They say that defense wins championships, and I’m not going to deny this.
But if you make one defensive mistake against the wrong offense in the sport of boxing, you might enter what’s called: the twilight zone.
You can sit there and talk about being a purist if you want to, and how you enjoy a good technical display of skills and defense…
But I don’t believe you.
If you’ve ever decided to be at ringside for a major prizefight, or tuned in to a live PPV event either as a host or a guest, you’re looking for an action fighter. You’re looking for blood.
You’re looking for a knockout.
These guys either were, or are, looking for the same thing. And while putting all subtleties aside, they’re gonna try like hell to get it. Just like the #1 fighter on the list this coming Saturday night.
10. George Foreman
“The Mummy”, as Ali affectionately called him, was a scary one. “Big George” had brutal, game-changing fists, and he could hurt you with anything. He punched Joe Frazier in the back of the head during his classic 2nd round KO to win the championship. The punch froze Frazier- before making him hop, “then” crash to the canvas. Damn.
9. Jack Dempsey
I can’t get past the image of Dempsey just mauling and savagely attacking Jess Willard, who seemed like he was a 9ft tall and 300lb punching bag dummy. This is what Jack tried to do to everyone he faced. Nice guy outside of the ring, but Dempsey was cruel in it, and would unleash his inner monster at the drop of a dime. With his trademark black shorts, black shoes, dark fade haircut and 5 o’clock shadow, Dempsey greatly influenced the game of a future heavyweight menace from Brooklyn.
8. Aaron Pryor
So special was “The Hawks” formidable nature and punching prowess, he virtually scared any fighters that mattered (and legends of the sport) anywhere near the 140lb division he ruled. He was the modern, new improved version of Henry Armstrong, and is the most fiercely relentless fighter ever. He just kept coming and coming, with bombs from everywhere, and wouldn’t stop until he subdued you. Defense be damned. His classic battle with the great Alexis Arguello featured this. Can you imagine a match-up with Chavez?
7. Julio Cesar Chavez
Unparalleled pressure and effective aggressiveness. That hook to the body. Uppercuts. Thudding jabs. Straight right hands. Every punch combination known to man- always ending with “that left hook” somewhere. Chavez had the most methodical and deadliest offense of his era, and just broke down opponents with the most calculated offense ever seen. Today, you can see his blueprint in the form of the destructive middleweight champion, Kazahkstanian knockout artist, Gennady “GGG” Golovkin.
6. Thomas Hearns
The “Hitman” was a destructive offensive force, but he was known for one punch. Ask Roberto Duran- if he remembers. If Hearns hit you the right way with his nightmarish overhand right, that’s it. He almost doomed Hagler with it during the first minute of their epic war in 1985. No highlight reel of Hearns is complete without the sight of Pipino Cuevas turning into 150lbs of spaghetti after encountering a Hearns right hand.
5. Felix Trinidad
The Puerto Rican legend might have had the best overall two-fisted attack in the history of the sport. He was a machine. With long arms and legs, “Tito” was like something out of “The Terminator” in the way he went after you. He would position himself to get perfect leverage on all of his shots, and strike with abandon. Boy did he whoop William Joppy’s ass.
4. Mike Tyson
Tyson was the most electrifying fighter ever, and a box-office bonanza. All because of his offense. Never before has there ever been a heavyweight with his offensive talent or punch variety. Tyson could change things with a single punch from either hand at any time. In his prime, Tyson could unveil any number of combinations with unbelievable speed and accuracy. His right hook to the body followed by a right uppercut, is the most beautiful two piece of all-time.
3. Henry Armstrong
Armstrong didn’t turn pro until the Summer of 1931, and he didn’t do anything initially to make venerable fight historian Bert Sugar name him the #2 rated “best fighter of all-time”. But by 1937 he changed all of that. He became an offensive madman. In that year alone, he went 22-0, with 21 of those wins by knockout. “Hammering Hank”, was Aaron Pryor before Aaron Pryor. He mercilessly overwhelmed you with a rainstorm of punches, and was all over you for 3 minutes of every round. He was the most complete force of nature in the history of boxing.
2. Sugar Ray Robinson
Robinson had no flaws as a fighter, and he is widely considered the greatest fighter of all-time. You’ll get no argument here. To let my grandfather tell it, we don’t even really know how special he was because there’s no footage of the 40’s version, when he was at the height of his dominance. But from what I’ve seen, Ray’s offense was beautiful to behold, and he unloaded his punches in violent torrents. A silky stiff jab, blistering hooks, textbook crosses, sharp body punches and patented uppercuts. He could get off eight-punch combinations and disappear. His hands were poetry in motion. But only one fighter emerges as special enough to eclipse even him in this category…
1. Manny Pacquiao
He didn’t become an eight-time world champion over eight divisions by being a master craftsman. He did it with offense. Although one of the more remarkable things about Manny, was his ability to go from a wild swinging two-punch pony (right jab, then straight left), to a complete boxing machine. Freddie Roach’s work with Pacquiao was masterful, as evidenced in his offensive blitzing of Barrera, Morales, Marquez, De la hoya, Hatton, Cotto, Margarito and Mosley. Uncanny angles, sneaky lead lefts, a right to the body, left to the head, followed by two rights to the head and body from a southpaw stance.. All with power. No one has ever been more offensively creative, at the highest levels of the sport, than Pacquiao. A sport that still- deserves to see him pit his offensive wizardry (especially if he bombs Rios) against the most technically brilliant defensive fighter of all-time: Floyd Mayweather.