Top 10 Trash-Talkers in Boxing
Trash-talking is something which is very much a part of the modern sports culture, with the other team or player trying to attain any kind of psychological edge in order to ensure a victory. Sometimes it is very blatant, while at other times it is more facetious. Boxing is one sport where this trash-talking aspect is heightened, as it pits one man against the other. This list takes a look at 10 of the best trash-talkers which boxing has produced.
Jack Johnson is regarded by some as the originator of the modern trash-talk. He was the world’s first black heavyweight champion, and it’s easy to understand why he might’ve felt the need to speak out, as the racial situation in those days was not at all favorable to African Americans. He was, in many ways, one of the first consummate sports celebrities, hogging the press, maintaining an expensive lifestyle and endorsing products. He was married three times, all to white women and is purported to have fornicated with many more. It was all okay in a sense, only that his skin color was black which doubled his fame. With so much media attention, maybe he understood that it was expected of him to be moderately flamboyant and outspoken.
“Who told you I was yellow? You’re white Tommy – white as the flag of surrender!” -Jack Johnson. (Before facing Tommy Burns, whom he would replace as the heavyweight champion of the world.)
Perhaps the least famous boxer on the list, Mitch Green might have benefited if his fists were as explosive as his mouth. Considered a perpetual whiner, his trash-talking brand involved more of sulking than anything else. His volatile personality meant that he would shout anything which was in his mind, which resulted in some crass insults. His career was actually brilliant till he came across his first defeat. Mike Tyson handed him his second defeat, and ever since then he had been on a crusade against the man, which culminated in a street fight where Tyson reportedly broke his hand, punching Green on the nose and giving him five stitches. There is no denying that Mitch “Blood” Green was hot-blooded, as it takes some nerves to hunt down “the baddest man on the planet” as hailed by the media. It’s a shame that he will now forever be remembered for that infamous incident and his rants, not so much his boxing.
“Michelle Cecily Tyson is a sissy, he’s a homo.” -Mitch Green. (His trademark quote which he repeated in almost all interviews, accompanied by flexing his biceps on the homo part.)
We bring in Iron Mike at no.8. While certainly boasting an impressive collection of citations, and with more than enough aggressiveness to add venom to his sayings, there is this one odd factor relegating Tyson to the bottom half of this list. Mike Tyson seemed to take no pleasure at all from his outspoken ways, it was almost as if he had a script memorized of what he was going to say, and then when it was time to deal with the press, he just recited them. He was way more articulate than people give him credit for and will go down as one of boxing’s realest trash-talkers, fully intending every sentence that came out of his mouth. Nowadays, he seems to be a sweetheart, but turn the clock back and he was stunningly vicious with the words he spoke. Iron Mike was bad, no questions asked.
“I like the hip writers: Fitzgerald, the guy who committed suicide, Hemingway, all those guys. Some of them were alcoholics and drug addicts but they had fun. They were real people. They formed the culture of American literature. Hemingway admired Tolstoy, Tolstoy admired Pushkin, and Mailer admired Hemingway. It all flows down. The greats are all connected. One day I’m gonna write a book myself. The first chapter will be about what a rough deal my momma got. She believed in you guys and your society.” -Mike Tyson. (Showing his intellectual side in front of the media in 2002, he would fight Lennox Lewis that year.)
We have our first entry on the list of someone who still boxes – well, barely. Hopkins made history this year by becoming the oldest champion in the history of boxing at age 46. Questions now loom as to whether he will retire or not after being hurt in his most recent fight. But Hopkins’s long career has given us plenty of entertaining moments, especially in his later years where he has become increasingly philosophical in his approach to talking smack. The Executioner perhaps has the meanest entrance where he dons an executioner’s mask with the letter X emblazoned in the middle. Thus it’s justifiable to say that his gentlemanly trash-talking style might surprise you, as he remains soft, and is still able to dish out some verbal damage. One thing that’s certain is that B Hop is leaving a very reflective legacy, awash with fighting brilliance and his pearls of wisdom.
“Right now, I am the Philly franchise. The Flyers are out. The Sixers are out. The Phillies are playing, but it is early in the season. I am the franchise right now and I have delivered more than I have failed. I am going to bring the championship home.” -Bernard Hopkins. (Before facing Pascal, and becoming the oldest champion ever in the sport.)
Roy Jones Jr., among many other fighters in the list, perhaps proves that cockiness comes with greatness. He sure talked smack, but backed it up every inch of the way. In his prime he was unbeatable and after he moved up to heavyweight, he was undoubtedly the fastest big man since Ali. But because of RJ’s greatness, he couldn’t help but brag, one of the main essentials of a good trash-talker. He was a fast talker, usually delivering his lines rapidly, which made sense as he had developed an alternate rap career. His hit song “Can’t be touched” will demonstrate more examples of his lashing tongue than you will ever need. But really, Roy just might possess the best balance ever between talking and fighting. In fact, I for one believe he needed to talk more to let the world know how skilled he truly was. Captain Hook possessed everything, and his dearest fans feel he has gone too long and should have retired when the time was right.
“I think I might’ve turned 39, look like I turned 29, feel like I turned about 19.” -Roy Jones Jr. (After his match with Felix Trinidad.)
At no. 5, James Toney is a trash-talk extraordinaire. Immensely successful, Tony always had that hard edge to him and would always let you have a piece of his mind. He perhaps desired to emanate badness out of his pores, emulating Tyson, but in a more controlled way, not going off in a tangent like Mike. What’s unique about this particular pugilist is that his best trash-talk might be occurring at the present and he is showing no signs of stopping. He seems to be in top gear as far as trash-talk is concerned, taking shots at every boxer he deems unworthy, and even moving on to MMA fighters, having fought in UFC recently. Be warned, James “Lights out” Toney usually overdraws on his swear words account once he gets going.
