Why Not the Best?

By Clarence George on September 8, 2014
Why Not the Best?
There no right or wrong answers, no rules or regulations, no rigid or arbitrary criteria.

An acquaintance once asked me to name my favorite heavyweight. Tony Galento, I said. Needless to say, he was stunned…

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen: Tony, are you fighting tonight?
Tony Galento: Yes.
Sheen: Will you win?
Galento: I always win.
– Treasure in Clay: The Autobiography of Fulton J. Sheen

An acquaintance once asked me to name my favorite heavyweight. Tony Galento, I said. He was stunned, not believing that I thought “Two Ton” was the best heavyweight of all time. I pointed out that I didn’t say he was the best; that I answered his question about who was my favorite. He asked, “How can the best not be your favorite?”

Well, why not? Maybe you like the guy because of the way he fought in the ring or out of the ring or the way he looked or talked or because he bedded hotties or because he was on Guadalcanal with your dad or because he didn’t like poodles or he wasn’t pease porridge hot or pease porridge cold but pease porridge in the pot nine days old or…any one of any number of tangibles or intangibles. When Galento was making Wind Across the Everglades, he wanted to watch the fights one Friday night, but Gypsy Rose Lee wanted to see a drama. Gypsy got her way, but wound up leaping from her chair as though electrocuted, and with a glass-shattering shriek—Tony had given her a hotfoot. How can you not like the guy? Anyway, it got me thinking: Who are my favorites…and who are my bests?

Focusing exclusively on the original eight weight divisions, I compared and contrasted the two categories, curious to see if there’d be any overlap.

Here are my selections per division, as well as pound-for-pound. The first boxer’s name is my favorite; the one below, italicized, is the one I consider the best.

Tony Galento
Joe Louis

Light Heavyweight
Melio Bettina
Archie Moore

Tony Zale
Sugar Ray Robinson

Kid Azteca
Henry Armstrong

Beau Jack
Benny Leonard

Baby Arizmendi
Willie Pep

Johnny Coulon
Panama Al Brown

Fidel LaBarba
Pancho Villa

Tony Galento
Sugar Ray Robinson

You’ll note that my selections for favorite and best aren’t at all in tandem. Scandal! I’m curious how “well” Boxing.com readers do…an invitation to all those who wish to participate. There no right or wrong answers, no rules or regulations, no rigid or arbitrary criteria. I myself don’t include active fighters on all-time lists, but that’s me. If Floyd Mayweather Jr. is your favorite welterweight, or if you think he’s the best, fine. Well, not really. But there also no penalties.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Joe Louis -vs- Tony "Two Ton" Galento 1939 (16mm Film Transfer)

Billy Conn UD15 Melio Bettina

Archie Moore vs Yvon Durelle I (Full fight)

1948-6-10 Tony Zale vs Rocky Graziano III

Sugar Ray Robinson Battles Brutal FIGHT Carmen Basilio

los 3 boxeadores mexicanos de la epoca dorada.mp4

Henry Armstrong vs Baby Arizmendi (V)

In This Corner - Benny Leonard

1952-11-19 Willie Pep vs Fabela Chavez

Swiss Athletes Have Now Succeeded In Lifting Johnny Coulon (1921)

Panama Al Brown Retains Title : Bantamweight Champion


Pancho Villa Vs Wilde & Buff

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  1. Clarence George 01:58pm, 09/11/2014

    Thanks very much, Peter, and I love your list of favorites.  I get this perverse pleasure whenever I hear of a fighter I never heard of, such as Levan Roundtree (who I at first thought was the guy from the black exploitation films), Chu Chu Malave (who I assumed was an understudy of Candy Barr), and Love Allotey (who I at first confused with Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore in “Goldfinger”).  But I looked them all up, and they are now comfortably and honorably ensconced in my memory banks.  Actually, photos of Chu Chu from “Barney Miller” rang a very faint bell.

  2. peter 11:15am, 09/11/2014

    Great idea for an article—both interesting and unique!

    Heavyweight favorite: Oscar Bonavena
    Lightheavyweight: Angel Oquendo or Levan Roundtree
    Middleweight: Mickey Walker
    Welterweight: Chu Chu Malave
    Lightweight: Ismael Laguna
    Featherweight: Love Allotey
    Bamtamweight: Ruben Olivares
    Flyweight: Davey Vasquez

  3. Clarence George 03:26am, 09/11/2014

    Understood, Nicolas.  It’s all relative, isn’t it?  Compared to me, you’re a veritable modernist!  That said, my second-favorite heavyweight of all time is Joe Frazier, who’s also my second-favorite pound-for-pounder; second best heavy is Muhammad Ali (though I may reevaluate that).  Second-favorite middleweight is the comparatively recent Laszlo Papp; second-favorite lightweight, Roberto Duran.  And so on.

