Boxing


All Time Middleweight Survey: Who are the ten best middleweights of all-time?

monzonby Geoffrey Ciani - This is the third in a series of surveys I will be conducting in the coming months. In the first survey, we peered into the opinions of long-time boxing fans to make a definitive list of the top ten heavyweights of all time. In the second, we explored the history of the light heavyweight division. Although this is a very subjective topic that is skewed by personal bias, differences of opinion, and the absence of a universally agreed upon criteria to judge past fighters, we can still establish some degree of consensus. While contemplating my own list of top heavyweight pugilists, I decided gathering the input of others might help display a more accurate portrayal of what a 'true' top 10 list should look like.

In this survey, which included many of the same individuals from the previous two, I polled 45 long-time boxing fans (myself included). My question was simple. I had each person in the survey provide me with a chronological list of who he or she (there was one ‘she’ in the survey—my esteemed colleague from On the Ropes, the exquisite Miss Jenna J) considered to be the ten best middleweights in boxing history.

Ties were not allowed, just a straight-forward list from one to ten. I then used a weighted scoring system to assign points to fighters based on where they appeared on each individual's list. First place votes received 25 points. Second place votes were worth 15 points, third place votes were worth 12, and fourth and fifth place votes were worth 10 and 8 points respectively. After that, the point differential was constant, with sixth place votes getting 5 points, seventh place votes getting 4, eighth getting 3, ninth place 2, and tenth place 1..

Survey Results

After all of the lists were tabulated with the aforementioned scoring system a total of thirty-six different middleweight boxers received mention. Here is a list of the results. (First place votes are indicated in parenthesis).

1. 736 Carlos Monzon (13)
2. 718 Harry Greb (15)
3. 606 Marvin Hagler (8 )
4. 513 Sugar Ray Robinson (5)
5. 214 Bernard Hopkins
6. 155 Bob Fitzsimmons (2)
7. 140 Charles Burley
8. 121 Stanley Ketchel
9. 120 Mickey Walker
10. 116 Dick Tiger
11. 53 Roy Jones Junior (1)
12. 47 Jake LaMotta
13. 45 Holman Williams
14. 32 Marcel Cerdan
15. 30 Tiger Flowers
16. 25 Sam Langford (1)
17. 22 Freddie Steele
18. 17 [tie] Joey Giardello
18. 17 [tie] James Toney
20. 16 Tommy Ryan
21. 15 Emile Griffith
22. 13 [tie] Mike Gibbons
22. 13 [tie] Jack 'The Nonpareil' Dempsey
24. 8 Reggie Johnson
25. 5 [tie] Eddie Booker
25. 5 [tie] Teddy Yarosz
27. 4 [tie] Tony Zale
27. 4 [tie] Les Darcy
29. 3 Gene Fullmer
30. 2 [tie] Mike O'Dowd
30. 2 [tie] Nino Benvenuti
30. 2 [tie] Rodrigo Valdez
30. 2 [tie] Sugar Ray Leonard
30. 2 [tie] Randy Turpin
35. 1 [tie] Lloyd Marshall
35. 1 [tie] Tommy Hearns

Here is the distribution of votes.
TOTAL LISTS MADE - NAME - (1st-2nd-3rd-4-5-6-7-8-9-10)

45 Carlos Monzon (13 16 10 3 2 1 0 0 0 0)
42 Harry Greb (15 11 10 5 1 0 0 0 0 0)
43 Marvin Hagler (8 8 10 15 2 0 0 0 0 0)
44 Sugar Ray Robinson (5 7 9 10 6 4 1 0 1 1)
39 Bernard Hopkins (0 0 2 5 7 9 5 2 4 5)
22 Bob Fitzsimmons (2 1 1 0 3 6 1 6 0 2)
30 Charles Burley (0 0 0 3 3 5 10 4 4 1)
26 Stanley Ketchel (0 0 0 1 8 2 4 2 6 3)
32 Mickey Walker (0 0 1 0 4 6 3 5 6 7)
33 Dick Tiger (0 0 0 0 4 4 6 9 3 7)
4 Roy Jones Junior (1 0 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 0)
19 Jake LaMotta (0 0 0 0 1 0 3 4 4 7)
11 Holman Williams (0 0 0 0 1 3 3 3 0 1)
9 Marcel Cerdan (0 0 0 1 0 2 0 3 0 3)
12 Tiger Flowers (0 0 0 0 0 1 3 1 3 4)
1 Sam Langford (1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0)
4 Freddie Steele (0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 1)
6 Joey Giardello (0 0 0 0 0 0 2 1 3 0)
2 James Toney (0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0)
3 Tommy Ryan (0 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 0)
4 Emile Griffith (0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 2 0)
2 Mike Gibbons (0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0)
2 Jack 'The Nonpareil' Dempsey (0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0)
1 Reggie Johnson (0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0)
1 Eddie Booker (0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0)
2 Teddy Yarosz (0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1)
2 Tony Zale (0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0)
1 Les Darcy (0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0)
1 Gene Fullmer (0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0)
1 Mike O'Dowd (0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0)
1 Nino Benvenuti (0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0)
1 Rodrigo Valdez (0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0)
1 Sugar Ray Leonard (0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0)
1 Randy Turpin (0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0)
1 Lloyd Marshall (0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1)
1 Tommy Hearns (0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1)

