The Greatest HBO Fighter of All-Time Round 1: Lederman Region

By Kieran Mulvaney

Inside HBO Boxing is crowning the greatest boxer ever to compete on the network, as determined by you, the fans. Among the countless icons and Hall of Famers who’ve battled on the HBO airwaves, we’ve selected an elite field of 32 fighters for entry in a bracket-style tournament. All matchups are previewed in depth on the HBO Boxing Podcast, and you can vote for the winners on Twitter (@HBOboxing). Who is truly the greatest? That’s for you to decide.

See the other regions: Lampley | Merchant | Kellerman

LEDERMAN REGION

Named after HBO Boxing’s long-standing, much-loved and award-winning “unofficial official” Harold Lederman, this region features a double dose of Sugars, three all-time-great middleweight champions and one of the best to reign one division higher, and two Latin legends whose ends came tragically soon. 

harold lederman region round 1

 

(1) Sugar Ray Leonard vs (8) Sugar Shane Mosley

Which sugar is the sweetest? The golden Olympian medalist, or his Golden State successor? Both these champions brought fast hands and fury as well as skill, so who has what it takes to move to the next round?

Sugar Ray Leonard
Welterweight/Junior Middleweight/Middleweight/Super Middleweight/Light Heavyweight Champion
36-3-1 (25 KOs)
Years Fought: 1977-1997

Best Wins:
TKO 8 Roberto Duran 11-25-1980
TKO 14 Thomas Hearns 9-16-1981
W 12 Marvin Hagler 4-6-1987
 

Sugar Shane Mosley
Lightweight/Welterweight/Junior Middleweight Champion
49-10-1 (41 KOs)
Years Fought: 1993-2016
 

Best Wins:
W 12 Phillip Holiday 8-2-1997
W 12 Oscar De La Hoya 6-17-2000
TKO  9 Antonio Margarito 1-24-2009


(4) Salvador Sanchez vs (5) Alexis Arguello

A meeting between these two phenomenal Latin fighters – one from Mexico, one from Nicaragua – was once briefly mooted, only to come to nothing. What a clash it might have been, and what a fantasy matchup it makes between two practitioners of power and skill.

Salvador Sanchez
Featherweight Champion
44-1-1 (32 KOs)
Years Fought: 1975-1982

Best Wins
TKO 13 Danny Lopez 2-2-1980
TKO 8 Wilfredo Gomez 8-21-1981
TKO 15 Azumah Nelson 7-21 1982

Alexis Arguello
Featherweight/SuperFeatherweight/Lightweight Champion
77-8 (62 KOs)
Years Fought: 1968-1995

Best Wins:
TKO 11 Rafael Limon 7-8-1979
W RTD 7 Bobby Chacon 11-16-1979
TKO 14 Ray Mancini 10-3-1981


(3) Bernard Hopkins vs (6) Andre Ward

Although these two men’s weights and careers overlapped, they never faced off in the real world. Who prevails in the fantasy world, as Philadelphia’s Hopkins comes up against Oakland’s Ward in a battle of cerebral, crafty champions?

Bernard Hopkins
Middleweight/Light Heavyweight Champion
55-8-2 (32 KOs)
Years Fought: 1988-2016

Best Wins:
TKO 12 Felix Trinidad 9-29-2001
W 12 Antonio Tarver 6-10-2006
W 12 Kelly Pavlik 10-18-2008

Andre Ward
Super Middleweight/Light Heavyweight Champion
32-0 (16 KOs)
Years Fought: 2004-2017

Best Wins:
W 12 Carl Froch 12-17-2011
TKO 10 Chad Dawson 9-8-2012
TKO 8 Sergey Kovalev 6-17-2017


(2) Marvin Hagler vs (7) Gennady Golovkin 

Two middleweight champions. Two lengthy and dominant reigns. Two men who eschew the glamor for hard-nosed, blue-collar (but blue riband) boxing at its best. Who moves on? The middleweight champion of the 1980s? Or the middleweight champion of the 2010s?

Marvin Hagler
Middleweight Champion
62-3-2 (52 KOs)
Years Fought: 1973-1987

Best Wins
TKO 3 Alan Minter 9-27-1980
KO 3 Thomas Hearns 4-15-1985
KO 11 John Mugabi 3-10-1986

Gennady Golovkin
Middleweight Champion
38-0-1 (34 KOs)
Years Fought: 2006-present

Best Wins
TKO 5 Grezgorz Proksa 9-1-2012
KO 3 Matthew Macklin 6-29-2013
TKO 3 Daniel Geale 7-26-2014

The 10 Biggest Middleweight Fights in HBO History

leonard-vs-hagler-1987.jpg

It’s too soon to say whether the September 16 battle for middleweight supremacy between Canelo Alvarez and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin will be one of the division's greatest fights. But it’s not too soon to declare it a massive event. This will be the most meaningful, most anticipated clash between two world-class boxers that the sport has seen in more than two years. And it will be one of the most meaningful, most anticipated middleweight title bouts that HBO has aired in 40-plus years of broadcasting fights.

