From Olympic gold medallists to unified world champions, Canada has produced several legendary boxers, some of which continue to be considered among the greatest of all time on the international stage.

For this list of the greatest Canadian boxers of all time, the selection includes athletes who were born in a different nation but came to Canada and chose to represent the nation. 

Not in any particular order, here are the finest boxers to represent Canada, including one more recent inductee who continues to rank among the active list of pound-for-pound boxers.

Adonis Stevenson

Starting with one of the most recent world champions to hail from Canada, Adonis Stevenson was beloved across the country for not only claiming a title, but also keeping his fights in Canada. 

Only twice did Stevenson ever fight outside of Canada, with those two in the US being non-title fights and one resulting in his only loss until the last fight of the Haiti-born Canadian’s career. 

However, that was at super middleweight. Stevenson stepped up to light heavyweight to avenge that one loss (to Darnell Boone) before then knocking out Chad Dawson in Montréal to claim the WBC World title. 

Eight successive defences of the strap and a mixed decision draw to Badou Jack would increase calls for “Superman” to retire – now being 40-years-old – but he decided to face Oleksandr Gvozdyk later that year.

Knocked out in the 11th round, it was reported the next morning that Stevenson was taken into intensive care and placed in an induced coma. After a long road, Stevenson told reporters that he’d been recovering well.

Artur Beterbiev

After winning gold medals at the 2008 Boxing World Cup, the 2009 World Championships, and 2010 European Championships for Russia, Artur Beterbiev cemented his prowess as an amateur and opted to turn pro.

To do this – after losing to Oleksandr Usyk at the 2011 World Championships and 2012 Olympics prior to the podium rounds – the Dagestan native with a 96-10 amateur record chose to come to Montréal. 

Now 38-years-old with a 19-0-0 record (19 KOs) and Canadian citizenship, he’s widely considered to be one of the hardest-hitting boxers in the sport and a contender for a top ten pound-for-pound ranking.

To extend his legacy further and perhaps fight in Canada for the 12th time in his pro career, Beterbiev is set to face Callum Smith as the mandatory challenger for his haul of IBF, WBC, and WBO World light heavyweight straps. 

Of course, this will hinge on Smith getting past his next opponent. On March 11, the Brit with a 29-1-0 record will face Pawel Stepien to continue to refine his skills at light heavyweight, and is at -2000 in the boxing betting to succeed.

Jimmy McLarnin

Jimmy McLarnin is one of the few all-time greats of boxing who knew when to quit and stick with his decision, bowing out with a 54-11-3 record after defeating fellow greats of the era. 

Although born in Ireland in 1907, a young McLarnin came to Saskatchewan with his family and then over to Vancouver, where he’d lay the foundations for an incredible boxing career. 

However, there wasn’t much money in Canadian boxing at the time, so McLarnin did most of his boxing in the US after his two initial professional bouts. 

McLarnin would go on to beat Young Corbett III, Tony Canzoneri, Barney Ross once in an epic trilogy, and Lou Ambers. 

Arturo Gatti

A tremendously exciting boxer, Arturo Gatti was not only a world champion at super featherweight and super lightweight, but four of his battles earned the Fight of the Year crown of The Ring magazine. 

Born in Italy, Gatti came to Montréal as a youngster and was even in line to represent Canada at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. Instead, “Thunder” went pro the year before and would build his way up to a 40-9 record.

His Fight of the Year awards would come across two different decades. The first was in 1997 (vs. Gabriel Ruelas), followed by another barnburner in 1998 (vs. Ivan Robinson). 

In the 2000s, his battles in 2002 (vs. Micky Ward) and 2003 (vs. Ward III) completed Gatti’s continued recognition as one of the most thrilling competitors in the sport.

Sam Langford

Once hailed by Jack Dempsey as one of the greatest fighters in his gym, Sam Langford might just be the least-hailed of the best boxers of his era, but he gets the nod here as one of the greatest Canadian boxers of all time.

Standing 1.69m, the Nova Scotian somehow fought from lightweight up to heavyweight, amassing a huge 210 wins (126 by way of knockout), 53 ties, and 43 losses – not to mention the eight no-contests. 

Just as many other superb boxers of the late 1800s and early 1900s were subjected to, Langford had to fight for the World Colored titles, and he wasn’t granted a rematch with Jack Johnson after the American broke the “Color Line.”

Langford would go on to take the heavyweight crown a record five times between 1910 and 1917, amassing a total reign of over 2,300 days. 

Tommy Burns

Hailing from Windsor, Ontario, Tommy Burns could have simply gone down as one of the most dominant heavyweight boxers of his era, but the biggest step showcased in his 47-4-8 career was opening the door to Jack Johnson. 

Fully embracing the title of “World” champion, Burns would stage heavyweight title fights on the west coast of the US, in Britain, Ireland, France, and then Australia. 

It was in Australia that a promoter offered him a career-best sum to fight Jack Johnson and break the “Color Line” in Sydney in 1908. 

Burns eventually accepted, and while he was the favourite in the odds on the day, reportedly at around +175 (7/4), Johnson completely outclassed the Canadian to see the bout ended in the 14th of 20 scheduled rounds with 4oz gloves. 

It took a lot of courage at the time for Burns to take the fight – even if that decision did take a lot of time and money to come to – especially as for the fight, he weighed in at 76kg to Johnson’s 87kg. 

Lennox Lewis

One of the greatest modern world heavyweight champions, Lennox Lewis remains the last fighter in the division to unify all of the available belts from each major sanctioning body. None have replicated this feat in the four-belt era.

The London-born all-time great came to Canada at 12-years-old and brought his new home nation glory in the form of a 1988 Olympic gold medal and the 1986 gold at the Commonwealth Games – both in super heavyweight boxing.

Across his 41-2-1 record, Lewis defeated top-class pugilists Frank Bruno, Henry Akinwande, Evander Holyfield, David Tua, Hasim Rahman, Mike Tyson, and finally, Vitali Klitschko. 

All of these Canadian boxers reached the very pinnacle of the sport, with most of them also being inducted into a Hall of Fame somewhere in the world, cementing them as legends of boxing.

*Credit for all images in this article belongs to AP Photo*


FIRST PUBLISHED: 21st February 2023

Ben is very much a sports nerd, being obsessed with statistical deep dives and the numbers behind the results and performances.

Top of the agenda are hockey, soccer, and boxing, but there's always time for the NFL, cricket, Formula One, and a bit of mixed martial arts.