Boxing is such a beautiful sport. It endears to millions of combat sports fans around the world because of the many epic moments in history it has produced. Within the confines of the four ring posts, amidst the stretch of canvas, legends have been born punch after punch.
The ability of boxing as a spectacle to produce some of the world’s most well-known figures is unparalleled. The biggest names in the sport include Muhammad Ali, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Robinson, and the like. These men, who have provided fans with loads of awesome memories throughout the years, have been blessed with untamed talent, polished skill, and unbridled power.
And then there are those less talked about, boxing’s unsung heroes who have given spectators many classic bouts over the years. These guys are great in their own right, and even gave some of the sport’s best a good run for their money. They are just as talented as their esteemed peers, but for some odd reason just didn’t get the recognition they deserved.
It’s time to take a look at some of boxing’s most under-appreciated talents, those who chose to lay back in the shadows and let the body of their work speak for itself. Today, Evolve Daily shares five of the most underrated boxers of all time.
1) Juan Manuel Marquez
When you think of Mexican boxing, what comes to mind are extremely tough, resilient and hard-chinned fighters just looking to throw down. This is called the Mexican warrior spirit which has been showcased by many great fighters, including legends like Julio Cesar Chavez and Salvador Sanchez. Mexican fans just love their boxers.
In the early 2000’s however, it was all about the Mexican Trifecta — Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, and Juan Manuel Marquez. While Barrera and Morales gained international fame and notoriety for their distinct Mexican style, it was Marquez who turned out to be the most talented of the trio, despite not being as exciting as his compatriots.
Under the tutelage of the great Mexican boxing legend Nacho Beristain, Marquez honed his skills to near perfection and would go down in history as perhaps the greatest counter-puncher of all time. Notable victories for Marquez include knockouts of Juan Diaz and Joel Casamayor, as well as decisions over Barrera and Orlando Salido. But it was his rivalry with Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao which produced four exciting bouts that really shot him into the mainstream.
Marquez scored the biggest win of his career when he knocked Pacquiao out in their fourth and final encounter. He never got out of Barrera and Morales’ shadow, however, and is one of boxing’s most underrated fighters.
2) Bernard Hopkins
“The Executioner” Bernard Hopkins is a brilliant tactician. He terrorized the middleweight division for years, but never truly got the recognition or attention he deserved.
Despite being one of the most successful prizefighters over the last three decades, winning multiple world titles in different weight classes as well as holding the undisputed middleweight world championship at one point, Hopkins has been underappreciated for most of his career, overshadowed by fellow great Roy Jones Jr.
Hopkins is considered one of the most intelligent boxers of all time, with the ability to utilize the entirety of his body as part of both offense and defense. His methods and style are unconventional but incredibly strategic. Hopkins has often referred to his mind as his greatest asset.
He always did things in his own unique way, even as he was the underdog the majority of the time against top caliber opponents. Because he wasn’t a knockout artist like many of his peers, Hopkins never truly built a solid fan base apart from those who truly appreciated his highly-technical style.
At the age of 46, Hopkins became the oldest world champion in boxing history with a unanimous decision victory over Jean Pascal. Two years later Hopkins broke his own record to win another world title at age 48 with a decision over Tavoris Cloud.
3) Andre Ward
For the past decade, the United States has yearned for another true American hero in boxing but never realized they actually had one in Andre Ward. Ward ruled boxing’s super middleweight and light heavyweight divisions, dominating with his precision and technique. He retired undefeated at 32-0, after clearing out all opponents.
However, Ward never truly got the recognition he deserved. He wasn’t brash and outspoken like Floyd Mayweather. He didn’t drum up controversy at press conferences like Mike Tyson. Ward was respectful and courteous to his opponents, but confident. As a result, Ward was not able to endear himself as much to casual boxing fans looking for a bit of drama.
Regardless, he’s beaten some of the biggest names among peers such as Mikkel Kessler, Allan Green, “King” Arthur Abraham, Carl Froch, Chad Dawson, and Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev. And the most impressive part of it all is that Ward not only won but was extremely dominant in all of his victories. He proved time and time again that his particular style and skill set was difficult to decipher.
At the age of 33, Ward announced his retirement from the sport, leaving the ring at the top of his game and at the height of his powers.
4) Timothy Bradley
At the turn of the 20th century, boxing’s welterweight division was incredibly deep, rife with talented guys like Manny Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez, and Floyd Mayweather. All the stars were flashy and flamboyant and carried with them that distinct superstar persona. Some boxers, however, weren’t as prolific with their camera presence.
Timothy Bradley was, by all means, a blue-collar boxer. He put the time in, worked very hard to hone his skills, and became successful. Throughout his whole career, Bradley was considered one of the top talents at junior welterweight and welterweight.
He carried himself with poise and polish, outworking and outboxing the majority of his foes. Bradley never trash-talked and spoke ill of his peers. He simply went out there and did his thing. As a result, he amassed a 33-2-1 record spanning a 12-year stint as a professional. His style wasn’t as exciting as some of the other guys, but it was effective.
Notable victories include wins over Manny Pacquiao, Brandon Rios, Jessie Vargas, and Juan Manuel Marquez. He held a total of five world championships in two weight classes and was once ranked as high as number three on Ring Magazine’s mythical pound-for-pound list.
Bradley retired in July of 2017. Although he wasn’t as appreciated as some of the guys he competed against, the American certainly belonged among the upper echelon of talent in his era.
5) Evander Holyfield
They say boxing’s most glorious division is the heavyweight division. There’s just something about two huge fighters slugging it out, exchanging bombs in the middle of the ring that is so exciting. Boxing has long had a fixation on its heavyweight talent.
The list of great heavyweights goes on and on and includes guys like Mike Tyson, Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, and Muhammad Ali. Each boxer had their own unique style and capabilities. But not all of them were bonafide heavyweight superstars.
One man, who referred to himself as the “Real Deal”, employed a simple, straightforward style and proved with every fight that hard work almost always trumps talent in this sport.
Evander Holyfield reigned as the undisputed champion in both the cruiserweight and heavyweight divisions during his time. He is the first and only boxer in history to have accomplished this feat and is the only four-time heavyweight champion. Notable victories include wins over John Ruiz, Ray Mercer, and Riddick Bowe.
Holyfield is best known for his fights against Mike Tyson however. He beat Tyson twice in a row, with the most well-remembered bout being their 1997 rematch when Tyson infamously bit a part of Holyfield’s ear off.