Thursday, February 22

10 Best Asian Boxers In History

Highlights

  • Asia has produced many great boxing champions who have made significant impacts on the sport.
  • Asian boxers have dominated the lighter divisions, with record-long world title defenses.
  • Manny Pacquiao is considered one of the greatest fighters in history, holding numerous world titles and achieving multiple boxing records.


As the world’s largest and most populated continent, it should come as no surprise that Asia has produced more than its fair share of boxing greats. The Philippines, for instance, has a boxing culture every bit as deep and rich as the USA, the United Kingdom, and Mexico.

Some of boxing’s most iconic and longest-serving world champions have hailed from Asia and the region continues to shape the current landscape of the sport. Naturally, it’s the lighter weight classes where Asian fighters dominate; where speed and technique reign supreme.

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10 Pongsaklek Wonjongkam Was An All-Time Flyweight Great

The Thai Holds A Title Defense Record

Active Years

1994-2008

Weight Class

Flyweight

Record

91-5-2 (47 KO)

World Titles

WBC Flyweight

One of Thailand’s greatest boxer is also one of the best flyweights in history. Wonjongkam turned professional in 1994 and first became WBC world champion in March 2001 when he stopped Malcolm Tunacao in the first round.

Over a six-year spell, the Thai fighter successfully defended the title 17 times against 16 opponents, which remains a flyweight record. After losing his title to Daisuke Naito in July 2007, and falling short by drawing the rematch in March 2008, Wonjongkam became a two-time champion in October 2010 with a points win over Suriyan Kaikanha, defending the title a further three times.

Wonjongkam concluded his career with four successive victories before retiring in 2018 with his status as one of Thailand’s finest fighters secured.

9 Nonito Donaire Is An Enduring Filipino Superstar

Donaire Became A Champion In Three Different Decades

Active Years

2001-Present

Weight Classes

Flyweight, Super-Flyweight, Bantamweight, Super-Bantamweight, Featherweight

Record

42-8-0 (28 KO)

World Titles

IBF Flyweight, WBC Bantamweight, WBO Bantamweight, WBA (Super) Bantamweight, WBO Super-Bantamweight, IBF Super-Bantamweight, WBA Featherweight

Perhaps unfairly caught in Manny Pacquiao’s shadow, Donaire is a great champion in his own right and the Filipino Flash has created his share of boxing history.

Donaire is a four-weight world champion, collecting belts at flyweight, bantamweight, super-bantamweight, and featherweight. In winning world titles in three different decades (2000s, 2010s, 2020s), Donaire became only the sixth boxer to achieve the feat, after Evander Holyfield, Erik Morales, Bernard Hopkins, Pacquiao, and Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Donaire went on a 30-fight winning run, a 12-year streak ended by Cuban legend Guillermo Rigondeaux.

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8 Khaosai Galaxy Was Thailand’s Great Power Puncher

One Of Boxing’s Greatest Knockout Artists

Active Years

1980-1991

Weight Class

Super-Flyweight

Record

47-1-0 (41 KO)

World Titles

WBA Super-Flyweight

The Thai fighter carried vicious power and became WBA world champion in November 1984 after stopping Eusebio Espinal in the sixth round. Galaxy made 19 successful title defenses and retired as champion after his final fight in December 1991.

Ring Magazine named Galaxy in the top 20 of its list of 100 greatest punchers of all time and Thailand’s number one pound-for-pound boxer in history. He was selected for the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1999 and remains a hero for Thai fight fans to this day.

7 Gabriel Elorde Was One Of The Greatest Ever Super-Featherweights

‘Flash’ Was Known For His Speed And Skill

Active Years

1951-1971

Weight Classes

Bantamweight, Featherweight, Super-Featherweight, Lightweight

Record

89-27-2 (33 KO)

World Titles

World Super-Featherweight, WBA Super-Featherweight, WBC Super-Featherweight

Nicknamed ‘Flash’ for his speed and skill, Elorde was a star of the super-featherweight division, first winning the lineal championship in 1960 and claiming the inaugural WBA and WBC belts in 1963.

Elorde lost the titles in February 1964 to Carlos Ortiz in his second defense but became a three-time world champion five months later and made 10 total successful defenses over seven years – a super-featherweight record.

The third Filipino to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, Elorde is recognized by the WBC as its greatest ever super-featherweight fighter.

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6 Pancho Villa Was Asia’s First Flyweight Champion

A Great Career Cut Short By Tragedy

Active Years

1919-1925

Weight Class

Flyweight

Record

77-4-4 (22 KO)

World Titles

World Flyweight

Villa is regarded as one of the greatest Filipino fighters in history and might have gone down as one of the all-time greats had tragedy not struck. Active between 1919 and 1925, Villa was the first Asian boxer to win the flyweight world title, and first world champion from the Philippines at any weight, when he defeated Jimmy Wilde in June 1923.

Villa made several successful defenses of his title, but the exact number is unknown; he fought 18 more times at flyweight until stepping up to bantamweight although it’s unclear how many were title fights.

