Floyd Mayweather Jr. and 25 Best Defensive Boxers in History

Fred KelleyCorrespondent IJanuary 26, 2011

Floyd Mayweather Jr. and 25 Best Defensive Boxers In History

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    LAS VEGAS - SEPTEMBER 19:  Floyd Mayweather Jr. (L) dodges a punch from Juan Manuel Marquez in the fifth round of their fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena September 19, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Mayweather won by unanimous decision.  (Photo by Ethan Mil
    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    There’s nothing like the smell of the hardwood at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. 

    The San Antonio Spurs are known for their defense and it’s no question that defense wins Championships, just ask Tim Duncan.  How about in the sport of Boxing? 

    I would say great defense transcends and defines champions in all sports.  Just like we’ll see in Super Bowl XLV, The NBA World Championship and this year’s boxing events, a solid defense will be the major factor that leaves someone saying "I'm going to Disneyland!"

# 25: Sam Langford

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    ESPN called Langford “The Greatest Fighter Nobody Knows”, primarily because he never secured a world title.  Speculators say this is due to the extremely popular Jack Johnson’s refusal to fight Langford and many thought the 5’6 185 pound Langford could beat the superior Johnson.    

# 24: Roberto Duran

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    Boxer Roberto Duran sets to unload a punch during a 1983 fight at the Orange Bowl, Miami, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/WireImage)
    A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Duran gained a reputation as a “versatile brawler” more commonly known as a boxer-puncher; he could fight skillfully when he needed to and exchange aggressively at the drop on a hat. 

# 23: James Toney

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    HOLLYWOOD, FL - JANUARY 06:  Samuel 'Nigerian Nightmare' Peter (R) exchanges punches during his victory by decission against James ' Lights Out' Toney in a WBC heavyweight title eliminator fight at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino January 6, 2007 in Hollywo
    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    Although his professional record in MMA does not suggest it, Toney is known for slipping and rolling with punches to avoid absorbing the full impact.  Arguably one of the slickest moves in boxing, Fading or Swaying a punch gives a fighter great opportunities to counter.  Unfortunately not every fighter has the timing to pull off such a defensive move; Toney is one of the best at it. 

# 22: Larry Holmes

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    I will argue the jab is an absolute must for any serious heavyweight.  Holmes has a tremendous jab and handed Ali, Norton and Cooney losses because of it.

# 21: Stanley Ketchel

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    The “Michigan Assassin” was born to Polish immigrants in 1886.  Ketchel would remind some of us as a Manny Pacquiao of his day, Ketchel was a middleweight who often fought heavyweights.   His boxer puncher style allowed him to win against fighter who outweighed him by 30 pounds or more. 

# 20: Jack Dempsey

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    Dempsey is a rare once in a life time type fighter.  His offense was his defense.  He became one of the most popular boxers of his era because of his aggressive style which pleased his fans.    

# 19: Marco Antonio Barrera

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    7 Apr 2001:  Marco Antonio Barrera of Mexico lands a punch against Prince Naseem Hamed of Great Britain during their bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Mandatory Credit: Al Bello/ALLSPORT
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Barrera is another seemingly misplaced boxer on a “best defense” list largely because he is legendary for delivering some of the biggest brawls in boxing history.  However, Barrera put on a boxing clinic against the very dangerous fighter Naseem Hamed.  Some people claim, including myself; that Barrera had a rare ability to change his style as he got older, a trait that made him great.  

# 18: Joe Louis

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    Louis holds the world record at 25 for the most consecutive title defenses at heavyweight.  A clean living honest fighter, Joe Louis was rejuvenating for boxing, which had earned a bad reputation for fixed fights and gambling. 

#17: Ronald Winky Wright

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    LAS VEGAS - APRIL 11:  Paul Williams (L) and Winky Wright trade blows in the fourth round of their middleweight bout at the Mandalay Bay Events Center April 11, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Williams won by unanimous decision.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty I
    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Ronald Wright is freakishly good!  With an arm span longer than his height, Wright was built for defense.  His “peek-a-boo” boxing guard allows him to work behind a seemingly impenetrable armor.  When Wrights puts up his guard his elbows extend all the way to his waist band while still covering his head.

# 16: Rocky Marciano

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    The only heavyweight to retire undefeated at 49-0 with 43 knockouts, enough said. 

# 15: Benny Leonard

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    In my opinion one of the greatest nicknames ever given a fighter was “The Ghetto Wizard” Benny Leonard.  Leonard learned to fight on the streets of a Jewish ghetto.  When he went pro, he quickly gained notoriety as a high skilled boxer with superior defensive ability.    

# 14: Henry Armstrong

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    ESPN ranked Armstrong number 3 in the 50 Greatest Fighters of All-Time.  Armstrong did something only Manny Pacquiao was able to supersede, winning championships in 3 or more weight divisions.  In the early 1900’s there were fewer weight divisions and if Armstrong would have fought today it would be 7 championships in 7 different weight classes.

