4. Harry Greb – World champion (August 31, 1923-February 26, 1926)
The swarming hurricane known as the “Pittsburgh Windmill” is high on many all-time pound-for-pound lists for his consistent excellence against an impossibly high level of opposition that included elite light heavyweights and occasional heavyweights. His record of 104-8-3 with one no-contest exploded to 261-20-17 when one included newspaper decisions and the fact that he was blind in one eye throughout the final five years of his career – including his entire title reign – only added to his legend.
If boxing were a fair and noble sport Greb would have been crowned champion far earlier than he was, but Johnny Wilson played a successful game of keep-away for nearly three years. Once Greb finally corralled Wilson he whipped him over 15 lopsided rounds and launched a reign that spanned 30 months and six defenses. The most notable title encounter came against welterweight champion and fellow all-time great Mickey Walker, from whom he won a sensational 15-round decision in July 1925.
During his time as middleweight champ, Greb went 35-3-1 with 14 no-decisions and two no-contests. The only losses came to light heavyweight Tommy Loughran, future heavyweight king Gene Tunney and a disqualification against Kid Norfolk, against whom he lost his sight three years earlier. He tore through everyone else, including Wilson (W 15), Fay Kaiser (KO 12), Ted Moore (W 15), Tony Marullo (W 15) and Bryan Downey (W 10) in title contests. Some of his non-title victims included Loughran, Wilson, Maxie Rosenbloom, Jimmy Slattery, Lou Bogash and Soldier Jones.
Southpaw cutie Tiger Flowers controversially dethroned Greb over 15 rounds in February 1926 and won again five months later, again in debatable fashion. Two months later he died in the operating table at age 32 but his legacy – enhanced by the fact that no fight film of his is known to exist – still burns strongly more than eight decades later.