Where does Canelo-GGG rank exactly on that list? Here are the top 10 middleweight fights in HBO boxing history:


10. Felix Trinidad vs. William Joppy

May 12, 2001

Madison Square Garden, New York City

Joppy isn’t a household name now and he wasn’t one then, but this fight was a big deal anyway for three reasons: It was a semifinal bout in Don King’s Middleweight World Championship Series; 2000 Fighter of the Year Trinidad was as scorchingly popular as any boxer alive at that moment; and the bigger Joppy was given a very real chance at upsetting “Tito,” who had never fought at middleweight before. Rarely has the decibel level at the Garden been as elevated as it was that night when the Puerto Rican icon bounced Joppy off the canvas three times on his way to a fifth-round knockout.

9. Miguel Cotto vs. Sergio Martinez

June 7, 2014

Madison Square Garden, New York City

cotto vs martinez body shot.jpg

This transfer of the lineal middleweight title is remembered largely for Martinez’s gimpy knees making it easy for Cotto, but going in, it looked like the ultimate challenge for the undersized Puerto Rican warrior. Martinez had been the champ for four years and he’d beaten Kelly Pavlik, Paul Williams, and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. along the way. Cotto and Martinez were two of the most respected pugilists of their generation, and the former scored perhaps the most meaningful victory of his Hall of Fame-bound career as he sent the latter into retirement with a 10th-round stoppage.

8. Sergio Martinez vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

September 15, 2012

Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas

martinez vs. chavez jr.jpg

For 11 rounds, it didn’t live up to any of the hype. For the final three minutes, it exceeded all possible hype. And make no mistake, there was plenty of hype surrounding the undefeated son of Mexico’s greatest champion challenging a pound-for-pounder for the lineal 160-pound title. Between the Chavez name, a memorable 24/7 build, and a peaking Martinez, this was a perfect Mexican Independence Day weekend mega-event, even if it ended with the Mexican’s frantic 12th-round rally coming up just short against the Argentine king.

7. Canelo Alvarez vs. Miguel Cotto

November 21, 2015

Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas

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Cotto was a major star and the lineal champ; Alvarez was an even bigger star as the challenger. Neither were necessarily true middleweights, but it was a 50-50 fight for many fans and experts, and the pay-per-view numbers proved that the stink of May-Pac could be shaken by the right kind of must-see battle between warriors with rabid fan bases. In the end, it was a very good but not great fight, as Canelo was too young and too sharp and he outboxed Cotto to win a clear-cut decision.

6. Marvin Hagler vs. Roberto Duran

November 10, 1983

Caesars Palace, Las Vegas

In a world in which Sugar Ray Leonard was retired — for the moment, anyway — Hagler and Duran were as big as any two stars in the sport. Duran was already a living legend, but for Hagler, this represented his first crack at a superfight and the money that comes with it and a major step toward his ambition of becoming a legend in his own right. And the fight was more competitive than many expected, with Duran boxing smartly and Hagler holding onto his strap by a single point on two scorecards.

5. Bernard Hopkins vs. Oscar De La Hoya

September 18, 2004

MGM Grand, Las Vegas

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It’s easy, nearly a decade after his career ended, to forget just how carry-the-sport-on-his-back big De La Hoya was. In long-reigning champ B-Hop, boxing’s biggest star had found an opponent against which he had nothing to lose, a challenge so great he was enhancing his legacy just by trying. It didn’t end gloriously for Oscar, who was left writhing on the canvas from as sneaky ninth-round body punch, but it was a win for everyone when the receipts from 2004’s biggest pay-per-view extravaganza were added up.

4. Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin

September 16, 2017

T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas

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There was demand among the hardcore fans for a GGG-Canelo showdown in May or September of 2016, but if it had happened then, it wouldn’t be all the way up at No. 4 on this countdown. This fight between the lineal champ and the people’s champ was kept in the toaster until it was golden brown on all sides, until it finally reached a point where picking a winner isn’t going to be easy. History and legacy will be at stake when these two beloved fighters try to separate the “good boys” from the great men.

