While giving a rundown of the biggest happenings in the sport to one of my roommates the other night (believe it or not, he had not heard a thing about the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather negotiations; sometimes it’s not such a small world), he made a comment that boxers’ names seem to be less interesting than they once were. He yearned for the days when fighters with names like Evander, Riddick and Pernell ruled the world and seemed a little underwhelmed by names like Tim Bradley and Paul Williams.
What he failed to realize is that for every Paul Williams, there is a Yuriorkis Gamboa. Prompted by my friend’s innocuous comment, I gathered what I consider to be the most interesting names in boxing today. I culled the list from the Ring rankings. Get your tongue ready for some twisting and enjoy.
From heaviest to lightest:
1. Nicolay Valuev – Half of the heavyweight top ten could have made this list. A third of the heavyweight top ten have names that I would have brutally abused as a wiseass ten-year old (the brothers Klitschko and Chris Arreola). Yet one name stands above all others, one that happens to belong to a man who literally stands above all others, the Russian Giant, Nicolai Valuev. Other than Ivan Drago, think of a better name for a Russian giant boxer. Just try it, I’ve got all day. You can’t, because Nicolai Valuev is an awesome name.
2. Zsolt Erdei – The name sounds like a Hungarian superhero. While he may not be able to outrun a speeding bullet, Zsolt can lay claim to one of the cruiserweight belts and one of the best names in a division loaded with phenomenal names.
3. Giacobbe Fragomeni – Here’s a fun game: find someone who isn’t a boxing fan (that shouldn’t be difficult). Tell that person that there is a successful, fairly famous guy in Italy named Giacobbe Fragomeni. Ask that person what they imagine Giacobbe Fragomeni does for a living. Prepare for a whole lot of wrong answers and a whole lot of insistence that he has to be a fashion designer.
4. Ola Afolabi – The only thing more fun than saying it is singing it.
5. Tavoris Cloud – His first name sounds like a Mitsubishi model. His last name is a headline-writer’s dream. Thus, Cloud was a no brainer for inclusion.
6. Vyacheslav Uzelkov – Not only does Uzelkov make the list for having an awesome Eastern Euro name, I have no idea who this guy is. It’s pretty rare these days for a guy in the Ring ranking to completely slip my consciousness, so Uzelkov gets bonus points. According to BoxRec, he beat Gabriel Campillo by KO in 2007, so he must have some talent to go with his neat moniker.
7. Sebastian Zbik – He shares a first name with the former Skid Row frontman and his last name is some sort of Scrabble superword. The best thing about Zbik, however, may be his hometown: SchwerinMecklenburg-Vorpommern, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany. Oh, those Germans and their concision.
8. Kermit Cintron – From “Eighteen and Life” to “It Ain’t Easy Being Green.” Why he hasn’t worked out a marketing tie-in with Absolut, I’ll never know.
9. Vanes Martirosyan – I don’t really know what makes Vanes’ name so awesome, but awesome it is.
10. Amir Khan – I was never a Star Trek guy. In fact, I am pretty positive that I have never really seen anything Star Trek related from beginning to end. I am, however, a huge comedy nerd who has been deluged with enough Star Trek references to boast a reasonable familiarity with the show. Thus, despite my actual Star Trek ignorance, allow me to simply say this: KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!
11. Paulus Moses – Charlton Heston may not be playing him in a biopic anytime soon but Moses makes the list regardless with a commanding name (ugh, I should just give this up…).
12. Humberto Soto – It’s time to rhyme! Plus, Humberto is such a cool name.
13. Mzonke Fana – I’m a sucker for consecutive consonants that would have no business starting a word next to each other in American English. Rogers Mtagwa would have been a lock for the list was he a top 10 fighter in his division.
14. Yuriorkis Gamboa – With or without the caps and exclamation point, this is arguably the coolest name in boxing right now. I feel like he should pull an Ichiro and just go by Yuriorkis.
15. Celestino Caballero – Smooth and seductive, Celestino Caballero sounds less like a fighter than an exotic wine or a tiny island paradise. Also, his last name means “gentleman” in Spanish, so he’s got that going for him.
16. Poonsawat Kratingaenggym – There are exotic names and then there are Thai names. This is an epic Thai name. Bonus points are awarded because “Poonsawat” sounds vaguely like an insult.
17. Hozumi Hasegawa – Another name I just like to say. The alliteration and the rhythm help but more than anything this one is just fun. I probably need a hobby. Well, I guess this is my hobby, so I probably really need a life.
18. Silence Mabuza – Dude’s name is Silence. End of story.
19. Simphiwe Nongqayi – I don’t know how it’s pronounced and I don’t care. That’s a name!
20. Koki Kameda – Koki as a name is just so… kooky. Then you add the fact that he’s a fighter. Then you add the fact that he’s a fighter who taunts and insults his opponents even though his name is Koki and it becomes impossible to keep him off the list.
21. Pongsaklek Wonjongkam – The second Thai fighter on the list is a legend in the sport. Something about Pongsaklek also sounds dirty to me but it could be that all Thai names sound like profanity to my untrained American ear. Earmuffs!
22. Oleydong Sithsamerchai – Huh huh huh-huh he said Oleydong huh-huh-huh-huh.