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Boxing | History

Corrie Sanders © Gallo Images

Southpaws in boxing

It was possibly the southpaw stance of South Africa’s Corrie Sanders that led to his upset stoppage win over Wladimir Klitschko to claim the WBO heavyweight belt.

On 3 March, 2003 at the Preussag Arena in Hanover, Germany, Sanders scored one of the biggest upsets in heavyweight boxing when he stopped Klitschko at 27 seconds into the second round.

This was only Kiltschko’s second loss in forty fights.

Over the years South Africa has produced some outstanding southpaw fighters, amongst them Gert “Hottie van Heerden, Willie Ludick, Harold Volbrecht, Levi Madi, Mpush Makambi, Elijah “Tap Tap” Makhathini, Jan Kies, Mzukisi Sikali, Zolani Tete, Nkosinathi Joyi, Daan Bekker and Zolani Tete.

A southpaw is a term for a boxer who uses the stance where he has his right arm and right foot forward, and it has been claimed that the term originated due to the orientation of baseball playing fields in order to keep the sun out of the players' eyes and the resulting alignment of a left-handed pitcher's throwing arm.

Southpaws are generally avoided because of their abnormal stance against right-handed fighters and in the early years there were few southpaws as many trainers considered it an incorrect way to box and converted them to the orthodox stance.

Amongst the known world champions who converted to the orthodox stance were James J Corbett, Carmen Basilio and Oscar De La Hoya.

There have been many famous southpaw fighters and possibly one of the earliest of note was a prize-fighter named Ned Turner who fought from 1810 to 1824.

Turner was born in Crucifix Lane, Southwark, London on 8 November, 1791. He was always referred to as a Welshman, as his parents were Welsh, from Montgomeryshire. Because of his unorthodox style he had a very colourful career. He was an asthmatic and his health deteriorated before he died on 17 April, 1826 at the age of 34.

William Thompson, known as “Bendigo”, a bare-knuckle fighter born in Nottingham on 11 October, 1811, was also one of the earliest southpaws and held the English championship on two occasions.

He first won the championship on 12 February, 1839 when he beat James “Deaf” Burke and then retired from the ring due to a knee injury, but returned to action on 9 September, 1845 at the age of nearly 34 and beat Ben Caunt who was eventually forced to go down without being hit and was disqualified in the 93rd round.

Moving into the gloved era, Tiger Flowers (The “Georgia Deacon”), who was a southpaw and born on 5 August, 1895, became the first black fighter to win the world middleweight title when he beat Harry Greb on points over 15 rounds on 28 February, 1926.

He lost the title to Mickey Walker in November 1927 and died in New York on 16 November, 1927 after an eye operation.

Freddie Miller, who was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on 3 April, 1911 and fought from 1927 to 1940, compiled a reported record of 212- 27-6-1nc with 44 wins coming inside the distance. He won the National Boxing Association version of the world featherweight title with a 10-round points victory over Tommy Paul on 13 January, 1933 and made three defences before beating Britain’s Nel Tarleton to gain full recognition as world champion on 12 June, 1935.

He made five successful defences before losing the title to Petey Sarron in May 1936.

Young Corbett III, who was born Raffaele Giordano in 1905, started boxing at the age of 14 and finished with a reported record of 122-12-22 in 1940.

Lew Tendler never won a world title but he is rated by many experts as one of the best southpaws in boxing in a career that went from 1913 to 1928.

He was born of Jewish parents in Philadelphia on 28 September, 1898 and took the great lightweight champion of the world Benny Leonard to close decisions in two fights, and was credited with 169 fights according to The Boxing Register – International Boxing Hall of Fame Official Record Book.

Al McCoy won the world middleweight title on 7 April, 1914 when he knocked out George Chip in 1 minute 58 seconds of the first round to take the championship in a huge upset.

He held the title until he was knocked out in the sixth round by Mike O’Dowd on 5 November, 1917.

Harry Greb, who had 299 fights according to the Ring Record Book, had the unique distinction of winning and losing the world middleweight title to southpaws.

He beat Johnny Wilson on points over 15 rounds on 31 August, 1923 and lost the title on points also over 15 rounds to Tiger Flowers on 26 February, 1926.

Subsequently there have been many southpaw world champions like welterweight champion Lou Brouillard (1931–1932), lightweight champion Juan Zurita (1944-1945), bantamweight champion Jimmy Carruthers (1953-1954), junior-lightweight champion Flash Elorde (1960-1964).

Following on from them were junior-welterweight champion Duilio Loi (1960-1962) and 1962-1963) who had an outstanding record of 115-3-8, flyweight champion Hiroyuki Eibihara (1963-1964), featherweight champion Vincente Saldivar (1964-1970) and junior-welterweight champion Sandro Lopopolo (1966-1967).

One of the better fighters who fought as a southpaw was three-time light-heavyweight champion Marvin Johnson who campaigned from 1973 to 1986, beating Mate Parlov for the WBC title, Victor Galindez for the WBA title and Lesley Stewart for the vacant WBA title.

Possibly two of the best southpaw world champions of all time were middleweight champion Marvin Hagler (1980-1987) and lightweight champion Pernell Whitaker (1989-1991).

Michael Moorer, who fought from 1988 to 2008 and won the IBF and WBA heavyweight titles, was an outstanding southpaw. He compiled a record of 52-4-1; 40.

In recent years we have had southpaw champions like Ronald “Winky” Wright, who held the WBO and WBC middleweight belts and Welshman Joe Calzaghe, who fought from 1993 to 2008 and remained unbeaten throughout his career with a 46-0 record and a 21-fight winning streak as a champion. He held the WBO super-middleweight belt for a long time before winning the IBF, WBA and WBC super middleweight belts.

Naseem Hamed, who held various organisation titles from 1995 to 2000 was considered the number one featherweight in the world at the time, and his only loss in 37 fights was against Marco Antonio Barrera. He made 15 successful defences of the featherweight crown.

Another good southpaw fighter of note in recent years was Hector Camacho, who only suffered six losses in 88 fights and won organisation belts in the super featherweight, lightweight and junior-welterweight classes.

The Puerto Rican Ivan Calderon did not have much power, winning only six fights inside the distance in a 39-bout career, but held the WBO minimumweight and light-flyweight belts for long periods.

Antonio Tarver, as a cruiserweight, held the light-heavyweight title on four occasions and Argentinian Sergio Martinez won a version of the middleweight title.

Filipino Emmanuel Dapidran "Manny" Pacquiao has won nine versions of a “world” title in eight different divisions, and must also be considered as one of the outstanding southpaw champions of all time.


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