Music has always played an important part in our culture. It moves us on an emotional level, helps us express our feelings, and can bring back a distinct memory or moment in time. Music has also been used to make a statement or send a message. Its use in boxing is no exception.
Although there are some references to earlier instances, entering the ring to music did not really catch on until Muhammad Ali came out to the Star Wars theme for his 1970 bout against Ernie Shavers. Ali, admittedly, patterned his sense of “showmanship” after the popular wrestler, Gorgeous George. The flamboyant wrestler, who entered their ring to the song “Pomp and Circumstance”, was not only credited for “bringing wrestling back to life” but influenced Ali to adopt similar, over-the-top theatrics. Having a ring entrance song was one of them.
Not long after Ali, other fighters picked up on this idea to add more drama to their entrances. Some fighters stuck with one song that expressed their emotions heading into each fight, while others changed it up every time to reflect their current mood. Many fighters used it to get themselves hyped-up, to help set the tone or send a message to their opponent.
Larry Holmes made “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” his intro.
Joe Calzage liked “Unbeaten” and remained that way throughout his entire career.
Roy Jones Jr. took it one step further when he rapped his own entrance song, “Y’all Must’ve Forgot”, prior to his 2002 bout against Clinton Woods.
How many fighters made their ring entrance to the hits “Eye of the Tiger” or “Gonna Fly Now?”
One of the most dramatic ring entrances was Evander Holyfield’s walk to the ring for the first fight against Mike Tyson. The image was strong and the message clear that Holyfield was not going to lay down as other Tyson opponents had done in the past. Evander confidently sang along, prayed and showcased that classic smirk as the gospel sounds of “Victory” filled the arena. His faith and belief became contagious and made everyone believers that the 20-1 underdog was the “real deal.”
Another memorable entrance was heading into “The War” of what was Marvin Hagler vs. Thomas Hearns. Although you could not have set a more appropriate tone to begin that classic bout, as Hearns came in to “Hail to the Victor”, it did little to help “The Hitman” get out of the way of Hagler’s powerful left hand.
More recently in using music to set the tone of an event, Mike Tyson could be heard coming into the ring against Michael Spinks to what announcer Bob Sheridan described as “just noise and the clanging of chains.” As if Tyson’s scowling, snarling expression as he made that walk was not intimidating enough !?
Even though ring entrances have evolved beyond a simple theme song and have now become more elaborate productions, complete with background dancers and costumes, there’s something to be said for a well-picked classic to make that long walk into the ring impactful. Whether a fighter is using music to motivate themselves, entertain the fans or create added drama, it has become as anticipated as hearing those famous words, “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble.”