Five Boxers Who Would Have Been Just As Great in MMA
The age old debate of boxing vs MMA has been done time and time again, the answer is obvious, both are great at what they do and both reign supreme in their own circles, whether that is the squared circle or the cage. Fights start in the standing position, which makes boxing a great skill to have before you branch off into other disciplines, so with that in mind lets have a look at just some of the boxers, who had they tried their hand at mixed martial arts, would no doubt have been as successful in the octagon as they were inside the ring.
5. Vitali Klitschko
With a successful amateur career followed by an even more successful professional career, Vitali Klitschko forged himself a career as a world champion heavyweight boxer. The elder Klitschko fought 47 times as a professional boxer. His two defeats were due to a shoulder injury against Chris Byrd, and on cuts to the all time great Heavyweight Lennox Lewis, yet in both of those losses he was ahead on the scorecards. Dr.Ironfist would knock out 41 opponents in his 45 victories but it wasn’t just with his fists that Vitali proved he was a great fighter. Klitschko was also a kickboxer and had an amateur career proving himself in this art before going onto become a professional boxer. Ending with a record of 34-2 22KO’s he also reached the final of the European Kickboxing championships where he lost to a kickboxer who would also enter the paid ranks of professional boxing, Pele Reid. There is little doubt that Vitali was a great puncher and he proved himself dangerous with his kicks too. There is little reason to believe that had the 6’7 Klitschko decided to add wrestling to his game he would have been one scary monster in MMA.
4. Manny Pacquiao
The accolades Pacquiao has achieved as a boxer are far too many to list here, the only eight division world champion has won major world titles counting into the double digits and has been named as the fighter of the decade for the 2000’s by numerous organisations but what makes one think Manny Pacquio would have made a successful crossover to the world of mixed martial arts?
The southpaw was all about speed, and speed kills. Pacquiao wasn’t just fast with his hands, but he was fast with his feet. Not surprisingly Pacquiao is a huge fan of a man some refer to as the father of mixed martial arts, Bruce Lee. An explosive fighter who could land countless punches and move away and change the angle before punching you again would have been a handful had he decided to fight as a mixed martial artist and chosen his own peak fighting weight to compete at….
3. Roy Jones, JR.
Every sport is full of good athletes, to become a professional it is a given you have to excel as an athlete. Bo Jackson, Usain Bolt, Carl Lewis, Jonah Lomu, Deion Sanders, Muhammad Ali – these are just some of the greatest athletes to have competed in the sporting world. There is also Roy Jones, JR….
It is debatable whether RJJ is the greatest athlete boxing has ever seen, it is debatable whether he is the most exciting fighter boxing has ever seen but what isn’t up for debate is that he belongs in both categories, great athlete, hugely exciting fighter and if you are looking at peak periods then RJJ was as dominant as they came and undoubtedly an all time great boxer. With Roy’s athleticism he could have reached the top in any sport he put his mind to. Cat like reflexes, knockout power, able to reel off hook after hook in quick succession, had Jones, JR. decided to enter the octagon, he would have been a force to contend with. RJJ reminds me a little of the mixed martial artist Anderson Silva, outrageous skills that made the hardest moves look easy – little wonder then that Roy Jones JR has been chasing a fight with Silva for sometime and labelled it the only fight he would come out of retirement for.
2. Roberto Duran
Many often overlook just how smart a boxer Roberto Duran was because of his brawling, pressure, come forward style with a scowl on his face that made him look like he was coming for your blood. But Duran wasn’t just a boxer, he was a fighter, someone who would have been happy fighting in the ring, the octagon, or even outside on the streets. Duran didn’t care who you were, he just wanted to fight you and no had no fear of who he was fighting. Duran gave the impression that he was happiest having a scrap inside the ring, starting his career as a lightweight, the man they would call ‘Hands of Stone’ kept fighting across five decades and all the way up to super middleweight. It took a car crash aged 50 to put an end to his boxing career. When the heavyweight legend Joe Frazier was asked whose style Duran reminded him of, Frazier deadpanned back ‘Charles Manson’ – the infamous criminal and cult leader. Duran enjoyed fighting outside the ring too, fond of street fighting he could also knock out horses with a punch and was Mike Tyson before Mike Tyson, which leads up nicely on to my next choice…..
1. Mike Tyson
Little wonder that Mike Tyson grew up admiring Roberto Duran as his favourite boxer and would end up surpassing Duran as the baddest man on the planet and was just as crazy as Duran was too.
Iron Mike Tyson was the most intimidating fighter the world has ever seen, he was also the most exciting fighter the world has ever seen. Very few fighters could command the worlds attention like Iron Mike did. From his outbursts before a fight, after the fight, in the ring, outside the ring, Mike Tyson was a fighter through and through. His attack on Evander Holyfield’s ear only showed what we all already knew, that Tyson just wants to fight and if he wanted to, would use any means necessary to inflict pain upon his opponent. Tyson’s rare blend of speed and power for a heavyweight meant he was a nightmare to handle, if a prime Mike Tyson got close to you, the fight was as good as over. When you talk about fighting in a phone booth, Mike Tyson would be the last person you’d want to share that phone booth with. Tyson would have ruled the fighting world in whichever combat sport he chose to compete in, he was just that good and he was so scary, fighters were often beaten before they stepped into the ring with Tyson. Give Tyson a ground game then good luck to anyone who has to take that ground and pound, good luck to anyone also trying to choke out that tree trunk neck of his too!
Sonny Liston – The Big Bear with shovel like hands made a living out of getting into trouble outside of the ring. The first really scary heavyweight was a street fighter first, and boxer second.
Barney Ross – When you have Sylvester Stallone naming a character after you, you know this guy has to be a badass. A love of street fighting meant that he was even employed by the notorious gangster Al Capone.
Henry Armstrong – A world champion holding the belts of three divisions at the same time, when there was only eight? With credentials like that there is no doubting Armstrong could have competed in any fighting art. The quintessential pressure fighter with the relentless motor, Armstrong would have broken you down little by little and forced you to tap out.
This article was first featured for the ringsidereport.com as part of my weekly column.