THE TOP 10 GREATEST SOUTHPAWS OF ALL TIME
1/ Marvin Hagler :
The creme da la creme of ‘postsiders’ , Marvelous Marvin might just have been the most versatile fighter in history.
Often falsely categorised as an aggressive brawler with a seek and destroy type ethos, Hagler was actually a slick, switch hitting counterpuncher who could also fight with the best of them.
Granite jawed with serious power in either hand (as 52 KOs from 62 victories will attest) and almost as good in the orthodox stance, the big time didn’t come over night for this blue collar icon but when it did he held on to the prize with an obsessive single mindedness that set him apart.
12 defences during a 7 reign as undisputed middleweight champion of the world and victories over Watts,Hart, Briscoe, Minter, Sibson, Duran, Hearns and Mugabi cement his claim as King in this context.
2/ Pernell Whitaker :
One of the most sublimely talented fighters the world has ever seen, ‘Sweet Pea”s only fistic failing was a lack of wrecking power.
World Amateur champion and a 1984 Olympic Champion, this mercurial left hander went on to win world titles from light weight to light middle and carved a lasting niche in the annals of pugilism along the way.
If you want devastating knockouts then you will likely have recourse to a Mike Tyson or Julian Jackson compilation but if you’re looking for highlight reel defensive brilliance then Whitaker is arguably without peer.
A deserving Hall of Famer with victories over Greg Haugen, Jose Luis Ramirez, Azumah Nelson and Buddy McGirt, ‘Pea’ was robbed against the great Julio Cesar Chavez in their 1993 draw and many thought him extremely unlucky to drop a decision to Oscar De La Hoya 4 years later.
3/ Khaosai Galaxy:
An all action super flyweight phenomenon with crushing power in either hand, Galaxy made 16 defences of the WBA title during a seven year reign to cement his status as one of the fight games premiere little men.
While Khaosai was a decidedly aggressive fighter of the ‘perpetual motion’ variety he had a deceptively ‘cute’ defence and could manipulate an opponent on the inside or lay back from shots in the manner of a vintage Roberto Duran.
An inconsequential early career loss to obscure namesake, Sark Galaxy, in 1981 saw him go undefeated for the next ten years before finishing with a log of 47-1.
4/ Manny Pacquaio:
Opinion amongst the cognoscenti is divided regarding the ultimate greatness of the Philippines finest and quite where he belongs in this assembly.
Historians sometimes have a tendency of bias towards the grainy black and white era, which can be as spurious as the ‘casual fringe’ that only recognise those fistic luminaries who appeared in living colour on Showtime.
While Pacquiao doesn’t have a huge body of work in any single weight category his mantle of winning world titles in 8 separate divisions remains uncanny.
With the work rate of a peak Henry Armstrong, phenomenal hand-speed and power that he was able to carry from fly to light middle, not even caveats regarding the proliferation of world titles or rumours of performance enhancing drugs can banish one of the very top fighters of his generation from such a lofty ranking here.
5/ Tiger Flowers:
Theodore ‘Tiger’ Flowers was the first ever afro American to win the World Middleweight Title when he annexed the crown from the fabled Harry Greb in 1926.
Nicknamed the ‘Georgia Deacon’, Flowers was a deeply religious man who was said to recite a psalm before every fight.
While compiling a stellar 118-15-8 career slate, Flowers mixed with the very finest fighters of his era from middle to light heavy including Greb, Allentown Joe Gans, Mickey Walker, Mike McTigue and Maxie Rosenbloom.
Having scored a routine fourth round KO over one Leo Gates 1927, Flowers underwent surgery to remove scar tissue from his eyes and died on the operating table due to complications.
His tragic end was strangely reminiscent of the circumstances that caused Harry Greb’s death a year earlier.
6/ Joe Calzaghe:
When examining the hall of fame career of Gwent’s finest fistic export it is important to place it in context of the era.
Calzaghe was a phenomenal fighter with an relentless desire to win at any cost but there is equally no question that his 21 defences of the WBO super middleweight title were made in the era of multi champions who often seem to live in parallel universes.
The over all resume of John Conteh, for instance, compares favourably with Joe’s on a strictly qualitative basis but, on paper, the Welshman dwarfs the former Liverpool playboy’s achievements.
Nonetheless, Calzaghe was the full package, a fine fighter who could box, punch and ‘hold’ a shot. Aside from fantastic hand-speed and a great engine, Joe’s greatest gift was perhaps his adaptability. When the chips were down he found the answers during a 46-0 career that saw him beat Eubank, Woodhall, Reid, Lacy, Kessler, Jones and Hopkins. Allegations of close decisions or feasting on jaded legends who had passed their sell by dates do not preclude his high position here.
7/ Vincente Saldivar:
A beautifully correct boxer and an aggressive technician reminiscent of latter day Mexican Star, Marco Antonio Barerra, who was himself a natural left hander but chose to fight out of the orthodox stance.
After winning the WBC featherweight from Ultiminio ‘Sugar’ Ramos in 1964, Saldivar made 8 defences including a trio of memorable jousts with Howard Winstone.
Vincente’s inclusion on this list is arguable but certainly credible.
8/ Edwin Valero:
The aptly named ‘Dinamita’ went to his premature grave with a hundred percent KO record and a slew of ‘What if’s.
A native of Merida, Venezuela with bone breaking force in ether hand, Valero, initially streaked to an astonishing 18 straight first round knockouts before being ‘extended’ into the second stanza by Genaro Tranzacos in Japan.
Next time out Valero stopped Vincente Mosquera over 10 rounds in Panama for the WBA super featherweight title before making 4 defences, all via the short route.
After annexing the WBC lightweight title and sending two more aspirational 135 pound hopefuls, in the form of Hector Velasquez and Antonio De Marco for an early shower, Valero was imprisoned for the suspected murder of his wife in a hotel room in Valencia, Carobobo.
The following day, Edwin was found dead in his prison cell having apparently committed suicide by hanging.
One of the most tragic tales in a world and subculture that is laced with down beat tales, we will never know how great he may have become.
9/ Naseem Hamed:
Once again, the hardcore are divided on the legacy of the mercurial fighter who called himself the Prince.
The biggest knock against Hamed is that he never rebounded from the sole setback of his paid career after being handily beaten by modern great, Marco Antonio Barrera in Las Vegas ,2001.
Despite the notion that great fighters must come back stronger in order to warrant the description, it is worth noting that, prior to his only reversal, Naz had beaten practically every leading featherweight in the world.
Opposing belt holders, Tom Johnson, Wilfredo Vasquez and Cesar Soto were all vanquished between 1995 and 2001, even if the alphabet politics made unification impossible from a technical standpoint.
At his finest, Hamed was a wonderful fighting machine and a box office dream.
With astonishing power for a 126 pounder, sublime unorthodox skills from either stance and a big heart that saw him climb off the deck to win on more than one occasion, Naseem’s undeniable flaws only served to make him more exciting.
He squeezes in here.
10/ Laszlo Papp
One of the greatest amateurs in history, as 3 Olympic golds will attest, Papp brought an aggressive style, uncharacteristic of your average southpaw and unseen in elite amateur completion today.
After winning consecutive golds at light middle in the London 1948 and Helsinki 1952 Olympiades, Papp went on to defeat future world light heavyweight champion, Jose Torres, in the middleweight final in Melbourne, 1956.
Turning professional the following year, Hungary’s greatest boxer won 27 fights in a row before retiring due to ‘communist pressure.’
It’s inconceivable that he wouldn’t have been a world champion had he campaigned today.
Written by Ben Doughty