Ranking the 10 Best Chins in Boxing Today
When a son takes after his father, it's common to refer to him as a "chip off the old block." In the case of the Chavez family, that block is solid granite.
Don't get me wrong: I've been as critical of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. as any boxing writer. I think his father's legendary name has gotten him opportunities he didn't earn and caused judges to gift him decisions he didn't deserve.
But fair is fair, and just like the famous father, Chavez Jr. can take a shot and keep coming forward.
To me, the heart of boxing is to hit without getting hit in return. But that cannot happen all the time. Even Floyd Mayweather gets touched on the jaw every once in a while (and handles it well when it happens).
So the ability to take a punch and recover quickly is a priceless intangible for boxing success.
10. Gennady Golovkin
Gennady Golovkin is known for his overwhelming, seek-and-destroy style. The Olympic silver medalist and WBA middleweight champion is a brilliant offensive fighter who expertly cuts off the ring and hammers his opponents with elite power punching.
But his pressure style is bolstered by his thick whiskers. GGG routinely blows right through the sort of flush punches that would buzz and stagger most fighters.
He is so effective at rattling opponents and putting them on the defensive that it's easy to overlook the role that his chin plays in allowing him to fight that way. When GGG fought knockout artist Curtis Stevens, he was able to treat Stevens' power as a non-threat and simply go about his usual business.
9. Ruslan Provodnikov
WBO light welterweight champion Ruslan Provodnikov simply couldn't fight the way he does without an incredibly durable chin. "The Siberian Rocky" is a relentless pressure fighter who will walk through fire to deliver his own bombs.
Timothy Bradley is far from a knockout artist, but he is an accurate puncher who connected on Provodnikov round after round during their March 2013 Fight of the Year. At one point, Provodnikov's trainer Freddie Roach threatened to stop the fight. Provodnikov kept coming and nearly pulled out a final-round knockout.
Mike Alvarado is a big puncher. Provodnikov walked straight through him, all fight long, to win by Round 10 TKO.
Provodnikov rarely ends a fight without a swollen, marked up face. But he's generally smiling, too.
8. Lucas Matthysse
Light welterweight contender Lucas Matthysse lives up to his nickname "The Machine." He's a relentless attacker who seems completely unconcerned with getting hit.
His chin and recovery powers have been on full display in his two most recent fights. In his highly anticipated showdown with Danny Garcia last September, Matthysse survived some heavy artillery from the hard-punching champion and made the fight competitive, even with his eye nearly closed.
He got back into the win column this past April against John Molina. In the early leader for 2014's Fight of the Year, Matthysse recovered from getting knocked down in Rounds 2 and 5 and shook off a head butt to hammer Molina late in the fight and stop him in Round 11.
7. Bryan Vera
The first thing you'll notice if you see Bryan Vera in person is the size of his head. He's a thick, powerfully built middleweight with the cranium of a heavyweight.
Vera gets hit more than he should, but he does seem perfectly designed to take punishment and keep coming. His two fights with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. provided perfect illustrations.
I think Vera was robbed in the first fight. In both fights, he took heavy shots from a much larger puncher and never seemed seriously in trouble.
In both cases, his face showed signs of taking damage. But he was lucid when interviewed in the ring.
6. Timothy Bradley
If Timothy Bradley had more power in his own punches, he could make a serious threat for top pound-for-pound status. He has everything else—speed and skill, as well as excellent conditioning and great physical strength.
And he has one of the best chins in the sport, as he proved in March 2013 when he survived a Fight of the Year war against Ruslan Provodnikov. In the first two rounds, the monster from Siberia caught Bradley with brutal shots that had him nearly knocked out on his feet.
Bradley's ability to recover and take control of that fight was astonishing, especially considering that Provodnikov continued to buzz him with stray shots throughout the rest of the fight.
In the final round, Bradley was nearly stopped again, as Provodnikov sent him to the canvas. Somehow, "Desert Storm" beat the count and hung on to secure a narrow victory by decision.
