Reposted from Facebook
Top 15 Pound for pound for April 2014 – April 16, 2014
In the next few weeks, I plan to restart both my long dormant boxing and political blogs. I plan to move them over from Blogger to WordPress soon. I have had a bit of a creative run lately, and want to start getting my thoughts out into the world. For now, though, I will post these ideas and opinions on Facebook, likely to the consternation of friends and acquaintances who have yet to wise up and block me from their news feed.
Today starts with boxing, a topic of admittedly limited appeal… But I’m a fan, and a few friends are, and that’s good enough for me.
With Manny Pacquiao’s big win this past Saturday over Timothy Bradley, I thought it was time to revisit my pound for pound ranking. I’m going to try to do this on a semi-regular basis, as well as a heavyweight ranking. Other weights and topics will follow, though my specialty tends to be heavyweights. I’m currently working on a long term all-time heavyweight ranking project, but that’s not going to be done for a few more months.
In the spring of 2012, before Floyd Mayweather’s hard-fought decision over Miguel Cotto, and Manny Pacquiao’s undeserved loss to Timothy Bradley, most boxing observers generally ranked Manny and Floyd first and second on a pound-for-pound basis. The order varied, though at that point it seemed a slim majority favored Pacquiao’s resume to Mayweather’s. The order switched for many by that summer, following their respective fights. For me, despite the official results, I saw Manny’s resume as having further outpaced Floyd’s by that summer. Pacquiao had clearly and cleanly outboxed and outfought the number one 140 pound fighter who was in almost everyone’s pound-for-pound top ten and considered to be a young talent on the rise. Floyd clearly beat Cotto, but struggled more against him than Pac did against Bradley. In addition, Cotto was considered to be on the downside of his Hall of Fame career, and was (mostly) ranked lower than Bradley on pound-for-pound lists. Performance matters. Regardless of the official win-loss record, Pacquiao had done better against better opposition. So for me, Pacquiao was the higher-ranked fighter. And a case could have been made for Andre Ward sneaking up on and even surpassing Floyd at that point. Of course, all that was dashed when Manny ran into the right hand of arch-rival Juan Manuel Marquez and plummeted in the rankings. Floyd continued winning, defeating top 10 welterweight Robert Guerrero and number 1 junior middleweight Saul Alvarez. Manny has since rebounded with a solid win over Brandon Rios and an emphatic revenge victory over number 2 welterweight and top 5 pound-for-pounder Tim Bradley. Unquestionably, the recent loss to the still-excellent Marquez prevents him from leapfrogging the still (officially) unbeaten Mayweather.
However, it is hard to rank anyone else over Manny now. Perhaps Andre Ward’s last 6 or 7 fights edges out both welterweights, but his overall career body of work is still lacking, and more importantly, his lack of recent activity absolutely kills his chances at the number 1 spot.
With that preamble aside, let’s get to the rankings:
15.) Erislandy Lara – Junior Middleweight – 19-1-2(12)
The talented Cuban has been a victim of his own skills. Still relatively anonymous, yet supremely capable and awkward, he’s incredibly tough to fight, and an example of high risk/low reward for potential opponents. To both their credits, Saul Alvarez and Lara just agreed to meet, in what should clearly determine the number 1 challenger to Floyd Mayweather’s 154 pound linear championship. Lara’s recent resume is superb. He has a draw against Carlos Molina, a clear win (though robbed on the scorecards) over Paul Williams, a technical draw against a good fighter in Vanes Martirosyan that probably should have been a win, and wins over Alfredo Angulo and Austin Trout. Lara’s win over Trout was more decisive than Canelo’s, though Canelo did better versus Angulo. Lara’s slightly deeper total resume edges Canelo, though, which is why I rank Lara just a bit higher. Their upcoming matchup this summer should provide greater clarity and either justify this ranking, or force a change.
