By Ivan G. Goldman
It’s time to ask ourselves whether Floyd Mayweather is really a better fighter than Andre Ward. Mayweather is at the top of most pound-for-pound lists and will probably remain there even as analysts take another look at their rankings in the wake of Saturday’s results. But would that be a correct call?
The way we rank fighters pound-for-pound is part science, part history, and part intuition with a certain degree of guesswork. We look at quality of opposition, not just wins and losses, and what actually happens in that ring on the way to victory. Still, trying to decide how a heavyweight like Vitali Klitschko measures against, say, a light welter like Juan Manuel Marquez frankly is pure speculation. And just when we think we have it figured, something new happens to change the calculation.
In fact, as we’re delving into the topic, I’d argue that Vitali, 45-2 (41KOs) whose only two losses resulted from severe injuries and who almost always stops his opponent, is more deserving than Marquez. He’s also more deserving than his brother Wladimir, who’s ahead of him on virtually every list even though Wladimir was beaten into the canvas by Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster. You could also make a legitimate case for Vitali as Number One. But that’s another story. We’re discussing Mayweather and Ward.
Mayweather, 43-0 (26KOs), has vanquished everybody they put in front of him. He deserves respect for the great range of dazzling skills he displays inside that ring. For the last sixteen years he’s always found a way to win and usually did so comfortably. At the age of 35 he’s still lightning quick, full of tricks, and he can hurt you.
Everyone who’s actually trying to beat Floyd (rather than opting for pure survival) attempts to trap him on the ropes the way the mighty Miguel Cotto did in Mayweather’s last fight. And what happened? Even with his back to the ropes Floyd got the best of it against one of the most accomplished, dangerous fighters in the world.
Incidentally, it’s possible some analysts will still see Manny Pacquiao as Number One at pound-for-pound. They could be right, but I don’t think so. Not in September 2012. Pac-man hits harder than Floyd, is super quick, and is more eager to mix it up, but he’s easier to hit. In his paper loss to Tim Bradley he fought well, but not as well as he was fighting just a couple years ago. His exciting style has put him in too many wars, and they’ve taken a toll. If the superfight with Mayweather comes off next year Manny will likely go in as a live underdog.
Who else is close to the top? Nonito Donaire and Sergio Martinez, and they both belong there. As for Mayweather, we all know he’s beaten a murderers’ row of opponents. And before he scored a clean victory over Cotto he made Victor Ortiz look like an amateur. It’s impossible to argue that Mayweather isn’t a great fighter, and it’s equally impossible to argue that he’s no longer formidable. He is both.
And now Ward. He just beat up a much bigger man — the best light heavy in the world —and made him quit. While doing it he showed superior speed, strength, guile, courage, and conditioning. He can fight inside and outside, and he’s got a vicious streak, which is an advantage in boxing. It’s not just a sweet science. It’s also a mean science.
Before making Chad Dawson look old and slow (and he’s neither) Ward won Showtime’s Super Six tournament, which, though flawed, was a great series of contests. For awhile you could have argued that Lucian Bute might have won Super Six had he participated, but after Carl Froch made a quick meal out of Bute, the argument died. And Froch, one of the toughest competitors out there, couldn’t get anywhere with Ward. You can’t beat a guy if you can’t hit him clean. Ward also easily beat Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham, Sakio Bika, and Allan Green. And like everyone else in the tournament, he had to accept whichever opponent came his way. No picking and choosing.
Mayweather, at different times in his career, has been an expert at picking and choosing, which reached a low point when he took on Marquez, then a full-fledged lightweight twelve pounds beneath him. He compounded the crime by cheating on the catch weight, never trying or intending to make the weight he contracted for.
So back to the big question: is Ward a more formidable opponent at this point in time than Mayweather? Possibly, but Floyd’s history of super victories over super opponents tells me he deserves to be Number 1. Still, it’s time to start asking the question. Ward is that good.
Ivan G. Goldman’s critically acclaimed novel The Barfighter is set in the world of boxing. Information HERE
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