Let’s go ahead and admit it. It’s one of the reasons we watch.
While it’s easy to get excited about one fighter’s ability to perform with reckless abandon or another’s skill when it comes to the technical aspects of the sport, sometimes it’s the little something extra that turns a garden-variety boxing match into a must-see event.
That something extra is personality, or, as it manifests itself these days in a 21st-century sports world, the ability to create a buzz with words. Some boxers clearly do it better than others, and it goes a long way toward determining why their fights are cult favorites on YouTube and why their press conferences generate instant chatter on Twitter.
We compiled a list of our 10 top active trash-talkers. Click through to see how many of your picks made the cut.
The Northern California native was regarded as a soft-spoken commodity for the first several years of his career, but Robert Guerrero ramped up the rhetoric and cranked up the volume once he decided that a shot at the sport’s ultimate chattering warrior—Floyd Mayweather Jr.—was what he wanted most.
His craft wasn’t quite perfected by the time the Showtime-televised runup to their May 2013 fight began, but “The Ghost”—augmented by a mouthy father, Ruben—distinguished himself well outside the ring beforehand and respectably inside it once the talk was finished.
It’ll be interesting to see which persona he assumes in his post-Floyd career.
He’s not yet had the big-fight performances in the ring to distinguish himself, but the fleshy Londoner hasn’t been at all shy to mix it up with opponents large and small to get his name out there.
Dereck Chisora took his life in his own hands with a weigh-in smack to the face of no-nonsense heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko—and was pounded for the better part of 12 rounds as payback—then made even more news with a post-fight presser brawl with countryman David Haye.
Those two got together for a cracking good fight inside the ring five months later, and, though Chisora lost in five rounds, he reinvented himself again recently with a controversial stoppage of American Malik Scott.
He may never win a title, but he’ll at the very least be memorable.
Danny Garcia is unbeaten in six years as a pro and has a 140-pound championship belt for each shoulder, but he actually comes a distant second to his own father when it comes to mouth-running.
Angel Garcia has provided the majority of the colorful commentary for young Danny’s appearances on the big stage, starting with his title unification against Amir Khan last summer and continuing through this spring’s throwdown with fellow trash-talker Zab Judah.
Provided the progeny survives a Sept. 14 grind with slugging phenom Lucas Matthysse, the vitriolic sky could be the limit if the next fight to be made is with welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. and his recurring cast of jabber-jaws.
Coming to a Twitter feed near you.
To be honest, none of the 21 men the 6’9” Englishman has encountered in the ring thus far have truly proven if he can hold his own in a punch-out with the world’s most elite heavyweights.
But what already appears to be beyond argument is the fact that the 25-year-old Tyson Fury is very much in his element when it comes to the pre-fight art of flapping gums.
He was endlessly funny with the banter leading into a December 2012 rout of American Kevin Johnson, and he’ll have his mettle tested both out and in the ring in September when he meets Great Britain’s reigning heavyweight chatter champion, David Haye.
A warning...if he wins that one, he might never shut up.
If there’s a medal for long and meritorious service to the art of trash-talking, the now-32-year-old Paulie Malignaggi would certainly be in the running for a nomination.
He’s already moved boxing fashion ahead—or set it back—by leaps and bounds with his array of tassels, hair colors and dreadlocks, but his motor-mouthing skills were front and center for a recent welterweight title defense against another word master, Adrien Broner.
The nonsense began with Broner’s “Hey Paulette” T-shirt for the opening press conference and continued through the post-fight in-ring interviews, and it all made a relatively one-sided fight (ridiculously judged a split decision) far more memorable than it would have been on its own merits.
If Malignaggi's done as an active fighter, a generation of writers will surely miss him.
The guy’s handsome, powerful and ripped.
And he’s won title belts at both cruiserweight and heavyweight, which is hardly a trivial feat.
But until he’s able to record a victory against a truly top-shelf big man—preferably named Klitschko—the Englishman will forever be known for weeks of tough talk that were followed by 12 rounds of flaccidity when he got a shot against Wladimir Klitschko in July 2011.
For all the severed-head T-shirts and promises of mayhem, Haye really hasn’t delivered. Still, he gets another chance against fellow Englishman Tyson Fury in September, and the winner there could have a shot at the other Klitschko soon after.
It’s worth rooting for Haye, just to see if he can avoid a disappointing double play.
For a guy who spent some formative years surrounded by tall walls and metal bars, it’s amazing how Bernard Hopkins has evolved into one of the sport’s most accessible ambassadors.
He’s also educated a generation of rabble-rousers along the way—stomping on Puerto Rican flags (during the runup to Felix Trinidad) and tweaking racial sensitivities (before Joe Calzaghe) during some of his more memorable moments.
These days, he remains as frank and confident as a fighter can be, and he shows no signs of stopping after handling youngster Tavoris Cloud to win another light heavyweight belt earlier this year.
In reality, it’s a race to see what’ll give out first: his fists or his vocal cords.
What Hopkins is to the old-school professorial means of trash talk, the young and rough-around-the-edges Brandon Rios is to the new-school tough-guy version.
Surrounded by a cadre of hard-talking competitors in the suburbs of Los Angeles, Rios has no qualms about going nose-to-nose with a prospective opponent and pushing the limits of decorum to get his point across.
Oddly, he’s been the picture of civility during the early stages of hype for a spotlight meeting with Manny Pacquiao later this year, which may not bode well for the hellbent-for-leather approach he usually embodies in the ring.
The “old” Rios might make it interesting. The nice-guy version probably doesn’t.
When reverential post-fight hair-brushing and marriage proposals weren’t enough, the Cincinnati-born three-division champion upped the ante to include direct assertions that he’d swiped a just-conquered opponent’s girlfriend.
Oh, and it turns out this Adrien Broner fellow can fight a bit, too.
And whether you think he’s a legit Mayweather heir or merely a wannabe fraud, it’s hard to dispute that the 24-year-old has prompted folks to sit up and take notice each and every time he appears.
There’s no disgrace in getting the short end of the trash-talking stick against a pro like Malignaggi, but Broner’s clear dominance in the ring (yes, the split decision was a joke) validated his chops as a fighter and warrants his placement at the right hand of the caustic-lipped father.
Sure, some fighters have had more incendiary moments at press conferences and others have yielded YouTube highlights with more viral momentum, but no one’s produced a total package of pre- and post-fight controversy along with in-ring performance more impressive than “Money’s.”
He seamlessly played the hero of abused women prior to a rout of an unbeaten Diego Corrales a dozen years ago, rode to the ring amid Roman splendor before battering Arturo Gatti on the Jersey shore and donned a sombrero while entering to face Argentine Carlos Baldomir.
Then, in a real-life heel turn, he spent 70 days in a Nevada jail for a domestic incident in 2012.
And, just when people started thinking he might have jumped the shark with words and deeds, he trash-talked Robert Guerrero into a stupor before a 12-round clinic in May, then dusted off the verbal daggers to wrap up a 10-city press tour to hype his upcoming September fight with Saul Alvarez.
In the words of trash-talking wrestling god Ric Flair: “Whether you like it or you don’t like it, learn to love it. ‘Cause it’s the best thing going today.”