By Kirk Jackson
In the wake of Floyd Mayweather’s retirement, there was much speculation amongst fans and members of the media on who the next pound-for-pound No. 1 fighter would be.
If you ask Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach, he’ll suggest Gennady Golovkin 33-0 (30 KO’s).
If ask the recently retired Floyd Mayweather, he believes Roach’s most prized pupil, Manny Pacquiao 57-6-2 (38 KO’s) is now the best fighter pound-for-pound.
Roman Gonzalez 43-0 (37 KO’s) however, has ascended to the top of the list of many pundits including “The Ring Magazine.”
While the fighter affectionately known as “Chocolatito” is a praiseworthy choice for No. 1, there are a few other fighters that should be up for consideration of the No. 1 slot.
Here’s the case for Andre Ward 28-0 (15 KO’s).
For the past several years up until the recent retirement of Mayweather, Ward has been considered by various boxing experts as the second best fighter in the world behind Mayweather.
That declaration has periodically gone up and down depending on what was going on with the other perennial pound-for-pound top contender, Manny Pacquiao.
Ward’s position at No. 2 depended on whether Pacquiao was beating the likes of Joshua Clottey, Antonio Margarito and Juan Manuel Marquez, or losing to the likes of Timothy Bradley or Marquez.
Over the course of the last four years, Ward would periodically shift between second and third on the mythical pound-for-pound list.
Now Mayweather recently retired and Pacquiao lost his most recent fight in dominant fashion to you know who.
Despite Mayweather stating Pacquiao is the best fighter pound-for-pound in the wake of his retirement that surely is not the case.
It’s only natural for Ward to ascend to the top of the rankings.
If we go by “The Ring’s” guidelines:
Results. This is the most objective criterion and takes precedence over all others.
Performance. How a fighter performs in a victory or defeat can be a factor to determine his place in the ratings.
Track record: A fighter’s accomplishments in the recent past can be a factor to determine his place in the ratings. That includes quality of opposition.
Ward is undefeated, he was the No. 2 guy in recent years and if we’re going off the eye test, Ward can certainly do it all.
He is defensively responsible; offensively he can do it all and his transition from offense to defense and vice versa appears effortless.
Ward can fight from the outside; he can move around side to side, presenting different angles as he controls range extremely well.
Speaking of angles, Ward knows how to shift his body in certain angles to avoid incoming attacks. He possesses good head movement, good upper body movement and knows how to change levels.
Ward can also assume the role of the bully and fight in the trenches and mix it up. He knows how to position his hips where he can gain leverage and push opponent back, or keep them in place and control their movement.
Much of the control of range and effective fighting on the outside and the inside is due to excellent footwork.
Ward is also one of the few fighters who can effectively switch from orthodox to southpaw and actually be effective in each stance. We call that a switch-hitter. Current WBO super lightweight champion Terence Crawford is a prime example of a fighter who effectively utilizes the switch-hitter style.
Great breakdown of Ward’s skills by Wilson Kayden:
The only knock on Ward is his inactivity over the years, which was mostly due to promotional disputes with the late Dan Goossen (Rest in peace) and Goossen Tutor Promotions.
Ward has fought only twice during the last three years, but we should anticipate a much busier schedule for Ward in the coming months now that he has aligned himself with Roc Nation Sports.
For those critical of Ward’s recent opponents Paul Smith 35-6 (20 KO’s) and Edwin Rodriguez who at the time was 24-0 (16 KO’s), it can be argued his opponent selection is not much worse than Gennady Golovkin’s selection of opponents.
According to “The Ring” pound-for-pound rankings, Golovkin is ranked behind Ward at No. 4 on the list. The same criticism of opponent selection can be applied to Roman Gonzalez, who is ranked No. 1 by the same publication.
Golovkin will be facing his best opponent to date when he faces David Lemieux 34-2 (32 KO’s) later this month.
Prior to Lemieux, Golovkin was fighting guys like Willie Monroe Jr. 19-2 (6 KO’s), Martin Murray 32-2-1 (15 KO’s) and Marco Antonio Rubio 59-8-1 (51 KO’s). All good fighters and no disrespect intended, but they don’t exactly scream murderer’s row.
Gonzalez happens to be on the Golovkin vs. Lemieux undercard, as he will be fighting Brian Viloria 36-4 (22 KO’s).
Gonzalez’s previous opponents leading up to Viloria were Edgar Sosa 51-8 (30 KO’s), who is a respectable former champion, but was on his last legs at the age of 35-years old and had endured numerous wars.
Prior to the Sosa fight, Gonzalez faced an unknown fighter named Valentine Leon who at the time sported a record of 38-29-3 (21 KO’s).
Not much of a difference with recent opposition if we compare Ward, Golovkin and Gonzalez, although Golovkin and Gonzalez have some upcoming good match-ups.
Each fighter (Ward, Golovkin and Gonzalez) has a legitimate argument for the pound-for-pound crown.
If we dig further back, it can be argued Ward has the more impressive resume which correlates with the “Track Record” aspect of “The Ring” ratings.
Defeating prime versions of Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham and Carl Froch en route to winning the Super Six World Boxing Classic tournament, capturing the WBA, WBC and Ring Magazine super middleweight world titles in the process.
Froch, who would later go on to regain world titles in the super middleweight division also graced the top ten of the pound-for-pound rankings on a few occasions.
Ward also defeated future world title holder Sakio Bika during the duration of the Super Six tournament and also defeated title contender Allan Green.
In his next bout after the conclusion of the Super Six tournament, Ward defeated two division champion and top ten pound-for-pound fighter Chad Dawson via 10th Rd TKO stoppage.
The weight loss for Dawson leading up to the bout may have affected his performance, but it was an impressive performance nonetheless for Ward in what was a toss-up fight going into the match.
Ward will have to step up the level of opposition and it appears he is on a collision course with either Golovkin or Sergey Kovalev 28-0-1 (25 KO’s), the unified light heavyweight champion who is also No. 3 on “The Ring” pound-for-pound list.
Needless to say if Ward were to face and defeat Golovkin, Kovalev or both, that would solidify his legitimacy as the pound-for-pound King without question. The same standard would also apply for Golovkin or Kovalev if they were to do the same for that matter.
As of right now, Ward may be the best fighter pound-for-pound.