14.) Bernard Hopkins – Light Heavyweight – 54-6-2(32)
Bernard Hopkins is no longer the champ at 175, and deserves to be rated below both Champion Adonis Stevenson and possibly contender Sergey Kovalev within the division. In a pound-for-pound sense, however, the ageless master is still a vastly more accomplished boxer than both, not just from a total career perspective, but from just the last few years. A draw and a win over then-linear champion Jean Pascal, an aborted no-contest and a competitive loss to Chad Dawson (in a fight that was tough for Hopkins, style-wise), and wins over top 10 contenders Tavoris Cloud and Karo Murat add up to an excellent recent resume. Bernard Hopkins is not just impressive for his age, he’s impressive for a boxer, period.
13.) Nonito Donaire – Featherweight – 32-2(21)
Donaire was thoroughly dismantled almost exactly a year ago by Guillermo Rigondeax. Since that time, he has only fought once, a rematch of blown-up and past-it Vic Darchinyan. Darchinyan, it should be noted, gave Donaire a tougher than expected fight, and was quite competitive until Donaire pulled himself together and knocked the undersized Armenian out in the 9th. None of this sounds good. However, Donaire remains an elite fighter until proven otherwise. Losing to an immensely talented fighter in Rigondeaux and struggling with a mean, tough, crafty fighter like Darchinyan is not enough to wash away the impressive body of work Donaire had been putting together. His four wins in 2012 were all solid wins against good, top-ten opponents. His decapitation of Fernando Montiel in 2011 is still one of the most impressive knockouts over a pound-for-pound level fighter in the last few years, topped maybe just by Donaire himself, when he burst on to the world level with a 5 round demolition of then-prime Darchinyan in 2007. Donaire’s win over Hernan Marquez looks a lot better now as well, since Marquez has established himself as a top five flyweight. Donaire has a fight scheduled over a legit contender next month in Simpiwe Vetyeka, and a good win here could push Donaire back into the top ten.
12.) Mikey Garcia – Super Featherweight – 34-0(28)
Mikey Garcia’s resume is a bit thin compared to some of the veterans on this list, but, what he has accomplished in the past year has been impressive. His win over Salido was masterful, and his destruction of Juan Manuel Lopez looks better now that JuanMa has rebounded somewhat with his own recent victory over Daniel Ponce DeLeon. Rocky Martinez and Juan Carlos Burgos at 130 were solid wins, as well. His jump up to 130 has gone well, though Mikey has spent quite a bit of time discussing further weight gains. Perhaps staying a while at super featherweight would be the smartest course of action for now. Takashi Uchiyama looms as a definite threat and would be another great name on his growing resume. Mikey reminds me of a young Juan Manuel Marquez, but with more athleticism and power. He could become a force for quite some time if he continues on his current path.
11.) Danny Garcia – Junior Welterweight – 28-0(16)
Danny recently hit a bump in the road in the form of Mauricio Herrera, a solid if unspectacular fringe contender in the junior welterweight division. Danny fought a quasi-homecoming showcase fight, and his first relatively soft opponent for a few years. This matchmaking backfired, and Danny was outlanded and frequently outboxed, and was lucky to escape with a majority decision. However, prior to his rough outing in Puerto Rico, Danny Garcia had built an impressive resume in his own right and was sneaking into the bottom of many expert’s pound-for-pound top ten. Had he done better against Herrera, I might have him at 9 or 10, myself. His September 2013 win over Lucas Matthyse surprised many, especially considering Matthyse’s own recent excellent run. Outboxing and outfighting the murderous punching Matthyse was a nice cap on a superb couple years. Wins over old but still servicible veterans Zab Judah and Erik Morales were preceded by his breakout win over favored Amir Khan. Danny has established himself as the best junior welterweight in the world, and nobody else is particularly close. He’s likely to move up to welterweight soon, where a win or two over top ten competition might put him in the running in the Mayweather sweepstakes.
10.) Roman Gonzalez – Flyweight – 39-0(33)
Roman Gonzalez doesn’t have many signature wins, especially compared to some of the others on this list. What he possesses, however, is sustained excellence. The 5’3” Nicaraguan has huge power for the lighter divisions and has battered almost every opponent to a pulp. He’s been an active fighter, already fighting twice in 2014. He fought three times in 2013, and four times in 2012. Despite some stay-busy fights, Roman Gonzalez owns impressive victories over the likes of Yutaka Niida, Katsunari Takayama, Ramon Garcia Hirales, and Juan Francisco Estrada. The Estrada victory in particular looks impressive since Estrada’s upset over Brian Viloria. Fighters under 135 pounds often get overlooked by casual fans. Roman Gonzalez is no exception, and this is a shame, because this 112 pound destroyer can fight. Hopefully he will get shots at bigger names and make himself known to the wider public.
