The most recent print issue of The Ring introduces a terrific new feature called "The Old School Eight." Staffers Michael Rosenthal, Doug Fischer and Lem Satterfield, along with a rotating guest (this month: Raul Marquez) list the fighter who they believe is the number one guy in each of the traditional eight weight classes.
I assume even the youngest of boxing fans understand what I am talking about when I write "the traditional eight weight classes," just like NHL fans understand what is meant by "the original six."
Back in the days when boxing was still truly grand, there were none of these half-weight classes every five to eight pounds (let alone catchweights). If you were 112 pounds and under, you were a flyweight; 175 and up and you were a heavy.
In between, there were upper limits of 118 (bantamweight), 126 (featherweight), 135 (lightweight) and 147 (welterweight). Anybody between 148 and 160 was a middleweight.
From 161 to 175, you were a light heavyweight.
And you have to be pretty old indeed now to remember it, but back when your gramp was shaving with a straight razor, for the most part there was only ever one man recognized at the "world champ" at any of these weights.
Indeed, I'm 41 and I don't remember a time before there was a WBC and a WBA. Now in middle age, I am being asked to acknowledge a fifth promotional entity, the IBO.
Meanwhile, the various alphabet soup organizations shamelessly promote all manner of "super," "diamond," and "regular" world champions. Not to mention "interim" or "silver medal" champs.
At one point in time, Henry Armstrong was the recognized world champion, all at once, from 126 all the way up to 147. He came within a draw—that some called a robbery—of being the man all the way up to 160.
No disrespect against Pacman, but eight world title belts collected during an era when there are over 30 recognized "world champions" covering the same terrain can never hope to compare.
It's no insult against Pacquiao's own unique talents. He just wasn't born during the right era to even compete for that kind of glory.
The mad proliferation of belts is a direct result of trying to generate cheap promotional interest. Ironically, it does serious hard to the sport's overall health in the long term.
People looking to follow a sport want to get be able to get the shorthand on who is the best and who is in the position to challenge for that honor. But trying to explain something so seemingly basic when it comes to boxing becomes a kind of algebra equation.
That's why the mythical pound-for-pound lists have become so popular in recent years. It's a quick way of saying, "These are the guys who seem to matter the most right now, based on who they have beaten."
So think of The Ring's "Old School Eight" as a kind of more specific pound-for-pound list. It could become a valuable tool for focusing fan attention on the best possible fights to be made.