Even the greatest defensive boxers of all-time were nailed with numerous big punches during their careers, since the sport of boxing is still all about give and take. However, some fighters could definitely take a shot better than others. It’s rare to endure an entire career without getting knocked down, but some boxers have managed to achieve the feat.
This list features the 15 greatest chins in boxing history, as all of these fighters managed to stay on their feet at least 99.9 per cent of the time. Some of them may have kissed the canvas on the odd occasion, but considering the hard-punching opponents they have faced, there’s definitely no shame in that. Some of these guys were world champions, while others were merely solid pros who had an uncanny ability of being able to take it on the chin and keep coming forward.
15. Ruslan Provodnikov
Former WBO Junior Welterweight Champion Ruslan Provodnikov of Siberia is able to fight toe-to-toe in the ring due to his rock-solid chin. ‘The Russian Rocky’ is one of the most exciting boxers out there due to his fan-friendly slugging style and he doesn’t appear to mind taking two or three shots to land one of his own. This is usually quite evident by looking at his battered and bruised face after most of his battles.
The 33-year-old has been involved in some truly memorable slugfests and his 2013 bout against Timothy Bradley was named Ring Magazine‘s Fight of the Year. He’s also thrilled the fans in outings against Mike Alvarado, Chris Algieri, Jose Luis Castillo, John Molina Jr., Lucas Matthysse and Emanuel Augustus. Provodnikov, who’s 25-5 with 18 KOs had over 150 amateur fights as well and has never been decked. He may have had enough though since he hasn’t fought since June 2016.
14. Carmen Basilio
Carmen Basilio was an onion farmer before becoming a professional boxer. He amazed fans with his huge heart, tireless aggression and ability to take a punch. Basilio of Syracuse, New York put together a pro record of 56-16-7 with 27 KOs between 1948 and 1961, won the World Welterweight and Middleweight Titles and was stopped just twice. Both of his knockout losses came in his final five fights and both were to Gene Fullmer, making Fullmer the only man ever to stop him.
Basilio was stopped in the 14th round in a bout for the vacant Middleweight Title in August, 1959 and again just 10 months later in the 12th round of their rematch. However, the second fight was mainly stopped by referee Pete Giacoma due to Basilio’s badly cut face. Basilio’s best known for his two Fights of the Year against Sugar Ray Robinson in 1957 and 1958. He also withstood the bombs of Billy Graham, as well as Tony DeMarco and Johnny Saxton in two other Fights of the Year candidates in 1955 and 1956.
13. Carlos Monzon
Former middleweight king Carlos Monzon of Argentina fought exactly 100 times as a pro with a record of 87-3-9 with one no-contest and 59 KOs. He was never stopped and wasn’t knocked down until his final fight in 1977. Rodrigo Valdes of Colombia was the only man able to drop Monzon, which he did in the second round of their 15-round bout. Monzon went on to win the fight, though, for his second straight unanimous decision over Valdes.
The champ obviously didn’t like the fact he kissed the canvas and announced his retirement after the contest even though he was undefeated as the undisputed titleholder. Monzon took on all comers such as Gratien Tonna, Jose Napoles, Tony Mundine, Emile Griffith, Bennie Briscoe and Nino Benvenuti. He made 14 title defenses with his reign as champion lasting for six years, nine months and nine days. Sadly, his life ended with multiple tragedies — he was found guilty of killing his wife in 1989 and died six years later is a car crash while on a weekend pass from prison.
12. Rocky Marciano
Rocky Marciano has been the only heavyweight champion to retire undefeated as the “Brockton Blockbuster” hung up his gloves in 1955 at 49-0 with 43 KOs. Marciano wasn’t the biggest heavyweight around at just over 5’10” and a 68-inch reach, but he was knocked down just twice in his career, including once in his final outing. He could take a lot of punishment and keep on going, as Jersey Joe Walcott and Archie Moore found out in 1952 and 1955 (respectively) after knocking the champ down.
Marciano would go on to stop both Walcott and Moore and also faced several top heavyweights of his era including Ezzard Charles, Joe Louis and Harry Matthews. Ezzard Charles cut Marciano up in both of their fights, but couldn’t do enough to stop him. Marciano could be hit and slowed down, but very rarely did fans ever see him take a backward step inside the ring.
11. James Toney
Although he’s almost 50, James “Lights Out” Toney of Grand Rapids, Michigan was still boxing in 2017 with a record of 77-10-3 with 47 KOs and two no-contests. Toney has never been stopped and has been downed just three times from flash knockdowns in 92 bouts. He’s fought all the way from middleweight to heavyweight since turning pro in 1988 coming in as low as 157 lbs and as heavy as 257 lbs. Toney was once the IBF Middleweight, Super Middleweight and Cruiserweight Champion and has also won fringe titles at light heavyweight and heavyweight.
