Stock Up, Stock Down for Boxing's Top Stars

Kevin McRaeFeatured ColumnistFebruary 17, 2014

Stock Up, Stock Down for Boxing's Top Stars

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Boxing is a lot like the stock market.

    The value of something is largely determined by the judgment of individuals. On Wall Street, people buy and sell shares of companies based on their belief in its future profitability, or lack thereof. 

    In boxing it's more about wins and losses, but the value of a particular fighter, and thus his future expectations of success, are largely determined by the same types of analysis that go into whether or not to buy a certain stock.

    Boxing is a very "what have you done for me lately" type of game, and it's not uncommon for a fighter to see his fortunes rise and fall within a single fight. 

    Here we assess the stock of each fighter in the ESPN.com pound-for-pound list. 

    This is your stock up, stock down for boxing's biggest stars.

Gennady Golovkin

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    It's become increasingly hard to deny that GGG is a monster.
    It's become increasingly hard to deny that GGG is a monster.Al Bello/Getty Images

    Why He's Here

    Gennady Golovkin is the reigning WBA middleweight champion and one of boxing's most feared punchers. He sports an absurd 89.66 knockout percentage and has stopped his last 16 opponents inside the distance. Most haven't lasted more than a few rounds against his thudding punches.

    The Kazakh destroyer last fought on Feb. 1, destroying a game but overmatched Osumanu Adama in Monte Carlo. He's currently no worse than the No. 2 middleweight in the world and, given Sergio Martinez's recent injuries and pedestrian performances, he appears to be rocketing toward the top of the division.

     

    What's Up Next? 

    Herein lies the problem for Golovkin. He's so dangerous and feared that nobody seems to want to get in the ring with him. He's struggled to find quality—and recognizable—opponents, and his last fight wasn't even televised in America.

    Golovkin will return to the ring on April 26 at Madison Square Garden, per Dan Rafael of ESPN, likely against veteran middleweight contender Andy Lee.

    That isn't the fight that Golovkin or his people wanted, but they were turned down by former IBF middleweight champion Daniel Geale and junior middleweight puncher James Kirkland. That left Lee as the only recognizable name willing to take the fight.

     

    Why His Stock is Rising

    Golovkin is a force. His style is exciting, he's as professional—both inside and outside the ring—as anyone in the game and he produces knockouts. His star will only continue to grow as he gets more exposure to a wider audience. Hopefully, that happens against a top-tier middleweight contender in 2014.

Danny Garcia

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    Danny Garcia had a very impressive 2013 campaign.
    Danny Garcia had a very impressive 2013 campaign.Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Why He's Here

    Danny Garcia is the unified junior welterweight champion. He erased all doubt about his claim to the 140-pound throne with an upset unanimous decision over Lucas Matthysse on the Mayweather vs. Canelo undercard last September.

    You may find it ridiculous to call a champion successfully defending his crown an upset but, given all the hype surrounding the Argentine's power, it was.

    Garcia turned in a career-best performance, frustrating Matthysse from the outside and holding his own in exchanges. He even scored the lone knockdown of the fight, in the 11th round, en route to a well-deserved win.

     

    What's Up Next?

    Garcia was born in Philadelphia, but he's of Puerto Rican descent. He's never gotten a chance to fight on the boxing-crazed island as a professional, but that's about to change. 

    Earlier this month, Golden Boy Promotions announced that Garcia would return on March 25 to defend his unified junior welterweight crown against Mauricio Herrera in Puerto Rico. The fight, which will be the main event of a Showtime televised card, will take place at the Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.

     

    Why His Stock Is Holding

    Maybe it's just the letdown from the Matthysse fight, but there's just nothing exciting about facing Herrera. The veteran is a decent fighter, but he's only won two of his last four fights, and those came against unspectacular—at best—opposition.

    In that same stretch, both Karim Mayfield and Mike Alvarado easily outpointed Herrera. His biggest win to date came over the suddenly surging Ruslan Provodnikov, but that fight will be more than three years ago by the time he challenges Garcia.

    It's nice to see Garcia cross an item off his bucket list by fighting in Puerto Rico, but otherwise, this fight just isn't all that compelling.

