The first giant of boxing was the bare knuckled champion, John L. Sullivan. Also known as The Boston Strong Boy, John L. is generally acknowledged as the first modern day world’s champion. His impressive record was 35 wins, 1 loss and 2 draws, including 30 wins by knockout. Many of his fights went over 20 rounds. John L. lost his title to the slimmer and quicker Gentleman Jim Corbett on September 7, 1892 in a 21 round boxing match.
Rocky Marciano was the only boxer in any weight class to retire as an undefeated champion and stay retired. The heavyweight knocked out 43 of his 49 opponents. He was knocked to the canvas for the first time during the same match in September 1952 when he won the world’s heavyweight championship from Jersey Joe Walcott. It’s even more amazing considering he was one of the lightest heavyweights at 184 pounds.
Muhammad Ali was another boxing giant. Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. and took a Moslem name after joining the Nation of Islam in 1964. Clay won a gold medal for the United States in the 1960 Olympics in Rome and beat Sonny Liston on February 25, 1964 to become the world’s heavyweight champion. Ali refused induction in the US army and was stripped of his title in 1967. He was prosecuted by the government and convicted of a felony. The US Supreme overturned his conviction 3 /2 years later. Ali would regain the world’s heavyweight championship on 2 separate occasions and had 3 of the most memorable fights of all time with Joe Frazier. Laila Ali continues the family boxing tradition.
One of the most charismatic boxers of all time was Sugar Ray Robinson. The 25 year old Robinson won the world’s welterweight championship in 1946. He once won 91 straight fights. After reigning as champion for five years, Sugar Ray moved into the middleweight division and won the title 5 times during the 1950’s. Sugar Ray’s fought 201 times and finished with a career record of 175-19-6. Many boxing experts still believe that the best boxer pound for pound, of all time was Sugar Ray Robinson.
Floyd Patterson, at the age of 17, won an Olympic boxing gold medal. In November 1956, he became the youngest world’s heavyweight champion by knocking out Archie Moore. Patterson became the first man to successfully regain the world’s heavyweight championship by knocking out the man he lost to in 1959, Ingemar Johansson. As Johansson’s laid unconscious, Patterson saw his left leg was twitching in spasms. Patterson knelt at Johansson’s side and held him in his arms until the doctors got to the ring. Photos of that event were printed in newspapers throughout the world and earned him the nickname the Gentleman of Boxing.