Was there a consensus?

To date, a unanimous consent has never been reached in any of the three surveys conducted. In the heavyweight survey, however, the large majority of participants awarded their top spot to either Muhammad Ali or Joe Louis, and in the light heavyweight survey, more than 63% of respondents thought Ezzard Charles was the top dog. This was the first survey in which the winner of the top spot (Carlos Monzon) did not receive the most first place votes. Second place finisher Harry Greb edged Monzon out 15-13 on that front. Third place finisher Marvin Hagler was third up with eight first place votes, and fourth place’s Sugar Ray Robinson was next up with five. Unlike the first two surveys, nobody won the majority of first place votes. In fact, Greb had the most, which was exactly one third.

Monzon, Greb, Hagler, and Robinson were consistently at the top of most lists, with each pugilist being seemingly interchangeable depending on whose list you were viewing. Monzon was the only middleweight to appear on all 45 lists. He also appeared in the top five on all but one. Robinson missed out on one list, Hagler on two, and Greb on three. Greb and Hagler each appeared in the top five on over 93% of the lists while Robinson celebrated the same distinction according to over 82% of those surveyed. Fifth place belonged to Bernard Hopkins who was given mention by nearly 87% of those surveyed.

The bottom half of the top ten included Bob Fitzsimmons, Charles Burley, Stanley Ketchel, Mickey Walker, and Dick Tiger. Out of those, only Fitzsimmons failed to appear on at least 50% of the top ten lists, but the strength of the weighted scoring system enabled him to top that bunch, as he received two first place votes, four votes in the top three, and seven votes in the top five (over 15%). Ironically, tenth place winner Dick Tiger appeared on more lists than anyone else from this group (over 73%), but based on his placement which was often on the lower half of those lists, he finished beneath them. Roy Jones Junior finished a distance eleventh, almost entirely on the strength of the first place vote he received from a rogue participant.

Was Bernard Hopkins’ top five spot justified?

Bernard Hopkins is an interesting situation. Not only is he the only active fighter whose name appears in the results for the top ten middleweight survey, but he is also the only active fighter to appear on any of the survey results to date. The accumulative results from both the heavyweight and light heavyweight top ten lists consist exclusively of retired fighters, as does the middleweight list with the lone exception of Hopkins. Although it has only been a few years since Bernard has fought as a middleweight, his high placement on this list speaks volumes about how he is perceived by historical boxing fans. This unique distinction illustrates the fact that his future legacy is already firmly established.

The numbers suggest his position is justified. Thirty-nine of the 45 people surveyed included his name on their lists and fourteen of those people placed him in the top five, with two individuals even including him in the top three. He finished a good distance back from the big four—Monzon, Greb, Hagler, and Robinson—but when one considers the company he is sharing, it is quite a testament to his accomplishments. The middleweight division is historically littered with talent. As my good friend McGrain (a participant in all three surveys) mentioned before this poll began, “A middleweight ten can be more painful than a tax return.” There is a lot of truth in this statement, and even so, people still hold Hopkins in very high regards.

Incidentally, I ranked him at number five on my list, speaking of which...

Were Monzon and Greb really better than Hagler?

How did my list compare?

Unlike the previous two surveys, where nine of the ten boxers from my personal list appeared on the official results, this time it was down to eight out of ten. My list included Tiger Flowers and Jake LaMotta, the final list had Bob Fitzsimmons and Dick Tiger there, instead.

My personal top ten list:

1. Marvin Hagler
2. Carlos Monzon
3. Harry Greb
4. Sugar Ray Robinson
5. Bernard Hopkins
6. Charles Burley
7. Stan Ketchel
8. Jake Lamotta
9. Tiger Flowers
10. Mickey Walker

I believe a strong case can be made for the ordering of my top five, particularly for Hagler whom I view as the best middleweight to ever lace up the gloves. That two of the voters actually excluded Hagler from their top ten is simply inexplicable. The remaining 43 respondents not only all had him on their lists, they all had him in their top five.