Wladimir Klitschko

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    Wlad's title defense against Russia's Alexander Povetkin was one of the worst fights you'll ever see.
    Wlad's title defense against Russia's Alexander Povetkin was one of the worst fights you'll ever see.Ivan Sekretarev/Associated Press

    Why He's Here

    It's hard to compile any list of boxing superstars without including the reigning heavyweight champion of the world.

    Wladimir Klitschko has held that distinction for the better part of the last decade, and he doesn't appear to be ready to cede it any time soon. 

    Klitschko hasn't been beaten since 2004—a string of 19 consecutive bouts—and has defended his title without so much as being pushed in his last 15 outings. He has an outside shot—should he continue fighting and the heavyweight division remain so weak—of making a run at Joe Louis' record of 25 consecutive successful defenses of the heavyweight title.

     

    What's Up Next?

    Wlad has been feasting on a bunch of anonymous—at least in the United States—challengers of late. His fights are rarely give much attention outside of Europe, largely because nobody really cares to see him fight the Jean Marc Mormeck's or Francesco Pianeta's of the world.

    He'll make his next title defense against Alex Leapai on April 26 in Germany, per Dan Rafael. As far as we can see, Leapai hasn't beaten a single heavyweight of any consequence. The biggest name on his resume—former heavyweight title challenger Kevin Johnson—blasted him out of the ring in 2012.

     

    Why His Stock is Holding

    It's extremely difficult to see how Wlad's stock could drop any further outside of Europe. In the United States, his fights are pretty much ignored. Most people don't even pay attention to the heavyweight division anymore—a lot of the blame for that can be chalked up to Wlad's style which is both robotic and risk averse—and they won't until a compelling challenger emerges.

    But Wlad's extremely popular in Germany, where his fights do great at the box office, and he's made a ton of money by defending his title against hopeless challenger after hopeless challenger. So in that sense, he's just fine. 

    That makes this a bit of a mixed score. In Europe, he's holding steady. Outside it, he's already hit the bottom of the barrel.

Sergio Martinez

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    Victor R. Caivano/Associated Press

    Why He's Here

    Sergio Martinez is still the legitimate middleweight champion of the world. People are quick to dismiss him—not entirely unfairly given his recent struggles and injuries—but he deserves respect as the champion until somebody topples him. 

    What's Up Next?

    If only we knew. Martinez has been locked in negotiations for a bout with Miguel Cotto for months now but, as yet, nothing has been finalized.

    A major hurdle to the bout was cleared in January, per Miguel Rivera of Boxingscene.com, when the fighters agreed on the name of the bout. It will be Cotto, despite being the challenger, who will receive top billing for the event, but Martinez's team claims he is still the one holding up finalizing the bout. 

    The fight has been rumored for June 7 at Madison Square Garden, per Alfredo Berrios of ESPN, but Cotto plans to fight on that date regardless of the opponent. 

    Why His Stock is Falling

    Unfortunately for Martinez, he's one of boxing's late bloomers. He didn't really receive much mainstream recognition until he jumped to middleweight and beat Kelly Pavlik for the title in 2010. That left him with a very short window to make some money.

    Martinez is pushing 40 years old—he'll be 39 in February—and has battled year-ending injuries to his right knee and left hand each of the last two years.

    Regardless of the outcome of his bout with Cotto—should it even happen—he doesn't have a ton of time left.

Guillermo Rigondeaux

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    Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

    Why He's Here

    Guillermo Rigondeaux is one of the best technical fighters in the sport. In fact, he might be the best. 

    The Cuban is a wizard in the ring, and it's virtually impossible to hit him clean. His style isn't for everyone, and his recent unwillingness to engage in the ring has made it difficult for him to appeal to a mainstream audience.

    Regardless, there is no doubt that he ranks among the best in the game, and it will take a special opponent to crack his defensive shell.

     

    What's Up Next?

    Rigondeaux is the unified WBA/WBO super bantamweight champion, and he won every single round on all three scorecards against former bantamweight champion Joseph Agbeko in December. 

    But his style is often difficult to watch, and many fans expressed a great deal of disappointment in Rigondeaux's decision to allow Agbeko—who was clearly there for nothing more than a paycheck—to survive the full 12 rounds. 

    That’s why, right now, we don’t know exactly what his future holds.

