Boxing Quiz – Southpaw Fighters

20.02.08 – By Paul Strauss: Let’s see how well your intellectual faculties are functioning and whether you’re right brained.

Based on the following deceptions/descriptions, make your best guess as to the fighter’s identity, and then check your answers below. As always, before you accept this assignment, be careful with your assumptions, and weigh all of the possibilities, as you know I’m not above a little subterfuge and chicanery. There’s at least one red herring. A perfect score will get you get slapped with the perspiration award.. Six thru eight and you receive the handsome souvenir replica of Paulie’s (Rocky) empty whiskey bottle. Three through five and you’re the recipient of the coveted counterclockwise back-hand award. Zero to two and ouch…..the bolo to the gonos (greek).

1.) Our first selection was born to Russian-jewish immigrants. He first started fighting on the streets of Philly to protect his newspaper route territory. Then, on the sly at the early age of 15 yrs old, he turned pro. When he kept coming home with bruises, his mother questioned him, accusing him of prize-fighting. When he didn’t provide an adequate explanation to dispute the accusation, his mother started to cry. Our young fighter put a ten dollar bill on his mother’s lap, and when she asked where it came from, he admitted he received it for fighting. His mother then called him a great son, and asked when was his next fight? (That, or similar stories could be attributed to a lot of fighter’s parents.) This lefty became one of the most feared punchers of his era, and in fact any era, as Nat Fleischer, editor and founder of Ring Magazine, once described him as the greatest southpaw in ring history. He was a fierce, non-stop, straight puncher, feared by fighters in several weight classes. He never held a title, but if it wasn’t for “no decision” bouts, he undoubtedly would have held at least one, maybe more, as he fought seven world champions. Probably one of the best known stories about him involves the time his clever opponent talked him out of a knockout.

2.) Did you know there’s more than one Raging Bull? Of course, the one with whom we’re most familiar is Jake Lamotta. But, our next selection also goes by the same nickname, and up until recently, might have deserved the nickname more than Lamotta, because he possessed devastating punching power. All this slugger thought about was putting his opponent down for the count. His style was to drop his guard and throw caution to the wind, taunting his opponent in an attempt to draw a lead and provide an opening. Then he could unleash his destructive counter-attack, frequently throwing multiple left hands in rapid succession, both to the body and head. If he didn’t score a clean knockout, he would most definitely cause his opponent to wilt and wither, eventually ending up on the canvas. That was until recently when this undefeated KO artist let an underdog opponent land a beautiful counter hook to end the fight. It’s what Floyd Mayweather, Jr. might have called his “check-hook”. The result this time was even more dramatic than Pretty Boy’s hook against Hatton. After suffering that devastating KO, the nickname no longer seems to fit. Since the knockout, our lefty decided to move up in weight. He has since had two fights, both resulted in victory, one by decision and one by TKO. One last clue, this guy’s facial profile always reminds me of the “Penguin” in Batman.

3.) I just recently discovered this undefeated fighter is a lefty, even though I’ve seen him fight three times! He’s one of the most exciting and popular fighters around, even though he is an atypical slugger. One announcer recently said this pug’s method of fighting is to search out and destroy. I wasn’t convinced, even after seeing him destroy a couple of opponents. I didn’t think he was rugged enough. The third fight convinced me the announcer was right. There’s nothing fancy about this guy’s style. He just jabs and double jabs, and then throws the big one. This process is repeated over and over again. Once in a while he will mix in a hook or two for good measure. He probably takes more punches than he should, but his knockout record is an unbelievable 90% plus. Right now it doesn’t seem as though his opponents stand a ghost of a chance.

4.) I first saw this fighter back in the 1972 National Golden Gloves Tournament. His style was like watching someone going to war, assaulting the hill with repeated barrages. Sooner or later the enemy/opponent would surrender. He captured two national titles prior to the ’72 title, but at a different weight class. He also took a bronze metal in the ’72 Munich Olympics. In his first 15 pro fights, he recorded 12 KO’s. In his 16th fight, he tasted his first defeat, but not before putting up a tremendous battle. He would eventually fight and lose to this same guy again, but not until he had fought his heart out and inflicted heavy damage. Both bouts were classics. In fact, the second fight was a candidate for fight of the year. His opponent barely escaped stoppage, because of his badly cut eyes. Our selection had a fabled punch called the “over the top from underneath”. He used it to capture the title, which he held on three separate occasions. In fact, that feat set a record for the division; i.e. holding the title in that division three different times. One last clue…..his nickname was Pops. .

5.) I’m willing to bet this next one will stump most if not all of you. His style was centrist, meaning he sought balance as the most desirable. He wasn’t a knockout artist, and his record was always considered very sketchy, but at least one went down. He reportedly had a tough childhood, and he and his half-brother (and mother) were sometimes abused by their alcoholic step father. He didn’t see his first victory until 1976. His first real title came in 1978. He was the youngest to hold this title. He later suffered defeat, but reclaimed the title in 1982. Incredibly, ten years later he would win his biggest title, and was called the Come Back Kid. The public always had mixed feelings about this man, as he continually seemed to be in and out of trouble. But, he was a master at of diversion and somehow could wiggle out. While he held the title, and when he was in his arena, he knew he was supremely in command.

