Now and Then (Part II): The Welterweights

Sean MorehouseCorrespondent IJanuary 27, 2010

LAS VEGAS - NOVEMBER 14:  (R-L) Manny Pacquiao throws a right to the head of Miguel Cotto during their WBO welterweight title fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on November 14, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

(This is the second article in a series comparing top ranked current fighters to the top all-time fighters in their weight class.  Rankings are taken from the computer ratings.)


The welterweight division is currently the hottest in boxing.  With the two biggest names in Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, not to mention living legend Shane Mosley, there are plenty of super-fights to be made.

The division also has a rich history, however.  Mosely isn't the first "Sugar" to display his sweet style at welterweight—Leonard and Robinson both held titles in the division.

The man who claims the top spot in the computer rankings is not necessarily a household name, but was an amazing boxer.  Today's matchup puts him in the ring with the people's champ, Pacquiao.


Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao (50-3-2, 38 KO) vs. Jose "Mantequilla" Napoles (81-7-0, 55 KO)

If you aren't a hardcore boxing fan, you may not be too familiar with Napoles, and I myself had to do a little more research into his career than I normally would to talk about an all-time great.

Napoles' career had just begun to take off in Cuba when Castro outlawed professional boxing.  He responded by becoming one of the first of many great Cuban fighters to defect to pursue their careers, landing in Mexico.

Moving up from lightweight, he won the welterweight title in 1969 and was Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year.

Trained by the great Angelo Dundee, Napoles managed to win the title back after a loss Billy Backus, and defend it a very impressive 13 times.

His style in the ring is often described as "timeless" or "classic" because he truly was a complete fighter.  He had skill, power, speed, athletic ability, and heart.  Sadly, many have suspected that his problems with alcohol prevented him from reaching even greater heights.

In Pacquiao, however, he would be facing a very unique challenge.  Very few fighters have every displayed Manny's relentless tenacity on offense, and very few of his opponents have been able to withstand it.

I see the fight as a real barn-burner: Manny attacking and scoring, Napoles using his excellent counter-punching ability to retaliate (if Pacquiao does have a weakness, many would say its leaving himself open to counter shots) and doing damage as well.

Both men are hurt at different times: Napoles badly later in the fight as Pacquiao's non-stop energy starts to break him down.  "Mantequilla" shows the will to see it through to the end, but loses a decision to the current champ.

Is Napoles actually the "greatest" welterweight ever? Most would probably say no.  What I love about the computer rankings used at BoxRec though is that they take out the opinion and rhetoric, and rank everybody on the same criteria: Who you fought and who you beat.

Because of this, you find often that less glamorous names like Jose Napoles can be ranked ahead of someone like Ray Leonard.  While I don't know if I would go so far as to say I think Napoles was better, after I spent some time looking back at what he did, I think its hard to say he doesn't deserve his top spot.