Body punchers don’t get enough love. Dramatic instances where a paralyzing left hook to the liver or a crushing right to the ribs produces a KO aside, much of the time an effective body attack is overlooked, even by ringside judges. And yet there exist few more advantageous strategies in boxing than sapping an opponent’s strength, stamina and will with an assault on their belly and brisket.
Most boxers do mix some hard body blows into their arsenal, but then there are the warriors who make body punching an essential part of their ring craft. Herewith, the twelve pugilists who utilized body batterings to their utmost effectiveness, boxing’s best body punchers.
12. Micky Ward: “Irish” Mickey Ward’s signature punch was an extremely effective left hook to the liver, a weapon that earned him more than a few clean knockouts. Few boxers have relied so much on that single, debilitating weapon.
11. Alexis Arguello: “The Explosive Thin Man” understood well the value of patiently digging hard blows to the midsection to wear the opponent down. A body punch wizard, Arguello often mixed head and body blows in the same combination.
10. Mickey Walker: An extraordinary brawler and swarmer, the great “Toy Bulldog” broke down much heavier and bigger opponents with his non-stop body attack.
9. Joe Frazier: Smokin’ Joe’s ferocious attack started with full attention to his opponent’s mid-section, his left hooks to the body softening his man up for the impending assault directed upstairs.
8. Billy Petrolle: Tough and aggressive, “The Fargo Express” was famed for his two-fisted body hammerings, anchored by his potent left hook.
6. Julio Cesar Chavez: The sound of “J.C. Superstar” landing life-sapping body punches was a familiar one in the 1990’s as Julio’s fists buried themselves under the ribs of no fewer than 87 stoppage victims. When talk turns to great body punchers, “The Lion of Culiacán” always comes up.
5. Jake LaMotta: Bulling inside in his trademark fashion and absorbing punishment in the process, LaMotta constantly worked to get in close and batter the torsos of such greats as Marcel Cerdan, Tommy Bell, Fritzie Zivic, Tommy Yarosz, Holman Williams and the great Sugar Ray Robinson.
4. Tony Zale: “The Man of Steel” was renowned for his cast-iron determination to whack away at his opponent’s ribs, methodically punishing and wearing them down with a two-fisted body attack.
3. Sam Langford: The sage whose original utterance, “Hit the body and the head dies,” spawned many imitators, Langford was a certified expert at blasting opponents with vicious blows downstairs. As heavyweight immortal Harry Wills said, “When Sam hit me to the body, I looked behind to see if his fist had come out the other side.”
2. Henry Armstrong: “Homicide Hank’s” modus operandi was all about getting close, sticking to the opponent like super glue, and unloading heavy artillery to the breadbasket.
1. Bob Fitzsimmons: Boxing’s first triple-crown champion specialized in hard, energy-sapping body blows and is credited with inventing the solar plexus punch. A single left hook to the body from Fitz won him the heavyweight championship of the world in his historic battle with James J. Corbett in 1897.
Honorable Mentions: Rocky Marciano, Eusebio Pedroza, Marcel Cerdan, Pernell Whitaker, Roberto Duran, James Toney, Joe Louis, Tony Canzoneri, Thomas Hearns, Sugar Ray Robinson, Nicolino Locche, Wilfredo Gomez, Ricky Hatton, Jack Dempsey, Mike Tyson, Gennady Golovkin, Carlos Zarate, Gerald McClellan, James Scott, Frank Klaus, Kid Azteca, Brian Viloria, Ruben Olivares.