Posted on 20 September 2011.
Following the aftermath of Floyd Mayweather Junior’s legal yet controversial knockout victory against “Vicious” Victor Ortiz, it is time to explore the impact this victory has had on the mythical pound-for-pound charts. Who is the best fighter in the world? Is it Floyd Mayweather? Or is it Manny Pacquiao? The ordering really boils down to a matter of personal preference, and while Mayweather and Pacquiao are universally recognized as the two best boxing has to offer, there is still some matter of debate regarding the rest. Here is my personal take on it:
1a. Manny Pacquiao:
Record: (53-3-2)(38 KOs)
Division: Welterweight (147 lbs)
Last Fight: W UD12 Sugar Shane Mosley (May 7, 2011)
Next Fight: Juan Manuel Marquez (53-5-1)(39 KOs)(November 12, 2011)
Pacquiao deservingly earned the top spot when he went on one of the greatest runs in boxing history. This all started with his brilliant effort against Oscar De La Hoya when he scored an upset victory after jumping up two weight classes to 147 after he had just one fight at 135. Since that point, Pacquiao has never looked back. He has dominant wins against Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, Joshua Clottey, Antonio Margarito, and Shane Mosley. What is most impressive about Pacquiao’s run is that he is outclassing naturally larger foes through his unique combination of speed, angles, and explosiveness. In addition to being a tactically sound fighter who knows how to win, Pacquiao also happens to be one of the most exciting combatants in the sport which only adds to his appeal and marketability. He has not lost a fight since dropping a decision to the great Erik Morales back in May 2005, which was a loss he has since twice avenged by knockout. Until he loses, he rightfully belongs at the top of the charts.
1b. Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Record: (42-0)(26 KOs)
Division: Welterweight (147 lbs.)
Last Fight: W KO4 Victor Ortiz (September 17, 2011)
Next Fight: ?
Were it not for his retirement Mayweather would probably still be a lock for the top spot, but his break from boxing happened to correspond with Pacquiao’s historical breakthrough. It is difficult to place him above Pacquiao considering all he had accomplished while Floyd was inactive. The situation is somewhat similar to what we had in the lead up to the first fight between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali, where we had two terrific fighters who each had a legitimate claim to the heavyweight throne. Mayweather’s absence from the sport allowed Pacquiao to surpass him much in the same way that Ali’s absence paved the way for Frazier to become the recognized heavyweight champion. Although the circumstances are obviously different, we are left in an eerily similar scenario. To truly determine who the best really is, Pacquiao and Mayweather need to finally square off and hopefully they will sometime next year. But until that happens we are left with a scenario where the debate shall forever loom. In the case of Ali and Frazier, they were both willing and eager to face each other to prove themselves in the ring. Unfortunately for boxing fans, neither Pacquiao nor Mayweather seem to share this desire to prove their greatness to this point. Will these two ever compete to settle this debate once and for all? Time will tell.
3. Bernard Hopkins:
Record: (52-5-2)(32 KOs)
Division: Light Heavyweight (175 lbs.)
Last Fight: W UD Jean Pascal (May 21, 2011)
Next Fight: Chad Dawson (30-1)(17 KOs)(October 15, 2011)
The ageless warrior was unjustly removed from many pound-for-pound lists following his long period of inactivity after his one-sided upset victory against then undefeated middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik. Hopkins, however, really never lost a beat since that point and should not have been punished for being unable to secure a meaningful fight when the powers that be seemed to be running him out of the sport. His victories against Enrique Ornelas and long-time rival Roy Jones Junior were hardly the most impressive wins from Hopkins, but they were decisive nonetheless in which Hopkins rarely lost a round. Since he was ranked in just about everyone’s top five following the Pavlik victory, he should not have dropped far from that. His fights against Jean Pascal helped once again elevate his status as he became the oldest fighter in boxing history to win a major world championship in their rematch following an extremely controversial draw the first time around. Hopkins will have the opportunity to solidify this spot with a victory against “Bad” Chad Dawson who is seventeen years younger. At age 46, it is reasonable to question how much longer Hopkins possibly has, but with his tremendous work ethic and his extremely high ring he has a good a chance against anyone south of heavyweight.
4. Sergio Martinez:
Record: (47-2-2)(26 KOs)
Division: Middleweight (160 lbs.)
Last Fight: W TKO8 Serhiy Dzinziruk (March 12, 2011)
Next Fight: Darren Barker (23-0)(14 KOs)(October 1, 2011)
Martinez is widely viewed as the third best fighter in the world and a strong argument can be made for that. However, Martinez is in the unfortunate position where his biggest potential fights are not likely to happen. He is simply too big and too talented to lure either Pacquiao or Mayweather into the ring, and he is probably a bit too small to compete against the abundance of elite talent at super middleweight. Without a big name opponent in his own weight class, he is left fighting the likes of guys like Dzinziruk and Barker. Although these guys are not bad fighters, they are not well known commodities with the general public and they do not generate a whole lot of excitement amongst boxing fans. Nevertheless, Martinez is an elite talent with some great victories under his belt, most notably those against Paul Williams and Kelly Pavlik. As long as he continues winning and looking impressive Martinez will continue to be a lock for the top five, but until he lands a big fight against a name opponent it is difficult to see him ever topping the charts.
5. Andre Ward/Carl Froch
Record: (24-0)(13 KOs)/(28-1)(20 KOs)
Division: Super Middleweight (168 lbs.)
Last Fight: W UD12 Arthur Abraham (May 14, 2011)/W MD12 Glen Johnson (June 4, 2011)
Next Fight: Andre Ward vs. Carl Froch (October 29, 2011)
While this might not be a popular opinion, I am reserving my number five spot for the winner of the upcoming super middleweight unification bout in the final matchup of the Super Six tournament. Understandably a lot of observers have this spot occupied by Nonito Donaire, but I believe the eventual champion of the Super Six is more deserving of a top five position. The winner of this tournament will have literally gone through a gauntlet of top class challenges, one after another, to emerge as the Super Six king. For Ward, wins against Mikkel Kessler, Allan Green, Sakio Bika (non-tournament fight), and Arthur Abraham have been quite impressive. Froch’s efforts against Andre Dirrell, Kessler, Abraham, and Johnson have been equally impressive despite the fact “The Cobra” lost a razor thin decision against Kessler. Whichever fighter wins this matchup will have a legitimate claim to being amongst the best the sport has to offer. As an added bonus, the victor will also have a variety of good options to pursue following the Super Six with Lucian Bute and some of the big names at 175 looming on the horizon.