I’ll make a deal with you, Nintendo: I will promise to buy any console that you release, if you will promise to release a new Punch-Out!! game on it.

From a critical standpoint, there are games far superior to Punch-Out!!. This I know. But if I was to go back and determine the number of hours I’ve spent playing a single franchise, the Punch-Out!! console titles would rank #1, #2, and #3, and I have no idea what #4 would be.

A Punch-Out!! title is, for all intents and purposes, a series of ‘boss fights,’ one after the other. Each opponent follows the tropes of a final boss; at first glance, he appears invulnerable and scary. A savvy player, however, can observe and uncover a pattern of movement, or a weak spot in the defense, and exploit it.

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To be a Punch-Out!! master, one must have an excellent memory. The most difficult boxers might require a player to memorize the high/low pattern of a 10-punch rush combination. He or she must also have the twitch reflexes of a squirrel; if an opponent so much as winks at Little Mac, or shakes his left hand, the gesture is likely significant. It could mean anything from what type of punch is coming, to what direction it is coming from. A player learns these ‘visual tells’ the hard way: by getting hit and KO’d hundreds of times. And over the course of two arcade games, one NES game, one SNES game, and one Wii game, Little Mac has sparred with and contended against 31 different fighters.

Here are all 31 of Little Mac’s opponents, ranked in order from worst to best.

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#31. Mr. Dream
From: Dreamland
Age: ??
Weight: 235 lbs.
Record: 99-0
Appeared In: Punch-Out!! (NES)

Mr. ‘We Didn’t Renew Mike Tyson’s License’ is dead last—not because of what he is, but because of what he isn’t. This was pure laziness on the developer’s part. How do you go from fighting Mr. Sandman and Super Macho Man, two of the most colorful characters in the game, to fighting No-Name?

He’s a completely broken video game character who can knock you out with a single uppercut. That’s only fun and meaningful when you’re fighting Iron Mike himself. With Mr. Dream, it’s just lame.

#30. Little Mac / Giga Mac
From: Bronx, NY, USA
Age: 17
Weight: 107 lbs.
Record: N/A
Appeared In: Punch-Out!! (Wii)

For the Wii reboot in 2008, Nintendo decided to add a two-player mode; your Little Mac fights another Little Mac who, if he gets pissed enough, turns into a massive Giga Mac. It’s fun, but it’s also a complete trifle. Most fights devolve into a button mash fest, and the controls are so sensitive that the timing comes down to luck, especially if you’re using the motion controls.

You have the Wiimote in one hand and the nunchuck in the other, and, if you’re a true masochist, you can even stand on the Wii Balance Board to feint and dodge. It’s fun in theory—combat games lend themselves to two-player modes—but not so fun in practice.

#29. Kid Quick
From: Brooklyn, NY, USA
Age: N/A
Weight: 210
Record: N/A
Appeared In: Punch-Out!! (Arcade)

Kid Quick appeared in the very first Punch-Out!! game, where he was the fourth opponent that you faced. He’s never appeared in any game since, and that’s probably for the best.

This is barely a gimmick. He has nothing special in his arsenal outside of his basic moves, and he’s ‘quicker’ than the guy before him. He also needs some dental work. Moving on.

#28. Donkey Kong
From: Donkey Kong Island
Age: ??
Weight: 800 lbs.
Record: ??
Appeared In: Punch-Out!! (Wii)

Donkey Kong is the unlockable character at the end of Punch-Out!! for the Wii. To fight him, you have to beat Contender Mode, and beat Title Defense Mode, and hang on long enough in Mac’s Last Stand; Donkey Kong will eventually appear and face you randomly. There’s some cute fan service peppered throughout the fight—if you lose (which you inevitably will the first time you fight him), Donkey Kong will sling you over his shoulder, Pauline style, and head for the hills.

The match itself is fun but a little unwieldy. Because Donkey Kong is so large and disproportionate, he doesn’t visually read as well as the other fighters. And it’s actually a pretty easy fight as well; the big ape telegraphs all of his moves. It’s only the sheer novelty of fighting Donkey Kong that makes this engaging. At least he’s a better choice than Princess Peach; she was an early idea that was later shot down, because Nintendo didn’t want to implicitly endorse violence against women. Animal cruelty, it seems, is up for grabs.

