Throughout history, boxing has produced many memorable battles that have inspired fans from all over the world. Its mass appeal has been built over decades, inspiring onlookers with epic showdowns and remarkable stories of greatness. Today, boxing is one of the most popular martial arts in existence.
Yet the sport would never have exploded into what it is, if not for the many amazing athletes that have dedicated their entire lives to boxing. Some of the most tremendous boxers of all time have been known to offer their unique contribution to the sport. Because of their hard work and dedication, boxing has undergone an evolution over the years.
There’s an age-old adage in boxing that says, styles make fights. It’s important to note that this doesn’t just mean fighting styles in the ring, but also the showmanship and flair that each boxer brings to the table.
Because every boxer at the highest level of the sport has a certain degree of influence, some more than others, there is the opportunity to make a huge impact — and some have done just that and more. It’s time to take a look at a handful of amazing fighters who have helped the sport evolve throughout the years.
Today, Evolve Daily shares six notable boxers who changed the game with their showmanship and unique fighting styles, leaving an indelible mark on history.
1) Muhammad Ali
Highly-acclaimed heavyweight legend Muhammad Ali, known fondly by many as “The Greatest”, had already made his mark on the sport before he even became a professional, winning a gold medal at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Italy. But as a pro, Ali would become a true cultural icon, refusing to be drafted into the US Military during the Vietnam War.
Known for his fighting style, in which he famously likened to ‘moving like a butterfly but stinging like a bee’, Ali had a distinct talent for poetry and prose both in and out of the ring. His pugilistic artistry trumped only by his sharp tongue and lyrical genius, led to his immense popularity even to this day.
2) Jack Johnson
He was the first black heavyweight boxing world champion in history, and one of the most dominant fighters of all time. Jack Johnson was famous for beating then-undefeated white boxer James Jeffries in 1910, who famously said he was going into the fight with Johnson for the singular purpose of “proving that a white man is better than a Negro”.
In the 15th round of their match, however, Johnson knocked Jeffries out, dealing him the first loss of his career.
Johnson also had a knack for showmanship, becoming one of the first black celebrity athletes in the world with a number of lucrative endorsements on the side.
3) Oscar De La Hoya
The original Pay-Per-View king, Oscar De La Hoya was a true beacon of light for Mexican boxing, and for the sport in general. Behind his boyish good looks, movie star smile, and multi-million dollar charisma, “The Golden Boy” used his influence to truly change the game in terms of how big boxing matches can become.
With the backing of both Mexico and the United States, De La Hoya fought and competed against the best in his era, and each event broke record after record in terms of revenue. He was one of the very first to truly amass a huge fortune from fighting, paving the way for stars like Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao in the near future.
4) Mike Tyson
Known in his prime as the “Baddest Man on the Planet”, Iron Mike Tyson is a polarizing figure in the sport. Bursting onto the scene with a ferocious fighting style that he called the “Peekaboo Style”, Tyson won his first 38 professional bouts, a whopping 34 of which came by scintillating knockout.
He was infamously sent to prison for six years beginning in 1992 and made a comeback after his release to win the WBC and WBA heavyweight titles in 1996.
At the height of his powers, Tyson was a fearsome finisher, stopping nearly everyone he was put up against. Behind vicious hooks and debilitating uppercuts, Tyson ripped through the competition with apparent ease. After his boxing career, Tyson became a celebrity, appearing in many Hollywood movies like the Hangover series and even hosting his own live shows.
5) Floyd Mayweather
Following the Oscar De La Hoya era of Pay-Per-View extravaganzas, American Floyd Mayweather Jr. took up the mantle of the sport’s biggest star.
The brash and undefeated boxer turned boxing from being just a mere sport, into a mainstream component of daily life. He was a household name in his early 30’s, making millions of dollars per year as one of the highest paid athletes regardless of sport.
Behind his unique defensive style, Mayweather was untouchable. No one could beat “Money” and people paid to see him either win or lose, the latter never happening. He ended his boxing career at 50-0, defeating MMA star Conor McGregor to the tune of over 200 million dollars in a single evening.
By the end of his time as a boxer, Mayweather’s total wealth was valued at close to $1-billion. He is the highest paid boxer of all time.
6) Manny Pacquiao
A true cross-cultural icon, Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao of the Philippines captivated worldwide audiences with his unique and relentless fighting style. Coming from as low as flyweight, Pacquiao ripped through boxing’s weight classes, winning titles in eight different divisions as high up as super welterweight.
The Philippine senator also rivaled Floyd Mayweather in terms of both popularity and money-making draw, amassing a fortune throughout his career. A lot of his earnings, however, Pacquiao used to help the less fortunate in his country and is known to give out financial aid to the poor on a regular basis.
Behind his vaunted left straight, Pacquiao has felled many of his opponents, the majority of whom were much larger men than he was, which made his run through the ranks truly remarkable.
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