The jab jolts from a boxer's shoulders like an arrow from a bow.
It is their most important weapon. Fighters throughout time have spilled blood and sweat attempting to perfect it—to make it fast, to make it sharp. Every punch, heavier than the last.
It is the single most significant punch in boxing, both offensively and defensively.
A boxer can pump out their jab to keep their opponent at bay or off balance. They can tag their opponent repeatedly with the jab to pile up points for a decision victory. They can use it to set up power punches. Or they can even counter their opposition's attack with it.
Every fight, every fighter, the very fabric of the sport, starts and ends with the jab.
Its importance is undeniable. So the correlation between the best jabs and the best boxers shouldn't come as a surprise.
Every boxer throws it. But only a few have mastered it.
These are the 10 best jabs the sport of boxing has to offer today.
Andy Lee is an Irish middleweight with a record of 30 wins and two losses. He is coming off of a destructive victory over Darryl Cunningham in which he won by TKO in the first round. He also holds an impressive win over the recently surging Brian Vera that occurred back in 2011.
However, Lee is only a fringe top-10 middleweight at best. But that doesn’t take away from his excellent boxing ability. He may never be a world champion—he certainly won’t ever be a superstar—but he possesses one of the finest jabs in the world.
It's absolutely superb. It doesn’t carry crazy power nor is it even particularly fast. But Lee knows how to use it, and it looks utterly beautiful.
The Irishman even controlled and out boxed Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. with it in their fight, before Lee stopped moving his feet and got sucked into a slugfest, resulting in a TKO-loss in Round 7.
Before his fight with Matthew Macklin, Gennady Golovkin (27-0, 24 KOs) looked like he could be the future of the middleweight division. And after he destroyed Macklin in three rounds, his place atop the 160-pound weight class seems predetermined.
Golovkin is the walking, breathing definition of pugilism. He was born with a gift for punching, simple as that.
He is a fistic genius, and whatever he throws is masterful. His combinations are fierce, and it’s been 14 fights since Golovkin hasn’t earned a stoppage victory. It’s this knack for knockouts that has made him so popular.
But his jab is nothing to gloss over. It’s crisp, meticulous and powerful, just like everything else “GGG” throws.
Golovkin racks up knockouts because of his frightening power. But he’s the future ruler of the middleweight division because he throws every punch impeccably—including his jab.
Kell Brook is undefeated at 30-0 with 20 KOs and is one of the most gifted fighters in the world. But he is in no way deserving of being the No.3 ranked welterweight in the world like The Ring Magazine has him. He just hasn’t faced the quality level of opposition that would merit such a ranking.
But his physical attributes are nothing to scoff at. And neither is his jab.
Brook’s jab is kind of like that talented freak athlete we all knew in high school. You know, that one kid destined for stardom and removing his family from the blacktop-and-bullet-holes neighborhood—if he could just keep his head straight and refine the fundamentals in his game.
Well, that’s Brook’s jab. It’s absolute dynamite, and he fires it out with searing speed. But the rest of his skill set just doesn’t compliment it as well as it could. It lacks variation, and Brook doesn’t utilize it well defensively.
Nevertheless, on the offensive end, Brook’s jab’s blend of speed and potent power is unparalleled.
Mikey Garcia is only 25 years old and already finds himself amongst the world's best tacticians.
He is undefeated at 32-0 and has exhibited the ring intelligence of a boxer far more experienced than even the seven years he has under his belt. He carries good power, but his greatest traits are his discipline and patience.
Garcia bides his time until his opponent makes a fatal mistake. But he stays active with a tremendous jab. Being an orthodox fighter, that made it all the more impressive when he repeatedly tagged the southpaw Juan Manuel Lopez with his jab in their fight this past June. Thanks to the young star's already amazing footwork, he managed to consistently get on the inside of Lopez's front foot to find success with his jab. This high level footwork is what compliments and makes Garcia's jab so exceptional.
This sort of technical prowess will only get better, and that is one terrifying thought for anybody fighting below 140 pounds.
Miguel Vazquez possesses one of the most criticized styles today.
His record stands at 33-3 with 13 knockouts and is the best 135-pound fighter in the world not named Adrien Broner. He has held the IBF lightweight title since 2010, and he has only lost to two men in his entire career, the much naturally larger superstars Timothy Bradley and Saul Alvarez. But at lightweight, he is undefeated.
And that streak doesn’t look like it’s going to be ending anytime soon.
Vazquez is a lengthy and methodical fighter that most would label as “boring.” True or not, he frustrates his opponents with constant movement and a stinging, accurate jab. And that’s why he makes this list.
