Fighting Fits: The Most Memorable Looks In Boxing History
Mr Canelo Álvarez before his fight against Mr Billy Joe Saunders at AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, 8 May 2021. Photograph by Mr Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports
Even before he became the current pound-for-pound greatest fighter in the world, Mr Saúl “Canelo” Alvarez was used to standing out from the crowd. The boxing champion and Mexican national treasure was the only child in his family born pale-skinned and red-haired, which earned him the nickname Canelo (“cinnamon” in Spanish). Somehow, it feels right that he should dress in a way that reflects just how distinctive he is both in and out of the ring. That’s why it’s a pleasure to report that Canelo seems to have inherited the same audacious personal style that world-champion boxers – from Mr Jack Johnson onwards – have been known for since the turn of the 20th century.
After Canelo’s last triumph in the ring, in May, Dolce & Gabbana tweeted his outfit details for the weigh-in, something typically reserved for red-carpet reportage rather than middleweight title fights. Since arriving on the international boxing scene, he has become known for wearing bespoke D&G silk pyjamas to promotional events and even matching them to his gloves. From marine blue with gold piping to swirling geometric prints, the resulting aesthetic is louche, almost Mr Hugh Hefner-esque. It takes a confident man to carry off pyjamas in public and the way Canelo wears them, often with wide 1970s-style collars and unbuttoned to show off a large cross on a chain, gives off a masculine swagger that is something to behold.
Mr Canelo Álvarez during the weigh in against Mr Billy Joe Saunders at AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, 7 May 2021. Photograph by Mr Al Bello/Getty Images
The exuberant style and peacocking of the professional boxer is nothing new. Boxing is a sport built on showboating and fearlessness and, when it comes to clothes, maximalism is usually the name of the game. The age-old stereotype of the gregariously dressed ring-fighter persists for a reason (think of Mr Tyson Fury’s psychedelic shirts or Mr Floyd Mayweather fighting in chinchilla-trimmed shorts). Overall, there’s a sense of sartorial courage – even provocation – in many fighters’ style, which reveals plenty about who they are and what they have to say.
A pioneer in more ways than one, Johnson was the first black heavyweight champion of the world and a man who consistently raised a metaphorical middle finger to the racist establishment in the 1910s. With his mink coats, gold teeth, jauntily angled golf caps and cane, the Texas-born boxer was considered brashly dressed for the time and was rumoured to change his outfit three times a day on a whim. His attention-grabbing outfits symbolised more than mere bravado. At the height of the Jim Crow era, which enforced racial segregation in the US, being so visible and unapologetic as a black man was an act of political defiance.
Mr Jack Johnson wins against Mr James J Jeffries, Reno, Nevada, 4 July 1910. Photograph by AKG-images
In the 1920s, fan favourite Mr Jack Dempsey, with his hard-driving fists, became an international superstar and went on to make cameo appearances in Hollywood films. His dress sense was pure Roaring Twenties glamour, all immaculate double-breasted pinstripe suits or blue serge with grey plaid overcoats, which cemented his reputation as a gentleman fighter and a respectable member of the American glitterati. In the end, he looked as much like an old-time movie gangster as a guy raised in Colorado who made good on his pugilistic talents.
A less-discussed boxing style icon is one of the few men who had the distinction of beating Mr Muhammad Ali: Smokin’ Joe Frazier. His funky, flamboyant 1970s aesthetic – brown plaid suits, pointy disco collars, African-inspired print trousers and the 10-gallon hats – goes down a treat today. His fashion influence has extended to mixed martial arts star Mr Conor McGregor, who a few years ago paid tribute to a searingly good Frazier outfit from 1974 – a bright red rollneck paired with a Gucci white mink coat. A more circumspect personality than his garrulous foe Ali, Frazier let his fighting – and his killer style – do a lot of the talking.
Mr Conor McGregor at the UFC 205 pre-fight press conference alongside Mr Eddie Alvarez, New York, 10 November 2016. Photograph by Mr Julio Cortez/Shutterstock
British boxer Mr Anthony Joshua offers a neutral-toned and more self-effacing alternative to the fashion leanings of his fellow fighters, preferring simple sportswear and clean, casual silhouettes. Among his go-tos are sneakers, tracksuits and navy tailored suits from Hugo Boss, often thrown over a crisp white T-shirt. His recent collaboration with the German label, which resulted in a series of unbranded sweatpants, T-shirts and hoodies in dove grey, olive green and black, felt like a natural fit for his low-key style. Far from the brash stylings of his competitors, Joshua’s neat and casual vibe is an extension of his everyman image.
He is something of an exception that proves the rule. The most excitingly dressed fighters tend to veer into the extra, and why shouldn’t they? After all, a fighter’s money is harder won than most. In many ways, a boxer’s sartorial choices tend to reflect the same pride, insolence and supreme confidence that make them so successful. Much like boxing itself, their style may be divisive, but love it or hate it, you certainly can’t miss it.
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