Ranking the 10 Boxers with the Best Hand Speed

Kevin McRaeFeatured ColumnistSeptember 25, 2013

Ranking the 10 Boxers with the Best Hand Speed

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    Speed trumps power, and Mayweather proved that against Canelo.
    Speed trumps power, and Mayweather proved that against Canelo.Al Bello/Getty Images

    An old adage tells us that speed kills, and that's most certainly true in boxing.

    Hand-speed is one of the single most important things a fighter can be blessed with, and it's much more important than strength and even power.

    It doesn't matter how strong you are if you can't connect with your punches. All the fighters on this list are great examples of that idea at work. None of them are particularly devastating one-punch knockout fighters, but they have extraordinary hand-speed, which makes them dangerous. 

    Speed does indeed kill, and these 10 fighters have the fastest hands in boxing.

10. Sergio Martinez

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    Martinez was too fast and slick for Chavez Jr.
    Martinez was too fast and slick for Chavez Jr.Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

    Sergio Martinez has one of the best straight left hands in boxing. It might even be the best, and it's lethal when it comes in tandem with his equally impressive right hook.

    Both of those punches were on full display when he absolutely embarrassed the previously undefeated Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. last September in a pay-per-view contest for the middleweight championship. For virtually every minute of every round, Martinez had his way with his younger foe, and he peppered him with hard, fast punches.

    Chavez Jr. was clearly the bigger and stronger fighter, but he wasn't able to cope with the fact that Martinez's hands were fast enough to hit him at will, while his punches just couldn't get there in time. 

    Martinez wasn't nearly as impressive in his most recent fight—a narrow decision win in his native Argentina over Martin Murray—but we don't yet know if that indicates signs of slippage by the champ, or if Murray is just better than advertised.

9. Yuriorkis Gamboa

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    Gamboa is extremely fast, but needs to improve on his defense.
    Gamboa is extremely fast, but needs to improve on his defense.Al Bello/Getty Images

    Oh Yuriorkis Gamboa, what has happened to you?

    When he defected from Cuba after capturing gold at the 2004 Summer Olympics, Yuriorkis Gamboa looked like a fighter who just couldn't miss. And that's meant—almost—in the literal sense.

    Gamboa had hands so fast, that you could barely see his punches coming. They'd be thrown from all angles, in bunches and land with a tremendous amount of force that was amplified by the fact his opponent didn't see them coming.

    Check out his fight with Daniel Ponce De Leon if you want to see a lesson on how to move your hands in the ring. 

    Gamboa hasn't looked quite as impressive since that night—struggling with a pair of lesser known opponents—and still allows himself to get him too often. That makes all of his fights must-see television. You never know who will go down first, but thus far, it's always been Gamboa who's hand is raised in victory.

8. Paulie Malignaggi

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    Malignaggi's speed has always been his best weapon.
    Malignaggi's speed has always been his best weapon.Al Bello/Getty Images

    He's not known as the "Magic Man" for nothing.

    Few fighters have been able to accomplish as much at—or near—the top-level of boxing with such little power as Paulie Malignaggi. 

    The Brooklyn native has only secured seven of his 32 career wins by knockout, and four of those came in his first 10 bouts. That's not exactly dynamite in the fists.

    But Malignaggi has made a career out of being elusive, and throwing punches in bunches with great speed. It's allowed him to win many fights, and two world championships during his career. 

    Even at 32 years old, Malignaggi showed he could still use his fast hands to hang with even one of boxing's fastest rising young stars. He gave Adrien Broner all he could handle in dropping a split-decision verdict at his hometown Barclays Center this past June.

7. Nonito Donaire

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    Donaire has extremely fast hands, but that didn't help him against Rigo.
    Donaire has extremely fast hands, but that didn't help him against Rigo.Al Bello/Getty Images

    Nonito Donaire's hand speed is formidable, but it wasn't close to enough to carry him through his recent fight with Guillermo Rigondeaux. In the fight, the Filipino fighter was constantly countered and found himself reluctant to let his hands go. 

    That was largely due to Rigo's movement, and his lightning quick counters that made Donaire reluctant to commit to his punches. It was about as bad a night as you could imagine, and Nonito deserves a ton of criticism for coming into the fight without a gameplan and making excuses in the ring after the fight.

    That said, he's still one of the fastest fighters in the world, and his hand speed will be enough to carry him through against most fighters. He just learned the hard way that you can't rely on it exclusively when you're facing a guy who can match—or in Rigo's case exceed—you. 

    Donaire is still an elite-level fighter with blazing speed, and he'll rebound well later this year when he faces Vic Darchinyan in a rematch of their 2007 bout.

6. Manny Pacquiao

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    Pacquiao's hand speed was still there against Marquez.
    Pacquiao's hand speed was still there against Marquez.Al Bello/Getty Images

    Manny Pacquiao is rare amongst fighters, in that he hasn't seen much—if any—drop off in his formidable hand speed as he's risen through boxing's weight divisions. 

    He's captured eight world championships, in as many divisions, and has seemingly gotten stronger and faster as his opponents have gotten bigger and slower. 

