Top 10 Best and Worst "Reused" Boxing Nicknames
One of the remarkable things about boxing is that almost every top star in the sport gets at least one nickname that sticks.
But sometimes, nicknames get reused. Boxing has one of the richest and most-storied histories in all of sports, and sometimes people give fighters in-ring monikers that allude to this tradition. It could be that the nickname is just too good to ignore. Other times, it's probably just sheer lack of creativity.
Whatever the case, there are dozens of nicknames that get reused, in one form or another, by other boxers. Sometimes it works out and the newly-minted fighter adds to the legend of a particular name; sometimes it doesn't, and the name is reduced to just a shell of its former self.
A look back at boxing history and the 10 best and worst, recycled nicknames in boxing.
(This is the first in a series of upcoming posts about the highlights and lowlights of boxing nicknames.)
Worst #10: Golden Boy
Notable Examples: Donny "Golden Boy" LaLonde, Oscar "The Golden Boy" De La Hoya, Billy "Golden Boy" Walker, Jorge "The Golden Boy" Linares
There have been several good fighters who have held this nickname, and the story behind how former WBC Light Heavyweight champion Donny LaLonde got it is actually kind of interesting.
He's from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and the Manitoba Legislative Building in his hometown has a famous statue known as the "Golden Boy" statue.
Age-related nicknames are a mixed bag, and they tend to become worse as a fighter ages. "Golden Boy" also summons images of a precocious, can-do-no-wrong youngster, which is admirable but could also inspire a bit of resentment in a fighter's opponent.
Still, most young fighters would love the nickname "Golden Boy," so it's not bad on its own account.
It was a bit frustrating when Oscar De La Hoya got the nickname during LaLonde's career, but the clean-cut, charming, and talented De La Hoya fit the nickname so well.
However, now that ODLH is a promoter with a company named "Golden Boy." It's just not the same nickname. When Jorge Linares got the nickname after signing to De La Hoya's promotion company, it garnered groans from fans, and officially jumped the shark.
I don't care if he tried to change it to "El Nino de Oro," it just seemed tacky and I'm sure some fans were relieved to see newly-anointed "Golden Boy" get knocked out in the first round by Juan Carlos Salgado in last year's Ring Magazine Upset of the Year.
Worst #9: The Pride Of...
Notable Examples: Joe "The Pride of Wales" Calzaghe, "The Pride of the Philippines" Manny Pacquiao, Amir "The Pride of Bolton" Khan, and pretty much anyone without a nickname
This is an old standby, and a decent one. Michael Buffer uses for pretty much any decent fighter from some obscure place who doesn't have a true nickname.
But when someone gets good, it always plays second fiddle to their other nickname. "King Khan", "The Italian Dragon", "Pacman," are now the accepted nicknames for the three fighters listed above.
So what this nickname tells you is that a fighter is decent, but not good enough yet to have a real nickname. No fighter wants to get stuck with "The Pride Of..." or even "The Fighting Pride Of..." wherever they're from.
Worst #8: Prince
Notable Examples: Prince Naseem Hamed, Prince Arron
This isn't a horrible name, but compared to its more experienced counterpart, "King," it just doesn't have the same ring to it. With some fighters like Prince Arron, it also just doesn't feel that appropriate.
To be a prince, someone has to be anointed, and it's a bit presumptuous to give someone this nickname unless they really deserve it.
Plus, there's only one Prince. He's one of the biggest-selling musical artists in history, would probably fight as a strawweight (he is 5'4). He cannot be imitated, and it's not worth it for anyone to even try.
Worst #7: Flash
Notable Examples: Gabriel "Flash" Elorde, Nonito "The Filipino Flash" Donaire, Kevin "The Flushing Flash" Kelley, and many others
Elorde carried it well. He was the original "Flash" and deserving of the nickname. If so many others didn't adopt some variation of "Flash," I would consider it a good moniker.
But seriously... The Flushing Flash? That name in itself is enough to make anyone second-guess having "Flash" in someone's nickname, and at the end of the day, "Flash" just isn't creative enough to sound cool for any boxer these days.
Worst #6: The Great
Notable Examples: Devon Alexander "The Great", Muhammad "The Greatest" Ali, and several less-notable fighters
This name was a toss-up for the best and worst lists because of the caliber of the listed fighters, and how suitable their nicknames feel. Muhammad Ali's self-created nickname "The Greatest" is possibly the most famous in all of boxing, and the reference to Alexander the Great makes the junior welterweight champion's nickname clever and acceptable.
