Boxing is often called the art of hitting without getting hit…but it is inevitable you are going to get hit if you are fighting, the old saying goes ‘if you step in to a shower, you are going to get wet – if you step in to the ring, you are going to get hit.’
Whilst it is in your best interests to limit the number of clean shots you take, there will come a time someone is going to land a clear blow on you, and when that does come ringing, you want to have a granite like chin that can take the punishment.
Everyone looks at the knock out puncher, the boxer who holds power in his hands is celebrated, a force to be reckoned with and he strikes fear into the hearts of his opposition. But if any boxer does not have a chin, their potential will never be reached because in a sport like boxing, you have to be able to withstand punishment just as well as you can dish it out. Boxing is full of stars who held dynamite in either hand, but that chin just didn’t match up to their hand skills and despite achieving success, they fell short of their sublime talent. Julian Jackson was one such name, sure he was a very good boxer and one of best punchers the sport has ever seen, but a suspect chin held him back from reaching the lofty heights he could have climbed had his chin been a little stronger. In today’s era we have the speed merchant Amir Khan. Khan possesses blinding speed and is very rarely outboxed due to this trait, but on a few occasions his lack of concentration and chin have let him down, like Jackson he was a world champion but the ability to take those hard shots has been fleeting and thus despite becoming a world champion, a man of his speed and skills could have become so much more. Samuel Vargas is due to fight Khan on September 8th 2018 and had this to say about Khan’s chin…
“I just have to land one punch on his chin, left or right hand. His feet will go all over the place and if he’s still there I’ll hit him again and again. It’s there, everyone knows it’s there. Genetically, we’re not supposed to receive that much punishment and get back up. Your body can only take so much before it gives out.”
In this article I am going to have a look at some of the many names who possessed a chin so good, there was more chance of hurting your hands punching them than hurting their heads. This isn’t a definitive list and neither is it ranked in order, there are too many boxers to mention here but these are the ones who come into my mind when I think ‘Granite Chin’.
The ‘Pocket Rocket’ fought out of Northen Ireland and held the WBC Bantamweight title as well as winning a silver medal in the 1992 Olympics. McCullough was known for his relentless, pressure style of fighting but perhaps his greatest trait was his durability – good luck trying to knock him down, you better be prepared for the full 12 rounds if you step inside the ring with him. McCullough battled with some of biggest punchers in the world and took them the distance, breaking Naseem Hameds KO streak of 18 straight KO’s and Erik Morales run of 9 KO’s. As an amateur he stopped another man with a great heart and chin, the late Arturo ‘Thunder’ Gatti. In all, including his professional and amateur career, McCullough fought over 350 times and no one was able to knock him down – No one defines the fighting spirit of Irish men better than Wayne McCullough.
Lamotta’s battles with arguably boxings greatest ever fighter, Sugar Ray Robinson are legendary. Just as famous as those bouts was his chin which even the great Sugar Ray couldn’t break in six attempts.
Named the Bronx Bull for his aggressive, come forward style, he had to have a great chin to fight in the way he liked, the middleweight champion fought a host of great names and none were ever able to knock Lamotta out. Amongst those names were Sugar Ray Robinson, Marcel Cerdan, Holman Williams, Bert Lytell, Lloyd Marshall and Fritzie Zivic.
There has to be a current boxer in the list don’t you think? And I don’t think there is a boxer alive who can boast the chin the middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin possesses. Much like the names already mentioned on the list, Golovkin is a come forward pressure fighter. If you are coming to spend your time in the ring walking your opponent down and staying within punching range, you won’t be a success without having the chin to go with it. Golovkin may be better known for his power, but having a chin as strong as his means he can sit in the pocket and unload those bombs on you without having to worry about what’s coming back at him. It is impressive enough he has yet to be knocked down in 39 professional fights but when you consider he fought 350 times as an amateur and never tasted the canvas once in any of those bouts that only makes it more astounding and confirms his place as the current king of granite chinned warriors. This must be one of your worst nightmares in boxing, facing a guy like Golovkin who not only can knock you out with one punch, but won’t get knocked out himself no matter how many times you hit him.
