The Fighter with the Most Heart in Boxing

Alan ThomsonCorrespondent IDecember 17, 2009

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 25:  Frankie Gavin of England puts his hand on his heart as the national anthem is played after he defeated Giovanni Frontin of Mauritius during the  Lightweight 60kg Gold Medal Bout during the boxing at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre during day ten of the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games March 25, 2006 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

One of the eternal topics discussed among boxing fans is that of fighters who are known for having the most “heart.”

When you think about boxers throughout the years who were known for their heart, who do you come up with?

Do you think about someone who could take a punch—and often did—and come back with a bigger one of their own—fighters like Rocky Marciano, Oscar Bonavena, or Arturo Gatti?

Maybe you envision fighters who had little skill, but all the courage in the world such as Randall “Tex” Cobb or Joe Grim.

Or do you look for a fighter’s performance on a given night to qualify him for the all-time “most heart” list, as demonstrated in epic battles like Hagler vs. Hearns, Corrales vs. Castillo, Gatti vs. Ward, Holyfield vs. Bowe, Morales vs. Barrera, Foreman vs. Lyle, Graziano vs. Zale, Louis vs. Conn, and Ali vs. Frazier?

You might even come up with boxers whose skills were so great that they may not have gotten the credit for their heart that they deserved. Marvin Hagler comes to mind in this category, as does Bernard Hopkins and Sugar Ray Leonard (if you wonder about Leonard’s heart, revisit his first fight with Hearns.)

Perhaps heart can also be defined by the passion to train to the degree that your skills are so honed and you are so physically and mentally prepared that you seldom have to demonstrate your heart in the ring. Can you say that gym rats like Floyd Mayweather aren’t loaded with heart?

Or how about this­ for heart?: A young undefeated prizefighter has a motorcycle wreck resulting in his leg being amputated below the knee. He comes back 18 months later with a prosthetic device, goes on to win the Illinois state heavyweight title, the WBA Continental Americas title, gets a top 10 ranking, fights for the WBC World Cruiserweight Championship where he loses a decision, then retires with a record of 31-4-1 with 23 KOs, with all of his losses coming to former, current, or future world champions—and all via decision.

I’m talking about Craig “The Gator” Bozianowski, a fighter from Chicago who fought from 1982 to 1993. Click here for a video about The Gator.

Any discussion about heart in boxing also has to include guys like Roberto Duran, Jake LaMotta, Julio Caesar Chavez, George Chuvalo, Carlos Monzon, Harry Greb, Rocky Balboa (sorry, I couldn’t resist), and Carmen Basilio, among many others who deserve to be mentioned here.

So I guess the answer to who the boxer with the most heart is depends on how you choose to define the word “heart”—the heart to throw back when you’re getting raked, the heart to step into the ring when you know you haven’t got a prayer, the heart to train to the point of virtually having won the fight before it starts, the heart to overcome an epic challenge on a given night, or the heart to want to fight so badly that you don’t let the loss of a leg keep you out of the ring.

No matter how you define it, there has been plenty of it throughout the years in the sport of boxing. Just one of the reasons why we’re willing to throw down $54.95 to watch it, I suppose.