Ranking the 10 Most Exciting Fighters Today
Manny Pacquiao returns to the ring Nov. 24 (Nov. 23 in the U.S.) at The Venetian in Macau, China, to take on Brandon Rios in what should be a riveting welterweight battle. Both competitors, Pacquiao and Rios, rank among the most exciting and aggressive fighters in the sport of boxing today.
But where do they rank among their peers? And who is the most exciting fighter?
Bleacher Report has the answer. Fighters are ranked by who provides the most high-level spills and thrills in the sport of boxing today.
10. Keith Thurman (21-0, 19 KOs)
Keith Thurman has concussive power. Undefeated in 21 professional prizefights, the menacing slugger has knocked out all but two of his opponents. Thurman’s jab is a killer, and his right cross carries the kind of thunder reserved for only the very hardest punchers.
Perhaps even more impressive is Thurman’s ability to handle whatever is put in front of him. Against Diego Chaves this summer in San Antonio, Texas, Thurman encountered a tough brawler who came to win. Thurman outlasted Chaves by quality counterpunching until the hard charger had run out of gas. After that, he easily dispatched him in Round 10 for the KO.
Thurman generates excitement because each and every punch he sends could be the final one of the bout.
9. Alfredo Angulo (22-3, 18 KOs)
Junior middleweight contender Alfredo Angulo has a boyish charm outside the ring, but inside of it he is a monster. His ability to knock his opponents out with one punch keeps him in any fight. No matter what the card says, Angulo might be moments away from delivering a beastly knockout.
As long as he’s standing, he’s dangerous. And that’s exciting, because Angulo is the kind of guy who is still standing after his orbital bone explodes, as was the case in his loss to Erislandy Lara.
Angulo is as rough and tough as anyone.
8. Marcos Maidana (34-3, 31 KOs)
Marcos Maidana is the kind of fighter who believes a good defense is a good offense. He throws lots of combinations, and he delivers his punches with gumption. He’s also the kind of guy who fights back that much harder if you dare to hit him. Seeing as how that’s the name of the game, Maidana is the last guy to trade blows with.
Add to it that he’s been under the tutelage of world-class trainer Robert Garcia for a little over a year now, per ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael, and the ever-more-dangerous brawler becomes that much scarier to face.
Maidana can rumble with the best of them.
7. Ruslan Provodnikov (23-2, 16 KOs)
Junior welterweight Ruslan Provodnikov is a dangerous combination puncher who simply breaks his opponents’ wills. Look no further than his 10-round demolition of Mike Alvarado in front of Alvarado’s hometown in October as evidence.
Alvarado was in the biggest fight of his career. He did everything he could to keep from being dragged into a slugfest, but Provodnikov took him into one anyway and beat him down into submission.
Provodnikov is the kind of fighter who is always in a good fight, no matter the opponent. He sends compact punches to opponents in bunches and does not allow himself to be deterred by return fire.
6. Lucas Matthysse (34-3, 32 KOs)
Lucas Matthysse combines technical skill with devastating power in both hands. Moreover, Matthysse is a fighter who would rather knock opponents out than outbox them. While sometimes it might be wiser for Matthysse to not only rely on his power, as was the case in his loss to Danny Garcia in September, he certainly won’t lose any fans because of it.
Matthysse is nicknamed The Machine. But he’s more than that. Rather, Matthysse is a beast—a trained and skilled beast in full armor looking to cause a ruckus.
And he usually does just that.
5. Leo Santa Cruz (25-0-1, 15 KOs)
Leo Santa Cruz is as entertaining a fighter as any in the sport, and he’s on the rise. He should have plenty of opportunities to showcase his talent to excite fans as he continues his march up the ranks.
A junior featherweight, Santa Cruz is fast making a name for himself. The 25-year-old has nabbed alphabet titles in two weight classes already, and he appears to be getting better and better every fight.
Santa Cruz is a tornado of activity when the bell rings. His Round 3 knockout of Victor Terrazas showed he’s a legitimate threat to anyone who wants to trade punches with him, and his style is the perfect balance of aggressive activity to give anyone in the world problems defending against it.
Santa Cruz might be at the top of this list soon enough.
4. Sergey Kovalev (22-0-1, 20 KOs)
Light heavyweight Sergey Kovalev is a butcher. To uninitiated eyes, he swings hard and wide. But to those that know the science of slicing, he’s an artist with a paintbrush or a surgeon with a scalpel. And when he’s done, instead of a beautiful painting or a well-healed patient, Kovalev is standing above his opponent like a lion above its prey.
In his last bout, Kovalev pummeled the will out of previously undefeated WBO titleholder, Nathan Cleverly, to prove he’s clearly the best up-and-coming light heavyweight in the division. He bludgeoned the poor, wannabe slickster down to the canvas three times in just four rounds.
That’s par for the course for Kovalev. He’s a hunter, and it’s fun to watch.
3. Brandon Rios (31-1-1, 23 KOs)
Brandon Rios takes on Pacquiao at welterweight this month. Probably the best thing one can say about Rios is that he is never in a bad fight. He seems to like to hit, and it’d be hard to convince most onlookers that he doesn’t like to be hit, too. It takes a special kind of man to fight this way, and Rios is it.
Rios is a strong-willed brawler. He’s got just enough boxing skill, and he knows how to throw combinations. He’s hyper-aggressive, and if you try and box away from him, he just gets mad.
Rios is probably not on the same level as Pacquiao or other top-rated welterweights right now. But what Rios lacks in world-class skill, he makes up in gumption.
Rios doesn’t want to box. He wants to fight.
2. Gennady Golovkin (28-0, 25 KOs)
Middleweight Gennady Golovkin is a slick defender with fancy footwork who uses his impressive skill set to stalk his opponents into the ground. That’s something rarely seen, at least in this day and age of the sport, and it should be welcomed.
Golovkin is perfectly balanced at all times. He strides towards his opponent with quick steps meant to put his man in position to get hit. On his way there, Golovkin slips and slides his way out of danger. Once he has his opponent where he wants him, Golovkin has the skill to know what punches to throw and when to throw them. His precision and accuracy is unparalleled, and he has the kind of pop in his fists that would make Mike Tyson proud.
Golovkin has knocked out 15 straight opponents. The buzz in the boxing world surrounding him is only outdone by the excitement the Kazakhstan-born fighter generates inside the ring on fight night.
1. Manny Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 KOs)
Welterweight Manny Pacquiao isn’t just the most exciting fighter in the sport of boxing today. The Filipino legend is one of the most exciting fighters in the history of the sport.
Pacquiao is a frenetic and aggressive southpaw with absurd speed and devastating power. When he’s on top of his game, Pacquiao demolishes anyone foolish enough to stand in front of him.
Heck, even his knockout loss to rival Juan Manuel Marquez last December was exciting.
Pacquiao’s demeanor on fight night is perfectly suited for his skill set. All smiles and laughs outside the ring, inside of it he’s a killer. Ask Shane Mosley, who after seeing Pacquiao morph from outside-the-ring pal to inside-the-ring mauler decided he’d rather do everything possible to stay away from his punches than trying to win the fight.
As long as the 34-year-old Pacquiao continues to fight, he’ll be on top of the list for years to come.