3. Bernard Hopkins vs. Felix Trinidad

September 29, 2001

Madison Square Garden, New York City

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This didn’t draw as big a gate or sell as many PPVs as Hopkins’ fight with De La Hoya three years later would. But in terms of a fight capturing something historic — tapping into something culturally and emotionally significant as well as something of great pugilistic heft — the Hopkins-Trinidad showdown in the finals of the Middleweight World Championship Series is tough to outdo. Just 18 days after the 9/11 terrorist attack, a wounded city healed just a little bit through the power of sports, and it was Hopkins to rose to the occasion and punched his ticket to the Hall of Fame with a performance for the ages and a 12th-round TKO.

(Read From the Vault: Still Standing)

2. Marvin Hagler vs. Tommy Hearns

April 15, 1985

Caesars Palace, Las Vegas

Hagler_v_Hearns_3.jpg

Part of what made the savagery of the eight minutes Hagler and Hearns shared so iconic was that fights this big pretty much never become this violent this fast. Most superfights feature two professionals with elite skill and therefore take a few rounds to heat up. Hagler and Hearns wasted no time sizing each other up and delivered on the event’s nickname “The War” from the instant the opening bell rang. Hagler’s third-round knockout of Hearns pushed the “Four Kings” era into a different place in the public consciousness, establishing it as the go-to reference for multi-way rivalries for the ensuing 32 years and counting.

(Read From the Vault: Eight Minutes of Hell)

1. Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Marvin Hagler

April 6, 1987

Caesars Palace, Las Vegas

leonard-vs-hagler

It was like something out of a movie: The baby-faced superstar who’d been forced to retire young daring to come back after a three-year break against the long-reigning champ widely considered the best pound-for-pound fighter around. It was an event so momentous and so wrapped in curiosity that it sold itself. And Leonard didn’t only know how to sell the fans; he also knew how to sell the judges, and he convinced two of them to award him maybe the most debated decision of all-time, capping an upset and a comeback more fantastic than anything Hollywood could script.

(Read From the Vault: Still Fighting)

Watch: Bernard Hopkins Breaks Down Crawford vs. Diaz

In his most recent segment on HBO's The Fight Game with Jim Lampley, boxing legend Bernard Hopkins breaks down the upcoming Terence Crawford vs. Felix Diaz junior welterweight title bout.

Crawford vs. Diaz airs live on Saturday, May 20 at 10:15 p.m. ET/PT on HBO World Championship Boxing.

Watch: Bernard Hopkins Breaks Down Joshua vs. Klitschko on "The Fight Game"

On the latest edition of "The Fight Game with Jim Lampley," Bernard Hopkins previews April 29's heavyweight bout between Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko. 

"The Fight Game" Returns Wednesday, April 19 at 11 PM

lampley

"The Fight Game with Jim Lampley" kicks off its sixth season on Wednesday at 11 p.m. ET/PT exclusively on HBO. Hosted by the four-time Sports Emmy® winner, who has hosted HBO Boxing since joining the network in 1988, the show is a provocative, engaging and informative experience that delves into intriguing storylines, newsmakers and issues that are top-of-mind in boxing.

On this edition of "The Fight Game," Lampley breaks down the March 18 title bouts of pound-for-pound stars Gennady Golovkin and Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez; correspondent Melissa Stark visits Mexico to examine the popularity of Canelo Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.; and Bernard Hopkins previews Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko and Alvarez vs. Chavez Jr. Plus, Lampley and Max Kellerman survey the latest news and headlines from around the boxing world. 

Immediately following the show’s April 19 debut, fight fans can log on to hbo.com for an exclusive overtime segment hosted by Lampley.

The show is also available on HBO NOW, HBO GO, HBO On Demand and affiliate portals.

HBO Boxing Insiders' 2016 Year-End Picks: Favorite Moments

Photo: Ed Mulholland

With the end of the year approaching and Boxing's Best airing, HBO Boxing Insiders take a look back at the fights that aired on HBO and HBO PPV in 2016. Here, they share their favorite -- and in some cases most memorable -- moments from the year in boxing. 

More: Fighter of the Year | Fight of the Year | Round of the Year | KO of the Year | Best Blow | Best Corner | Breakthrough Fighter

Eric Raskin:

I could take the easy/snarky route here and say the moment the Luis Ortiz-Malik Scott fight ended. Or I could take the personal route and say watching my podcast partner Kieran Mulvaney on my TV screen interviewing Sergey Kovalev and Isaac Chilemba in Russia. But instead I’ll go with that bizarre interview with Amir Khan and his trainer Virgil Hunter that followed Khan’s knockout loss at the hands of Canelo Alvarez. Why should it matter to Hunter whom Canelo fights next? It shouldn’t. But he went out of his way to challenge Canelo to take on Gennady Golovkin, and Khan got in on the double-dog dare as well. To me, Hunter was in that moment a boxing fan fighting for his sport, a man who’d seen the toll five years of Mayweather-Pacquiao teases took. So he told the man who’d just decimated his fighter what to do next, even if it wasn’t his place to do so and he didn’t stand to benefit directly. It was something I’d never seen before in nearly two decades covering boxing, and it was equal parts unusual and refreshing.

