Ranking the 10 Best Fictional Boxers in History

Kevin McRaeFeatured ColumnistMay 10, 2013

Ranking the 10 Best Fictional Boxers in History

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    In real life, boxing is a sport full of emotion that highlights both the very best and very worst of human nature. It gives fans the chance to cheer on the underdog and hate the villain at the same time. Even in reality, boxing often takes on the characteristics of a great story and lends itself well to all sorts of fictional portrayals.

    On screen you have everything from the iconic, Rocky, to the dramatic, Million Dollar Baby, to the absolutely ridiculous—does anyone remember The Great White Hype? If you do, then you're in rough shape.

    Boxing has even been made dramatic on the smaller screen in the form of many video games. From Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! to the current Fight Night series, boxing has become a favorite pastime for many gamers worldwide.

    Narrowing down the list of the 10 best fictional boxers of all time is not easy. But that's exactly what you'll find here.

    Warning: The following slides contain spoilers.

10. Monroe Hutchen

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    Who would win a boxing match between Wesley Snipes and Ving Rhames? Luckily we have an answer to this question in the 2002 action film, Undisputed

    In the movie, Rhames plays George "Iceman" Chambers, a former undisputed heavyweight champion, who winds up in prison after being convicted of rape. There, he finds himself on a collision course with the prison's champion Monroe Hutchen (Snipes), who feels he has the stuff to take down the former champion.

    The Iceman controls the early rounds of their bout, dropping his foe in the first and second round, and appears on the verge of a knockout victory. But in the third, Hutchen turns the tide, dropping Chambers for the first time in his career and ultimately stopping him in Round 4.

    It is the first loss of Chambers' career. And while he would get released from jail and recapture the heavyweight title, everyone in the prison knows he is no longer undefeated or undisputed.

9. Ivan Drago

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    Sure, Rocky IV can be best viewed as a substantial piece of Cold War propaganda, but it's over-the-top montages and storyline make it such an interesting entry in the Rocky series.

    The main villain is Soviet superheayweight and PED connoisseur, Ivan Drago.

    Drago is a creation of the best labs in Russia and makes for an intimidating physical specimen. Under the direction of the highest levels of the Soviet government, he is tasked with dominating the heavyweight division and bringing the world title, currently held by Rocky Balboa, to Mother Russia.

    But before he can face Rocky, he first faces former champion Apollo Creed in an exhibition bout that ends in Apollo's untimely death. While his foe lies lifeless on the mat, the Soviet giant utters his now famous words: "If he dies. He dies."

    Pretty cold stuff. Good thing Rocky took care of him.

8. Drederick Tatum

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    Drederick Tatum is The Simpsons equivalent of former undisputed heavyweight champion Mike Tyson. The similarities—heavyweight champion, jail sentence, exotic lifestyle and signature voice—are correct to the finest detail.

    Tatum spent time in prison for pushing his mother down the stairs, something he later says he could probably "reconsider," and he is known for his over-the-top statements to opponents before fights.

    After he is released from prison, he winds up facing Homer Simpson, who was undefeated and seemingly impossible to knock out. Tatum expresses his regret that he would be making Homer's children into orphans. 

    Up until this fight, Homer's strategy had been to use his rock-solid head to force his opponents to punch themselves out. That doesn't work against Tatum, which forces his manager, Moe the Bartender, to fly into the ring and lift Homer out of trouble.

7. Glass Joe

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    There are few more iconic and lovable losers in the history of sports video games than Glass Joe.

    Glass Joe made his first appearance as the first opponent in the 1984 arcade release of Punch-Out!!, which would later become a smash hit on the Nintendo home console. 

    He enters the fight with a solid record of 1-99 and appears visibly terrified to be in the ring. Glass Joe is known for his glass jaw and is simple to beat as the player moves up the ranks to earn a title shot.

    Gamers have discovered several tricks to beat him in seconds without having to land more than a few punches. 

    The only question is: Who the heck did he beat?

6. Honey Roy Palmer

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    Diggstown is one of those movies that you'll either love or completely hate. But it's an entertaining story and provides us with a great fictional boxer, Honey Roy Palmer, played by Louis Gossett Jr.

    Basically, the town of Diggstown is boxing obsessed and known for producing a ton of tremendous fighters. Con man Gabriel Caine (James Woods) devises a scheme to win big by setting up Palmer in a ridiculous challenge that he can beat 10 of Diggstown's best in one night.

    Palmer undertakes the task and successfully wades his way through the first nine fighters. Some are legit and some are paid to take dives. At this point, with one fight to go, Palmer is exhausted, battered and in there with Minoso Torres.

