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Who Would Make Bert Sugar’s Top 100 List Today?

BY Aaron Tallent ON July 18, 2014
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“Who was the greatest?” and “Who was better, fighter #1 or fighter #2?” are the questions that begin two timeless conversations between boxing fans. These arguments that take place in venues varying from barbershops to bars always need fodder. Whether you loved or hated him, Bert Randolph Sugar filled that void with his two editions ranking boxing’s 100 greatest fighters of all time.

Sugar, who passed away in 2012, published two editions of “Boxing’s Greatest Fighters.” The first was released in 1984. The second edition was released 22 years later with Sugar Ray Robinson still holding the top spot and Mike Tyson debuting on the list on its final rung. Additional fighters whose careers began in between the two volumes, including Evander Holyfield, Pernell Whitaker, Roy Jones, Jr., and Bernard Hopkins, made the list as well.

In compiling these lists, Sugar wrote that he, “considered each fighter as a scientist would a specimen, studying their punching power, their defensive skill, and in still others, their perceived greatness at the time.” In addition, he factored in each fighter’s level of competition and the durability of their greatness. Sugar did clarify that failed comebacks were not factored, writing, “because so many greats end their careers not with a bang, but with an “L” as in loss, we would be forced to conclude, erroneously of course, that an Alvin Green was better than an Ezzard Charles, or a Trevor Berbick was better than a Muhammad Ali, or a Chester Slider better than a Henry Armstrong, on and on and on…”

Considering the average length of a great’s career is more than 10 years, releasing a ranking every two decades is probably the optimal interval. There are numerous boxing writers with the knowledge and years covering the sport to take up this mantle so here’s hoping that one of them does so and releases a new edition sometime in the 2020s.

However, it has been almost ten years since the last edition was released. Based on the events during that period, it is safe to assess which fighters have a shot at making the list. Here are a few worth exploring.

• Bernard Hopkins (Ranked #91): When Sugar completed this list, Hopkins had just lost his middleweight title to Jermain Taylor and had said that he would not fight beyond the age of 40. Since then, he has moved up to light heavyweight, defeated Antonio Tarver, avenged his loss to Roy Jones, Jr., and has the opportunity to unify the light heavyweight title before he turns 50. He would definitely move past Jones (Ranked #88) and into the high 80s. The only question that a historian would have to answer is if he should pass Jack Dempsey, The Nonpareil (Ranked #82), the standard by which middleweights were first measured.

• Oscar De La Hoya (Honorable Mention): Entering 2006, De La Hoya’s last fight had been a 2004 knockout loss at the hands of Hopkins. His final four fights were wins over Ricardo Mayorga and Steve Forbes, a split decision loss to Floyd Mayweather and a brutal fight with Manny Pacquiao, where he ended his career on his stool. As great as De La Hoya’s career was, those final four fights would not put him on this list.

• Floyd Mayweather, Jr. (Honorable Mention): When Sugar’s book was published, Mayweather was a mercurial 34-0 fighter who had just moved up to welterweight and was ranked as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Eight years later, he is 46-0, still moody and still the top pound-for-pound fighter. So he hasn’t fought Pacquiao. His long-standing dominance will vault him onto this list. Only time will tell how high.

• Manny Pacquiao (Not Listed): In the last eight years, Pacquiao has been the most exciting fighter in boxing, but his body of work will likely not put him on this list. Losses, spotty performances and not fighting Mayweather hang over his legacy. Pacquiao’s a multi-millionaire and a favorite son of his native Philippines, but if he wants to make this list, he needs to fight Mayweather… and he needs to win.

• Wladimir Klitschko (Not Listed): When this book was published, no one – and I mean no one – would have even expected Klitschko to ever be considered for future rankings. However, following his knockout loss to Lamon Brewster in 2004, Klitschko retooled his game and has gone 20-0 since then. The current IBF and WBO Heavyweight champion now has 16 consecutive title defenses to his name and will defend the belts for a 17th time against Kubrat Pulev in September. Although the current state of the heavyweight division may cause argument against his entry on this list, his length of dominance is only behind Joe Louis and Larry Holmes. If another ranking comes out, he will be on it. How he climbs will be up to him.