#27. Piston Hurricane
From: Havana, Cuba
Age: 25
Weight: 170
Record: 21-10
Appeared In: Punch-Out!! (Arcade), Super Punch-Out!! (SNES)

Piston Hurricane first debuted in the original arcade game. According to the Super Punch-Out!! (SNES) instruction booklet, he has a chip on his shoulder because his home was destroyed in a hurricane. The Minor Circuit in Super Punch-Out!! (SNES) is an instructive tutorial, and Hurricane’s job is to teach you the necessity of blocking. He can move a little from side-to-side. Other than that, however, he’s sort of bland.

The secret to destroying Piston Hurricane is to aim for his gut—his chin is pretty tough, but if you hit him in the stomach hard enough, he won’t even be able to get up from a second knockdown.

#26. Pizza Pasta
From: Napoli, Italy
Age: N/A
Weight: 235
Record: N/A
Appeared In: Punch-Out!! (Arcade)

He’s got a grapple hold. That’s about all that distinguished this boxer, movewise, from the rest of the pack. But that name—Pizza Pasta—is just incredible; a shining testament to just not giving a shit. It’s like naming a Chinese boxer Chop Suey Wonton, or a Thai boxer Pad Thai Curry Puffs.

Punch-Out!! lacks cultural sensitivity, to put it mildly—the characters range from being slightly offensive caricatures to highly offensive caricatures. It’s American ethnocentrism at its most blatant—the hard-working American underdog taking on the rest of the world.

How did the developers get away with this? Well, first of all, Punch-Out!! was a product of the 80’s; ethnicity was a much less nuanced concept 30 years ago. Second, the developers took a ‘scorched earth’ approach to their stereotyping; every ethnicity was equally lampooned, which pre-empted any accusations of ‘singling out’ anyone. And third, the stereotypes were so extreme and absurd—the Canadian boxer, Bear Hugger is a hairy lumberjack who drinks maple syrup and plays hockey—that it’s difficult to take seriously.

Punch-Out!! is not for the thin-skinned, and Pizza Pasta won’t be picking up Italian Heritage Awards anytime soon. Even so, he’s not even close to being the most mean-spirited stereotype on this list. More on that later.

#25. Rick Bruiser
From: ??
Age: ??
Weight: 210 lbs.
Record: 41-1
Appeared In: Super Punch-Out!! (SNES)

Rick Bruiser felt like a cop-out—the gimmick was that he and his older brother Nick were at the top of Super Punch-Out!!’s Special Circuit. Since only one of them could be champion, they fought, and Nick won—that’s why Rick has a single loss. Rick has a couple of unique moves—a nasty elbow and a fast counter-punch, most notably—but he’s just too similar to Nick, and their two fights, back-to-back, feel redundant.

Both Bruiser Brothers have a particularly demoralizing special move—an ‘Arm Breaker’ that puts Little Mac’s left or right arm out of action for a length of time. There’s no worse feeling than having a ‘broken’ arm, and being unable to do anything but duck and dodge your opponent’s attacks.

#24. Gabby Jay
From: Paris, France
Age: 56
Weight: 110
Record: 1-99
Appeared In: Super Punch-Out!! (SNES)

Gabby Jay is what happens when you take Glass Joe and make him even sadder. The backstory is that he was a waiter in Paris, until his mind snapped and he got the urge to become a professional boxer. His one win actually came from KO’ing Glass Joe himself. But that’s not evident when you fight him; Gabby Jay is way too easy. He’s ‘slam on the buttons and pray’ easy. Glass Joe’s level of ineptitude should be the established bottom for the Punch-Out!! rogues’ gallery; it doesn’t do the player any good, even on an instructional level, to fight someone more pathetic than that.

The only fun thing about fighting Gabby Jay is how quickly you can destroy him. There’s a Time Attack Mode in Super Punch-Out!! (SNES) that clocks your KO to a hundredth of a second, and once you achieve total mastery of the game, you can burn tens of hours whittling increments from your best times. I can KO Gabby Jay in under seven seconds, but that’s not close to the world record, which is posted above.