He returned to flyweight for what proved to be the final fight of his career – a July 1925 bout with Jimmy McLarnin. Earlier that same day, Villa had an ulcerated tooth extracted and a few days later he died from an infection that had spread to his throat. He was only 23 years old.

5 Ceferino Garcia Was A Filipino History-Maker

The Philippines’ Only Middleweight Champion

Active Years

1923-1945

Weight Classes

Welterweight, Middleweight

Record

121-30-14 (77 KO)

World Titles

World Middleweight

While the majority of Asian boxing greats operated in the lighter divisions, Garcia was something of an outlier in that he made his mark firstly at welterweight and more prominently at middleweight. Garcia’s career spanned 12 years, from 1933 to 1945 and encompassed a whopping 165 fights. His 121 victories are the most by a Filipino boxer in history and he is the only fighter from the Philippines to win a world title at middleweight.

Garcia is also credited with inventing the ‘bolo-punch’, a shot that combines a hook and uppercut which was later adopted by such greats as Sugar Ray Leonard and Roy Jones Jr. He was also the first Filipino fighter to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame (1977).

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4 Masahiko ‘Fighting’ Harada Was A Japanese Boxing Idol

A Hall of Fame Inductee In 1995

Active Years

1960-1970

Weight Classes

Flyweight, Bantamweight, Featherweight

Record

55-7-0 (22 KO)

World Titles

WBA Flyweight, WBA Bantamweight, WBC Bantamweight

Harada’s professional boxing career took place neatly between 1960 and 1970, during which he became a two-weight world champion at flyweight and bantamweight. The Japanese fighter earned his first world title in October 1962 in his 28th bout, knocking out Pone Kingpetch in the 11th of 15 scheduled rounds. He would lose the rematch three months later.

However, three years later, Harada was king of the ring once again, this time at bantamweight after a split decision win over the previously undefeated Eder Jofre to win the WBA and WBC titles.

Harada (55-7-0, 22 KOs) made four successful title defenses, including in a rematch with Jofre which forced the Brazilian into temporary retirement. Upon losing his belts to Lionel Rose in February 1968, Harada fought twice more for world titles but lost on both occasions, including in his final fight in January 1970.

Inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1995, Harada currently serves as the president of the Japanese Boxing Federation as of 2023.

3 Chris John Was A Dominant Featherweight Champion

An Indonesian Superstar

Active Years

1998-2013

Weight Class

Featherweight

Record

48-1-3 (22 KO)

World Titles

WBA Featherweight

A dominant featherweight force, Indonesia’s John held the division’s WBA title for nine years and made 16 title defences, making him the second-longest champion in featherweight history. He first became world champion in June 2004 with a decision victory over Osamu Sato. A notable win during his lengthy reign was Juan Manuel Marquez.

The Dragon’s run ended in December 2013 with a sixth-round retirement defeat to Simpiwe Vetyeka, after which he announced his retirement. It was the only loss of his professional career. John was Indonesia’s fourth ever world champion and arguably the country’s greatest.

2 Naoya Inoue Is A Current Pound-For-Pound Star

A Dominant Super-Bantamweight Champion

Naoya-Inoue-Nonito-Donaire

Active Years

2012-Present

Weight Classes

Light-Flyweight, Super-Flyweight, Bantamweight, Super-Bantamweight

Record

25-0-0 (22 KO)

World Titles

WBC Light-Flyweight, WBO Super-Flyweight, WBA Bantamweight, IBF Bantamweight, WBA Super-Bantamweight, WBC Super-Bantamweight

The Japanese fighter, appropriately nicknamed ‘The Monster’, is one of the present day’s pound-for-pound superstars. Inoue has been a world champion since his sixth professional fight, when he won the WBC light-flyweight title in April 2014, and has gone on to win titles in four divisions, unifying both the bantamweight and super-bantamweight classes.

Inoue has stopped 22 of his 25 opponents. Having fought predominantly in Japan, only four of his fights have been held outside his homeland. The Japanese star is already one of the biggest stars not only in Asia, but in global boxing.

1 Manny Pacquiao Is One Of The Greatest Fighters In History

Pac Man Is Asia’s Most Famous Boxer

Active Years

1995-Present

Weight Classes

Flyweight, Super-Bantamweight, Featherweight, Super-Featherweight, Lightweight, Light-Welterweight, Welterweight, Light-Middleweight

Record

62-8-2 (39 KO)

World Titles

WBC Flyweight, IBF Super-Bantamweight, WBC Super-Featherweight, WBC Lightweight, WBO Welterweight, WBA (Super) Welterweight, WBC Super-Welterweight

Asia’s greatest boxer is one of the finest fighters the sport has ever produced. Pacquiao’s records and achievements are long and plenty; the Filipino is the sport’s only eight-division world champion, winning 12 major world titles. In July 2019 at the age of 40, became the oldest welterweight world champion in history.

Pacquiao was involved in several career-defining rivalries. He fought Mexican great Juan Manuel Marquez, Erik Morales, Timothy Bradley Jr. and Marco Antonio Berrera twice. When Pacquiao (62-8-2, 39 KOs) does officially hang up his gloves, his place in boxing history is firmly secured.

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