Who’s the Fastest Gun in the West, er, Boxing?

By Chris Acosta: Speed. It’s such a key element in modern human culture. Everything nowadays is geared towards “faster”: internet downloads, shipping, way to build better abdominals, oil changes, plot unveilings in novels and cinema; it’s really been the death of that forgotten virtue, patience. Car commercials address economy and responsible emissions but also speed. More powerful engines capable of going from 0 to whatever in faster than the year before, images of hairpin turns on winding roads with an attractive couple soaking up the warm sunshine, completely oblivious to the highway patrolman hiding behind the billboard that reads, “Hey author of this article- get to the point.!”

Sorry about that, readers; I have this thing for lead-ins. So my point is: who are the fastest fighters in boxing? Who are those guys that make the crowd “ooh” and “ahh” every time they land a blow that is only visible on a replay? We fans love to discuss pound –for- pound lists and hardest punchers but what about those who possess boxing’s only supposed un-teachable quality? It’s a tough one but as fun to toss around for us as seals are for those Orcas on the Discovery Channel. The debate here is going to be that there are different kinds of speed and there are. I’ve placed them into three categories: Pot-shotting, combination punching and overall effectiveness. I chose who I though best exemplified each example. And yes, I’m aware that there are others who deserved mention but I felt just missed the mark. So, enjoy and be sure to comment and tell me how much I suck so I can sleep well tonight.

Pot-Shotting: Landing one punch at a time and eluding a counter.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. “Money” Mayweather, 40-0 (25) has taken this style to the same heights as Roy Jones was doing a decade ago. You’re either a fan of this style or you bang your head against a wall because you paid fifty dollars to watch it on PPV. Either way, it’s an approach reserved for those blessed with unusual reflexes and accuracy and right now, nobody does it better than Floyd.

Yuriorkis Gamboa 17-0 (15). The Cuban prodigy is lightning fast, a whirlwind of fists that is something else to watch. He’s lately adopted a more measured approach to his game, replacing ten-punch combinations with half that amount for the sake of adding power. But to take it a step further, Gamboa is showing himself capable of striking with single punch effectiveness too and with major power.

Sergio Martinez 44-2-2 (24) The Argentine phenom is double trouble: a southpaw with blinding speed. Sergio is a blur with whatever punch he chooses to throw and you sometimes get the impression that his hands move before his brain gives them the signal to do so.

Manny Pacquiao. I know, I know. Most folks will say that the “PacMan” should be higher on this list but keep in mind that at this level, the only thing that really separates each man is an observer’s opinion. We all know that Manny is amazingly quick and it’s his initial punch as much as the follow-up ones, that do serious damage. And without getting off central theme of this story, he’s combined his unreal speed with more power than anyone on this list.

Andre Berto. Welterweight titlist Berto, 25-0 (19 KO’s), is a combination of Mayweather and prime Shane Mosley: sneaky fast like the former and occasionally over- enthusiastic like the latter. Andre’s athleticism is top-shelf and it’s not uncommon to see him rip a hook off his opponents chin before scooting away untouched.

Andre Dirrell Despite the close decision loss to Carl Froch in round one of the Super Six tourney, Flint, Michigan’s Dirrell, 18-1 (13), is perhaps the most athletic fighter in the game. Andre is blessed with staggering coordination and reaction time. His maturity as a fighter doesn’t appear to have yet matched those abilities but when it does, watch out.

Combination punching: The art of combing several blows together in rapid succession.

Yuriorkis Gamboa. Even among the fastest in boxing, Gamboa is in a class by himself. Watching the Featherweight let his hands go is a spectacle unto itself. The biggest reason for his ranking here is that he seems to enjoy hanging in the pocket longer than most and thus, supplies more evidence that no one in the game can match him in this department.

Timothy Bradley 25-0 (11) “Desert Storm” as he calls himself is regarded as perhaps the best of a talented 140 pound crop and for good reason: he’s got eye-catching talent and speed. The compact Californian is often forced to take the lead against taller opponents and in doing so, whacks away with entertaining urgency. His combinations are a thing of beauty; crisp, accurate and delivered with the kind of zip that only a jacket for exclusive members would do justice.

