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.
11. Thomas Hearns: One of the ring’s most wicked jabs 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.
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.
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.
8. Muhammad Ali: As he famously told all who would listen, and even those who wouldn’t, “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.
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.
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.
4. Floyd Mayweather Jr.: Arguably the finest technical boxer of his generation, the pugilist they once called “Pretty Boy” boasted one of the prettiest left leads you might ever see, a dangerous and essential weapon for Floyd, both upstairs and down.
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.
2. Larry Holmes: Early in his pro career, “The Easton Assassin” injured his right hand. So, while he waited for it to heal, he spent countless hours in the gym developing a left jab so sharp and powerful it became the finest the heavyweight division has ever seen.
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, Sugar Ray Robinson, John Conteh, Michael Spinks, Barney Ross, Mike Tyson, Gennady Golovkin, Roberto Duran, Wladimir Klitschko, Salvador Sanchez, George Foreman, Gene Tunney, Lennox Lewis, Archie Moore.