     

    Why His Stock is Falling

    Rigondeaux's stock is falling like a boulder to the bottom of a lake. HBO will have to seriously think about televising his fights in the future after—per Jake Donovan of Boxingscene.com—his bout with Agbeko drew the lowest television rating of any main event in Boxing After Dark history. 

    And Rigo's problems don't end there. He's recently gotten into a spat with his promoter Bob Arum, who has never shied away from criticizing the Cuban's safety-first style, through his manager Gary Hyde.

    According to Mike Coppinger of The Ring Magazine, Rigo and his team are tired of the frequent criticisms from the man in charge of getting their guy fights. They claim that they never wanted to fight Agbeko in the first place, fearing that he would—as he did—simply try to survive and not make for a compelling opponent. They place the blame on Arum and HBO for pushing the match.

Manny Pacquiao

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    Vincent Yu/Associated Press

    Why He's Here

    Despite back-to-back losses to Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez in 2012, Manny Pacquiao remains one of boxing's biggest stars and most recognizable faces. He rebounded nicely with a decisive victory over Brandon Rios in Macao last November.

     

    What's Up Next?

    Pacquiao will meet Bradley on April 12 in Las Vegas in a rematch of their highly controversial first bout. In that contest—from June of 2012—Pacquiao seemed to do enough to win a clear decision, but he was robbed by judges CJ Ross and Duane Ford, who somehow handed the fight, and the WBO Welterweight Championship, to Bradley.

    The reaction of the and and media was swift and incredulous, with ESPN's Dan Rafael calling the decision one of the "most bogus" in boxing history.

    This will be Pacquiao's chance to set things right and score a measure of revenge for that putrid decision.

     

    Why His Stock is Rising

    Pacquiao was largely believed to be done at the top level of boxing after his stunning defeat by Marquez. Many people—fairly—questioned whether he'd ever be the same fighter again after such a devastating knockout to a bitter rival.

    But against Rios he proved that there's still something in the tank. If he can avenge his defeat against Bradley, he'll shoot right back up the pound-for-pound ladder.

Juan Manuel Marquez

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    Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

    Why He's Here

    Juan Manuel Marquez, even at 40 years old, is still one of the top fighters in the sport. He's a huge part of a very talented mix between 140 and 147 pounds, and he can hang with just about anyone. The Mexican may well be approaching the end of his Hall of Fame career, but he still has a few good fights left in him. 

    What's Up Next?

    According to Lem Satterfield of The Ring Magazine, Marquez is eying a showdown with former junior welterweight champion Mike Alvarado on May 17, with the ultimate goal of facing the winner of the Timothy Bradley vs. Manny Pacquiao rematch in the fall.

    Alvarado seems to be a somewhat odd choice for a comeback fight, given that Marquez, per Satterfield, turned down an offer to challenge Ruslan Provodnikov for the WBO 140-pound title he took from Alvarado.

    There's almost no logic to Marquez's reasoning. According to Satterfield, he turned down Provodnikov because he was only interested in championship fights that would enhance his legacy. The "Siberian Rocky" is both a champion and holds a victory over the man Marquez will likely end up facing.

    Why His Stock is Falling

    Marquez is not young anymore, and he's seen his reputation take a bit of a beating recently. It's understandable for a fighter to be frustrated after losing a close decision, but his claims of robbery at the post-fight press conference after losing to Bradley just comes off as whining.

    There are some fights that are just close—this wasn’t one of them though, Bradley clearly did enough to win—and could legitimately go either way. It’s true that Marquez has been burned in close fights before, but not every close fight is a robbery.

    It's also hard to understand the logic behind his eschewing a title challenge against Provodnikov to pursue a fight with the man who the Russian just knocked out. It kind of makes you wonder if he's just going for the fight he feels will be the easiest and pose the least threat to a challenge of Bradley or Pacquiao later in the year.

Timothy Bradley

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    Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

    Why He's Here

    Timothy Bradley solidified his position as one of the three best fighters in the sport—he's ranked No. 3 by both ESPN and The Ring Magazineby defeating Ruslan Provodnikov and Juan Manuel Marquez in 2013. The former was awarded the Fight of the Year by both The Ring Magazine and Bleacher Report, and the latter proved "Desert Storm" could defeat, without controversy, an elite opponent.