Of course, there can be arguments against each one and on additions that should be made, but boxing as we know it is more than 130 years old. Only a handful of fighters from each decade make this list. To do so, a boxer has to be dominant against the best of his era.

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Comment on this article

ArneK. says:

Off the top of my head, here are nine fighters -- not included in Sugar's revised Top 100 -- who would make my list:

Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Manny Pacquiao
Joe Calzaghe
Oscar de la Hoya
Lennox Lewis
Juan Manuel Marquez
Marco Antonio Barrera
both Klitschko brothers

deepwater2 says:

I have to see the 100 he has there now. I have a few fighters I would like to add but the question might be who would I take out of the top 100 list to able to add the new crop of boxers? I think it would very hard to move some of the guys out. 100 seems like a lot but it really isn't once you start looking over the names of the past.

The Commish says:

I used to sit at O'Reilly's Pub on 31st Street in NYC doing those lists with Bert.

-Randy G.

ArneK. says:

The few times that I sat at the bar with Bert were some of the most fun times in my life. The next morning my ribs would hurt from all the laughing.

Strangers found Bert very approachable and Bert welcomed strangers into the ever-growing circle around him at the bar, especially if they volunteered to buy the next round. At least that's my recollection.

Yo Commish, I wish that I had spent as much time with Bert as you did. I'm jealous. When you finish your memoir I hope it has a lot of Bert Sugar anecdotes. The man was a gem.

The Commish says:

Arne, I can write a book entitled, "The Hat." My nearly-complete book, "Glove Affair," has one such chapter in it. The years I spent with Bert--especially from 1979-1983--when we rebuilt & revamped a destroyed Ring Magazine, were the most amazing years of my life. I learned so much from working side-by-side with him every day.

My chapter, "The Hat," encapsulates who the man was, why he was such anintegral figure in boxing and why he was inducted into the International Boxing Hasll of Fame. I'm not sure Nat Fleischer would have loved Bert upon first meeting him, but I'm sure Bert would have finally won 'ol Nat over with his vast boxing knowledge and photographic memory.

Yeh, I loved doing those lists with Bert. It's still exciting to think of those days--and evenings--at O'Reilly's, working on those lists.

You've got me daydreaming now. Gonna' go sit in my favorite leather recliner and think of those special days, weeks, months and years with my mentor, my boss, my brother, my confidante, my buddy--Bert Randolph Sugar.

-Randy G.

dino da vinci says:

Off the top of my head, here are nine fighters -- not included in Sugar's revised Top 100 -- who would make my list:

Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Manny Pacquiao
Joe Calzaghe
Oscar de la Hoya
Lennox Lewis
Juan Manuel Marquez
Marco Antonio Barrera
both Klitschko brothers


I agree with the man. And these names would have bumped Barry McGuigin from his earlier list.

Bernie Campbell says:

My vote goes to Jay Nady as a ref, rumour has it before a fight in the last somewhat years, he doesnt bathe for a match, smell precipitates a sort of musky oder! Has a great deal of control in the ring! Vive le difference!

The Commish says:

My vote goes to Jay Nady as a ref, rumour has it before a fight in the last somewhat years, he doesnt bathe for a match, smell precipitates a sort of musky oder! Has a great deal of control in the ring! Vive le difference!


??????

-Randy G.

Bernie Campbell says:

Randy, the last time I talked to Bert, he and Atlas were promoing a book, I asked him whatever the he-- happened to Sultan Ibragimov, this was considerable time after the klitschko fight! I said that despite his loss he still could be a major force in the heavyweights and still make a pot of Gold while doing it! Bert had been laid speechless, Him and Teddy both, lotta double talk that led to No comment!

brownsugar says:

Unlike the Commish ...I never met the man but whenever you saw his face...holding his trademark cigar you knew it was all about the boxing.

He was a walking encyclopedia of boxing information.
I would like to see Bert's list.

The Commish says:

I believe you can Google Bert's Top 100 list.

It took a few visits to O'Reilly's to put that together.

I pass by there a lot. Gonna' have to stop in soon and have one for Bert!

-Randy G.

brownsugar says:

Thanks Commish .

One of the things I liked about Bert is that he had all these stories about fighters during the post WWII era that filled in the gaps in knowledge about the fighters who preceded the modern era.
Its hard for me to judge what he would be impressed by today.

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