1. Muhammad Ali
No contest. The self-styled Greatest lived up to his billing. Fighting legends have to meet three criteria: their ability, the calibre of their opposition and their impact beyond the sport. Muhammad Ali ticked all boxes.
There has not been a faster heavyweight. Few have possessed his iron chin. Few have shown his bravery: how many other fighters would’ve risen in the 15th round from that Frazier left hook? How many would’ve battled Ken Norton with a broken jaw?
In Sonny Liston and George Foreman, Ali dismantled two men considered unbeatable, considered monsters. He also defeated Norton, Frazier, Floyd Patterson, Jerry Quarry, Ernie Terrell, Earnie Shavers. His stance against the Vietnam War – and boxing suspension that followed – pushed his profile beyond boxing.
Ali frequently announced: “I am the greatest.” He wasn’t kidding.