Toney’s capabilities have enabled to stay on his feet against everybody except Reggie Johnson, Roy Jones Jr. and Samuel Peter. He’s also faced the likes of Iran Barkley, Hasim Rahman, Charles Williams, Vassiliy Jirov, Evander Holyfield, Lucas Browne, Denis Lebedev, Mike McCallum and Michael Nunn. Toney didn’t fare too well at UFC 118 in 2010 though, as he tapped out in the first round against Randy Couture.
10. Gennady Golovkin
Although current middleweight great Gennady Golovkin of Kazakhstan is deservedly known for his fierce punching power, he should also be credited with having one of the best chins around. The unbeaten 35-year-old has built up a near perfect record of 37-0-1 with 33 KOs, and has yet to be in trouble in the ring. The former Olympic silver medalist is an expert at cutting off the ring and wearing his opponents down. He has been hit hard, but has always shaken it off.
Golovkin’s faced some legitimate bangers such as Grzegorz Proksa, Curtis Stevens, David Lemieux, Marco Antonio Rubio, Kell Brook, Daniel Jacobs and of course Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, but has never had his knees wobbled. In fact, he’s fought almost a combined 400 times now as an amateur and pro and has never been knocked down.
9. Vitali Klitschko
“Dr. Ironfist” Vitali Klitschko of Ukraine probably wasn’t given enough credit for his fine set of whiskers in the ring. The 6’7″ heavyweight fought 47 times as a pro between 1996 and 2012 and never touched the canvas once with anything other than his feet. Klitschko’s power was well known at 45-2 with 41 KOs. The former WBO and WBC Heavyweight Champion enjoyed one of the longest title reigns in the division’s history.
His first loss came to Chris Byrd in 2000 when Klitschko had to quit on his stool after nine rounds due to a shoulder injury even though he was ahead 88-83, 88-83 and 89-82 on the scorecards. His only other loss came in a slugfest against Lennox Lewis in 2003 when the fight was stopped after the sixth round due to horrendous cuts suffered by the Ukrainian. Klitschko was also ahead in that fight by scores of 58-56 across the board and took everything Lewis had to offer, as he did with all opponents he faced.
8. Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Some fans may argue that Floyd Mayweather shouldn’t be on this list because he was such a great defensive boxer. But let’s face it, all boxers get hit no matter how good they are and Mayweather is no exception. So let’s give credit where it’s due. The retired, unretired, and retired again 40-year old has gone 50-0 so far with 27 KOs. Mayweather has won world titles in five different weight divisions and faced the cream of the crop in most of them.
He’s taken on an incredible 22 current or former world champions since turning pro in 1996, going 24-0 and just one of them managed to knock him down. In fact, it wasn’t much of a knockdown as Mayweather’s hand touched the canvas against Carlos Hernandez in 2001 after hurting it on Hernandez’s head. It could be argued that Zab Judah dropped Mayweather five years later when his hand touched the canvas once again, but it wasn’t ruled a knockdown. He ate a few solid punches in the opening rounds of his fight with Conor McGregor, before eventually wearing the UFC star down and finishing it late.
7. Muhammad Ali
The Greatest was dropped three times legitimately during his 21-year career. Ali’s first fall came when Sonny Banks scored a flash knockdown in the first round of Ali’s 11th pro fight. Ali dropped Banks the next round and stopped him in the fourth. A year later, Henry Cooper dropped Ali in the fourth round and appeared to truly daze him. The bell rang soon after Ali rose to to his feet and he stopped Cooper less than three minutes later.
In 1971, Ali was up on his feet as quickly as he left them when “Smokin'” Joe Frazier decked him with a tremendous left hook during the Fight of the Century. Frazier was amazed when Ali calmly got to his feet, but handed him his first loss by close unanimous decision. Chuck Wepner was credited with a ninth-round flash knockdown against the champ in 1975, but it was due to stepping on Ali’s foot. Ali faced numerous heavy hitters in Frazier, Cooper, George Chuvalo, Floyd Patterson, Oscar Bonavena, Sonny Liston, George Foreman, Earnie Shavers, Archie Moore, Ron Lyle, Ken Norton and Larry Holmes and was never knocked out.
6. “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler
Although he fought from 1973 to 1987, Marvelous Marvin Hagler of Newark, New Jersey was one of the toughest middleweights and overall boxers of any era. Hagler took on the best of his division including Tommy Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard, John Mugabi, Mustafa Hamsho, Roberto Duran, Vito Antuofermo, Alan Minter, Fulgencio Obelmejias and Juan Domingo Roldan. The only man to knock the southpaw onto the seat of his pants was Roldan in 1984, when Hagler was off balance in the first round.
