Depending on before or after, they have forever been the appetizers or deserts to boxing’s entrée.
Watching and listening to champions like Ali, and Tyson, it sometimes seems that the gift of the jab and the gift of the gab are somehow interconnected. Not that it should come as a surprise though, since at various times both demand behavior that reaches and exceeds inflammatory, obnoxious, abrasive, confident, intimidating, rude, and downright abusive.
Still, above all including decency it is entertainment value that fans seek. A great quote must challenge its audience, so much so that they are made to jump out of their seat, no matter to commend or to condemn, so long as it is one or the other.
Perhaps the two most important aspects of any quote are: 1) Who is saying it; and, 2) How original/topical/shocking is it? Just as no one wants to hear the ruminations of a bum, no one wants to hear the same tired, rehearsed, and thoughtless cliché-filled lines over and over again.
Based on the above criteria, and strong personal preferences, I present the best boxing and boxing related quotes that, without feigning diplomacy, cut straight to the crux of the matter.
10. “…I’m the best ever, my style’s impetuous, my defense is impregnable, I wanna eat his children…” Mike Tyson
Possibly Tyson’s most famous (or infamous) quote ever. Apparently Tyson had not calmed down after obliterating Lou Savarese. It seemed he first knocked Savarese out of consciousness, then knocked him back into it, then continued to pound him even when the referee, whom he tossed aside like a rag doll, waved him off to stop. Tyson later explained that his friend in Brooklyn had been murdered the Tuesday before the fight and he had barely even trained. It appeared Tyson took his rage out on poor Lou, who may well have failed to connect on even one punch. Tyson’s vicious display prompted the British commentator calling the fight to ask Lennox Lewis’s manager, who had stepped into the broadcast booth with him, “Honestly now… who’s corner would you be in if Tyson and Lewis fought?”, an hilarious public insult.
9. “Yes sir, I was trying to break his arm.” Mike Tyson
A classic Tyson quote after a classic Tyson moment. It was another one of his comeback fights (in Vegas, where he belongs), and this was no Mellow Mike this was Classic Mike, the one who used to go into that special zone, where once the bell rang he wouldn’t stop until his prey had been flattened. When he and Francois Botha got tangled up in the corner, Mike, fresh off of teaching Holyfield a lesson about head-butting, decided it prudent to incapacitate Botha by breaking his arm. Probably not a good idea. Thankfully for him, the White Buffalo’s arm didn’t break and the match continued, ending in dramatic fashion, nonetheless, when Tyson splattered him with a clean shot, something he had been working on unsuccessfully for almost 6 rounds. His eloquent answer at the press conference was priceless when juxtaposed with what he spoke of.
8. “It’s not bragging if you can back it up.” Muhammad Ali
I have long argued this when telling others that Randy Moss is, in fact, not a cocky S.O.B., it’s just that he is so much better than everyone else. Is he wrong to help others understand his actual greatness? After all it is he, and not others, who truly understands his genius. He is just being honest when he tells the rest of the world how great he really is, and how we should all feel privileged to be watching him. Same thing goes in boxing. Generally, only fighters with skills speak up Ali, Tyson, Mayweather, Hopkins while the scrubs stay quiet. Why this rubs some people the wrong way is a mystery. Trash talking, unless it is coming from those with no basis (i.e. James Toney talking to Roy Jones Hey buddy he beat your blubbery gut into submission before you ate your way into the heavyweight divisionor Hector Camacho Jr A sit-up wouldn’t hurt you pal) spices things up and is entertaining. Done properly, 'bragging' is good for all sports, especially boxing.
7. “…I was trying to punch his nose into his brain.” Mike Tyson
Tyson’s uppercuts always seemed his most brutal punches. At a distance where his bigger, taller opponents could do nothing but hold and hope, he used to turn their physical advantages into severe disadvantages. Both Razor Ruddock matches were probably blueprints for what would have happened to Lennox Lewis had he been willing to fight Tyson in his prime. As soon as opponents would get hit with Tyson’s uppercut, they would realize their intense fear and intimidation had in fact held strong basis. And then, like clockwork, they would immediately paralyze and the fight would be over.
6. “You don’t understand. I could have been a contender, I could have been a somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.” Terry Malloy (portrayed by Marlon Brando in 'On the Waterfront')
To varying degrees, a line that all fans, reporters, trainers, managers, and promoters utter when a real prizefight (i.e. Trinidad/De la Hoya, Holyfield/Tyson) is about to begin. Everyone wants to be the toughest and the baddest, but obviously only a tiny few ever get their stars aligned and end up making it. Not that simple reality can stop people from dreaming…
5. “How dare they challenge me with their primitive skills.” Mike Tyson
A truthful line that borrows from #8. Did Frank Bruno really think he stood a chance? Did anybody? Not really. Iron Mike was a lion, and he used to make trained heavyweight contenders, all more experienced and all larger in stature, look like the antelopes on the Discovery Channel. His skills were hardly boxing skills more like hunting skills but neither were theirs. Tyson’s opponents had only one option: to run and hide. Fans took a strange joy in watching young Mike work. He made it look so easy, so much so that people felt connected to him. Walk into any gym in America or even the world, including closed-door, communist Cuba and ask the fighters what made them want to box, and almost without fail, 70% or more will cite Tyson as their inspiration.