    What's Up Next?

    Bradley will defend his WBO Welterweight Championship against the man he took it from, Pacquiao, on April 12 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Both men will be looking to set the record straight after their highly controversial first contest.

    Pacquiao seemed to dominate the fight but, when the scorecards were read, it was Bradley who mysteriously had his hand raised. He struggled to get much out of the victory, however, until his banner 2013 campaign. The stakes are extremely high for both men heading into this rematch.

    Why His Stock is Rising

    Bradley feels as though he's one of the most disrespected individuals in boxing. And he’s not wrong.

    He's never gotten much, if any, credit for beating Pacquiao—mostly because almost nobody believes he did—and feels like he still has a lot to prove.

    With there being little doubt about his being an elite fighter, and the corresponding slippage of Pacquiao's skills, Bradley is primed to really become a household name. All he needs to do is beat Pacquiao, for real this time.

    If he does, there's no limit to where he could go.

Andre Ward

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    Reed Saxon/Associated Press

    Why He's Here

    Andre Ward is so good that he might be too good. The super middleweight champion has completely cleared out his neighborhood, and he'll likely need to either move up in weight, or hope someone else does, in order to get a significant fight. 

    Ward returned to the ring last November—after spending 14 months on the shelf with a shoulder injury—and dominated the horribly overmatched Edwin Rodriguez. What was impressive about that win, other than how easy it was, is that Ward showed absolutely no signs of rust or slippage.

    If he could fight that way after more than a year away from the ring and a shoulder surgery, everyone between 160 and 175 pound better take notice.

    What's Up Next?

    Ward doesn't have his next fight scheduled as yet, but he recently made news when he said that Golovkin—considered one of the most ducked fighters in the sport—was the one holding up a prospective fight between the two.

    Ward claimed, per Bill Emes of Boxingscene.com, that it was Golovkin's people who were reluctant to put the fight together, citing a desire to wait until it would be bigger business. 

    Why His Stock is Holding

    Ward has become a victim of his own success. He's just so good that it's hard to find him any compelling fights. He already holds victories over the primary challengers to his dominance at 168 pounds—Carl Froch and Sakio Bika being the most notable—and really needs to hope that someone like Golovkin jumps up to challenge him.

    Short of that, or Ward himself jumping to light heavyweight and facing someone like Adonis Stevenson or Sergey Kovalev, there really isn't much out there for him right now. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. was hoped to be the guy who would help make Ward a star, but his gift decision over Brian Vera last year ended that talk.

Floyd Mayweather

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    Eric Jamison/Associated Press

    Why He's Here

    It's beyond dispute that Floyd Mayweather is both boxing's pound-for-pound best fighter and it's biggest attraction. There really isn't any substantive debate about either one of those facts at this point. 

    Mayweather currently holds the WBC Welterweight Championship and is the unified WBA/WBC junior middleweight champion. He got the latter distinction by easily outpointing Saul "Canelo" Alvarez in the boxing event of 2013 last September in Las Vegas.

    At a perfect 45-0, he’s rarely even been challenged in the ring.

    What's Up Next?

    Only Mayweather himself knows what he'll do next.

    As is par for the course with the pound-for-pound king, rumors are flying all over the place about who he'll face in his May 3 bout, but until you hear it from the man himself, don't believe a word. 

    Mayweather recently conducted an online fan poll to select his next foe and, per Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports, Amir Khan emerged as the clear winner. But until an announcement is made—likely on Mayweather's official Twitter page—anything can happen. 

    Why His Stock is Falling

    Alright, before you go crazy, give me a minute to explain. 

    Mayweather is the best fighter in the sport. He's a prodigious talent, and his defensive acumen and in-ring smarts are on par with the best fighters to lace up the gloves in any era. But no matter whom he chooses—Khan and Marcos Maidana are the finalists unless he pulls something out of his hat—boxing fans are going to be disappointed.

    Fair or not, that’s the reality. And it’s the consequence of setting the bar so high in his last fight.

    Unlike Canelo, who was bigger, younger and stronger, neither Khan nor Maidana is likely to receive the type of respect that would transform this fight into an event. People aren't going to feel the same need to spend their money to buy this fight, regardless of the opponent, and that will hit Mayweather where it hurts the most.