One of the most exhilarating, dynamic, and brutal combat sports around, kickboxing isn’t for the fainthearted. And if you want to be a kickboxing world champion, you need to be able to pick up a bloody nose and keep punching.
But you need more than that too. You need the footwork of a dancer, physical fitness in truckloads, and a strong style. Add in the insatiable appetite for the victory – and the next and the next – and you are nearly there.
Even that’s not enough. Because the ultimate fighting champion has something more than this too. Something less easy to define, less precise. But you only need to watch someone like Petrosyan or Aerts to know that it’s there.
So, Who Are the Best Kickboxers in History?
It’s a tricky question. Every fan of the combat sport has their own answer. And unlike the kickboxers who are up there fighting, not everyone defends their corner – on this precise question – with the same grace and elegance. We’re expecting loud voices and high feelings, sure. But try not to throw any punches of your own.
So, if you have an answer of your own, let this be a way to reconsider the records and achievements of a different kickboxer. Or, if you have only watched men fighting, use it as an opportunity to learn about some female fighters too.
For those of who are new to this high intensity sport and are looking for a bit of context in the world of kick boxing, for those of you who are just after some new inspiration, then this is your place. These are some of the fighters who have won the most bouts, who have remained undefeated for longest, who have had the most knockout victories, or have made a name for themselves in some other way.
We hope you find it interesting and inspiring – and take your inspiration into your own kickboxing classes.
Actually potentially the most famous kickboxer in the world, Lucia Rijker has been given all sorts of nicknames: ‘The Most Dangerous Woman in the World’, ‘The Dutch Destroyer’, and even ‘Lady Tyson’.
Her fame, besides her incredible record in the ring, comes from her role in the Oscar-winning film, Million Dollar Baby. Besides being an actor, she does kickboxing and boxing – and is excellent in both. She’s an incredibly talented person.
Apart from one KO in a match of exhibition kickboxing, she is undefeated. In professional boxing, her record is seventeen matches with seventeen wins (and fourteen knockouts). In kickboxing, it’s thirty-five wins out of thirty-six (with twenty-five knockouts and one draw). Not bad really.
He’s one of the greatest heavyweight and super heavyweight kickboxers ever. Now forty-eight, he won his first world title when he was nineteen – and went on to win twelve world championships in Muay Thai kickboxing and the K-1 World Grand Prix.
He’s known for his high kick – earning him the nickname ‘The Dutch Lumberjack’ – which won him plenty of titles. With a record of 106-35-2 in kickboxing, he’s a name to be reckoned with. But he’s an icon more than that.
He also set the quickest time for a K-1 Grand Prix final: just under seven minutes. Guess what, his high kick knocked out his opponent there too.
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Gevorg ‘Giorgio’ Petrosyan is an Armenian-Italian middleweight kickboxer who has one of the best records – and one of the best defensive fighting styles – in the history of the sport.
Petrosyan started in Muay Thai kickboxing and moved to ‘Oriental rules’ kickboxing in 2008, where he kicked off his new style with a unanimous decision win.
His record speaks for itself really – 101-2-2 – and he’s won pretty much all the championships that exist.
With his combinations of low kicks and body kicks and his almost impenetrable defense techniques, Petrosyan could be on the top of the world for a long time to come.
Find out more about the rules of kickboxing!
A former heavyweight champion, Badr Hari is a bit of a character. Involved in all sorts of criminal assault cases – in which he was described, essentially, as a short-tempered narcissist – as well as in the odd doping scandal, Hari has a bit of reputation in the wider world. And not necessarily a good one.
However, the Moroccan king seems to like him, having praised him in 2009. And, honestly, his record in the ring is really quite phenomenal: 106-13-0. And it’s not over yet.
The current International Sport Karate and Kickboxing Association welterweight champion, Jorina Baars has a Muay Thai boxing record of 46-0-3. Just for this she deserves a place in this list.
Her mixed martial arts (MMA) record is not quite as good, but Muay Thai is her speciality – and she does it excellently.
With sixteen knockouts to her name, as well as a victory over Cyborg Justino, she’s not only a kickboxing champion but she’s one of the greatest – and most consistent – martial artists ever.
Glory Kickboxing right now put him at number one heavyweight in the world (and they’re not the only ones). And he’s slowly built his reputation (and his nickname) from the ‘Prince of Kickboxing’ to the ‘King’.
He’s a pretty formidable fighter, and one that has gone from strength to strength in recent years, being named Kickboxer of the Year by different organisations successively.
He claims to owe his jab to Tyson Fury, who helped him in his kickboxing training and the development of his fighting techniques.
Sombat Banchamek, or Buakaw Banchamek as he is more commonly known (‘Buakaw’ meaning ‘white lotus’) is a Thai welterweight kickboxer and winner of the K-1 World MAX Championship (twice!) – as well as a titleholder in featherweight and lightweight fighting championships.
At the age of thirty-seven, he has a record of 238-24-12, with a respectable seventy-two knockouts.
After a period of retirement – in which he played for a while with a university’s football team – he is back in kickboxing fitness with his kick boxing gloves on.
Find out about the different types of kickboxing!
Robin van Roosmalen
Whilst he is still young – and whilst he does not have the records of some of the more established names in this list, Robin van Roosmalen is a featherweight force to be reckoned with.
On a kickboxing record of 51-17-3, there’s nothing to be sniffed at, at all. Yet, his real feats have been his upsets, which have pitted him as an underdog but from which he has come out on top.
With two Glory Featherweight championships to his name, one Glory Lightweight, and an It’s Showtime ‘Fast & Furious’ fighting championship too – van Roosmalen has achieved an awful lot. And there’s plenty more to come.
Here, by the way, is your beginner's guide to kickboxing.
Cris ‘Cyborg’ Justino Venancio
Specialising in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, and wrestling, Cris Cyborg is the only female fighter to have held three world championships across the major female MMA promotions.
She’s been named female fighter of the year more times than you can count – and her MMA record is twenty-one wins out of twenty-four fights.
As of September, she’s got more fights to come, after signing a deal with Bellator MMA.
Long retired, Ernesto Hoost is one of the iconic names of kickboxing – having won the K-1 World Championship four times as well as a whole host of other titles to boot.
A super heavyweight from the Netherlands, beyond his own exceptional record – 99-21-1 – and his fighting prowess he is known for his long-running rivalries with Peter Aerts and Bob Sapp.
He won full contact fighter of the year in 2004 from Black Belt Magazine.
Someone who is totally at the top of their game right now in both kickboxing and Muay Thai is Sittichai Sitsongpeenong, the Thai Glory Lightweight Champion and – according to some – the current number one lightweight fighter in the world.
We said ‘according to some’, but what we meant was ‘really, according to a lot of people’ – as his awards for best fighter are too many to count.
A really formidable force in both Muay Thai and kickboxing, Sittichai is the one to watch these days.
What gear do you need for kickboxing? Find out!
One of the heavyweight boxers who have won the most titles, Semmy Schilt was really a giant of his division.
The only person to win the K-1 Championship three times in consecutive years and – along with Hoost – the joint recordholder for the number of Grand Prixs, Semmy Schilt has an impressive record in both kickboxing and MMA.
Unfortunately, he was forced into retirement in 2013 due to the discovery of a heart condition.
An eight-time Muay Thai world champion, Ramon Dekkers was just an incredible fighter to watch.
Due to his incredible fast pace and his aggressive style, he usually found a way to overwhelm his opponent.
Unfortunately, had a heart attack after training in 2013 – and his death has been one of the sport’s greatest losses.
What are the health benefits of kickboxing?
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