  4. nicolas 12:22am, 09/11/2014

    If you look at list of the best, it has no fighter after the 1960’s, though the two I have from the 60’s boxed into the 70’s. the other six where fighters who reached there greatness in the 1940’s or before, some boxed in the 1950’s, only two who did not where Greb and Armstrong. So best I have from the past but favorites is a different matter, because they were fighting when I followed boxing for the first time, and they had more of an impact on me.

  5. Clarence George 01:34pm, 09/10/2014

    Thanks very much indeed, Nicolas.  I see that you tend to have a preference for recent or current fighters, which is fine.  As I said in the article, I don’t consider active boxers for all-time lists, but there’s no shortage of people who feel differently.

  6. nicolas 12:38pm, 09/10/2014

    Some of my favorites, Wladamir Klitschko, under 200 Thomas Adamak (I;m part Poliish) Light heavy - Henry Maske, I’m part German. Middle weight - Emile Griffith, perhaps because I always felt bad for him that he never got a forth shot at Nino Benvenuti. Welter weight Tommy Hearns, at the time I wanted Leonard to win, but I have lost respect for him over the years regarding Hagler Hearns comments, though he did concede he probably should have lost the second fight to Hearns, and I do think they robbed Hagler. Light weight Pernnel Whitaker, Feather weight Jeff Fenech, Batam weight NOnito Donaire, and Flyweight though not neccesarirly at that weight Manny Pacquiao.

  7. nicolas 11:15am, 09/10/2014

    Per your request Clarence.  First the best: Heavyweight - Muhammad Ali, under 200 pounds, Joe Louis. Light Heavy weight - Ezzard Charles. Middleweight - Harry Greb. Welterweight Sugar Ray Robinson. Light weight Henry Armstrong. Featherweight - Willie Pep. bantam weight Eder Jofre. and flyweight is always for me a very difficult one. the most accomplished ones are Manny Pacquiao Nonito Donaire, and going way back Fighting Harada and Fidel La Barba. These three men went on to win at higher weights titles. While Pacquiao has probably been the more famous of these four, question might be that he wasn’t that great at flyweight, but then you would wonder, how would it have been if Fred Roach had been his rainer then. Fidel La Barba, had his University of Stanford not come into his boxing career light also have been the best. Nonito Donaire I think is somewhat being maligned now, but look what he has accomplished in his career. Fighting Harada should have been a three division champ but thanks to I believe WIllie Pep in Australia against Johnny Famechon did not get that honor. However, Famechon gave Harada a real boxing lesson in the rematch in Japan, and from what I saw, Harada had really no defense, which is why his career ended before his 30’s.

  8. Clarence George 12:48pm, 09/09/2014

    Irish:  You know that I hold your opinions in high regard, but I can think of several welters who would have their way with Mayweather.  My own selection for best of all time, Henry Armstrong, leaps to mind like a lion to an antelope…or something.

  9. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 10:43am, 09/09/2014

    Clarence George-I am backed up on my Mayweather selection…probably blinded by his $500,000,000 career earnings because when I think about it both Hearns and Leonard could take his measure without a doubt….that shoulder roll just wouldn’t work with that flying telephone pole that was Tommy’s right hand.

  10. Clarence George 09:04am, 09/09/2014

    Irish:  It’s precisely because of the nature of your amorous interests that I’m somewhat taken aback by your selection of Klitschko and Mayweather.  Your other choices are eminently defensible, to say the least.

  11. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 08:54am, 09/09/2014

    Clarence George-How soon we forget….you have a guy here commenting on your articles who has opined that he wouldn’t have minded giving Margaret Hamilton, Margaret Dumont, and Marjorie Main my best regards…and now you’re surprised at my selections…..oh well…as Popeye sez “I y’am what I y’am an’ tha’s all I y’am.”

  12. Clarence George 08:07am, 09/09/2014

    No comment, Irish, except to say I’m glad you participated.

    Klitschko?  Mayweather?  Really?  Oops!  Sorry.

