Memorable southpaw vs southpaw battles

IBHOF inductee Graham Houston remembers some notable all-southpaw confrontations ahead of this weekend’s battle of the portsiders between Ilunga Makabu and Thabiso Mchunu.

There was a time when all-southpaw bouts were a rarity. There was, unbelievably, even a feeling that a bout between two left-handers wouldn’t be very exciting to watch. “Two southpaws don’t make a fight,” was a saying in British boxing back in the 1950s.

Times change, perceptions change. We’ve seen many thrilling fights between southpaws over the years. There have been first-round KOs, upsets, all-out wars and controversial decisions in all-southpaw contests.

Ilunga Makabu and Thabiso Mchunu figured in one of the best all-lefty fights in recent years when Makabu came from behind to stop Mchunu in the 11th round in 2015. The two meet again on Saturday in Ohio, with Makabu defending his WBC cruiser title and a potential fight with superstar Canelo Alvarez on the table for the winner.

To set the scene, for Makabu vs Mchunu II, here’s a look at 10 significant all-southpaw contests, in no particular order.

Cornelius Boza-Edwards W15 Rafael “Bazooka” Limon, Stockton, California, March 8, 1981.

Boza-Edwards, the Ugandan who relocated to London, and Mexico’s Limon took part in perhaps the most action-packed all-southpaw bout of them all. Boza, challenging for the WBC super-featherweight title, dropped Limon in the fifth round but the champion came back slugging. Limon rocked Boza with a right hook in the eighth round. By the 10th round, ABC-TV commentator Howard Cosell was wondering if Boza had run out of gas, but the challenger bloodied Limon’s nose with right jabs and landed a big right hook of his own. Now it was Limon who was slowing down, and it was Boza who finished strongly in the 15th round, switching to the orthodox stance and backing up the tiring champion. Limon, though, wasn’t done yet and he banged it out toe-to-toe with Boza in one final, furious exchange. “Two kids with as much guts as you’d ever want to see,” as Cosell put it. Boza won a deserved, unanimous decision.

Marvin Hagler TKO3 Alan Minter, Wembley Arena, September 27, 1980.

This was the fight that launched Hagler on the road to super-stardom as he busted up Britain’s gutsy Minter with a vicious assortment of sharp, accurate punches. But what should have been a shining moment for the new champion was marred and overshadowed by the crowd’s ugly reaction to his victory. Bottles, cans and assorted debris came flying into the ring. “There had never been worse scenes at a boxing ring in my 25 years’ experience,” Frank McGhee reported in the Daily Mirror. The British press was unanimous in its praise for the fighting prowess Hagler displayed, however, with McGhee reporting he was in awe of the damage Hagler inflicted in fewer than three completed rounds.

Jose Luis Ramirez W12 Pernell Whitaker, Paris, March 12, 1988.

The decision that allowed Ramirez to keep his WBC lightweight title in the Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret was one of the most controversial in ring history. British judge Harry Gibbs had Whitaker winning, 117-113, but judges from Brazil and France saw it in Ramirez’ favour. Ramirez was the aggressor but Whitaker, the 1984 Olympic gold medallist from Norfolk, Virginia, in only his 16th pro bout, boxed beautifully against the more seasoned champion. “They didn’t stick a knife in me and they didn’t shoot me, but I know that I got robbed,” Whitaker said afterwards.

Josh Taylor W12 Regis Prograis, O2 Arena, London, October 26, 2019.

Taylor vs Prograis pitted two undefeated champions against each other and Scotland’s Taylor prevailed on a majority decision after an outstanding battle of wills and skills. Prograis got off to a fast start but Taylor came on strongly, jabbing with authority and landing sharp shots. Taylor was cut over the right eye by the final round, and the eye was swollen just about shut, but he fired back under pressure to eke out a close but worthy victory.

Marvin Johnson TKO10 Mate Parlov, Marsala, Sicily, December 2, 1978.

Parlov, 1972 Olympic gold medallist from the then-Yugoslavia, was expected to win in his second defence of the WBC light- heavyweight title. After all, Johnson had lost to Zambia’s UK-based Lotte Mwale on the same show as Parlov’s successful defence against Britain’s John Conteh in Belgrade six months earlier. But Johnson, whose receding hairline made him look older than his 24 years, walked through Parlov and broke him down in a startlingly one-sided victory. NBC-TV’s colour commentator Stu Nahan apologised to viewers for the grainy picture quality but it was clear to see that Johnson was dominating the fight. Johnson backed up Parlov with what ringside analyst Ken Norton called a “good, hard, stiff, power- jab”. Parlov, cut over the eyes, his face a “rubbery mess” according to Nahan, was wilting by the ninth round. British referee Roland Dakin gave Parlov two eight counts in the 10th when the champion touched down, first on one glove, then on both gloves, before waving the finish.

Vicente Saldivar TKO7 Mitsunori Seki, Mexico City, January 29, 1971.

Seki had given Saldivar all he had could handle five months earlier, which earned him a second crack at the Mexican fighter’s WBC and WBA featherweight titles. But this time Saldivar was much too strong. A left hand sent the Japanese fighter reeling back into a corner turnbuckle before falling forward to the canvas in the seventh round, and although Seki dragged himself to his feet he was overwhelmed after the eight count.

Adonis Stevenson KO1 Chad Dawson, Montreal, June 8, 2013.

Dawson, defending the WBC light-heavy title in his second reign as champion, was the betting favourite despite having been stopped by Andre Ward in his last fight, when Dawson moved down to 168lbs. He was considered to be too experienced and skilled for local favourite Stevenson. But Stevenson had punching power on his side, and he blasted Dawson to the canvas with a huge left hand to score a 76-second victory.

Brian Curvis W10 Dave Charnley, Wembley Pool, March 24, 1964.

Curvis vs Charnley was possibly the greatest-ever all-British southpaw vs southpaw contest although it was not for a championship. Curvis was British welterweight champion while Charnley held the lightweight title. Weights were not revealed but Curvis was clearly the bigger man. Charnley forced the fight and knocked Curvis down in the eighth round. Curvis survived the storm and came back to land left hands in the final two rounds, when Charnley seemed to run out of gas after his big effort to finish the fight in the eighth. The fight was “marked by fury and tenacity”, The Times reported, and the decision in Curvis’ favour was debatable.

Zab Judah TKO9 Cory Spinks, St Louis, February 5, 2005.

Spinks had won a unanimous decision over Judah in Las Vegas 10 months earlier in a welterweight title fight. But Judah had scored a heavy knockdown in the final round. On home ground in St. Louis, Spinks was favoured to repeat. But Brooklyn’s Judah was razor-sharp, and focused as never before, for the rematch, pacing back and forth before the opening bell. Spinks meanwhile, was tentative, as if the last-round scare in the initial meeting was preying on his mind. Judah took command from the start, hurting Spinks when he hit him. He floored Spinks with a left hand in the ninth round and followed up fiercely to bring the referee’s intervention.

Oleksandr Usyk W12 Krzysztof Glowacki, Gdansk, Poland, September 17, 2016.

Glowacki was on home ground for this WBO cruiser title defence but Olympic gold medallist Usyk dominated the meeting of unbeaten boxers. Glowacki was in the fight for the first five rounds but then Usyk pulled right away from him, pumping out the jab and running off combinations. It was as if Glowacki was being outboxed and outclassed at every turn. One judge gave Glowacki only one of the 12 rounds.

Main image: The legendary Marvin Hagler halts Alan Minter (right) back in September 1980. Photo: Alamy/Press Association.