You can follow Kevin Iole on Twitter at @KevinI
It's hard to believe for those who follow it today to learn that for many years, boxing was one of the two most popular sports in the U.S., along with baseball. Today, unable to make the fights the fans want to see and unable to develop a younger fan base, the sport muddies forward aimlessly.
But boxing has had a rich history – which is both good and bad – and I set about to choose the 100 men I believe were the most significant in the sport's history and who had the most influence on the game being what it is today.
Some are obvious, like Muhammad Ali, because of his unique style and ability to sell a fight. Others are not so obvious, like former New York mayor Jimmy Walker, who managed to get the sport regulated in his state.
As I chose the list – which contains boxers, promoters, managers, trainers, broadcasters, television executives, journalists, authors and politicians – I strove to pick men whose unique characteristics or talents contributed to the sport.
Some have committed crimes that have damaged the game while many others have accomplished feats which covered themselves and their sport in glory.
What follows is the first of a two-part series looking at my choices for the 100 most influential persons in boxing history. Today, we count down Nos. 100-51; come back Sunday for the Top 50.
100. Wilfried Sauerland, promoter – Boxing is huge in Germany largely because of the efforts of Sauerland, who negotiated television deals in the country that have lifted the sport to unprecedented heights.
99. Michael Carbajal, boxer – An Olympic gold medalist, in 1994 Carbajal became the first junior flyweight to earn a $1 million purse.
98. Robert W. Lee Sr., regulator – The founder of the International Boxing Federation, Lee was accused of soliciting bribes in 1999 to improve boxers' rankings. Though he was acquitted on the bribery charges, he was convicted on several others, including money laundering, in 2000.
97. Felix Trinidad, boxer – Trinidad was one of the foremost fighters of his time, combining an exciting style with devastating power and the willingness to take on all comers.
96. Rocky Graziano, boxer – A former middleweight champion with an exciting style, Graziano was played by Paul Newman in the movie, "Somebody Up There Likes Me."
95. Riddick Bowe, boxer –Though Bowe won the heavyweight title, he is considered a wasted talent in that he didn't train as hard as he should have and didn't stay on top as long as many thought he should have.
94. Lennox Lewis, boxer – Lewis was often overlooked early in his career, but he went on to defeat Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson and Vitali Klitschko and was held in high esteem when he retired.
93. Jimmy Cannon, journalist – Canon wrote for several newspapers in New York and was a witty, insightful and knowledgeable boxing columnist.
92. Teofilo Stevenson, boxer – A three-time heavyweight gold medalist for Cuba, Stevenson was always a curiosity because he never turned pro. Many wondered whether he could have beaten Muhammad Ali, but the fight never happened.
91. Ray Mancini, boxer –Mancini was a popular lightweight champion in the 1980s best known for facing Duk Koo Kim in a nationally televised bout in 1982. Kim died of injuries sustained in that bout.
90. Alex Wallau, broadcaster/network executive –Wallau was a boxing analyst on ABC who was highly regarded. He later went on to become the president of the network.
89. Ross Greenburg, television programmer – Greenburg is the president of HBO Sports, but his impact just isn't about broadcasting fights. Greenburg is responsible for the acclaimed "24/7" series as well as the "Legendary Nights" series that detailed many of boxing's finest fights.
88. Marc Ratner, regulator – Ratner ran the Nevada Athletic Commission during its peak and was regarded as the most astute regulator of his time.
87. Panama Lewis, trainer – Along with Jose Sulaiman, Lewis is one of the two most notorious men on the list. A highly regarded trainer, Lewis was banned from boxing after it was discovered that he removed the padding in Luis Resto's gloves and put plaster of Paris on his hand wraps before a 1983 bout in New York with Billy Collins.
86. Aaron Pryor, boxer – Noted for his epic brawl with Alexis Arguello, Pryor was so tough and so talented that not even the great Sugar Ray Leonard wanted anything to do with him.
85. Ferdie Pacheco, broadcaster – Pacheco, who worked as Muhammad Ali's ringside physician, became a noted boxing analyst on NBC and Showtime.
84. Jay Larkin, television programmer – Larkin built the boxing program at Showtime and did most of Mike Tyson's major championship bouts. He also was known later in his career for his "Great fights, no rights," mantra in which he'd sign highly anticipated bouts but did not lock his network up into a long-term commitment.
83. Ike Williams, boxer – Williams was a former lightweight champion whose career took a dive when reputed organized crime members took over as his manager.
82. Pernell Whitaker, boxer – Whitaker was a gold medalist on the powerful 1984 U.S. Olympic team and later became one of the best defensive boxers in the sport's history.
81. Charley Burley –Regarded as among the greatest boxers ever, Burley never got a shot at the welterweight or middleweight title, likely because of his race and because he was so good that top fighters avoided him. Legendary trainer Eddie Futch once said Burley was the best fighter he had ever seen.
80. Floyd Patterson, boxer/regulator – Patterson was both the youngest man at the time to win the heavyweight title and later, the first man to regain it after losing it. After his career, he ran the New York State Athletic Commission.