23. Bob Charlie
From: Kingston, Jamaica
Age: 26
Weight: 140 lbs.
Record: 24-13
Appeared In: Super Punch-Out!! (SNES)

Super Punch-Out!! (SNES) took some real chances. It would have been easy for the developers to simply remake the original (similarly to what the Wii developers did), but the SNES developers seemed determined to put their own stamp on things. They devised a slew of new fighters, and one of these was the “Jive King of Kingston,” Bob Charlie.

Not only does Bob Charlie suck as a fighter, but he dances for his entire match, while his manager yells at him to “shuck and jive.” Jesus. Christ. His taunt is also really weird; he shimmies his shoulders, closes his eyes, and hoots, “Hoooo! Hoooo! Hooooo!!” I’m not really sure what that’s about. Whatever it is, however, it can’t be good, and if you listen closely enough to the soundtrack, you can hear Bob Marley spinning in his grave.

#22. Masked Muscle
From: Mexico City, Mexico
Age: 29
Weight: 240 lbs
Record: 19-5
Appeared In: Super Punch-Out!! (SNES)

Masked Muscle was a former lucha libre wrestler. That, by itself, was sort of cool; this was pre-Lucha Underground, pre-Rey Mysterio.

But Masked Muscle was not doing head scissors takedowns and hurricanranas—no sir. His main offensive gimmick was to spit in his opponent’s eyes, blinding Little Mac for a short period of time. Masked Muscle mainly feels like a wasted opportunity; the developers could have done something really cool with a pro wrestling character, but they went for a lazy joke instead.

#21. Doc Louis
From: N/A
Age: N/A
Weight: N/A
Record: N/A
Appeared In: Doc Louis’s Punch-Out!! (Wii)

Doc’s been with Little Mac since the beginning, but in Punch-Out!! (Wii), he’s something of a revelation. First, he’s insane. Doc insists on giving Little Mac nothing but useless advice; usually, it has something to do with chocolate bars. In fact, when I entered the Punch-Out!! (Wii) tournament at Nintendo World in 2009, the employees handed out Doc’s chocolate bars as promotional items. And in-game, if you instructed Doc to eat his chocolate bar in between rounds, it would restore some of Little Mac’s health.

As a special gift for Club Nintendo Platinum members, Doc got his own Punch-Out!! (Wii) spin-off, Doc Louis’s Punch Out!!. Finally, Little Mac could take on his coach in a friendly sparring session. It was fun—Doc has his own Star Punch move, and he heals himself, of course, by eating chocolate—but the developers should have taken it further, and allowed you to have a full-on, ‘old school’ match.

#20. Bear Hugger
From: Salmon Arm, BC, Canada
Age: 32
Weight: 440 lbs.
Record: 17-12
Appeared In: Super Punch-Out!! (Arcade), Super Punch-Out!! (SNES), Punch-Out!! (Wii)

Bear Hugger first debuted in Super Punch-Out!! (Arcade), but he gained the most exposure from his Super Punch-Out!! (SNES) appearance, where he appeared as the second opponent after Gabby Jay. Like Piston Hurricane, he was an instructional opponent; he had a monstrous overhead attack that taught you the importance of ducking. Once you got past that, however, he was pretty simple to beat. When Bear Hugger re-debuted in Punch-Out!! (Wii), he had a whole new bag of tricks—you still needed to duck, but you also needed to nail some well-timed counterpunches to put him down for the count.

Bear Hugger’s character design is fun; he’s just so physically dissimilar from the other boxers. If you hit him in the stomach, it registers little to no damage; he grins at you and sticks out his tongue. And most recently on the Wii, Bear Hugger has acquired a big, hearty lumberjack laugh for when you get knocked down and are trying to crawl to your feet.

#19. Heike Kagero
From: Osaka, Japan
Age: 19
Weight: 120 lbs.
Record: 14-8
Appeared In: Super Punch-Out!! (SNES)

Heike Kagero was deceptively difficult. His individual moves were all mildly to moderately damaging, but they accumulated very, very quickly. Out of all the boxers in Super Punch-Out!! (SNES), Heike’s gloves were especially hard to read—he barely telegraphed any of his moves, which made it hard to know whether to duck, dodge, or block.

