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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / Top 10 Dirtiest Boxers of All Time

Top 10 Dirtiest Boxers of All Time

Publish Date: 07/06/2023
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa

Dirtiest Boxers of All Time

Dirty boxing was more prevalent in the early Twentieth Century, but it still happens today.

10) Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson

Holyfield was the king of the headbutt, and Tyson wasn’t too far behind him. Tyson also had a nasty habit of trying to break guys’ arms etc… especially later in his career.

Video: Mike Tyson Bites Holyfields Ear Clean Off

Mike Tyson Bites Holyfields Ear Clean Off

9) Bernard Hopkins

Various nicknames knew Hopkins throughout his career: Executioner, Alien. However, more accurately he could have been called The-Low-Blow-Headbutt-Hold-and-Hit-Playacting-Jedi-Master.” Hopkins excelled at mixing illegal and borderline foul practices into his technique and often employed dirty tactics that gained a psychological advantage against opponents he faced; some may have complained of this tactic, yet rarely experienced point deduction or disqualification due to this.

Video: Bernard Hopkins - Dirty Tactics Exposed

Bernard Hopkins – Dirty Tactics Exposed

8) Andrew Golota

The foul pole! He was a man with the ability to be the Heavyweight Champion, as he proved by beating Riddick Bowe convincingly on two separate occasions. Too bad he decided to repeatedly hit Bowe low and break almost record in the book. He also once bite a fighter. He was mentally weak and could not deal, when things got tough.

Video: (April Fools 2021) The Ingenious Fouls of Andrew Golota -Technique Breakdown

(April Fools 2021) The Ingenious Fouls of Andrew Golota -Technique Breakdown

7) Sandy Saddler

There are generally two kinds of dirty fighters: those who readily accept their guilt (i.e., Zivic) and those who take offense at being labeled dirty; Saddler was one such indignant individual, refusing to accept being called dirty as being unfair and insulting despite all evidence to the contrary in fights; his approach to the dirty pool often was, “He started it!”

Saddler would normally compete within the rules of boxing, but when an opponent engaged in actions he felt were unsavory, his entire strategy changed, and all rules went out the window. This happened frequently, and thus Saddler became adept at butting, heeling, elbowing, gouging, or just locking an opponent in a headlock and throwing them to the floor – as evidenced in his fights with Willie Pep – who was known as an accomplished yet non-dirty fighter – who made up some of boxing’s dirtiest title fights in boxing history. His battles against Pep were some of boxing’s dirtiest title bouts ever witnessed during boxing history.

Video: Saddler vs Pep, 1951 | One of the roughest & dirtiest fights ever!

Saddler vs Pep, 1951 | One of the roughest & dirtiest fights ever!

6) Harry Greb

No doubt that Greb was one of the greatest boxers of all time; while some might dispute his legacy and call him out for being “dirty”, he likely also ranks highly on any list of “dirty” fighters. Greb’s style was to rush and overwhelm his opponent; often, there would be legal blows mixed in with illegal ones; referees usually just let it happen without intervening much. Harry was well known to intimidate officials who attempted to intervene or break a clinch, often by shouting angrily at them when they tried to intervene or break it up. Greb’s speciality lay in his deadly clinches; in their close confines, he often did his most devastating work, and each time an opponent found themselves locked into an embrace with “The Pittsburgh Windmill”, they must have felt like death was at hand. Elbows, thumbs, headbutts and laces were all part of Greb’s arsenal.

Video: The Legendary Harry Greb - Rare Training in COLOR + Rare Footage

The Legendary Harry Greb – Rare Training in COLOR + Rare Footage

5) Eusebio Pedroza

An aspiring dirty fighter can gain much from studying Pedroza’s 1982 title defense against Juan LaPorte as an example of flagrant and frequent fouling from kidney punches, hitting on the break, low blows, elbows holding and hitting to punching after the bell — Pedroza knew how to use them all effectively despite receiving numerous warnings and point deductions but still managing 19 straight title defenses of his world featherweight title!



