Let's start a barroom argument. Who are the toughest athletes in sports? Well, hang on a second. How do you define tough? The ability to take and deliver a shot or ten? To play hurt and still play well? The utter refusal to give in to pressure, circumstance, or more physically imposing foe? To dominate one's opponents or even one's sport? How about the ability to overcome serious personal setbacks, such as a dire injury or illness, and return to the highest level of performance? How about sheer longevity in a punishing, demanding game?
We've considered all of those things while sorting through long lists of worthy candidates. Our Top 25 (in order, says us) contains some surprising choices. We've also put together a list of current notables in the four major pro sports and a photo gallery of the greatest old school toughs -- legends who are no longer active, surely to the relief of their beleaguered foes.
#3 Anderson Silva
What makes him tough: You automatically qualify when people tab you as the world's best pound-for-pound mixed martial arts fighter. Silva is 6-0 in the UFC, and ranked No. 1 in pound-for-pound polls by Fight Magazine.
Defining moment: Knocking out Cincinnati's hometown hero Rich Franklin last October in Ultimate Fighting Championship 77.
Old school match: None. He's an original.
#8 Fedor Emelianenko
What makes him tough: Well, he's the toughest heavyweight in the world, and maybe the greatest heavyweight in mixed martial arts. Emelianenko, 31, is 27-1-1 in MMA and is a 10-time Sambo tournament champion, including four World Combat Sambo Championships. Ruthless Russian strongman Vladimir Putin shows up on occasion to watch him.
Defining moment: After a left hook tore a gash above his eye, the bloody Darth Fedor still needed only one round to beat Matt Lindland, the 2000 Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling silver medalist, in the much-hyped "Clash of the Nations" last year in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Old school match: Joe Frazier, who also scared the bejesus out of opponents with his appetite for destruction.