Boxing is the most subjective sport in the world. The scoring, how we KEEP SCORE, kind of a major aspect of most athletic competitions, is entirely at the whim of whichever judge happens to have a pencil in his hand that night.
A fighter has two options: Knock his opponent the bleep out or risk having his night’s work graded by a person who may range from competent to corrupt to was that guy even awake?!?!
As viewers, we have different tastes and preferences for our fighters, some fans preferring straight-forward maulers, others nuanced defenders. Two people (even professional judges) can watch the exact same fight and come out with two entirely different opinions.
Naturally, one of the greatest debates in the sport is probably the most subjective of them all: the mythical Pound-for-Pound list, of which ascension to the top has become more prestigious than any alphabet trinket.
The most respected, and basically the official, list is the Ring Magazine top 10, which I will be dissecting and assessing. Pound-for-pound rankings are no easy task. You are comparing fighters from different weight classes, and ranking their merits based on their ideal fighting weight.
The current ranking is as follows:
1) Manny Pacquiao
3) Sergio Martinez
5) Juan Manuel Marquez
6) Pongsaklek Wonjongkam
7) Wladimir Klitschko
8) Timothy Bradley
9) Juan Manuel Lopez
10) Giovanni Segura
Pound-for-pound is a catchy phrase, but what does it mean? The fighter with the best recent body of work? The guy who would be most dominant in the ring tomorrow? At what point do we draw the line between what a fighter has done in the past and where he’s at in the present?
The hottest fighters in the world right now might be Sergio Martinez and Nonito Donaire. Meanwhile, Klitschko, Mayweather, Marquez, Pacquiao and Wonjongkam are all sure-fire Hall-of-Famers still competing at a high level. What weighs more into our consideration? The very nature of this list is so subjective it’s a bit ridiculous to attempt to debate it.
That said, here are my main areas of contention with Ring magazine's current line-up:
No. 2 FLOYD MAYWEATHER VS. No. 3 SERGIO MARTINEZ
As a general measuring stick of the 10 guys on the list and other prospective candidates, I focused in on the last three years of their career. This did not help the cause of Money Mayweather.
In that span, he has fought twice. His last fight was, of course, the complete whitewashing of Shane Mosley, still a top-ranked welterweight (and on many P4P lists) at the time. It was an impressive, mesmerizing, near-perfect performance that left little doubt about who was the best “pure” boxer in the world. That said, in three years, Floyd has given us two fights: Mosley and Marquez.
From the opening bell, Marquez was completely outgunned and overmatched. His heart was Floyd’s equal. Every other discernible physical advantage went to Mayweather. The difference in size played a heavy factor in the outcome.
While Mayweather virtually shut him out, which was all he could be expected to do, it was never a very competitive, threatening fight for Floyd, thus it earned him little respect, other than the classic great big man beating a great little man adage ringing true once again.
Floyd’s dismantling of Mosley was extremely impressive, but all things considered, having watched three fantastic performances by Sergio Martinez since Mayweather’s last fight, there’s no way I can still grant the inactive Floyd the second spot. He may be the most talented boxer in the world, but there’s no offseason in boxing. Other guys are fighting. Floyd isn’t.
No. 4 NONITO DONAIRE VS. No. 5 JUAN MANUEL MARQUEZ
Donaire has been sizzling since emerging on the scene with a stunning knockout of Vic Darchinyan in 2007. He had a very solid 2010 campaign, toppling well-regarded contenders Volodymyr Sydorenko and Hernan Marquez (who just had an epic fight-of-the-year candidate last weekend with Luis Concepcion that is a must-peep).
In February, Donaire blazed through the stratosphere with a dazzling stoppage of fellow pound-for-pounder (around sixth or seventh at the time) Fernando Montiel. There is no denying, Donaire has the total package and his future is as bright as anyone in the sport. But should he really be ahead of Juan Manuel Marquez, who does nothing but fight the very best fighters in the world?
