Pugilism: the most simplistic sport of all. But it’s also a metaphor; an expression of humanity’s most primal urge, to fight for our survival.
Plus, who doesn’t like watching two meatheads wallop each other in the face until one of them falls over? Tremendous entertainment.
Of course, in the natural world, fighting is spur-of-the-moment. When do you ever hear someone say, “Outside, now? Sure, OK. But let’s wait fourteen months and do it live on Sky Box Office. Oooh, I’ll still be angry about my spilled pint, don’t you worry.”
The artifice of arranged anger needs to have a narrative – some sort of build-up to make it seem edgy. Which is where the art of trash-talking comes in.
We’ve scoured the history of boxing to dig out the best examples.
Now read our article, or we might punch you in the face, you, you… disagreeable poltroon!
You might have heard of this guy? He had quite a few things to say. Enough for his own list, in fact. To stop this one being the Ali show, we've included just two of his wittiest.
Ahead of his fight against Floyd Patterson in 1965 he said: “I’ll beat him so bad he’ll need a shoehorn to put his hat on.”
Ali won that bout, but he wasn't always right, saying this prior to a 1971 defeat to Joe Frazier: "Frazier's got two chances. Slim, and none. And Slim just left town"
The mutual disdain between Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank was not artificial. When the pair appeared on TV to sign the contract for their 1990 WBO Middleweight title bout, the animosity was pronounced. Eubank refused to face Benn and sat with his back to him throughout. Then followed this classic one-two:
Chris Eubank: “[concluding a long-winded answer] I don’t hate the man. I want the man’s title…”
Nigel Benn: “I personally do hate him.”
Eubank beat Benn and the pair drew a controversial rematch three years later.
Separately, Benn also made this udderly outrageous claim:
“The British press hate a winner who's British. They don't like any British man to have balls as big as a cow's like I have.”
On Manny Pacquiao: “Once I stomp the midget, I’m gonna make that motherf***er make me a sushi roll and cook me some rice.”
On Ricky Hatton: "Ricky Hatton ain't nothing but a fat man. I'm going to punch him in his beer belly. He ain't good enough to be my sparring partner."
Arguably, Floyd was proved right when the pair met in 2007, winning easily.
Joe Frazier: “Hey man, what you been doing?”
Ken Norton: "My wife just had a baby."
Joe Frazier: "Congratulations! Whose baby is it?"
Mike Tyson got a bit overexcited at the weigh-in for his world Heavyweight title bout against Lennox Lewis in 2002.
You can watch the press conference descend into anarchy above.
What Tyson's behaviour lacks in class, subtlety, human decency and restraint, it more than makes up for in sheer psychopathy. During the melee, he bit Lewis's leg and later had to pay him over $300,000 in damages.
Here are two choice quotes: “My main objective is to be professional, but to kill him.”
"Lennox Lewis, I'm coming for you man. My style is impetuous. My defense is impregnable, and I'm just ferocious. I want your heart. I want to eat his children. Praise be to Allah!"
Rather embarrassingly, Mike lost by knockout in the eighth round. Thankfully, Lewis's children remain steadfastly uneaten.
Here is a photograph of American boxer Willie Pep - incidentally, a much better name for Viagra - at Heathrow airport in 1967.
Featherweight Pep fought an incredible number of bouts, 241 in total, winning 229 and losing just 11, with 1 draw.
Approached by one of his former opponents, he quipped: “Lie down so I can recognise you.”
Oh, look! It's the late Sir Henry Cooper OBE, left, sharing an umbrella with former TV weatherman Michael Fish. Because if you found this photo, well, why wouldn't you use it?
Cooper was once embroiled in some verbal sparring with boxing abolitionist, Baroness Edith Summerskill, about the brutalities of his sport. Their exchange went as follows:
Baroness: “Mr. Cooper, have you looked in the mirror lately and seen the state of your nose?”
Cooper: “Well madam, have you looked in the mirror and seen the state of your nose? Boxing is my excuse. What’s yours?”
American boxer James ‘Lights Out’ Toney, on Benn and Eubank:
“I don’t care who wins, I’ll fight either one of them. As a matter of fact, I’ll fight them both on the same night if they want.”
Former WBA Heavyweight champion David Haye, on Nikolai Valuev:
“He makes the Elephant Man look like Pamela Anderson.”
To be fair to Lennox, Mike's antics didn't really seem to have much of an affect.
“I am definitely not scared of Mike Tyson. I am at the top of the food chain and he is looking to knock me off. Mike's an arrogant imbecile. He sounds like a cartoon character.”
The original trash-talker, Johnson was the first African-American World Heavyweight champion. He spent the whole of his 1908 bout with Tommy Burns taunting his opponent, calling him, “poor, little Tommy.” Johnson kept dropping his guard and directing Burns where to land his punches. When they hit, he just laughed them off dismissively.
No wonder Ron Burgundy named one of his fists after him.
Legendary American sportswriter Blackie Sherrod once wrote of a Heavyweight contender: "He has everything a boxer needs except speed, stamina, a punch, and the ability to take punishment. In other words, he owns a pair of shorts."