For hardcore fans, boxing is known fondly as ‘the sweet science.’ Beneath the surface of this otherwise seemingly unscientific combat sport lies a complex system of self-defense with an intricate technical makeup.
Fighters perform with grace while exhibiting sharp and sound technique. There is rarely any movement wasted. At the highest level, it’s a pugilistic dance of combat within four ring posts. Needless to say, boxing as a sport is an absolute beauty to watch.
However, throughout its history, there are fighters who have chosen to throw technique out the window, instead opting for a more offensive approach. Their high-octane, all-action fighting styles produce thrilling performances and epic knockouts. More often than not, the power in their fists serve as equalizers, trumping the technical skill of their opponents.
Without a doubt, these fighters have been the most exciting to watch, and fans love them for their ability to put on a show. While this list is certainly not exhaustive, we’ve named a handful of the fighters you should definitely check out if you haven’t already.
Today, Evolve Daily shares five of boxing’s most exciting all-action brawlers in history.
1) Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran
Known as arguably the greatest lightweight boxer of all time, Roberto Duran is one of the biggest punchers in the history of the sport. Nicknamed “Manos de Piedra” which translates to “Hands of Stone,” Duran ended his career with a whopping 70 knockouts out of 103 victories when he retired in 2001. That number is a testament to his otherworldly power.
That’s not to say that Duran had no skill, however. Under the tutelage of coaches Ray Arcel and Freddie Brown, Duran also had sound defensive abilities. But even then, “Hands of Stone” chose to forego his skills and brawl like a wildman every time he stepped into the ring.
Case in point, Duran’s unanimous decision victory over the legendary “Sugar” Ray Leonard in 1980. He goaded the uber skillful Leonard into an all-out brawl, and claimed one of the biggest victories of his career.
Pound-for-pound, Duran is at the heap of the stack when it comes to exciting brawlers. His combination of skill and relentlessness was extraordinary.
2) “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler
There’s no doubt “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler was one of the most exciting fighters ever. The legendary middleweight was long and rangy, and had a complete set of fighting skills. But he often underutilized his technical ability because he was always willing to throw down at the center of the ring.
Hagler’s most incredible war was undoubtedly against fellow legend Thomas “Hitman” Hearns in 1985. That fight was all action and adrenaline from the sound of the opening bell, as neither man was willing to back down. It only lasted three rounds, but it was pedal to the metal from beginning to end.
Many boxing fans consider Hagler-Hearns to be the most exciting fight in the history of the sport.
After Hearns hurt Hagler in round one, with “Marvelous” even suffering a nasty gash on his nose, Hagler returned fire with his trademark relentlessness and multifaceted offense. It was back-and-forth for the duration of the contest, with fans cheering both men on.
In the third round, however, Hagler sent the “Hitman” to the canvas. Hearns was able to make it back up to his feet, but was clearly in bad shape and unable to intelligently defend himself. The referee had no choice but to call a halt to the action.
3) “Irish” Micky Ward
Mention the name “Irish” Micky Ward to boxing fans, and from there proceeds a trip down memory lane, with indelible memories of one of the most exciting fighters in the sport’s history.
Ward was truly one of boxing’s original blood-and-guts warriors. He was never known for his technical skills. Instead, he was revered for his willingness to go toe-to-toe with anyone he was in the ring with.
Ward’s speed and power were decent, and these attributes posed legitimate threats to his opponents. But it was his relentlessness and never-back-down approach to offense that endeared him to fans from all over the world.
He was most known for his three fights with equal legend Arturo “Thunder” Gatti. Two of the fights in their trilogy garnered multiple “Fight of the Year” accolades by reputable organizations, including The Ring Magazine.
Ward won the first fight in 2002, but lost the rematch and in the all-important tiebreaker just months later. Nevertheless, “Irish” was without a doubt one of the most incredible brawlers in boxing history.
4) Arturo “Thunder” Gatti
You can’t talk about Micky Ward without talking about Arturo “Thunder” Gatti. Gatti was, alongside Ward, one of the most exciting blood-and-guts warriors in the sport.
Early in his career, Gatti exhibited incredible punching power, and he strung together a series of quick knockouts, most in the first round. But although he definitely had boxing ability, he never really relied much on his technical skills and instead often resorted to brawls whenever his opponents obliged.
Because of this, fans never saw Gatti’s name on any of the mythical pound-for-pound lists. He wasn’t even considered to be the best fighter in his weight division during his time. In fact, his style was so flawed that it made him easily beatable.
Sadly, Gatti’s life ended tragically in 2009 due to an alleged suicide that was marred in controversy. He was inducted in the International Boxing Hall of Fame after his passing, leading the class of 2013.
5) Israel “Magnifico” Vazquez
Hardcore fans know him very well, even if casual fans can’t recognize his name. Nevertheless, Israel Vazquez’s fights should not be missed. Luckily, we have YouTube to reminisce his epic wars in the ring.
Vazquez embodied the true “Mexican machismo” every time he stepped onto the battlefield. He never stopped throwing punches, and was more than willing to take punishment in order to deliver his own. He was a true warrior in every sense, and fans south of the border loved him for it.
If you’ve never seen “Magnifico” fight, you would be well-served to watch his epic quadrilogy with fellow Mexican, Rafael Marquez.
Marquez, a Nacho Beristein pupil and younger brother of the legendary Juan Manuel Marquez, was known as a technical fighter and a counterpuncher, just like his sibling. But none of that mattered when Vazquez was in the ring with him.
The pair first met in early 2007, with Vazquez losing by stoppage in the 7th round. They met again months later, and “Magnifico” was able to exact revenge, winning by TKO in round six. Many fans consider the second fight the most exciting. But the truth of the matter is, these two produced fireworks every time they traded leather.
They fought twice more years later, ending their rivalry at two wins apiece.
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