For me the word excitement is open to interpretation relative to the sport of boxing. It can mean the match-up of two marquee names or possibly a unification bout between respected world champions, but those factors do not necessarily guarantee an exciting fight. It could also mean watching an extraordinary talent ply his trade but as we have so often seen that can equate to round after boring round of domination and a match devoid of surprises. Generally speaking excitement equates to action, ebb and flow, a surprise or two all intermixed with a sense of danger. Typically you need to have at least one willing party in order to produce excitement, a fighter willing to stick it out there in order to make it happen; a warrior willing to press the outcome.
I’ve compiled a list of the ten most exciting fighters in boxing today. Forget pound-per-pound, this is a list of warriors and gunslingers that specialize in pushing it to the brink, producing drama and excitement.
35-2, 28 KO’s
WBA light middleweight champion
Make no bones about it “Junito” is a special fighter. He’s taken on all comers and although along the way he’s taken a few licks his spirit, fighting resolve and talent has seen him win major world titles at super lightweight, welterweight and most recently at light middleweight, a division where he is outsized by the majority of fighters occupying the top twenty rankings. As evidenced by his brutal defeats at the hands of Manny Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito, Cotto fights until the very end. Expect no less from him on this last leg of a fine career as he looks to defend his newly acquired title while waiting for one last mega fight to close out the show.
Sugar Shane Mosley
Yeah, I know Mosley was summarily routed by Floyd Mayweather JR in his last bout but the outcome of that showing is beside the point. It was the bout he gave us the year before which underlines just who Mosley is at his very best; a gifted fighter with a seek and destroy mentality of a warrior. I credit the former three-division champ for taking on the much larger Antonio Margarito at a point when many other fighters found excuses to avoid him. He’s made a career of taking on the best willing opposition and although some of the style match-ups didn’t necessarily suit him he still accepted the challenge and pressed the issue. That’s a warrior.
27-2-1, 21 KO’s
“Vicious” Victor is good enough and destructive enough to level 90% of the foes he faces and just defensively flawed enough so that he gets hit. It’s the work he tries to do each time out that makes him exciting. Admittedly he is a work in progress and I suspect that soon enough we’ll get a true sense of where he is going in the sport, but for now he is mandatory viewing.
18-0, 15 KO’s
WBA World featherweight champion
The former Olympic gold medalist from Cuba, now living in Florida, sometimes reminds me of a young Mike Tyson. He comes out of the corner at the first bell angling to deliver destruction and his whirlwind follow-up is a thing of beauty. He’s hit the deck a few times in the past but given what he was trying to do when he found himself there I’m given to accept his defensive shortcomings and enjoy his game for what it is. His latest victory was in a unification bout with former IBF featherweight titlist Orlando Salido. The direction “El Ciclon de Guantanamo” is heading to a big money super fight with undefeated WBO kingpin Juan Manuel Lopez or back to the drawing board.
Juan Manuel Lopez
29-0, 26 KO’s
WBO featherweight champion
Like the previous name on this list “Juanma” is an undefeated power puncher who has over time cultivated a reputation as a seek and destroy aggressor bent on stopping foes as if he were double-parked. The difference here is that Lopez has recently tempered his game with a good dose of patience, the result undoubtedly having its roots in last year’s near disaster against the sturdy Rogers Mtagwa, a journeyman that all but stopped Lopez in the closing moments of a match that was not expected to go the distance. Expect the Puerto Rican southpaw to be both patient and reckless if a unification super fight with Yuriorkis Gamboa is ever made.
19-1, 16 KO’s
Angulo reminds me of a pit bull terrier. He tears into foes the moment he gets close enough to land a glove. He has the temperament of a pit bull and his punches zero in for the finish with an unexpected precision. His recent blowout of former WBA World light middleweight champion Joachim Alcine and before that his execution of the undefeated Harry Joe Yorgey were impressive demonstrations of his willingness to engage and destroy anything in front of him.
36-2, 32 KO’s
His recent loss of the WBC/WBO middleweight titles illustrated why so many fans are given to liking and believing in “The Ghost”. He’s cut from the cloth of give and take, rarely takes a backward step and mostly wears the rigors of battle on his face, a sure sign that he’s stepped into the line of fire. We’ve seen Pavlik get up off of the canvas to secure victory and bleed from the heart in defeat. His career may or may not have peaked and presently he would seem to be in a sort of nowhere man’s land with little opportunity at 160 and precarious waters above at super middleweight. A scheduled November comeback bout will tell us much about what lies ahead. Either way expect to see him take his share of lumps as he blazes away with both guns.
Sergio Gabriel Martinez
45-2-2, 24 KO’s
WBC/WBO middleweight champion
“Maravilla” recently became the man to beat at 160lbs by outfighting the bigger and more powerful Kelly Pavlik for the middleweight championship. Of particular note was his ability to adjust his game, but for the most part it was Martinez wiliness to advance and press the betting favorite to the very edge which tipped matters in his favor. And it’s not like any of this was a surprise. Last December Martinez shocked the world by climbing off the deck to floor the reputed “most avoided man in boxing”, coming within a whisker of handing Paul “The Punisher” Williams his second defeat. In it “Maravilla” repeatedly gave as well as he got, angling the larger favorite with cute, well-timed rushes and demonstrating grit rare these days. Hopefully we’ll see him in a rematch with Williams but if we don’t, you can be sure that Martinez will be taking his all against some other unsuspecting middleweight, much to our delight.
39-1, 27 KO’s
The so-called “most avoided man in boxing” has had a couple of close shaves as of late. You could easily make the case that he lost last December’s bout with Sergio Martinez or that at worst the bout should have been ruled a draw. And he looked less than spectacular getting a ridiculous split four-round decision verdict last spring after struggling with underdog Kermit Cintron before a freak incident precipitated the latter being launched through the ropes and onto the ringside press section. That incident should have been ruled a no contest, but much has been invested in “The Punisher” and for better or for worse he was given the verdict much to the chagrin of balanced and unbiased viewers. The truth of the matter is that “The Punisher” cannot resist a good dust-up, and thanks his warrior’s spirit, sturdy chin and excellent work rate this makes him irresistible to hardcore fans that thirst for excitement. The “most avoided man in boxing” no longer really applies to Williams and it’s a misnomer. He doesn’t shut-out his foes in clinical fashion. He puts himself into the line of fire like the gunslinger bent on victory at all costs. A mindset like that invariably breeds drama – and excitement.
51-3-2, 38 KO’s
The reigning pound for pound king of boxing just happens to be one of its most exciting fighters. Having lost only once over the past decade, he’s turned back the favored Oscar De La Hoya, obliterated Ricky Hatton, beaten-up the vastly talented Miguel Cotto and forced the formidable Joshua Clottey to turtle when it counted most. That’s some body of work, and it doesn’t take into account his numerous high-end victories before 2008, or his multi-division championships. His next scheduled bout with be with Antonio Margarito later this fall. Expect Pacquiao to attack the larger Mexican with abandon, and possibly a few tense moments before the mushroom cloud.