Since the very beginning of boxing, trainers have always suggested and reminded their fighters of the significance of the jab. I have heard many current professional trainers say that if they could upgrade any attribute of their fighters, it would undoubtedly be their jab. The reason for the fanaticism of this seemingly weak-pecking punch is the wide spectrum of uses that it has in the ring.
An effective sharp jab has the following potential in any given fight: It creates space, it derails the opposition as they start throwing a combination, it gives a fighter an opportunity to take time and feel out the movement of their opponent without much risk, it sets up for an offense, and last but not least it provides a very efficient way of scoring points and breaking down the opponent via punch volume.
A jab is even more crucial in heavyweight boxing. As these very big and heavy men move, their energy is quickly drained. A combination can sometimes leave a heavyweight fighter gasping for oxygen for the remainder of the round. The boxers who were able to master their jab and find a way to use it resourcefully, were much more likely to succeed.
When looking to the past and the present, a lot of heavyweight dominating champions had this very attributes chiseled to perfection. Following, is my top 10 heavyweight jabs in boxing history:
Riddick Bowe (43-1-0) had a very interesting jab. He would use his size along with his jab to tire out smaller opposition. While his jab was far from accurate, it was constant.
For a man his size, he used his jab just the right amount, helping him last longer and stay consistent throughout the fight.
For Michael Moorer (52-4-1), the jab was essential. His jab was very consistent, and thrown with a piston-like motion. While it wasn’t a powerful jab, the volume and timing made it a big part of his game plan.
I can’t say too much about Sonny Liston’s (50-4-0) jab as far as the technicality of it, but I can surely say that it was one of the most powerful jabs in boxing history.
Thrown with a bad intention, it sometimes looked and felt like a powerful right hand. He had as much chance of knocking his opponent out with a jab, as most other heavyweights have with their fully fueled right hand.
I would not call Joe Louis’s (66-3-0) jab very powerful, but I would certainly call it crisp and exceedingly accurate. He would use his jab to snap his opponent’s head back so fast, that some of them were not even sure what they were hit with.
It was almost as if his jab came from some Chinese Kung-Fu discipline. He would keep pecking from under his chin, frustrating his opponents, in turn causing them to make offensive mistakes.
His reaching, pounding jab made George Foreman (76-5-0) a very scary opponent to face in the ring.
Foreman was like a wolf with his jab, using it to stun his opponents if only for a second, at which moment he would move in and grind them into oblivion with his knockout power.
Yes, I realize the criticism that I will be subjected to for Mike Tyson’s (50-6-0) spot on my list.
One thing that we can all appreciate and easily notice in Tyson’s jab is how he used it to measure out his opponents and get inside to deliver his hooks. For a very short heavyweight, Tyson’s success is largely due to his use of the jab.
When we talk about the jab’s ability to make space, we are talking about Mike Tyson. Without the use of his jab, Tyson’s knockout rate would not even resemble what it looks like today.
Lennox Lewis (41-2-1) knew just what to do with his long, reaching quick jab. For a boxer his size, he used his jab very accurately, respecting what it accomplished. He knew when to throw it for a prophylactic reason, and when to put real force behind it.
With Lennox, the problem was turning that jab on, but when he did, it was something to behold.
Snap! This is the best word I can use to describe Muhammad Ali’s ( 56-5-0) jab. If you combine speed, accuracy and snap, and judge them together as a whole, Ali’s jab gets a 10/10 from me.
When talking about speed, there is no question that Ali’s jab was blindingly quick. “In the May 5, 1969 Sports Illustrated, Ali’s jab was measured with an omegascope. Ali’s jab, it was found, could smash a balsa board 16.5 inches away in 19/100 of a second. It actually covered the distance in 4/100 of a second, which is the blink of an eye.”—Link
When seeing Wladimir Klitschko’s (55-3-0) accurately executed jab connect with someone’s face, I think sledgehammer. Don’t you? Wlad’s jab is not only accurate and quick for his size, but it’s also a knockout punch.
To sum it up, I would say Wlad has two power punches, the leading right hand, and his ordinary default jab.
When any given opponent is gun-shy, they are doomed before they or anyone watching the fight realize it. Throwing a jab depletes much less stamina, and with Wlad’s extraordinary powerful jab, he can throw power shots all night long.
Larry Holmes (69-6-0) had a jab, and that jab was the best jab in boxing history up to this date.
The interesting thing is that many people could argue the rest of the list, moving names up and down, adding new names, but they hardly ever argue the No.1 spot. It was remarkably accurate, unbelievably sharp and surprisingly strong.
He never relied on his jab to create an opportunity for a combination. Instead, he had a whole separate respect for his jab, and so do I!