Kieran Mulvaney:

On a personal level, it’s been a year packed full of them. Back-to-back trips to London and Dallas rank high on the list. For the first time I got to witness first-hand a British fight crowd for Gennady Golovkin’s hard-fought win over Kell Brook, and 50,000 fans doing the wave at Cowboys Stadium as they waited for Canelo Alvarez to come out and whup Liam Smith. Spending a day with Bernard Hopkins during the final fight week of his career is up there, too; I’m pretty sure neither photographer Ed Mulholland nor I will ever look at beets quite the same way again. Being in StubHub for the extraordinary Francisco Vargas-Orlando Salido bout on a night that was raw with emotion over the death of Muhammad Ali is a night I’ll not soon forget. 

But for me, the unquestioned highlight was traveling to Yekaterinburg, Russia – where the days were long and the nights were lively – to be a part of the broadcast for Sergey Kovalev’s win over Isaac Chilemba. One moment in particular I’ll always remember was when production manager Ken Clausen and I sat at the airport bar before we flew back home. Very few people in Yekaterinburg spoke English (it isn’t exactly on the tourist route), but our bartender did, and he looked at us and asked, incredulously, “Why are you here?” We made fists, and said “Sergey Kovalev. American TV. HBO.” At which the bartender gasped and, wide-eyed, exclaimed, “HBO! Game of Thrones!”

In Russia, winter is always coming.

Diego Morilla:

The words “favorite” or “best” certainly do not apply to this unforgettable HBO moment, but that doesn’t make it less memorable. The legendary Bernard Hopkins, one month shy of his 52nd birthday, was attempting to go out on a high note in his Dec. 17 swansong fight against Joe Smith Jr., some 28 years after Hopkins graduated from correctional facility titlist into professional prizefighter.

The plan, as it turned out, went sideways – and quite literally. Hopkins was already losing by the time Smith started pounding on him in a neutral corner before sending his aged opponent out of the ring in what appeared to be an incredibly dangerous fall. Hopkins landed on the back of his head, all 180 pounds of him, and failed to “pull a Dempsey” when he was unable to find his way back into the ring after the 20-count. As anticlimactic an ending as it may have been, the fall may end up putting a new twist in the Hopkins legend that, far from tarnishing his legacy, may enhance it. After all, being the guy who literally had to be punched out of the ring to quit fighting at the age of almost 52 is a bragging right that few other fighters will ever be able to claim. Not bad, Mr. Hopkins. Not bad at all.    

Nat Gottlieb:

The death of Muhammad Ali was emotionally devastating news to boxing fans. “A Tribute to Muhammad Ali,” that was aired on The Fight Game with Jim Lampley was one of HBO Boxing’s best and most moving broadcasts in 2016. Ali left a dramatic legacy, both inside and outside the ring, and Lampley captured it perfectly. 

Hamilton Nolan:

Every Golovkin post-fight interview. The fact that the scariest fighter in boxing is also the most winning boxer proves that not everything in this violent sport is bad. 

Oliver Goldstein:

It wasn’t the most brutal fight of the year on HBO (that was between Orlando Salido and Francisco Vargas), but Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez’s win over Carlos Cuadras was special in its own way. There’s not a more savagely graceful fighter in the sport than Gonzalez, who is never less than balletic when he’s putting the hurt on. Still, Cuadras himself lacked little for skill, and also knew that he could make his greater size evident in several ways: Cuadras managed to trouble Gonzalez both by hitting him plenty and also by making Chocolatito chase him, skirting the ring to make the Nicaraguan work. By the 11th round Cuadras had Chocolatito reeling, hurting him a number of times down the stretch with strafing body shots.

Ultimately it wasn’t enough for the win, but Cuadras’ conviction in his own equality with Gonzalez produced 12 rounds of the highest caliber. And also a warning: Gonzalez’s power might not travel with him quite so easily in the future. And another warning: Should Cuadras’ template prove repeatable -- and it’s a template someone at middleweight might want to try out on Gennady Golovkin -- there’ll be more nights like this to come. 

HBO Boxing Podcast Ep. 157 -- Hopkins vs. Smith Jr. Postfight

HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney recap Joe Smith Jr.'s dramatic TKO victory over Bernard Hopkins on Saturday, Dec. 17.

Watch: Fight Highlights from Hopkins vs. Smith Jr.

Watch highlights from Joe Smith Jr.'s dramatic TKO victory in round 8 over Bernard Hopkins on December 17, 2016.