    Unbeknownst  to the crowd, Torres, a former prison fighter who has never been defeated, has been paid off. He takes a dive, allowing Palmer to win the challenge.

5. Clubber Lang

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    By the time Rocky III rolled around in 1982, there was a need for a new antagonist to keep the series fresh and interesting.

    Enter Mr. T in the role of James "Clubber" Lang: a heavyweight contender who accuses Balboa of taking soft title defenses in order to avoid him.

    Not to be cowed by his opponent, Rocky eventually accepts the challenge from Lang and prepares to defend his title. During the ring walk, Lang pushes Rocky's longtime trainer Mick, who suffers a heart attack, which forces his fighter to go on without him.

    Clubber brutally knocks out Rocky in the second round to become the champion. In addition, Mick dies, leaving the former champion broken and defeated.

    While he would eventually lose his rematch and title to Rocky later in the movie, he goes down as one of the toughest and most intimidating SOBs in film.

4. Maggie Fitzgerald

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    Million Dollar Baby is one of those movies that can bring a tear to the eye of even the most emotionally deficient. In the film, Hillary Swank plays Maggie Fitzgerald, a hard-luck young woman who uses boxing to escape the difficulties of her life.

    She trains at the Hit Pit, a gym run by local trainer Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood), who initially refuses her because he "doesn't train girls."

    Fitzgerald eventually wins him over with her persistence and training and becomes a sensation when she turns pro. She's a knockout machine who eventually earns a shot for the WBA women's championship.

    That's where the story goes from feel good to tragic. Fitzgerald dominates the fight but has her neck broken by a sucker punch from behind that ends not just her boxing career but eventually her life. 

3. Apollo Creed

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    The Master of Disaster. The Count of Monte Fisto, The King of Sting. The Dancing Destroyer. 

    Apollo Creed is a slick, trash-talking, power-punching heavyweight champion who serves as the main antagonist in the first two Rocky films and is a fan favorite in the latter part of the series.

    In the first film, Creed struggles to defeat Balboa by split decision in a fight he was expected to dominate. Both men suffer severe injuries, but Creed is criticized for being unable to stop a club fighter.

    In Rocky II, the rematch is anything but close, with Creed dominating every minute of the fight up until the final round. In the last stanza, with Creed well ahead on points, Rocky drops him to the mat and the referee hits the 10 count, giving Balboa the win and the championship.

    The two men become good friends, and Creed takes over the training duties for Rocky's championship rematch with Clubber Lang before his tragic death at the hands of Ivan Drago in Rocky IV.

2. Rocky Balboa

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    From the streets of Philadelphia to the world heavyweight championship, Rocky Balboa is, was and forever will be an American icon. He is the ultimate underdog and nobody who made good.

    He begins his career in the fight clubs and local venues of Philadelphia, fighting street toughs without much fanfare or attention. "The Italian Stallion" gets his big break when world champion Apollo Creed finds himself without an opponent and wants to give an unknown fighter a crack at glory.

    After losing the first fight, Rocky becomes a legend of his own by stopping Creed in the final round of their rematch to win the heavyweight title.

    But Rocky also shows us the perils of becoming lazy and complacent. He is easily defeated by Clubber Lang after facing a series of hand-picked opponents. Rocky is then forced to go back to his roots to recapture his title, which he does with former rival Apollo Creed in his corner.

    But despite all his accomplishments and overcoming the odds, nothing compares to watching Rocky, wearing his fallen friend's trademark American-flag trunks, knock out Ivan Drago in the Soviet Union.

    Propaganda or not, that gives you chills.

1. Little Mac

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    If you can find someone who had a Nintendo in the 1980s and did not play Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!, then you either win a prize or have way too much time on your hands. 

    The game has become such an icon of that era that people still play it. And not only is it still played, it's still good. Not many video games have stood the test of time in this way, and the main character is the reason why.

    Hailing from the Bronx, New York and standing at an intimidating 4'8" and weighing 107 pounds, Little Mac embodies the ultimate underdog story. With his trainer Doc Louis, he is tasked with overcoming bigger, stronger and faster fighters in order to earn a shot with the world heavyweight champion and baddest man on the planet, Mike Tyson.

    Little Mac wins most of his fights using his deadly star punch, taught to him by Doc Louis, which he gets by stunning his opponents. Few can stand up to the star punch, which makes Mac's improbable run possible.

    But enough talking now. Time to cue up the Nintendo, knock out Glass Joe and begin the road to the championship once again.