Personally, and in retrospect it seems obvious, Montiel may have been ranked a bit too high. All respect, but was he really the seventh best fighter in the world going into that fight? In truth, the lower weight classes don’t have the depth and overall talent that the higher classes, beginning with featherweight and particularly lightweight, can boast.
There’s more money in the higher weights, so smaller fighters have more incentive to fight at 126, at least. I’m not diminishing what Donaire accomplished or the resume of Montiel, who had been on a dominant run for years leading up to the Donaire fight. I’m merely suggesting that Marquez cleaning out the lightweight division is more impressive.
Nonito Donaire at 118 lbs is as dominant a force as any fighter at this list at their ideal weight class. But obviously, that is not the only factor. For the past three to five years, Marquez has been successful fighting a much higher class of opposition. In that regard, it’s not even close.
No. 6 PONGSAKLEK WONJONGKAM VS. No. 7 WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO
This is a curious case. Over the past five years, Wonjongkam boasts a spectacular record of 13-0. Upon closer examination, eight of those wins were against opponents either in their debuts or with losing records. Of those 13 fights, he basically had two significant wins, a victory over rated contender Julio Cesar Miranda, and a decision last year over then-undefeated Koki Kameda.
The Kameda fight was mostly a technical boxing match, and Kameda suffered a gash from an accidental head-butt in the middle rounds. The surprising win for Wonjongkam gave him back the 112 lb WBC championship belt, a belt he had defended 17 times before losing it to Daisuke Naito in 2007.
Therein lies the problem. Naito is Wonjongkam's greatest rival. He is still the No. 1 contender at 112 lbs. They have fought four times. The last time Wonjongkam beat Naito was 2005, in their second meeting. In the third fight, Naito took the belt,and in the fourth they fought to a draw.
Wonjongkam certainly deserves the nod as the best in his division, he rightfully won that honor from Koki Kameda. Over the last decade, he’s been one of the most dominant fighters in ANY division. But, based on recent performance and level of opposition, does he currently belong on the pound-for-pound list?
Not in my opinion, no. Again, maybe I’m biased against the lower weight classes. But facing his greatest rival in the division, in their last two fights, he lost and drew.
Speaking of weight classes with diminishing respect, how about the most storied division in boxing? The decline of the heavyweight division is not Wladimir Klitschko’s fault. In recent years, he has destroyed everyone put in front of him, generally young, touted, ranked contenders with glittering records. Wladimir has ruthlessly beaten down every single one of them.
He never had a great rival like Naito to challenge him…I suppose that would have been his brother, and that will never happen.
Every other challenger that has stepped to the plate in recent history has gotten blown away. And I expect the same fate to befall Sir David Haye this summer.
Wladimir unequivocally belongs on this list.
No. 8 TIMOTHY BRADLEY & No. 10 GIOVANNI SEGURA VS. MIGUEL COTTO & BERNARD HOPKINS
Timothy Bradley is a fighter you just want to root for. He comes across as a genuinely good guy, with a fierce determination to succeed. His exuberant shriek when they announced him the winner against Alexander was a great moment of pure happiness, a young guy euphoric after winning the biggest fight of his life.
It didn’t matter how ugly the circumstance. Bradley was the clear victor, and rightfully basked in the moment. He’s been in the ring with good fighters the last few years and emerged with a flawless record.
But does he have a defining moment, a signature win? The Alexander fight was supposed to be that. Bradley got the win but the nature of the fight didn’t earn him any fans. Amir Khan awaits, and the perception seems to be shifting toward Khan as the favorite.
I think this is the fight where the winner really earns pound-for-pound status, and Bradley has a lot of work to do to make that happen for him. As of now, in my opinion, he falls short of the top 10.
Giovanni Segura is undeniably a beast at 108 lbs. He twice bested the long-reigning king of the division Ivan Calderon. And he did it in a fan-friendly, aggressive (almost to the point of reckless) style. Segura stalked and swung, showering Calderon with a barrage of body shots until the champion had seen enough, falling helplessly to a knee as if to say ‘no mas’.
