12 Best Chins of Combative Sport History
In the world of combat sport, a fighter needs many things if they want to have a hope of success.
They need a mastery of distance, a dedication to conditioning, good footwork, steel nerves, and so on and so on. There are so many needed components that no one fighter has been able to claim them all.
Many of those needed things can be found in the gym, given the right coach and training partners.
But some things only god grants, and one seems paramount above all others, save power: that of a solid chin.
Upon reading a recent piece by Kevin Nail of Buddhasport.com, I was reminded that the definition of what makes a strong chin is speculative at best. Out of Kevin’s list, I found I only agreed with one entry: Roy Nelson.
Upon further consideration, I found that I had to include fighters from both boxing and mixed martial arts. Perhaps, it's personal bias, as I love both sports, but I could not honestly separate the two when considering the subject at hand.
For myself, what makes a solid chin seems vastly different than others.
For me, a solid chin is much different than sheer resolve or the ability to recover quickly. When I think of it, the true definition of a strong chin belongs to those fighters who can take incredibly heavy shots without tasting the canvas. They can take said shots moving forward or backing up, prepared or unprepared. They can absorb those sledgehammers, no matter if they see them coming or not; their chin allows them to contend with the unexpected, on a consistent basis.
In short, I consider a solid chin to be like the fabled “Rock of Ages.”
So, upon consideration, who through the ages has possessed that kind of stone in their chin?
12. Roberto Duran
In spite of being knocked out cold by the huge right hand of Tommy “The Hitman” Hearns, Roberto Duran had one of the most solid chins of his generation.
Given his style of fighting, if he didn’t have a chin, he would have been knocked out many times.
Perhaps, the biggest and most well known example of this was in his Fight of the Year bout with Iran Barkley in 1989.
In that bout, the aged Duran took some of the most savage punches Barkley could deliver and kept on coming as if he was 10 years younger than the old man who was wearing his shoes.
It was a staggering testimony to just how important a solid beard really is, and on that night, it carried him into history.
11. Arturo Gatti
This one is kind of a toss-up.
Arturo Gatti fought many wars and was knocked down many times in his career. That fact alone normally ensures a fighter will not be quickly associated with having a steel chin.
But then you look at some of those epic wars and the flurries that chin withstood: the picture perfect combinations of Wilson Rodriguez, the brutal barnstorming of Micky Ward in Rounds 5 and 9 of their epic first bout, and so on and so on.
You look at them, all of those savage blows that came in record numbers, all landing flush on that chin, and then the answer becomes clear.
Arturo Gatti had one hell of a chin.
10. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua
Many men have fallen before Dan Henderson and his powerful right hand, dubbed “the H-bomb.”
Be it in the days of Pride or UFC 100, when Henderson starched Michael Bisping or when he KO’d Fedor in Strikeforce, his right hand has become the most-feared weapon in his arsenal.
When Dan Henderson dropped the “H-bomb” on Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, not once but several times, the fans of combative sport everywhere could only watch in awe as Shogun continued to march forward, bloodied and bruised, leaving Dan Henderson to wonder if he possessed any means at all to end the night for the Brazilian.
Simply put, Shogun endured some brutal punishment in what was one of the top-three fights in MMA history, and he did it while growing stronger down the stretch.
And to do that, my friends, you need one hell of a chin.
9. George Foreman
In his first time around, George Foreman was known for having the kind of knock-out power that became a benchmark for the heavyweight division. Fighters to come, such as Mike Tyson, were compared to Foreman, and that comparison was the highest compliment.
Later in his career, during his 40s, Foreman showed that his knock-out loss to Ali was more a matter of sheer exhaustion than a suspect chin.
Foreman took some horrific beatings at the hands of fighters like Evander Holyfield and Michael Moorer, and he was never put down.
Eventually, he was able to win the heavyweight crown once again, knocking out Moorer and shocking the world; but it was his incredible chin that allowed him to survive into the later rounds.
In a sport where the power is the last to go and the chin the first, Foreman proved he had plenty of both.
8. Don Frye
In the sport of MMA, Don Frye was the quintessential tough guy—a fierce competitor with enough true grit to make John Wayne tip his hat, power and a rock-solid chin.
He saw that chin tested in many fights, but perhaps none more so than his short-but-epic brawl with David “Tank” Abbott.
In their bout, Abbott was landing massive shots that would see Frye sliding left and right with the force of each blow, even knocking him down in the early moments.
But Frye rose, shook it off, and went toe-to-toe, eating heavy leather before he finally pounced on Abbott, who fell trying to go backwards.
He began to lose via KO/TKO in his later years, after age caught up with him, but in his day, he had so much steel in his chin that he needed a blowtorch just to shave.
7. Joe Frazier
The man known as “Smokin’ Joe” is remembered for many things—heart, power, aggression and passion for his sport. But in the ring, he's remembered the most for his first loss to George Foreman and his epic trilogy with Ali.
It was the final installment of said trilogy that showed the world that Joe Frazier had a chin cut from marble. He took such a brutal beating in that fight that it probably would have killed anyone else.
