The Seven Most Arrogant Boxers of All time!
Ken Hissner (April 12, 2010) Doghouse Boxing (Photo © German Villasenor, Doghouse Boxing)  
With the recent Hopkins and Jones match I wondered who people would hope to win since both have a history of arrogance. Though Hopkins the older at 45, he would still be the favorite considering Jones having lost five of his last ten bouts. The arrogance each fighter showed toward the other carried over into the ring causing nothing more than a foul filled bout adding nothing to the history of boxing. We will catch up on these two later in the story.

There will be many not mentioned here but there are a seven that have stuck in my mind over the years. Where better to start than with the heavyweight champion Jack Johnson? Johnson was in a time where he defied an entire race of people in and out of the ring.

I have written a story on Johnson to whom I consider one of the best heavyweights of all time. Little has been written about him drawing the “color line” like so many white boxers were criticized for during that era. After winning the “colored title” in 1903 from Denver Ed Martin he defeated Sam Langford, Sam McVea, Frank Childs and Joe Jeanette. Against Jeanette, Johnson was 1-1-2-2nc and the most logical colored fighter to fight after winning the world title. Instead he chose Battling Jim Johnson, 17-6-1. Jeanette had defeated Jim Johnson in 1912 and twice in 1913, the same year Jack Johnson won the title. Other words if you are going to be “forced “ to fight another colored boxer at least fight the best not the 5th best. If this wasn’t drawing the “colored line” what was?

Johnson’s whole reputation was based on defeating former champion Jim Jeffries who hadn’t fought in six years and had to lose over 100 pounds. The arrogance he showed in forcing Jeffries into this fight has never been equaled. Jeffries own pastor said “we have a coward amongst us”, in order to get Jeffries to come out of retirement and defend “his race”. Johnson made it clear there wasn’t a “white” fighter that could beat him. That is until Jess Willard came along. His marrying a white women lead to his one year imprisonment upon returning to the country after seven years of exile. It was his fourth marriage, the previous women all black. This crime brought about the Mann Act. Senator John McCain (AZ) and Peter King (NY) have pushed for President Obama to pardon Johnson. Before him President Bush was asked by Orin Hatch (UT) to pardon him. Both houses of congress passed the resolution but the US Justice Department turned it down.

1960 Olympic champion Cassius Clay would call out the rounds he predicted his opponents would fall on several occasions like “Moore (Archie) in four”. He was called the “Louisville Lip”. Turning to the Islamic faith upon winning the title and changing his name to Muhammad Ali was another slap in the face of society. He even turned his back on Malcolm X upon his return from Mecca. Malcolm X proclaimed there didn’t have to be a separate society for the Muslims. Ali and the American Muslims shunned him for that. The arrogance Ali showed toward his opponents by nicknaming them brought humiliation to each. Who can forget Sonny “The Bear” Liston, Earnie “Acorn” Shavers, Floyd “The Rabbit” Patterson, Larry “Peanut Head” Holmes and Joe “The Gorilla” Frazier? It wasn’t until his losing to such boxers as Larry Holmes did people start to show him any sympathy. It was Ali’s idea of getting the people to hate him in order to draw a bigger gate. In this he succeeded. Talking about Holmes, he would be on the top of anyone’s list of most arrogant. Ali, Hopkins and Holmes are three of the seven I have had personal experiences with and Holmes would certainly top my list.

Holmes lived in the shadow of Ali and to this day calls Ali “an average boxer”. After several “gift decisions” over Carl “The Truth” Williams and “Terrible” Tim Witherspoon to get to 48-0 losing to Michael Spinks, Holmes called out the name of Rocky Marciano whose 49-0 record still stands! “Marciano couldn’t wear my jock strap” proclaimed Holmes. Several fighters had surpassed Marciano’s 49-0 record but would later be defeated. Holmes had to play the race card to cover his own defeat. He played up race big time in his fight with Gerry Cooney. Some 25 years later after losing to Spinks, Holmes proclaimed “it cost me a lot of endorsements. What I really meant to say is Marciano couldn’t walk down the same sidewalk I do!” This was in reference to the early 1900’s when blacks couldn’t walk on the same side as whites. Talk about race reversal! No wonder Ali called him “Peanut Head”. The apology was worse than the original racial remark.

Not only did Holmes lose to Spinks, but lost in the rematch which was controversial. This was followed by the brutal beating Mike Tyson put on him suffering his only knockout loss. In an attempt to regain his title he would lose to Evander Holyfield and Oliver McCall. One of the most embarrassing for him was losing to Brian Nielsen in Denmark. In his last bout he made Erick “Butterbean” Esch fight 10 rounds instead of 4 rounds in order to have his usual edge. This would be the only time Butterbean fought over 4 scheduled rounds in any of his 88 career bouts. Holmes hoped to humiliate the Bean and ended up on the canvas himself in the 10th and final round to the delight of many. Holmes has turned down an invitation to the Pennsylvania Hall of Fame in honoring him. He never even sent anyone to accept his award. He was the only boxer when inducted into the World Hall of Fame charging a fee for signing his autographed pictures. When told that wasn’t allowed he abruptly left the facility.

His trying to force George Foreman into a bout after the latter promised on his mother’s death bed he would never fight again was another act of arrogance. Many feel he was lucky Foreman didn’t change his mind. There are personal experiences of my own and hair raising incidents shared to me in confidence from those who worked for him that go beyond belief.

