The Pound for Pound Debate Continues
by Hans Olson
Pound for Pound (P4P) lists can be difficult to put together. I consider these key points when constructing a P4P list: Consistency, ability, achievement, and potential within the immediate future. You won’t see the names of Wladimir or Vitali Klitchcko on here either. No, not because they don’t deserve it…but because they’re heavyweights. They should be the best fighters in the world, able to beat anyone in the world. Obviously, that brings up many debates. Would a Heavyweight Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao be able compete at the level that a Klitchcko does? You can certainly ponder that, and I don’t discredit those who do include the big boys in their lists. But to keep it simple, I choose only to recognize fighters below the glorified Heavyweight division just as writers in years past did. I feel it is more respectful to both the P4P list and the Heavyweight division to not include them for certain idealogical reasons—as opposed to having them linger at the bottom of the list as many writers currently place them, contradicting the very nature of the P4P list.
Without further ado…
1. Floyd Mayweather
The #1 spot in anyone’s P4P list is always the most controversial. It doesn’t get any more controversial than Floyd Mayweather (42-0), and based on his recent performance against Victor Ortiz—it doesn’t get any better than Floyd Mayweather either. Floyd Mayweather is simply the best fighter in the world P4P. Period. After being out of action for roughly 16 months, Mayweather returned to fight Victor Ortiz, the WBC’s Welterweight Champion. 10 years his junior, Floyd destroyed him. We’ve heard all the rhetoric since then:
Photo: Tom Hogan/Hogan Photos/Golden Boy
“It was bad sportsmanship.”
“It was a legal “sucker-punch.”
“This is another black-eye for boxing.”
No it wasn’t. You know what it was? It was the best fighter in the world doing something unpredictable, at the perfect time. The over-apologetic Victor Ortiz, who moments before used his head as a battering ram—was promptly removed from his senses by Floyd.
Protect yourself at all times.
Floyd has had an astonishing professional career, and he shows no signs of slowing down…so long as he stays active. His inactivity has been the only thing that has hurt his P4P standing over the years. Mayweather is a five-division World Champion, having won multiple belts along the way. More impressive for Floyd is having been the lineal champion in three different weight classes. Along with Victor Ortiz, Floyd has defeated Shane Mosley (before Pacquiao), Ricky Hatton (before Pacquiao), and Oscar De La Hoya (before Pacquiao). He dominated Juan Manuel Marquez (in a way which Pacquiao couldn’t—but probably will in November). Who else has Floyd faced and defeated? Zab Judah, Carlos Baldomir, Arturo Gatti, Jose Luis Castillo, Jesus Chavez, Diego Corrales, Genaro Hernandez…
Find me a fighter who has fought that kind of competition over the years? You can’t.
This isn’t to say that Floyd Mayweather shouldn’t fight Manny Pacquiao, or that he doesn’t need to. He does need to. Let’s hope we see that fight in 2012. Until then though, Manny Pacquiao needs to knock Floyd off the top…not the other way around.
2. Manny Pacquiao
Few fighters have risen as meteorically as Manny Pacquiao (53-3-2) has in recent years. Since his beat-down of Oscar De La Hoya in December 2008, Manny has truly become a worldwide icon, superstar, and household name. Once thought of as being one dimensional, Manny can be considered nothing of the sort in 2011. Manny’s blazing speed and mind numbing power is amazing in it’s own right. The fact that the Pacman brought those attributes up with him while becoming boxing’s first 8-division champion is astonishing. The main question many will ask is “why isn’t he #1?”
Photo Credit : Chris Farina – Top Rank
Plain and simple: recent competition.
He’s scheduled to fight Juan Manuel Marquez for the third time in November, but this fight is not going to be like the 12-round epics we saw in their first two meetings. Manny has grown into a full-blown welterweight, whereas Juan Manuel Marquez showed against Floyd Mayweather that he cannot be effective at higher weights. It’s a pure mismatch. Before this, Manny fought a shell of the former Shane Mosley in arguably one of the worst major attractions in recent years. Before that, Manny fought Antonio Margarito who was unranked, and barely active at the time. Margarito had no shot. The wins over Joshua Clottey and Miguel Cotto were great wins for Manny…but he’s been fighting caliber much to low for the level he himself is at.