9.) Guillermo Rigondeaux – Super Bantamweight – 13-0(8)
Guillermo Rigondeaux has the thinnest resume on this list. Only one of his wins came against an elite opponent at his best weight, but what a win it was. With only 11 victories going into his fight with weight-hopping pound-for-pound sensation Nonito Donaire, the experience difference was expected to play a major role. Donaire had just been named the 2012 Fighter of the Year by almost every major organization and publication and was ranked in almost every pound-for-pound top 5. Back when Donaire was destroying Vic Darchinyan in 2007, Rigondeaux was still an amateur. However, Rigondeaux took Donaire to school, winning almost every round and frustrating the quick and powerful Donaire with fast feet and an airtight defense. Donaire managed to drop Rigondeaux briefly in the 10th, but was otherwise ineffective. Donaire lost a clear decision to the legendary amateur and novice professional. On the basis of that one great win, Rigondeaux found himself catapulted into the pound-for-pound top ten, and became the darling of the hardcore fight fans. He had a solid, albeit unexciting win over former 118 pound titlist Joseph Agbeko in December 2013, but has been otherwise inactive. Rigondeaux is a hard sell for a lot of opponents and casual fans, as he is frustrating to fight, almost impossible to hit, fast, powerful, and relatively unknown. He may be a top ten fighter, but he’s going to be stuck near the bottom of the top ten until he can start getting more fights.
8.) Carl Froch – Super Middleweight – 32-2(23)
Carl Froch has one of the deepest resumes in all of boxing. Since late 2008, he’s faced a who’s-who of the super-middleweight division, taking on 8 straight top-ten contenders, and 10 in his last 11 fights. Froch competed in Showtime’s Super Six tournament, finishing second to now-linear Super-Middleweight Champion Andre Ward. His only losses during that gauntlet were to Ward and a razor-thin decision against Mikkel Kessler. The Kessler loss was avenged 3 years later. Kessler himself has been a top 3 super middleweight for a decade and has only lost to Froch, Ward, and Joe Calzaghe. Froch is an awkward and durable fighter, able to box at a distance and win with his jab, as well as go toe-to-toe and batter an opponent into submission. His fairly quick reflexes, good power, iron chin, and excellent stamina allow him to hold his own against nearly all styles. Only Ward was able to beat him clearly, and even he had some trouble in the later rounds. Froch is 36, and might be reaching the end of his physical prime. He was beaten up fairly comprehensively for the first half of his most recent fight with George Groves. Froch was able to storm back in the later rounds, and was awarded a very questionable stoppage in a fight he was losing on the scorecards, but gaining in momentum. Froch looked his age against the younger man, but is planning to set the record straight and is scheduled to fight Groves again at the end of May. For now, I am giving Froch the benefit of the doubt. The last 5 years have shown Froch to be a world-class operator, and he certainly was hurting Groves before the referee prematurely pulled the plug. His performance drops him some in my top ten, but he has done more than enough to keep a spot for now.
