By W. Gregory Guedel – In a sport where toughness and intimidation are part of the landscape, you would think fighters would want nicknames that give them a sense of mystique or a psychological edge.
Not these guys…
What follows is a Who’s Who of the “What were they thinking?” variety – fighters whose nicknames should have been left in the dressing room before the bout..
10) “Big” George Foreman.
Yes, George was indeed a big man when he fought. He’s probably even bigger now. Yet surely the man who brought home Olympic Gold, was twice Heavyweight Champion of the World, and became the most successful marketing pitchman in boxing history deserved better than such an obvious and inane nickname. I’m sure “Tall” Wilt Chamberlain and “Bald” Shaquille O’Neal would agree.
9) Donny “The Golden Boy” LaLonde.
With a nickname like this, you’re basically asking to get punched. It’s not intimidating and implies you’re a prima donna (or Donny, in this case), which is a dangerous combination in a sport where your opponent has the legal right to hit you in the face.
8) (Tie) Franz “The White Buffalo” Botha / Clifford “The Black Rhino” Etienne.
Nicknames with racial overtones are always questionable, especially when they describe animals that don’t actually exist in nature. Thankfully, due to Botha’s propensity for steroid use and Etienne’s propensity for strong-arm robbery, both of these lumbering beasts have been put out to pasture.
7) Michael “Double M” Moorer.
Another tremendous fighter with a numbingly-obvious nickname. Yes, his initials create a double-M – but with that kind of blasé logic why not use his shoe size instead? Anything above a size-10 would at least intimidate certain people. As a fan of Film Noir, I always thought Moorer would have done well with “Dial M for…”
6) Joel “El Cepillo” Casamayor.
My Spanish is limited to the vocabulary taught on Sesame Street, so when I saw Casamayor fight Juan Manuel Marquez in Las Vegas I asked some fans from Mexico about this nickname. It translates to “The Comb” or “The Brush”. Evidently Casamayor fancies himself as a fighter who can “brush off” his competition – or at least did until Marquez TKO’d him. A nickname that is uninspiring in two languages.
5) Donnell “The Real Touch of Sleep” Holmes.
By itself, “Touch of Sleep” is actually a pretty cool nickname. Perhaps that’s why Holmes and fellow Heavyweight DaVarryl Williamson tried to claim it in boxing’s equivalent of trademark infringement case. However, “The Real Touch of Sleep” is verbose, won’t fit on the waistband of your trunks, and sounds like you’re whining about identity theft. Ultimately, the only people Holmes or Williamson put to sleep consistently were boxing fans, and both have faded into the night.
4) Eric “Butterbean” Esch.
Butterbean was a great nickname for the first phase of Esch’s boxing career, when the former Toughman champion emerged as a loveable 3-round sideshow fighter on various undercards. However, as his popularity grew he started to demand the opportunity to challenge “real” fighters, calling out Mike Tyson and others. Butterbean’s quest for respectability culminated in a farcical bout with former Heavyweight champion and current AARP member Larry Holmes. It’s hard to believe a legend like Holmes could find anything better to do that night.
3) Chuck “The Bayonne Bleeder” Wepner.
A true tough guy who was a liquor salesman between fights, Wepner’s nickname is a reflection of his unfortunate tendency to get cut badly during bouts. Wepner’s toughness (he inspired a young Sylvester Stallone to create the main character in “Rocky”) warranted a more heroic moniker.
2) James “The Fighting Cowboy” Tillis.
Tillis makes the list because he already had a killer nickname, and he gave it up for this clunker. He was formerly known as “Quick” Tillis, and his reflexes and agility were on full display when he became the first fighter to go the distance with Mike Tyson. Perhaps the new name was a tribute to his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, but it provides no excuse for trading down from cool to campy.
Back when his tremendous size and solid look earned him the quality nickname “Mount”, we were looking at an imposing Heavyweight contender in Lance Whitaker. How did it all go so wrong? It should be noted that Whitaker took steps to have his name legally changed to Goofi, which nets him an “A” for dedication to the joke and an “F” in every other department.
Please feel free to supplement the list with your own nominations for this Hall of Shame, and together we can help stamp out this senseless verbal carnage.
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