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Perfecting the Top 10: Most Intimidating Athletes

In Baseball, Basketball, Boxing, Football, Hockey, MMA, Perfecting the Top 10, Wrestling on July 16, 2011 at 2:42 PM

Certain people draw plenty of attention when they speak. James Harrison, with his guns, brash attitude and status as one of the NFL’s top defensive players, is one of those people. Needless to say, Harrison had the nation’s attention with his recent comments regarding league commissioner Roger Goodell (crook, devil, puppet, dictator—the latter two of which I’m not sure can coexist, but I digress), as well as verbal digs against teammates and opponents alike.

What made Harrison’s comments so noteworthy—aside from their inflammatory nature—was the person from which they were spewing forth. Point being, Harrison (to quote Kevin from The Office) is a “Grade-A-Badass.” Herein lies a question: What other athletes currently share Harrison’s standing as legitimately frightening individuals, people with whom kicking up dust might not be the best idea? Let’s find out.

Note: These rankings are not based on an athlete’s ability in their sport, but rather, their sheer “fear factor.”

10. Ray Lewis, LB, Baltimore Ravens: Yeah, Ray has lost a step. In fact, he’s probably only the third or fourth best player on his own defense at this point. That said, if it goes down, give me someone such as Ray-Ray, a wily vet with a noted mean streak, a ripped physique, unmatched intensity and an innate leadership quality. Plus, tell me this doesn’t frighten you just a bit.

9. Zdeno Chara, Defenseman, Boston Bruins: I don’t pretend to know much about hockey, but I do know that anytime a guy has to meet with police regarding an on-ice hit, this person gets a one-way ticket to this list, no questions asked.

8. Clay Matthews, Linebacker, Green Bay Packers. The hair doesn’t hurt matters; neither does unmatched ability to get to quarterbacks and dispatch them with extreme prejudice.

7. Manny Pacquiao, Boxer/Politician: The reasoning for this is simple … boxing is a sport in which success is measured by one’s ability to pummel his opponent into submission with his fists. No one in the world does this better than “Pac-Man.” Let’s move on.

6. The Undertaker, Professional Wrestler/Dead Man: Think it’s fake, huh? Try telling that to this 7-foot, 300-plus-pound Houstonian behemoth who, by the way, also trains in mixed martial arts. Plus, his 19-0 record at WrestleMania is professional wrestling’s 56-game hitting streak.

5. Kobe Bryant, Guard, Los Angeles Lakers: He’s not intimidating in terms of pure physical force, but Bryant’s intensity, work ethic and will to prevail on the court are second only to one Michael Jordan. Personally, that frightens me, if only because it indicates that Kobe is the type to sneak a shiv into a fists-only streetfight.

4. Albert Pujols, First Baseman, St. Louis Cardinals: By all accounts a good guy on and off the diamond, Pujols nonetheless looks like the meanest bouncer at the bar, the guy who spent all day working out in the hopes of inciting a riot later that night. His muscles have muscles. Hell, Brad Lidge never fully recovered from his brush with Big Albert.

3. Brock Lesnar, UFC Heavyweight/Ill-Tempered Minnesotan: No, Brock Lesnar is not an elite UFC competitor, at least not on par with the Anderson Silvas of the cage fighting world. That said, look at this man. Dude looks like he was manufactured in a lab. Hell, I’d go so far as to call Lesnar our nation’s 21st Century Ivan Drago.

2. Ron Artest (aka Metta World Peace), Forward/Resident Lunatic, Los Angeles Lakers:  The eyes don’t lie. Whether it’s that formerly-crazy girlfriend who alleges to have changed her ways, or a former bleacher-rushing Indiana Pacers forward who alleges to have done the same, the eyes don’t lie. And the eyes tell me, for all Artest’s on- and off-court improvements, there’s a tinge of crazy that has yet to be exterminated. And that sliver of crazy, no matter how small, is more than enough reason to vault near the top of this list.

1. James Harrison, Linebacker/Gun Enthusiast/Disgruntled NFL Employee, Pittsburgh Steelers: Easy call. Harrison is a 6-foot, 250-pound, mean-spirited, hard-hitting, gun-toting madman. A former Defensive Player of the Year, Harrison’s bone-crushing hits, their ensuring fines and his subsequent NFL blasts, are the stuff of legend. Tack on fellow Steeler defenders like Brett Keisel, Casey Hampton, LaMarr Woodley, and Troy Polamalu, and it’s no wonder Carson Palmer can’t wait to exit the AFC North.