Even though he was destroyed by the much larger Foreman, it is known and widely accepted that Joe Frazier had one of the best chins in heavyweight history.
6. Mark Hunt
Although he was knocked out in short order by Melvin Manhoef, and again via spinning back kick by Semmy Schilt, Mark Hunt has just about the strongest chin in MMA.
Proof positive of this is the savage head kicks he took from Mirko Cro-Cop in their epic battle in Pride.
Cro-Cop is known to have just about the most powerful kicks in the business, and in their bout, he was bouncing both shins off the head of Hunt, to no effect.
When Hunt is on point, and in shape, he is virtually impossible to knock out.
5. Roy Nelson
The man known as “Big Country” has always been a bit of an underdog. A self-admitted underachiever, Nelson has never taken to doing things the way of his contemporaries, and in that aspect, his chin is no exception.
Nelson is one of the only fighters who have stood up to everything that reigning UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos could throw at him.
Although knocked down many times in their fight, it was the sheer volume of punishment he took without falling that leaves no question as to just how solid his chin is.
If the rest of Nelson’s game were equal to his chin, he’d be the champion.
4. Julio Cesar Chavez
Julio Cesar Chavez is widely (and rightly) regarded as the best fighter the country of Mexico has ever produced. He was constantly active, stepping into the professional ring over 100 times in his career, and on many a night, his chin was leading the way.
It is rare when a man fights so often, against so many great opponents and is never really knocked down or even hurt. He had been fighting hard for 14 years, defending his light welterweight title a record 20 times, before he was knocked down by Frankie Randall in 1994.
Chavez was a marvel to behold in the ring. He was one of those fighters who’s style was based on taking three shots in order to land one, if need be, and against Meldrick Taylor, it was more like he was eating eight punches for every one he landed.
Meldrick Taylor was every bit as fast as Floyd Mayweather Jr., and he hit much harder. Chavez took a brutal beating in their fight, but his chin never failed him, and he was able to pull off a knock-out victory in the closing seconds of the final round.
Since his retirement, every fighter from Mexico holds themselves in comparison to him, and no small part of their criteria is based on how their chin measures up to that of Julio Cesar Chavez, proving some legends are carved from stone.
3. David Tua
David Tua may not have been the fastest heavyweight boxer, or the most skilled, but he had arguably the best chin in the division during his time, and perhaps, the most power.
David Tua was able to absorb incredible punishment, slowly working his way into favorable range. Fighters would open up on him as if there was no tomorrow, and he would take it all, content that everything was going according to plan. That plan usually ended in Tua leveling them with the kind of power not seen since Tyson or Shavers.
The only knock-out loss of his career came when he was a teenager.
2. Marvin Hagler
There are few fighters who have had their chin tested by true knock-out monsters; men with a signature weapon that almost always spells doom for those who feel it.
For John “The Beast” Mugabi, it was his uppercut. For Tommy Hearns, it was his mighty right hand.
Against the chin of Hagler, neither weapon was of any use.
To understand this, one must consider the weapons of note. John Mugabi had a true perfect record when he fought Hagler; he was undefeated, and he had stopped all of his opposition inside of the time limit, never giving the judges a job. He was a bomber, pure and simple.
For Hearns, his right hand was the stuff of legend. He was the only man to knock out Duran in his prime, and he did it early in their fight, thanks to that right hand. Normally, when Hearns landed his right, it was lights out for whomever was on the other side of his fist.
Hagler took everything both men had to offer, repeatedly, and ended up knocking them both out.
There can be no doubt that Hagler possessed one of the best chins in the history of the sport.
1. Jake LaMotta
The man known as “The Raging Bull” is a true legend of the sport of boxing and has just about the best chin known to the squared circle.
Yes, that's an incredible boast, to be sure. In order to back it up, it needs to be weighed in opposition against someone equally as great.
How about against the best pound-for-pound boxer in history?
How about against the best pound-for pound boxer in history, six different times?
Sugar Ray Robinson, the best boxer to ever lace up gloves, hit LaMotta with everything he could, on six different occasions, and he never knocked him down.
During their last fight, which came be known as “The Saint Valentines Day Massacre,” Robinson unloaded several severe blows to the head of LaMotta, who took them all and never fell.
It was a brutal sight to see. LaMotta was basically lying across the ropes, just taking the worst beating seen in boxing to date. Robinson was trying to finally stop LaMotta, and in the effort, he unloaded his heaviest punches, and not just one or two, but whole salvos of them.
In that fight, LaMotta took the kind of beating that would have finished any other four fighters. The referee finally called a halt to the blood bath, but LaMotta was seen smiling through his scarlet mask, happy in the knowledge that Robinson had not been able to knock him down.
Anytime a tally like this gets made, there's a list of fighters who look as if they were left out in the cold.
Fighters like Rocky Marciano, Wesley Cabbage Correira and many others could be argued to have a place on any list of top chins, and they would be right.
The only reason they and others were not on this list is simply because I had to stop the list somewhere.
That, and I think there's a difference between fighters with very good chins and fighters with excellent chins.
But enough of me; what say you?