6.) This youngster is frequently in the news, so even if he hasn’t yet captured a title, I’m sure you will be familiar with him. He’s definitely a rising star, who comes from a large family of six children, born in a place often associated with the light or humorous. His older brothers and father started teaching him the manly art at a young age. He was only eleven when he had his first bout, capturing a win over a much older and experienced fighter. When still a teenager, he took a silver medal in a junior world tournament, Santiago de Cuba. He continued his winning ways, capturing more medals until turning pro in 2006. Since then he’s been extremely active, chalking up a perfect record with a high percentage of knockouts. His trainer claims he will be fighting for a title in 2008. In 2007, Larry Merchant said, “(he) looks like 10 million dollars”. In December of 2007, ESPN listed this youth as a top prospect and said, “He has all the potential to be …..(a) great star……with skills, power and a streak as mean in the ring as he is personable outside of it.”

7.) This lefty never felt he got his due. He had it tough right from the beginning, having only his single mother upon whom to depend. His neighborhood was involved in some very bad riots, resulting in several deaths, as well as many millions of dollars of property damage, including damage to our fighter’s tenement building. Soon after the riots, his family moved, and our fighter took up boxing. A couple of brothers took him under their wings, and taught him how to fight. Did they ever! He soon won the AAU championship, and was named outstanding boxer. When he turned pro, he kept on racking up victories until he was ranked the #1 contender. He floundered in that position for years, though, as the title holders kept avoiding or ducking him. While trying to maintain his #1 spot, he suffered a couple of defeats, but quickly avenged those losses in rematches. Finally, after getting some help from politicos, he got his shot. He fought well, and outclassed the crude champion, only to be hit with a controversial draw, meaning the title stayed in his opponent’s hands. Later that year, the title changed hands, and our fighter got a second chance with the new champion. This time he left no doubt. He took the title with a 3rd round knockout, only to have riots break out. The police had to escort him and his corner men through a hail of debris to the dressing room. This warrior went on to demonstrate “….old school toughness with perfect techniques. He had one of the best chins in boxing history and was knocked down only once……”

8.) This southpaw seems to be a sign of the times, and not necessarily a popular one. He is a former silver medalist. Currently, he is a title holder, but really isn’t considered by most to be the true or universal champion. In fact, his first title defense was a lackluster affair, and didn’t convince fans of his worthiness, and most couldn’t even say the name of the fighter he beat for the title.. He has one blemish on his record, which is important in diagnosing his potential success, as his next scheduled opponent has at least one of the same attributes. Our lefty is very fast and elusive, and supposedly can punch, but he chooses not to take many chances. One of his biographers generously describes him as unstoppable and devastating, aggressive, with two-fisted power. Once, he was even described as a knockout artist. However, if you’ve seen him fight, you might choose to argue about the validity of that description. Lately, he has admitted that he doesn’t want to risk victory for the sake of “bravado”. He is skillful, though, and is a master at giving angles, and counter punching taller men from a crouch. And, you can’t help but like this guy. He’s very friendly and quick with a smile, and he’s down to earth, not flamboyant at all, and conservative with a buck. Reportedly, he is a shrewd real estate investor, and plans on having something to fall back on once his career in pugilism is over.

9.) Next to last, we have a pint-size warrior known for his stamina. In fact, he captured the title for his weight class by knocking out his opponent in the 12th round. He hung on to the title for 6yrs., making 9 successful title defenses. He mixed in one of those three fight classics with a great Welshman , finally putting a stamp of victory on his tough three-time opponent with a twelfth round KO in their third fight. He retired after that victory, and enjoyed a lengthy period of inactivity. Approximately 21 months later, he made a come back and regained the title. Over a period of about twelve years, he engaged in 40 bouts, losing only three bouts, one by disqualification, one RTD, and getting KO’d in his last fight, which came after coming out of retirement a 2nd time.. Right from the beginning, he fought the best and the toughest, fighting only one opponent with a losing record, unlike many of the moderns who pad their records with stiffs and tomato cans. At the same time, he chalked up 26 KOs, usually softening up his opponents with a brutal body attack before stopping them. He is a member of the IBOHF.

10.) Our final selection sometimes drove one of his many trainers a bit whacky. This trainer felt the fighter suffered from a lack of discipline, concentration, and would lose site of his goals. The trainer and fighter were known to have some pretty heated exchanges. But, before their partnership, this fighter managed to capture world titles in two weight classes. After winning the first title, he successfully defended it six times in two years. Then he moved up in weight capturing another title, and set a new record by becoming the 1st southpaw to do so. He also remained undefeated. However, that didn’t last, and this fighter suffered one of the more ignominious defeats in the history of boxing, being the victim of a shocking KO after leading by a wide margin on all the judges’ score cards. After several retirements and comebacks, his record now stands at 49 wins, 4 losses, and 1 draw, with 38 KOs. He remains convinced he can regain the championship by beating one of the current foreign titleholders.

