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November 9, 2013

Boxing’s Top Ten, “Pound-for-Pound”

by Matt O'Brien

Below is my take on the hypothetical ranking of boxing’s elite…

1.     Floyd Mayweather

Surely the only position in the rankings not up for debate. Incredibly, Mayweather’s opposition seems to be getting better the older he gets. This is likely due to the big bucks thrown at his feet by cable TV company Showtime’s expensive drive into the boxing market, but let’s not complain. Mayweather already has fifteen years as an undefeated world champion behind him. There is little chance of him being knocked off this perch until that run ends.

2.     Andre Ward

The one-punch knockout defeat of light-heavyweight champion Chad Dawson by Adonis Stevenson in June of this year may have taken some of the shine off Andre Ward’s prior KO win over the then WBC king Dawson in September 2012, but not much. Ward’s ascent to the pinnacle of boxing was a tad slow compared with previous American Olympic standouts Jones, De la Hoya, and Mayweather et al, but ever since entering the inaugural Super Six World Boxing Classic in 2009, he has certainly made up for lost time. Ward has beaten the best his division had to offer and made it look easy along the way. The torchbearer-in-waiting for when Mayweather finally retires his position at the top.

3.     Timothy Bradley

Respect didn’t come easy for Tim Bradley – but it is finally here. Unfairly chastised for the poor judging that was completely out of his control when awarded a controversial decision over then WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao, Bradley is finally beginning to receive the accolades he has long been due following a blistering war with Ruslan Provodnikov and a sensible, technical victory over Mexican legend and pound-for-pound standout Juan Manual Marquez. It is difficult to envision anyone between 140 & 147lbs not-named Floyd Mayweather besting Bradley, for the time being.

4.     Juan Manuel Marquez

Marquez complained bitterly following his decision loss to Tim Bradley. It was indeed a close fight, but the right man won. Marquez showed that he still has enough to be competitive with some of the best talent in the sport though, and will be a force to be reckoned with for as long as he chooses to continue boxing.  At forty years of age, that doesn’t figure to be much longer, but there is certainly no shortage of fights out there floating around his weight class should the fire still be burning.

5.     Sergio Martinez

It would be entirely conceivable to find middleweight champion ‘Maravilla’ a few places further down this list, based on current form. He has looked shaky – even beatable – in his last few outings. There are real concerns that Martinez’ body may be failing him and that his days at the top are numbered. With such an impressive body of work already behind him though, and one of the silkiest styles in boxing when firing on all cylinders, Martinez should still be considered one of the best out there until conclusively proven otherwise.

6.     Manny Pacquiao

It’s no news story to say that Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao is at something of a crossroads in his career at the moment. A conclusive loss to Brandon Rios in Macau this month would likely see Manny drop off the list altogether and signal the effective end of his career; an impressive victory could see him shoot right back up into the sweepstakes for a money-spinning showdown with numero-uno, Mr. Mayweather himself. The truth is we really won’t know exactly what he has left until after the event, but based on everything he has achieved, and considering that he lost to one of the greatest fighter’s of this era in a competitive KO-loss to arch-nemesis Marquez in his last outing, there seems little justification in dropping him further down this list until we see more. 

7.     Guillermo Rigondeaux

So, apparently TV-giant HBO doesn’t like Guillermo Rigondeaux’s  “safety-first” style because it is not “fan-friendly” enough. Well, guess what: This is boxing, not tough man. The art of boxing is hitting your opponent and not getting hit yourself. It is an art that the Cuban amateur great happens to excel at. After his masterful, if unexciting victory over former pound-for-pound high flyer Nonito Donaire in only his twelfth fight, the only serious question should be how high Rigondeaux can realistically climb in these rankings over the remainder of his career.

