Whatever your opinion of boxing, I think you'd be forced to admit that it is without peer among sports in one vital category: nicknames.
For years, nicknames in almost every other sport have been going downhill, and steeply. The whole "first initial dash last name" trend has gotten way out of hand.
There are some exceptions around—my hometown Washington Wizards seem set on reversing the erosion of basketball nicknames, with Gilbert "Agent Zero" Arenas and Caron "Tough Juice" Butler constituting an excellent start—but even then, boxing has a leg up.
It's the only sport where almost everyone has a nickname.
In light of this, I think a compilation of the best boxing nicknames is warranted. So how have I come to write this item, and what are my criteria?
As I'm completely fascinated by this trend, I'm going to ignore the fact that on some boxing bulletin boards, nickname discussions are frowned upon, since they appear to come very frequently.
I ignore this criticism even as those same boxing bulletin boards provided some of the very material I'll be using. If you don't want to read another list of awesome boxing nicknames, feel free to sit this one out.
Because my point here is that boxing is the only sport that maintains high-quality nicknames, I'm going to ignore historical or fictional nicknames. Before his ill-fated meeting with Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, Apollo Creed had a list of nicknames read by the announcer.
On that list was "The Count Of Monte Fisto." That's the best boxing nickname ever, if you ask me, and as such it pains me not to include it. So, only active fighters, or fighters who are listed as inactive as of 2007—given boxers' tendencies to retire and unretire frequently—are on my list.
And lastly, my definition of a good nickname is creative and/or hilarious. I've got no problem with the "Sugars" and "Pretty Boys" of the world, but I will more openly root for a fighter who is named after some kind absurd creature or the other.
Which brings us to the list—I'll hit it by category of nickname, awarding "best ofs" in each slot and discussing a couple of the best of the rest before concluding with honorable mentions.
The "Some Kind Of Creature" Category
Andrew "Six Heads" Lewis may be one head short of a hydra, but he got his nickname honestly. The story goes that after he knocked out an opponent, he so disoriented the man that when he came to, he thought Lewis had six heads.
Oliver "The Atomic Bull" McCall's nickname is completely appropriate. No boxer of the last few years has been as likely to go into nuclear meltdown as good old Oliver, as he showed when he cried and stood with his hands down in front of Lennox Lewis.
But nothing beats Adam "The Swamp Donkey" Richards. Nothing. Before you laugh, ask yourself if you would like to get into a fight with a swamp donkey, whatever that is. OK, go ahead and laugh.
Honorable mention: Juan "El Pollo" Valenzuela; Nicolay "The Beast From The East" Valuev; Francois "The White Buffalo" Botha; Joe "The Italian Dragon" Calzaghe; Richard "The Alien" Grant
The "Childhood-Related" Category
Henry "Sugar Poo" Buchanan's name is a blend of the typical "Sugar" nickname and the pet epithet his mother has called him since he was a child, "Poo." But ultimately, his name translates to, ahem, "sweet feces."
Steve "2 Pound" Forbes actually has a fairly inspirational back story - he was two pounds when he was born. You have to admit it's pretty amazing he managed to start from weighing as much as a raven can eat in a day and end up a former boxing titlist.
The award here goes to Diego "Pelucho" Morales, which translates from Spanish to "teddy bear." Yes, there is a boxer who thought it made sense to go by the nickname "teddy bear."
Honorable mentions: Peter "Kid Chocolate" Quillin; Almazbek "Kid Diamond" Raiymkulov; Acelino "Popo" Freitas; Ronald "Winky" Wright; Marco Antonio "The Baby-Faced Assassin" Barrera
The "Fairly Intimidating, Truth Be Told" Category
Kingsley "Sharp Knuckle" Ikeke is the nickname of a guy I wouldn't want to punch me in the face. It just doesn't sound all that pleasant. It's not like getting hit with regular, non-sharpened knuckles is all that enjoyable.
DaVarryl Williamson goes by "Touch Of Sleep," and at first, it isn't all that scary. But think about it for a second. If a boxer could just touch you and you'd go to sleep, that would be a pretty good boxer.
The winner gets points not only for having a nickname of something that is frightening in real life, but because when you say it with his real name, it's all kinds of fun: Archak "Shark Attack" TerMeliksetian. Say it, if you can.
Honorable mentions: James "Lights Out" Toney; Jermain "Bad Intentions" Taylor; Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins
The "By Contrast, Not Very Intimidating At All" Category
This may be the funniest category, with two men named after a cartoon character, one named after a video game and one named after the sound you'd make to a slow waiter. I think you have to start with John "The Quiet Man" Ruiz. Nothing is scary about quiet. (Or is there?)
"El Pollo" means "the chicken" in Spanish. So Juan "El Pollo" Valenzuela must be going for "fool him into thinking I'm scared of HIM" or something.
I am, however, extremely partial to the category's winner, Darnell "Ding-A-Ling Man" Wilson. It sounds funny. It reduces knockouts to comical, bell-ringing imagery. And I like the idea of a man whose trade is "Ding-A-Ling," like, say, the ice cream man.