# 13: Manny Pacquiao

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    ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 13:  Manny Pacquiao (R in white trunks) of the Philippines lands a punch against Antonio Margarito (black trunks) of Mexico during their WBC World Super Welterweight Title bout at Cowboys Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Arlington,
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    The Filipino Icon Manny Pacquiao enters the list at # 13.  While some folks will contest, Manny is more of an offensive fighter; his defense is largely under-rated.  His recent domination over larger fighters is directly attributed to his hard punching and ability to reduce the amount of punishment he takes.  Rarely holding, Pacquiao depends on his footwork and side-stepping motion to avoid taking heavy punishment from larger fighters.

# 12: Jack Johnson

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    Hailing from Galveston Texas, Johnson was a product of his era.  Boxing was different in the late 1800’s, a more patient approach, Johnson would wait to capitalize on mistakes.  Often Johnson was criticized as a coward because he was so cautious. 

# 11: Roy Jones Jr.

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    02 Feb 2002:   Roy Jones Jr (L) lands a powerful left hook to the face of Glen Kelly during the Lightheavyweight bout at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. Roy Jones Jr. won by KO in the 7th. DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Eliot Schechter/Getty
    Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

    The fastest fighter of his day, Jones once knocked out Glen Kelly with both hands behind his back.  Notably the best defensive fighter at the time because of his speed, Roy Jones almost seemed superhuman to spectators. 

# 10: Joe Calzaghe

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    NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 08:  Joe Calzaghe of Wales (R) punches Roy Jones Jr (L) during their Ring Magazine Light Heavyweight Championship bout at Madison Square Garden November 8, 2008 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    The “Pride of Whales” Joe Calzaghe retired undefeated at 46-0 at Super Middleweight.  Some boxing analyst claimed Calzaghe was faster and slicker than American Roy Jones Jr. and clamored for a show down.  When they finally met in the ring Calzaghe put on a boxing clinic after being down in the first round.    

# 9: Gene Tunney

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    Tunney was known as an extremely skilled pugilist with superior boxing ability.  He handed Jack Dempsey two defeats one of which became notoriously Known as “The Long Count”.  Dempsey was the most popular boxer of his day.  

# 8: Bernard Hopkins

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    LAS VEGAS - APRIL 03:  Bernard Hopkins (L) hits Roy Jones Jr. during the 11th round of their light heavyweight bout at the Mandalay Bay Events Center April 3, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Hopkins won by unanimous decision.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Imag
    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Love him or like him, Bernard Hopkins is one of the most skilled boxers of our generation.  Hopkins successfully defended his title 20 times which is a world record for most consecutive defenses at Middleweight.

# 7: Wilfred Benitez

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    The Puerto Rican, New York born sensation Wilfred Benitez is the epitome of the term “boxer-puncher”.  Not only did Benitez have great defense his aggressiveness was paramount.

# 6: Juan Manuel Marquez

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    LAS VEGAS - JULY 31:  Juan Diaz (L) hits WBA/WBO lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez in the fifth round of their bout at the Mandalay Bay Events Center July 31, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Marquez retained his WBA and WBO lightweight championship belt
    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    The most elusive Mexican fighter still competing today, Marquez is the king of “fighting in a telephone booth”.   A term used in boxing to describe fighting close in the center of the ring while using side-stepping motions to turn your opponent.  Marquez is a master at counter-punching and is regarded as one of the best Mexican boxers of all time.   

# 5: Sugar Ray Leonard

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    9 Feb 1991: Sugar Ray Leonard throws a punch at Terry Norris during their WBC Super Welter Weight fight at Madison Square Garden in New York, New York. Mandatory Credit: Rick Stewart/Allsport
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    In the 1980”s, Leonard was named boxer of the Decade and has sense been considered one of the greatest boxers of all time.  Ray’s style was considered “Too Sweet to Beat” however he got his moniker “Sugar” from his wife Juanita Wilkinson long before he was great. 

# 4: Muhammad Ali

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    “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” Ali was a great defensive fighter.  The best of all time at the back-peddle knock-out and he invented the rope-a-dope.   

# 3: Sugar Ray Robinson

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    Robinson was named the greatest boxer of the 20th century by the Associated Press and is argued to be the greatest boxer ever.  Robinson had power in both hands and his fluid delivery made him a masterful pugilist.

# 2: Pernell Whitaker (draw)

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    Nicknamed “Sweet Pea”, Pernell Whitaker was a very slippery southpaw.  His defense and steady offense gained him world recognition when he was named Fighter of the Year by Ring Magazine at age 25.

# 2: Floyd Mayweather Jr. (draw)

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    20 Apr 2002:   Floyd Mayweather (right) hits Jose Luis Castillo during the WBC Lightweight Championship at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.    DIGITAL IMAGE    Mandatory Credit: Jed Jacobsohn\\Getty Images
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Undoubtedly the best defensive fighter still competing today, Floyd counter punching speed and accuracy are the reason he is undefeated at 41-0.  

# 1: Willie Pep

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    Arguably the best defensive fighter ever, Pep’s career spanned 26 years while tallying an unprecedented 241 bouts with only 11 losses.  That’s less than 5 percent!  To put this in perspective it’s the same percentage if Floyd Jr. lost his next two fights. 


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