5 Of The Most Grossly Underrated Boxers In History
Boxing is a sport that, unfortunately, only affords a place in the pantheon of greats to certain men, or at least, that’s how it can sometimes feel. In the modern age – where money talks the loudest – it is difficult for the average fan to appreciate the fighters that get the job done without being flashy, trashy, or attractive to the millions of casual viewers that spend their money to watch them win (or lose).
Over the years, there have been fighters that stood head and shoulders above their contemporaries yet are not awarded the praise they rightly deserve. Let’s take a look at five of these all-time greats, who really deserve a little more respect.
5) Pernell Whitaker
The greatest defensive fighter of all time? There is certainly a strong case for that title belonging to Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker. While, admittedly, Whitaker is regarded as one of the greats among seasoned boxing historians, his standing among the average boxing fan is nowhere near where it should be. Given that a certain Floyd Mayweather Jr. is often compared to Whitaker; it is even more baffling that he is not more appreciated.
Whitaker was far more than a defensive master, a la “Money” in the later stages of his career. A trickster and exceptional puncher, the Norfolk, Virginia-native had lightning fast hand speed and an exceptional array of offensive prowess. While Whitaker went 42 fights with just one loss on his professional record, he lost three of his last four fights – the other being declared a no contest for a positive drug test – which probably tarnished his legacy.
A multiple-weight world champion and pure example of an all-around boxer, it is a shame that Whitaker doesn’t get the respect he deserves among the average fan.
4) Bernard Hopkins
Bernard Hopkins was simply a freak of nature (and we mean that in the most positive way it can be said). Hopkins exuded professionalism inside the ropes, although he was often known to employ the “dark arts of boxing” in order to get his way. As one of the most impressive boxers to have ever stepped foot in the ring, it is curious that he does not get the love he deserves from many boxing fans.
In a career that spanned 28 years, Hopkins won his last title – the IBF light heavyweight crown – at the age of 48 years old. This accomplishment gained him worldwide attention. Yet, it still felt that not everyone could comprehend what an achievement that was for a man of Hopkins’ age, especially in a division outside of the heavyweight limit. What probably didn’t help his cause was that, well, the world was used to Hopkins achieving.
“The Executioner” engaged in some of the greatest fights of all time, against some of the greatest boxers of his era. Roy Jones Jr., Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad, Winky Wright, Glen Johnson and many more of the crème-de-la-crème of boxing’s finest fell to the hands of Hopkins. There is an argument that he has one of the greatest resumes in boxing history and one which ended at the age of 51 years old. Wow.
3) Alexis Arguello
When the discussion regarding the greatest Latin American fighter of all time pops up, it is a good bet that Roberto Duran would be at the forefront of the conversation. However, to many boxing historians, Nicaragua’s Alexis Arguello is a fighter that should be on par, at least, with the “Hands of Stone.” Arguello, unfortunately, is a fighter that just does not get the recognition that his great talent deserves.
A three-weight world champion, Arguello was regarded for his explosive and precise punching skills and tall frame. He is easily one of the greatest featherweights to have ever boxed and one of the most efficient boxers ever to have laced up gloves. In the late 1970’s, “El Flaco Explosivo” – or the “Explosive Thin Man”, in English – was regarded by many as the world’s pound-for-pound best fighter.
His resume is stacked with impressive wins and his style has been emulated by many of the greats that succeeded his reign at the top. Arguello is probably best known among semi-informed fans for his controversial loss to Aaron Pryor in 1982, in the “Battle of the Champions” bout.
2) Ricardo Lopez
It is rare for any fighter in the history of boxing to amass a record of 50-0-1. It is even rarer for any fighter to completely and utterly dominate a division for 16 years, pulverizing opponent after opponent. It is almost unheard of for a fighter to amass such an impressive record and resume, yet almost be treated with as much silence as the great Ricardo Lopez.
Lopez was an incredibly gifted fighter that was peerless in the minimumweight division from the mid-1980’s up until the late 1990’s. Given that this division was traditionally not thought of as worthy of pay-per-view coverage, Lopez was not afforded the same level of publicity or attention as some of his heavier peers. Regardless, this did not stop the Mexican phenom from amassing one of the greatest resumes in boxing history.
Lopez may be recognized as the greatest minimumweight, strawweight, and light flyweight of all time, but drop his name into a conversation with your boxing buddies and see who really knows the game.
1) Sam Langford
The most underrated boxer of all time. There is little doubt that Sam Langford is just that. His record was 181-34-38, 128 KO, with lightweights, middleweights, and even heavyweights on his resume. At just 5′ 7″, Langford was not blessed with height or a large frame, but his punching power and skill inside the ropes were nothing short of superhuman.
All-time great Harry Wills, a 6′ 2″ heavyweight, once spoke of Langford:
“When Sam hit you in the body, you’d kind of look around half expecting to see his glove sticking out of your back. When he hit you on the chin, you didn’t think at all until they brought you back to life. When he knocked me out in New Orleans, I thought I’d been killed.”
Langford has a ferocious self-belief and would take on any comer, regardless of size or weight. With his incredible power and technique, he would flatten opponents. He seemed to truly defy his small stature and was one of the most feared fighters of his time. Yet, somehow, his legend is almost cult-like.
There are just some things that can never be explained.
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