As for Monzon and Greb being placed higher than Hagler, well, like I said, personal bias plays a big factor in these sorts of assessments and the top four middleweights are largely interchangeable depending on said bias. Personally, I have a hard time rating Greb higher than Hagler. Hardly any decent film footage of Greb exists. That is not to take anything away from his incredible accomplishments inside the ring—those speak for themselves. Even still, many of these accomplishments pertained to his ability to perform at a high level well above the his natural fighting weight (outside the middleweight division). Without having that footage to view for myself, I am apt to give Hagler the benefit of the doubt, because I have seen what he was able to do inside the ring with my own two eyes.

Making a case for Hagler over Monzon is a trickier proposition. Essentially, this is something which comes down to personal preference. In terms of accomplishment, both were highly celebrated middleweight champions deserving of all the accolades they receive. Since I view them on equal footing in terms of accomplishment, I’m forced to wonder who would win if they squared off at their best. In a head to head contest, I tend to believe Hagler would have defeated Monzon. Hagler had a tremendous ability to avoid the jab, and I believe in a mythical fight between the two that he would have been neutralize Monzon’s jab and work his way into mid-close range where he would have a decided advantage. At mid-close range, I think Hagler is able to penetrate Monzon’s stellar defense, and I believe Hagler would also be able to take advantage of Monzon’s slower footwork. I see it as being a highly competitive hard fought contest that eventually sees Marvin wear down the bigger Monzon for a clear points victory, and possibly even a late round stoppage.

More raw data:

Here is a quick snap-shot at how the votes broke down amongst the top ten:

1. Carlos Monzon
Total Lists: 45 (100%)
First Place: 13 (28.9%)
Top Three: 39 (86.7%)
Top Five: 44 (97.8%)
Average Points: 16.4

2.Harry Greb
Total Lists: 42 (93.3%)
First Place: 15 (33.3%)
Top Three: 36 (80.0%
Top Five: 42 (93.3%)
Average Points: 16.0

3. Marvin Hagler
Total Lists: 43 (95.6%)
First Place: 8 (17.8%)
Top Three: 26 (57.8%)
Top Five: 43 (95.6%)
Average Points: 13.5

4. Sugar Ray Robinson
Total Lists: 44 (97.8%)
First Place: 5 (11.1%)
Top Three: 21 (46.7%)
Top Five: 37 (82.2%)
Average Points: 11.4

5. Bernard Hopkins
Total Lists: 39 (86.7%)
First Place: 0 (0%)
Top Three: 2 (4.5%)
Top Five: 14 (31.1%)
Average Points: 4.8

6. Bob Fitzsimmons
Total Lists: 22 (48.9%)
First Place: 2 (4.5%)
Top Three: 4 (8.9%)
Top Five: 7 (15.6%)
Average Points: 3.4

7. Charles Burley
Total Lists: 30 (66.7%)
First Place: 0 (0%)
Top Three: 0 (0%)
Top Five: 6 (13.3%)
Average Points: 3.1

8. Stanley Ketchel
Total Lists: 26 (57.8%)
First Place: 0 (0%)
Top Three: 0 (0%)
Top Five: 9 (20.0%)
Average Points: 2.7

9. Mickey Walker
Total Lists: 32 (71.1%)
First Place: 0 (0%)
Top Three: 1 (2.2%)
Top Five: 5 (11.1%)
Average Points: 2.7

10. Dick Tiger
Total Lists: 33 (73.3%)
First Place: 0 (0%)
Top Three:0 (0%)
Top Five: 4 (8.9%)
Average Points: 2.6

Next up, the welterweight division!

Going forward, I will continue conducting surveys for all of the original eight weight classes along with a separate list for the best pound-for-pound fighters of all-time. Next up will be the welterweight division.

Past Surveys

In case you missed it, click HERE to review the results from the heavyweight survey.

In case you missed it, click HERE to review the results from the light heavyweight survey.

***

To contact Ciani:
ciani@eastsideboxing.com

To read more by Ciani please visit The Mushroom Mag:
http//www.eatthemushroom.com/mag

To hear more from Ciani, be sure to tune in every Monday at 6pm ET to listen to On the Ropes—the #1 boxing radio program on Blogtalk Radio:
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/On-The-Ropes

Article posted on 25.09.2009



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