What is in a nickname? The number of letters or syllables? The rhythm? The visual image or a clever double-meaning? A comment on a blog suggests that a great moniker is one that forever replaces a person’s real name. In my opinion, an epithet like Richard The Lion Hearted is far better than entirely changing one’s name from, for example, Ray to Boom Boom Mancini (Lightweight, 29(23)–5(3)–0). The goal is to enhance rather than replace your public identity.
A memorable moniker needs to be more than just a contraction of one’s first and last name (for example, the Mixed Martial artist, Kenny Ken-Flo Florian) or some play on words. If we are discussing a blood and guts sport like boxing (or mixed martial arts), don’t we want to also instill fear in our opponents? Boom Boom evokes an image, a sound, and even perhaps a physical sensation that traverses all cultures! It’s perfect even though it has two syllables.
Bad boxing nicknames conjure up the wrong visual image. John, The Quiet Man, Ruiz (Heavyweight, 44(30)–8(1)–1) is too long a nickname (especially when compared to Boom Boom) and clearly the wrong image for a boxing opponent. El Terrible Erik Morales (Lightweight, 48(34)–6(2)–0) suffers from a similar image problem. It is clear his 34 wins by knockout are far from “terrible”. Unfortunately, there is a problem translating Spanish to English idiom. It is far too easy to confuse the use of the adjective terrible with that of a descriptive and ambiguous noun The Terrible!
Laila Lay Lay Ali (Super middleweight, 24(21)–0(0)–0), though now pursuing non-boxing career paths might have been better off with She Bee Stingin’ Ali rather than the cutesy Lay Lay contraction of her name during her boxing days. Apollo Creed, the fictional boxer in the Rocky movie series, used a bunch of clever slogans (especially, The Count of Monte Fisto) but was a bit too intellectual (even though Alexandre Dumas’ novel is a great “read”).
To decide the worst nicknames, we need examples of the best nicknames. Iron Mike Tyson (Heavyweight 50(44)–6(5)–0) and Big George Foreman (Heavyweight, 76(68)–5(1)–0) are simple; they describe fearsome adversaries in the ring. Smokin’ Joe Frazier (Heavyweight, 32(27)–4(3)–1), is highly descriptive of a great athlete, but a bit too generation-specific. Though few of us would confuse him with the Malboro Man, this choice is ambiguous slang and an example of poor grammar. Marvelous Marvin Hagler (Middleweight, 62(52)–3(0)–2) and Hector Macho Camacho (Junior Lightweight, 79(38)–5(0)–3) are less ambiguous, less generation-specific, but far too ego-centric to frighten away opponents. Both monikers are however certainly superior to Butterbean Eric Scott Esch (Heavyweight/Mixed, 77(58)–8(1)–4) and Sweet Pea Pernell Whitaker (Lightweight, Welterweight, 40(17)–4(1)–1). Once again comparing the worst with the best, none of these nicknames works as well as Jake The Raging Bull LaMotta (Middleweight, 83(30)–19(4)–4).
If we attend boxing matches to see blood and gore beat-downs than clearly, The Bayonne Bleeder, Chuck Wepner (Heavyweight, 35(17)–14(9)–2), is a great nickname and advertising headliner. In 1975, he stayed in the ring for 15 rounds with my favorite boxer nicknamed The Greatest, Mohammad Ali (56(37)–5(1)–0). I heard Ali speak impromptu on a college campus in the early 1970s as well as show his agility and talent in the boxing ring. In my lifetime, there will only be one Boxer; the man is memorable for all the correct reasons.
The worst choice of a professional moniker in boxing history is just plain Goofi Lance Whitaker (Heavyweight, 34(28)–6(2)–1) originally used Mount as a nickname. Switching from Mount to Goofi is hard to understand and was certainly a regrettable decision. There is no positive image in the word “goofy” that would promote a professional sports career much less flatter a person. Mount Whitaker is a great moniker for a professional prize fighter; Lance should keep it. It’s ironic that because he has probably the worst nickname, Goofi Whitaker is also a memorable boxing figure, but for all the wrong reasons. Let us find inspiration from The Greatest and learn from the worst so that we can “fight” like champions yet another day.
BoxRec Boxing Statistics
The List: Best nicknames in boxing history Page 2/ ESPN Network
Top-Ten Worst Boxing Nicknames of All Time Eastside Boxing
Best/Worst Boxer Nicknames? The Boxing Scene.com
The Worst Nicknames in MMA The Cage Doctors