For as much to blame as Floyd Mayweather receives for not making the fight the world wants, Manny deserves just as much. Although having never tested positive for a banned substance in his career, Manny refuses to agree to Olympic style drug testing, a request of the Mayweather camp. It’s my opinion that Manny is a clean fighter. That said, if you want to prove you’re the best…why not take the test? Why not erase all doubt that the Mayweather camp has? Manny’s other downfall could be his political career, which ties the hands of Bob Arum when it comes to negotiating timeframes for his fighter to fight. You can’t blame Arum necessarily for keeping his cash-cow active against weak opposition. And I suppose you can’t blame Manny for wanting to stay active. The thing is, if you’re not fighting Floyd Mayweather next spring…you better be fighting Sergio Martinez.
3. Sergio Martinez
Sergio Martinez (47-2-2) would be considered the best fighter in the world if it weren’t for Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. Heck, maybe he will eventually…Sergio has stated to the press recently that he would consider moving all the way down to 150 to face either Mayweather or Pacquaio. Until then, Sergio will fight who is put in front of him at Middleweight. We can’t blame him for destroying everyone out there. When you’re the Middleweight Champion, a glory division only second to the Heavyweights—you don’t typically call out fighters two divisions lower than you. Rarer too is that he’s the one willing to move down in weight. This shows us that Martinez wants to do whatever it takes to sit atop the P4P list. The victory over Kelly Pavlik and “you tube-ing” of Paul Williams got the casual fan’s attention. Hardcore fans applauded when Sergio disengaged the previously undefeated European machine Serhiy Dzinziruk. This weekend in Atlantic City, Martinez will look to further impress when he squares off with London’s Darren Barker.
4. Nonito Donaire
Many are calling Nonito Donaire (26-1) the most complete fighter in boxing today. Those who make that claim may be correct. Donaire made a splash a few years back when he ktfo’d Vic Darchinyan, a knockout which was recognized by Ring Magazine as it’s “Knockout of the Year” in 2007. His hand-speed rivals anyone in the sport, and his accuracy is comparable to that of a clock tower assassin. His left hook packs devastating power, felt first hand by Fernando Montiel earlier this year. After promotional troubles shelved him most of this year, Donaire looks to continue his rise when he faces Argentina’s Omar Andres Narvaez on October 22. Many feel this could be his final fight at 122, and if it is…fighting the talent-rich 126 pounders could place Donaire on the top of this list in the not-so-distant future.
Photo Credit : Chris Farina – Top Rank
5. Bernard Hopkins
Bernard Hopkins (52-5-2) is truly a modern marvel. At the age of 46, Hopkins became the oldest fighter in the history of the sport to win a major World Championship. He comes in at #5 on this list due to achievement, longevity, and the fact that he still can compete with the best in the world despite his age. His technical brilliance has enabled him to age well in the ring; you’d be hard pressed to find someone who is more intellectually proficient when it comes to the sweet science. An absolute lock as a first ballot Hall of Famer, Hopkins set the Middleweight record of title defenses (20) back in 2005. Never having been knocked out, he’s the only man to have taken out the granite chinned Glen Johnson within the distance. He’s fought and defeated just about anyone who has mattered in recent years including Jean Pascal, Roy Jones, Kelly Pavlik, Winky Wright, Antonio Tarver, Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad…the list goes on and on. Next up for Bernard is an October Light Heavyweight clash with potential spoiler Chad Dawson. It will not be an easy fight by any stretch of the imagination. Then again, this is Bernard Hopkins…a man who never takes easy fights.
Photo: Tom Hogan/Hogan Photos/ Golden Boy
6. Lucian Bute
Lucian Bute (29-0) is far and away the best fighter at Super Middleweight, though his rating in this P4P list might be somewhat controversial. Most writers are more apt to reward a spot to either Andre Ward or Carl Froch. I guess I understand why…Showtime’s Super Six tournament certainly played a major role in the public’s perception as it relates to the best at 168. Consider this though: Bute has made eight defenses of his IBF Super Middleweight title. He’s beaten guys that Ward has, and beaten them more convincingly (Notably Sakio Bika and Edison Miranda. Bute defeated Bika more than 3 years before Ward did, and although Ward defeated Miranda nearly a year before Bute did…he did so in an ugly and struggling fashion. Bute simply knocked him out with ease).
Bute’s knockout percentage is higher (82.76% compared to Ward’s 54.17% and Froch’s 68.97%). Up next for Bute is Glen Johnson this November in Quebec City. I know I know, it’s somewhat contradictory for me to pump up that fight since Johnson’s coming off of a loss to Froch. It can be rationalized and defended though, when you consider the fact that Mikkel Kessler wanted absolutely nothing to do with Lucian Bute. Kessler represents the biggest win for Ward (albeit a Technical Decision win as a result of head-butts). Oh, and Kessler beat Froch (even though I had Froch winning that fight ever so slightly). The bottom line is this:
Bute beats them all. We’ll see if either Ward or Froch will be willing to fight Bute in 2012.
