Prelude: When I began writing this article I thought I knew what story to tell, then after doing some research it began to take a very dark and depressing tone. Define crazy. Mental illness or “man that guy is CRAZY”? With respect to those who turned out to have mental illness and took their own lives, I decided to go with the latter.
It’s true, boxing is an unnatural act and it takes a special type of individual to engage in such a sport. Eddie Dupris says it best “All fighters are pig-headed some way or another: some part of them always thinks they know better than you about something. Truth is: even if they're wrong, even if that one thing is going to be the ruin of them, if you can beat that last bad out of them... they ain't fighters at all.”
Dupris is just a character portrayed by Clint Eastwood from the 2005 Oscar winning Best Picture, Million Dollar Baby. The character, although fictitious in substance, exudes truth in his statement.
The intangible nature of a fighter is what pulls them through the championship rounds, or make them able to pull out a TKO after being down twice in the 10th round (Corrales vs. Castillo I).
Some call it heart, other say “that fighter loves to mix it up”.
It’s that element that makes some fighters champion but completely obliterates another. Let’s examine that:
Mike Tyson and 10 of The Craziest Boxers In The Sport
Golota is a loose cannon. He bit an opponent, Po’Hua, long before Mike Tyson ever bit anyone. Some remember him best against Riddick Bowe. After being disqualified in the seventh round for repeated low blows, a riot broke out, dubbed the “Riot at the Garden” and called the event of the year by Ring Magazine. Numerous people were injured, including Golata, who suffered a massive gash on his head from a member of Bowe’s entourage.
You had to be somewhat insane to box in the days when Max Baer did. Matches went 15 - 20 rounds and fighters often hit their opponents when they were down. This was the norm back in the day but Max Baer had an unusual way of delivering punishment. Hitting on breaks, sucker punching, low blows and getting a running start are just a few. Then to top it off he'd embarrass you in front of the spectators.
Corrales was one of the toughest guys in the business. Some took issue with the “mouth piece” incident during his first bout with Castillo in 2005; I think it was just plain crazy-smart. Corrales was rocked in round 10 by Castillo and went down, twice! Twice, he spit out his mouth piece knowing he would get the standing eight count and the additional time it took to wash and replace his mouth piece. As a result he recovered, came back and KO’d Castillo. Crazy ending, crazy fight!
Zab snapped after being knocked silly-legged during his bout with Tszyu. After Referee Jay Nady called a halt to the bout in the second round, Judah grabbed Nady by the neck and pushed him toward the ropes in opposition to the stoppage. With enormous potential going into the bout Judah began to spiral out of control after, culminating in the riot that broke out during his fight with Mayweather.
I think anyone at age 23 who is willing to step in the ring against the undefeated Felix Tito Trinidad, let alone get off the canvas four times to continue fighting, is crazy. Vargas was the definition of the word "ganas," a Spanish term that means he has guts. Ok, not really but that’s the polite way of saying it. Another fighter who’s out-of-ring antics dismantled his career.
The largest heavyweight of his time, Carnera was 6''5 ½' and weighed 284 pounds. That’s not what qualified him as a crazy fighter. But his mob ties did. The speculation and rumor was, the mob controlled when and how he would win a fight. You have to be a little disillusioned to get in bed with the mob.
The tattoo-covered fighter from New Mexico loved to mix it up and fight dirty. Besides his drug use, gang affiliation and trash talking, Tapia was just an animal in the ring. He had that “never say die” mentality. One of the most memorable matches was against long time friend Marco Antonio Barrera in 2002. Tapia was severely out-classed and out-matched. With some help from The Baby Faced Assassin, Tapia was allowed to finish on his feet.
When you step into the heavyweight ranks as a pro with anything less than full dedication you are pretty much conceding the match. However Arreola takes the cake when he said "I really didn't know if boxing was going to be my career. I wasn't sure about turning pro and once I did, I just took it one fight at a time. But then I starting knocking guys out and I gradually started thinking, 'Hey, maybe I can make some money doing this'." The only heavyweight I know of that just took it one fight at a time and it showed in his training. Sloppy and overweight for almost every bout, Arreola loves to eat. He broke down in the ring after his fight with Vitali in 2009, a sobbing Arreola had this to say, “I don't know man, I’m sorry everybody. I really wanted to be champion today. Vitali is a strong MF and he hits hard. I never wanted to quit. I wanted to go the full 12 rounds. I just couldn't get to him.”
The cigarette smoking, beer swilling pugilist from Nicaragua has a big mouth to say the least. The cover of the December 2003 Ring Magazine issue read "The craziest man in the sport: Mayorga lights up boxing." During the press tour for his bout with Oscar De La Hoya, Mayorga stated "This clown sitting to the right of me has disrespected me. My strongest hand is my right hand, see his eye? I'm going to use it to detach his retina.....You're going to be my bitch in my bed anytime I want you. I hate bitches and I'm going to make you my little bitch." Not to mention some very derogatory comments made about De La Hoya’s wife.
Valero is the only fighter in the 30 years of the WBC to win every fight by knockout, 19 of his 27 professional bouts ended in the first round. Edwin’s power and tenacity were amazing, but he drew his strength from a very dark place. Valero seemed to enjoy bleeding and mixing it up. The warm, red, life-giving liquid running down his face reinvigorated him and woke an animal inside him. I loved watching Valero fight!
Tyson was the youngest heavyweight to hold the WBC, WBA and IBF titles. "Iron Mike" Tyson was a ferocious fighter but he battled with demons. This became evident during the peak of his career, his enormous entourage and parties that lasted days. His reign at the top ended as abruptly as his bouts; in 1988 he divorced his wife Robin Givens after allegations of spousal abuse. In 1990 he was knocked out by Buster Douglas. After that, Rape, assault, suspension and drug abuse followed. Anyone who questions Tyson’s mental stability, here’s a few quotes to help you:
1) "I'm on the Zoloft to keep me from killing y'all."
2) "I could have knocked him out in the third round but I wanted to do it slowly, so he would remember this night for a long time."
3) “My style is impetuous, my defense is impregnable, and I'm just ferocious. I want his heart! I want to eat his children! Praise be to Allah!"
And finally my favorite - "Being a champion opens lots of doors—I'd like to get a real estate license, maybe sell insurance."