For the Good of the Fight

In Boxing on July 1, 2011 at 10:00 AM

The most important boxing match in eight years will be fought this weekend.  It will pit the reigning heavyweight champion of the world, Wladimir Klitschko, against David Haye, a cocky Cockney with a gift for knockouts.  Besides having the ability to short circuit the brains of his opponents, Haye might also be the most quotable personality in sports.  After years of freak-show stunts and a dearth of talent, Haye is also the best hope for the heavyweight division to become meaningful again.

“I want the Klitschko’s heads, plain and simple no doubt. You and your brother, and I’m going to have them. This year, I’m going to have ‘em . That’s what I’m in this game for.”

Muhammad Ali once proclaimed himself “The Greatest of All-Time.”  Mike Tyson once said about Evander Holyfield: “I want to eat his children.”  All David Haye had to do was wear a t-shirt.

On April 16, 2009, Haye, the unified cruiserweight champion of the world, showed up to a press conference wearing a t-shirt depicting himself holding the severed heads of Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko over their lifeless bodies.  Up to that point, Haye had just begun ascending the ranks of the heavyweight division and wasted little time calling out the brothers at the top.  Thank you, David Haye.  Your sense of fashion may have given the heavyweight division the kick-start it so desperately needed.

“It would be a shame for whatever reason for the Klitschko brothers to have all the belts.  What a way to truly shit on the heavyweight division, just have a Klitschko whitewash of the belts.  I can’t let that happen… for the good of boxing, for the good of the world, for the good of the universe!  I’ve got to take them belts off you, boy!”

For the past eight years, the Klitschko brothers have dominated the heavyweight division with a technical, plodding style.  Both brothers stand over six foot five and exercise their will by coming forward behind their jab, pressing their opponent against the ropes, exchanging inside before clutching their opponent.  It’s a style that wins fights.  It’s a style that alienates the casual fan.

Haye’s style can best be described as 80% of Roy Jones’ skill combined with 105% of Jones’ power.  Haye is not a natural heavyweight, standing only 6’2 and weighing only 220 pounds.  A questionable chin—in other words, his ability to withstand physical trauma to the head without being knocked unconscious—hasn’t stopped Haye from producing action fights as a heavyweight; he was able to knock out John Ruiz and seriously hurt Nikolay Valuev.  There’s no higher compliment you can give a fighter than, “He has a questionable chin, but he’s willing to mix it up.”  Regardless of whether he wins or loses, no one can say a David Haye fight is boring.

“Cause clearly he’s a dickhead.  That’s right, you heard him chattin’ just then.  He hasn’t got a fucking clue what he’s talking about, just yabbering on about absolutely nothing.  The fact is on July second you’re getting knocked unconscious.”

When was the last time you were able to see two athletes who genuinely despised each other face off at the pinnacle of their careers?  When Rafael Nadal started winning tennis tournaments, Roger Federer was already an old man in tennis years.  Shaq and Kobe provided plenty of ill will, but never met with a championship on the line.  Brady and Manning had the icy relationship, but they can’t play each other in the Super Bowl with their respective teams.  The Stephen Jackson-Ron Artest Pacers hated the Detroit Pistons so much they ended up taking on an entire arena.  Baseball has provided us with… uh… hang on… Nyjer Morgan versus Logan Morrison?

It’s rare to find two guys who genuinely hate each other facing off in a competition where the point is to inflict as much pain on your opponent as possible.

“It’s going to be a great fight!  Oh, it’s going to be a great fight!  You can feel it!  You can feel it!  You could cut it with a knife!  I’ve got a fucking hard-on!”

David Haye is clearly excited, I’m excited (though not as excited) and the boxing establishment is worried.  Is it any coincidence that three days before the first meaningful heavyweight fight in eight years, Floyd Mayweather Jr. announced he had no problems fighting Manny Pacquiao?  Something amazing might happen Saturday afternoon: A meaningful heavyweight division might be reborn.