  13. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 06:25am, 09/09/2014

    Best in brackets
    HW: Jerry Quarry (Vitali Klitschko)
    LHW: Sergey Kovalev (Archie Moore)
    MW: Gennady Golovkin (Sugar Ray Robinson)
    WW: Jesse James Hughes (Floyd Mayweather)
    LW: Carlos Ortiz (Roberto Duran)
    FW: Irish Frankie Crawford (Salvador Sanchez)

  14. Clarence George 02:39am, 09/09/2014

    I look forward to it, Glenn.

    Nicolas:  No shortage of savvy boxing fans who are more impressed by Robinson at welterweight than middleweight.  I’m not one of them, but I’m also not that savvy.  I look forward to knowing your other choices, should you care to share them.  Lightweight, for example.  And who you’d have at bantam…Eder Jofre, Fighting Harada, Sixto Escobar?  All good choices.

    Appreciate the clarification, Matt.  I promised not to be judgmental, but my jaw dropped at McFadden as best lightweight.  Outstanding choice for favorite, though.

  15. Matt McGrain 01:29am, 09/09/2014

    No Clarence I goofed; favourite is in brackets!

  16. nicolas 12:52am, 09/09/2014

    Clarence, while I do have Robinson and Armstrong as the best of their divisions, I differ with you in that I have them at different weights. Robinson at Welterweight, and Armstrong at lightweight. n place of Robinson at middleweight I’ll have Harry Greb. I have Joe Louis up there, but I add a different weight, heavyweights who were great at under 200 pounds though he might have been better at over 200 pounds, but for that I have Ali. Panama Al Brown for me is a curious choice, but perhaps I need to know more about him, and will study him a little more.

  17. GlennR 09:31pm, 09/08/2014

    Gee, interesting topics Clarence.
    Give me a few hours and ill fire my thoughts back.

    Matt, im a Hopkins fan, but best LHW ever????

  18. Clarence George 06:21pm, 09/08/2014

    Thanks to Eric, Matt, and Chuck for their respective contributions.  I promised myself beforehand not to comment on anyone’s selections (no right or wrong answers, as I said in the article), but I do request clarification:  Do I understand you correctly, Matt, that you consider George “Elbows” McFadden the best (not your favorite) lightweight of all time?  You don’t have to justify your judgment to me; I just want to be sure that I got it right.

  19. ch. 02:46pm, 09/08/2014

    Clarence, very interesting. I would never be able to name the best in each division, but attending hundreds of live club shows and watching thousands on the tube since 1955. I ask you to bear with me as I name my favorites (only guys I saw “in person” or live on TV): Joey Giardello, Gil Turner, Michael Ross ,Luis Rodriguez, Mickey Diflo, Bennie Briscoe, Skipper Jones, Victor Pappa, Virgil Akins, Kenny Lane, Giles Williams, Matt Franklin, Pete Bufala, Mike Picciotti, Bob Cofer, Charles Brewer, Carlos Ortiz, Vito Antuofermo, Arturo Gatti, Jose Resendez, Riccardo Arredondo, Gaby Cantera, Lloyd Gruber, Archie Andrews, Joe Tiberi, Curtis Parker, Len Matthews, Hurricane Jackson, Harold Johnson, Willie Pastrano, Ralph Dupas, Mario Saurennann, Arthur Kettles, Gerald Hayes, Miguel Barreto, Dick Diveronica, Paolo Rosi, Johnny Busso, Mickey Ward, Emanuel Burton, Larry Boardman. Rory Calhoun, Francisco Rodriguez. Sorry about the rambling list of recalling memories of my favorites.

  20. Matt McGrain 01:20pm, 09/08/2014

    Best in brackets:

    HW: Ali (Louis)
    LHW: Charles (Hopkins)
    MW: Robinson (Burley)
    WW: Robinson (Burley)
    LW: Duran (McFadden)
    FW: Pep (Saldivar)
    BW: Olivares (Castillo)
    FLY:Canto (Gonzalez)
    P4P: Langford (Langford)

  21. Eric 12:15pm, 09/08/2014

    Heavyweight favorite: Rocky Marciano, * Joe Frazier a very close second
    Heavyweight best: Muhammad Ali

    Light Heavyweight favorite: Dwight Qawi
    Light Heavyweight best: Gene Tunney

    Middleweight favorite: Marvin Hagler
    Middleweight best: Harry Greb

    Lightweight favorite: Roberto Duran
    Lightweight best: Roberto Duran

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