The Greatest Southpaws In Boxing History

Boxing‘s elite southpaws have captivated fight fans for as long as the sport has been a thing. 

But as a competitor, a great southpaw is just about enough to make you want to hang up your gloves and take up chess. At best, they are a nuisance, while at worst, they can squash just about every idea you have about yourself in a matter of minutes.

Today, we’re looking at the greatest southpaws in boxing history. This is one you don’t want to miss.

 

Vicente Saldivar

Let’s get this list kicked off with Saldivar, who is undoubtedly one of the greatest southpaws in boxing history.

Although standing at a diminutive 5’3″ and weighing 126-pounds, “Zurdo de Oro” — that’s “Lefty Gold” for the non-Spanish speakers among us — embodied a fighting spirit much larger than the slim frame that carried it. But more than this, Saldivar was from a special breed of hard-hitting boxers who was far more technically gifted than his fearsome reputation would suggest. 

Despite fighting for the last time in 1973, Saldivar still holds major records in the sport. Among these are the most wins in unified featherweight title bouts (8) and the longest unified reign in the same weight class (7). He is regarded as one of the greatest fighters in his weight class, having picked up wins over the likes of Howard Winstone, Floyd Robertson, Ismael Laguna, and Sugar Ramos.

One of the top Mexican boxers of all time, Saldivar is also one of the best southpaws in boxing history.

 

Tiger Flowers

No discussion about boxing’s greatest southpaws can be had without mention of Flowers.

With a left hand sent from the heavens, “The Georgia Deacon” boxed his way into the history books in a legendary career. Flowers’ greatest achievement of them all was beating the legendary Harry Greb in 1926 to become the first African-American middleweight champion in history. That win was followed up by another in the same year, which avenged a loss to Greb in 1925.

Flowers fought some of the greatest fighters of all time, including Sam Langford and Mickey Walker, before passing away from complications from surgery in 1927. Although he passed away young, at just 32, Flowers goes down as more than just one of the greatest southpaws in the history of boxing.

 

Manny Pacquiao

Perhaps the most notable fighter on this list to modern boxing fans, Pacquiao is also assured of his place in the pantheon of great boxing southpaws. 

The only fighter to win championships in eight divisions, “Pac-Man” is frequently cited in the boxing G.O.A.T discussion. But while there are many candidates in that realm that might be ahead of Pacquiao, there is no way that the Filipino should not feature very highly when it comes to lefties. 

A legend in his own right, Pacquiao caught the attention of the wider spectrum of the fight community in his legendary win over IBF super bantamweight champion Lehlohonolo Ledwaba at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas back in 2001. With just two weeks to prepare for the fight, the future legend stunned his opponent by stopping him in the 6th round.

Pacquiao would proceed to amass a jaw-dropping list of victims that included Oscar De La Hoya, Juan Manuel Marquez, Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, Miguel Cotto, and Ricky Hatton. Despite turning professional in 1995, the “Mexicutioner” would continue to fight into the 2020s, further proving himself as one of the best southpaws in the history of the sport. 

In his prime, this lefty’s combination of speed, power, and poise made him a danger like no other.

 

Pernell Whittaker

Whittaker holds the distinction of being one of the greatest southpaws as well as one of the top defensive fighters in boxing history.

A technical master, “Sweet Pea” befuddled his opponents with an incredible arsenal of weapons. From his superhuman elusiveness to his ridiculous counterpunching abilities, Whittaker separated himself from the pack early on. But when he won gold at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, the little firecracker was earmarked as a future great. And let’s be honest, he did not disappoint.

Whittaker’s mastering of the “Sweet Science” was so subtle that a lot of what he did went over the heads of incompetent judges. Thus, he was subject to a couple of absolutely stinking decisions that went against him. In March 1988, he lost to Jose Ramirez (for the WBC title) in Paris while 15-0, with many critics calling the decision a robbery. His draw against Julio Cesar Chavez in 1993 is widely considered one of the worst calls of all time.

Whittaker hung up his gloves in 2001, having failed to win any of his last four fights. The iconic southpaw sadly lost his life eighteen years later when he was hit by a car in July 2019.

 

Marvelous Marvin Hagler

The greatest southpaw in boxing history. Period.

The Marvelous one deserves to be remembered for more than just his famous left, of course. He goes down as one of the truly elite fighters in boxing history, on account of a career that saw him carve a frame about as unbreakable as any raw material on the planet.

But Hagler‘s southpaw stance was a massive part of what him such an effective fighter. His ability to switch from southpaw to orthodox was responsible for throwing so many of his opponents off their game, and creating all kinds of angles and opening to inflict punishment. He could certainly hit hard and having one of the best chins in boxing history meant that he could take punches, too.

One of boxing’s greatest southpaws, Hagler passed away in March 2021 at the age of 66. In his passing, he was heralded for his wide array of accomplishments, including the 12 consecutive middleweight title defenses he put together at a time when 160 pounds was essentially shark-infested waters.

An icon.

 

If you enjoyed this article, we know you’ll love this next piece!

5 of the Greatest Boxing Coaches in History

More in Boxing

Also On Evolve

BJJ 101: The Americana

BJJ 101: The Americana

The Americana, also known as the key-lock in wrestling, and ude garami in Judo is a shoulder lock in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu that applies pressure on the shoulder of the opponent by bending the arm at…