However, this nickname isn't transferable from fighter to fighter, and Philadelphia's mediocre female boxer Olivia "The Great" Fonseca is a cautionary tale for why this is a bad nickname to recycle.
"The Great" isn't as much a nickname as it is a description, and because of this, it must be earned. All except for a handful of legends gain an air of ridiculousness when calling themselves "The Great." If Pacquiao's last opponent were called Joshua "The Great" Clottey, think of how many jokes he'd be the butt of.
Plus, those who are truly great will probably be referenced as such anyways. "The great Arturo Gatti", "the great 'Iron' Mike Tyson", "the great Sugar Ray Robinson" - phrases like these are common when talking about ring legends.
So while it's appropriate for Alexander and Ali, this nickname only works well as a singular nickname for those who truly establish themselves to be Hall of Fame-caliber boxers, and fighters of this level will probably be called "great" anyway. That's why it fits on the list of bad recycled boxing nicknames.
Worst #5: Fast Eddie
Notable Examples: "Fast Eddie" Chambers, "Fast Eddie" Richardson, "Fast Eddie" Schuyler (announcer)
Boxing nomenclature often follows familiar patterns. If a fighter's name is Ray, he will probably become "Sugar Ray" (Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini is the notable exception). If his name is Floyd, then there are astounding odds that someone will call him "Pretty Boy." But worst of all, if a fighter's name is Ed, Eddie, or Edward, then he will become "Fast Eddie."
The name "Fast Eddie" dates back to a 1959 novel and successful 1961 film called The Hustler, which starred Paul Newman as small-time pool hustler "Fast Eddie" Felson.
It was kind of a cool-sounding name, and it caught on to the point where it spawned several restaurant chains, a DJ with a No. 1 hit on Billboard's Dance chart, and countless other references.
However, it has become a catch-all nickname in boxing, and is used indiscriminately. Current heavyweight "Fast Eddie" Chambers lives up to his nickname, but the fastest thing about "Fast Eddie" Richardson was the 77 seconds it took for him to get knocked out by a young Mike Tyson.**
And "Fast Eddie" Schuyler ostensibly got his nickname because of his fast talking, but you don't hear much about "Fast Jim" Lampley or "Fast Teddy" Atlas.
It's a lazy nickname, so let's hope that it now exits boxing (and popular culture in general) as fast as it entered.
** (Followed closely by how quickly that fight turned him from a serviceable journeyman to record-padding fodder for young up-and-comers like Donovan "Razor" Ruddock, Ray Mercer, Clifford Etienne and Michael Dokes.)
Worst #4: Kid
Notable Examples: Shane "Kid Thunder" Sutcliffe, Mike "Kid Dynamite" Tyson, Ron "The Yid Kid" Aurit, "Kid" Harry Matthews, Gerardo "Kid Gavilan" Gonzalez, and many others
Not much to say about this one. "Kid" doesn't sound powerful or particularly skilled, and leaves the door wide open for commentators to make snide puns about the boxer's age as he advances in years. And don't even get me started on "The Yid Kid."
Thankfully, this nickname seems to be dying out. The most recent of these fighters, Shane "Kid Thunder" Sutcliffe, never rose above journeyman status. The next most recent, Mike "Kid Dynamite" Tyson, quickly had his nickname changed to "Iron" Mike Tyson, which probably did wonders to help his marketability.
Hopefully the lack of recent success for the "Kid" nickname will prevent others from naively choosing this childlike nickname.
Worst #3: Bazooka
Notable Examples: Rafael "Bazooka" Limon, Wilfredo "Bazooka" Gomez, Ike "Bazooka" Quartey
I don't know why this nickname keeps being reused. The word "Bazooka" is funny sounding, and its connotation isn't an apt description of high-level fighters.
At best, it's a powerful but unwieldy firearm that is the imaginary weapon of choice for six-year-old boys. At worst, it's a brand of pink, 5-cent bubble gum.
I see what they were going for: a kind of "heavy artillery" or "rocket launcher"-type name, but there are so many better options than "Bazooka," and you'd think after three world champion fighters who have shared this lousy nickname, people would figure that out.
Worst #2: Big
Notable Examples: "Big" George Foreman, Riddick "Big Daddy" Bowe, "Big Bad John" McDermott, "Big Cat" Cleveland Williams, "Big" Michael Grant
"Big" is the most uninspired "recycled" name in boxing, bar none. It describes fighters as successful as George Foreman or as disappointing as Michael Grant.
