While easily considered the most important punch in boxing, the jab is also the least appreciated tool in the sport according to all 14* of the coaches/trainers we polled for this series. Additionally, 12 of those 14 said that if they were given a “magic wand”, so to speak, and could instantly improve any aspect or attribute in their fighter guess what it would be? It wasn’t to necessarily improve their jab but more so to make them understand the importance of the jab and the effect it can have on a fight or fighter.
Like every other aspect of the sport, there are levels to the jab. A good solid jab can be used for controlling distance, creating space, establishing a rhythm, disrupting rhythm, setting up the offensive attack, and much, much more. A well-educated jab with the snap, much like the punch our number 1 guy used to run through P4P fighter’s in his career, can be absolutely debilitating for a fighter to deal with. Educated with speed and level variations? That just may be the single most dominant weapon a fighter can have in his arsenal outside of a Deontay Wilder’s right hand! Not too many of those in the sport, uh?
Over the last couple of decades, the presence of a solid jab in a fighter’s repertoire has disappeared faster than Donald Trump’s approval ratings. It is even seen less and less during “mitt work” nowadays as the flashier choreographed routines have become all the buzz.
Despite the recent decline of an elite-level jab in boxing, there have been some truly dominating lead hands throughout the history of the sport. For the most part, the fighter’s from the orthodox stance like Joe Louis, Larry Holmes, Muhammad Ali have been the runaway winners when it comes to all the lists with the “best of the best”. Of course, the biggest reason for this is simply because there’s a lot more of them in existence compared to southpaws. An almost 10 to 1 ratio in fact according to some of the more recent numbers. Now, add in the fact that southpaws are likely to be facing an orthodox fighter almost 90% of the time. In these battles, the lead hand is often negated by the close proximity of the front hands.
However, all this doesn’t mean we haven’t seen some great jabs come from left-handed-oriented boxers. Below is “Bone’s” 5 Greatest Southpaw Jabs of All Time.
Honorable Mention: Joe Calzaghe, Hector Camacho, Vincente Saldivar, Guillermo Rigondeaux, Vasyl Lomachenko, Jim Watt, and Flash Elorde
5) Michael Moorer
Having held the WBO light heavyweight belt from 88′ to 91′, then the WBO heavyweight belt from 92′ to 93′, Michael Moorer was considered by at least a select few people in Panama to be a two-division world champion leading into his bout against WBA, IBF & lineal heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield. It’s what the Brooklyn native was able to do that April night in Las Vegas that would forever make him the very first southpaw to become the heavyweight champion of the world.
Before stepping in the ring against Holyfield, Moorer, who was a natural “right-hander”, had developed a reputation for having a somewhat heavy lead hand that would definitely make his opponents think twice before coming inside. It was Moorer’s jab that guided him to the historic victory over Holyfield. Although Moorer would go on to lose his titles to George Foreman in his first defense, he had controlled much of that bout up until the 10th round with his lead hand as well.
With the heavyweight division home to some of the biggest and best jabs ever, Michael Moorer had one from the southpaw stance that was good enough to help him make history.
4) Marvelous Marvin Hagler
The legendary “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler threw most of his punches with vicious intent, including some of the sport’s most lethal jabs. Literally planting opponent’s on their asses at times with his 1, Hagler would oftentimes push through behind his jab whilst changing stances from southpaw to orthodox or vice versa to allow him to take advantage of angles most fighters wouldn’t even recognize.
If this was a list for most powerful jabs then Hagler would likely be looking down upon everyone else. It’s not though, and despite having what many believe to be the most devastating jab ever thrown from the southpaw stance, Hagler spent a whole bunch of his career inside the ring as an orthodox fighter.
Although some will definitely disagree, the legendary southdox/orthopaw makes our list at number 4.
3) Manny Pacquiao
Before you attack me and argue against the Filipino superstar’s spot this high on the list, remember the vote determines 50% of the outcome here. Besides, what if I can present to you a sound argument on his behalf?
After turning pro at such a young age and pretty much learning on the job, Pacquiao has developed what may arguably be one of the best lead hands in the sport right now. Say what you will but fighters just don’t move up as far and as well as he has in weight without a damn good jab.
Throughout his career Pacquiao has been in the ring against his fair share of opponents in which he’s had to overcome a pretty significant reach disadvantage and what better punch is there for a fighter to use to help close distance? Hint, it rhymes with “stab”. His ability to use his jab to close the gap and come away with one-sided victories over guys like De La Hoya, Margarito and others is enough, along with the votes from you the readers to get him the number 3 spot on our list.
2) Pernell Whitaker
Whitaker, who is perhaps the best overall boxer on any southpaw list you can create, used a more varied jab than most others on the list. His right hand was often used during fights to maintain distance, as well as create a disturbance to his opponent. The 84′ Olympian was able to successfully use his 1 as an offensive weapon when he needed to, such as when he faced fellow Hall of Famer Azumah Nelson. In that fight, Whitaker landed 286 jabs according to Compubox. In fact, the Virginia native holds down the second (the bout with Nelson) and fifth place (Whitaker landed 272 jabs against Santos Cardona) spots on the list of most jabs landed in a fight.
All in all, the man known as “Sweet Pea” had a good enough lead hand to maintain a spot at or near the top of every P4P list around throughout the majority of his illustrious career, along with boasting victories over the likes of the aforementioned Nelson, Jose Luis Ramirez, James “Buddy” McGirt, and in most people’s minds, Julio Cesar Chavez as well. After receiving almost 35% of our votes Whitaker solidifies his place among the best southpaw jabs of all time with a seat at number 2 on our list.
1) Ronald “Winky” Wright
Inducted into the International Boxing Hall Of Fame in 2017, the District of Columbia native is often overshadowed when talking about elite level technicians of the last 3 to 4 decades. Wright, who fought strictly from the southpaw stance, did so behind what many consider as great a lead right hand as the sport has ever seen. One would have to look no further than the dominant 3-fight stretch “Winky” went on against two of the previous decades top 3-4 P4P mainstays. A stretch this old print scribe once dubbed “The Run Behind the One”.
After back to back victories over former P4P kingpin “Sugar” Shane Mosley, in which the underdog southpaw controlled significant portions of both contests with his jab, Wright then stepped in the ring against another previous leader in the P4P clubhouse, Felix “Tito” Trinidad. Once again the Florida resident would be the underdog. However, it didn’t take long before the world knew we’d seen this before, twice actually. Wright came out early and established complete control of the bout with a snapping right lead that kept the Puerto Rican superstar befuddled throughout the entire 36 minutes of the bout. According to Compubox numbers Wright landed more jabs per round on average than did Trinidad the whole fight. Yikes….
When you include the two Mosley fights, Wright landed well over 400 jabs to their total of under 100 during 36 rounds of action. Maybe Winky missed the memo on the orthodox and southpaw jabs negating each other. Or maybe he was just that good with his. Say what you will but that kind of domination is enough for me to comfortably say Ronald “Winky” Wright has the greatest southpaw jab in boxing’s long and illustrious history.
*As part of the series we polled fighter’s, trainer’s, journalists, other publications, and allowed listeners and readers to vote through various social media platforms to help determine the names on the list and more