AS Muhammad Ali - the self-styled, and widely acknowledged, “Greatest” - celebrates his 70th birthday on January 17, writer Mark Staniforth, below, celebrates the top 10 in history.
These are Mark’s personal choices - but who do you think was the best boxer ever to come out of Sheffield and South Yorkshire?
Was it Naseem Hamed - or did his light fizzle out too quickly?
Was it Clinton Woods, who turned from being an average fighter into a world champion simply because he had the heart and guts to do it?
Junior Witter won the much-treasured WBC belt - but was he an interesting enough fighter?.
Then there was Ingle champions Johnny Nelson and the incomparable Bomber Graham.
And where do modern day boxers like Ryan Rhodes and Kell Brook fit into history?
Let us know who you think was our community’s top boxing ambassador.
Here’s Mark’s top 10 from across the planet.
1. MUHAMMAD ALI: The Rumble in Jungle and his Thrilla in Manilla remain perhaps the two most iconic fights in boxing history - but one only needs to view the dazzling armoury he displayed in his 1966 fight against Cleveland Williams to realise just why Ali was, just as he said, ‘The Greatest’.
2. SUGAR RAY ROBINSON: The only man whose ringcraft held a candle to that of Ali; indeed there are many wise boxing sages who reckon his lightning speed, timing and movement was even better. First world welterweight champion and five times world middleweight champion, Robinson reigned in an era of stars, and his six-fight rivalry with Jake La Motta is one of the sport’s best.
3. JIMMY WILDE: Probably the best flyweight of all time; certainly the best fighter Britain has ever produced. Nicknamed “The ghost with a hammer in his hands”, the Welshman’s pale and skinny physique belied the power of his punches. He was world champion from 1916 to 1923 and he won an incredible 130 of his 134 decision bouts. Heavyweight champion Gene Tunney called Wilde “the greatest fighter I ever saw”.
4. JOE LOUIS: “The Brown Bomber” ruled the heavyweight roost with dignity and dynamism for almost two decades. He reigned as champion from 1937 to 1949, making 25 defences of his title. He was the first black heavyweight champion since Jack Johnson but was a hero for all Americans. Only one other heavyweight has since matched his grace and athleticism in the ring.
5. WILLIE PEP: Pep fought 242 times and emerged victorious in 230 of those bouts. His art was in a ring artistry which verged on the balletic, and he once famously won a round without throwing a single punch. He was world featherweight champion from 1942 to 1950 and regained the title from his great rival Sandy Saddler in 1949. Nicknamed “Will o’ the Wisp”, Pep was one of the finest purveyors of his craft in the sport’s history.
6. HENRY ARMSTRONG: “Homicide Hank” was a kamikaze whirl of flying limbs, a brutal puncher with a granite chin to match. At one point in 1939 Armstrong held world titles at featherweight, lightweight and welterweight at the same time. He fought 151 times - many of his bouts just days apart - and stopped 101 of his victims.
7. SUGAR RAY LEONARD: The golden boy of the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Leonard starred in boxing’s greatest modern era, his bouts with Roberto Duran, Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns the stuff of legend. Leonard’s dazzling skills and glamorous persona were such that even such a hefty mantle as “Sugar Ray” fitted snugly on his shoulders. Leonard won five world titles at five different weights.
8. ARCHIE MOORE: Moore’s career lasted for 27 years and he was 39 when he first won the world light-heavyweight title. Nevertheless he would reign for 10 years, and had two unsuccessful cracks at the world heavyweight title against Rocky Marciano and Floyd Patterson before losing to a young Cassius Clay in 1962, when his age hovered around 50.
9. BENNY LEONARD: Arguably the best lightweight ever, Leonard reigned from 1917 to 1923. He fought 212 times and suffered only four knockout defeats. Leonard went on to challenge Jack Britton for the world welterweight title in 1922 and was on his way to victory before striking Britton after the bell and earning a disqualification.
10. JACK JOHNSON: Boxing’s first black heavyweight champion, his seven-year reign from 1908 to 1915 was characterised by a vivid lifestyle and a hearty disdain for those who preached white supremacy. His wins sparked race riots across America and his legacy effectively shut out the hopes of other potential black heavyweight challengers for the next 20 years. His controversy clouds his immense punching power and ringcraft.