For decades, boxing has been one of the world’s most popular sports, with the biggest bouts raking in millions of dollars in pay-per-view buys. Considering the sport’s popularity, it’s no surprise that we’ve seen it recreated in video games, both in the form of goofy arcade titles and realistic simulations. And by extension, the gaming world has seen plenty of boxers make the jump, ranging from ordinary fighters to supernatural combatants.
For this list, we’ve decided to stay away from real boxers appearing in simulations like Fight Night. However, real world boxers are okay as long as they’ve made appearances in non-simulation games, which is why “The Baddest Man on the Planet” Mike Tyson is still eligible for the list.
From Punch-Out!!‘s Mike Tyson to Killer Instinct‘s TJ Combo, here are the 10 best boxers in video game history:
Afro Thunder (Ready 2 Rumble Boxing)
Featured on the box art of both Ready 2 Rumble Boxing and Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2, Afro Thunder is arguably the most recognizable character from that defunct franchise. Taxi cab driver turned boxer, Afro Thunder is a proven force in the ring, and is well known for his showmanship and charisma. Afro Thunder’s charisma would come in handy after his boxing career was over, as he also enjoyed a brief stint in the world of professional wrestling, making a cameo appearance in 2008’s TNA Impact!
Balrog (Street Fighter)
The personal bodyguard to the villainous M. Bison, Balrog is the premiere boxer on the Street Fighter roster. Originally serving as a tough boss character in the first version of Street Fighter 2, Balrog was made playable in subsequent versions of the game, and has remained one of the franchise’s most popular characters ever since. Balrog was added to Street Fighter 5 as DLC last summer, and fans can count on him making many more video game appearances in the years to come.
While Hitmonchan may get his namesake from Chinese actor, stuntman, and martial artist Jackie Chan, his appearance is clearly modeled after that of a boxer. Driving home Hitmonchan’s boxing origins is the fact that he needs to take a break after three minutes of fighting, which is how long rounds last in the combat sport.
Hitmonchan is short and doesn’t have a far reach, but he would still be a formidable opponent in the ring, as he is apparently able to punch through surfaces as hard as concrete. Having made multiple appearances in the Pokemon anime and in many of the video games, it’s safe to say that Hitmonchan is one of the most recognizable fighting-type Pokemon in existence.
Little Mac (Punch-Out!!)
Perhaps the most famous boxer in video game history, Little Mac from Punch-Out!! embodies the underdog story. Typically much smaller than his opponents, Little Mac battles his way from the bottom of the boxing world straight to the world championship, defeating formidable foes like King Hippo, Mike Tyson, Mr. Dream, and even Donkey Kong along the way. While he’s best known for his illustrious boxing career, Little Mac has also ventured outside the ring to duke it out with some of Nintendo’s biggest characters in the latest iterations of the crossover Super Smash Bros. fighting franchise.
Mike Tyson (Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!)
Mike Tyson, once billed as “The Baddest Man on the Planet,” is a professional boxing icon in both the real world and in the world of video games. Tyson has been a playable character in multiple video games, recently appearing in WWE ’13 and EA Sports UFC 2, but his most famous video game appearance was as the final boss in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! on the NES. The Mike Tyson boss fight was notoriously difficult, and proved to be Little Mac’s greatest challenge in the critically-acclaimed game.
The first of two kangaroos featured on this list, Roger is a boxing kangaroo from the Tekken franchise. The original Roger made his debut in Tekken 2, though he was replaced by his son Roger Jr. and junior’s mother in Tekken 5 and 6. Unfortunately for fans of the boxing marsupial, no version of Roger is playable in Tekken 7, as the character was cut to avoid controversy following a viral video where a man in Australia was seen punching a kangaroo in order to save his dog.
Roo (Streets of Rage)
The Streets of Rage franchise has multiple secret playable characters, but one of the most memorable is Roo the kangaroo from Streets of Rage 3. When players first encounter Roo, he is actually a mini-boss being controlled by an evil clown named Bruce. If players defeat Bruce without also killing Roo, Roo joins Axel, Blaze, and Eddie in their quest to defeat Mr. X and his nefarious RoboCy Corporation.
Spring Man (Arms)
Spring Man, one of the first characters revealed for the quirky fighting game Arms on the Nintendo Switch, is perhaps the most unique boxer on this list. That’s thanks to his spring-loaded arms, which can be equipped with a variety of boxing gloves that have special abilities to help him in his high-octane bouts.
Steve Fox (Tekken)
Steve Fox joined the Tekken franchise in Tekken 4, haunted by his mysterious past and trying to learn more about his connection to Nina Williams. Prior to this, Steve was a successful professional boxer, becoming middleweight champion of the world in the process. Unsurprisingly, Steve incorporates his boxing prowess in his Tekken fights, with boxing serving as his primary fighting style.
TJ Combo (Killer Instinct)
TJ Combo’s boxing skills are not to be taken lightly, as he is forced to square off against inhuman beasts like Riptor, Sabrewulf, Fulgore, and more on a regular basis. TJ Combo has no supernatural powers to help him in his battles, though he has cybernetic implants in the earlier Killer Instinct games. The powerful TJ Combo has appeared in every iteration of Killer Instinct so far, added to the Xbox One version as part of that game’s second season of DLC in 2014.
While these 10 boxers are arguably the most significant in video game history so far, there are sure to be new boxing characters introduced in future games. In the meantime, fans can expect some of these characters to continue making appearances as well, further cementing their legacies as the most prominent boxers in video gaming.