The game played up Heike’s outward effeminacy. He wore pink. He had long hair (which he used as a weapon). His instruction booklet biography even made implied references to a bullied background: “After being trained as a youth in Nihon Buyo (A form of Japanese ballet), Heike Kagero learned to box to defend himself. He is not afraid to use his quick speed and dance moves while boxing.” Even if they didn’t cop to it explicitly, Heike was Punch-Out!!’s first LGBT fighter. And even though it was all a bit blatant, at least Heike was a badass. That Mirage Dance was grounds for controller breaking.

#18. Piston Hondo
From: Tokyo, Japan
Age: 28
Weight: 174 lbs.
Record: 26-1
Appeared In: Punch-Out!! (NES), Punch-Out!! (Wii)

The disciplined, lone warrior, sacrificing family and friends for superior technique. That’s Piston Hondo, the best boxer to ever do the Piston Hurricane gimmick. In fact, Piston Hondo did it so well that he exceeded its original practitioner.

In Punch-Out!! (NES), he was originally called Piston Honda. His between round taunts were a random potpourri of Japanese: “Sushi… Kamikaze… Fujiyama… Nipponichi…” For the Wii release, the developers preemptively changed his name to Piston Hondo to avoid any legal problems. The Wii version of Piston Hondo is one of the best designed characters in the game, from a technical standpoint. He has incredible feints and fakes on his uppercuts, and when he gets hit, his body expels sushi. Plus, those bushy eyebrows are out of control.

From a creative standpoint, however, Hondo is nothing to write home about. The higher ranked boxers have a humor and charisma to them that Hondo lacks. Stoicism can be intimidating, but it isn’t a crowd pleaser.

#17. Von Kaiser
From: Berlin, Germany
Age: 42
Weight: 144 lbs.
Record: 23-13
Appeared In: Punch-Out!! (NES), Punch-Out!! (Wii)

An ex-military man with a nasty case of PTSD, Von Kaiser’s main job in Punch-Out!! (NES) was to be one step above Glass Joe—slightly more competent because he knew how to block, but useless in nearly every other regard. His PTSD was not the result of some bloody conflict; rather, it was from getting the crap beaten out of him by children.

The second time you face him in Title Defense mode on the Wii, however, he’s a lot tougher—he’s got a buzzcut, and he has a one hit kill overhand punch that starts from the back of the ring. “Das ist boxen, Little Mac, und kein Tantenkaffee!”

#16. Disco Kid
From: Brooklyn, NY, USA
Age: 20
Weight: 210 lbs.
Record: 4-13
Appeared In: Punch-Out!! (Wii)

Everything about Disco Kid is a flamboyant throwback, from his Carlton dance, to his Richard Simmons schtick, to his Flash Dance routine before the match, between the rounds, and after the match. Disco Kid is referred to in the game’s data as ‘kidquick,’ leading many people to believe that he took the spot originally intended for the veteran boxer. As it turns out, Disco Kid is the only brand new character for Punch-Out!! (Wii), but he makes his appearance worth it.

The best Punch-Out!! humor comes from its physical comedy, and every move Disco Kid makes is funny. The gleaming bullshit smile. The ‘boxercise’ moves. Even his KO animation is funny; he spins like a top before doing a full-on face plant, a la Ric Flair.

#15. Aran Ryan
From: Dublin, Ireland
Age: 23
Weight: 160 lbs
Record: 18-10
Appeared In: Super Punch-Out!! (SNES), Punch-Out!! (Wii)

When Aran Ryan first debuted in Super Punch-Out!! (SNES), he was a tougher version of Piston Hurricane—he had a longer, more intense version of the Hurricane Rush called the Irish Cream, and he added a grappling move reminiscent of Pizza Pasta’s. His main gimmick was that he was invulnerable to regular punches—you needed KO punches to make any sort of realistic headway.

