When people talk about the best defensive boxer of all time it's easy for people in this era to bring the name Floyd Mayweather Jnr to the forefront of the discussion.
Some may also mention the likes of James Toney, the former IBF middleweight, super middleweight and cruiserweight king who who used his slick shoulder-roll to confuse and mesmerise his opponents.
However in my opinion, the best defensive boxer in history was Pernell Whitaker.
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Whitaker (40-4-1-1, 17KOs) of Norfolk, Virginia, is currently a trainer who has worked with Calvin Brock, Joel Julio and most noticeably Zab Judah. He is attempting to pass on the knowledge and ring craft that allowed him to dazzle and perplex his way to boxing stardom.
Not a concussive puncher, 'Sweet Pea' had to rely on his agility to manoeuvre his way out of trouble. His defensive style was incredibly risky as he often let his hands drop and used his fantastic head and upper body movement to avoid multiple shots at a time.
This style gave the crowd a kind of excitement you wouldn't usually find from a defensive genius. His southpaw stance coupled with his slippery movement aggravated opponents and forced them into mistakes.
Of course with this style came the showboating that endeared him to large sections of casual boxing fans. A quick browse online will likely yield some highlight videos of the great man in full pomp.
Having started boxing at the age of nine, Pernell Whitaker had a long and illustrious amateur career with well over 200 bouts to his name. He won the silver medal at the 1982 World Championships and capped his time in the unpaid ranks with a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics.
His professional career started quickly and was soon in the ring with tough opposition. Both in his home town of Norfolk he won unanimous decisions versus Roger Mayweather (59-13-0, 35KOs) and Alfredo Layne (15-12-0, 12KOs) in just his 11th and 12th fights respectively.
After only 15 fights he had his first tilt at world glory. A highly contested split decision loss to Jose Luis Ramirez (102-9-0, 82KOs) followed. Not disheartened, Whitaker went on to win the IBF lightweight title against Greg Haugen in just his 18th paid bout.
By the time his fight with Juan Nazario (25-4-0,17ko's) came about in August 1990, Pernell had added the WBC title to his collection by avenging his defeat to Ramirez. The fight with Nazario was for the WBC, IBF, WBA and Ring magazine world titles. Whitaker destroyed the Puerto Rican inside the first round to become the first undisputed lightweight champion since Roberto Duran.
Over the next three years Whitaker continued his ascension to the top of the boxing ladder. He added the IBF light-welterwight and WBC welterweight title to his growing list of accolades. In San Antonio, Texas, he met Julio Cesar Chavez (107-6-2, 86KOs) to find who was the world pound-for-pound king.
'Sweet Pea' dominated the fight but fell foul to a questionable decision with two judges calling the bout a draw with one giving it to Whitaker. Although he hadn't gained the 'W', he ended Chavez's 87-fight winning streak and his place among the boxing elite had been cemented.
Retaining his The Ring and WBC welterweight titles whilst capturing the WBA light middleweight title over the next eight fights, Whitaker set up a contest with the then-undefeated future boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya (39-6-0, 30KOs) in Las Vegas. Again he was defending his mantle of the 'best in the world'.
His defensive prowess and technical ability made De La Hoya look slow and mechanical; however he was never able to unleash his speed and powerful counter punches. Whitaker scored a knock-down and also landed more shots in the fight, however the decision was given to Oscar 111-115, 110-116, 110-116.
Some believed this margin to be far too wide with some giving the decision to the American. It could be argued that for the third time in his career he had been robbed by the judges.
This was to be the pinnacle of his career as things began to unravel. His next fight, an eliminator for the WBA welterweight title, a fight he won, was changed to a no contest after he tested positive for cocaine after the fight.
His legendary speed and agility began to wane and he went on to lose a unanimous decision in his last world title fight versus Felix Trinidad (42-3-0, 35KOs).
His next fight brought about another defeat to journeyman Carlos Bojorquez (26-10-6) in which he had to be pulled out in the fourth due to injury.
At this point it was clear to see Whitaker's best days were well and truly behind him.
This defeat brought the curtain down on an excellent career. Winning world titles at four different weight divisions and holding the tag of the P4P best in the world lead to him being inducted into the boxing Hall of Fame in the first year he was eligible.
The Ring Magazine voted Whitaker at number 10 in the best 80 fighters of the past 80 years in 2002.
A defensive master at the top of his game, Pernell Whitaker was in this writer's opinion the most exciting defensive fighter the world has ever seen.
JK James
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