Ranking the 5 Boxers with the Most Exciting Fighting Styles
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Boxing has always been about style. For fans of the sport, it’s not simply about who is fighting, but how they fight. No matter the fighter's specific technique—the swarmer, out-boxer, slugger or boxer-puncher—boxing’s best and most dominant athletes aren’t always the most exciting ones to watch.
In other words, boxing’s mythological pound-for-pound list usually looks a lot different from a list that ranks the most exciting fighting styles.
Richard Abril, for instance, is one of the top lightweights in the world and would give any fighter in that weight class a run for his money. But, Abril is also one of the most unpleasant boxers to watch and has no definable boxing style. ESPN’s Dan Rafael and MaxBoxing.com’s Steve Kim can attest to this:
So, how exactly can one rank the most exciting fighting styles? When determining who should make the list, I considered four key elements: fighters who possess knockout power, have high motors, face the best opposition consistently, and—most importantly—have the ability to take a big punch and dish it right back.
The aforementioned prerequisites hold true because fighters with these qualities provide an element of unpredictability in their fights. Keeping a large majority of spectators intrigued and on the edge of their seats usually requires a fighter to break from the "hit and don't get hit" axiom in boxing.
Arturo Gatti and Diego Corrales are two excellent historical examples. Gatti and Corrales were the quintessential blood-and-guts warriors. Regardless of if they won or not, Gatti and Corrales’ fighting styles always gave the fans a show.
By looking at a given fighter's performance in the ring—as opposed to his win-loss record—we can get the best understanding of how they rank. In terms of the criteria mentioned above, let’s take a look at the five boxers with the most exciting fighting style in the sport today.
Mayweather vs. Ortiz
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The best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, Floyd Mayweather Jr., is the most glaring name that didn't make the list. Mayweather is a master of his craft and is undoubtedly one of the greatest defensive masterminds in boxing history.
In recent years, Floyd has decided to mix it up a bit more, creating high drama in certain spots during fights versus Shane Mosley and Miguel Cotto. But, Floyd is oftentimes too crafty for his opponents, and he is rarely in a fight that he is not easily controlling down the stretch.
Mayweather's boxing clinics are impressive, but not necessarily exciting to watch. Mayweather's omission from this list is not a knock on his ability, rather a testament to his dominance.
Adrien Broner has shown a willingness to fight toe-to-toe in the middle of the ring with most of his opponents. In his last fight versus Gavin Rees, Broner’s Philly Shell defense did show some cracks, which made the first few rounds of that fight exciting to watch. But in the end, Broner put together powerful combinations and stopped his opponent, as most people predicted would happen.
Broner missed making this list for a lot of the same reasons that Mayweather did. While Adrien's level of opposition is nowhere near Floyd's, he has shown too much dominance against subpar competition to be considered a consistent, exciting fighter.
Nonito Donaire is a big puncher, and in certain fights he has shown a steady work rate to match. While Donaire can provide exciting knockouts, he hasn’t been pushed by many high-caliber opponents or been made to fight back after being hit hard.
5. Yuriorkis Gamboa
Yuriorkis Gamboa has lightning-fast hand speed as well as some serious punching power. What he doesn’t have is a love of defense or a solid chin. This ends up creating exciting fight situations that are fan friendly.
According to BoxingTalk.com, Gamboa has been knocked down six times in his career. Like most of the fighters on this list, Gamboa firmly believes that if you get hit, you have to immediately hit your opponent back. With 16 KOs in 22 wins, they don't call Gamboa a cyclone for no reason.
Gamboa is not higher on this list because of his lack of consistent top-notch opposition. To his credit, Gamboa has dispensed of everyone placed in front of him including former WBO featherweight champion Orlando Salido, current WBC featherweight champion Daniel Ponce de Leon and Michael Farenas.
For the fans sake, hopefully Gamboa will get in the ring with an A-level fighter this year and continue to wow fight fans with his unique style.
