Commentary

Choosing the best fighter from each state

Michael Rosenthal describes the criteria used to determine the best fighter from each state.

Originally Published: July 3, 2008
By Michael Rosenthal | Special to ESPN.com

Jack JohnsonGetty ImagesIs Jack Johnson the best Texan ever to step in the ring?
Talented fighters have come from every state across the nation over the past century and before. Some states, such as New York, California and Pennsylvania, have produced an endless stream of champions and continue to do so today. Other states, with smaller populations and modest boxing traditions, have produced few fighters of note.

In this project, ESPN.com ventures to identify the single best boxer ever produced in each of the 50 states.

To be selected, a fighter must have had a meaningful connection to his state. Having been born in a particular state isn't necessarily good enough. For example, Sugar Ray Robinson was born in Georgia, moved with his family to Detroit as a baby and landed permanently in New York when he was 12. Thus, Robinson is from New York. Joe Louis was born in Alabama but moved to Detroit when he was about 10. Louis is from Michigan.

Some fighters' ties to a state are looser than others. For example, Greg Haugen is from Washington but first made his name in Toughman competitions in Alaska. Thus, it's reasonable that Haugen represents Alaska here.

Obviously, a fighter's ties to a state can be debated. We simply tried to adhere to the "meaningful" criterion.

The criteria used to determine the best fighter from each state are even more subjective. Victories over other great fighters and, to a lesser extent, world titles and impact on the sport, were the factors we used.

And the era in which a boxer fought is not a factor. The best is the best; it doesn't matter when he lived or fought.

Obviously, there is no right and wrong when making such a determination; it comes down to opinion. And, just as obviously, you, the readers, will have your own valid opinions on this subject.

Let the debates begin.

Michael Rosenthal is a contributor to ESPN.com.