It’s that time of the year when people love all things frightening, all things scary. So, in an article that’s a bit different but still boxing-related, here’s a look at some of the most genuinely terrifying fighters of all time. You know, boxers who were capable of not only frightening their opponents but also fans, fellow fighters who would not actually share a ring with them, even the experts.
Over the years, there have been some fighting men who were actually unhinged; their aggressive tendencies coming out in places other than the boxing arena. These guys were as frightening in the ring as they were out of it. This article is far from a celebration of these deranged fighters, yet there is a certain attraction to a wild man of the ring, a mad man of the ring.
And it is Halloween, after all.
Which of the following fighters were most adept at turning another man’s legs to jelly?
Valero fought each fight he had whilst in a grip of rage and aggression. The non-stop windmill from Venezuela fought with hate in his heart and he showed zero remorse either during or after a fight, no matter what he had done to his opponent. Scoring an amazing number of first-round knockouts – 18 in a row – Valero never once went the distance in a fight.
Shockingly, Valero’s rage manifested itself out of the ring in gruesome fashion. Valero stabbed and murdered his wife, later killing himself in his prison cell. Valero was a haunted soul indeed, with some referring to him as a demon.
An obvious choice for such a list but also one that has to feature. Tyson, who once said of an opponent (Jesse Ferguson) how he was trying to “catch him on the tip of his nose because I try to punch the bone into the brain,” also fought like a man possessed. Opponents were beaten before the opening bell and Tyson, snarling and smelling blood even before any had been spilled, devoured his prey.
Tyson of course went way too far at times; in the infamous “Bite Fight” with Evander Holyfield, at THAT presser before the Lennox Lewis fight when Tyson again put his sharp teeth to shameless use, and when he tried his best to break Frans Botha’s arm. Tyson ranks as one of the top two of three most intimidating heavyweights ever.
The prime Duran reminded Sugar Ray Leonard of notorious serial killer Charles Manson, and Duran’s cold, black eyes were capable of sending a chill down many a spine. Duran, a fighter who showed no pity, was sometimes still smouldering, looking for violence, after the fight. Duran once belted the wife of one of his opponents, while Duran also punched Sugar Ray’s brother Roger after the epic June 1980 fight in Montreal.
Today, Duran is a genuine nice guy who also happens to be a living legend. It was Duran’s fire and fury that made him a legend. And those cold as coal eyes.
Monzon wore the same apparently emotionless expression each time he fought; this an expression to give Michael Myers a run for his money in terms of scare-factor. And Monzon was a beast of a fighter, one of the most naturally strong and relentless in middleweight history. Monzon looked at times like he wanted to do an opponent serious harm, while it’s been said no rival ever really hurt Monzon.
Unfortunately, like Valero, Monzon’s inner rage was present outside of the ring. Monzon killed his wife, this by strangling her and then throwing her off a balcony. Monzon met his own end, some say via suicide, when his car crashed on the way back to jail after he had been permitted a furlough.
Forget Foreman mark II. The 1970’s version of Foreman was that of a brooding, intimidating, brutish figure. Foreman, who grew up tough in Houston’s ‘Bloody Fifth,’ modelled himself on an even scarier fighter (more about him later) and this real-life Texan monster loved nothing more than to terrify an opponent and then violently smash him to the canvas.
Foreman, dubbed “The Mummy” by conqueror Muhammad Ali, eventually proved he could take it as well as dish it out. For a while, Foreman looked to be truly unbeatable.
The ultimate bad guy of the ring, Liston, who spent numerous years in jail, was simply terrifying. With his freakishly big fists, his pulverizing punching power and his face of stone, Liston, like Tyson and Foreman before him, had opponents beaten long before the bell rang. Those who got to know Sonny said he was actually a nice guy, misunderstood and able to trust virtually nobody. Still, the average fight fan was neither willing to accept Liston as their champion, nor able to view him as anything other than a savage. There were tales of Liston breaking a cop’s knee and of him beating up another policeman. As there were tales of Liston being “all Mob.”
And here’s what one journalist actually wrote about Liston in a piece that ran in a US newspaper before Liston destroyed Floyd Patterson to take the world title: “A man like that, shouldn’t be fought; he should be hunted.”
No wonder Liston realised quite quickly that he had no choice but to live up to his bad guy image. And then there is Liston’s death; this of course shrouded in nothing but mystery, the kind of which is more than capable of keeping a person up at night. Was Liston murdered by dark forces, or did he fall victim to a self-inflicted drug overdose? Liston took many secrets with him to the grave.