When he was announced for the Wii, my first response was skepticism. Why, out of all the colorful boxers from the past games, were they going with this guy? But Nintendo’s developers knew what they were doing. They reinvented him as a scrappier, angrier, dirtier brawler, who packed horseshoes in his gloves, headbutted you from the ropes, and always got up at the count of 7. Luck of the Irish indeed.

#14. Nick Bruiser
From: ??
Age: ??
Weight: 210 lbs.
Record: 42-0
Appeared In: Super Punch-Out!! (SNES)

Everything about Nick Bruiser is intimidating. His straight faced scowl. His cut physique. The way he saunters over to you before the bell rings. After all the loud mouths and braggarts and showmen that Super Punch-Out!! (SNES) throws at you, you finally come up against a silent killer, and it’s such a stark comparison.

The first one hundred times you fight Nick Bruiser, a mounting despair sets in. It seems as though there’s no end in sight. He thrashes you so totally and soundly that it hardly qualifies as a match. He’s the only boxer in Super Punch-Out!! (SNES) who makes Little Mac spin around before hitting the canvas. A single Nick Bruiser uppercut hits twice and depletes nearly all of your health. And half the time, you can’t even fight back anyway, because your arms are ‘broken.’ But slowly, through pure muscle memory, you begin to dodge Nick’s haymakers. You survive past the first minute. And when you finally do manage to put him down three times for the TKO, it’s oh so sweet.

#13. Soda Popinski
From: Moscow, Russia
Age: 35
Weight: 237
Record: 33-2
Appeared In: Punch-Out!! (Arcade), Punch-Out!! (NES), Punch-Out!! (Wii)

The story has passed into video game folklore. In the original Super Punch-Out!! (Arcade), Soda Popinski was originally Vodka Drunkenski. But when Punch-Out!! got ported to the consoles, Nintendo decided to go a more kid-friendly route, and Soda Popinski was born. An offensive stereotype was thus made a fraction less offensive; the in-game quotes still refer to alcohol, and Soda Popinski retains the flush of someone who’s three sheets to the wind.

Up until recently, Popinski would have been at the bottom of any Punch-Out!! list. Yes, he was faster and more dangerous than the boxers who preceded him, but he had no creative gimmick beyond that. The Wii remake changed all that. Not only was he drinking soda; he was drinking nuclear soda, that healed him when he drank it. Popinski was re-characterized as a freak lab experiment; an Ivan Drago Soviet experiment gone wrong. And every time he got up, he got a little bit redder, madder, and faster—a human hydrogen bomb, just waiting to go off.

#12. Mr. Sandman
From: Philadelphia, PA, USA
Age: 31
Weight: 284 lbs.
Record: 29-2
Appeared In: Punch-Out!! (Arcade), Punch-Out!! (NES), Super Punch-Out!! (SNES), Punch-Out!! (Wii)

Mr. Sandman is not to be messed with. He’s got that hard-assed Philly vibe going on, and he’s been the resident toughman on the roster since the very beginning. Sandman required Little Mac to mix up his highs and lows; the first punch in a combination would always go to his jaw, but all the others had to be aimed at his gut, or they wouldn’t connect.

Mr. Sandman was also notable for his second wind; in all of his appearances, Sandman would wait until the end of a match to pull out all of his tricks, including his Dreamland Finisher—three consecutive monster uppercuts in a row. In Punch-Out!! (Wii), Mr. Sandman took on Tyson duties, and inherited Iron Mike’s wink punches from the original console game. It was a perfect, self-referential nod to the franchise’s 20+ year legacy.

#11. Narcis Prince
From: London, England, UK
Age: 20
Weight: 150
Record: 12-3
Appeared In: Super Punch-Out!! (SNES)

The privileged pretty boy from across the pond definitely has the most stylish boxing style out of all the fighters in Super Punch-Out!! (SNES). It’s a lot of evasive twirling and fancy footwork, and he’s got a brutal sidestep punch that kills your lifebar while simultaneously increasing his. That’s Narcis Prince’s gimmick; he’s nigh impossible to hit in the face, but once you do, his sense of self-control goes out the window. He gets mad, and his technique breaks down. And that’s when you move in for the kill.