7. Juan Manuel Marquez
Over the years, the man they call “Dinamita” has been nothing short of what that nickname translates to…dynamite. A future Hall of Famer, Marquez (53-5-1) holds the lineal championship at 135, and is in the process of again moving up in weight for the biggest challenge of his career, Manny Pacquiao. Already having fought Pacquiao twice, Marquez earned many fans in those epic battles. After being knocked down no less than THREE times in the first round in their first meeting, Marquez fought his way back to a draw. In a spirited effort in the rematch, Marquez lost a decision that many feel could have gone either way. He holds victories over Juan Diaz(twice), Joel Casamayor, and Marco Antonio Barrera to name a few…and his precision counter punching technique has evolved into a much busier fan-friendly style in recent years. The Pacquiao fight in November is a huge task, and one that he might not be able to overcome at this stage of his career. When he fought Floyd Mayweather at Welterweight, he didn’t win a round. Pacquiao has moved up in weight and carried his power with him better than any other fighter in recent memory. Those facts can’t be ignored. One thing we can be assured of is that Marquez will come to fight November 12 when he faces Pacquaio. For however long it lasts, it won’t affect his overall legacy…and that legacy is a big reason why he’s still relevant in most P4P lists.
8. Giovani Segura
Giovani Segura (28-1-1) is probably one of the toughest fighters in the world to beat right now. He’s at the age where his relentless ferocity hasn’t caught up with him yet, and his skills continue to get better and better. His dethroning of former P4P mainstay Ivan Calderon in July 2010 got the boxing world’s respect; his obliteration of Calderon in the rematch less than a year later solidified it. He is 108 pounds of true grit. Having last fought in June, Segura doesn’t have anything lined up officially as of this writing. It’s inevitable that he will move up a weight class or two over the next year or so…and it’s inevitable that he will be very, very tough to beat.
9. Chris John
I’m surprised Indonesia’s Chris John (45-0-2) doesn’t get more P4P love given his resume. He is currently the longest reigning belt holder in boxing, having held the WBA’s Featherweight title since winning it back in 2003. Among the 14 defenses, he has defeated the likes of Juan Manuel Marquez, Rocky Juarez, Hiroyuki Enoki, and Daud Yordan. A skillful ring general with brilliant reflexes, he’s one of the hardest working fighters you’ll see in the ring…and with having boxed 372 rounds in his pro career, one has to wonder when he’ll finally slow down. He’s due back in the ring sometime later this year, but it probably won’t be in North America. He makes much more money fighting overseas, and that could be one deterrent to making some big fights at 126. Let’s hope we see Chris John back over here sometime in 2012…and if he does, most fans would love see marquee fights against guys like Yuriorkis Gamboa, Juan Manuel Lopez, or Orlando Salido. If John were to beat any of them, you can be sure more writers will include him in their P4P list without hesitation.
10. Pongsaklek Wonjongkam
Pongsakalek Wonjongkam is unknown unless you’re a hardcore boxing enthusiast. The 34 year-old Flyweight has been fighting as a pro since 1994, putting together an impressive record of 82-3-1. By sheer activity alone, that record is a jaw-dropping harken to the fighters of yesteryear. Wonjongkam lost two out of his first eleven fights…but he was still just a teenager. He then got all Joe DiMaggio and had a 56
fight winning streak before dropping a decision loss to Japan’s Daisuke Naito (a fighter he had already defeated twice) in July of 2007. (Although technically it was a 55 fight winning streak. Pongsaklek had an “illegal” fight against the unlicensed Lito Sisnorio in January of 2007 which was not approved by the Philippine Boxing Commission…but I’ll take poetic license and ignore that fact just to reference Joe DiMaggio while writing about a Flyweight boxer from Thailand… ). A few fights later, he was back in the ring with Naito, this time doing enough to earn a draw. Since then, Pongsaklek has won 15 in a row—including a win against previously undefeated Koki Kameda that saw him earning the recognition of Ring Magazine as the division’s lineal champion. Currently holding the WBC’s Flyweight Championship as well, Pongsaklek Wonjongkam might not have too many fighting years left—guys at his age, and that weight rarely see much success past Pongsaklek’s age of 34. Wonjongkam has remained on top for so long partially due to the activity level, a lot to do with his ability, and everything to do with his heart. Next up for Pongsaklek Wonjongkam is a title defense against Mexico’s Edgar Sosa on October 21 in his native Thailand.
Let the debate begin!
Boxing Insider’s Hans Olson can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @hansolson