4. “I’m Tony Montana. You f-----g with me, you f-----g with the best. You need a f-----g army to take me out. (As he stands on the balcony using his “littgle friend”a veritable rocket launcher-- to nearly single-handedly devastate Sosa’s army of mercenaries). Antonio Montana
One of the best lines in a movie in which every line seems a classic. This is what Ricardo Mayorga must have been thinking as he stood with his hands down, inviting Vernon Forrest to unload on him in the fourth round of their rematch in July 2003. Just as Tony stood on the balcony and took several shots while condemning his attackers and inviting more, Mayorga, who had already succeeded at filling Forrest’s head with demons, proved to him that there was nothing he could do to hurt him. It would take an army of Forrests to get the belts back. I think it is impossible that anyone who saw this could not have been instantly transformed into a Mayroga fan. The crowd ringside could not believe what they were seeing… The same guy who had devastated Shane Mosley (who had beaten De La Hoya, who had beaten Vargas) was first of all afraid to even throw the punches, then when he managed the courage to do so, they had no effect. This kind of stuff is usually reserved for pro wrestling. Years ago, I recall the Hulkster shaking his balding head over and over as though to say “No, no, no” when Hulkamania used to start pumping through his veins, but the closest thing in boxing had always been Ali’s rope-a dope ultimately effective, but executed with precisely the opposite intentions.
3. “Oh Adrian…Always tells the truth… No, maybe I can’t win…maybe all I can do is take everything he’s got. But to beat me he’s going to have to kill me. And to kill me he’s going to have to have the heart to stand in front of me. And to do that, he’s got to be willing to die himself.” Rocky Balboa
One of the best sequences from the best sports movie ever made (and top 3 overall, along with Scarface and Rambo II. Honorable mention to Rounders, Godfather II, and Dumb and Dumber). Rocky comes home after the evil Drago has killed Apollo and Adrian 'greets' him at the top of the staircase. Everyone is scared to death of Drago, and according to Adrian, to fight him would be tantamount to suicide. “You’ve seen him. YOU CAN’T WIN,” she screams with the concern of an ingrate. (Not that she is an ingrate, but unlike Rocky who remains true to the streets, Adrian starts to take things especially herself too seriously when success piles up). After Rocky explains there is a hell of a lot more to life than the house, the Lamborghini, and even his health (i.e. his and Apollo’s dignity), Rocky’s lets rip his classic line. Rocky announces that he doesn’t care about life or limb he wants revenge, he needs revenge, and he won’t stop at anything, including death, to get it. His constant mention of death may creep some people out but it is reminiscent of Al Pacino’s speech in 'Any Given Sunday' when Pacino says, “Life’s a game of inches…It’s the guy who’s willing to die who’s gonna get that inch.” In football, and to a much, much larger degree in boxing, this is the exact attitude all prize fighters including soft spoken ones like Oscar De la Hoya take into the ring, regardless of whether they say it or not.
2. “Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them: A desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.” Muhammad Ali
A true classic, without an ounce of hyperbole. This thoughtful analysis holds true in any industry or walk of life. Boxing, being the most perfect and brutally honest microcosm of how the world works, naturally lends itself to such a truthful and simple axiom. An examination of Ali, as far back as his days as an 18 year-old Olympian, reveals that within his person lay something deeper than just skill, heart, boldness, confidence, dedication, passion, and all of the things required for greatness. He had a special aura, an intangible quality, one easy to recognize, but difficult to define. It was the same one-of-a-kindness that made him capable of defeating monsters like Liston and Foreman when no one on earth thought he even belonged in the ring with them. It was the same characteristic that gave him the courage and resolve to convert religions and reject the Vietnam war, even though one earned him the scorn of his family, and the other landed him in prison. And no doubt it was the same indefinable characteristic that led to his naming of himself as 'The Greatest', a title few can rightfully challenge him on.
1. “Do you have any more excuses tonight Roy?” Antonio Tarver
Is it any more possible to put someone in their place than Tarver did to Roy Jones Jr.? Tarver’s taunting first began after Jones had beaten Ruiz for the 'heavyweight title' and was feeling on top of the world. After Tarver obviously won the first match but lost the decision, a rematch seemed only logical. All the while, Tarver never stopped talking. He kept warning Jones and telling the world what was going to happen. Some people fell for Jones’s excuse that he had to lose 25 pounds of muscle the first time, and this time he would fix things up. Things got fixed up all right, only it was Tarver who was the fixer-upper. With one shot, he both laid to rest the man he had been scouting for 22 years, and permanently altered Jones’s and maybe even his own place in boxing history.