Which boxers had the best jab in history?
The jab is the key, fundamental punch of the Sweet Science. Power punches might get the glamor, but the jab is the foundation tool for both defense and offense. Everyone should know this if for no other reason than the way CompuBox tallies its punchstat numbers, with jabs in one category and all other punches lumped together as “power punches.” Not to mention that anybody who has ever participated in boxing training knows that when you step foot in the gym, you do nothing but jab until you have that down good enough to continue learning the rest.
So who were the best jabbers of all-time?
5. Sonny Liston: This man’s jab should have been labeled “The Liston Piston,” and it struck with such force that even glancing hits often caused real pain. Liston’s jab carried so much force as to be the same as a power punch from a normal heavyweight, and Liston knew how to use that kind of force to set up his bone-crunching power shots and to make opponents pay a steep price for trying to come inside on him. George Foreman might have been more powerful than Liston, but Liston unquestionably had the harder jab, and likely the heaviest jab in boxing history.
4. Tommy Hearns: The boxing skills of Tommy Hearns are overshadowed by his power, but whether as a boxer or a puncher, his style was based on his rangy, skillful jab. In his early banger days, that jab was his can opener. In his light heavyweight period, when Hearns no longer had knockout power, it became the basis for boxing his way to points wins. Hearns is the definitive example of the longevity a good jab can give a boxer’s career.
3. Tommy Loughran: Loughran is often credited with inventing a big chunk of the Sweet Science, but this master stylist of yesteryear had only one punch: his jab. Loughran didn’t so much work off his jab as he worked with his jab, and built up an all-time great legacy in doing so.
2. Larry Holmes: The Golden Jab. ‘Nuff said.
1. Benny Leonard: Jabs come in many shapes and sizes, but most fighters have only one type of effective jab. Some have two. Leonard had them all. Paw, rapier, machine gun, telephone pole, and even more. It’s hard to imagine what the Ghetto Wizard couldn’t do with his left jab.