However, the undisputed champ ended up stopping the rugged Roldan of Argentina in the 10th round. Hagler went 62-3-2 with 52 KOs and defended his titles 12 times. His spectacular chin was at its best during his three-round war with Hearns in 1985, especially in the first stanza which was one of the most brutal rounds in boxing history. Hagler withstood Hearns’ onslaught before stopping him seven minutes and 52 seconds into the classic slugfest.
5. Kid Gavilan
Kid Gavilan of Camaguey, Cuba, was born as Gerardo Gonzalez and displayed his granite chin as a pro boxer between 1943 and 1958. He fought a total of 1,342 rounds in 143 bouts and was knocked down just once. Gavilan went the distance in most of fights since he wasn’t a hard hitter himself. He posted a record of 108-30-5 with just 28 KOs for a knockout ratio of just 20 percent.
However, the ‘Cuban Hawk’ took on some of the best of his era such as Tony DeMarco, Johnny Saxton, Bobo Olson, Carmen Basilio, Ralph Jones, Ike Williams, Beau Jack, Billy Graham, Tony Janiro, Sugar Ray Robinson, Gil Turner and Tommy Bell. Gavilan, who made the bolo punch famous, managed to win the World Welterweight Title during his career and his only recorded visit to the canvas came against Williams in the eighth round of their bout in 1948.
4. Jake LaMotta
There’s hasn’t been very many movies made about real-life boxers, but Jake LaMotta wasn’t an ordinary fighter. “The Bronx Bull” fought 106 times from 1941 to 1954 and hit the deck just once. LaMotta met Sugar Ray Robinson six times and took a lot of punishment in those contests, especially in their 1951 “Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre” bout which was stopped in the 13th round, but always remained on his feet. LaMotta was also stopped by Billy Fox in a 1947 bout that he admitted to throwing so he could get a shot at the World Middleweight Title.
LaMotta later won that belt and then moved up to light heavyweight near the end of his career. He was stopped after seven rounds by Bob Murphy in 1951 as a 175-pounder and Danny Nardico also stopped him a year later after seven rounds. However Nardico was the only man to knock LaMotta to the canvas and that came in the former champ’s fourth-last fight. LaMotta went 83-19-4 with 30 KOs and lived to the ripe old age of 95, despite the pounding he took in the ring.
3. Oliver McCall
One of the strangest sights in boxing took place in 1997 when Oliver”Atomic Bull” McCall of Chicago appeared to start crying and suffer a mental breakdown in the ring. He was fighting Lennox Lewis in a rematch at the time, after knocking out the former heavyweight champ in the second round three years earlier. The rematch against Lewis was stopped in the fifth round due to McCall’s odd behavior, but he was never dropped in 73 pro bouts between 1985 and 2014 and never really staggered.
He went 57-14 with 37 KOs and a pair of no-contests. McCall faced some heavy-hitting heavyweights such as Lewis, Frank Bruno, Larry Holmes, Henry Akinwande, Francesco Damiani, Tony Tucker, Bruce Seldon, Buster Douglas, Orlin Norris, and Oleg Masakev and stayed upright for all 428 rounds.
2. Billy Graham
Like Kid Gavilan, Billy Graham was another light-hitting welterweight who had a tremendous chin. The native of New York City won just five of his last 15 career bouts, but still managed to go 102-15-9 with 27 KOs between 1941 and 1955. Graham fought Gavilan several times, but fell just short in his attempts to win the World Welterweight Championship. He also took on the likes of Pat Scanlon, Ruby Kessler, Tippy Larkin, Fitzie Pruden, Paddy DeMarco, Johnny Cesario, Joey Giardello, and Carmen Basilio.
What made Graham such a tough opponent during his 15-year Hall of Fame career was the fact that he was never knocked off his feet once in his 126 bouts, even though he was often out-sized at just 5’7″ tall. Graham managed to beat Sugar Ray Robinson before turning pro and was one of boxing’s best referees between 1977 and 1981.
1. George Chuvalo
Former Canadian Heavyweight Champ George Chuvalo took on the toughest heavyweights around between 1956 and 1978 while racking up a record of 73-18 with 64 KOs. The hard-hitting Chuvalo was stopped just twice in his 93 bouts, but was still standing on both of those occasions. Joe Frazier stopped him in the fourth round in 1967 and George Foreman did the same in 1970, both at Madison Square Garden.
Chuvalo went the distance with everybody else and this included going 27 rounds with Muhammad Ali. He also stood up to the punches of Cleveland Williams, Jimmy Ellis, Jerry Quarry, Buster Mathis, Oscar Bonavena, Ernie Terrell, Floyd Patterson, Zora Folley and Yvon Durelle. Chuvalo was likely the best heavyweight never to win a world title and reportedly was never floored ever, even in sparring.