James Slater appraises the toughest fighters in boxing history and rate the top five greatest chins
SOME extremely tough and durable men have graced the ring throughout the long history of boxing; men who were able to take punches that would have made a mere mortal crumble, snap, break, collapse, never to get up again, and, well, you get the point. Some fighters, whether they were world champions or not, were almost frighteningly tough when it came to the punches, and the amount of them, they were able to take. So who had THE greatest chin in all of boxing history? Of course it’s down to opinion and nothing more, and we all know how plenty of people – fight fans, experts and historians – have compiled many ‘Greatest Chin’ lists over the years.
Here’s another top five you may or may not agree with:
In reverse order, the five toughest, most reliable beards in all of boxing:
Wilson, a heavyweight journeyman, was almost unbelievably durable, as well as defensively crafty and full of heart. During 57 pro fights, many of them against top names, “The Creep,” as Wilson was known, was never, ever stopped. Amongst those big punchers who tried and failed to KO Wilson: Andrew Golota, Ray Mercer (Wilson actually holding Mercer to a draw), Jimmy Thunder, Shannon Briggs, Obed Sullivan, Ike Ibeabuchi, Ezra Sellers, David Izon, Oleg Maskaev, Hasim Rahman, Sam Peter, Oliver McCall.
That’s some list. Come to think of it, maybe Mo should be placed higher on this list.
Aside from the disturbing to watch mental breakdown he suffered in his return fight with Lennox Lewis (a fight that should never have been permitted to go ahead at the time), “The Atomic Bull” was never stopped and, in an incredible 71 pro bouts, a good number of them fought at a time when McCall was an old man, he was never, ever put down. Not only that, but McCall was never visibly wobbled or staggered by a punch – not ever. Amongst those big punchers who tried and failed to KO McCall: Lewis (being stopped in fight-one), Buster Douglas, Lionel Butler, Larry Holmes, Frank Bruno, Oleg Maskaev.
McCall also gave Mike Tyson sheer hell in the gym. What a war that fight would have been.
3. James Toney
The all-time great multi-weight king fought a genuine murderer’s row from middleweight all the way up to heavyweight. Despite this, Toney’s chin was never once cracked. Plenty of Toney’s durability and effectiveness as an older fighter came down to his superb defensive abilities, but when he lost a step and was caught more and more by a big punch, “Lights Out” was able to hold any shot that came his way. Toney stands just 5’10” just a half-inch taller than the great Marvin Hagler, but can you imagine Hagler’s chin standing up to a heavyweight’s punch the way Toney’s did? Amongst those big punchers who tried and failed to KO Toney: Iran Barkley, Charles Williams, Roy Jones, Vassiliy Jirov, Evander Holyfield, Hasim Rahman, Sam Peter, Denis Lebedev, Lucas Browne.
Toney says today how he should have been a heavyweight all along. With his sheer skill along with his toughness, maybe he should have been.
2. Jake LaMotta
LaMotta certainly had the greatest chin in middleweight history (with the possible exception of the aforementioned Hagler; who just misses making this list), and having been stopped just four times in well over a hundred pro fights, “The Bronx Bull” sure showed his rock-hardness. The stoppage losses came at the hands of Sugar Ray Robinson (“you never got me down, Ray!”) and, right at the end of his career, Bob Murphy and Danny Nardico; while Jake also threw a fight against Billy Fox. Amongst those big punchers who tried and failed to KO LaMotta: Sugar Ray Robinson (in those earlier, brutal encounters), Fritzie Zivic, Holman Williams, Bob Satterfield, Marcel Cerdan, Bob Murphy (in a return bout).
And the truly incredible thing about LaMotta is how he lived well into old age, his faculties intact all the way; this despite all the punishment his chin stood up to.
1. George Chuvalo
Chuvalo, arguably the greatest heavyweight never to have become word champion (certainly the roughest and toughest) had some kind of scary ability to take a shot, a bomb, heck, even a nuclear blast! Despite having 93 pro fights, George was never. Once. Knocked. Down. Not even in sparring was Chuvalo decked. As he is fond of saying these days, he kissed lots of girls but he never once kissed the canvas! Chuvalo was stopped on occasion – twice in fact, by Joe Frazier when he suffered one of the most gruesome facial injuries imaginable, and by George Foreman, when Chuvalo, upon being “saved” by referee Arthur Mercante, asked the third man “what the f***” he was doing! – but he was never, ever KO’d. Amongst those big punchers who tried and failed to KO Chuvalo: Doug Jones, Oscar Bonavena, Jerry Quarry, Cleveland Williams, Muhammad Ali – and of course Frazier and Foreman, who had to make do with TKO wins.
Chuvalo recently celebrated his 80th birthday and though we hear he is suffering from a form of dementia today, his place in history is secure. George was the bravest, baddest and most consistently durable tough guy in all of boxing. Boy, what a chin Chuvalo had.