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IRON JAWS – Pick 10

By Paul Strauss: It makes sense to hold off on this list until early next year, and then limit it to fighters currently active in 2012, but the hell with that. Live a little and have some fun doing it now. Step up and give us your list of fighters who you believe have the best jaws. Think of it as being boxing’s version of Madden’s Team.

As you’re making picks, think about what makes for an iron jawed hero or better yet the ability to remain conscious when struck? Does it have something to do with the way the jaw looks or is structured? In other words, does the jaw have to be chiseled and strong looking, such as a comic book character? Does it require a thick neck? Are tough guys smarter or less smart? Are their brains wired differently? The answers have always been debatable and somewhat of a mystery, at least for the general public. It’s kind of like trying to figure out why someone gets air sick or suffers from motion sickness when others don’t? Can you explain why a fighter pilot can withstand tremendous amounts of “G Force” when the rest of us pass out? Is it an inner ear problem? Is the ability contained in part of the brain or bone structure? Some unfortunate folks actually suffer from a medical condition called a “rock slide”, which is a type of vertigo problem. Most of us don’t. Why? Can the reverse of problems like that be related to “good chins”?

In boxing, the wags have always said, “You can’t train your chin.” Even if due diligence is used in building up the neck muscles, it still doesn’t seem to prevent so called “glass jawed” fighters from having their “lights turned out.” It’s like they have a 60 amp service, when they need 110 amps. Without it, they keep blowing a fuse. So, maybe it isn’t the “rock slide” after all. Maybe, glass jawed fighters aren’t wired the same? Maybe their brain waves are more easily disrupted?

Another peculiarity is some guys can take it on the chin, but a shot to the temple or back of the head knocks them silly. Then you have some who have gotten knocked cold, laid out flat, while others hit with the same shot keep some semblance of consciousness, but do the “chicken dance”. Can you recall Zab Judah’s exhibition of such a dilemma? There definitely seems to have been a short circuit when that happens.

Another current fighter who has been labeled weak chinned and someone who continues to endure criticism for it is Amir Khan. Pointing out a fighter’s weakness is one thing, but to claim it’s the fighter’s fault is a mistake. Critics should lighten up. The frailty hasn’t anything to do with a lack of courage or toughness. A good chin is a gift, and all fighters would love to have good chins.

Obviously, the objective in boxing is to hit and not be hit. Jack Dempsey’s philosophy was, “The sooner the safer!” meaning he felt strongly that he was less likely to get hurt if he knocked his opponent stiff just as fast as he possibly could, which was often the case. But, the truth is boxers are going to get hit. Chances are fighters, as opposed to boxers, are going to get hit even more often, because they’re willing to take greater risks just to have the chance to lay one on their opponent. Some fighters can get away with it and others can’t? There are stories of Dempsey winning fights when he didn’t remember doing so. He was literally out on his feet, fighting instinctively. It doesn’t seem fair. How is it that your idiot brother-in-law can go on all those silly amusement rides without experiencing any nausea? Just thinking “Tilt-a-Whirl” makes you want to hurl your pronto pup?

Oh sure, there’s skill in lessening the effects of punches, but when considering that, you’re getting away from the “gift thing”. Skills are learned and developed. Fighters build up their neck and jaw muscles. They learn to roll with punches. They are taught to focus intently, so they see it (punches) coming, as the one they don’t see seems to always be the one that puts out the lights. That’s all well and good, but, what we’re talking about here is a god given ability to take a big shot and remain conscious.

Why not get started with someone who demonstrated just such ability? Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero took more hard shots from Andre Berto Saturday night than any man is supposed to be able to withstand and remain on his feet

Another current strong jawed guy is Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios. His battle with Mike Alvarado is a strong candidate for fight of the year. Alvarado had to be thinking, “This guy will be folding before long. There’s no way he can continue to take this kind of punishment!”

Tomasz Adamek has impressed. He has been in there with much bigger men and endured some hellacious shots, only to keep pressing on. One of his opponents, Chris Arreola might deserve being tossed in the mix as well. He was stopped by Vitali Klitschko, but not because he was counted out.

Maybe you could slide Bernard Hopkins into things, but his ability to keep from being stopped is due much more to cleverness and guile than just his ability to remain conscious. Throw in Glen “The Road Warrior” Johnson, and of course Carl Froch has to be considered one of the top choices. What about Arthur Abraham? He’s someone who sustained a badly broken jaw in his fight with Edison Miranda and still managed to win by decision! How about retiree Joe Calzaghe? He took shots from Kessler, Lacy, Hopkins and Roy Jones, Jr. and beat them all.

It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to include Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and JMM. They’re all tough and have demonstrated the ability to take big shots and come back to win. Pacquiao did it against several fighters, including much bigger men. Juan Manuel Marquez has taken Pacquiao’s best shots, and although he went down, he got up and came back strong. Mayweather, Jr. took Sugar Shane Mosley’s best and shook it off to come back and win.

Old timers might include Dempsey, Marciano, Robinson, Lamotta, Basilio, Kid Gavilan, and George Chuvalo (stopped but not dropped). If you’re old enough, you will remember a weird kayo involving one of Chuvalo’s opponents. It was his fight against Jerry Quarry. In the seventh round, Chuvalo caught Quarry high up on the right side of his head (temple area). The punch didn’t seem to be that hard, but it had a delayed effect. All of a sudden, Quarry went down and out. The switch was thrown. The lights went out.

Well, you get the idea. Give us a list of those you think qualify as having one of the best iron jaws (past or present) and let us know why. Throw in any theories you might have about why some boxers have been blessed with such good chins, or if you prefer, the ability to remain conscious when hit.