Boxers Most Likely to Succeed Floyd Mayweather as Pound-for-Pound King

Briggs Seekins@BriggsfighttalkFeatured ColumnistAugust 8, 2014

Boxers Most Likely to Succeed Floyd Mayweather as Pound-for-Pound King

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    The signs of Floyd Mayweather slowing down have been subtle, at best. He remains the sport's top pound-for-pound competitor as he heads toward his rematch with Marcos Maidana in September.

    But he's almost certainly in the final lap of his Hall of Fame career. Andre Ward and a host of other, younger stars stand ready to take his place.

    The pound-for-pound king is a subjective title, of course. And post-Mayweather, there may be some debate in boxing circles about which fighter is his true heir.

    But the fighters on this list are likely to be in the conversation.

Roman Gonzalez

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    Fighters in the smallest weight classes struggle to get love on pound-for-pound lists. Despite being a dominant, two-division champion with a high knockout percentage for years now, it has only been recently that Roman Gonzalez has begun to crack the majority of pound-for-pound rankings.

    But I think the Nicaraguan will continue to climb. In September he will face Akira Yaegashi in Japan for the lineal flyweight title. A win will make him a three-division champ.

    I'd be excited to see the winner of Gonzalez and Yaegashi face the winner of Juan Francisco Estrada and Giovani Segura, which happens the same weekend. Whoever came out of that scrum on top would be as close to an undisputed champion as we get in this era of alphabet-soup madness.

    It's worth noting that Gonzalez already has a decisive decision win over Estrada.

    If Gonzalez could unify all those belts at 112 and then climb to super flyweight and win another championship, his case for top pound-for-pound status would be outstanding. The 10 pounds between strawweight and super flyweight is a huge jump for men that size.

Guillermo Rigondeaux

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    Super bantamweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux already appears in a lot of pound-for-pound top-five lists and anybody leaving him off their top 10 is less than credible. It's true he's had just 14 professional fights, but he absolutely schooled Nonito Donaire, who was in everybody's top five at the time the fight took place.

    Still, it could be tough for Rigo to climb much higher. Now that he is free to sign with Golden Boy, he should be able to get a unification fight with fellow unbeaten Leo Santa Cruz. It will be a meaningful win, but I doubt it will bump up his overall standing.

    To threaten for pound-for-pound supremacy, Rigondeaux will need to climb up to featherweight and perhaps beyond. It's a move he's seemed loathe to make so far. At just a bit over 5'4", Rigo is not really big for bantamweight and he might struggle against less-talented, but larger, fighters.

    There's also the matter of Rigondeaux's age. At 33, he does not have all the time in the world left to develop his career.

Mikey Garcia

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    A two-division champion at 26, undefeated Mikey Garcia has a good start for becoming Floyd Mayweather's heir. So far, he's knocked out 28 of 34 opponents. His percentage would likely drop if he climbs in weight, but the added belts will make up for it.

    The best first step for Garcia to climb to the top of the rankings is to fight a unification bout with fellow unbeaten super featherweight champion Takashi Uchiyama. That's a fight that would make perfect sense for Macau.

    I feel it's inevitable that Garcia will add a title at lightweight. But to stake a true claim to pound-for-pound supremacy, he'd likely need to become a four-division champ at 140 and beat another couple of major stars in the process.

Terence Crawford

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    Terence Crawford only really broke onto the boxing scene in a major way this year, so it might be a bit premature to start talking about him as Floyd Mayweather's most likely heir apparent. Then again, the performances he's turned in this year make him a leading candidate for Fighter of the Year.

    Mayweather probably won't retire for another couple of years and if Crawford continues to turn in campaigns like this year, he might be in place to take the mantle.

    Crawford captured his title in Scotland last March when he beat Ricky Burns in front of Burns' hometown crowd. It's always a sign that a young contender is legit when he can win a title on the road like that.

    Crawford made his first defense in his own hometown, turning in a stellar performance to stop previously unbeaten Yuriorkis Gamboa. Gamboa was viewed as a top pound-for-pound talent in his own right by many observers.

    So Crawford is clearly rising with a bullet. If he continues to collect these kind of wins as he moves up in weight, he could be "the guy" in a couple more years.

Danny Garcia

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    Danny Garcia struggled with Mauricio Herrera last March in Puerto Rico, escaping with a majority decision. And he's received a lot of justified criticism for taking a fight with unranked lightweight Rod Salka, scheduled for this weekend. So his stock is at a bit of a low point at the moment.

