Ranking the Most Complete Fighters in Boxing Today

Briggs Seekins@BriggsfighttalkFeatured ColumnistJuly 17, 2014

Ranking the Most Complete Fighters in Boxing Today

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    A complete fighter is one who can both avoid punishment and dish it out. While pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather hasn't displayed fight-ending power very often at welterweight, his right cross still has more than enough snap to help him completely control the flow of most of his fights.

    A complete fighter can dissect an opponent like a surgeon and set up his big punches over the course of several rounds. But he can also dig in and exchange furiously in the pocket, if that's what the situation forces him to do.

    This isn't a pound-for-pound top-10 list, but it is pretty close, and everybody on it could easily be ranked that high within the next year. Like a five-tool player in baseball, a complete fighter is an all-star by definition.   

10. Danny Garcia, WBA, WBC and Lineal Light Welterweight Champion

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    Danny Garcia's last performance against Mauricio Herrera left a lot of fans underwhelmed, and many actually questioned whether or not he even deserved the decision victory over the tough Mexican veteran. If Garcia hadn't been the reigning champion fighting in his father's native Puerto Rico, he might not have won the fight.

    But Herrera is very cagey fighter and an underrated talent. He executed a great game plan, and Garcia didn't turn in his best effort. In boxing, where stars compete two to three times per year, a flat effort stands out.

    Garcia's impressive victories over opponents as diverse as Lucas Matthysse, Zab Judah, Amir Khan and Erik Morales give a better perspective on the full scope of his talents. Garcia is not really flashy in any area, aside from his thunderbolt left hook.

    But he does everything very well. He can control range and use movement to set up his combinations. He has solid defense but can take a punch and brawl out of trouble when he needs to.

    Garcia dodged a real bullet against Herrera, and it's disgraceful that he's fighting unranked lightweight Rod Salka for his next opponent, who is 19-3 with just three KOs.

    But at just 26, the undefeated Garcia should have very big things still ahead of him.  

9. Shawn Porter, IBF Welterweight Champion

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    Shawn Porter forced his way into the boxing spotlight last December when he captured the IBF Welterweight Championship from Devon Alexander. Although he entered the fight as a relative unknown, Porter's performance against the two-division world champion left little doubt that he's a legitimate world-class fighter.

    Alexander is a highly skilled boxer with an elite amateur background. He can hit with decent power and takes a good punch. But Porter's more well-rounded game was too much for him.

    Porter is physically powerful and athletic. He has speed and solid skill, along with thudding power. His first defense against wily veteran Paulie Malignaggi earlier this year was a good demonstration of how talented Porter is and how high his ceiling might be.

    Malignaggi has great movement, a very solid chin and stellar defense. Against the supremely hyped Adrien Broner, Paulie Mags lost by controversial split decision.

    But Porter walked right through Malignaggi, cutting off the ring and pounding him down with ruthless efficiency to win by Round 4 TKO. It was by far the worst loss of Malignaggi's career.

8. Terence Crawford, WBO Lightweight Champion

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    Terence Crawford has been 2014's biggest breakout star. The Nebraska native was an outstanding amateur and entered this year as a highly regarded prospect. In his first two fights this year he has thoroughly lived up to his potential.

    In March he traveled to Scotland and captured the title from the tough veteran Ricky Burns in front of Burn's hometown crowd, completely outboxing him over 12 rounds. For his first defense he stepped up to the explosively dangerous and undefeated Yuriorkis Gamboa.

    Gamboa is a product of the esteemed Cuban amateur program with elite physical tools. For the first few rounds against Crawford, he appeared as if he might be able to school the younger fighter.

    But Crawford showed veteran patience and intelligence. He shifted into a southpaw stance and completely adjusted to Gamboa's speed, removing it as a factor while proceeding to take the Cuban apart. He stopped Gamboa by KO in Round 9.

    Crawford has speed, athleticism and power, along with great skill and ring intelligence. He also has the gritty heart of a fighter and should become a superstar over the next few years.

7. Miguel Cotto, WBC and Lineal Middleweight Champion

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    While I would rank it as the biggest boxing story of the year to date, Miguel Cotto's demolition of Sergio Martinez ultimately said more about the 40-year-old Maravilla's diminished ability than it did about Cotto's current standing as a true middleweight threat.

    But it was also yet another vivid reminder of what a well-rounded and complete fighter Cotto is. He used ring generalship to negate Martinez's seven-inch advantage in reach and whatever athletic advantages the Argentine still enjoyed.

    I commented before the fight that I thought Martinez would win, but that if he had deteriorated even a little bit, Cotto was the type of fighter who could take an inch and turn it into a mile-wide chasm.  