From one great middleweight to another. Marvelous Marvin Hagler is one of the greatest 2-3 middleweights in history, many would have him at number one. A tough, hard nosed opponent who was as scary as he looked. Hagler had a number of traits which made him such a great fighter, his power, his versatility, endurance but also high up on that list was his chin. Hagler was always coming at you, growling, snarling and no matter what you did, you wouldn’t be able to get him off you. Hagler’s chin was able to withstand a gruelling battle with John ‘The Beast’ Mugabi, who was never the same after losing to Hagler in the 11th round. Mugabi came into the fight undefeated with 25 K0’s in 25 wins but could not find a way to penetrate Haglers chin. Even more impressive was the classic match up with another of the all time great punchers and fighters – Thomas ‘Hitman’ Hearns. In a three round battle which was dubbed ‘The War’, Hagler simply walked through the bombs thrown by Hearns before ending the fight with a 3rd round TKO. Hagler had one debateable knock down in his career otherwise no one came even close to knocking him down or knocking him out.
Everyone knows Ali was fast, his fleet footed movement and outstanding hand speed for a heavyweight boxer changed the game for the big men. But when Ali’s speed declined with advancing age, we found out there was more to Ali than his freakish speed – his heart and his chin. Heavyweight fighting is a game in which one punch can knock you out, when such big men land punches it can truly turn the tide and end the fight in a second, so Ali having faced some of the biggest punchers in history such as Sonny Liston, George Foreman and Earnie Shavers and to never been knocked down by any of those three men is a remarkable feat and testament to his chin. Of course Ali was knocked down, most noticeably by Joe Frazier, which he got straight back up from and against Henry Cooper, which he came back from and stopped the fight soon after, but when you’re talking heavyweights, the odd knock down or two is to be expected but no one was able to knock Ali out. Often Ali’s chin is overlooked because there was just so much which made Ali the man and fighter that he was, but Ali’s chin was without doubt one of the greatest the sport has ever seen.
Ali wasn’t the only heavyweight with a great chin. At the same time Ali was ruling the heavyweight division in the 1960’s and 70’s there was a fighter named George Chuvalo who might possibly have had the greatest chin in history. As we’ve already mentioned, heavyweights deserve a bit of extra credit for having great chins because of the size of the men involved and the added power they have to deal with. Chuvalo was a Canadian boxer who fought 93 times between 1956 and 1978. Chuvalo did fight Ali twice and only two men ever stopped the hard headed heavyweight. Those two names will be names we are all familiar with – Joe Frazier and George Foreman, just like the rest of his opponents, neither were able to knock Chuvalo down though. The fight with Frazier was ended due to cuts(Chuvalo also suffered a broken cheekbone) and the fight with Foreman ended with Chuvalo on his feet but a broken nose. Chuvalo once famously said “I’d always say, On the right night, I’d beat anybody. Maybe if they had 100-round fights I would have.”
The one they call ‘Lights Out’ never had his lights put out thats for sure. Toney is better known his slick, counter punching fighting style but just as good as his boxing skills was his chin. Toney started his career as a middleweight and went all the way up to heavyweight – where he even defeated Evander Holyfield, and despite taking on bigger and bigger men, none were able to knock James Toney out. When you have a look at some of the names Toney fought against, at different weights, it is staggering to see not one of them could KO Toney. Sure Toney had a great defence, but to think he was once a middleweight and then heavyweights couldn’t knock him out is mind boggling. The names of boxers who tried and failed to crack Toney’s chin is endless – Roy Jones Jnr, Mike McCallum, Michael Nunn, Iran Barkley, Evander Holyfield, Samuel Peter, Hasim Rahman and Dennis Lebedev.
Honourable Mentions – maybe these names will feature in Part II…
Sugar Ray Robinson
Randall ‘Tex’ Cobb
Floyd Mayweather Jnr
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