7.) Wladimir Klitschko – Heavyweight – 61-3(51)
The Heavyweight Champion of the World is undoubtedly one of the best fighters in the world, pound-for-pound. His weight division is one of the weaker ones, but he has made the best of it and defeated more top-ten contenders over the course of his career (13) than anyone else on this list save for numbers 1, 2, 6, and 14. Since his last loss in 2004, Wladimir has gone 19-0(13), and defeated 10 top ten contenders. However, between him and his recently retired brother Vitali, the division has been largely cleaned out, and is currently going through a rebuilding phase in order to find the next challenger to the crown, or more likely, the next champion after Wladimir retires. During the last couple of rebuilding years, Wladimir has faced mostly fringe contenders and also-rans. The one recent exception, his ugly but comprehensive win over number 1 ranked Alex Povetkin last October looks very good on paper, although was not so fun to watch. He is scheduled to fight Australian Alex Lepai later this month, and even a devastating blowout victory will likely not help Wlad’s pound-for-pound standing. Wlad mostly takes this spot due to dominance and longevity. Despite a generally unexciting style, Wladimir has gradually built a Hall-of-Fame caliber resume and has consistently beaten the best fighters of his generation. In the next year or so, Bulgarian contender Kubrat Pulev is likely to get a shot, adding another top 3 opponent to Wlad’s CV. The winners of Stiverne-Arreola II, and Fury-Chisora II also loom as potential opponents. American contenders Bryant Jennings and Deontay Wilder are coming up fast, and will be knocking on Wlad’s door by 2015. If he stays away from the Lepais and Pianetas and takes on (and defeats) these young guns, Dr. Steelhammer may find himself in a rare position for a heavyweight – top 3 pound-for-pound.
6.) Juan Manuel Marquez – Welterweight – 55-7-1(40)
The 40 year-old Marquez has had an eventful few years, especially for a man of his advancing age. The blown-up welterweight was considered undersized and risking injury way back when he moved up to lightweight in September 2008 to challenge then-lineal champion Joel Casamayor. Marquez won by exciting knockout, and defended his championship three times with an ill-fated experiment against the much larger Floyd Mayweather sandwiched in between those lightweight defenses. In 2011 and 2012, Marquez alternated between easy 140 pound tuneups and 147 pound challenges against Manny Pacquiao. His narrow decision loss to Pacquiao in November 2011 and his shocking 6th round knockout over Manny in December 2012 cemented Marquez as both a top welterweight and a top pound-for-pound candidate. He followed his huge win over his Filipino nemesis with a close decision loss to Timothy Bradley, himself the recent recipient of a controversial gift decision over Pacquiao. The loss to Bradley showed that Marquez has indeed slowed and is troubled by quick-footed boxers. However, the competitive nature of the loss, his record against Pacquiao, and his overall longevity keep Marquez firmly entrenched as one of the world’s best fighters, regardless of weight. Unless he loses or struggles in his upcoming fight against Mike Alvarado, Marquez will remain on this list for at least a little while longer.
5.) Timothy Bradley – Welterweight – 31-1(12)
Bradley lost this past weekend to a man he controversially outpointed two years ago. The loss was as clear as the one he should have been dealt in 2012. Yet Tim stood in with one of the modern greats, won rounds, and even hurt Manny in the 4th. Tim Bradley is still likely the 3rd best welterweight in the world and one of the best fighters period. He established himself as the best junior welterweight in the world over an impressive 3 or so years, before jumping to welter for good and holding his own with the likes of Pacquiao, Marquez, and Provodnikov. Yeah, he’s a little undersized at 147, but as long as he understands the limits of his punching power and stops getting drawn into brawls against more powerful foes, he’ll continue to be a top fighter. His speed, conditioning, physical strength, solid skillset, hard head, and determination has gotten him this far. For his sake, I hope that same hard head doesn’t keep him from rebounding from last weekend’s setback.
4.) Sergio Martinez – Middleweight – 51-2-2(28)
The reigning middeweight champion is ranked this high partially based on his record over the last few years and partially due to default. Recent losses by Bradley and Marquez, and disappointing performances by Froch and Klitschko make it difficult to justify placing them over Martinez. However, Sergio has had his own recent disappointing performance, a narrow and slightly gifted decision over Martin Murray around this time last year. Martinez has suffered injuries lately, and age may be conspiring with these injuries to rob Martinez of the speed and explosivness that has helped him boss the middleweights for the last few years. Martinez looked slow and a bit off balance throughout his fight with Murray. He claims it was a matter of the injuries, and not age. It’s hard to say at this point which it is, but if Martinez has declined too severely, the intelligent pressure of Miguel Cotto this summer may expose his deterioration to the boxing world. As it is, the man who defeated Kelly Pavlik to win the middleweight championship in 2010 has done more than enough to justify his high standing among active fighters.