Segura proved himself the class of the division, and looks to move up to 112 for his next fight. Segura is, in my mind, a more worthy consideration for the P4P top 10 than Bradley or Wonjongkam, based on recent activity and domination of the best at his weight. But there are other candidates that I find more deserving.
Miguel Cotto has been a long-time mainstay on the pound-for-pound lists. Cotto is the fighter Segura bumped out of the 10th spot when he joined the list. Segura did accomplish what no one else at his weight ever could, taking out the undefeated and often untouchable Calderon by way of decisive stoppage. But Cotto has been fighting on the world-class level for years, in one of the toughest divisions in the sport.
Cotto has two losses, the questionable (possibly illegal) beating at the hands of Antonio Margarito and a rough loss in what started as a very competitive fight to the supposed best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, Manny Pacquiao.
On the comeback trail, he thoroughly outclassed Yuri Foreman and Ricardo Mayorga. That and what he’s accomplished in the past speaks much louder to me than Timothy Bradley’s recent run of Devon Alexander, Luis Abregu and Lamont Peterson.
In December, Bernard Hopkins showed he still had something left in the tank, and put on a boxing clinic for the ages against Ring Magazine’s Light-Heavyweight Champion, Jean Pascal.
Unfortunately for Bernard, he was down (but unhurt) twice in the early rounds and he ended up walking away with a semi-controversial draw. Prior to that, beating the aged Roy Jones was more depressing than impressive, but schooling then-undefeated middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik, even at an advantageous 170 lb catch-weight, was a masterpiece.
Strictly from the eye test, Hopkins showed against Pascal that he still has the overall skill set to compete at the highest level. Pascal is not a pushover. He out-boxed Adrian Diaconu twice and embarrassed Chad Dawson. Over the last eight rounds in December, Bernard Hopkins took him to school.
Looking at a guy like Giovanni Segura, with tremendous heart but little finesse, or a guy like Tim Bradley, who opens up a lot in the middle, I think a Bernard Hopkins at their weight would eat them alive. Not the Hopkins of 10 years ago either, the 45-year old “Grandpa” who was in the ring against Pascal.
No. 9 JUAN MANUEL LOPEZ VS. YURIORKIS GAMBOA
This article is waaaaaaay too long. Let’s just say that both of these guys are on an absolute tear and Gamboa was amazing against Solis. I think they both belong.
MY PERSONAL P4P TOP 10
1) Manny Pacquiao
He’s been too good in the past for me to hold semi-unworthy opponents Margarito and Mosley against him.
2) Sergio Martinez
I’m riding the hot hand…this man is on an EPIC run.
3) Floyd Mayweather
We all know how good Floyd is. I’m not doing anything crazy like bouncing him off the list. But 'Money' needs to get back in the ring ASAP.
4) Juan Manuel Marquez
A true warrior in the ring, in every sense of the word. One of the best boxers of his generation.
5) Nonito Donaire
Incomparable physical gifts at his weight have led to a path of destruction. He won’t find a challenging matchup until Featherweight.
6) Wladimir Klitschko
The heavyweight champion of the world has taken out every recent contender in dominant fashion, and I look for that trend to continue.
7) Miguel Cotto
There’s part of me that suspects Cotto will never be as good as he once was, and part of me that wants to believe he can be. For now, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. All I can say is there are fighters currently on the Ring Magazine list who will never be as good as Cotto was at his peak. If he can get any of that back, he will once again be a force to be reckoned with.
8) Yuriorkis Gamboa
Explosive things sometimes come in small packages. This brilliant showman is a true force of speed, power, and athleticism with a flair for the dramatic. A showdown with Lopez is fast becoming one of the most anticipated matchups the sport can offer.
9) Bernard Hopkins
Maybe this is blind loyalty to B-Hop but I was truly impressed with how he broke down Pascal in the latter half of that fight. Bernard is a master, and he’s been fighting the best for over a decade and shows no sign of letting up.
10) Juan Manuel Lopez
One of the most exciting fighters in the sport. So far, he's passed all of his tests with flying colors.