    But any undefeated young champion who has compiled the record Garcia has belongs in this conversation. The WBC and WBA light welterweight champion has locked down his division about as tightly as possible in today's era.

    He not only unified the two belts he holds, but he also handled red-hot Lucas Matthysse when the Argentine gunslinger was coming off a three-round, non-title destruction of IBF champ Lamont Peterson.

    If Garcia can move up to full welterweight and continue knocking off top fighters the way he has at 140, he'll be in the running to be the man to replace Mayweather.

Keith Thurman

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    Keith Thurman is a very long way from top pound-for-pound status right now. He's a long way from the top 10.

    But if you assume Floyd Mayweather will hold onto his status for another two years or so, Thurman has plenty of time to move up. And the welterweight division is full of the sort of fights that a pound-for-pound career is built upon.

    Thurman is a big puncher with a great amateur background. He's shown very good ring intelligence so far, making very good adjustments to earn knockouts over tough, second-tier fighters like Diego Chaves and Jesus Soto Karass.

    There will be a lot at stake for Thurman in the next two years. He needs to make sure he's landing the kind of fights that will elevate him by levels each time out. And then he needs to make sure he wins those fights.

    But if things line up perfectly for him, Thurman could be waiting to take over when Mayweather steps aside.

Shawn Porter

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    Undefeated IBF welterweight champion Shawn Porter is in a similar position to Keith Thurman. He's going to need a lot of things to line up just right for him in the next couple of years if he's going to have a chance to take over for Floyd Mayweather.

    But, like Thurman, Porter is in a spot where he can make those things happen.

    He's actually ahead of Thurman right now. His title-winning victory over Devon Alexander last December was a coming-out party. Alexander is a talented two-division champion in his own right, but Porter's victory was decisive.

    Porter looked even better in April, when he defended against cagey veteran Paulie Malignaggi. I wasn't surprised to see Porter win. I was a bit surprised to see him blow through "The Magic Man" in four rounds.

    Malignaggi has never been a world-beater, but he's a tough and talented boxer known for having a good chin. Nobody's ever walked through him like Porter did.

    Next up for Porter is a title defense against unbeaten Brit Kell Brook. I expect Porter to roll once more. In the next couple of years, he should have the chance to win the fights that can elevate him to the very top of the sport.

Saul Alvarez

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    Saul Alvarez's popularity has always surpassed his actual resume. But Canelo deserves credit for doing everything he can to make his resume catch up.

    Canelo was completely aced by Floyd Mayweather on my card last September. But Mayweather aside, Alvarez has been the top light middleweight in the sport for the past two years.

    And twice now, he's gone out of his way to fight the other best fighter in the division, facing Austin Trout last year and Erislandy Lara last month. The year before last, he was scheduled to face Paul Williams, before Williams' tragic motorcycle accident.

    Alvarez seeks out the kind of fights that would be necessary to achieve true pound-for-pound status. I wouldn't be shocked to see him jump to middleweight next year to face Gennady Golovkin, a guy very few fighters have wanted to face.

    I don't think he'd win that fight and I don't ultimately think Canelo will ever be the sport's top pound-for-pound fighter. But I do think he'll make an honest effort for it. And that should provide the fans with some big moments in the next few years.  

Gennady Golovkin

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    WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin has spent the past two years developing into one of the most popular fighters in the sport. When you are 30-0 with 27 KOs and you've stopped 17 straight, the fans are going to rally to you.

    But to climb to the very top of the pound-for-pound rankings, GGG is going to need to beat some bigger names. And ultimately, he's probably going to have to climb up to super middleweight.

    If Golovkin can manage to move up from 160 to 168 in the next two years and collect victories over stars like Carl Froch and Andre Ward, he'll have the best case of anybody to become the sport's new pound-for-pound king.

    That's a very big "if," of course. But it's hardly out of the question.

Andre Ward

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    Undefeated super middleweight champion Andre Ward is the reigning heir apparent to Floyd Mayweather's pound-for-pound crown. Thanks to the Showtime Super Six Tournament, Ward was able to thoroughly clean out his division years ago.

    The top fighters ranked below Ward at 168 are still mostly fighters Ward beat easily from 2009-2011.  

    The biggest thing standing in Ward's way at this point is a lack of activity in recent years. He desperately needs Gennady Golovkin to move up and challenge him. If he beats Golovkin, he should move up to light heavyweight.

    Nobody can question Ward's credentials or talent. But at 30, his career is struggling to keep momentum.