Was Muhammad Ali the Greatest? (by Jeff Burns)

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The following article is a dedicated contribution from Jeff Burns.

Debates and arguments have gone on for many years in boxing circles about who really was the greatest. Candidates for this title have usually come from the heavyweight division, this is not because heavyweights are more talented but because of the aura and recognition that goes with holding the heavyweight championship of the world.


Muhammad Ali claimed he was the greatest of all time!

Henry-Homicide-Hank-ArmstrongMuhammad Ali claimed he was the greatest of all time - let us presume he meant the greatest heavyweight of all time. It would be very difficult to compare Ali with Henry ‘Homicide Hank’ Armstrong who when outpointing Lou Ambers for the World lightweight title in August 1938 became the first boxer to hold three world titles simultaneously as he was the reigning featherweight and welterweight champion. Henry Armstrong was a triple title-holder when there were only eight weight divisions and usually only one recognised World champion within each weight division.

What about Sugar Ray Robinson?

Could you compare Ali with the dazzling Sugar Ray Robinson? He became world welterweight champion in 1946 and won the World middleweight championship five times between 1950 and 1958. In 1952 he was just one round away from capturing the light heavyweight crown from Joey Maxim when he retired at the end of the 14th round due to heat exhaustion when well ahead on points.

Jimmy Wilde

Wales' own son the 'Tylorstown Terror' known by the Americans as the 'ghost with the hammer in his hands' may be worthy of comparison?

Jimmy Wilde

Jimmy Wilde - the 'ghost with the hammer in his hands'

Jimmy Wilde weighing little more than seven stones, a stone inside the flyweight limit, held the World title from 1916 until 1923.

Even amongst heavyweights it would be difficult to compare the like of Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Ali, Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis who all held the heavyweight title during different periods in boxing history. Yes, you can argue that Larry Holmes beat Ali and that Tyson beat Holmes, Holyfield beat Tyson and Lewis beat Holyfield but they were all at different stages of their boxing careers.

Read More: Was Muhammad Ali the Greatest? Part 1 by Jeff Burns

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