8.     Nonito Donaire

Why has everyone forgotten about Nonito Donaire? It’s true that he was outclassed in a fairly lack-lustre showing against the defensively minded double Olympic champion Rigondeaux, but don’t forget that ‘the Flash’ still managed to put his slippery opponent down in the tenth round despite having a bad day at the office. With title belts in four divisions behind him already, and after defeating a host of top-quality rivals in one of boxing’s best runs in 2012, don’t write last year’s ‘Fighter of the Year’ off just yet. Expect him to look good against old rival Vic Darchinyan in their upcoming fight to put himself in the featherweight picture or line-up a potential rematch with his Cuban conqueror.

9.     Gennady Golovkin

It could well be argued that Golovkin has not yet achieved enough to warrant such an elevated position, based on the lack of big name opponents on his record to date. Backed by such impressive amateur credentials, and after having looked so devastating in his recent contests though, it seems difficult to conclude anything other than that Golovkin is one of the most talented, dangerous and meanest fighters on the planet today. A showdown with middleweight king Sergio Martinez or another big name in the 154-168 vicinity would provide the perfect opportunity for Golovkin to cement an even higher place among the elites of boxing.

10.  Carl Froch

The Englishman may not be the most polished fighter on this list, by a long way. But few can compare when it comes to the ‘quality of opposition’ section on his resume. A defeat to super middleweight ruler Andre Ward in 2011 is hardly anything to be ashamed about, and following his big win over Lucian Bute and then avenging his loss to Mikkel Kessler in May, no one can say that Froch hasn’t earned his place on this list the hard way. A rematch with Ward or a mouth-watering showdown with Golovkin would provide the perfect opportunity for Froch to justify his pound-for-pound status and prove he belongs even higher up these rankings.  

Near Misses (in no particular order)

Wladimir Klitschko

You will find the long-time heavyweight champ (supposing we don’t count his brother) makes the top ten on many a pound-for-pound list. Presumably this is based on a combination of longevity and the complete domination of his opposition. Presumably it is not based on wondrous displays of boxing artistry. Wladimir should be applauded for taking on all-comers (aforementioned brother aside) and so systematically cleaning out a division the poor quality of which is no fault of his own. This being a pound-for-pound list though – i.e. a hypothetical comparison of the best fighters supposing they were all the same size – I find it difficult to imagine Klitschko’s jabby-grab style being so successful against silkier opposition were he trans-morphed into a smaller framed weight class.

Miguel Cotto

Cotto’s star may have faded somewhat in recent years, especially following his twelve-round defeat at the hands of Austin Trout last December. He looked a rejuvenated fighter in his last bout after hooking up with trainer Freddie Roach though, and he managed to give the world’s best fighter his toughest outing not so long ago. A big win over a genuine light-middleweight name such as Canelo Alvarez or even a solid showing against middleweight champ Sergio Martinez could easily see Cotto break into the top ten again, and possibly even line up a Mayweather rematch.

Saul Alvarez

The young Mexican learned exactly just what it takes to be at the top of this list in his comprehensive points loss to Mayweather earlier this year. He showed us enough to justify the hype he had garnered leading up to that fight though, and his career best win over Austin Trout still stands as a testament to his potential. Expect the red-haired Mexican not to be too far behind Andre Ward in the running for top spot on this list a few years from now.

Danny Garcia

Garcia didn’t just unify the light-welterweight division and defeat one of the most feared punchers in boxing in his last fight; he proved a lot of doubters wrong. KO victories over Amir Khan and Erik Morales put Garcia firmly on the boxing map; the Matthysse victory announced his presence as one of the elite fighters in the sport with a bright future ahead of him. A fight with WBO welterweight champion Tim Bradley would present the perfect challenge and a potential gateway into the highest echelons of the sport.

Adrien Broner

The cocksure, three-weight world champ may feel hard done by not already being placed somewhere among the top ten pound-for-pound boxers, but the truth is he looked ordinary in his 147lbs debut against Paulie Malignaggi last time out. Gennady Golovkin, for example, has looked more impressive in one weight class than Broner has in three. There’s no doubt ‘The Problem’ has one of the most impressive skill-sets in the sport, but he would do well to settle down into a single weight division and push his promoters into providing him with a signature opponent that could propel him into serious contention as one of the elites of boxing.

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