Who is the pound-for-pound ruler: April 2017 Edition: Who’s Number One?
By: Kirk Jackson
Who is the best fighter pound-for-pound as we close the chapter on the first quarter of the calendar year?
With Roman Gonzalez 46-1 (38 KO’s) recently falling albeit in controversial fashion, this leaves an opportunity for another fighter to seize the no.1 position. Gonzalez was cited by most media outlets at the top pound-for-pound guy prior to his defeat.
Who are the most qualified fighters to occupy the position as the no. 1 guy?
It’s important to know what to look for, so we’ll use criterion from Ring magazine as a set of guidelines.
1. Results. This is the most objective criterion and takes precedence over all others.
2. Performance. How a fighter performs in a victory or defeat can be a factor to determine his place in the ratings.
3. 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.
This isn’t law, but it provides a rough estimate on what we can use to establish who is fit as the no.1 fighter pound-for-pound.
Here are the candidates.
Gennady Golovkin 36-0-0 (33 KO’s). Super WBA, WBC and IBF middleweight champion.
Golovkin is one of the more dominant fighters in recent memory and the most dominant champion in the middleweight division since Bernard Hopkins. ESPN’s Dan Rafael has Golovkin as the best fighter pound-for-pound.
Golovkin has a well decorated amateur background capturing an Olympic silver medal at the 2004 games in Athens. His skills transcended into the professional ranks as he currently holds three middleweight world titles, possessed a 23 fight knock-out streak and is 18-0 (17 KO’s) in world title fights.
Golovkin possesses a piercing, accurate jab, displays great ring generalship with his ability to cut off the ring, has a solid chin (never been knocked down) and has tremendous punching power sporting an 89% knock-out ratio.
The biggest markagainst Golovkin is his lack of quality opposition and the debatable narrative of his boogeyman status within the world of boxing.
As a skilled fighter with punching prowess it’s easy to see how Golovkin may be avoided by some fighters but there are willing participants wanting to face Golovkin and these match-ups have not come into fruition. Erislandy Lara, James DeGale, Andre Ward come to mind.
Politics are a part of boxing and it’s unfair to blame a particular side especially if we do not know the details of hypothetical match-ups.
As Golovkin approaches the age of 35, time may be potentially running short for ‘GGG’ to attract some of bigger names of the sport and to add names to further cement his legacy.
Vasyl Lomachenko 7-1-0 (5 KO’s). WBO Super featherweight champion.
Lomachenko is regarded by many boxing analysts as one of the greatest amateur fighters of all time. He won a silver medal at the 2007 World Championships, consecutive gold medals at the 2009 and 2011 World Championships, and consecutive gold medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
Lomachenko won the WBO featherweight title in his third fight and has a record of 6-1-0 (4 KO) in world title fights. He became a two division world champion in just seven professional fights breaking the record set by Naoya Inoue of two divisional world titles in eight fights set in 2014.
The Ukrainian star also known as ‘Hi-Tech’ possesses excellent hand speed, superb reflexes, offensive versatility and tremendous lateral movement.
From a skill standpoint, Lomachenko is there. He has arguably the best footwork in boxing. But he has less than ten fights on his resume and is it possible for a fighter lacking the professional experience to be regarded as the best pound-for-pound?
Although there is a lack of experience, Lomachenko is facing top opposition.Nicolas Walters and Gary Russell Jr. are elite fighters. Orlando Salido – the only man to defeat Lomachenko, may not be considered elite, but he’s as rugged as they come and a tough match-up for anyone.
Lomachenko’s next opponent Jason Sosa is solid fighter – if not considered elite opposition.
Lomachenko is a few fights away from potentially securing top status as the pound-for-pound king. Perhaps a fight against undefeated three division champion Mikey Garcia 36-0 (30 KO’s) awaits Lomachenko in the near future and may propel him to the top.
Terence Crawford 30-0-0 (21 KO’s).WBC, WBO, The Ring and lineal junior welterweight champion.
Crawford is a two division world champion, currently holding the unified WBC, WBO, Ring magazine, and lineal light welterweight titles since 2016.
Crawford previously held the WBO, Ring, and lineal lightweight titles from 2014 to 2015 and was voted Fighter of the Year for 2014 by the Boxing Writers Association of America and ESPN.
Crawford is an extremely gifted fighter equipped with high boxing I.Q., technical prowess, good hand speed, punching power and mental tenacity.
All of these qualities describe a nightmarish match-up for opponents.
Oh yeah, Crawford is also a switch-hitter; likes to switch from the orthodox (right-handed) stance to southpaw (left-handed) ala Marvin Hagler and appears to be more effective from the southpaw stance.
From a technical standpoint the only slight criticism of Crawford is he occasionally has lulls on the defensive end and gets hit with unnecessary punches.
Crawford has the skills and a solid resume.
He effectively cleared out the lightweight division. The switch-hitter defeated the likes of Ricky Burns, Raymond Beltran and YuriorkisGamboa. He even moved up in weight to junior welterweight and defeated Viktor Postol – a fighter regarded as the best in the division.
As great as Crawford is, the career defining super-fight is an ever elusive target. As talks of facing Manny Pacquiao continue to fade, it’s difficult to imagine Crawford getting the super-fight against the high quality pound-for-pound opponent (Pacquiao) he desires.
Andre Ward: 31-0-0 (15 KO’s). Undisputed WBA, IBF and WBO light heavyweight champion.
One of the most gifted fighters of his generation, second arguably to Floyd Mayweather, War d is a complete fighter. Defensively oriented, Ward has the ability to fight at any distance and excels at fighting in close proximity.
America’s last male Olympic gold medalist, Ward once ruled the super middleweight division as the winner of the Super Six World Boxing Classic tournament and was the unified WBC, WBA and lineal champion defeating notable fighters such as Mikkel Kessler, Carl Froch, Arthur Abraham and Chad Dawson.
Last November, Ward moved up to the light heavyweight division and battled pound-for-pound contemporary Sergey Kovalev in the most significant fight of 2016. Because of the magnitude of the fight, it was believed by many boxing critics the winner would ascend as the pound-for-pound king.
A criticism in the past about Ward has been his stretches of inactivity. These stretches of inactivity were either due to injury or due to promotional issues – both of which have been resolved for the time being.
Another knock on Ward is with his most recent and significant victory. Many spectators believe Kovalev won the fight and unfortunately for Ward, he is not given the credit for defeating Kovalev.
Perhaps the rematch in June will give both the fighters and observers the resolution and clarity they seek.
How we measure skills is subjective. Each fighter mentioned has a unique skill set, different from each other.
As an observer, it’s okay to have a preference for one style over another. But it’s important to understand the effectiveness of other styles and to have an appreciation for various skill sets as well.
What separates Ward from Crawford, Golovkin and Lomachenko is the level of opposition. The others have good resumes as far as opposition goes but Ward actually faced and defeated a pound-for-pound contemporary (Kovalev). If Kovalev defeats Ward in the rematch later this year, he obviously has a case for the no.1 position pound-for-pound.
Wins over Chad Dawson and Carl Froch – fighters who both had stints on the top ten pound-for-pound list also gives Ward the edge regarding resume.
Again, how we view fighters and measure them against another is all subjective. Each fighter has a valid case for the top spot.
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