Now we get to the answers. However, before doing so, we need to clarify what qualifies someone as a “southpaw” or left-handed person? One might say it is a person, who uses his/her left hand more than his/her right hand. But, the most common way to make the determination is by observing with which hand the person writes, or signs his/her name. That’s the criteria I used.

Here’s a little added demographics: 10% of the population is left-handed, and more men than women. There was time when a youngster was discouraged from using his/her left hand to write and perform tasks. It was considered a weakness, and the world was designed for right handed people. But, when the “southpaw” came along in sports, discrimination quickly disappeared… …….i.e. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, and so forth. Some still remains. Left-handed handwriting is still the pits to read, and lots of orthodox fighters and their handlers purposely avoid lefty’s. Did you know Karl Mildenberger was the first left handed challenger for the heavyweight title since about Corbett’s time?

Put your right foot forward, or your left if you’re doing it right, the wrong way:

1.) Lew Tendler is our first answer. As the story goes, he had the great Benny Leonard in big trouble, but Leonard whispered something to him, and he hesitated long enough for Leonard to gather himself. No one knows exactly what Leonard said, and speculation ranges from expressing a compliment to making an insult in Yiddish.

2.) Vic Darchinyan is are next little warrior. (Doesn’t he look like Danny DeVito’s penguin character?) He was knocking everyone silly until running into Nonito Donaire’s beautiful left hook. It was nice to see Nonito get revenge for his brother’s defeat at the hands of Darchinyan. Darchinyan broke his jaw.

3.) This surprise is Kelly Pavlik. I didn’t realize he was a lefty until I saw him signing autographs. By now I’m sure many of you saw him beat Jermain Taylor for a second time; although, this one went the distance. I agree with the judges’ decision, as Pavlik simply out worked Taylor in the early and latter parts of the fight. I still think Pavlik takes too many punches, though, and if he were my kid, I would worry about him over the long term.

4.) This fellow Marvin Johnson really did go to war. Unfortunately for him, Matthew Saad Mahammad, Eddie Mustafa and Michael Spinks were around at the same time. Saad and Johnson had two great fights, and how Saad withstood Johnson’s assault to come away with victories is amazing. Matthew lost to Dwight Braxton (later Qwai), who spouted a good line when he said, “I’m going to knock the ‘a’ out of him”. (Leaving him sad.)

5.) This one’s Bubba Clinton. Come on now…….remember this is for fun. Tell me he wasn’t always (and still) in trouble, and isn’t he a master at diverting attention! As far as at least one going down? Well, the oval office and one Monica come to mind. His titles were Gov. of Arkansas, and of course the President, or Supreme Commander.

6.) This youngster is Andy Lee, another one of Emanuel Steward’s hot prospects. He’s probably going to surpass the other Irishman named John Duddy, because this guy has the real one punch knockout power. His home town is Limerick, you know….light or humorous.

7.) This guy is one of my favorites, and if he were fighting today, I think he would be middleweight champ. I’m talking about Marvin Hagler. He was truly great, and as much as I like Kelly Pavlik, I think Marvin would take him. Hagler could hit and had an excellent defense. Pavlik is too easily hit, and I think Hagler would quickly get him in trouble. (P.S. I do think Sugar Ray deserved the decision against Marvin.)

8.) This sign of the times is Sultan Ibragimov, just one of many foreign heavyweights holding some version of the title. I saw a replay of his fight against Austin, and it was a terrible exhibition by both fighters. If that’s an example of how he’s going to fight Klitschko, then it’s probably going to be a yawner. But, if he fights the way his fans say he can fight, then who knows? Corrie Sanders comes to mind. Klitschko seems to have steadily improved, though.

9.) This great lefty is Vicente Saldivar, someone who always provided an exciting show. He remains one of the most popular Mexican fighters of all time, and rightly so.

10.) The last one is Michael Moorer, and the trainer mentioned is Teddy Atlas. Before Teddy, Moorer had several other great trainers such as Emanuel Steward, Freddy Roach, Isiah Clark, and Benny Collins. His ignominius defeat was to Old Man George Foreman. Moorer also suffered a one round KO by David Tua. He must have still been hearing Teddy’s warning about the right, because he forgot about Tua’s left hook. He’s still convinced he can beat the current crop of foreign title holders. He thinks he has the amateur background, style and experience. No doubt he is still a good fighter.

Once again I hope this was an enjoyable endeavor for you, and maybe we’ll try it again in the near future. (Sources: Box Rec, Wikipedia and Jewish Boxing History)

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