3.) Andre Ward – Super Middleweight – 27-0(14)
Since bursting on the boxing scene at the start of the Super Six tournament with a shockingly easy win over tourney favorite Mikkel Kessler, Ward has established himself as one of the best fighters in the world. Andre has barely lost a round against the best super middleweights around, including fellow pound-for-pound entrant Carl Froch, to cap the Super Six and win the linear 168 pound title. Ward followed the tournament with an utter domination of then-linear light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson. The 175 pound champ was himself on many, if not most pound-for-pound lists at the time. Andre Ward utterly demolished him, winning every round from the 3rd on, dropping him, and stopping him in the 10th. From the Kessler win to the Dawson one, Ward arguably has the best resume in all of boxing. So why is he 3rd, and not 1st? Because he doesn’t fight anymore. Between injuries and promotional battles, Andre Ward has only fought once since his September 2012 victory over Dawson, a wide decision last November over solid if unspectacular Edwin Rodriguez. As of this writing in April 2014, that’s just two fights in 19 months, with no fights on the horizon. And the Dawson fight had been his first fight in about 10 months at that point. So that’s 2 fights in 2 and a half years! Even the notoriously inactive Floyd Mayweather has been in the ring more frequently. I actually ranked Ward number 1 after the Dawson fight, but he just isn’t fighting often enough to justify that ranking. Floyd continues to win, and Manny Pacquiao seems to have rebounded nicely from the Marquez loss. Both of their total bodies of work surpass Andre’s, and while his 2009 to 2012 run is better than theirs, he has done little since. Boxing is very much a “what have you done lately” game, and the arguably-best fighter hasn’t done enough lately.
2.) Manny Pacquiao – Welterweight – 56-5-2(38)
Manny is back, screamed multiple headlines, after his competitive but clear decision over Tim Bradley last weekend. Well, that’s not quite true. Manny never left. Two years ago, the then-number 1 pound-for-pound fighter decisively outpointed the talented Bradley, only to be robbed blind by two out of three judges. Then he was starched at the end of 2012 by fellow elite fighter and long-time rival Juan Manuel Marquez. Yeah, Manny was knocked out, but it was to a great fighter whom he was beating up to that point. Manny wasn’t done. He just lost, which happens to fighters who challenge themselves. His subsequent wins over the good Rios and the very good Bradley proved that he has indeed slowed down. He fights with less aggression, countering and moving more. And yet, slower and more cautious Pacquiao can still beat the best. His career body of work is unsurpassed in this era, with the possible exception of Bernard Hopkins. Pacquiao may never get to face Mayweather, but that’s just as detrimental to Floyd’s legacy as it is Manny’s.
1.) Floyd Mayweather, Jr. – Welterweight /Junior Middleweight – 45-0(26)
Floyd Mayweather has received quite a bit of a criticism for his matchmaking over the years. Much of that has been deserved. The self-proclaimed greatest fighter of all time spent eight years after his narrow 2002 decisions over Jose Luis Castillo avoiding the best possible opponents. His competition was still solid, but fell short of his excellent days in the late 1990’s at 130 and 135 pounds. Opportunities existed to fight the best at 135, 140, and 147, yet the man known as Money consistently looked elsewhere. Perhaps the scares against Castillo made him wary of challenges, or perhaps he was simply following the money. For whatever reason, as he increased his rhetoric of greatness, he decreased his in-ring proof of such greatness. Now, getting that out of the way, Floyd is still, at age 37, undoubtedly the best active fighter in the sport. Since his brief “retirement” after his win over Ricky Hatton in 2007, he has stepped up the competition. His last four fights have been against 2 top ten welterweights and 2 top five junior middleweights. At his age, this is impressive, indeed. While Floyd may have slowed some in the last few years, he still possesses elite speed and reflexes, and a boxing brain that few in the sport can match. His upcoming match against Marcos Maidana is certainly a step back from the last two years. However, it is difficult to argue with recent results. As the best options to surpass him on a pound-for-pound basis either lose (Pacquiao and Bradley) or stop fighting (Ward), Floyd Mayweather keeps on winning. Unless Floyd is shocked by Maidana, expect to see him here for awhile longer.