By Ron Borges
With interest in boxing again on the rise everywhere but in the heavyweight division and in the pages of dying newspapers around the country, we will begin a new monthly rating of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet.
The mythical pound-for-pound championship has long been seen as a noteworthy debate, because it allows fight fans to argue based on ability and not merely the luck of genetic makeup. Bigger is not necessarily better in boxing, although there’s no featherweight on earth who could stand in there for long against even a limited heavyweight like Samuel Peter. So, yes, size does matter in boxing.
But size does not mean you’re the best performer, as the 10 guys below have made clear. Send along your top 10 if you’d like and let the debating begin.
- Floyd Mayweather (39-0, 25 KO) – Mayweather may not be the most exciting fighter in the world but he is its most skilled. Presently a reigning welterweight champion, Mayweather is at the moment in the wrestling business but he’ll get back to his real job in September when he squares off with Oscar De La Hoya in a rematch. The first fight was a close one. The second will be as well and if De La Hoya can be convinced to work the entire fight with his jab, it could be Mayweather’s undoing. Until that happens, he’s the best.
- Manny Pacquiao (45-3-2, 34 KO) – Pac-Man just won a hotly disputed split decision over Juan Manuel Marquez in a rematch of their 2004 draw so there’s not much to pick between them. Having said that, Pacquiao has heavier hands, is younger, dropped Marquez in both fights and is the most dangerous little big man in boxing.
- Joe Calzaghe (44-0, 32 KO) – The undisputed super middleweight champion moves up to 175 to challenge old warrior Bernard Hopkins next month in what will be his American coming out party or a nightmare. A craft southpaw, Calzaghe is not a big puncher but he wears you down with his consistency and his punch rate. Hopkins is in for a busier night than he’s used to.
- Juan Manuel Marquez (48-3-1, 35 KO) – Although he wasn’t given the close decision I felt he earned over Pacquiao (114-113 despite being knocked down once), Marquez remains at the top of the list of top fighters. His technical proficiency and his ability to always be in control of himself even under duress are amazing to watch.
- Miguel Cotto (31-0, 25 KO) – This is the big punching welterweight champion we’d all love to see Mayweather square off with. Perfect stylistic contrast between smooth boxer and fearsome though flawed puncher. Cotto gets hit too much but not yet by anyone who could stand up to what he throws back, which is what makes him intriguing. He’s also much improved defensively over two years ago.
- Chris John (41-0-1, 22 KO) – Boxing’s best kept secret. The WBA super featherweight champion needs to step out of the shadows and stop fighting all his matches in Asia, where few not devoted to YouTube ever see him. He out pointed Marquez a few years ago, which is saying much. Doesn’t bring the heat like Pacquiao or Marquez but the guy can BOX.
- Israel Vasquez (42-4, 32 KO) – Like Cotto, Vasquez is a flawed warrior, which is the kind we like best. He can fight on the inside, has awesome power for a super featherweight and couldn’t care less if he needs a blood transfusion. He comes to fight and he stays all night.
- Kelly Pavlik (32-0, 29 KO) – The Great White Hope showed in his rematch with Jermain Taylor that he’s more than just a puncher. He’s better defensively than people thought, has a great jab as well as concussive power and the ability to finish what he starts once he has you in trouble. He also gets hit, however, so that only adds to the drama when he’s in the ring because it’s not like he’s never been down before. It’s what he does after he gets up that makes him a fan favorite.
- Oscar De La Hoya (38-5, 30 KO) – De La Hoya has lost three of is last five fights in large part because in recent years he’s been a part-time fighter and full-time business man. He’s now the sport’s biggest and best promoter, owns a soccer team, is starting a bank and is both a real estate and media powerhouse. Yet the fact is his losses to Mayweather and Mosley were split decisions that could have gone either way and at least one, if not both, should have. He can still box when his mind is on that job and not writing his autobiography (out in June), signing a real estate development deal or distracted by some other part of his life. When he gets behind the jab and stays there, he can still beat down anybody from 147 to 154.
- Rafael Marquez (37-4, 33 KO) – Twice victimized by Vasquez, Juan Manuel’s little brother is still one of the top fighters in the world. The two of them are perfectly suited to pound on each other in ways that leave fight fans breathless. Frankly, who besides Vasquez could stand in with him? The list, if it exists at all, is a short one.