Boxing: 10 Historically Underrated Fighters

Of Vipers and Executioners

By Mike Sloan Jun 30, 2016



Many boxers throughout history have had their talents and popularity blown out of proportion, usually as a result of the handy work of a shrewd promoter or delusional fanbase. Plenty of said fighters have been exposed as frauds who were nowhere near as good as the hype surrounding them.

On the other side of the spectrum is a much smaller group of individuals who never seemed to catch on with the buying public or the media. Sherdog.com has compiled a list of 10 gifted boxers who, for one reason or another, never received their just due.

10. Vernon Forrest


“The Viper” was awesome in his day and clearly one of the best welterweights and junior middleweights of his era. His jab was second to none, and he toppled many a great foe while he was on top of his game. He blitzed an undefeated and seemingly invincible Shane Mosley, scored a decision over the great Ike Quartey, engaged in two memorable wars with the crazy Ricardo Mayorga, made the 1992 Olympic team and captured legitimate world titles at 147 and 154 pounds. However, nobody seemed to pay attention while he was in his prime. He was the quintessential boxer-puncher who opted to systematically pick apart his opponents. He scored 29 knockouts in his pro career, though Forrest always seemed to be an afterthought, even among some of the most hardcore boxing fans. Even after he trounced Mosley and then took him apart in their rematch, Forrest never got his props. When Mayorga torched him in the second round of their first encounter, the boxing world seemed to breathe a sigh of relief because the loony cat from Nicaragua was much more marketable; and when Forrest went to war with him in the rematch -- a bout many felt he deserved to win -- he was once again relegated to second fiddle. Shoulder injuries hampered his career, but it was not until his tragic murder in July 2009 that people finally recognized Forrest’s true greatness.

9. Ricardo Lopez


By far one of the greatest fighters ever to emerge from boxing-rich Mexico, Lopez was a nearly flawless fighter. He boxed beautifully under the tutelage of Nacho Beristain, and when given the chance, he could instantly turn out the lights on his opposition. Lopez was mesmerizing to watch. He never lost, as a professional or an amateur -- the first man in history to achieve that feat. When he retired unbeaten as a champion, he became only the third man in the sport’s history to do so. He also shares with Joe Louis the record for consecutive wins as a champion (26). Lopez defended his WBC minimumweight title a record 21 times, captured the WBA and WBO straps in the same division and eventually won the IBF light flyweight title before finally retiring. During his career, he waged memorable battles against the likes of Rosendo Alvarez and scored big wins over champions Saman Sorjaturong, Rocky Lin and Alex Sanchez. As great as he was, “El Finito” never became a household name in America. Lopez was cursed with being born a small man, and his dominance of the smallest weight classes hampered his progress in becoming an all-time great in terms of popularity. Even today, Lopez’ name is hardly ever brought up quickly when talking about great historical Mexicans. That is a shame, too, because Lopez was incredible.

8. Mark Johnson


Another in a long line of little guys to whom nobody paid attention, “Too Sharp” might have been too great for his own good. A master counterpuncher with serious power, he captured world titles at flyweight and junior bantamweight twice. His southpaw style gave virtually everybody fits, and it was common knowledge among boxing insiders that such stars as Johnny Tapia, Michael Carbajal and possibly Ricardo Lopez wanted no part of him. Johnson was not perfect -- he lost five times -- but some of his fights were legendary in their own right. He twice waged a trench war with the great Rafael Marquez, beat up a prime Fernando Montiel and outpointed Ratanachai Sor Vorapin; and in his final bout, Johnson was stopped by Jhonny Gonzalez in a classic tussle. Johnson had issues outside the ring, but when he was at his best, only the hardcore boxing fans took notice. As the saying goes in the Sweet Science, if you are not a big man, you are irrelevant.

7. Bernard Hopkins


Yes, “The Executioner” is a wildly popular figure these days, but as brilliant as Hopkins was when he ruled the middleweight division, he hardly ever got the sort of attention he deserved. Even after he trounced unbeaten killing machine Felix Trinidad in 2001, it still took Hopkins a few years to finally cash in on his greatness. Hopkins always did things his own way. He constantly fought with the networks and had long-standing feuds with the various promoters who tried to corral him. Hopkins was often pitted against the absolute best of his generation and picked to lose almost every time. When he happened to drop a decision to someone like Jermain Taylor, Joe Calzaghe or Jean Pascal, most observers felt he was either robbed outright or believed the fight in question could have easily gone either way. Aside from his loss to a prime Roy Jones Jr. in 1993 and his most recent defeat -- at age 49 -- to rising star Segey Kovalev, Hopkins has never been dominated. However, even when he was conquering virtually everybody, he never received his just due. His style put off most observers, and because he is not a knockout artist, he is often overlooked in favor of bombers who have a 10th of his talent. These days, Hopkins is getting the praise and paydays he deserves, but it took far too long.

6. Archie Moore


Rattle off as many great knockout artists as you can. Unless you are a boxing devotee, it is doubtful that Moore’s name came out of your mouth. For reasons unbeknownst to most, “The Old Mongoose” never garnered the sort of adulation and recognition that should have come his way. He whipped most foes he faced and knocked out opponents left and right. Even though Moore proved beatable throughout his career, many of his contemporaries and their managers avoided him like the plague. It was not until he was an aging 36 that he finally was given his first world title fight, toppling Joey Maxim for the light heavyweight championship. Moore defended the crown longer than anybody is history. Overall, Moore recorded a staggering 185 wins, scoring an astonishing 131 knockouts in the process. That is a record that will never be beaten -- ever. Still, Moore is hardly brought up in general conversation and remains an all-time great that only hardcore boxing followers know.

Finish Reading » Of Body Snatchers and Assassins

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