5. Arthur Abraham
Arthur Abraham is a two-division world champion. If not for his granite chin, he'd be a journeyman/trial-horse fighter at best.
He is a bull of a fighter with decent power, but he gets hit plenty as he moves into range. The thing is, being punched in the face doesn't do all that much to deter him.
His ability to withstand punishment in order to win a fight was never more vividly displayed than in his first bout with Edison Miranda in 2006. Fighting most of the way with a broken jaw, Abraham ground out a fairly one-sided decision victory.
Fighting with a broken jaw is a dangerous decision, and in most cases a fighter should probably avoid doing it. But Abraham recovered from the injury, stopped Miranda in a rematch and has spent the last eight years competing against the best in the world.
4. Juan Manuel Marquez
Juan Manuel Marquez has built his legend around his ability to come back strong after being rocked by the kind of punches that would knock most fighters out. He is an exquisite counterpuncher, but he's an aggressive one, too. He's willing to put himself in danger to land his own big shot, confident that he'll be able to stand up to whatever his opponent dishes out.
In the first round of his first fight with Manny Pacquiao, Marquez suffered three knockdowns and was very nearly out of the fight. He recovered and won the majority of the final 11 rounds to earn a draw.
In their most recent fight, Marquez suffered a trip to the canvas and a broken nose before connecting with the right hand that knocked out Pacquiao.
Marquez's ability to hang tough is a testament to his excellent conditioning. Also, like Bernard Hopkins, who also might warrant inclusion on a list like this, Marquez's footwork and movement are so good that he rarely gets taken completely by surprise with a punch.
But beyond those two factors, he can simply take a punch.
3. Brandon Rios
For most fighters with a great chin, taking punches is something they do with a kind of stoic resolve. It's part of how they win a fight but not necessarily a thing that they relish.
But then there are the guys like Brandon Rios, who never looks happier than when he's in the midst of a give-and-take war. "That's boxing to me," Rios told me once in an interview. "That's what I love, taking his best shot and giving him mine."
The willingness and ability to go to war in the ring has made Rios a popular star in the sport. His fight in August against power-punching Argentine Diego Gabriel Chaves is a can't-miss fight. If Rios wins, expect him to ask for Ruslan Provodnikov next.
While a lot of fighters have been crossing the street to avoid "The Siberian Rocky," "Bam Bam" has gone out of his way to express his enthusiasm for the matchup.
2. Carl Froch
Carl Froch is another guy who makes his way onto a list like this in part due to his exemplary physical conditioning. He is always in top shape, which contributes to his ability to recover quickly.
But he also has an iron chin. He has fought the best super middleweights of his generation and has been hit flush by most of them. But he's never been seriously rocked.
He has a bad habit of squaring up his stance and fights often on his back foot. But even when he gets hit squarely and doesn't appear to be properly set for the punch, he shows a remarkable ability to shake it off with a stoic nod and a sly smile.
Froch's chin was unquestionably a big part of what allowed him to knock out George Groves in their rematch last month. Groves' jab and movement won rounds and frustrated Froch.
But the challenger's power punches were simply not a deterrent to "The Cobra." Froch took them with confidence and walked Groves down.
1. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. has had some major advantages in his career that other fighters couldn't even dream of, and it's all thanks to his famous name. He's benefited from hand-picked opponents and questionable decisions. He's been fast-tracked into title shots.
But a fighter can't have the success that he has had without earning some of it in the ring. He's a difficult matchup for almost anybody.
And the primary reason for that is his sensational chin. He might not take after the old man in every area, but when it comes to walking through heavy fire, it's definitely a case of "like father, like son."
Against Andy Lee, Chavez ate shots against a better boxer for half the fight before finally walking him down and putting him away in Round 7. In his pay-per-view showdown with Sergio Martinez, Chavez spent 11 rounds getting hammered by "Maravilla" before nearly pulling out the victory with a Round 12 stoppage.
Chavez's willingness and ability to keep coming is as much a part of helping him sell tickets as his name at this point. It's why he'll likely fight a major star like Andre Ward, Gennady Golovkin or Carl Froch before the end of this year.