By Elliot Worsell
ODDLY, despite the fact boxing consists of scores of well-trained men and women trying to punch one another in the head until someone is left unconscious, the scariest aspects of the sport have nothing to do with the boxers whatsoever. Though it is true, yes, that events in the ring can sometimes become scary, and that boxing, by nature, will invariably turn dreams into nightmares, the real horror stories are in fact found outside the ring. Indeed, it is there you will find the real bad guys: the ghosts, the monsters, the killers. It is there you will hear things or see things that make your skin crawl and have you wanting to switch on every light in the house the second you get home. It is there you should avoid walking late at night.
And yet on this Halloween, because we can’t unmask the Jasons and Michaels of this sport for fear of the consequences, and because it is too obvious to say Conor Benn vs. Chris Eubank Jnr is the scariest horror story boxing can tell today, we must instead focus on the boxers themselves.
So, to that end, here are 10 who have mastered the art of giving opponents the heebie-jeebies, as well as the horror films that best complement each of them.
1) The Fighter: Naoya Inoue, 25-0 (22)
The Film: Ôdishon (Audition)
To look at Naoya Inoue, you would never think of him as a man responsible for knocking out 22 of 25 opponents en route to becoming the most feared man in boxing. He is, after all, just five foot five and weighs barely 122 pounds. However, watch him in the ring for any length of time and your perception of him, just like the perception of the girl in Audition who transitions from marriage material into something else, will change in an instant. It is then you will see the danger. It is then you will see the terror in the opponent’s eyes. It is then you will understand why the “Monster” is the man from whom most opponents try to escape.
2) The Fighter: Artur Beterbiev, 19-0 (19)
The Film: The Exorcist
When setting foot inside a boxing ring, Russia’s Artur Beterbiev cuts the figure of a man possessed. Intent, it seems, on leaving opponents horizontal by any means necessary, he wastes no time easing his way into fights, or “feeling” an opponent out, and instead looks to finish them as swiftly as possible. Stopping him, never mind beating him, will require a level of technical brilliance or commensurate power few in the light-heavyweight division possess. Either that or an exorcist.
3) The Fighter: Deontay Wilder, 43-2-1 (42)
The Film: Jaws
The obvious connection here is that Deontay Wilder both targets and cracks jaws and has won 42 of 46 professional fights inside the distance because he is very good at doing both. However, there is more to this link than just that; consider, for example, the Jaws theme, its sense of foreboding, and how Wilder, too, is for opponents not unlike a shark going in for the kill. Something, in other words, you know is coming but, for all your screams and flailing around, have no chance of stopping.
4) The Fighter: Oleksandr Usyk, 21-0 (14)
The Film: The Silence of the Lambs
To compare the enigmatic Usyk with a character like Hannibal Lecter is probably unfair, for Usyk seems the kind, pleasant type. Yet there are still certain similarities, for sure. A friendly enough face, for example, is something they both share, as well as undoubted charisma. There is also then the darkness behind the eyes, coupled with their ability to switch from pleasantries to pain in an instant.
5) The Fighter: Terence Crawford, 40-0 (31)
The Film: Alien
Crawford, it’s true, has very little in common with Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley, nor, from what I can gather, has he ever experienced anything exploding from his stomach. That said, however, the welterweight champion is certainly, in boxing terms, an alien of sorts; someone whose talent is otherworldly and whose total conviction in his mission to seek and destroy appears hard to stop at this stage in his professional career.
6) The Fighter: Gervonta Davis, 29-0 (27)
The Film: The Omen
Easily mistaken for a child on account of his diminutive size, if you are to approach Gervonta Davis incorrectly, you may soon discover that he is not a child at all. Instead, what burns inside Davis is something rather terrifying, much like Damien from The Omen, and this usually comes out of him on fight night, when often he is spiteful, violent, and devilish.
7) The Fighter: David Benavidez, 27-0 (23)
The Film: A Nightmare on Elm Street
Tall, rangy, and powerful to boot, Benavidez has long been a stylistic nightmare for super-middleweights and it is only now, at the age of 26, he is starting to get the opportunities his talent deserves.
8) The Fighter: Emanuel Navarrete, 38-1 (31)
The Film: 28 Days Later
Far more than just a zombie, of course, Mexican Emanuel Navarrete does nevertheless have a unique style and an admirable capacity to keep coming on strong when his opponent has started to weaken. This trait has helped him run over 38 opponents to date, winning world titles in three weight classes in the process. It has also landed him a reputation as a boxer from whom you can run but can’t hide.
9) The Fighter: David Morrell, 9-0 (8)
The Film: Candyman
Cuban southpaw David Morrell is a super-middleweight undefeated in nine fights (with eight of those wins coming inside the distance) who believes that many in the 168-pound division have no interest in fighting him, be it now or in the future. His name, he feels, is one they refuse to say once, let alone five times, for fear of what may happen and what it may bring to their door.
10) The Fighter: Leigh Wood, 28-3 (17)
The Film: It Follows
Similar to Navarrete, Leigh Wood’s reputation for never giving up at this point precedes him. He walks forward, he takes his licks, and he refuses to be beaten until either disconnected from his senses or the fight ends and the scorecards are being delivered. Until then, he maintains an unshakeable belief in his ability to win the fight and turn a losing situation into a winning one, which is precisely what he did against Michael Conlan last year and Josh Warrington this year.
Honourable Mention: Tim Tszyu, 24-0 (17)
The Film: Hereditary
Tim Tszyu’s father, Kostya, had a certain aura about him which made it very difficult for opponents not to concede ground when in the ring with him and ultimately cede to his strength and punch power as the fight progressed. It would appear, too, that Tim has inherited this same ability, for he, like his father, will often control the centre of the ring with a poise and maturity that belies his relative inexperience.