Bernard Hopkins has always defied the “system” after “graduating” from Graterford prison he always seemed to carry that chip on his shoulder. Even in his home city of Philadelphia he cannot sell out a crowd. He has only fought 11 of his 58 fights in the “City of Brotherly Love”. After his defeat by Roy Jones in 1993 he returned to Philly two fights later at the Blue Horizon. It would be nine years before his return in 2002 as champion making his first Pennsylvania defense in Reading, some 30 miles north of Philly. The following year in 2003 he would fight at the Spectrum against a weak French opponent to the disappointment of the fans. In his final return to the Liacouras Center on the Temple University campus in December of 2009 he still couldn’t fill the arena. Maybe having a middleweight come up to light heavyweight didn’t help.

In 2008 Hopkins proclaimed “no white boy is going to beat me”! This is a racist remark the Philly fans already knew about him, but the rest of the boxing world would find out upon his signing to meet Joe Calzaghe of Wales. Hopkins was made to eat his words as he got slapped around in losing a split decision to “white” Joe Calzaghe. “Be-Hop’s” moving to Delaware left a sour taste in the mouth of his strongest fans in Philly.

There have been stories of snubbing young kids when asked for an autograph. His dealings when it comes to money with his long time trainer Bouie Fisher, promoter’s Lou DiBella and Don King have been made public. Only DiBella won a lawsuit hurting Hopkins where it counts the most, in his pocket.

Jones easily makes the arrogant list. Jones and Hopkins robbed the public in their recent “fight” that rumors claim sold 1,500 tickets before they had to start giving them away. After Jones had his mouth shut by Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson he almost became tolerable to listen to. I never wanted to see him win until he fought John Ruiz for the heavyweight title. Holmes and Hopkins still have the “I’m a victim” via Roger Dangerfield’s “I get no respect” attitude, all the way to the bank.

Jones was 34-0 when he hit Montell Griffin while down losing by disqualification. Then he went seven years before losing to Tarver the first time. That was the first of three straight losses and six losses in his last eleven fights leading up to now. Jones has had his share of mocking his opponents from playing a basketball game the day of a fight to having both hands behind his back before scoring a knockout.

The one fighter Jones proclaimed he enjoyed beating more than anyone else also joins the list. That is none other than James “Lights Out” Toney. He was 44-0-2 when he lost to Jones in 1994. The only reason he was still unbeaten was his highly disputed decision win over Dave “TNT” Tiberi in 1992. It not only cost Tiberi winning the middleweight title but he would never fight again. Throughout Toney’s career he has shown arrogance but admittedly can be funny, of course, at someone else’s expense. He finally came around last year after seventeen years and admitted he lost to Tiberi and shouldn’t have gotten the win.

The lone non American boxer who has to be on everyone’s list is none other than “Prince” Naseem Hamed from Yemen, fighting out of the UK. Who can forget his “carpet ride’ entrances and dances before his introduction? After winning his first 35 fights he took on the great Mexican fighter Marco Antonio Barrera in 2001. During the introduction of the fighters Hamed took the announcer’s microphone from him and proclaimed to the audience “you will all serve Allah”! Hamed, being a Muslim, did not know the effect the arrogance of this statement would have on Barrera until possibly the last round. He lost every round except the 12th when Barrera lost a point by intentionally slamming Hamed’s head into a turnbuckle. Hamed would not fight again for over a year and though winning a lackluster decision over an opponent from Spain, retired in 2002. Talk about someone who brought out the worst in fans it had to be the “Prince”. His battles with the law in the UK are famous.

This brings us to our final boxer known for his arrogance in “Pretty Boy” Floyd Mayweather, Jr. During around the time that Hamed retired, Mayweather was having his 34th fight against Jose Luis Castillo. This was a fight most fight fans felt Castillo won though the judges didn’t even have it close. The fans demanded a rematch and Mayweather obliged in his next fight and though the scoring was within 2 and 3 points of each other it was obvious Mayweather was the winner.

Mayweather’s controversies with the popular ESPN2 analyst Brian Kinney and Floyd, Sr. are well known. Even upon losing on “Dancing with the Stars” where he showed athletic, if not smooth, moves, “Pretty Boy” was quite upset when he was voted off the show! Maybe after 40 wins without an official defeat Mayweather’s luck may be running out while his mouth continues to run. Manny Pacquiao who is today’s best pound for pound boxer on almost everyone’s list has Mayweather upset. Seems the fact “Pacman” has held world titles from 112 to 147 concerns “Pretty Boy” to the point he wants blood tests done if they are to fight. Only thing is its Pacquiao bringing in the fans, not Mayweather. Besides its Pacquiao who holds the WBO title while Mayweather is without a title.

These are my seven picks for the most arrogant of boxers over the past 100 years. I am sure there are many more that come to mind. Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker would certainly top a list of his peers. His once trainer George Benton told me “no sense training him, he knows it all”. In contacting Whitaker for a story last year he told me “I’s studying”. Knowing his past substance abuse record I didn’t want to ask what he was studying. He told me he’d call me back. That was over six months ago. I’ve left two messages for him since but I guess he’s busy studying. Of all mentioned only Ali has gained in popularity since his fighting days. I personally found Ali in my numerous times around him to be very amusing.

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