Worst 10 Nicknames: The Art of The Nickname: Part 2
By Chris Ackerman, Part 1 (November 5, 2005)
As important as it is for a fighter to have a sweet nickname, it is even more crucial to avoid getting stuck with a dumb one. Unfortunately, poor decision-making, bad advice or momentary lapses can affect anyone and just like on the playground, a tragic moniker sticks with you a long time. Why someone who is gifted the opportunity to manufacture their own nickname would choose one of those we’ve all come to know and shake our heads at is beyond comprehension.
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Before we embark on a consideration of the top ten worst nicknames of the past 30 years, let me offer the following disclaimer since most involve currently active fighters. This is obviously just opinion and should be taken in light-hearted spirit it is intended. My intention is not to offend, or to mock but just to add a little good-natured roasting to the mix. Furthermore, with the old axiom “it’s so easy to criticize yet so difficult to create” in mind, I will stick my neck out by offering alternatives to the active fighters who have made the following list. And finally, while I consider the nicknames that follow to be less than impressive it’s not as though any are on par with, say John “The Weiner Dog” Smith, “Diaper Rash” Dave Miller, or Bob “Bedwetter” Jones…
10. Sharmba Mitchell - “Little Big Man”
I understand the idea here: Mitchell acknowledging he is in a lower weight division through use of the word “little” and that he is still a tough customer by use of “big.” However, being a welterweight means he probably walks around in the 160 pounds range and that is actually pretty close to the typical weight for a North American male. “Average Big Man”? I think not. Why not just lose the “little” and be Sharmba “Big Man” Mitchell? Or better yet just simply “The Man.”
9. Pernell Whitaker - “Sweet Pea”
This is a case of, as Maxwell Smart would say: “missed it by that much.” Pernell was a great fighter; one of the best. He always showed slick movement, crisp combos and a defense that was a blueprint for how to avoid getting hit. But Sweet Pea? That is either the weird looking kid from Popeye cartoons or a climbing plant with sweet smelling, multi-colored flowers (Lathyrus odoratus). It could have been a great nick that, while his own, contained a reference to a great from the past. If only he had chosen “Sweet P” instead.
8. Jason Litzau - “The American Boy”
I’m all for patriotism, but this is just pandering. Why not just go all out and be “The all-American, clean-cut, athletic go-getter”? Clearly Litzau wanted to go with a name that reflects his national pride but a little subtlety goes a long way. Consider if Lennox Lewis went with “The British born Jamaican by way of Canada.” Jason could have gone the clever route with something in line with “Rocket’s Glare” but there are plenty of uniquely American terms. I think “Gunslinger” suits him just fine.
7. Almazbek Raiymkulov - “Dr. Evil”
Here is the best recent example of a fighter changing or attempting to change his nickname. Why anyone would choose Dr. Evil to replace Kid Diamond is beyond me, particularly when “Diamond” is a partial translation of his name. If it were not for Austin Powers, the new name might work but three movies later and the public knows Dr. Evil as a short, bald, fat, quasi-evil comedy icon with a tiny devil-spawn clone as a sidekick. If a fighter attempts to usurp a name from popular culture he should at least make it one with an aura. “Pretty Boy” for example, references a notorious gangster. Dr. Evil on the other hand, is akin to Cruella DeVille or Mr. Burns.
6. Manny Pacquiao - “Pac-man”
This was a great game that rejuvenated the industry 25 years ago but is a weak attempt at a partial name/pop culture reference combo. I sincerely hope no other boxers go down this road or we might end up with a Samuel “Centi-Pete” Peter, or Roy “Aster-Royds Jones." Drop the “Pac-man” and adopt “Meatgrinder.” Now that is a bad ass nickname.
5. John Ruiz - “The Quietman”
Again, I think the attempt was toward a valid or legitimate message: Ruiz is a man of few words whose fists do the talking. Even though a slough of abysmal fights, a letter writing campaign and a nuisance lawsuit have shown it to be a false claim, touting a guy as the strong, silent type could work ok. “The Quietman” hardly gets the message across, however. John “The Friendly, Helpful Neighbor” has about as much going for it…why not John “Ned Flanders” Ruiz? I propose “Python” as a replacement nick since he’s all about the big squeeze whether in a boxing arena or the legal one.
4. Ricky Hatton - “The Hitman”
Thomas Hearns is the Hitman, no one else. It’s a cool nickname and made my top ten list but that is hardly a reason to poach it, especially when so many other options are available. "Ruthless" Ricky Hatton. Ricky “The Hammer” Hatton. Headhunter, Hatchet….the list goes on. Take thirty extra seconds and grab a Thesaurus if need be, but leave the greats with that which they have earned. For Ricky, “The Reaper” is where it’s at.
3. Ray Leonard - “Sugar”
I have a major pet peeve, and it has to do with stealing. Ray Robinson is universally recognized as among the best, if not the best, of all time. He is Sugar. Whether we consider this an homage or an act of piracy on the part of Leonard is immaterial. The nickname should have retired with Robinson; it is untouchable. Disagree? What if LeBron started calling himself “Air” James? What if Barry Bonds insisted on being referred to as “The Babe”? End of discussion.
2. Shane Mosley - “Sugar”
This is an even more egregious offense because there were two great fighters before him that called themselves Sugar. Maybe everyone should. In this corner: Sugar Shane Mosley, and his opponent, Sugar Fernando Vargas. When the bell rings your referee in charge of the action will be Sugar Jay Nady. I recently read an article recapping a win by a young fighter calling himself “Lights Out.” What an outrage. At least wait until the body is cold before you start stealing teeth from it. Next thing you know guys will be using the entire name of a legend: Joe “Jack Dempsey” Blow; Mike “Willie Pep” Crawford, Jose “Roberto ‘Manos de Piedra’ Duran” Rodriquez. Please. As for Shane: Shotgun.
1. Nate Campbell - “The Galaxxy Warrior”
I loved Nate’s last outing when he took the polish off Kid Diamond, but it seems to me a guy should have at least one fight away from his home planet or against a foe from beyond before he can be considered a Galaxy Warrior. Adding an extra “X” doesn’t change anything, it just means on top of everything else there is a spelling error. If such a fight does go down, it’d be a rare PPV event that was actually worth the $49.95, but in the meantime, Nate should drop the “Galaxxy” part. “The Warrior” is a little bland maybe, but at least it’s not cheesy. I thought “Loose Cannon” might work but most loose cannons don’t advertise or even know they are loose cannons. Besides, it’s more of a Ricardo Mayorga thing. Instead…Bonesaw.
Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson
Kevin “Flushing Flash” Kelley - (imagine if you didn’t know Flushing was a place)
Wayne Braithwaite (Big Truck isn’t bad but Monster Truck is better)
O’Neill “Give ‘em Hell” Bell (Nah…The Ringmaster)
Footnote: The jury is still out when it comes to one particular fighter who is not just active, but undefeated. I received a number of emails suggesting Jeff “Left Hook” Lacy had chosen poorly. The argument was that naming yourself after a punch was just plain stupid and examples were even provided. For example, imagine a fighter with “Straight Right” or “Right Cross” as a nickname. Both are ridiculous, I agree and I also concur that it is strange to name yourself after your best weapon. However, keep in mind that Lacy is undefeated and has finished off 16 of the 20 guys he’s faced…usually with the shot his name warns them about. If he winds up having a great career, his nickname is the boxing equivalent to Babe Ruth pointing to left field. Think about it.
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