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Boxing's Best Featherweights of All Time

Updated on April 13, 2017

Legendary Featherweights

Willie Pep and Sandy Saddler fought four times in the featherweight division. One of their bouts is considered the all time number foul fest in boxing history.
Willie Pep and Sandy Saddler fought four times in the featherweight division. One of their bouts is considered the all time number foul fest in boxing history. | Source
Marco Antonio Barrera and Manny Pacquiao fought twice with the Pacman winning both bouts.
Marco Antonio Barrera and Manny Pacquiao fought twice with the Pacman winning both bouts. | Source
Danny Lopez vs. Salvador Sanchez was a great bout with Sanchez knocking out  Little Red late in the contest.
Danny Lopez vs. Salvador Sanchez was a great bout with Sanchez knocking out Little Red late in the contest. | Source

The Prince

The Prince Naseem Hamed had uncanny power in both hands and he launched his bombs from unorthodox angles.
The Prince Naseem Hamed had uncanny power in both hands and he launched his bombs from unorthodox angles. | Source

Featherweight Legends of the Ring

There are many great featherweight boxers in the history of this sport but for one reason or another the ones on this list are the best of all time.

1. Willie Pep: Not only is Willie Pep the best Featherweight Boxer ever but, he is also widely considered the best defensive boxer of all time.He beat the great Sandy Saddler to become a 2 time featherweight champ. He also beat Manuel Ortiz, Paddy Demarco and Chalky Wright in his outstanding run at the top. He once had a record in his prime of 153 wins and only one loss. His defensive genius should be required study for aspiring fighters. Pep lacked knockout power but otherwise he was a perfect fighting machine.

2. Salvador Sanchez: He had a career of 44 wins, 1 loss, 1 draw and 32 knockouts.He died in a car wreck at age 23 but, still achieved Hall of Fame greatness during his short career. In 1981, he won The Ring Magazine's: Fighter of The Year Award. He was Featherweight Champion from 1980-1982. He beat Danny Lopez for the Title and defended the Title against Juan Laporte, Wilfredo Gomez and Azumah Nelson among others. If not for his premature death he would have accomplished so much more.

3. Henry Armstrong: Homicide Hank was Featherweight Champion from 1937-1938. He vacated the belt without losing it in the ring. Among those he beat were, Petey Sarron for the championship. He fought Joe Rivers, Chalky Wright, Barney Ross and Lou Ambers in his great career. Armstrong was a non stop action fighter who would land many more punches than his opponents and wear them down with pressure. His stamina never seemed to wear out and his punches came from all sorts of odd angles.

4. Sandy Saddler: Saddler has a record of 144 wins and 16 losses in his career. He also has 103 knockouts and The Ring Magazine ranks him as the 5th Hardest Puncher in Boxing History. Among those he knocked out were: Flash Elorde and Willie Pep. Saddler had finishing power in both hands and for a featherweight his one punch power was frightening to say the least. Saddler was a beast and on his best day he was almost impossible to topple.

5. Azumah Nelson: He knocked out Wilfredo Gomez, for the title and he made a total of 7 defenses of the title before vacating the belt. He is considered the best African boxer ever, and he finished his career with 39 wins, 6 losses and 28 knockouts. Nelson was a master at setting traps for his foes and his jab and chin were top notch in the sport of boxing. Nelson could do it all and he learned his craft from the start fighting the great Salvadore Sanchez when he was still a novice.

6. Manny Pacquiao: The Pacman won the Featherweight Title by beating, Marco Antonio Barrerra and he was Champion from 2003-2005. He defended the title against Juan Manuel Marquez, scoring 3 knockdowns in the fight with his deadly straight left hand. Pacquiao had spped, power and a relentless come forward style similar to that of Henry Armstrong. Pacman went on to greater glory, ultimately wining titles in a record eight weight classes.

7. Abe Attell: He had a great record of 125 wins and only 18 losses in his Featherweight career. He beat George Dixon by 20 Round decision during his title reign and he was fleet of foot using angles and feints to control his bouts. Attell had a smooth style and was hard to hit with more than one punch at a time by all accounts.

8. Marco Antonio Barrera: He was the World Featherweight Champion from 2001-2003 and he beat the undefeated Prince Naseem Hamed for the Championship. He beat Johnny Tapia, Kevin Kelley and Erik Morales in the 126 pound weight class. Barrera had a brutal body attack and although he could brawl his jab and ring skills were elite as well. Barrera fought with a chip on his shoulder early in his career and that fire helped him achieve greatness.

9. Prince Naseem Hamed: "The Prince" was probably, Sandy Saddler aside, the hardest puncher in Featherweight history. He flattened Kevin Kelley, Steve Robinson, Tom Johnson, Manuel Medina and Wilfredo Vazquez as the champion. Hamed was very slippery and awkward and he launched overhand right bombs and left hooks from all over the place. If he had taken time to master the basics he could have ranked higher on this list.

10. Alexis Arguello: "The Explosive" Thin Man knocked out the great Ruben Olivares for the Featherweight strap and was Champion for over three years before vacating to move up in weight. He had a long and deadly one-two combination, the jab followed by the missile right hand which was devastating to say the least.


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Willie Pep's Best Victories

The Will of the Wisp had over 200 victories in his storied career. This is just five of the outstanding wins by this defensive specialist.

1. Wille Pep W15 Sandy Saddler ( February 11, 1949) Pep gained revenge and regained the featherweight crown with this win. It wasn't easy but he outboxed and outfought Saddler.

2. Willie Pep W15 Chalky Wright ( November 20, 1942) Pep won his first featherweight title with this victory.

3. Willie Pep W12 Jackie Wilson ( April 26, 1943) Pep schooled Wilson for all twelve rounds.

4. Willie Pep W15 Sal Bartolo ( June 8,1943) Pep beat Bartolo from pillar to post without losing a round a rarely even taking a shot.

5. Willie Pep W10 Manuel Ortiz ( July 17,1944) Pep dominated Ortiz for a ten round shut out decision and he made Ortiz look foolish at times.

Marco Antonio Barrerra highlights

Salvador Sanchez highlights

© 2012 Buster Johnson

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    • TrevorBasile profile image

      Trevor Basile 4 years ago from Rockaway, NJ

      Nice history on the sport! Do not know a lot about it but article want to to read more about it. Keep them coming!

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