Re: Who Are The Best Defensive Infighters In Heavyweight History?
Among heavyweights, Dempsey springs to mind right away. Willard was not able to salvage his title with his deadly uppercut, and Tunney reported only getting three or four clear shots at Jack in 20 rounds of boxing.
Vito Antuofermo was a vastly underrated defensive fighter, subtly moving his head to take away the impact of most of his opponent's blows. (Footage of Vito has to be watched very carefully to discern this. Internet services do not yet offer the visual clarity required to observe him slipping punches.) Antuofermo's major defensive weakness was failing to protect against head butts. However, he rarely got punched flush. Because of his style, the battered appearance of his face (something many boxers are born with), and the frequency with which he bled from cuts, his ability to minimize the effects of his opponent's punches has been overlooked. (It shouldn't be surprising that unphotogenic kids get into boxing. The old saying, "Never get in a fight with an ugly person, he has nothing to lose!" frequently translates into fighting being a path of least resistance.)
Marlon Starling really gave away his first match to Don Curry, but in that bout, the Magic Man repeatedly secured a wonderfully protected position on the inside. Gil Clancy kept pointing out the obvious success Starling had at doing this, yet Marlon wouldn't punch away when he afforded himself the opportunity. (If Starling had only let fly with his fists, he would have taken a lopsided decision in that first meeting. For some unknown reason, he never pulled the trigger, and lost a split points verdict. Perhaps he was reluctant to attack because of the tragic death of Charles Newell, after Marlon's sixth pro bout against him.) In his career, Magic Man Starling was never kayoed, and I can't find a record of him ever being officially knocked down.
The matches Benitez had with Palomino, Chiaverini, and Duran were essentially won on the inside.
Archie Moore's cross armed defense was effective at picking off uppercuts, a core skill of defensive infighting.
Jack Johnson actually was able to block Fireman Flynn's attempts to headbutt him.
It's a tricky question to try answering, because most infighters utilize offense as their defense.
While I haven't studied footage of DeJesus, I've read indications that Esteban defended himself well on the inside.