Boxing is a platform for superstars. It is a sport where legends are forged in the heat of battle, and heroes are born.
For decades, many great fighters have graced the top of the ring, delighting fans with epic displays of grit, heart, and supreme skill. Each saw massive success because they had a unique style. They spent hours of hard work and dedication in the gym, honing the techniques that brought them glory on any given night.
In boxing, styles make fights. Each of the 10 boxing legends on this list had something unique about them, something that allowed them to stand out from the pack.
As boxing fans, it’s imperative that we understand what these legends had to offer at the height of their powers, so we can identify exactly what made them so special.
Today, Evolve Daily shares 10 of the greatest legends in boxing and their defining skills.
1) “Iron” Mike Tyson
Known popularly as “the baddest man on the planet,” former heavyweight world champion “Iron” Mike Tyson is arguably the most explosive fighter in boxing history.
Opponents cowered at the sight of him, mentally defeated before they even climbed into the ring. Tyson’s hands were fast and powerful – the most destructive in the business – and each punch was laced with murderous intent.
His signature “Peek-a-Boo” style was bestowed upon him by his legendary coach, the late Cus D’amato, and Tyson utilized it to great success. With his gloves covering his cheekbones while he bobbed and weaved his way into optimal punching range, Tyson unloaded lighting fast hooks and uppercuts as opponents covered up in vain.
He also had tremendous power, and when his punches connected, it was usually lights out for the man in the ring with him.
2) Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker
Boxing isn’t just about explosive offense. The other half of the equation is defense. On the other end of the spectrum sits the late great Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker, one of the finest defensive fighters of all time.
Whitaker was an amazing tactician. He moved like a general in the ring, maneuvering his foes almost effortlessly like pawns on a chessboard. But aside from his superior fight IQ and technical ability, he was also naturally gifted.
Whitaker offered otherworldly reflexes, the likes of which we rarely see in the sport. His snake-like defense allowed him to be elusive, evading an opponent’s punches by mere inches. The genius southpaw moved his head fluidly, as he dodged incoming fire like Neo in The Matrix.
Without a doubt, Whitaker was one of the hardest fighters to hit clean.
3) Jack Johnson
Heavyweight hard-hitter Jack Johnson is a legendary name in boxing. He was the first-ever black heavyweight world champion in the history of the sport, and undoubtedly one of the most dominant fighters of all time.
Johnson developed his own fighting style, which was unconventional in his time. He employed a more defensive approach to fighting, which was not typically the norm during his era. Strategically, Johnson would initiate his offense early, but then let his opponents fatigue as the fight wore on. He then turned up the aggression late in his fights and capitalize on his foes’ weaknesses.
But what made Johnson so special was his overall charisma. Johnson had a penchant for showmanship, and he knew how to dazzle a crowd. He was also one of the first black boxers ever to reach celebrity status with an assortment of sponsorships heading into his fights.
4) Roy Jones Jr.
Multiple-time world champion and former pound-for-pound king Roy Jones Jr. is one of the most naturally talented fighters of all time. He moved with a champion’s swagger in the ring, confident and foreboding with his technique.
The former Olympic silver medalist was an incredible combination of speed, power, and finesse. For many years in his prime, Jones was at the top of boxing’s food chain, and he dominated opponents with a unique sense of style.
But more than his flamboyance was his amazing fighting skills, especially his punching repertoire.
Jones was famous for being able to unleash several lead left hooks, sometimes three in rapid succession, a technique not common among today’s fighters. For that, he earned the nickname “Captain Hook.”
5) Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao
Former eight-division boxing world champion Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao is arguably the greatest Filipino fighter to have ever climbed into the ring. His whirling dervish style has laid waste to many massive names, including Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez, and even the great Oscar De La Hoya.
Many of his opponents had difficulty dealing with his particular brand of speed, power, and relentlessness. But it was his distinct style that made him such a force to be reckoned with.
While Pacquiao had a variety of attacks in his toolbelt, his bread and butter had always been the double jab – straight combination. That left hand from the southpaw stance was problematic, with archrival Marquez once comparing it to a pistol bullet – fast and deadly.
6) Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr.
Another master defensive tactician, former box office king Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. was nearly untouchable in the ring. His combination of fluid movement and reflexes, coupled with sound defensive maneuvers and ring generalship proved impregnable at the height of his powers.
Apart from his catlike reflexes, Mayweather was a defensive genius in every sense of the word, which is why he is widely considered the greatest fighter of his era.
Many fans remember Mayweather for his trademark shoulder roll defense, which utilizes his lead shoulder to block and parry incoming fire. Mayweather never had trouble standing in the pocket, even with hard punchers because he was confident he could deflect those shots with precision.
But he wasn’t all defense. He was also one of boxing’s greatest counterpunchers. Mayweather made his opponents miss, and then he made them pay.
7) Muhammad Ali
When boxing fans talk about the GOAT (Greatest of All Time), they speak about late great heavyweight legend Muhammad Ali.
The former Olympic gold medalist had established himself as a fighter to watch even before he hit the professional ranks in 1960. But it was when he turned pro that he became a true cultural icon.
Ali commanded attention in every fight. He had a way around the microphone, composing poetic verses in press conferences on the fly. He was a master of getting into his opponent’s head, to the point that they were mentally broken by the time the opening bell rang.
In the ring, Ali was a maestro of fighting, using superior footwork, ring generalship, and dazzling footwork to mesmerize his foes. The famous “Ali Shuffle” was his trademark, which he used to showboat and get the crowd going.
8) Juan Manuel “Dinamita” Marquez
Multiple-time former world champion Juan Manuel “Dinamita” Marquez is on this list because of his expert counterpunching. He is arguably the greatest counterpuncher boxing has ever seen.
A member of the infamous Mexican trifecta, Marquez was no doubt the most successful of the three, which included Barrera and Morales.
Trained by legendary Mexican coach Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain, Marquez became a two-fisted beast who knew how to thread the needle and capitalize on openings unlike any other Mexican boxer in history.
His epic quadrilogy with Manny Pacquiao proved Marquez’ incredible counterpunching skills. While others fell easily to the fiery Filipino warrior, Marquez used his intelligence and cunning to figure out “Pacman’s” style and make every fight of theirs an absolute war.
9) Rocky “The Brockton Blockbuster” Marciano
Heavyweight legend Rocky “The Brockton Blockbuster” Mariano was one of the most popular pugilists of his era due to his exciting fighting style. He was considered the last great heavyweight from the Golden Age of boxing.
What made Marciano so great was his unmatched conditioning, work ethic, and heart. He fought with tremendous passion, and always left it all in the ring. He also had one of the hardest punches ever recorded in the sport’s history.
Marciano’s best punch – a very powerful overhand right – he nicknamed “Suzie Q.” With it, he was able to finish 43 of his 49 opponents in the ring, good for an 87% KO ratio.
Marciano officially retired in 1956 at the age of 32 in order to spend more time with his family. He ended his career with a pristine 49-0 record.
10) “Sugar” Ray Robinson
Multiple-division world champion “Sugar” Ray Robinson was without a doubt one of the greatest fighters of all time. The former lightweight, welterweight, middleweight, and light heavyweight king has inspired many generations after him, many of whom are superstars today.
Fellow legend Joe Louis and even Muhammad Ali have said Robinson was the greatest fighter to have ever lived.
At one point, Robinson won 91 fights in a row, something that’s unheard of today. He finished his career in 1965 having competed in nearly 200 fights, winning 174 of them.
Robinson’s greatest technique? The uppercut. It was so devastating, he finished 109 of his opponents. He landed his uppercuts with precision, timing his foes as they came within punching range.
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