4) Battling Nelson

Like other rough-and-tumble brawlers of his era, such as Wolgast, Nelson paid little heed to rules once the bell rang. Recklessly and vicious, he charged forward, recklessly attacking opponents with all he had and employing any tactics necessary.Β  One infamous fight ended when Nelson, knowing he was about to lose, deliberately struck poor Joe Gans in the crown jewels; thus, disqualification was swift.

Video: Joe Gans vs Battling Nelson HD 60

Joe Gans vs Battling Nelson HD 60

3) Fritzie Zivic

Zivic was an exceptionally dirty champion. Resilient, clever and hard to hit, Fritzie decided to compensate for his lack of power with an unparalleled talent for butting, gouging, lacing, elbowing, kneeing, choking and any other devious act imaginable. Fighting during the 1930s and 40s when referees often turned a blind eye, Zivic excelled in breaking rules while getting away with it, though reviled at times by other boxers for this unique brand of boxing mastery!

Sugar Ray Robinson and Billy Conn both credited Zivic with teaching them more about what was possible in the ring than anyone else. At the same time, Henry Armstrong–who lost two fights to Zivic, had little answer for Zivic’s thumbing and gouging–feared he may go blind as a result. Meanwhile, Fritzie never apologized; fouling was part of the game for him, and any criticism or condemnation did not phase him in any way.

Video: Henry Armstrong vs Fritzi Zivic (2) January 14th 1941 New York Madison Square Garden.

Henry Armstrong vs Fritzi Zivic (2) January 14th 1941 New York Madison Square Garden.

2) Mysterious Billy Smith

Smith earned a reputation in his prime as one of the dirtiest prizefighters ever seen in boxing. While boxing in the welterweight ranks, he openly butted, stomped opponent’s feet, used knee and elbow strikes when necessary, and even would use his teeth.

He won the welterweight crown at two points and was highly respected despite his dirty tactics, his ability and his ruggedness being highly appreciated by many. His battle record includes clashes against such great warriors as Young Peter Jackson, Tommy Ryan and Joe Walcott (whom he battled six times to capture the title). Of his 22 losses, half were disqualifications, with many being illegal tactics used against opponents that left broken noses, damaged larynges and swollen gonads behind in his wake – as noted by Police Gazette: “No one will dispute Mysterious Billy Smith’s right to being known as an American fighter!”



1) Antonio Margarito

Loading gloves or hand wraps with plaster should be seen as the highest crime in boxing; doing so means effectively departing from sport into criminality. While boxing is extremely hazardous, adding plaster into gloves or wraps takes it one step further and should disqualify a boxer from competing again.

Welterweight champion Antonio Margarito stands out in boxing history as the only world titlist ever caught loading his fists, attempting to carry lethal weapons into the ring with him. Although theoretically possible that trainer Javier Capetillo had concealed this information from him before his fight with Shane Mosley – though we find this unlikely; furthermore, it could have happened before as tape, gauze, or fists have been found inside Margarito’s gloves during other matches; it is difficult for us to check our brains at the door and give Margarito the benefit of the doubt despite this information being presented from Javier Capetillo before this incident occurred before this fight occurred; we find ourselves not giving Margarito the benefit of doubt here.

Margarito earned his spot among the three dirtiest all-time champions after almost dislocating Sebastian Lujan’s left ear in 2008. Furthermore, after round six of Miguel Cotto’s fight in 2007, his cornermen could be heard telling him, “Your punches should be hard by now!” Moreover, following being caught, Margarito’s impressive punching power diminished rapidly, never coming close to seriously harming or disfiguring an opponent again – enough reason for us to rank him among the biggest cheaters ever.

Video: Biggest Cheater In Boxing Redux

Biggest Cheater In Boxing Redux

Honorable mention

Gene Fullmer

Ad Wolgast

Joel Casamayor

Floyd Mayweather

Luis Resto


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