Ranking the 10 Best Southpaws in Boxing Today
When Miguel Cotto faces Sergio Martinez this Saturday night in Madison Square Garden, he'll face a number of tactical problems. Martinez has a six-inch reach advantage and is far larger. He's also the quicker, more explosive athlete.
And there's also the fact that he does everything backward. Martinez is one of the best southpaw fighters in recent years. And fighting in a left-handed stance always creates a certain degree of awkwardness for an opponent.
Cotto is a highly skilled, well-rounded fighter who knows how to fight a lefty. He's trained by Freddie Roach, the man who has developed Manny Pacquiao into the best southpaw in the game.
But it's another factor Cotto will have to be ready for.
There is a healthy crop of lefties in today's boxing scene. Notable southpaws who didn't quite make the cut for these rankings include current junior middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade, former junior middleweight champion Austin Trout, former light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson and undefeated welterweight contender Leonard Bundu.
10. Thabiso Mchunu
I might be jumping the gun slightly by rating Thabiso Mchunu so highly after just 17 professional fights. But to my eyes, the South African cruiserweight looks like the fighter who could bring some real excitement and attention to the 200-pound division in the United States.
Listed at a very generous 5'11", he is simply too short to be a heavyweight. Compact and explosive, he is the perfect example of why the cruiserweight division needs to exist.
He put himself on the map last August when he schooled former top-rated heavyweight contender Eddie Chambers. It was a very impressive performance against an experienced veteran. Mchunu followed up with another nice effort last January on Friday Night Fights against Olanrewaju Durodola.
9. Tony Thompson
Even at age 42, Tony Thompson remains the most dangerous gatekeeper in the heavyweight division. He's come up short twice in world-title fights against Wladimir Klitschko and dropped a competitive decision to Kubrat Pulev last year, but you could argue that he's still the top big man in North America.
He brought British heavyweight hopeful David Price's momentum to a screeching halt by stopping him in back-to-back fights in 2013. Last March he beat would-be contender Odlanier Solis by split decision in a fight that I don't actually think was very close.
Thompson fights Carlos Takam later this month. It's an important heavyweight matchup that will show just how good Takam really is.
8. Devon Alexander
Devon Alexander dropped his welterweight title to Shawn Porter last December in a terrific fight. Porter looks like he could be one of the sport's next superstars, so it's hardly a disgraceful loss. Alexander's only other loss came against Timothy Bradley at 140 pounds.
Alexander got what I would regard as a gift decision against Lucas Matthysse, but he also beat Marcos Maidana handily. I still rank him as a top-10 contender in the ultracompetitive welterweight division.
He fights later this month against tough journeyman Jesus Soto Karass. An impressive win should position him for another shot at the title. Porter definitely deserved his victory against Alexander, but a rematch would still be an interesting fight.
7. Shinsuke Yamanaka
Like most Japanese stars, Shinsuke Yamanaka is pretty much under the radar here in North America. But the WBC bantamweight champion unquestionably belongs on this list.
He has quick feet and is an explosive puncher with both his sneaky left and his right hook. In 2012 he beat Vic Darchinyan.
He should be viewed as a potential opponent for Guillermo Rigondeaux. I think his style might provide the Cuban with more problems than Nonito Donaire was able to create.
6. Yoan Pablo Hernandez
Yoan Pablo Hernandez is the IBF cruiserweight champion and stands alongside Marco Huck as one of the two best fighters in the 200-pound division. A former Cuban amateur standout, he has come on strong in recent years. In 2011 and 2012 he won back-to-back fights against former champion Steve Cunningham.
Hernandez is 6'4" and has intriguing potential at heavyweight. He may lack the punching power to be competitive there, but there's no doubt he has the frame and skill to handle all but the top fighters in that division, at the very least.
At cruiserweight, he provides another good example of why that weight class should exist by regularly putting on skillful performances.
5. Adonis Stevenson
Adonis Stevenson exploded onto the boxing scene last year when he knocked out Chad Dawson in the first round to capture the WBC and lineal light heavyweight titles. For the year Stevenson was 4-0 in 2013 with four KOs.
He has lost just once in his career—to the enigmatic Darnell Boone, a sub .500 journeyman who has handed multiple prospects their first losses and managed to knock down pound-for-pound superstar Andre Ward. Stevenson knocked out Boone in a rematch last year.
Stevenson disappointed many fans when he signed with Al Haymon and jumped from HBO to Showtime at the beginning of this year, seeming to at least significantly delay a showdown between him and WBO champion and fellow KO artist Sergey Kovalev.
Stevenson is hardly a perfect fighter. But his fight-ending power and pure athleticism make him a danger to anybody.
4. Erislandy Lara
Erislandy Lara's only loss as a professional came against Paul Williams in 2011, and that was among the worst judging decisions in recent years. In a just world, the former Cuban amateur standout would still be undefeated.
But he has rebounded from that loss to become one of the hottest fighters in the sport. Last year he stopped Alfredo Angulo by Round 10 TKO and beat former world champion Austin Trout by one-sided decision.
In July Lara will get his shot against Saul Alvarez, one of the most popular fighters on the planet. The winner of that fight will have a true claim to top-10, pound-for-pound status.
3. Sergio Martinez
I feel like I might be overvaluing Sergio Martinez by ranking him above Adonis Stevenson and Erislandy Lara. But Martinez has been a top pound-for-pound fighter for half a decade, so until he proves otherwise conclusively, he deserves to be regarded as one of the best active southpaws.
Still, he has a lot to prove against Miguel Cotto this Saturday night. At 39, he's had multiple surgeries in the past two years and hardly looked dominant in his last performance against Martin Murray in April 2013.
Even the fact that he is fighting Cotto suggests to me that he's slipping. Martinez is still the lineal middleweight champion. Cotto, for all his past accomplishments, is arguably not even top five anymore at junior middleweight.
2. Guillermo Rigondeaux
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Guillermo Rigondeaux is one of the top amateur boxers of all time. He's also one of the best technical boxers in the sport today.
He proved his value with an exclamation point in April of last year when he handed four-division world champion Nonito Donaire a boxing lesson. Donaire entered that fight universally ranked in the pound-for-pound top five. It was Rigo's 12th professional bout, and he made Donaire look like an amateur.
At this point, Rigondeaux's biggest problem is finding an opponent who is worthy of him. He's risen so far, so fast, that he has mostly left the competition behind.
1. Manny Pacquiao
Some boxing purists might rank Guillermo Rigondeaux over Manny Pacquiao here, but resume has to be factored in alongside the most recent eyeball test. Rigo has beaten one top-rated fighter. Pacquiao has already beaten a generation's worth of them.
His career resume puts him at or near the all-time top five for southpaws. I would put him behind Marvin Hagler and Pernell Whitaker, but after those two, Pac-Man's in the debate.
And while Pacquiao is no doubt on the downside of his career, he hasn't exactly looked washed up of late. He handled Timothy Bradley last April. It was enough for the old Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather chants to begin again in force.