Evander Holyfield often used rough-house tactics in the ring.
Boxing is not pretty.
While speed, reactions, punching power, quickness and tactics are often the most important factors in determining the outcome of the sport, sometimes, it comes down to desire.
When a fighter, who may be lacking one skill or another is loaded with desire, he may do anything to win. That includes cheating and breaking the rules.
Boxing villains may be able to control themselves outside the ring, but when the bell rings, the neanderthal gene takes over and the fighter runs amok.
Sometimes, a fighter will use dirty and rough tactics on occasion, while other fighters may break the rules on a regular basis.
That makes them villains in the sports. Here's our ranking of the 10 greatest villains in boxing history.
Rocky Marciano was one of the greatest heavyweight champions of all time. The "Brockton Blockbuster" retired as heavyweight champion with a perfect 49-0-0 record.
Few heavyweight fighters could come close to matching Marciano in pure punching power. He had a rocking left hand and a devastating right hand.
However, Marciano's style was so awkward—particularly in his early years—that he was often off balance. Instead of just throwing clean punches, Marciano would also throw forearms and elbows and would regularly make contact with his head as he bore in on his opponent (source: CyberBoxingZone Journal). He was also not above hitting his opponent with low blows.
Marciano's intent was not usually questioned. He was simply awkward and off balance in the ring, and that led to some vicious punishment that was not always delivered cleanly.
The 48-year-old Bernard Hopkins continues to fight and win.
Hopkins defeated Tavoris Clound in a clear-cut unanimous decision in March. That speaks to Hopkins' desire, conditioning and know-how in the ring.
While Hopkins knows how to attack and defend himself well, he has also survived because he has regularly used rough-house tactics in the ring. Whether it's throwing forearms, elbows or headbutting, Hopkins has proven he can deliver these painful blows whenever he needs a little extra.
Hopkins is a skilled fighter who has won titles and fought professionally for 25 years. However, he has taken away from his legacy by using dirty tactics frequently.
Sandy Saddler was a stellar featherweight fighter in the 1940s and '50s who won 144 fights in his career.
He was an excellent tactician who could hurt his opponent with either hand. He was often a fighter who stayed within the rules.
However, if Saddler ever felt like his opponent used dirty tactics against him, Saddler would quickly turn into a vicious individual in the ring.
He threw elbows, forerarms and head butts. He would use the laces of his glove as a weapon, and he would hit from behind.
In Saddler's mind, he was justified in using villainous tactics because his opponent used them first. However, he would get so brutal in the ring that it seemed he went way over the line.
Evander Holyfield was well-known as a powerful and relentless fighter during his run as a five-time heavyweight champion.
Perhaps, he is best known for serving as the victim in Mike Tyson's ear-biting attack in 1997, but Holyfield was often the aggressor when it came to using dirty tactics.
Holyfield was known for wading in and using his head to batter his opponents an instant before delivering a hard punch. In many cases, it made it difficult to determine if damage was caused by his fist or forehead.
Holyfield would use whatever tactics he needed to seize control of a fight. If some of those tactics were outside the rules, he would not hesitate to use them.
Harry Greb was one of the top middleweights from 1913 through 1926, compiling a record of 104-8-3.
While he achieved an outstanding record, Greb won his fights by any means possible.
He was noted for biting his opponents, and according to The Boxing Magazine.com, Greb could do it in a way that would make it go unnoticed by the officials.
Greb was also a master of using his thumb, elbows and knees to get an advantage over his opponents. Basically, he was a talented fighter who loved to brawl, and he would do anything he could in order to beat his opponent—whether it was within the rules or not.
Andrew Golota is a heavyweight fighter who regularly loses control of himself in the ring and turns into a thug when he hears the bell.
Golota, 45, came back from a four-year ring absence to fight earlier this month. He was stopped in the sixth round by Przemsylaw Saleta.
However, during the 1990s, he bit fighter Samson Po'ouha, sinking his teeth into his opponent's neck. Later, he used his head as a weapon in stopping Danell Nicholson.
After those two displays, he suffered back-to-back disqualifications against Riddick Bowe for repeated low blows.
Golota has been one of the sport's dirtiest and most vicious fighters.
Welterweight Fritzie Zivic was one of the crudest fighters and brawlers in the history of boxing.
Zivic knew how to get the advantage in a fight by any means necessary. Zivic had to, because he was not the most skilled boxer or brawler.
However, when it came to using his thumb, the laces of his glove, his elbows or his head, Zivic was the master.
Freddie Fierro, Zivic's former trainer, said that Zivic often did his most damage in a clinch with his opponent.
Fierro was quoted as saying in The Boxing Magazine.com:
Fritzie was the kind of fighter who could walk into a clinch with a clean opponent and when the referee broke them apart, the clean opponent would look like a veteran pug, all broken up with blood streaming down his face. And all that damage without landing a single punch.
Sonny Liston was one of the heavyweight division's most powerful punchers.
He came to boxing after a prison stint for robbery. He emerged as one of the toughest and meanest men to enter the ring.
Liston rose through the heavyweight ranks in the late 1950s, earning a title shot against Floyd Patterson. He knocked out Patterson in brutal fashion and did the same in the rematch.
When the intimidating Liston met Muhammad Ali (known at the time as Cassius Clay) in 1964, he was a huge favorite. However, Ali's speed and quickness was too much for the ponderous Liston. He ended up getting beaten to the punch.
In between rounds, Liston had his corner put a substance on his gloves that basically blinded Ali in the next round. The young challenger wanted to quit because his eyes were burning, but he fought through the extreme discomfort and ended up taking the title from Liston.
The rematch was dogged by rumors that the fix was in, and Liston's widow, Geraldine, told ESPN's SportsCentury (h/t Boxing Memories) that she thought her husband gave the fight away.
Many boxing analysts agreed.
Liston's lack of honesty and integrity in the ring stained both the sport and his reputation.
Mike Tyson was one of the most ferocious fighters in the history of the sport.
He had devastating knockout power in either hand, and when Tyson fought, it was always a must-see event for sports fans.
However, after Tyson lost his title to James "Buster" Douglas in 1990, he lost his focus both inside and outside the ring. Tyson lost his ability to dominate, and when he fought Evander Holyfield in 1997, he committed one of the most brutal acts ever seen in the ring..
Tyson bit off a chunk of Holyfield's ear (video above).
Tyson went cannibal on Holyfield in one of the most disgusting acts ever seen in the ring.
Luis Resto was a mediocre welterweight fighter who was scheduled to fight up-and-comer Billy Collins Jr. in 1983.
Collins appeared to have too much speed, quickness and was a much harder hitter than his rival.
But as the fight unfolded, Resto was bludgeoning Collins. Each punch that Resto threw had the impact of a hammer landing on a plate-glass window.
Collins was shattered as he took 10 rounds of punishment. Helost won the fight on a unanimous decision.
But as Collins shook hands with Resto and touched his gloves after the fight, he realized there was no padding. It was later revealed that Resto's hands were wrapped with plaster-infused tape.
Resto and his trainer Panama Lewis were convicted and served time for their crime. Collins suffered from blurred vision and depression after the fight and died in a car crash nine months later (source: New York Daily News).
It was one of the most despicable crimes in the history of boxing.