79. Jimmy Walker, politician – Walker was the former mayor of New York who managed to get boxing legalized in the state and the regulations adopted governing boxing that are still in use today.
78. Bernard Hopkins, boxer – Hopkins came out of a Pennsylvania penitentiary to become one of the greatest middleweights ever, running off a streak of 20 consecutive successful title defenses.
77. Roy Jones Jr., boxer – The best in boxing for many years, Jones in 2003 became the first ex-middleweight champion in 106 years to win a version of the heavyweight title.
76. Lou Duva, trainer/manager/promoter – Duva helped train a slew of great fighters, including Evander Holyfield, Pernell Whitaker and Mike McCallum.
75. Akihiko Honda, promoter/manager – Honda has long been the top promoter in Japan. He put on the famous Mike Tyson-Buster Douglas heavyweight title bout.
74. Jimmy Jacobs, manager – Jacobs amassed a large collection of fight films, but is best known for the brilliant job he did with partner Bill Cayton in guiding Mike Tyson's career.
73. Frank Warren, promoter – Based in the United Kingdom, Warren has long been one of the elite promoters in the game. He helped build the careers of Ricky Hatton, Joe Calzaghe and Naseem Hamed.
72. Gil Clancy, trainer/broadcaster – A sharp trainer, Clancy forged a strong second career as a boxing analyst on CBS and later on HBO.
71. Sam Taub, broadcaster – Taub called many fights on radio and later in his career hosted a radio talk show dedicated to boxing that lasted for more than 20 years.
70. Floyd Mayweather Jr., boxer – Mayweather is one of the finest boxers of his era and became part of the largest fight in boxing history when his 2007 bout with Oscar De La Hoya sold 2.45 million on pay-per-view.
69. Harry Markson, promoter – Markson had a 40-year career as one of boxing's top promoters, working out of New York. He promoted both Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali at one stage in their careers.
68. Evander Holyfield, boxer – Holyfield is a former undisputed heavyweight champion who is best known for his two wins over Mike Tyson. Tyson, in a fit of rage, bit the top of Holyfield's ear off in their second bout.
67. Emanuel Steward, trainer/broadcaster – Steward founded the famed Kronk Boxing Club, which produced Thomas Hearns, among many, many other elite fighters. He's also become a respected analyst at HBO.
66. Arthur Donovan, referee – Donovan was the son of a middleweight champion who became a high-profile referee. He worked 20 Joe Louis fights.
65. Ruby Goldstein, referee/judge –A one-time boxer himself, Goldstein was known as one of the top referees of his day as well as one of the most prominent judges.
64. Billy Conn, boxer – Conn, "The Pittsburgh Kid," was a light heavyweight champion best known for blowing a heavyweight title bid against Joe Louis when, while way ahead on points, he went for the knockout and was knocked out himself.
63. Bob Fitzsimmons, boxer – Fitzsimmons was the first man to win championships in three divisions and, until Roy Jones did it in 2003, was the last former middleweight champion to win the heavyweight belt. He won the heavyweight crown in 1897.
62. Leon Spinks, boxer – Spinks won a gold medal in the 1976 Olympics and then won the heavyweight title in just his eighth pro fight by upsetting Muhammad Ali.
61. James J. Jeffries, boxer – A heavyweight champion around the turn of the 20th century, Jeffries is best remembered as being the "Great White Hope" who came out of retirement – unsuccessfully – to fight Jack Johnson.
60. Michael Spinks, boxer – A gold medalist on the mighty 1976 U.S. Olympic boxing team, Spinks was the light heavyweight champion and won a heavyweight belt in 1985 by upsetting Larry Holmes.
59. Alexis Arguello, boxer – Arguello was one of the classiest and most skilled boxers of his era. He won titles in three weight classes and his 1982 fight with Aaron Pryor remains one of boxing's best ever.
58. James J. Braddock, boxer – Known as the "Cinderella Man," Braddock upset Max Baer to win the heavyweight title and became the subject of a high-profile movie of his life.
57. Jose Torres, boxer/author/regulator – A world champion boxer, Torres wrote biographies of Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson and was the executive director of the New York State Athletic Commission.
56. Hugh McIlvanney, journalist/author – A London-based journalist and author, few ever have written with McIlvanney's style and insight.
55. Jack Fiske, journalist – Fiske wrote in San Francisco and his column was filled with insider news and nuggets that were must-reads in the industry. He often knew of fights that were made before the fighters did.
54. Budd Schulberg, author/journalist/screenwriter – One of the greatest writers ever, Schulberg wrote brilliantly on boxing for decades. He also wrote the screenplay for the boxing-themed Academy Award-winning movie, "On the Waterfront."
53. Sonny Liston, boxer –Liston was one of the meanest, most powerful heavyweights who ever lived. He was Mike Tyson years before Tyson was born.
52. Jim Lampley, broadcaster – The voice of boxing for the modern fan, Lampley has been the play-by-play man at HBO for 21 years.
51. Larry Hazzard, referee/athletic commissioner – Hazzard was one of boxing's elite referees and then had a long stint running the New Jersey Athletic Control Board.
- Mike Tyson
- Evander Holyfield