Top 12 Greatest Masters Of The Jab

With few exceptions, the jab is every fighter’s most fundamental weapon, the key punch that sets up all the others. Without it, a boxer cannot effectively establish rhythm, distance and timing. Crucial for both offense and defense, it is the vital weapon that all boxers learn first. Here are the pugilists who carried the most dangerous and effective leads and perfected the craft of the jab.

12. Sonny Liston: Maybe no one has thrown a harder left jab than the incredibly intimidating Liston. Known to have actually removed teeth, the jab of a prime Liston was a deadly weapon.

Ali feels the power of the Liston jab.

11. Thomas Hearns: One of the ring’s most wicked left leads was perfected in Detroit’s famous Kronk Gym. Hearns was renowned for his devastating right hand, but it was his sharp and powerful jab that created openings for the right.

The Hit Man jabs Hill.

10. James J. Corbett: As one of the earliest pure boxers, “Gentleman Jim” relied heavily on his left hand to keep larger, stronger opponents at bay.

James J. Corbett

9. Harold Johnson: The light heavyweight champion they nicknamed “Hercules” owed much of his success to his excellent left lead, which he utilized with exemplary precision and timing.

Harold Johnson

8. Muhammad Ali: As he famously told everyone, “The Louisville Lip” could “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.” The punch that did most of the “stinging” was a rapier-like jab so quick few could block or evade it.

Ali jabs Norton in their second duel.

7. Joe Louis: Louis was one of the most correct punchers in boxing history. Left hook, uppercut, straight right — “The Brown Bomber” mastered them all. It was no different with the jab, but with Joe’s incredible power behind it, his left lead was a wrecking ball.

Joe jabs Walcott.

6. Marvelous Marvin Hagler: The Marvelous One is rightfully regarded as one of the greatest southpaws in boxing history, but he was a converted southpaw, which meant his true power hand was the right. As a result, his southpaw jab was a deadly weapon packing tremendous force and velocity.

5. Tommy Loughran: The all-time great they called “The Philly Phantom” was revered for his ring intelligence and his left jab, which he depended on to bother, buffet and befuddle his opponents.

Tommy Loughran

4. Sugar Ray Robinson: No one argues the fact that Walker Smith Jr. is one of the greatest pugilists who ever lived, maybe the greatest of all-time, and his dangerous left jab was key to his ring success.

Sugar Ray Robinson. Drawing by Damien Burton.

3. Benny Leonard: One of the true artists of the ring, “The Ghetto Wizard” didn’t have just one jab, but a host of them, all with a different purpose. Some set up specific combinations, some maneuvered the opponent, while others could rattle one’s teeth.

The great Benny Leonard. Drawing by Damien Burton.

2. Larry Holmes: Early in his pro career, “The Easton Assassin” injured his right hand. While he waited for it to heal, he developed a left jab so sharp and powerful it became the finest the heavyweight division has ever seen.

Holmes nails Oliver McCall with his famous jab.

1. Joe Gans: “The Old Master” fought from 1893 to 1909 and is credited by most with actually inventing the jab. He developed the art of using it both defensively, to disrupt his opponents attack, or on the offense, to force a retreat and set up his dangerous right hand.

Honorable Mentions: Jose Napoles, Fighting Harada, Willie Pep, Billy Conn, Bob Foster, Ricardo Lopez, Juan Manuel Marquez, Ken Buchanan, Sugar Ray Leonard, Ike Williams, George Benton, Jim Driscoll, Emile Griffith, Pinklon Thomas, Johnny Famechon, Winky Wright, Pernell Whitaker, Packy McFarland, Carlos Monzon, Ike Quartey, Willie Pastrano, Floyd Mayweather Jr., John Conteh, Michael Spinks, Barney Ross, Mike Tyson, Gennady Golovkin, Roberto Duran, Wladimir Klitschko, Salvador Sanchez, George Foreman, Gene Tunney, Lennox Lewis, Archie Moore.

12 thoughts on “Top 12 Greatest Masters Of The Jab

  • November 2, 2018 at 4:26 pm
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    Honestly surprised by the exclusion of Tommy Loughran

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    • November 3, 2018 at 2:03 am
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      He’s number five.

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  • November 4, 2018 at 1:23 am
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    No Carlos Monzon?

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  • April 3, 2020 at 10:13 pm
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    Larry Holmes. His jab was sublime. SRR is also an excellent pick as is Hagler and Benny L. Where is Pernell?

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  • April 4, 2020 at 3:23 am
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    Think Virgil Hill is worthy of an honourable mention. He had nothing else apart from a good jab. Good read.

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  • April 7, 2020 at 3:47 am
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    No Gennady Golovkin? At least top 5 all time. Thing of beauty

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  • June 12, 2020 at 4:50 pm
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    No Ike Quartey?

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  • July 30, 2020 at 6:54 pm
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    Where’s Golovkin? The man’s jab is awesome. He pierces guards with it and every time it lands it snaps his opponent’s head back.

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  • November 15, 2020 at 8:44 am
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    I’d rank Hearns higher. And probably add Golovkin.

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  • June 30, 2021 at 11:51 pm
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    I find it hard to believe that Sonny Liston isn’t listed here. One of the greatest jabs in the history of the sport.

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    • July 1, 2021 at 1:00 pm
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      He’s there, Bad Man. How did you miss him?

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  • August 11, 2021 at 9:00 pm
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    Dariusz Michalczewski had an amazing jab. Same with John Conteh. De La Hoya should be mentioned too.

    Reply

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