Yes, "Big" does hint that they are large and imposing, but it's redundant because all these "Big" boxers can also be described as "heavyweights", which implies the same thing.
It gets even worse when followed by another word, resulting in a stupider-sounding polysyllabic nickname. Big Daddy? Big Cat? Big Bad John? It seems like "Big" is just a way to trick people into putting unfortunate words like "cat" or "daddy" into a boxing nickname and thinking it will sound intimidating.
Worst #1: Irish
Notable Examples: "Irish" Andy Lee, "Irish" Pat Lawlor, "Irish" Micky Ward
This nickname tops the "worst of" list because it is overused, generic, and just plain lazy.
It provides no new insight about the fighter, and can be simply misleading. You might think "well, the person must be from Ireland," but that isn't necessarily true. "Irish" Pat Lawlor is from San Francisco, "Irish" Micky Ward is from Lowell, Mass. Even the most Irish "Irish," Andy Lee, was actually born in London but moved to Ireland as a child.
Essentially, this nickname tells us that the boxer probably has Irish ancestry, which doesn't say much. I have Irish ancestry, most rednecks in the U.S. have Scots-Irish ancestry, and probably half of all white people worldwide have some Irish ancestry.
Which brings me to another point: if you have fair skin, red hair, and freckles, there's probably a 98 percent chance that you're Irish or Scottish and people can tell that just by looking at you. So the nickname is useless.
To sum it up, no one really cares to know that someone's ancestors, at some point, lived on a culturally-rich, agriculturally poor part of an island in the Atlantic Ocean.
This nickname is so bad and overused that most fighters who are actually from Ireland (such as Steve "The Celtic Warrior" Collins and "Ireland's" John Duddy), as well as forward-thinking American fighters like Chris "The Shamrock Express" Reid, have abandoned the nickname "Irish" altogether.
Best #10: Hands of Stone
Notable Examples: Roberto "The Hands of Stone" Duran, Michael "Little Hands of Stone" Carbajal
Roberto Duran, sadly, is not the ideal flag-bearer for anything anymore, after his "No mas" incident (which unfortunately became his other nickname) and his out-of-ring troubles both during and after his career.
However, he still holds a significant place in boxing history, and I think his nickname was a big part of it. "Hands of Stone" signifies someone with that intangible ability to have his punches be deceptively hard-hitting.
A lot of boxing fans fantasize about being in that ring, and can be prone to thinking we could handle certain fighters. A nickname like "Hands of Stone," however, reminds us that we could not. Sure, the guy may not look flashy or powerful, but his punches land with authority.
And how about Michael Carbajal as "Little Hands of Stone"?
Carbajal was an absolute warrior who was 1993's Fighter of the Year. He was the first Light Flyweight ever to earn $1 million for a fight, and the first to headline a pay-per-view. Carbajal won four Light Flyweight titles, including a stunning upset over Jorge Arce and 1993 Fight of The Year victory over Humberto Gonzalez.
For someone of Carbajal's caliber to be called "Little" anything, means that the "anything" must be extraordinary. "Hands of Stone" fits that description.
Best #9: Hurricane
Notable Examples: Tommy "Hurricane" Jackson, "Hurricane" Rubin Carter, "Hurricane" Peter McNeeley
A force of nature. An insurmountable flurry. An awe-inspiring phenomenon.
The nickname "Hurricane" invokes an impressive set of thoughts and feelings, and signifies a fighter with constant activity and overpowering skill. It also has a tough, powerful sound to it, unlike names like "Bazooka."
Aside from McNeeley, the fighters who have held this nickname have lived up to its reputation too. Tommy "Hurricane" Jackson was a top contender during a golden era of heavyweight boxing. He defeated Ezzard Charles, fought Rocky Marciano twice, and had a notable series of fights with Floyd Patterson.
And Rubin Carter, subject of the movie "The Hurricane" and the Bob Dylan song of the same name, was a formidable foe who unfortunately had his career cut short by controversial (if not downright unjust) legal decisions.
His nickname "The Hurricane" helps ensure that no one forgets his prowess in the ring.
Best #8: King
Notable Examples: Amir "King" Khan, "King" Arthur Abraham*
The name "King" strikes fear into the hearts of many boxing fans for the wrong reasons, but if you can rid your mind of Don King for just a moment, then you can appreciate this awe-inspiring nickname.
It's good to be "King," and Khan and Abraham are deserving of the nickname. Oddly, the nickname "King" doesn't come across as being as bold and presumptuous as "The Great" or "Prince." Both of those imply something magical or special about the fighter, whereas "King" just means that the fighter is at the top.