4. Brandon Rios
Brandon Rios talks a big game outside of the ring and backs it up inside the ring as well. Rios' effective high work rate lands him at No. 4 on this list. He's one of the toughest fighters in the sport and loves engaging in a phone booth-type of fight.
With little-to-no head movement, Rios' best defense is usually his offense. Even when he's getting hit with low blows, Rios doesn't stop coming forward, which is a surefire way to win fans over. It's also impressive to note that as his competition has gotten better, Rios hasn’t changed his crowd-pleasing style one bit.
In Rios' last fight and most impressive win to date, he absorbed some vicious blows from Mike Alvarado. Rios turned the tide in Round 7 and hit Alvaradio with everything but the kitchen sink, which forced referee Pat Russell to jump in and stop the fight.
Rios and Alvarado will clash again on March 30, 2013, in what should be another exciting fight and potential showcase for Rios' gritty style. With a knack for fighting in close quarters, Brandon Rios is the type of fighter that can turn casual fans in to diehard ones.
3. Juan Manuel Marquez
While Marquez can still counterpunch with the best of them—see his fights with Pacquiao as proof—he has won over more fans who seek pure action with his toe-to-toe fights versus Michael Katsidis and Juan Diaz (twice).
Aside from his one-sided defeat to Floyd Mayweather, Juan Manuel Marquez has been impressive in all of his marquee fights. His most credible performances have clearly been against Manny Pacquiao. Given Pacquiao's high-pressure style and big punching power, it's easy to see why fans are so impressed with Marquez' ability to handle Pacquiao's best stuff.
Even when he's been knocked down or wobbled in fights, Marquez has found a way to dig deep and pull out his best stuff. Considering all of the wars he's been in in the ring, it's impressive that Juan Manuel Marquez has never been stopped in a fight. JMM's ability to combine an exciting hybrid of counterpunching and boxer-punching with power lands him third on this list.
2. Sergio Martinez
Sergio Martinez is a crafty southpaw who isn't afraid to throw bombs—usually with his hands down at his waist—at close proximity. Martinez has earned a reputation as an exciting boxer-puncher who sometimes tires toward the end of fights, thus creating opportunities for heated exchanges with his opponents.
Against strong opposition such as Paul Williams, Kelly Pavlik and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Martinez has combined good movement with big punching power. Because he uses a defensive technique that requires him to roll with punches and rely on his reflexes, Martinez opens himself up to getting hit. This makes for high drama, as Sergio seems to save his best stuff for when he’s been stunned or knocked down.
Martinez has shown the ability to close the show against multiple opponents, and in 2010 he won the The Ring "Knockout of the Year" award for his vicious one-punch KO of Paul Williams. The argument can be made that Sergio Martinez should be No. 1 on this list, but the man ahead of him has filled out the criteria for a longer period of time. For now, Martinez sits firmly at No. 2.
1. Manny Pacquiao
Manny Pacquiao is a huge fan favorite because of his willingness to fight some of the best opposition out there. His crowd-pleasing, swarming technique has helped him produce some vicious knockouts, most notably against Ricky Hatton. Aside from his most recent loss to Juan Manuel Marquez, Pacquiao generally has a good set of whiskers and is able to take his opponents' best shots.
Pacquiao loves to apply constant pressure and throw punches in bunches which keeps fights at a fast pace. Even if the opponent is less than willing to fight back—such as Oscar De La Hoya, Joshua Clottey, or Shane Mosley—spectators are usually on their feet in between rounds in appreciation of Pacquiao’s work.
Because he has never been a defensive wizard, as Manny starts to get older, there will be more visible openings for his opponents to take advantage of. This means that for as long as Pacquiao continues fighting, fans will be treated to more toe-to-toe action and knockdowns.
Pacquiao's technique, high work rate and elite competition help make him the boxer with the most exciting fighting style in boxing today.