Honorable mentions: Jose "Pato Lucas" (Daffy Duck) Sanchez; DeMarcus "Chop Chop" Corley; Manny "Pac-Man" Pacquiao; Lance "Goofi" Whitaker; Diego "Pelucho" (Teddy Bear) Morales; Calvin "The Boxing Banker" Brock
The "Actually, That's A Profession" Category
Not that big a category, this one, so let's award a three-way tie. The winners are Calvin "The Boxing Banker" Brock (which also made the "not so intimidating" category), and the brothers Klitschko: "Dr. Ironfist" Vitali Klitschko and "Dr. Steelhammer" Wladimir Klitschko.
Anyone who can box and bank at the same time, as Brock really can as a former bank employee, gets my vote. Likewise, the Klitschko brothers already sound and look like supervillains, and their nicknames only enhance that effect.
Honorable mentions: Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins; Marco Antonio "The Baby-Faced Assassin" Barrera
The "Geography And Ethnicity" Category
It's a time-honored tradition to let the crowd know where you came from, and a nickname's one way to do it. Brian "The Hawaiian Punch" Viloria isn't all about fruit drinks—he's from Hawaii, and he punches for a living. Get it?
It's kind of creepy that Francois "The White Buffalo" Botha, from South Africa, would have a nickname alluding to his skin color, but I read that he did once say he wanted to win a world title for Nelson Mandela.
Ultimately, the winner is Juan "The Hispanic Causing Panic" Lazcano, because you can't beat a rhyming phrase. Which brings us to our next category after the honorable mentions.
Honorable mentions: Samuel "The Nigerian Nightmare" Peter; Kevin "The Flushing Flash" Kelly; Nonito "The Filipino Flash" Donaire; Nicolay "The Beast From The East" Valuev; Joe "The Italian Dragon" Calzaghe; Sergio "The Latin Snake" Mora; Chris "The Indonesian Thin Man" John
The "Complete Sentences And Phrases" Category
This is another exceptionally competitive category, but one of the finalists, Owen "What The Heck?" Beck gets points for rhyming AND putting the question mark in the nickname.
Friday "The 13th" Ahunanya may have chosen the obvious route, given his first name, but you have to give him points for following through with it, right?
But a fighter I'd not previously heard of takes the cake: Mitch "Hold My Beer" Hicks. I'm pretty sure that phrase is regularly uttered before fights all over the world, although I doubt that's the case for professional boxing.
I also like the implication that he's drunk in the ring, and that he wants to get rid of his opponent quickly so that he can resume getting drunk.
Honorable mentions: Dat "Be Dat" Nguyen; O'Neil "Give 'Em Hell" Bell
The "Random, Non-Sensical Or Doesn't Fit In Any Other Category" Category
Andre Ward once went by the nickname "The All-Terrain Fighter." Want to fight in a tundra? He'll meet you there. Quicksand? He's an all-terrain fighter, dude. Now, his nickname is the less humorous "S.O.G.," for "Son of God." Not bad, though.
If you were named Ray Robinson, would you take up a boxing career because it would be your destiny? Maybe, but you'd have to distinguish yourself from the first Ray Robinson. So you could call yourself "The New" Ray Robinson.
But maybe you just want to take everyone else's name no matter what. If so, you'd be the winner in this slot: Anthony "Sugar Ray Clay Jones Jr." Small. The guy had no trouble naming himself after Muhammad Ali or any other great, but I hear he's changed his name to "The Scream." Again, that's not bad, but not an improvement.
Honorable mentions: Nate "The Galaxxy Warrior" Campbell; Tony "Oakey Kokey" Oakey; Steve "U.S.S." Cunningham
The "Not Really Their Nicknames, But Funny Nicknames Others Use For Them" Category
We conclude with a pseudo-category. But because the entries are funny, it makes my list, and I can't bring myself to award a winner.
"Slappy" Joe Calzaghe gets his nickname from his slapping punch style, and derives on a parallel track from a particularly humorous sandwich.
"Ricky Fatton" is a nickname Ricky Hatton earned by gaining 30 or 40 pounds between fights, and he being a fellow of good sport, he has embraced the nickname and has walked out in his last two fights in a fat suit.
When Amir Khan got knocked out in the first round of his last fight, he got saddled with the nickname "A Mere Con." Ouch. But you have to admit: funny.
At one point, Jermain Taylor's popularity sunk so low that there were two nasty takes on his "Bad Intentions" nickname: "Bad Decisions" (because he'd won three fights on the scorecards many thought he'd lost) and "No Intentions" (for his curious stagnation in the ring).
Andrew Golota is Polish, and he once lost back-to-back fights by disqualification for repeated low blows, and thus "The Foul Pole" is really the only nickname option to speak of.
And Manny Pacquiao doesn't want to be called "The Mexecutioner," but people will keep calling that as long as he keeps beating Mexicans, because it's too much fun to say out loud. Good luck next weekend against Oscar De La Hoya, Mexicutioner!
(Originally presented at http://queensberry-rules.com)