Pound-for-pound rankings are extremely nerdish, which speaks to both the passion and desperation of boxing fans. The need to fill the lulls between major fights with engaging and often pointless debate is one of the sport’s time-honored traditions.
Like it or not, the mythical pound-for-pound list isn’t going anywhere.
Such rankings mask extreme subjectivity with objective claims about a boxer’s credentials and skills, level of opposition, record in title fights and other such allegedly quantifiable categories. The fact remains that pound-for-pound lists are essentially meaningless if top fighters aren’t in the same weight range. Despite this reality, pound-for-pound rankings can contribute to establishing both present and historical contexts.
No single fan or pundit can provide totally satisfactory answers to this endless debate of supremacy, even if, in many cases, the best pound-for-pound fighter can usually be agreed upon. For instance, everyone remembers when Roy Jones Jr. was considered the world’s best fighter regardless of weight. Jones had transcendent qualities, but problems arise when trying to rank this transcendence.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. has long been considered boxing’s best fighter, and for good reason. Even before Juan Manuel Marquez knocked Manny Pacquiao out cold, Mayweather (43-0, 26 KO) remained the intelligent top pound-for-pound choice based on his skills and accomplishments.
So, what would happen if Robert Guerrero were to beat Mayweather in their upcoming fight on May 4? Would a victory vault him to number one?
Well, no. Unfortunately for Guerrero (31-1-1, 18 KO), if he cares about such things, defeating Mayweather isn’t a “pound of flesh,” “eye for an eye” type of transaction when it comes to pound-for-pound rankings. While a significant win can propel a fighter up such lists, a certain sacredness does go into choosing the best of the best, even if that sacredness is largely undefined.
Guerrero is undoubtedly an accomplished, skilled and tough fighter. He has won titles at featherweight and super featherweight, and interim belts at lightweight and welterweight. Currently fighting at 147 pounds, Guerrero has solidly established himself at this weight, despite jumping two divisions in a leap many thought was too bold.
At welterweight, Guerrero has defeated Selcuk Aydin and Andre Berto, the latter in a grueling and thrilling fight. While Aydin is a solid contender and Berto a former champion, neither is threatening anyone’s pound-for-pound top-20. In terms of being a top pound-for-pound fighter, one must master their weight class in order to transcend it.
This is not to say that a fighter must reign in a single division the way Bernard Hopkins did. However, a fighter doesn’t magically arrive at the point where he can simply maneuver into major fight after major fight.
In assessing Guerrero’s current standings, evaluating his placement in four pound-for-pound rankings should suffice. ESPN ranks Guerrero just outside its top-10 (he is amongst the “others receiving votes”). Guerrero cracks RingTV’s top-10, clocking in at number eight; Briggs Seekins’ latest top-25 on Bleacher Report has Guerrero at 12; and “The Ghost” also sits at 12 on Boxrec’s perpetually confusing pound-for-pound list (seriously, Daniel Geale ahead of Guillermo Rigondeaux, Abner Mares and Nonito Donaire?)
On average, Guerrero is a fringe top-10 entrant. How far beating Mayweather could elevate him, however, depends on several factors.
One consideration is speculating how a far a loss to Guerrero could drop Mayweather. Using Pacquiao as a reference point, in this regard, is somewhat helpful.
Even after losing to Timothy Bradley, Pacquiao’s stock hardly diminished and he was still considered a top-three pound-for-pound fighter. Now, after a crushing knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez, Pacquiao is in a precarious place where the fact that he fought well—other than the first knockdown Marquez scored—is weighed against the reality that he got iced at the end of the sixth round.
Some will argue that Pacquiao’s loss is evidence of decline while others will suggest that he was simply caught cold, which can happen to any fighter. Regardless of one’s opinion, Pacquiao now finds himself ranked thusly in the aforementioned rankings: ESPN (5); Boxrec (14); RingTV (6); Bleacher Report (7).
Of course, Pacquiao lost to another top pound-for-pound fighter in Marquez. And despite the frightening nature of his defeat, Pacquiao only dropped somewhere between two and five spots in these rankings—excluding the always eccentric Boxrec.
In terms of Mayweather-Guerrero, Mayweather will not get knocked out. If Mayweather loses a tight decision it would be hard to imagine him giving ground to anyone other than Andre Ward. Marquez—who is third on ESPN, RingTV and Bleacher Report’s lists—is unlikely to supplant Mayweather because of the way their 2009 fight unfolded (would it really be any different now?).
If Mayweather loses to Guerrero via a lopsided decision, which is pretty improbable, he’d still be viewed as a top-five fighter. What Guerrero stands to gain, unquestionably, is a consensus top-10 ranking. He would surely edge out someone like Carl Froch, one of the Klitschko brothers (depending on the list in question) or perhaps Timothy Bradley—that is subject to debate, of course.
Beyond that, Guerrero could sniff the top-five if he wins handily, and he would indeed catapult up the rankings if he scores a knockout. But if Mayweather is unlikely to drop significantly on pound-for-pound lists in the event of a loss, how much can Guerrero advance, especially considering his current standing? Would one win justify him passing someone like Sergio Martinez?
Pound-for-pound lists are especially frustrating because it’s hard to know when to drop a fighter for inactivity or resting on his laurels. Is it fair for RingTV to prematurely rank Adrien Broner at number five even though most will agree that he’ll likely be number one someday? And when can Andre Ward officially supplant an aging Mayweather?
There’s no rhyme or reasons to this fascinating and frustrating process. The subsequent debates can be engaging, but Guerrero certainly doesn’t care, and fans and pundits should relent with these arguments if they end up taxing the limits of their sanity.
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