He isn’t exciting, by any means. But his jab creates an avenue for victory every time out—and that's exactly what it's supposed to do.
Juan Manuel Marquez is 40 years old and still finds himself at the very pinnacle of the most unforgiving sport in the world.
His record stands at 55-6-1 with 40 knockouts to his name and is coming off arguably the single greatest victory of the last 10 years, a destructive knockout win over perennial pound-for-pound kingpin Manny Pacquiao.
Marquez is also the greatest counterpuncher of his era. And the rest of his makeup on offense is just as impressive. Combining high level feints, perfect positioning, and, of course, a flawless jab, he is one of boxing’s most finely tuned offensive machines.
His jab is razor sharp and precise—but the sheer impeccable form in which Marquez throws it, is what separates him from most.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. is one of the greatest fighters of all time. After entering the ring on 44 separate occasions, he remains undefeated. He has won championships in five different weight classes and has defeated a variety of fighting styles.
Although Mayweather is better known for his defensive capabilities, he also possesses one of the best jabs today, specifically when he changes levels and throws a jab to the body of his opponent. Mayweather utilizes this along with tremendous hand speed to control the distance between him and his opposition. Technique like this has made him, well, unbeatable.
He doesn’t throw as many punches as he used to, but when he does, they’re sure to find their target, and this goes for his jab as well. Mayweather was at his best throwing the jab in his fights with Ricky Hatton, Juan Manuel Marquez and Shane Mosley.
Against these three men, Mayweather landed 299 of 598 jabs—which makes for an unbelivable connection rate of 50 percent.
With just 12 fights to his name, Guillermo Rigondeaux has proven to be the most technical fighter in the world. He is pure science.
Rigondeaux is primarily a counterpuncher, but he also possesses the most cultured lead hand in the sport. He fights out of a southpaw stance, and whatever he throws is done so with absolute perfection.
He landed his lead right-hand on Nonito Donaire in their fight in April of 2013 more than anybody thought possible. Rigondeaux cruised to a unanimous decision victory against Donaire, the No.1 ranked super bantamweight, who looked like he was going to be the very best fighter in the world someday.
But now Rigondeaux resides over the 122-pound weight class, and the world awaits his next opponent. Whoever it is, they’re going to have one of the most scientifically sound jabs in recent memory to deal with.
And after the way Rigondeaux outclassed Donaire, there doesn’t seem to be anybody who can.
Andre Ward boasts the most complete skill set in boxing today. He’s superb at anything he does inside of the ring, and that includes throwing the jab.
Ward is the undefeated super middleweight champion, and he has outclassed every single one of the 26 men he’s met inside of the squared circle with a multidimensional array of attack.
He is boxing’s ultimate switch-hitter, if there ever was one, as he is a left-handed orthodox fighter. Which means his power punch is his lead hand. So not only is Ward quick enough to stay on the outside and pick his opponents apart—as he did with the excellent Carl Froch—when he does start to land that jab of his, it carries an extra snap to it.
In addition to that power, Ward’s jab is about as accurate as it can get. In his upstaging win over Froch, Ward connected on 107 of the 252 jabs he threw—a staggering connection rate of 42 percent.
Ward’s brilliant jab was also on full display in his breathtaking performance against Chad Dawson in 2012, the No.1 light heavyweight in the world at the time.
Wladimir Klitschko has reigned supreme over the heavyweight division for over seven years now and has almost managed to do so with just one hand.
His jab may not be the fastest or the prettiest, but it has earned the right to be called the best. Boxing’s heavyweight division is a land full of hulking giants, and Klitschko rules over all of them, thanks in large to the most systematic and efficient jab on a heavyweight since Larry Holmes.
As of late, Klitschko (60-3, 51 KOs) has become a fortress of impenetrability. He hasn’t lost since 2004 and has made 14 consecutive title defenses. And no one has shown any capability to get past or around that daunting jab of his.
He enters every bout in a balanced and wide stance and holds his lead hand out in a half-extended position. The work his lead hand does is both methodical and attritional.
The lead hand invades his opponent’s space to keep them on their toes, it blocks and parries their attack and, of course, it jabs with metronome regularity to either deliver damage alone or set up his most crippling punch, the right cross.
His lead hand and jab are so proficient he knocked out veteran Ray Austin in 2007 with literally nothing but his left hand—never throwing a single right for the two rounds the fight lasted.
No one has epitomized divisional dominance like Wladimir Klitschko—and to think, the most gigantic and frightening of men are being held in check with something so very basic and so very elegant as the jab.