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Boxing's Best Counter Punchers of All Time

Updated on January 5, 2016

Great Counterpunchers

James Toney knocking out Prince Charles Williams in defense of his super middleweight crown in 1993.
James Toney knocking out Prince Charles Williams in defense of his super middleweight crown in 1993. | Source
juan Manuel Marquez knocks out Manny Pacquiao in their fourth bout with a counter right. Both boxers were floored earlier in the bout.
juan Manuel Marquez knocks out Manny Pacquiao in their fourth bout with a counter right. Both boxers were floored earlier in the bout. | Source
Sweet Pea Whitaker fought to a draw with Julio Cesar Chavez, Sr. In truth Whitaker used defense and footwork to baffle and defeat Chavez.
Sweet Pea Whitaker fought to a draw with Julio Cesar Chavez, Sr. In truth Whitaker used defense and footwork to baffle and defeat Chavez. | Source
Floyd Mayweather countered Oscar De La Hoya's right hands with his own counter rights with were strait and accurate.
Floyd Mayweather countered Oscar De La Hoya's right hands with his own counter rights with were strait and accurate. | Source

Did He Ever Lose As an Amateur?


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They Make You Miss and Then They Make You Pay

1. Willie Pep: The Will of the Wisp is considered the best defensive boxer ever and his counter punching skills derive from his defensive prowess. Pep is a 2 time Featherweight world champion who beat among others, Chalky Wright and Sandy Saddler with his counter punching. Pep was not a knockout puncher but he had enough pop to keep his opponents honest. His defense and reflexes were second to none and he used these skills to counter with both hands.

2. Pernell Whitaker: Sweet Pea was a defensive wiz with a great jab and amazing countering skills that led to him being a 4 division world champion. He pounded on the great Julio Cesar Chavez, Buddy Mcgirt and Greg Haugen with three and four punch counter attacks constantly. What was special about Whitaker is that not only did he punch from odd angles he also counter punched from odd angles and positions often landing uppercut and even body shot counters.

3. Sugar Ray Robinson: Sugar Ray was an offensive and defensive master who was a welterweight and 5 time middleweight champion. Many regard him as the best boxer in history and his counter punching has led to some great knockouts including the perfect punch, which was the night he knocked out the great Gene Fullmer with a short left hook. Robinson countered to the head and body usually with right hands or left hooks which were powerful and accurate.

4. James Toney: Lights Out Toney was a true throwback boxer with great slipping ability. He was the epitome of make you miss then make you pay. When Toney moved up to the heavyweight division he beat Evander Holyfield in what could only be described as a counter punching clinic. Toney used a shoulder roll defense based on countering with right hands which Toney did to near perfection with excellent execution and delivery down the pipe. Toney was slick and could counter off the ropes all night with anyone in boxing history.

5. Floyd Mayweather, Jr.: Money Mayweather is an undefeated boxer who has won titles in five weight classes. His blend of speed, defense and textbook counters are the reason he is a future hall of famer. He flattened Ricky Hatton and Diego Corrales with beautiful counters. He is the inventor or at least the master of the pull counter. Also, he uses the check hook to counter his foes which has worked to near perfection. Mayweather is a wizard at countering to the head and body with lead rights and left hooks.

6. Juan Manuel Marquez: Marquez has won titles in 4 weight classes with his counter punching skills. He has knocked out Manny Pacquiao with a perfect counter right and held others at bay with his counter rights and hooks. He also has a draw with Pacquiao and wins over Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Diaz, Michael Katsidis that were a direct result of his jabs and counters. Marquez was actually a power puncher and combined with his counter attack he sometimes froze opponents and made them hesitant to mix it up.

7. Evander Holyfield:The real deal was a cruiserweight champion and a 4 time heavyweight champion. Holyfield had the best counter left hook in heavyweight history, in my opinion. He floored Ray Mercer and Riddick Bowe with those deadly counter shots. Also, Evander knocked out Buster Douglas in three rounds with a devastating counter right hand to win his first heavyweight title. Douglas launched a huge right hand uppercut and Holyfield leaned back, dodged it and floored Buster with a perfectly timed right hand counter.

8. Sugar Ray Leonard: Leonard won the gold medal in the 76 Olympics and he also won belts in five weight divisions during his storied career. He beat Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran, Tommy Hearns and Wilfred Benitez mainly by mind games, good footwork and great counter punching skills. Leonard was good at catching opponents coming in with lead right hands. Leonard used his reflexes well and he would throw counter punches from every angle.

9. Jack Johnson: The Galveston Giant reigned as the first black heavyweight champion for 7 years. Johnson battered Tommy Burns with stinging right hand counters to win the Title. Also, Johnson was one of the few boxers to counter with a jab and launch hard body shot counters. Johnson had power, reflexes and he was a master at playing head games with his foes.

10. Wilfred Benitez: El Radar won the Jr. Welterweight Title at the age of 17, making him the youngest ever champion in boxing history. He beat Antonio Cervantes in 15 rounds for his first world title. When Benitez fought Sugar Ray Leonard it was the best exhibition of counter punching that I have ever witnessed in one bout. Benitez alsio had great speed and his footwork was excellent.

The Real Deal vs. Big George

Evander Holyfield counter punched George Foreman all night with counter hooks and uppercuts. Round 7 of their bout was named as Round of the Year.
Evander Holyfield counter punched George Foreman all night with counter hooks and uppercuts. Round 7 of their bout was named as Round of the Year. | Source

Who is The Best?

Who is the best counter puncher in boxing history?

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Birthplace of Pernell Whitaker

Willie Pep: Hit and don't get Hit

James Toney Highlight Reel

Lights Out Is a Defensive Legend

James Toney is a master defensive technician with amazing counter punching skills. When Toney was in shape he was nearly impossible to hit with more than one shot at a time or with any flush shots. Toney won championships in the middleweight, super middleweight and Cruiserweight divisions.

© 2012 Buster Johnson

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    • Ybi Digital profile image

      Monte Adams 4 years ago from Universal Marketing Solutions

      I like the list a lot as well as the order can always be agrued. Yet, I feel Roy Jones Jr., Mike Tyson . Ali and Frazier were left off where others could have been left off.