Andre Berto. Berto is one of those fighters who can change gears in the snap of a finger. He’s on my pot-shot list but he’s also shown himself to explode with a torrent of punches as though he’s unknowingly stepped on hot coals. It’s amazing to watch.

Manny Pacquiao. Pacquaio loves to let his gloves fly, much to the chagrin of his opponents. And if he senses that his foe is unable to adjust, he becomes even more freewheeling.

Edwin Valero. The Venezuelan enigma had the reputation as a free-swinging brawler who would stumble as soon as he faced someone of notable caliber. I often found this difficult to accept because his highlight videos on YouTube (where he originally formed his buzz) said otherwise. Valero is lauded as a puncher as his 27-0 (27 KO’s) record would indicate, but it’s his speed and reflexes which have really gotten him where he is. Hopefully, his close friends never hold an intervention for him because we don’t want to see him beat his addiction to combinations. Valero is flawed to a degree, but he’s better than advertised and as quick as they come.

Amir Khan 22-1 (16) Khan is a baby in comparison to the others listed here. And he has that hideous knockout loss to Breides Prescott to live down, but there’s no denying that The UK’s Khan, is a legitimate talent. Amir is a rarity, a tall fighter with stellar coordination and speed. His long body functions gracefully and affords him the luxury of moving his punches from different ranges. It’s too early to tell if he can live up to his promise but in terms of his combo speed, very few do it better.

Andre Ward. What’s with all the Andre’s? Whatever that particular name signifies in the constellations, Oakland’s Ward, 21-0 (13), has it. Ward is cat-quick and understands that variety plus speed equals success. The upstart thoroughly dominated Denmark’s highly regarded Mikkel Kessler to lift the WBA super middleweight strap and he did it with sharp reflexes and crazy assortment of combinations (and yes, to a degree his head as well).

Chad Dawson. Somewhat forgotten in this department among all the stars is the current king of the light-heavyweight division, Dawson, 29-0 (17). Buried beneath towering expectations and claims of untapped potential is one fact: the New Haven, CT native is blazingly fast and flawless in his technique. Chad has an array of punches at his disposal and knows how to use them.

Zab Judah. The poster boy for why speed doesn’t mean everything. Despite his up and downs, Zab, 38-6 (26), is still among the fastest boxers in the world. The Brooklyn, NY southpaw isn’t to be found in the Ring’s rankings at either welterweight or its junior version and there are holes in his game that have hindered him against foes he should have beaten. But if he can get himself properly motivated, Zab can be a threat to anyone. Should he manage to secure a fight against newly crowned IBF champion Devon Alexander (a quick man in his own right), Zab just might become the most hated man in St. Louis.

So who makes the best use of all these traits, taking into account level of opposition and effectiveness? (My top 3)

1. Manny Pacquiao. Something that has struck me about the legendary Filipino: I never thought he was any faster than the quickest boxers I’d seen before. I was so enthralled with his aggressiveness and power that one element of his game escaped me: his reflexes. Now whenever I think of great reflexes, I usually picture the pot-shot type of boxer who uses those reflexes to escape danger. But Manny is something entirely different. His body as a whole moves faster than anyone I can recall. It’s the reason he’s able to land a series of punches dart back out and then back in. It makes it nearly impossible to time him or reset after his initial attack. And it’s the reason he’s the best.

2. Floyd Mayweather Jr. Floyd is an athletic marvel, a guy who can pick apart world-class fighters with relative ease. What makes him effective is that he uses his speed to stay a step ahead of the man standing in front of him. Floyd isn’t fast for the sake of being fast; he actually keeps himself within a zone where he can always keep an eye on what’s in front of him. Actually, what he does is exactly what Pacquiao does but from a laid back perspective. Man, these two need to meet.

3. Chad Dawson. Chad isn’t always exciting or flashy but that doesn’t take away from his ability to control the situation. He fights within himself and makes use of what he has without losing sight of the plan and at the highest levels; that is more valuable than the limits of the flesh.

Article posted on 09.03.2010

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