There are good kings and bad kings, but every champion can reasonably be described as "King" during his reign.
Add in the fact that it invokes clever wordplay for both "King Khan" and "King Arthur", and you have a solid nickname that fits the fighters who reign supreme over at least a part of their respective divisions.
(* And Bleacher Report Boxing Community Leader "King J")
Best #7: The Magic Man
Notable Examples: Antonio "The Magic Man" Tarver, Paulie "Magic Man" Malignaggi, Marlon "Magic Man" Starling
Most of the reused nicknames that made the "Best" list are on here because they represent a classic boxing archetype, and this one is no exception.
"The Magic Man" is just a thrill to watch. Like their name implies, these fighters have a combination of dexterous hand movements and skilled showmanship make them fun to watch.
"The Magic Man" may or may not be the greatest fighter in the ring, but he always seems to be in entertaining, enjoyable fights.
As an Olympic bronze medalist, four-time heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver has a solid set of accomplishments in the ring. However, he is perhaps most famous for his big, bold personality.
Before his second fight with Roy Jones, Jr., Tarver had possibly the most famous in-ring utterance in boxing history. Just before the first round bell, as referee Jay Nady concluded his pre-fight instructions, Nady asked "Do either of you have any questions?"
Instead of doing the customary "no" head shake, Tarver said "I have a question: You got any excuses tonight, Roy?" He proceeded to knock out Jones within two rounds: the first non-DQ loss of Jones' career.
Likewise, Paulie Malignaggi is known for his flashy attire, in-ring clowning, and his outspoken nature outside of the ring. Before his first fight with Juan Diaz, Paulie correctly predicted he'd be on the short end of an unfair decision because the fight was in Diaz's hometown of Houston and there was a judge from Texas.
After bluntly talking about corruption in boxing, Malignaggi talked himself into a rematch with Diaz, which he won convincingly.
This connotation of an extraordinary entertainer makes "Magic Man" one of the few nicknames that can single-handedly make me want to watch a fighter.
Best #6: The Italian [Creature]
Notable Examples: "The Italian Dragon" Joe Calzaghe, "The Italian Stallion" Rocky Balboa, "The Italian Giant" Primo Carnera
Nationalized nicknames often fall flat in boxing because they are non-descriptive or awkward, hence names like "The Pride of...", "Irish" and "The Filipino Flash" all being on my worst names list.
However, when paired with another term like dragon, stallion or giant, the nation's name can serve a double purpose: it can sound exotic and invoke a powerful lineage. Nobody does this better than Italian fighters.
Rather than being a catch-all nickname like "Irish", these nicknames have an added element that individualizes them.
Joe Calzaghe was a fighter with an Italian ancestry who was simply a beast during his career, and also exhibited impressive neck movement such as in his fights against Roy Jones, Jr. and Bernard Hopkins.
The fictional Rocky Balboa was durable, muscular, and had the indomitable spirit of a thoroughbred horse.
Primo was simply a giant.
Rather than sounding trite or vague, these Italian-based nicknames provided a telling description of their fighters, and the formula is flexible enough to allow for future unique additions to the "Italian" family.
Best #5: Smokin'
Notable Examples: Smokin' Joe Frazier, Smokin' Bert Cooper
Like "The Hands of Stone," this is another boxing nickname that got handed on to a fighter following in his predecessor's footsteps.
Bert Cooper was trained by the legendary Frazier and became one of the most popular heavyweights of the 1990's, winning a title from Michael Moorer, and knocking down Evander Holyfield in an admirable loss in a fight Cooper took on short notice.
A guy nicknamed "Smokin" just sounds cool. The name signifies a good, old-fashioned fighter with some serious punching power and an admirable spirit that makes him a joy to watch. Few fighters have held this nickname, because few have ever deserved it.
We all know Joe Frazier for his legendary trilogy against Muhammad Ali, which included the South Carolinian beating a then-undefeated Ali in "The Fight of the Century" before losing to Ali in Montreal and then the close-fought "Thrilla in Manila" in the Philippines.
He also spawned one of the most famous calls in sports: Howard Cosell's "Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!" chants when the reigning champ was knocked out by a young George Foreman.
Despite his status and resume, Frazier had the unfortunate distinction of being the main opponent of Ali, a boxer who came to represent the cultural zeitgeist and rising profile of African-Americans during the tumultuous 1960's.
