The Art Of The Ring Entrance

When Jorge Arce pulled out of his Feb. 9 fight with an injury, he deprived us not only of his in-ring pocket rocket explosiveness, but also of what surely would have been another flamboyant spectacle of a ring entrance.
The ring entrance is all part of the show in boxing. Arce is becoming one of its masters. It’s already strange enough, seeing a tiny little human sporting a lollipop and cowboy hat en route to beatdown time. But last year, he arrived to one bout with the same props on a dancing horse. Fantastic.
There’s an art to this. If a fighter does it well, he might intimidate his opponent or fire up his fans. (See: A certain British fighter coming out to a combination of Winston Churchill and a local soccer anthem.) If he does it poorly, he’ll go down in ring lore, but at least it’s fodder for amusement. (See: A certain boxer coming out to the dulcet tones of Right Said Fred, with Right Said Fred er, himself, singing him to the ring.) If he does it weirdly, well, things get really weird. (See: A certain undead fighter coming out via casket.)
So here’s a review of some of the best and worst of ring entrances over the last few decades of boxing, with the usual caveat that if you know of some that’re better, you’re obligated to share.

Any discussion of entrances into the boxing ring must begin with Naseem Hamed. Yes, at times, his were excruciatingly long. Yes, his dancing and posturing had tremendous capacity to annoy. But for sheer inventiveness, his career of strolling to combat is untoppable. Of course, you were guaranteed at least a forward flip over the top rope. Beyond that, he did everything from lower himself down into the ring on an elevator, as well as on a trapeze; get sung to the ring in Detroit by The Temptations themselves; and in what is perhaps the ultimate ring entrance of all time, arrive via flying carpet. As seen here:

You could waste all day on YouTube watching Hamed’s antics. I recommend it.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Mike Tyson. Don’t need any frills? Want a ring walk that frightens more than entertains? Tyson was your man. In the early days, he came in with no robe and no socks, just his black trunks, black shoes and a towel with a neck-hole cut through it. Message: “I’m all about the business of ass-whuppin’ and I’ve got no time for some idiotic embroidery.”
Chris Eubank’s ring walk had an equal number of fans and haters. It was somewhere between Hamed’s Fancy Dan and Tyson’s Terminator. He’d strut out posing to “Simply the Best,” sneering along the way and even batting at outstretched hands with disdain. Then he’d mount the side of the ring, glower at the audience and leap over the top rope:

Well-chosen theme music can say everything, props or no. Perhaps the finest example is Lennox Lewis’ ring entrance for his rematch with Hasim Rahman, who had shockingly knocked him out in their first meeting. Lewis chose James Brown’s “The Big Payback.” That’s one scruffy revenge tale, if the title’s not a giveaway. That Lewis backed it up by obliterating Rahman made it all the sweeter.
Now an executive with the sport’s biggest promoter, Bernard Hopkins was once boxing’s rebel, fighting with the powers that be outside the ring even as he built a steady path to greatness. His defeat of Felix Trinidad thrust him into stardom. His fight with Oscar De La Hoya thrust him into superstardom. His entrance music that night was Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”
At 7’2″, 300 pounds, Nicolay Valuev would be a great implement with which to paint a masterpiece ring entrance. No funny flips needed, because he just steps right over the top rope. No kidding. Alas, he once entered to the mawkish Goo Goo Dolls anthem “Iris,” as sung by an ex-member of an Irish boy band. Lame.
Now, Monty Python was a pioneer of comedy. But is walking to a boxing ring to “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life,” like Brian Nielsen did, smart or stupid? Let’s just file that one under “weird.”
It’s not going to work. It never has before. A song written by a boxer, or, especially, for a boxer, is just not going to not suck.
A boxer coming out to a song he performed — that means you, De La Hoya and Roy Jones — is just tacky. Even if he wins a Grammy, like De La Hoya did. Or has passable rap skills, however generous it may be to Jones.
A boxer coming out to a song written for him — that means you, Kostya Tzyu, John Duddy and others — is just corny. For a double-dose of awfulness, here’s both Tzyu’s theme song and Duddy’s, both of which prove that the idea of having a personal theme song is far cooler in theory than in practice:

Hamed’s guest appearance by The Temptations is far from the only time a musician has come out with a boxer. Cory Spinks made a big show of himself in a homecoming fight in St. Louis, walking out with fellow St. Lunatic Nelly just rappin’ away. They even had coordinated dance moves:

