Best southpaws in boxing history-A A +A
Sunday, July 27, 2014
ALL the talk about style issues that Manny Pacquiao will have to deal with when he faces Chris Algieri in Macau this November brought to mind a question that I have been often asked but never really had the chance to dissect and analyze: Who is the greatest southpaw in boxing history?
Immediately, several candidates come to mind, with some of them from a different boxing era--when championship bouts were fought for 15 rounds, and division champions were not watered down because there weren’t too many alphabet bodies like we have now.
But let’s have some subjective fun with the topic on hand. Here are my top five candidates.
MARVIN HAGLER (62-3, 52KOs). This bald, mean-looking banger reigned as the undisputed middleweight champion from 1980-1987 and holds the highest knockout percentage among all middleweight champions.
In his dominion of terror, Hagler defeated the likes of Roberto Duran, Mustafa Hamsho, John Mugabi and Tommy Hearns. In 10 defenses he won all but one by knockout.
He was never stopped, and the sole knockdown of his career (to Juan Domingo Roldan), he disputed and claimed it should have been ruled a slip. Two of his three losses came early in his career, all via close decision.
His destruction of Hearns in three rounds is the stuff of legend, with the first round hailed by the Ring Magazine as the greatest round in boxing history.
Ironically, the best southpaw in history would finish off Hearns in this iconic middleweight fight, with a right cross.
Hagler wasn’t particularly fast, but brought a feral, brutal approach to the ring. He had a hard steady jab and defeated opponents using a pastiche of power, speed and durability.
In his last fight, he lost a closely fought decision to Leonard, which to this day is still debated by pundits. Unable to get a rematch, a disgusted Hagler moved to Italy and became an actor.
MANNY PACQUIAO (56-5, 38KOs). Pacquiao is an eight-division titlist, whose list of victims reads like a Hall of Fame roster: Oscar de la Hoya, Juan Manuel Marquez, Miguel Cotto, Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, Ricky Hatton, Shane Mosley.
Partiality aside, I would have ranked Manny higher than Hagler, prior to his knockout loss to rival Marquez. But that brutal one-punch knockout somehow removed the veneer of invincibility that surrounded the Pacman, thereby relegating him to second spot. However, his body of work is not done yet and how he performs in the last two to three years of his career will affect his ranking.
PERNELL WHITAKER (40-4, 17KOs). “Sweet Pea” was a defensive wizard who made opponents miss by a mile. Though he didn’t pack much pop in those gloves, he dominated with his speed, counter-punching and excellent ring generalship.
He was a world champion in four different weight divisions and defeated the likes of Jorge Paez, Wilfredo Rivera, and James McGirt. His most popular fight came against Mexican legend Julio Cesar Chavez which was ruled a controversial majority draw. Whitaker schooled Chavez for majority of the rounds, but two of the judges saw an even bout.
JOE CALZAGHE. (46-0, 32KOs) Calzaghe retired undefeated and is the longest reigning super-middleweight champion in history. At his peak, he was criticized for not facing the best fighters available though he did remedy that when he defeated American legends Roy Jones Jr and Bernard Hopkins. Unfortunately, he faced them when they were well past their prime and so Joe’s best work came against the likes of Peter Manfredo Jr., Jeff Lacy, Mikkel Kessler and Sakio Bika.
HECTOR CAMACHO. (88-6, 45KOS) “Macho” Camacho was well known for his flamboyant ring style and garish outfits. But for all the flair, he was a force to reckon with inside the ring, featuring a deadly combination of speed, power, and defensive skills.
He has victories over Vinny Pazienza, Roberto Duran (twice), Ray Mancini and sent a 40 year old Sugar Ray Leonard into permanent retirement in 1997. In November 2012 he fell victim to a drive by shooting incident in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.
LAST ROUNDS. Are on the UP Latagaw Brotherhood for recently celebrating its 42nd Anniversary. In HBST my brothers. Cheers! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 28, 2014.