Narcis Prince has some of the best facial reactions out of anyone in the game, especially when he gets pissed and his lip curls. He also makes a really funny sound when he gets knocked down—a dramatic moan with an exaggerated British accent thrown on for good measure.

#10. Great Tiger
From: Mumbai, India
Age: 29
Weight: 132 lbs.
Record: 24-5
Appeared In: Super Punch-Out!! (Arcade), Punch-Out!! (NES), Punch-Out!! (Wii)

From here on out, we have the icons and the legends—the greatest boxers in Punch-Out!! history, who have that perfect balance between creativity, comedy, visual design, and pure entertainment value. And we’re starting it off with Great Tiger, a magician and illusionist with a glowing turban and a flying carpet. When you play Punch-Out!! (NES) for the first time, Great Tiger is the first boxer to use insane moves against you—up until then, you could have wrongly gotten the idea that your opponents, however unconventional, would follow some version of the rules. Great Tiger, with his appearing/disappearing act and his blurringly fast Tiger Punch, puts that matter to rest.

In Punch-Out!!’s (Wii) Title Defense mode, Great Tiger has his best, most versatile incarnation; the jewel in his turban glows green, blue, yellow, red, and white, and each one signifies a different attack and a different counter strategy.

#9. Don Flamenco
From: Madrid, Spain
Age: 23
Weight: 152 lbs.
Record: 22-3
Appeared In: Punch-Out!! (NES), Punch-Out!! (Wii)

The first time you fight Don Flamenco in Punch-Out!! (NES), he’s actually easier than Glass Joe, so long as you know the secret to beating him. After he misses with one of his trademark uppercuts, you jab him, alternating between left and right hand shots, until he drops. He won’t block any of them. The second time, however, is more challenging, and requires additional strategy.

What sets Don Flamenco apart from his fellow competitors is that he’s a counterpuncher rather than a straight up fighter. Flamenco never attacks first; he baits and goads little Mac into taking the first shot, and that’s how he gains the upper hand. Fighting Don Flamenco often means winning on decision, rather than winning by KO—he’s more than content to let you chase him, and let the fight come to him rather than bringing the fight to you. It’s irritating, no doubt, but devastatingly effective.

#8. Dragon Chan
From: Hong Kong
Age: 20
Weight: 130 lbs.
Record: 15-7
Appeared In: Super Punch-Out!! (Arcade), Super Punch-Out!! (SNES)

Every fighting game has to have its Bruce Lee wannabe, and for the Punch-Out franchise, that character is Dragon Chan.

Chan’s appearance is the moment in Super Punch-Out!! (SNES) when you are forced to use strategy by ducking and dodging, rather than throwing punches when you see an opening. Prior to Chan, you could ‘interrupt’ an opponent’s punch by throwing your own punch; the opponent would be forced to abandon his attack plan and block, or risk getting hit in the face. With Dragon Chan, however, part of his punch animation involves a sidestep, which means that any of your ‘interrupt’ punches will hit dead air. Fighting Dragon Chan requires patience; you have to wait for him to make the first move. A more overly aggressive fighter will get destroyed.

Dragon Chan also has the coolest arsenal of special moves: a flying kick from the top rope, a triple kick combination from the ground, and a healing meditation. But of course, he delivers all of these moves by making Bruce Lee-esque noises and baring his bucked teeth. Horrible, but not unexpected.

#7. Mad Clown
From: Milan, Italy
Age: 27
Weight: 370
Record: 17-9
Appeared In: Super Punch-Out!! (SNES)

Mad Clown’s biography is sort of sad. He began life as a famous opera singer, but then he had a nervous breakdown. He went into circus clowning, and after he failed at that, he went into boxing. Mad Clown’s signature move is ridiculous, even by Punch-Out!! standards. He rears back, juggles six balls, throws them at you, and then flips forward with an overhead head clap that he calls the ‘Big Topper.’

Like Bear Hugger, Mad Clown’s stomach is invulnerable. Unlike Bear Hugger, Mad Clown is unbelievably light on his feet. He’s got a nasty punch that starts out as an uppercut, but turns into a backhand, which will catch you during your dodge recovery. Mad Clown is also a fantastic counter puncher, and he uses the entire ring to his advantage. Many times, you’ll be fighting in one area of the ring, and Mad Clown will then dash to the other side before continuing his attack. It may seem like a little thing, but it completely throws off your timing, and in a game like Super Punch-Out!! (SNES), that can be the difference between victory and defeat.

