The Toughest Athletes: The Loudmouths

Because they back it up.
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Because they back it up.
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Richard Sherman

Cornerback, Seattle Seahawks

Sure, he’s famous for talking smack, but he didn’t earn a $56 million contract extension or the cover of Madden NFL 15 with his sharp tongue. He did it by routinely defying expectations. Sherman is a high school scholar from the mean streets of Compton, a bruising defender from the hallowed halls of Stanford, the kind of guy who ignites a nationwide debate on race with a heads-up play in the NFC championship game. He also owns a Super Bowl ring. Hard to argue with that.

Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Boxer

If you’re the best pound-for-pound boxer on the planet and the highest-paid athlete in the world, swagger comes naturally. “Money” Mayweather has the luxury cars, opulent mansions, and megaballer lifestyle to match his undefeated record. More to the point, he has the charisma the sport’s been lacking since the days of Muhammad Ali. The one prize he has yet to claim? Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 career record. Does he hope to beat it? “If the price is right for No. 50, it’s possible,” he says.

Ronda Rousey

Mixed Martial Artist

The full-time UFC fighter (see her ghastly “armbar” maneuver) and part-time action star (see her love of sequels in this summer’s third Expendables installment and Fast & Furious 7   ) once said she could beat Mayweather; she just won a 2014 ESPY for best female athlete; and, more important, she scored the September 2013 cover of Maxim. A training tip from our interview: “As a girl, if you have sex before a fight, it raises your testosterone.” Sure beats chugging raw eggs…

Johnny Manziel

Quarterback, Cleveland Browns

In 2012, at age 19, he became the first freshman to win the Heisman. In the years since, the legend of Johnny Football—the swaggering, hot-tempered gunslinger—has only grown, and not entirely thanks to his on-field heroics. But despite the bar brawls and drunken selfies with Bieber, one thing remains certain: Manziel is a freakish athlete. Shortly before the QB was drafted by the Browns and the Padres, a video of him effortlessly dunking a basketball surfaced on the Internet. Let’s be honest, though: We love him because he’s Broadway Joe, not Tim Tebow.

David Ortiz

Designated Hitter, Boston Red Sox

It takes a certain kind of man to do what Big Papi has done. Bullish, foulmouthed, showboating sluggers rarely get a slide from the American public—especially after their names turn up on a performance-enhancing-drug test list—but the bighearted Ortiz has the charm to match his infectious smile, not to mention a gift for delivering big hits and World Series titles to the once-beleagured Red Sox Nation. So why not give him a pass? If you hit moon shots like that, you might stop to admire them, too. Better f—ing believe it!

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Striker, Paris Saint-Germain

Perhaps you know him better as the confident star of the hip animated series Nike produced for ESPN’s World Cup coverage. For those interested in learning why the Swedish-born scamp is one of the world’s highest-paid footballers, YouTube the 2012 bicycle kick

he orchestrated against England. And for those questioning his scary-guy credentials, google any one of the many on-camera incidents of him deliberately kicking the faces of opponents and teammates alike. Hey, if you’re a sociopathic soccer player, why

punch when you can punt? 

Up Next, Grizzled Vets.

Photos by Joe Nicholson / USA TODAY Sports