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Pacquiao or Whitaker: Who Is the Greatest Southpaw of All Time?

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Pacquiao or Whitaker: Who Is the Greatest Southpaw of All Time? Empty Pacquiao or Whitaker: Who Is the Greatest Southpaw of All Time?

Post by 88Chris05 Fri 17 Jun 2022, 12:34 am

For years I had Pernell Whitaker as the best left-hander ever, with Pacquiao as a solid runner up (Hagler third, for what it's worth).

Pains me ever so slightly to write this as a huge Whitaker fan, but the more time passes the more I find myself wondering if I've been selling Pacquiao short in comparison, and that he might well deserve to be held in greater esteem than Sweet Pea.

In Pacquiao's favour is longevity, depth of record and his ability to move between weights even more impressively than Whitaker, especially during that astonishing run throughout 2008 and 2010; in the space of seven fights he boxed in five different weight classes, winning belts in all of them. And while Whitaker, particularly earlier in his career, wasn't always the bore master many paint him as, if we're being honest you'd have to say that Pacquiao was the much better value for money fighter, who was involved in some barnstormers and put on some of the most devastating and enthralling performances of his era.

That said, part of the reason he was involved in so many superb battles is because he occasionally had vulnerabilities which other fighters could exploit, particularly Juan Manuel Marquez who was always something of a nemesis for him, even during his prime years. Erik Morales also legitimately beat a pretty much prime and very experienced Pacquiao in 2005.

Whitaker, on the other hand, looked almost untouchable during most of his prime, seldom losing more than a couple of rounds at a time, never mind a fight (if we ignore the joke verdict against Ramirez, which is widely considered a serious contender to be the worst verdict ever handed out in a world title fight).

And while Pacquiao has a deeper resume in terms of accumulating good wins (he has some truly outstanding ones as well, mind you), you can definitely make a case that the two or three best entries on Whitaker's ledger are better than Pacquiao's. He made a genuine, bona fide all-time great in Azumah Nelson look clueless, and wasn't far off doing the same to an even greater fighter in Chavez, albeit the judges conspired to call that one a draw. I'm also not entirely sure that Pacquiao (despite obviously being in a different stratosphere pound for pound) beats a 1993 / 1994 McGirt at Welterweight, as Whitaker did twice as the naturally smaller man.

On the downside, we know that Whitaker didn't age as well as Pacquiao and is arguably a slight underachiever despite all his accomplishments. His drug habit and a general indifference to the sport anytime after 1995 (when Benton left his corner, another serious blow) meant he was clearly sliding by the time he was 32 / 33, and basically a shell at 35. Compare that to Pacquiao, who was still breezing past capable fighters and former titlists such as Matthysse and Thurman at the age of 40 (although strangely enough, he did have a notable dip in form himself around the age of 33-36 before having a bit of an Indian Summer).

Both of them had styles basically all of their own and matched natural talent with a fairly high level of unorthodoxy, which really makes them stand out from the crowd. For a long time I scoffed at the notion, but I'll put it to you and see what you think - did Pacquiao do enough to usurp Whitaker at the top of the left-hander pile? Or does Pea still deserve that distinction?
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Post by Soul Requiem Fri 17 Jun 2022, 9:55 am

I'd have to still go for Whitaker and don't think it's a particularly close either.

The biggest reason for me would be the manner of their defeats; Whitaker for me didn't lose during his prime years and was on the receiving end of not one, not two but three rotten decisions whilst Pacquiao benefitted from a couple. I don't think there's any real argument against Whitaker beating both Chavez and Ramirez quite comfortably, a pair of the worst decisions in world title fights you'll ever see. On the flipside Pacquiao should have lost two out of three decisions against Marquez, their second fight being the one you can make an argument for him winning. If those decisions all go the right way I don't think we have this discussion.

One fight i'm surprised you've not mentioned is Whitaker's 154lb win; Vasquez was a very very good light middleweight, he showed some vulnerability (his own doing) but the way he cruised to a decision win over a long standing champion was impressive. Vasquez is a forgotten man somewhat.

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Post by TRUSSMAN66 Fri 17 Jun 2022, 1:32 pm

Great thread.. Chris.

Along with Soul I'm going for Sweet pea..

I will keep the reasoning simple.. Not an opponent Manny beat that Whittaker couldn't..