“Right now I’m back on my real grind. Everyone knows I’m the best heavyweight in the world. I’m not worried about going to Europe to fight the Bitchko sisters and David Gaye. They’re cowards!” -James Toney. (On the Klitschko brothers and David Haye; all three holding heavyweight belts at the time.)
Naseem Hamed was simply outrageous. Hands down, he was the most celebrated featherweight to ever grace boxing – and the most entertaining British boxer ever, as a whole. Nas had the skills, charisma and attitude to make it all work for him. Confidence oozed out of him like no other boxer in the planet, and even his ring antics would corroborate, with him dancing around and showboating at almost every single fight. Naturally, you would imagine that he would have a big mouth to complement his flashiness, and he didn’t disappoint. After his first defeat, he wandered into oblivion and just fought once more before retiring. Later it was revealed that he had hand problems to the point that it caused him intense pain to hold them up. But Prince Nas gave you your money’s worth while he was there, never missing a chance to let you know how smooth he was in doing what he did. The only thing that could match his mouth was probably the glitziness of his ring entrances.
“You can never underestimate the prince, I’m always there. The prince will never die. I ain’t bragging, but I ain’t seen nobody, and I mean nobody, come to the ring in such style, with such flair, charisma, I’m talking about bringing it all, a full package. I mean who would you know that could come out in a flying carpet. Come out like a concert, dancing, with like, oozing confidence, and then get in and take somebody out. Come on, do you know anybody in the history of the sport, that did what Prince Naseem did. And I ain’t trying to brag, but I was bloody good at it.” -Naseem Hamed (When asked about a comeback.)
Leaving Mayweather out of this list would be scandalous. I personally find his trash-talking too much of a backseat to his in-ring skills, and thus never really consider him as a master of the art of talking smack. But too many analysts would disagree, and hence Floyd comes in at 3. However, what one can’t argue is that Floyd’s personality has taken a definite turn, going from “Pretty Boy Floyd” to “Money Mayweather.” And most, if not all of his braggadocios behavior has resulted since then. His variety of trash-talk centers on money, the sweet greenback. Still undefeated, most of his trash-talk, other than on the topic of money, has been directed towards Manny Pacquiao, even overstepping the line with some supposed racial slurs. But overall, he is a very entertaining character, one boxing would much rather keep than lose. The self-proclaimed star of the boxing reality show 24/7 will be even more entertaining if he actually talks more about the specificity of his skills, and not just his money. He has tons of both.
“If I did want to come back, I was going to make, what, $50 million? You know what; don’t call my phone unless you’ve got $100 million.” -Floyd Mayweather. (On a potential De La Hoya rematch when he was out of boxing for one and a half years.)
Boxing fans would have seen this coming. When it comes to just plain old trash-talk, no strings attached, Mayorga is a king. His boxing career is decent, although coming up short against every big name he ever faced. But over time, the Nicaraguan has become infamous for his heavy stockpile of insults, which he uses to bad mouth his opponents mercilessly. He is known to be a smoker, and has smoked in press conferences and even right after a fight on one occasion! Overall, his behavior is very eccentric as his trash-talking train has steamed way ahead of his boxing skills, and now his antics seem almost like a ritual; where he will intentionally go over the top every single time, not even bothering about the match. The 2003 December issue of the Ring Magazine cover featured Mayorga as the craziest man in the sport. He has been every bit as crazy since then.
“I’m going to give Vargas the chance to cash his last paycheck. I would like to say publicly that Fatty Vargas has always feared me. I conceded to take this fight at 162 pounds because fatty couldn’t lose any more weight. I will do Vargas a favor by retiring him in this fight so his family doesn’t have to suffer every time he steps in the ring. I’m going to do his wife a favor and not let her cry anymore.”- Ricardo Mayorga. (Before his match with Fernando Vargas.)
Most of you envisioned this man when you read the list’s title, and why not, he probably has more quotes than any other boxer ever to step in a ring. What Jack Johnson sparked; that little bit of flair and arrogance to let all others feel your presence, Muhammad Ali took it and proceeded to break it down to a science. He is the one who popularized the art of trash-talking. Whether it was to focus on himself or his opponents, or commenting on the society in general, Ali did it all. Big boxing promoters today, like Top Rank’s Bob Arum, credits Ali with teaching him all he knows about promotion; so good was Ali’s knack of holding the public’s attention. Moreover, he was an absolute natural in his gift of the gab. Nothing ever seemed forced as he adored the spotlight and often bragged about how he was much more than a boxer. In fact, he is the one person in this list who could provide us hours of entertainment through just his words. And one last thing, he never cussed. Still believe he’s not the greatest?
“Last night I had a dream, When I got to Africa,
I had one hell of a rumble.
I had to beat Tarzan’s behind first,
For claiming to be King of the Jungle.
For this fight, I’ve wrestled with alligators,
I’ve tussled with a whale.
I done handcuffed lightning
And throw thunder in jail.
You know I’m bad.
Just last week, I murdered a rock,
Injured a stone, Hospitalized a brick.
I’m so mean, I make medicine sick.
I’m so fast, man,
I can run through a hurricane and don’t get wet.
When George Foreman meets me,
He’ll pay his debt.
I can drown the drink of water, and kill a dead tree.
Wait till you see Muhammad Ali.”
-Muhammad Ali. (A poem he recited for his fight with George Foreman, in what was billed as the Rumble in the Jungle.)
Honorable mentions: Antonio Tarver, Paulie Malignaggi, Hector Camacho, Brandon Rios, Vic Darchinyan