Ranking the 10 Greatest Southpaws in Boxing History

Lou CatalanoContributor IIIJune 13, 2013

Ranking the 10 Greatest Southpaws in Boxing History

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    Ah, the southpaw. Those pesky lefties who force every orthodox fighter to rethink everything he's learned about fighting.

    To circle right means to circle into the southpaw's power punch. Then you've got the headbutts. Tripping over feet. That straight left hand.

    In short, they're a pain in the rear end.

    Some fighters are excellent against southpaws, Bernard Hopkins immediately comes to mind. But many fighters struggle to adapt to the unorthodox style, which is why some of the elite lefties are avoided by mainstream fighters like the plague. 

    Here, we dig through the long history of the sweet science to compile the 10 greatest southpaw fighters of all time.

Honorable Mention "Old School" Fighter: Freddie Miller

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    Freddie Miller fought as a featherweight in the 1920s and '30s. He fought every 15 minutes or so, which is why he compiled an obscene record of 210-32-8. He won the featherweight title and defended it successfully 12 times.

    Although not known for his power, he had a heck of a beard. According to boxrec.com, he was stopped only twice in 252 fights.

    He fought my fellow Buffalonian Tommy Paul six times, winning four of the bouts.

Honorable Mention Modern Day Fighter: Ivan Calderon

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    The Puerto Rican Calderon was not much of a bomber. In 39 total fights, he recorded merely six knockouts. Turns out you don't need much pop when you're damn near impossible to hit.

    Calderon won 35 bouts by boxing the pants off other fighters, embarrassing most as he easily cruised to victory. From his professional debut in 2001 until his first loss in 2010, about the only thing as certain as death and taxes was a Calderon victory by wide decision.

    He finally slowed down in 2010 at the age of 35 (absolutely ancient for a guy fighting at 108 pounds) when Giovani Segura became the first man to defeat him.

    "Iron Boy" retired from boxing in 2012 having compiled a record of 35-3-1.

10. Sergio Martinez

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    Argentine superstar Sergio Martinez fought much of his career in obscurity as a junior middleweight. Avoided by many fighters, he finally popped on to the radar of boxing fans with his "draw" against Kermit Cintron in 2009. Anyone who remembers that fight knows Martinez should have been awarded a KO.

    Cintron complained bitterly about being hit with a headbutt and then an elbow and then a lead pipe by Martinez when in reality it was just a gorgeous punch.

    Martinez' stock erupted when he housed Paul Williams in their rematch in 2010, seven months after Martinez lifted the middleweight championship crown from Kelly Pavlik. 

    He has largely cleaned out the 160-pound division, culminating in his brilliant performance in 2012 against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

    At 39 he's still winning fights, and we're still expecting big things from him in the future.

    He's compiled a record of 51-2-2. 

9. Gabriel Elorde

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    Flash Elorde was a Filipino fighter who started in the 1950s. He had good size (5'7") for a featherweight and used footwork and speed to become world champion. He defeated legendary Sandy Saddler in a non-title bout in 1955. 

    He became the super featherweight champion in 1960 and defended the title for seven years.

    He is considered to be one of the greatest FIlipino fighters of all time alongside some guy named Manny Pacquiao.

    He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993.

8. Joe Calzaghe

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    "The Pride of Wales," Joe Calzaghe, is the only undefeated fighter on this list. In fact, he's one of the very few elite fighters in boxing history to retire undefeated.

    Calzaghe wasn't a massive puncher and he could be hit, but he thew punches from every angle at a ridiculous rate to frustrate and defuse his opponent. He was dropped numerous times in his career but he had an excellent heart, rising each time to claim victory.

    He was also masterful at surging as the fight wore on. He scored wins over Roy Jones, Bernard Hopkins, and Mikkel Kessler. He also wrecked Jeff Lacy, whose career never recovered after the beating he sustained.

    The knocks on Calzaghe are mainly due to the stature of his opponents and his reluctance to fight outside of the U.K. for the vast majority of his career. His win over Jones is tempered due to how badly Jones had faded by that point.

    At the 3:30 mark of this video, you can enjoy Calzaghe's "fanny wiggle" while Hopkins acts as though he's just been surgically castrated. Outstanding.

    He retired in 2008 with a record of 46-0 with 32 KO's.

7. Young Corbett III

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    Young Corbett III was born Raffaele Giordano in 1905. He wasted little time before starting his career at the age of 14.

    He didn't have elite power, but he was a difficult fighter to face because he would throw punches and then maul his opponent before he could retaliate. Kind of an old school Ricky Hatton.