Too bad Zab Judah KO’d him. On the rap tip, Jones talked Method Man and Redman into rapping him out once, and for his most recent fight, Rick Ross accompanied. On the “suck” tip, Sven Ottke came out in 2003 with Right Said Fred, the one hit wonders who gave the world “I’m Too Sexy.” In his defense, maybe they were big in Germany still.
Some fighters bring whole bands. How’s this for awesome: Salvador Sanchez and Wilfredo Gomez once came to the ring with dueling mariachi and salsa bands, respectively. Then the bands themselves got into a fight in the ring before Sanchez and Gomez squared off. The bagpipe players for Kevin McBride were a little more civilized.
Hopkins’ executioner masks polarized fans. Some thought them stupid. Maybe I grew up on too much professional wrestling, but I liked them. It would’ve made the fights much more entertaining if he could have left them on during the fight, although I suppose it would have given him an unfair advantage.
I also grew up on Smurfs, but that doesn’t justify Arthur Abraham coming into the ring wearing a Smurf hat. Or having girls dressed as Smurfs joining him. Now, Abraham’s nobody to screw with. He scored one of last year’s most vicious knockouts, and he once fought on with a badly broken jaw. But, really. Smurfs?:

Hector Camacho practically invented the costume gag, and at minimum took it to a new level. Here is but one representative sample:

Others have come dressed in more clearly defined roles. Both Jones and Winky Wright have come out in easily-strippable formal wear, from business suits to tuxedos. Both Floyd Mayweather and Michael Katsidis have arrived to the ring as gladiators; Mayweather was carried, in fact. (Mayweather’s style choices in the ring are at least as interesting as his ring entrances — pink boxing gloves, once, and trunks made of fur, leather or both [how many animals died for those trunks?])
The award for strangest costume goes to Jorge Paez. Says here he once showed up to an arena in a wedding dress. Take that, Dennis Rodman.
If boxing brings out the animalistic side, then perhaps making the affiliation explicit in a ring entrance makes sense. Arce and his horse, for instance.
It wasn’t popular, but Fernado Vargas + white tiger in a cage = interesting ring entrance.
Failing that, no reason for a boxer not to come out in a cage himself, then get down on all fours and roam the ring, the way Sonni Michael Angelo once did.
Wilbert “Vampire” Johnson came out a couple times in a coffin, dressed as — what else? — a vampire. ‘Nuff said.
Hector Camacho, Jr., son of the costumed bandit himself, has brought his own flair to the colorful entrance. From the Nevada Appeal comes this 2000 account: “With his father, a former three-time world champion who is still fighting, and family at ringside, Junior first came popping up from a big black cauldron of steaming witches’ brew in an outfit and hat that is undescribable with mere words on paper.”
It says in a few corners of the Internet that Steve Murray, a former tree surgeon turned boxer, came out once with a chainsaw. I can’t confirm it anywhere. But if I could, that would complete the “morbid” triumvirate.
Really, there’s a lot more out there that I wish I could confirm.
One of my all-time favorite ring walks was designed to do nothing but irritate the fighter’s opponent. Cinco de Mayo weekend in 2007 hosted the biggest fight of all time, money-wise. In one corner was De La Hoya, who’d had his “Mexicanness” questioned by more than one opponent. In the other was Mayweather. Mayweather did the most galling thing possible by walking to the ring in a giant sombrero and trunks that matched the color of the Mexican flag. Was it a jerk move? Yes. Was I rolling around on the floor laughing? You better believe it.
McCall has proven plenty times over that he’s a troubled individual. He did so most vividly by crying in the ring, refusing to defend himself and quitting in his second fight against Lennox Lewis. I’ve never seen McCall’s entrance that night, only the fight itself, but his tears were reportedly evident even then. We should have seen that breakdown coming for so many reasons.
When in doubt, why shouldn’t a boxer just be introduced before his walk-in by the sound of a spotlit blacksmith clanging away at his anvil? Especially if, like Vladimir Klitschko, his nickname is “Dr. Steelhammer?”
Awww. This one’s for the ladies. Michael Dokes used to hand out roses to women at ringside as he made his way to the ring.
Certain fighters will engender an energetic reaction from the crowd just by rote repetition of a familiar entrance in conjunction with being a national icon or otherwise having won a slavish fan base. One does it better than any other.
It’s the perfect formula for nearly starting a riot. Ricky Hatton’s fighting style and good ol’ Manchester boy personality already made him wildly popular in the U.K. But Winston Churchill kicks off his ring entrance, or at least it did against Jose Luis Castillo (“We will fight!”). Then comes the easy sing-a-long music of the old song “Blue Moon.” But Hatton’s version is the same as the Manchester soccer team’s, which turns punk rock a little ways in. That it’s a beloved soccer team’s theme guarantees that the British fans will be worked into a serious lather:

Sometimes, things just don’t go quite right.
Arturo Gatti’s late-career entrance music, AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck,” may belong in the previous category, because it surely fired up his fans. How couldn’t it? The song’s perfectly designed to build tension for a fight. But then, the night Gatti was wiped out by Mayweather, the explosion of fireworks behind him was so loud and sudden that he cringed and started to cover his head in fear.
And hey, it backfires on the masters sometimes. Hamed got hit with beer by (a) hostile Mexican fan(s) as he was lowered to the ground via trapeze for his fight with Mexican hero Marco Antonio Barrera.
(Tip o’ the Pen: The many boxing message boards, from Yahoo! to, without whom I would’ve been depending entirely on my own memory. Their discussions served as an excellent starting point for the research behind this compilation.)

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.