    Cotto pounded Martinez again and again with his lead hook, proving that he remains a dangerous puncher. He hurt the champ badly in the first round and never let up, taking Martinez apart with ruthless yet clinical efficiency. 

6. Mikey Garcia, WBO Super Featherweight Champion

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    Mikey Garcia is the younger brother of super trainer Robert Garcia, who was a world champion during Mikey's childhood. So the WBO super featherweight champion grew up in the sport. 

    The lineage has always been obvious. Even as a rising prospect, Garcia looked like a well-rounded veteran. He is a smart, patient fighter who makes smooth transitions from defense to offense.

    He's been one of the sport's best finishers in recent years. If he continues to move up in weight, his KO percentage could very well drop, but his skills will allow him to keep winning, and his pound-for-pound status will become clear.  

5. Wladimir Klitschko, WBO, WBA, IBF and Lineal Heavyweight Champion

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    Wladimir Klitschko is not a perfect fighter. Three times in his career he's been stopped by inferior opponents. 

    But the last time was more than a decade ago. In the intervening years, Emanuel Steward developed him into one of the most dominant champions in heavyweight history.

    Klitschko's jab and lateral movement make him extremely difficult to reach with a punch. But his jab is an offensive weapon in its own right. It's a jolting battering ram of a punch, and he has developed the ability to adjust the jab mid-punch and turn it into a scythe-like hook.

    Klitschko's reach and style allow him to be on offense and defense at the same time. He takes his time setting up his straight right, but it's a potential fight-ender when he lets it go.  

4. Roman Gonzalez

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    At age 27, Roman Gonzalez is an undefeated, two-division world champion. He's knocked out 33 of his 39 opponents. 

    Unfortunately, his world titles were at straw and light flyweight, where even great fighters rarely get the attention they deserve. Still, Gonzalez is a special case as an excellent technical boxer with explosive, fight-ending power. He's gained attention with the fans despite his size. 

    Still, not to the degree that he should. He'll travel to Japan to fight WBC and lineal flyweight champion Akira Yaegashi in September, and as far as I know, it won't be broadcast in the United States. 

    It's a true loss, because this is a historically significant, international fight, featuring one of the most exciting boxing stars of this generation. 

3. Manny Pacquiao, WBO Welterweight Champion

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    Manny Pacquiao's transition from dangerous southpaw puncher to well-rounded superstar is one of the great boxing stories of this century. The work that trainer Freddie Roach did in developing Pacman has made him one of the most recognizable figures in the sport. 

    Pacquiao started with explosive athleticism, catlike agility, a dangerous left hand and tremendous heart. That was enough to make him a pretty successful professional fighter. 

    Roach developed him into an extremely well-rounded fighter and pound-for-pound star. Pacquiao's taste for aggression still gets him in trouble, as it did when Juan Manuel Marquez knocked him out. 

    But Pacquiao's overall defense is solid, and his footwork and use of angles is elite. He remains an offense-first, action-oriented fighter. But he can outbox most of the fighters in the world as well, as he proved most recently against Timothy Bradley. 

2. Juan Manuel Marquez

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    I can understand fans who rank Manny Pacquiao ahead of Juan Manuel Marquez as a pound-for-pound star. I can even accept that many people believe Pacquiao won their second and third fights, although I disagree. 

    But the entire reason Marquez was able to make three fights with Pacquiao razor close and knock him out in the fourth is because he's the more technical fighter. Pacquiao is quicker and more athletic, but Marquez has the more well-rounded skill set. 

    Marquez is one of the great counterpunchers of all time, but his iron chin and stamina allow him to take offensive risks that make him as dangerous as nearly any pure puncher. With Pacquiao now opting to fight Chris Algieri, I suspect the 40-year-old Marquez might not get his chance to become Mexico's first five-division world champion.

    But his status as a Hall of Famer was established long ago. 

1. Floyd Mayweather Jr., Welterweight and Light Middleweight Lineal Champion

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    Fighting at welterweight and junior middleweight, Floyd Mayweather doesn't knock out opponents the way he could in lower weight classes. But it's not uncommon for KO percentages to drop when fighters climb in weight. Mayweather is on the small side for a welterweight and walks around a few pounds below the junior middleweight limit of 154 pounds. 

    But even at 147 and 154, Mayweather's lead right commands respect and makes opponents cautious. It's a quick, snapping punch that seems to come out of nowhere. 

    Ultimately, I view Mayweather as the most well-rounded fighter in the sport because of his ability to fight so successfully at any range. On the outside he can pick a fighter apart. In close range he uses his shell defense to slip, bob and deflect while returning with accurate counters. 

    It's true he has not fought everybody that fans wish he would fight. But he's fought a versatile array of top fighters and has always been able to adjust his style to win.