I would pick Whittaker against Nelson...Meldrick...Floyd...Sanchez..Obviously he beat Azumah..

Not sure Manny beats Azumah at 130...Taylor 140. Sanchez 126..Floyd anywhere.

Whittaker v Taylor and Floyd would be close to pickem....

Pernell had the greatest feet since Sugar Ray Robinson for me if not better than him.

If Whittaker makes one of the great pressure fighters like Nelson look ordinary...He shuts Manny out.

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Post by 88Chris05 Sat 18 Jun 2022, 12:18 am

Thanks for the replies, lads.

@Soul, all valid points there. When you say three rotten decisions going against Whitaker I assume you're adding the De La Hoya fight to the list of injustices? Been a while since I watched that, and it was a tight and quite difficult one to score in places, but I've tended to think Whitaker at least deserved a draw to retain his title, if not a narrow win. It would be much easier to accept that one going against him if he'd got his era-defining win over Chavez a few years before, I guess.

Funnily enough, I've softened ever so slightly on the Marquez-Pacquiao scores over the years. Well, the third fight anyway. For a long time my basic take was: first fight, a draw was just about acceptable but was definitely kinder to Manny than JMM. Second fight, very close either way, could see it to either guy by a slither. Third fight, outright robbery which Marquez won clearly only to be shafted. And then we all know what happened at the fourth time of asking.

But I revisited that third fight not all that long ago, and didn't think it was anything like the absolute travesty I had it down as the first couple of times I watched it back in 2011 / 2012. I still had Marquez up, but by nothing more than a slither and while I don't think Pacquiao could quite make a claim to have won it, he arguably didn't lose either. In fact, it might have been the fight most deserving of a draw in their series. About half of the rounds were razor-thin either way and hard to score. You'd probably have to give Pacquiao the lion's share of those rounds to get him to a draw, mind you...But not totally unreasonable. At least that's how I felt watching it back.

But I still feel that Marquez got the best of Pacquiao over their series, regardless of what the official line says. So doesn't change all that much.

@Truss, take your points as well, but it's worth considering that Whitaker beat Nelson at a weight where Zoomy had no pedigree (he might well have made a fine Lightweight if he'd had another crack a few years later, but we'll never know), so while Whitaker's best wins / names do read slightly more impressive than Pacquiao's, it's maybe not by as big a margin as I used to think - especially when you consider that Pacquiao absolutely annihilated Barrera, Cotto and the like. And he has have a deeper pool of secondary / 'good' wins beneath that, even if they are balanced with the losses to Morales and Marquez.

Agree that in a one-off fight I'd back Whitaker to win a decision, though not without some hard moments and problems along the way. A 115-113 kind of thing if we're talking a 1992 Whitaker against a 2009 Pacquiao at Light-Welter, for instance. But I think there's an argument that Pacquiao's achievements outshine Whitaker's. Debatable either way I'd say.
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Post by TRUSSMAN66 Sat 18 Jun 2022, 3:19 pm

Not sure you can read much in to Nelson moving up 5 pounds and punching air all night....Whittaker confused him with his feet.

Chavez had the same problem..

I'd pick Chavez to beat Manny..

Manny for me gets shutout like all the cream back then bar Taylor and his fast hands...Who troubles Pernell.

Record suggests Manny should be higher...But you asked who was the greatest southpaw.

Whittaker wins comfortably.... Statistics can be misleading.

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Post by 88Chris05 Fri 24 Jun 2022, 8:12 am

If the records suggest that Manny ranks higher though, Truss, does that mean he has the superior CV? Is it possible that Whitaker was the better pure fighter, but that Pacquiao achieved more?

I'm not necessarily saying Pacquiao outranks Pea, but I do think it's very, very close. Certainly closer than I thought back in the day, anyway. Alas, nobody else has made the case for Manny yet, so looks like I could be in a small minority on this one.
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Post by TRUSSMAN66 Thu 06 Oct 2022, 4:26 pm

Best performance by a southpaw I ever saw just to bore everybody was Nunn vs Tate.....An Olympic gold medallist and decent champion bombarded from all angles and with blinding hand speed......Unbelievable to think a fighter like Tate could be made to look so ordinary..

Whittaker v Nelson probably just behind it..

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