he beat top contenders like Nino Valdes, he was unlucky to find the likes of Rocky Marciano and Floyd Patterson in top form when he challenged the kings of the big men. Ultimately, Archie wasn’t quite big enough to land the richest prize in sport.
For me, Robinson is a very close second, but my all-time greatest boxer has got to be “Ageless” Archie Moore.
And the greatest British boxer of all-time? I’d have to say Ken Buchanan, but that’s a subject for another day.
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