Lee Groves

10: “Singles Hitters”

6. Nicolino Locche: 117-4-14 (14) with one no-contest – .103 knockout percentage

Locche is perhaps the only person in boxing history ever to produce triple-digit victories and single-digit defeats as both an amateur and a pro. Along with the magnificent winning percentage he posted during his nearly 18-year career, Locche put together a 117-5 mark in the unpaid ranks. While Locche’s fists inflicted little physical damage, his unparalleled defensive skills wreaked havoc on countless psyches. His extraordinary assortment of dips, slips, ducks and dodges were impressive enough, but Locche executed them with a contemptuous flair that captivated audiences and embarrassed the men charged with trying to hit him.

A 50 cigarette-a-day smoker who often sneaked drags between rounds, Locche’s inventive moves smoked his competition. The man known as “El Intocable” (“The Untouchable”) often stood flat-footed in front of his opponent with both arms dangling and head jutted forward, yet managed to avoid his opponents’ combinations with infinitesimal flicks of his head. After bedazzling his foes with his escapability, he lashed out with sparkling combinations that snapped heads side-to-side like speed bags. His prowess was such that an exasperated and exhausted Takeshi “Paul” Fujii chose to give up his 140-pound world title on the stool rather than fight the final five rounds.

Like many fighters of his ilk, Locche had to wait years for his first crack at world honors, for the 10-year veteran beat Fujii in his 106th pro fight. But once the South American snake charmer snatched the crown he gripped it like a boa constrictor. Locche tossed a rare three-card 15-round shutout against future all-time great Antonio Cervantes and nearly did the same against former titlist Carlos Hernandez and Adolph Pruitt. His split decision against Domingo Barrera was close only because Locche broke two tendons in his left arm in round eight while also suffering a massive cut over the right eye. The resourceful Locche fought the rest of the way out of a left-handed stance and still found a way to stagger the challenger in rounds 13 and 14 to cement the victory.

His multiple unbeaten strings are further proof of his greatness. After losing his first fight to Vincente Milan Derado in his 10th fight, Locche ran off streaks of 55 fights (11 draws) and 57 fights (three draws) before losing his title for good against Alfonso “Peppermint” Frazier. Besides Cervantes, Hernandez and Fujii, Locche’s best wins came against Joe Brown (W 12), Sandro Lopopolo (W 10), Eddie Perkins (W 10) and Emiliano Villa (W 10).

He finished his career by going 11-1, with the only blemish being a ninth-round corner retirement against Cervantes in a rematch. Perhaps the greatest accolade Locche ever received was granted by legendary trainer Ray Arcel, who helped Frazier beat Locche. He said that the Argentine, not Willie Pep, was boxing’s all-time best defensive fighter. Those gifts were why he makes this list and why he’s enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

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