Throughout the twentieth century professional boxing, just like professional wrestling, was a sport in which mainly Americans and boxers from nearby countries, such as Mexico and Puerto Rico, could participate in. However, Olympic boxing tournaments and World Amateur Championships were usually dominated by the USSR, Cuba, and the former Soviet Bloc countries, even though their boxers never made it to the next level because their governments prevented them from competing as professional athletes for political and economic reasons.
By the mid-nineties and after the collapse of the Iron Curtain all of this changed and the face of professional boxing has transformed during the past two decades, especially in the bigger weight classes. Here’s a list of 25 of the greatest boxers in history outside of North America who made it big despite the economic and political odds in a sport that had its borders closed until relatively recently.
After Pascual Pérez won the gold medal for his country at the 1948 Olympic boxing tournament in London, he went on to become Argentina’s first-ever professional boxing champ when he captured the world title in 1954 against a Japanese fighter in Japan. He went undefeated for his first 51 fights and held the title for over six years. He is considered the second-greatest flyweight boxer in history behind only the great Jimmy Wilde.
Die-hard boxing fans usually refer to Azumah Nelson as the greatest boxer to ever come from Africa and the Ghanaian “Lion” did everything he could to prove them right. For over a decade (1984 to 1997) Nelson was Featherweight and Super Featherweight world champion and his unforgettable bouts with Jeff Fenech, Pernell Whitaker, and the great Mexican warrior, Salvador Sánchez, are considered all-time classic material in the boxing world.
Kostya Tszyu was one of the very first former Soviet boxers to flee to the free world so he could pursue a professional career in boxing back in the early ‘90s. So after he won gold in two Amateur World Championships for the USSR he moved to Australia and won several world titles on a professional level and The Ring magazine named him the greatest junior welterweight boxer of the previous decade.
After Gennady “GGG” Golovkin won a gold medal at the 2003 World Amateur Championships and silver at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, he pursued a professional career and since then has become the fans’ favorite boxer. He’s been undefeated in 30 bouts and is the reigning WBA and IBO middleweight world champion with an impressive 90 percent knockout rate, which is the highest KO ratio in middleweight championship history.
If you’re a boxing fan then you know Dariusz as “the beast” or as the boxer that a prime Roy Jones Jr. ducked and avoided openly. On the other hand, Dariusz fought against anyone and accepted any challenge, becoming a world champion in two weight divisions. He held the WBO Light Heavyweight title for nine years (1994–2003) and set the record for most title defenses in the history of this weight division with twenty-three. He went undefeated for forty-eight bouts before losing a controversial split decision to Julio César González of Mexico at age thirty-five.