Boxing is the toughest sport. Science says so! That means if you’re doing something really badass in pugilism, you’re multiplications of badass. It’s one thing to be in the toughest sport. It’s a whole ‘nother level to be the most badass within the sport.
Just last month, welterweight Shawn Porter delivered a really cool moment of badassery. Dropped by a nasty uppercut from Errol Spence Jr., Porter got up, shook it off, and shouted “COME ON” like he really meant it. Boxers posture plenty about how not hurt they are. Porter seemed legit like he was amped by the knockdown.
Just last year we got a badass boxing moment for the ages. Heavyweight Tyson Fury went down in round 12 against probably the best one-punch fighter in the sport today, only Deontay Wilder hit him with two. Fury landed flat on his back, in the way that longtime boxing fans know means the battle has ended. Then he went all Undertaker. And brawled the rest of the round.
Not all badass stuff that happens in boxing is about miraculous recoveries. Some times it’s an act of bravado or dominance, fully backed up by execution; sometimes it’s overcoming injuries mere mortals cannot.
Here are some of those moments over this century so far. It’s a fairly arbitrary cutoff date that leaves off all-time things like Muhammad Ali’s “What’s my name?” fight or Andy Bowen and Jack Burke fighting for 110 rounds over more than seven hours in the 1800s. This ain’t meant to be history. It’s meant to highlight things that happened in some loose definition of “recently.”
Nor does it define “moment” terribly well. Pretty much every moment of the career of, say, Ruslan Provodnikov could be defined as badass. And some entire fights are badass. The general idea is that these are about something that happened once in a fight, even if that thing was only the trigger. We’ll go in reverse chronological order, with Fury vs Wilder and Spence vs Porter already covered.
2013: Marcos Maidana vs Adrien Broner
If there’s anyone a vast number of boxing fans would want to see excommunicated with a Scarlet “A” for “annoying,” it’s Broner. Maidana’s humiliation of him was immensely satisfying to that same number of fans, especially because it was a retaliatory humping. Unfortunately, Broner lingers.
2013: Sergey Kovalev vs Nathan Cleverly
The year 2013 was a Golden Age of using one’s hips for badass purposes, apparently. Kovalev deployed what has since become one of Twitter’s most beloved gifs: the infamous “crotch feint.”
2011: Bernard Hopkins vs Jean Pascal 2
A 46-year-old Hopkins would defy his age a few more years before his career ended, but at the time beating Pascal in a rematch was only the latest. In an act of mockery against his should’ve-been-fresher foe, he did push-ups mid-fight. Take that, youngblood.
2008: Israel Vasquez vs Rafael Marquez 3
Israel Vasquez needed 60 stitches after a fight he won with a torn ligament in his knee, and he might have only pulled it out with a knockdown that brought the fight to its final second. Massive.
2006: Arthur Abraham vs Edison Miranda 1
We’re getting into the real body horror business here. In the 4th round, Miranda, then one of boxing’s biggest punchers, broke Abraham’s jaw in two places. It was real ugly: Abraham’s jaw, transformed into a blood waterfall, looked like it was about to fall off (see above). Or like he had turned into a cinematic nightmare. Abraham got hit in that for another eight rounds, by, again, one of boxing’s biggest punchers, and if that didn’t hurt enough, Miranda going full low blow/head butt on “King Arthur” surely didn’t feel great, either. Despite all that Abraham won a clear decision. After the fight, Abraham got 22 screws and two titanium plates.
2005: Diego Corrales vs Jose Louis Castillo 1
As good as Fury’s recovery was, Corrales’ might have been more miraculous still. Down multiple times to start the 10th round of what this writer considers the best ever, Corrales somehow scored a comeback KO win in the same round. Well, at least part of the “somehow” is right there on film: There was a bit of mouthpiece gamesmanship by Corrales and his trainer Joe Goossen. Goossen uttering “You better fucking get inside on him, now” is part of the mythology of the bout, as if the longer Corrales had not taken immense punishment he didn’t need to against the shorter, body-punching demon that was Castillo. Said Goossen later: “The beating Diego got from Castillo’s body punches was unbelievable. They took a urine sample and it looked like a bottle of tomato juice.” The New York Jets coach would later play it for his team as an example of why you should never give up.
2005: Ricky Hatton vs Kostya Tszyu
You will occasionally hear ringside boxing commentators suggesting that, in order not to be bullied, the victim of a low blow should retaliate. It just doesn’t come this swiftly, with such disregard for the referee, and with such ferocity that you personally fold in half watching it.
2004: Antonio Tarver vs Roy Jones Jr. 2
This won’t be the only time Jones appears here, although it’s the one time he’s on the not-badass end of it. Jones blamed his shaky showing against Tarver during their first bout on his voyage down from heavyweight. Asked as usual “any questions” during the pre-fight ref summit, Tarver answered, “I got a question. You got any excuses tonight, Roy?” By the 2nd round, Tarver had scored such a shocking KO this writer remembers his upstairs neighbors waking him up with their screams.
2003: Ricardo Mayorga vs Vernon Forrest 2
Mayorga’s macho antics are legendary, doing things like eating pizza and smoking cigarettes on the scale during pre-fight weigh-in. None were probably more intimidating that Mayorga just sitting there eating punches on purpose with his hands down. (It eventually backfired against Felix Trinidad, of course.)
2003: Arturo Gatti vs Micky Ward 3
Sometimes, boxers get an injury and win anyway (see: several entries in this here story). Less often, a boxer injures a body part and still uses it. Gatti broke his right hand in the 4th against his greatest rival and still won — and while he didn’t throw his right hand quite as often after hurting it, he still punched Ward plenty in the jaw with his wounded paw.
2002: Roy Jones Jr. vs Glen Kelly
Jones famously was into cockfighting, which is not cool. Jones fought like a chicken and scored a KO with his hands behind his back, which is cool.
2001: Marco Antonio Barrera vs Naseem Hamed
“The Baby Faced Assassin” indeed. Barrera was the 3-1 underdog against one of history’s most flamboyant fighters. Not only did Barrera outbox the physically gifted Hamed, at one point his grittiness got the best of him in the 12th round, when he momentarily switched sports to pro wrestling, put Hamed in a full nelson and slammed Hamed’s face into the turnbuckle with maximum disdain.
2000: Danny Williams vs Mark Potter
There’s a cliche for disadvantage in combat that goes something like, “fighting a boxing match with one arm tied behind your back.” Williams gave zero fucks about it, then went one further. In the 6th round he dislocated his right shoulder — that is, his best one — for the second time in the bout. He proceeded to knock out Potter in that same round without being able to use his right hand. C’mon.