Boxing is also known as the Sweet Science. It might seem a little ironic to many who do not fully understand the sport of boxing. How could any sport that is actually about punching your opponent and trying to knock his senses out be described as sweet? It seems to be the most ironic of descriptions, but one that would be vehemently defended by the foremost proponents of the sport.
So it is already a given that boxing is indeed a brutal sport. Any contact sport could not help but be considered brutal, especially by observers who follow the action and yet abhor some of the gorier results of certain fights. But there is also a very good reason why it is known as the sweet science.
The real goal of the sport is to hit without actually being hit back. That’s one of the true definitions of boxing that might escape many, given the emphasis on all the action that occurs on the boxing ring. However, to evade being hit back by your opponent while being able to land your own shots is the true aim of the sport.
Those who are considered “purists” of boxing love the display of skills and tactics inside the ring over mindless swinging and all guts and heart fighting. And who can blame them, when they love watching a boxer displaying his full arsenal of skills and abilities in order to gain the advantage – and eventually the victory – over his opponent.
To watch a boxer who is gifted with natural abilities as well as superior technical knowhow is truly a sight to behold. Little in the sport of boxing compares to such an experience – except perhaps the greatest brawls that elevate it from all other ordinary blood and guts action.
A boxer who has supreme skills usually displays both offensive and defensive virtuosity. And so we all know that fighters who are able to showcase those superior skills are admired and looked at with awe. But how about those boxers who are more known for their great defense than anything else? The really slick boxers who pride themselves in making their opponents look foolish and inept with their elusiveness and skilful defensive techniques – how do they fare in the public’s opinion?
To boxing purists and those who genuinely love the sport, the defensive geniuses epitomize what boxers should really be. To them those boxers are the epitome of the practitioners of the sweet science – able to hit without being hit back. They are just as exciting to watch, if not even more so, than other types of boxers. At least that’s what people who enjoy the display of skills and techniques like to think.
It would thus be more than a little interesting to look at some of the greatest defensive boxers in history. Those who have been recognized for their greatness in terms of practicing the sweet science and avoid punishment while dishing their own brand of it on their opponents. There have been numerous such boxing champions in history, and that includes the current best fighter on the planet – Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
Floyd Mayweather, Jr.: The Best There Is
Floyed Mayweather, Jr. is the best boxer on the planet right now and that has been true for some time. There is simply no one in the sport who approaches the level of brilliance and smarts that he brings with him each time he steps into the ring. He sits comfortable atop the sport’s pound for pound rankings and he does not have any serious challengers to this title in sight. There is no one among the current crop of boxers that can seriously challenge his pound for pound status, and even those who are near his weight and can conceivably fight him in the ring. From junior welterweight (140 lbs.) to middleweight (160 lbs.), the field is simply too weak.
Mayweather can attribute all the accolades that he is currently getting to his defensive wizardry inside the ring. Money Mayweather is a real defensive genius and his record up to this point in his stellar career says it all. He remains unbeaten after 45 professional fights and he has also managed to knock out 26 of those opponents, even though he is a safety first type of fighter for most of his career. In a professional career that has now spanned over 17 years and which started in 1996, his feat is truly incredible. And on top of that, he has remained at or near the very top of the sport during most of that time.
Mayweather is fresh off his latest victory, a fight in which he schooled and humbled Mexico’s young superstar, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. The skills and abilities that Mayweather displayed all throughout the 12 round bout with Canelo were just too much for the young superstar to handle. Hi experience was overwhelming for Canelo, but above all that was just the superior ability of Mayweather to actually block and anticipate every shot the younger fighter was going to throw. Canelo just couldn’t find him, and aside from that, Mayweather was able to time him with effective jabs and all kinds of shots that simply frustrated him.
On full display was Mayweather’s otherworldly defense, and of course his shoulder roll was again leading his defensive repertoire. With that latest triumph, Mayweather affirmed his supremacy over the boxing world and he could thank his defense primarily for that. It is probably going to look at how Mayweather would compare against the other defensive geniuses of boxing in the past. It would certainly provide a better perspective on some of the defensive greats who also belong on any list of the greatest pound for pound fighters ever.
Greatest Defensive Fighters Not Named Mayweather
There is no doubt that Mayweather is today’s supreme boxer – with great emphasis on his defensive skills. But how about those who have come before him? Here are a few all time greats when it comes to defense and let’s look at how their careers could be compared to “Money”.
The great Guglielmo Papaleo, more popularly known as Willie Pep, the “Will o’ the Wisp”, is considered by many to be the greatest defensive fighter of all time, greater even than the Pretty Boy himself. In a storied career that spanned a staggering 241 fights, of which only 11 were losses. Pep’s career actually spanned about 26 years, and it is very likely that he was able to last that long because of his defense-first mentality. And Pep was able to display not just great defense through his many fights, but also the unmatched ring generalship that earned him the reputation of being “the greatest featherweight of all time” as well as ranking among the top three or top five of most boxing experts’ lists.
Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker
Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker definitely belongs in any conversation for greatest defensive fighters of any era in boxing. His reflexes and amazing athletic ability allowed him to slip, duck, and also block punches like few other fighters in history have been able to do. Whitaker was able to win world titles in four different weight divisions. He held the WBA, WBC, and IBF Lightweight, IBF Light Welterweight, WBC Welterweight, and WBA Light Middleweight titles. His great defense, combined with his southpaw stance and superior counterpunching ability allowed him to reach the kind of success that he had at the highest level. Sweet Pea had the uncanny ability to evade his opponents’ punches, while maintaining his own steady pressure and attack.
“El Intocable” or “The Untouchable” was truly that, an untouchable boxing specimen showing his remarkable ability atop the boxing ring. In fact, Nicolino Locce, can be said to have more than lived up to that apt moniker. The Argentinean boxing great finished his remarkable career with a total of 136 fights. He won 117 of those bouts, with 4 losses and 14 draws. Locce was only able to record 14 knockouts in his career, which can partly be attributed to his mostly defensive stance. The combination of his naturally great reflexes and unparalleled defensive skills allowed Locce to routinely slip and evade his opponent’s punches, bobbing and weaving even as he remained right in front of them. The only knock on Locce was his lack of power, as he was unable to match his great defense with any comparable offense.
The greatest heavyweight ever’s inclusion in this list might surprise some, but Muhammad Ali possessed sick defensive skills of his own. The fact that it is overlooked by casual fans of boxing is due to his other greater boxing attributes. Those who truly follow the sport however, know that Ali was more than capable of superior defense. A prime Ali had elite reflexes, speed, as well as skills that allowed him to easily move out of harm’s way. He easily slipped, dodged, and moved from the punches that were thrown by his opponents.