Who Has the Better Roster of Boxers Right Now: Golden Boy or Top Rank?
This year has been full of terrific fights, and there are at least a few more out there for us in the months left. Last year was packed with great fights, as well, and the cards are already in place to give us some potential classics in 2014.
I try to be a glass-half-full guy, especially about sports.
But it is impossible for any serious boxing fan to completely overlook the tragedy of the Golden Boy-Top Rank feud. There are too many potential great fights that don't get made due to the cold war that exists between boxing's two major power players.
Both rivals have been on point this year, giving fans fights they wanted to see, where unexpected and dramatic action played itself out all year long.
But by refusing to let their fighters compete, they have forced themselves to compete at every turn. So it's up to us, as boxing fans, to judge them head-to-head.
Who Has the Most Pound-for-Pound Superstars?
Floyd Mayweather has his own promotional company, but he's worked with Golden Boy to promote all of his fights since 2007, so the pound-for-pound king should be viewed as part of its roster. After Mayweather, there is a drop-off in talent.
Top Rank has more fighters who are clearly pound-for-pound, top-10 stars. Manny Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez and Timothy Bradley are all top 10. I rank Guillermo Rigondeaux there and think Nonito Donaire still has a very strong argument.
Even Mikey Garcia seems to be knocking on the door.
Aside from Mayweather, no other fighter associated with Golden Boy is an obvious pound-for-pound top 10. The Ring ranks both Saul Alvarez and Adrien Broner as top 10, but that's a magazine owned by Golden Boy.
I might be inclined to rank Golden Boy's Danny Garcia in the top 10 over either Broner or Alvarez, based on his body of work at light welterweight. Golden Boy's Abner Mares was ranked pound-for-pound top 10 by just about everybody going into his shocking loss by Round 1 KO against Jhonny Gonzalez last summer.
I wouldn't bet against the master of Mexican Judo fighting his way back up there again.
Which Roster Has the Most Depth?
Both rival promotions are stacked with some of the best boxing talent in the world, but Golden Boy has a clear edge here. It has a slew of fighters who are a great performance or two away from true stardom.
Golden Boy could wage its own compelling eight-man tournament at welterweight while leaving Mayweather on the bench, waiting to face the winner. Picture the brackets that could be created out of Devon Alexander, Amir Khan, Adrien Broner, Keith Thurman, Robert Guerrero, Marcos Maidana, Danny Garcia and Lucas Matthysse.
Golden Boy is packed at light middleweight, and it has undefeated middleweight champion Peter Quillin. At light heavyweight, it has the Godfather himself, Bernard Hopkins.
Top Rank has slightly better talent at lightweight and below. Along with Rigondeaux and Donaire, it has burgeoning superstar Mikey Garcia and featherweight champion Evgeny Gradovich. Top Rank also has battle-tested veterans in the lower weights like Vic Darchinyan, Ferdinand Montiel and Jorge Arce.
Who Puts on the Better Fights?
In business as in sports, competition brings out the best in an organization. Top Rank and Golden Boy have opted not to cooperate with each other, and in many ways, the fans suffer for it.
But their desire to compete has ended up having some pretty nice side effects for the fans. In the past few years, both promotions have attempted to sell fans compelling fights.
Top Rank's slightly more limited roster means it doesn't quite keep up all year long. Orlando Salido vs. Orlando Cruz as the main undercard fight on a pay-per-view card was downright insulting.
Who Owns the Future?
I don't expect Top Rank to go anywhere anytime soon. Bob Arum always appears to be an impressively robust octogenarian, even more so when you see him operating in person.
And love him or hate him, the Bobfather has a well-run company that appears to be set up well for the future. Its roster contains elite young talent like Mikey Garcia.
It has emerging talents like Jesse Vargas, Karim Mayfield and Terence Crawford. It has blue-chip prospects like Mike Lee and Jesse Hart and has invested heavily in opening the Chinese market behind Olympic star Zou Shiming.
But Golden Boy has far more young talent. Its biggest stars are younger. I can easily imagine a boxing future in which Alvarez, Broner, Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia put on a series of terrific fights at welterweight and junior middleweight.
I can picture a record-setting gait in Argentina featuring Matthysse and Maidana. I can see Mares and Leo Santa Cruz going to war on Mexican Independence Day weekend at some point.
And then Gary Russell Jr. will fight the winner on Cinco de Mayo.
Golden Boy even has the biggest potential American star at heavyweight, Deontay Wilder. For all the hype about Shiming, I think Golden Boy's Joseph Diaz Jr. has more potential as a professional.
Postscript: A What-If World
Boxing fans, imagine a world where Manny Pacuqioa could fight Mayweather. And in that world, after Mayweather beat Pacquiao, he would fight Timothy Bradley.
Imagine a world where Mares could fight Rigondeaux and Donaire could fight Santa Cruz.
Imagine a world where instead of being involved in a fight he's not really qualified for against Pacquiao, Brandon Rios was free to test his warrior spirit against Maidana. Imagine if Ruslan Provodnikov was able to fight Matthysse.
Imagine this perfect world where Garcia fights Mike Alvarado.
You may say that I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one. All boxing fans would like to see these fights.
To quote the late Rodney King, "Can't we all get along?" Top Rank and Golden Boy need to listen to that man.