The boxing world used to be ruled by white fighters – partly coinciding with an era where top black fighters and fighters of other colors, creeds and nationalities were not allowed to compete at the highest level. Still, there have been many prominent white champions over the last few decades, including this sampling of the 10 best white boxers of the past quarter century. While most people associate great, recent white boxers with the fictional Rocky Balboa, there have been many accomplished white boxers to step through the ropes over the last several decades.
1. Joe Calzaghe – 46 (32) – 0 – Calzaghe retired with an undefeated record, as one of the best pound for pound boxers in the world. His best work didn’t come until late in his career, with wins over an undefeated Jeff Lacy and an undefeated Mikkel Kessler. He followed up these performances with victories over Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr. While Jones was way past his prime, Hopkins was still in the midst of an elongated career renaissance. He put together a string of 21 successful title defenses of his super middleweight crown.
2. Jeff Fenech – 29 (21) – 3 – 1 – Don’t let the incredibly odd 2008 bout against old rival Azumah Nelson fool you, Fenech has been retired since 1996. The fiercely aggressive and powerful fighter held titles in bantamweight, super bantamweight and featherweight, holding wins over Carlos Zarate, Daniel Zaragosa and others. However he was never able to get the W against his rival, going 0-1-1 versus Nelson in fights that actually mattered.
3. Kostya Tszyu – 31 (25) – 2 – Kostya Tszyu was one of the best junior welterweight fighters of all time. He made 12 successful title defenses in two different runs as champion and held a 15-2 record in title fights. His wins include Roger Mayweather, Sharmba Mitchell, Rafael Ruelas, Miguel Angel Gonzalez and most famously, a second round knockout over Zab Judah.
4. Vic Darchinyan – 32 (26) – 2 – 1 *Still active – The Raging Bull lost his recent bid to become a world champion in three weight classes, but his body of work is still quite impressive. After winning his flyweight title from the undefeated Irene Pacheco, Darchinyan defended the belt six times before suffering an embarrassing knockout loss to Nonito Donaire. He rebounded by improving his all around game, capturing a super flyweight title and unifying it against the favored Cristian Mijares.
5. Wladimir Klitschko – 53 (47) – 3 *Still active – While several knockout losses taint his all-time standing and his reputation amongst most fans, Klitschko has been the dominant force of the heavyweight division, although the division has been anything but crowded. He has made seven successful title defenses and had another five in his first run as champion. He has beaten Chris Byrd twice, Ruslan Chagaev, Calvin Brock, Sam Peter, Lamon Brewster and Sultan Ibgragimov.
6. Ricky Hatton – 45 (32) – 2 *Still active – After a long unbeaten streak against modest opposition, Hatton finally won his title by stopping Kostya Tsyzu. He made several successful title defenses while flirting with the welterweight division before losing his first fight to Floyd Mayweather and several fights later being knocked out by Manny Pacquiao. Besides Tsyzu, Hatton holds wins over Paulie Malignaggi, Luis Collazo, Jose Luis Castillo and Juan Urango.
7. Dariusz Michalczewski – 48 (38) – 2 – We never got to see The Tiger in the ring with Roy Jones Jr., however Michalczewski proved himself against many worthwhile opponents during his long tenure as a light heavyweight champion. He made 24 successful title defenses, and had wins over Virgil Hill, Montell Griffin, Richard Hall and Derrick Harmon. Just don’t ask me to pronounce his name.
8. Vitali Klitschko – 37 (36) – 2 *Still active – That’s not a typo, Vitali Klitschko has knocked out 36 of the 37 men he has beaten. After giving Lennox Lewis quite a scare in his final bout and taking on several fringe contenders, he retired for four years due to injuries and the beck and call of other interests. However, he is now active once again, coming back into the picture by dominating Sam Peter to reclaim the WBC heavyweight championship.
9. Ray Mancini – 29 (23) – 5 – Boom Boom Mancini was a phenom in his heyday, and was ultimately undone after his win over Deuk Koo Kim had deadly consequences. Still, he won a lightweight title and defended it four times successfully, also beating Bobby Chacon. He gave the legendary Alexis Arguello all he could handle in his first title bid in 1981.
10. Arturo Gatti – 40 (31) – 9 – One of the greatest action fighters of all time, Arturo Gatti will remain in the hearts of boxing fans everywhere after his tragic death. As a young, undefeated fighter he won a super featherweight belt and defended it successfully several times. After a handful of losses and his epic trilogy against Micky Ward, he retooled his game and was able to capture a title belt at junior welterweight. He was honored on four separate occasions for participating in Ring Magazine’s Fight of the Year.
That wraps up this list of the top 10 white boxers from the last 25 years. If any of your favorites were left out, be sure to let me know which of the best white boxers of the generation would have made your list.