    Corbett scored a win over the legendary Billy Conn in 1937, dropping him in the second round. Conn would avenge the loss by decision just a couple of months later.

    He retired in 1940 with a record of 122-12-22.

6. Tiger Flowers

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    In addition to becoming the first African-American fighter to become middleweight champion, Theodore "Tiger" Flowers brawled with several excellent fighters before his death at just 32. His record shows that he fought some bad dudes, namely Sam Langford, Mickey Walker and eventually Harry Greb.

    He defeated Greb to win the middleweight title in 1926 and successfully defended it in a rematch before losing a highly controversial bout to Walker. He died from complications during a surgical procedure.

    At the time of his death, he was still trying to nab a rematch with Walker, who is known as one of the greatest fighters of all time.

    He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993 with a career record of 115-14-6.

5. Hector Camacho

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    "Macho" Camacho was not a subtle guy. He fought like a wild man in the ring and certainly lived like one outside of it. 

    Naseem Hamed owes quite a bit to Camacho, who danced his way into the ring and then pounded the daylights out of his opponents. He often eschewed the jab, instead relying on speed and furious power punching to overwhelm his foes.

    He was the first boxer to win titles in seven divisions, a feat that is impressive even in an age of trinket belts. He boasts wins over Roberto Duran and Ray Leonard, though both were well past their primes. He also fought Julio Cesar Chavez and Oscar De La Hoya.

    Unfortunately, the wild Puerto Rican never slowed down. He was arrested numerous times before being murdered in 2012. 

    He ended his career with a record of 78-6-3.

    Enjoy this, and I apologize in advance for the music.

4. Vicente Saldivar

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    The Mexican Vicente Saldivar was a beast in the ring, often using a nasty one-two combination to drill his opponents. He was the typical relentless Mexican fighter, using a body attack to weaken his foes before finishing them off later in the fight.

    Saldivar scored his signature victory in 1964 when he defeated future Hall of Fame inductee and fellow Mexican Sugar Ramos. He lost twice late in his career after coming back from a brief retirement. 

    He finished his career with a record of 37-3 with 26 KO's. He was inducted posthumously into the Hall of Fame in 1999.

3. Manny Pacquiao

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    June 23, 2001 was supposed to be a coming-out party for Lehlo Ledwaba in Las Vegas on HBO. Instead, he was steamrolled by a young Filipino fighter named Manny Pacquiao, who took the fight on two weeks' notice.

    Twelve years and a record eight world titles later, Pacquiao is a global attraction. He has climbed weight classes with ease, carrying his blistering hand speed and explosive power with him on the way up.

    Known early on as a knockout artist with one big weapon, Freddie Roach turned him into a complete wrecking ball. He destroyed Barrera, Morales, Hatton, Cotto, De La Hoya and Margarito. His four bouts with the great Juan Manuel Marquez will be forever remembered, each bout a classic on its own.

    Pacquiao's record stands at 54-5-2, and he's a lock for the Hall of Fame.

2. Pernell Whitaker

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    1984 Olympic gold medalist Pernell "Sweet Pea" Whitaker is arguably the greatest defensive fighter of all time. He dazzled opponents with quick counter shots and a rapid-fire jab. He was a master at tagging his foe with a combination and then safely sneaking away before he could be touched

    As is often the case with defensive-minded fighters, he was on the receiving end of some brutal judging, beginning with his first pro loss against Jose Ramirez. He received a draw against the legendary Julio Cesar Chavez. The scoring was universally panned, with many feeling Whitaker was robbed of an easy victory.

    Considered one of the best lightweights of all time, Whitaker retired in 2001 with a record of 40-4-1.

    He now trains several fighters, none of whom will ever be able to avoid punches like he did.

1. Marvin Hagler

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    Marvelous Marvin Hagler is not only the greatest southpaw fighter, he's one of the greatest of all time regardless of stance. The New Jersey native pounded his way to a record of 62-3-2, defending the middleweight championship 12 times during one of the most competitive eras in the division in boxing history.

    He boasts wins over Roberto Duran and monster puncher John Mugabi. He could box effectively but he enjoyed brawling, and he could "switch hit." He often switched seamlessly from southpaw to an orthodox stance during a fight. He had good power and he could take a punch as well as anyone.

    And he did this.

    Hagler retired after his controversial 1987 loss to Sugar Ray Leonard. Regardless of who you think won the fight, I think we can all agree that judge JoJo Guerra's card of 118-110 for Leonard is as pathetic as Pierre Benoist's scoring of the Martinez/Williams fight.

    He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993.