There’s a lot that goes into boxing at the elite levels. Boxing doesn’t just involve punches and aggression but science as well. With all that’s going on in the ring, when you look at boxing from a scientific point of view, you understand that the core beneath the many layers of movement is footwork.
Footwork plays a major role in boxing, on both offense and defense. It is about having the ability to glide across the ring and move your feet harmoniously to the unique rhythm of fighting. Without footwork, fighters are flat-footed, forward-plodding, and highly predictable.
Throughout history, numerous fighters have shown exceptional footwork. These elite boxers danced around their foes gracefully, gliding across the ring with little to no effort. They possessed an incredible understanding of ring generalship, and could maneuver their opponents wherever they wanted them to go.
If you’ve never seen great footwork before, now is your chance to witness what it looks like from Evolve Daily’s list of boxers who move like fine poetry.
1) Guillermo Rigondeaux
Guillermo might not be the most exciting fighter who ever laced up a pair of gloves, but Cuban dynamo Guillermo “El Chacal” Rigondeaux is certainly known as one of the most technical. The former two-division world champion is a product of lauded Cuban amateur boxing program, just so you know he has legit boxing skills and trained in the proper way of pugilism. Guillermo won the gold medals in boxing consecutively in both 2000 and 2004 Summer Olympic Games, and was a seven-time Cuban national champion.
As a fighter, Guillermo has no equal when it comes to footwork. He expertly traverses the ring, effortlessly running circles around his foes without even thinking. In the ring, Guillermo is constantly a step ahead of whoever he’s in the ring with, both strategically and tactically. Because of this, Guillermo has been one of the toughest puzzles to solve throughout his boxing career.
2) Muhammad Ali
The originator of the Ali Shuffle, the proclaimed Greatest of All Time (GOAT), Muhammad Ali, is one of the flashiest showmen in the history of boxing. Ali commanded attention, both inside the ring and out, and is widely regarded as the greatest heavyweight boxer ever. Ali’s cornerman Bundini Brown said it best, which was later echoed by legendary trainer Angelo Dundee. He told Ali to “float like a butterfly, and sting like a bee,” which ended up becoming one of the most famous quotes in all of the sports.
Ali did just that, and for his entire career, became known as a stylish, slick boxer who moved with elegant footwork in the ring. He often danced around his opponents with unmatched poise and finesse leaving them frozen with his footwork before cracking them with his big right hand.
3) Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. is most famously known for his unorthodox shoulder roll. The way he masterfully picked off shots with his broad shoulders and forearms and then smashed his opponents with accurate and powerful counters was a work of art. What made him special wasn’t just his defensive ability, but the way he maneuvered his opponents inside the ring. Combining his superior footwork and ring generalship, Mayweather possessed the ability to render even his most powerful foes powerless with his knowledge of movement and positioning.
The perennial pound-for-pound king used his footwork to stay off the ropes, out of corners, and always keep the action at the center of the ring. Come-forward and aggressive punchers like Manny Pacquiao and Jose Luis Castillo, power punchers like Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez, and even rough brawlers like Arturo Gatti and Marcos Maidana were no match for Mayweather’s fluid footwork.
4) Vasiliy Lomachenko
Three-division world champion Vasiliy Lomachenko has a long way to go in his career before he can be on par with the fighters on this list, but he certainly has the otherworldly talent to get him to that upper echelon of greats. If we were to judge based on talent, Lomachenko may have the best footwork in the history of pugilism.
Lomachenko spun his opponents in unconventional directions, and it sometimes appeared he was toying with his foes. This kind of footwork earned him nicknames like “The Matrix” and “Hi Tech.”.
As a child, Lomachenko was forced to stop boxing training by his father to give way to Russian dance lessons. Lomachenko’s father knew the importance of footwork in boxing, and he wasn’t going to allow his son to proceed to learn how to fight unless he knew how to move his feet first.
5) Willie Pep
Last but not least, is the former featherweight world champion, the late great Willie Pep. Many considered Pep one of the greatest defensive fighters of all time for two very distinct reasons — his genius head movement, and his incredible footwork. One of Pep’s most famous sayings is that “he who hits and runs away, lives to fight another day.” This exact phrase shows us just where Pep’s head was when it came to defense and movement.
Pep made use of lateral movement, utilizing the entire ring, confusing and bewildering his foes. He combined unorthodox footwork and erratic head movement to develop incredible combinations and patterns that often wowed the audience. Pep was often so elusive that he would cause most of his foes to stumble into the ropes as they tripped on their own two feet. He made opponents look silly and amateurish in the ring.
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