Because of this, Frazier, who, as an impoverished son of South Carolinian sharecroppers, was arguably more culturally "black" than Ali, was unfairly branded as the "establishment" candidate in an era rife with counterculture sentiment.
To this day, Smokin' Joe is often overlooked by many fight fans, and still lives in downtown Philadelphia where he owns a gym.
Still, in the minds of true boxing fans, Smokin' Joe's legend lives on.
Best #4: Gentleman
Notable Examples: "Gentleman" Gerry Cooney, "Gentleman" Jim Corbett, "The Gentleman of Boxing" Floyd Patterson
This hearkens back to the golden age of boxing. Though it has fallen out of favor in recent years, the nickname "Gentleman" signifies a skilled fighter with the style, class and professionalism that ought to be illustrated by all top practitioners of the sweet science.
My hope is that we will soon see another fighter whose caliber not just as a boxer, but as a man, qualifies him to be the next flag-bearer of the "Gentleman" school of boxing.
Say what you will about this name being old-fashioned, but even the most rabid fight fans find it hard not to respect a "Gentleman" in or out of the ring.
Best #3: Cobra
Notable Examples: Carl "Cobra" Froch, Thomas "The Motor City Cobra" Hearns, Donald "The Lone Star Cobra" Curry
This is another nickname that translates perfectly into boxing. Like their animal counterpart, just the sight of one of these fighters is enough to strike fear into the hearts of men, because it's well-known that these in-ring monsters can go from "coiled to contact" in the blink of an eye.
This nickname is so effective is because it's not one that is easily misused. Even an untrained eye can tell you if a boxer resembles the feared, elusive reptile.
Every famous boxer who has held the nickname "Cobra" (or one of its regional variations) has had exceptional hand speed, a stinging punch, and a deceptive dropped-hands stance. This fighter isn't a brawler, a defensive fighter, a ring technician or a boxer.
"The Cobra" leans back and uses speed and unpredictable movements to outmaneuver his opponent until he has a chance to go in for the kill. Usually, he is successful at this.
In the rare case that a fighter can beat "The Cobra," it's a spectacular sight and one of the top achievements in the fighter's career.
Mikkel Kessler's win over Carl Froch did wonders to boost his career. Lloyd Honeyghan's win over an undefeated Curry won him three welterweight titles, and Rene Jacquot's win over Curry was named "Upset of the Year."
And who can forget Leonard and Hagler's wins over Hearns? Those wins qualified those fighters as some of the all-time greats in the sport.
Best #2: The Hitman
Notable Examples: Thomas "The Hitman" Hearns, Ricky "The Hitman" Hatton, Mikkel "Hitman" Kessler
"The Hitman" is one of those tried-and-true boxing nicknames that is just so apt for certain fighters that it cannot be ignored. It possesses a good, strong sound, solid imagery, and clever wordsmanship.
It's tailor-made for boxing: not only does it signify that the person deals some heavy hits, but the image it conjures up (of a well-trained, hired gun who will stop at nothing to get the job done) beautifully fits what so many prizefighters are trying to portray.
It has a long lineage of successful boxers who have held the name, but more importantly, it also describes the types of fighters they are: hard-hitting, offensive-minded punchers.
This is why it hasn't caught on as well with Kessler (who stylistically better fits "The Viking Warrior" and "Simply the Best"), but it was such a good nickname for Hearns that it supplanted his other awesome nickname "The Motor City Cobra," as his career progressed.
There will be another day, probably very soon, when another young, exciting fighter arises and becomes someone who we are glad to see carry the flag of "The Hitman."
Best #1: Sugar
Notable Examples: "Sugar" Ray Robinson, "Sugar" Ray Leonard, "Sugar" Shane Mosley, "Sugar" Ray Seales, Ultiminio "Sugar" Ramos, boxing historian Bert Sugar, and many, many others
Boxing is known as "the sweet science," so it's fitting that "Sugar" is the best common nickname in the sport. Unlike in cooking, there is simply no "Sugar" substitute in boxing.
It is probably the most widely recognized nickname in all of boxing, being shared by some of the greatest fighters of all time (the 5 fighters listed above have been (or in Mosley's case, will be) inducted into at least one boxing Hall of Fame, and Robinson is often considered the best ever) and has also inspired some low-level imitations.
When well-used, this nickname describes a fighter of such skill level that you can almost taste the sweetness in their style. Sure, it is sometimes given prematurely to less-skilled fighters, but the nickname "Sugar" is the "little black dress" of boxing: it is a proven classic and will never go out of style.