Previously, I compiled a list of my top 10 favorite boxer-punchers. From Sugar Ray Robinson to Joe Louis to Marvin Hagler and others, these were some of the best fighters throughout the history of the Sweet Science. Now, it’s time to look at my top 10 favorite outside boxers.
Outside fighters spend most of their time at a safe distance from their opponents, creating space to avoid getting hit often, while allowing the fighter to establish a jab. Using the jab as a range finder and as a defensive tactic, it helps to create the fighter’s position and pacing, set up additional attacks and combinations, keep his opponent playing his rules. Lastly, in order for an outside fighter to be effective, he must have good footwork and movement.
There have been many great fighters throughout boxing history which have used this style. While some would associate the style of an outside fighter or a pure boxer with the word “boring”, that’s certainly not the case amongst true aficionados of the Sweet Science. You have to marvel at the skill and wizardry of a top boxer plying his trade.
With all of that said, here is a list of my 10 favorite outside fighters:
- Muhammad Ali: “The Greatest.” He is everything that you could ask for in an outside fighter. He had a lightning fast jab, super quick feet, and is always in position to either throw a punch or avoid one. Most fighters can’t pull off a style where their hands tend to be waist high, but Ali defies logic.
- Gene Tunney: Being able to avoid and outsmart the relentless pressure of fighters with the nicknames “The Pittsburgh Windmill” and “The Manassa Mauler” is quite a feat. With a great jab and a good right to back it up, he could keep his opponents at bay while he put on a boxing clinic.
- Tommy Loughran: Alright, I admit, Loughran might epitomize to some the concept of a boring fighter, but he stuck to his game plan. He was not at all considered a puncher and rarely knocked out his opponents. His jab was phenomenal though. He stayed on the outside and avoided any urge to mix it up. Two things to note about Loughran. First, he is the one who derailed Jim Braddock’s (the Cinderella Man) career by absolutely destroying him in his only light heavyweight title fight. Second, I’m still not convinced that somehow his fight with Primo Carnera was rigged which prevented him from becoming the heavyweight champion.
- Sugar Ray Leonard: Now here is an exciting fighter. An interesting thing about Leonard is that he had power. I classify him as an outside fighter though because he established a jab in the fight and had great outside movement. Many of his knockouts also happened from the outside and not by mixing it up with his opponent.
- Larry Holmes: Some say that he has the best jab in the history of boxing. Although that is debatable, what’s not debatable is that that jab is what created one of the best and longest runs as a heavyweight champion.
- Benny Leonard: The only lightweight that has a case at being better than Roberto Duran. He started boxing at the age of 15 and had a few tough fights at a young age. Once he matured and figured out boxing a bit more, he had an amazing run at lightweight. I believe his greatest attributes were his footwork and ability to counterpunch off of that movement.
- Joe Gans: There is a reason his nickname was the “Old Master.” He had all the tools, and many believe that he was ahead of his time with his techniques and skills. Because of so much segregation at the time, sometimes Gans was forced to lose fights that he could have easily won. It makes you wonder much better his record would look if he were actually able to put in his effort in those fights.
- Tony Canzoneri: Yet another great lightweight on my list. Canzoneri is a fun fighter to watch. He is always moving around the ring, changing angles, and throwing a variety of punches.
- Billy Conn: Most famous for his gutsy showing against Joe Louis. Let’s not forget that before that fight, he was the light heavyweight champion of the world. He was a master boxer which is exactly why Louis had trouble with him. It was no fluke that Conn was doing so well in their first meeting. Also, Conn had never been knocked out before that fight, so he was pretty tough too.
- Jersey Joe Walcott: Another fighter who bothered Joe Louis in the ring (is there a trend here?) Walcott had quick hands and knew how to finish an opponent when he had them hurt.