Boxing Songs: Top 5 of All-Time PlaylistWritten by Dave McKee
Boxing once had pride of place as a major source of pop culture inspiration.
The Sweet Science inspired movies, toys, art and just about anything else that constituted an expression of pop culture.
When Joe Louis fought Max Schmeling in their return bout, boxing was implicated in the U.S. war effort against Germany.
And from Jack Johnson to Muhammad Ali, boxing has impacted the American civil rights struggle.
The English language is riddled with boxing idioms and music has been no exception. From Irish folksongs to Simon and Garfunkle's The Boxer to Dj Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince's farcical I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson, boxing has been a regular theme in American music.
Here, we present Fight Saga's top five boxing songs of all-time.
They are rated not by popularity or commercial success, but rather for the effectiveness and honesty of their depiction of boxing. Many of the runners-up are strong contenders for ranking.
Read up, watch the videos and tell us what you think!
#1 Song for Sonny Liston – Mark Knopfler
For musical quality, serious treatment of its subject and the excellent boxing history told in its lyrics, Mark Knopfler's Song for Sonny Liston receives Fight Saga's top ranking among boxing songs.
The guitar virtuoso and former Dire Straights front man crafted this dark, bluesy tale for his 2004 solo album Shangri-La.
Though this musical biography of the "Big Bear" is sympathetic, it makes no attempt to conceal the very real shadows that darkened Liston's life, career and death.
In writing the song, Knopfler fulfilled a prophecy made by the heavyweight champion himself: "Someday, they're gonna write a blues for fighters. It'll just be for slow guitar, soft trumpet and a bell."
#2 The Hurricane – Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan's protest song, Hurricane, makes the case that Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, one time WBC and WBA middleweight contender, was framed and unfairly imprisoned for triple murder. It appeared on the album, Desire, in 1975 and reached #33 on the Billboard chart.
Musically, it is typical of Dylan's ballads from the period. The song was the subject of legal action; an eyewitness in the trial sued Dylan, though her case was ultimately dismissed in federal district court.
Dylan's tune and his public support for Carter are credited with having generated popular support for the imprisoned boxer. Originally arrested in 1966, Carter was eventually exonerated in 1985.
Denzel Washington portrayed Carter in the 1999 film, The Hurricane.
Rubin Carter ended his career with a record of 27(19)-12-1. Highlights included a TKO victory over Emile Griffith and a unanimous decision over Jimmy Ellis, both in 1963. In 1964 Carter challenged Joey Giardello for the WBC and WBA middleweight titles, but lost a unanimous decision
#3 Iron Mike's Main Man's Last Request – Todd Snider
At number three on the list of great boxing songs is Iron Mike's Main Man's Last Request by alt-country star Todd Snider.
The spare country ballad, which appeared on the album, East Nashville Skyline, is written from the standpoint of one of Mike Tyson's entourage.
The unusual perspective coupled with Snider's sad composition reveals the heartache faced by those who, like Iron Mike, find themselves alone in the spotlight, surrounded by professional hanger's-on.
The music and singing will be thought by some to be less than perfect, but the emotional honesty of the song packs a serious punch. Like Knopfler's tribute to Sonny Liston, Snider's song evokes the tribulations that so often accompany success in the cruelest sport.
#4. Unauthorized Biography of Muhammad Ali – Shaun Boothe
Toronto emcee Shaun Boothe's twelve part Unauthorized Biography rap series is an amazing musical history of African American icons. From tunes about James Brown and Bob Marley to Martin Luther King Jr. and Oprah Winfrey, Boothe's raps are on point and flow like warm butter.
With his rap bio of Muhammad Ali, Boothe gives us a close look at Ali's life from his first meeting with Angelo Dundee to his work as United Nations Messenger of Peace.
This rap lacks some of the intimacy and emotional power of the songs in positions one through three, but the solid historical overview coupled with Boothe's inspired lyrical skill easily places the Unauthorized Biography of Muhammad Ali in Fight Saga's top five pound for pound songs about boxing.
#5 Boxing Freestyle – R.A. the Rugged Man
R.A the Rugged Man, a rapper from Long Island, New York, has two studio albums and a number of small movie credits to his name. 2013's Legends Never Die features appearances by Tech N9ne, Vinnie Paz and Krizz Kaliko.
His YouTube video Boxing Freestyle rates the number five spot for the Rugged Man's lyrical prowess and encyclopedic rundown of historical boxing headlines.
For a casual fan looking to get a quick lesson in the last thirty year's boxing highlights, this rap is as good a resource as any boxing writer's efforts.