    Now it's true that Pacquiao has slowed a bit in recent years—his hands are as fast as ever, but his killer instinct is definitely diminished—he's still extremely dangerous, and can move his hands with great speed and precision.

    He'll need that great hand speed in order to avoid an upset later this year against the rugged Brandon Rios in Macau, China. That fight should give us a clear indication of whether or not his days as an elite attraction are over.

    If he can still move his hands as fast as ever, he'll should be able to shred the straight-forward Rios.

5. Adrien Broner

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    Broner's hand speed is first-rate, but his attitude rubs some the wrong way.
    Broner's hand speed is first-rate, but his attitude rubs some the wrong way.Al Bello/Getty Images

    He's brash, bold and rubs many people the wrong way. Oh and he likes to fashion himself the next Floyd Mayweather. Just in case you couldn't tell.

    Adrien Broner certainly knows how to market himself, and he's accomplished a lot inside the ring at the young age of 23. Three world championships—in three weight classes—are nothing to scoff at, and "The Problem" certainly has elite level talent.  

    As he's risen through the ranks—from super featherweight to lightweight to welterweight—Broner has seen some drop in his power, but little in his hand-speed. He's as quick as ever, and lets his fists go whenever he chooses.

    He can do that because he knows that his punches will get to their target before he gets tagged. Broner was able to beat Paulie Malignaggi to the punch for most of their fight last June, and that's a significant accomplishment given his opponent's notorious hand-speed.

4. Guillermo Rigondeaux

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    Rigondeaux embarrassed Donaire in their showdown earlier this year.
    Rigondeaux embarrassed Donaire in their showdown earlier this year.Al Bello/Getty Images

    Guillermo Rigondeaux may not have the most marketable style, but he proved in his fight—with fellow entrant on this list—Nonito Donaire that speed most definitely kills. 

    The 32-year-old Cuban former amateur standout beat the "Filipino Flash" to the punch all night long. Literally, all night long. It was a clinic on how to use great hand-speed, superb defense and movement to frustrate an opponent and blunt their offensive attack.

    Donaire was never able to get any sustained offense going, and that was largely due to the fact that Rigo's hands were fast enough to pepper him with counters, and powerful enough to make him weary of over committing. 

    It wasn't pretty, and he's had significant trouble finding another fight since (and a network to televise it), but Rigo's hand-speed is undeniable, even if his entertainment value most certainly is. 

3. Gary Russell Jr.

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    Gary Russell Jr. is extraordinarily fast, but he needs to step-up his competition soon.
    Gary Russell Jr. is extraordinarily fast, but he needs to step-up his competition soon.

    Unfortunately, many boxing fans have yet to see Gary Russell Jr. fight.

    But the fault for that largely lies with him and his team. He's been moved along at a terribly slow pace, and has yet to step in the ring with an opponent who wasn't washed up or a no hoper. 

    That's a shame, because Russell is widely considered one of the top prospects in boxing, and he has the type of hand speed that'll make you dizzy watching him. His hands are so fast that you already have to rank him amongst the quickest fighters in the business.

    That said, it's long past due that "Mr." Russell and his team get him into a meaningful fight. He's only 25-years-old (fellow prospect Adrien Broner has three world titles at 23 for context) but time is already slipping away.

2. Amir Khan

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    Amir Khan has tremendous hand speed, but his chin has been his fatal flaw.
    Amir Khan has tremendous hand speed, but his chin has been his fatal flaw.Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    Amir Khan has the type of skill-set that would've made him a huge star in boxing. As it is, his chin issues have made him one of the most polarizing figures in the sport, and his own perception of himself often outpaces the reality.

    One thing that the 26-year-old Brit has going for him is his tremendous hand speed. You might argue that he overrates it a tad—like when he said his superior speed would give him an advantage in a potential fight with Floyd Mayweather—but he definitely has some of the quickest hands in the game.

    Quicker than Mayweather, definitely not, but he's not that far off.

    The problem he often runs into, is that he's so quick, and willing to let his hands go, that he often neglects his defense. That's usually a big problem for a guy who has, what can generously be called, a suspect chin.

1. Floyd Mayweather Jr.

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    Mayweather doesn't throw many combinations, but his speed is lethal.
    Mayweather doesn't throw many combinations, but his speed is lethal.Al Bello/Getty Images

    Earlier in his career—and while fighting in the lower weight classes—Floyd Mayweather Jr. uncorked blazing fast combinations that he seemingly pulled out of thin air. It was beautiful to watch, and it finished off plenty a solid opponent.

    As he's aged, and gone up in weight, he hasn't been as willing to put his punches together, but his hands remain as quick as ever. 

    Mayweather is a pure counter-puncher these days, and he uses his hand speed to pick off his foes shots and make them pay with lightning quick returns. 

    He uses his hand speed and reflexes to catch his opponent without getting hit very much in return. That much was obvious in his recent victory over "El Canelo", Saul Alvarez.

    Alvarez was the more powerful puncher, but the disparity in hand-speed was obvious from the opening round. "El Canelo" was stronger, but Floyd was able to connect while his foe wasn't.

    Mayweather's shots just get to their target quicker than any fighter in the game, and that's a lot of what makes him great.