#6. Glass Joe
From: Paris, France
Age: 38
Weight: 110 lbs.
Record: 1-99
Appeared In: Punch-Out!! (Arcade), Punch-Out!! (NES), Punch-Out!! (Wii)

Glass Joe is nothing if not stubborn; he continues marching to defeat, even after 99 losses. He’s been Nintendo’s go-to whipping boy for over two decades.

In Punch-Out!! (Wii), he finally does something constructive about his glass jaw, and puts on protective head gear the second time you face him. But even though this makes him slightly more competent (it’s actually possible to lose to Glass Joe in Title Defense Mode, which is straight up embarrassing), he’s still the worst boxer on the roster.

There’s something lovable about Glass Joe’s complete ineptitude. Perhaps it’s because on some level, he’s everything that we don’t want to be. We want to be good at the game. We don’t want to be KO’d by all of our opponents. Fighting and destroying Glass Joe is strangely reassuring: “Whew! At least I’m not as bad as THAT guy!” And from then on, you feel a little more comfortable taking a loss or flat out sucking. Hey, at least you’re not as bad as Glass Joe.

#5. Hoy Quarlow
From: Beijing, China
Age: 78
Weight: 100
Record: 62-13
Appeared In: Super Punch-Out!! (SNES)

I loved Hoy Quarlow growing up. He was so frustrating, but in the best way possible; you never felt like the fight was insurmountable or that it was anything but your fault when you lost. Hoy is the only Punch-Out character who carries a weapon with him into the ring, and blatantly uses it for the majority of his match. As it turns out, bringing a clubbed stick to a boxing match gives one some distinct advantages.

First off, if Hoy blocks one of your punches, he’ll poke you with unblockable move that pushes you to the side. Second, he’s got a sick arsenal of special moves — a spinning backfist, a rising wheel kick, an ‘Ancient Attack’ from the back of the ring, and a countless variety of high/low attacks with his stick. And third, he recovers insanely well; after being knocked down, he will rise with most, if not all of his energy. Defeating Hoy Quarlow requires memorization and diligence, and when you finally manage to do so, it comes with a huge sense of relief. Finally. Now, about those Bruiser Brothers…

#4. Mike Tyson
From: Catskill, NY, USA
Age: 21
Weight: 220 lbs.
Record: 31-0
Appeared In: Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! (NES)

Finally, we get to the Baddest Man on the Planet. To anyone who didn’t grow up in the 80’s, it’s easy to dismiss Tyson as a sad punchline; his personal life and fall from grace are well-documented, and don’t need to be rehashed here. But before Don King, before Buster Douglas, and back when Cus used to train him, Tyson was a brutal force of nature. Of course Nintendo made him the final boss in Punch-Out!! (NES), then called Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! — it would have been impossible for them to invent anyone more intimidating. Tyson delivers nothing but KO punches for the first minute and a half of his Little Mac fight, and frighteningly, this was not an exaggeration of what happened in real life.

I recently spoke with Gail Tilden, the former marketing manager and founder of Nintendo Power, and she recalled Tyson’s “odd behavior” while filming the below commercial for *Punch-Out!!*. This included punching her art director as a goof, which, according to her, “knocked the wind out of him.” Even when he was being playful, it seemed as though Tyson had little concept of his own strength.

I’ve beaten every Punch-Out!! boxer on this list with the exception of Tyson/Mr. Dream. I can take down Nick Bruiser in under 20 seconds. I can KO Von Kaiser (Wii) using only five punches. But Tyson remains undefeated. I’ve never come close to beating him, if I’m honest about it, and I don’t know anyone, personally, who has. I only know it’s possible because I’ve seen it on YouTube. How long did it take you to beat Tyson, if you’ve managed to do it? Let me know in the comments, because I’m fascinated.

#3. King Hippo
From: Hippo Island, South Pacific
Age: ??
Weight: ??
Record: 18-9
Appeared In: Punch-Out!! (NES), Punch-Out!! (Wii)

King Hippo was a stroke of brilliance on Nintendo’s part. He’s the only boxer in Punch-Out!! (NES) who doesn’t share a sprite in common with another boxer in the game, and that’s extremely appropriate, because he’s completely unique in every way.

King Hippo seems invulnerable at first; for prior opponents, the most reliable tactic was dodge-and-attack, dodge-and-attack. But that doesn’t work on King Hippo; no matter how quick you are, he puts his gloves up before you can get a shot in.

The secret to beating King Hippo is this: sometimes, right before he throws a power punch, Hippo will open his mouth. If you take that moment to hit him in the face, his pants will drop, revealing a big band-aid over his stomach, his only weak point. When you knock him down once, he stays down; he’s too big to stand back up.

Put another way, there is no ‘safe way’ to fight King Hippo — to land a shot, you have to stand your ground, in the line of Hippo’s fire, and risk getting pulverized. This tension is what makes the fight so compelling, and it’s what lands King Hippo in the #3 spot.

#2. Super Macho Man
From: Los Angeles, CA, USA
Age: 28
Weight: 230
Record: 29-3
Appeared In: Super Punch-Out!! (Arcade), Punch-Out!! (NES), Super Punch-Out!! (SNES), Punch-Out!! (Wii)

Super Macho Man is every self-obsessed jerk turned up to 11. He’s basically a walking, talking, tanned penis—all testosterone and unaware homoeroticism, and no brains. What started off as a pale guy flexing his pecs in the original console game has evolved into something entirely unique—Super Macho Man now works his exercise routine into his fighting, and poses for his fans before and after his fights. In Super Punch-Out!! (SNES), his manager refers to his punch combos as Exercises A (high jabs), B (body blows), and C (uppercuts).

In the Wii remake, Super Macho Man incorporates inspirational phrases, like “Release the Beast!” into his trash talk, and is completely submerged in Hollywood culture. He spends his in-ring time taking sexy selfies of himself, and at the conclusion of each match, will have himself airlifted out of the arena via helicopter. In a universe that is filled with over-the-top, silly characters, Super Macho Man is the funniest.

#1. Bald Bull
From: Istanbul, Turkey
Age: 36
Weight: 240
Record: 34-19
Appeared In: Punch-Out!! (Arcade), Punch-Out!! (NES), Super Punch-Out!! (SNES), Punch-Out!! (Wii)

Bald Bull is undisputed king of Punch-Out!!. He’s never been known as the strongest, the quickest, or the most clever. He’s never been the ‘final boss’ of any Punch-Out!! game. But still Bald Bull is #1. Why? Because of his Bull Charge, that’s why.

In a bullfight, the matador must risk life and limb to attain a perfect, instant kill. The sword must be driven precisely between the shoulder blades to hit the internal organs, which means that the matador must approach the bull head-on and put his safety in jeopardy. Bald Bull was the first and best metaphor in Punch-Out!! for this kill or be killed philosophy. If you delivered a body bow at the exact right time, Bald Bull would lose all of his energy and drop like a stone. But if you missed, it was a one-hit knockdown, guaranteed.

Bald Bull was a well-rounded fighter, and he had lots of other moves that could put the hurt on Little Mac. But none of those moves was as memorable, or as poignant, as the Bull Charge. It forced us to take a stand; were we going to run from the fight, or were we going to take a terrible, 1-in-a-million shot to end it quickly? Most of us mustered up our courage and just went for it, which probably resulted in more tears than cheers. But when it worked, and Bald Bull got that weird, bug eyed look before he hit the canvas, all the aggravation became worth it.

Kevin is an AP English Language teacher and freelance writer from Queens, NY. His focus is on video games, American pop culture, and Asian American issues. Kevin has also been published in VIBE, Complex, Joystiq, Salon, PopMatters, WhatCulture, and Racialicious. You can email him at kevinjameswong@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter @kevinjameswong.

Top Illustration by Sam Woolley. All screenshots via Nintendo Unity, Old Classic Retro Gaming, Bird Swamp, Temple Of The Azure Flame