Let’s face it: pound-for-pound lists really mean next to nothing. Save for the fact they generate discussion and debate, they serve little purpose, yet remain popular. Why? It’s not hard to figure out. As weight divisions and championships have proliferated and the overall confusion has deepened, the pound-for-pound list appears to cut through the complexity and help us understand which boxers matter most.
But boxing is in such sad shape that recently even the vaunted pound-for-pound list has become a source of vexation. For three solid years or more, the only drama attached to these lists has been who deserves to be number 1, Manny or Floyd. That people believe the top spot is between only two fighters reflects the thinking that a pound-for-pound list is primarily about the question of who-beats-who if they were the same size and weight, as opposed to the question of who of late has been most impressive in facing the best opposition available. If we use the latter criteria, Mayweather and Pacquiao can’t possibly occupy the top position. Except for the Marquez fight, which he deserved to lose, Pacquiao has faced a series of boxers with virtually no chance of defeating him. Meanwhile Floyd’s ring appearances are about as frequent as lunar eclipses.
So if Mayweather and Pacquiao don’t deserve to be ranked number one pound-for-pound, who does? And who else deserves more recognition than they’re currently receiving? To answer these burning questions, we offer our first pound-for-pound list. It’s a list that differs significantly from most, but we think that’s to its credit.
A couple of omissions may raise a few eyebrows. No, you won’t find the name “Klitschko” on this list. Why? Because neither of the brothers has faced anything resembling a genuine threat in several years. Not entirely their fault, but still, we can’t give high ranking to boxers on the basis of a complete lack of serious competition. No “Hopkins” either. We are of the opinion that Bernard’s performances against Jean Pascal, while unquestionably impressive for a 46-year-old boxer, had as much to do with Pascal’s ineptness as The Executioner’s abilities at this advanced stage. In fact, we’re a bit mystified as to how Bernard keeps showing up near the top of these lists. Hopkins is relatively inactive and has been getting by more on guts, guile and gumption than the ability to beat outright truly world-class competition. We fearlessly predict a Chad Dawson victory on April 28th.
And so, without further preamble, our Top 10, pound-for-pound, for February, 2012:
1. Andre Ward: Without a doubt, Ward deserves the top spot at this time. Over the last couple of years or so, he has faced more elite fighters than just about anyone else and has bested them with relative ease. Say what you like, but Carl Froch, Arthur Abraham, and Mikkel Kessler are all former world champions who established themselves as among the very best in their respective divisions.
2. Juan Manuel Marquez: Unlike most observers, we choose to give full credit to Marquez for his masterful performance against Manny Pacquiao this past November, which means high standing in the pound-for-pound rankings. A 9 to 1 underdog, Marquez demonstrated his ring genius by neutralizing the boxer who most regarded as the finest offensive force in the sport. Mayweather is now seen as the favourite to defeat Pacquiao should they ever meet, but people forget that this has less to do with anything Pretty Boy has done and more with what Marquez accomplished in his last fight.
3. Sergio Martinez: No matter what any sanctioning organization says, Martinez is rightly regarded as the best middleweight in the world. And he got to that spot the hard way, defeating two boxers widely considered to be superior to him at the time he faced them, Kelly Pavlik and Paul Williams. He’s a fighting champion, as his agreeing to face Matthew Macklin this coming March demonstrates, and while he has to be past his prime at 36 years of age, he’s shown no sign of losing his winning touch.
4. Nonito Donaire: “The Filipino Flash” has stayed active and been content to take on some very stiff competition. Wins over quality opponents such as Raul Martinez, Hernan Marquez and Wilfredo Vazquez count for a lot, as does the fact he has been dominant and impressive in all his recent victories.
5. Manny Pacquiao: The Pacman obviously deserves to be on this list, but the truth is he hasn’t thrilled us with his unique talents for some time. While he looked sharp against Margarito, his last genuinely impressive performance was a stoppage of Miguel Cotto back in 2009. He receives no credit from us for a dreary waltz against a washed-up Mosley, or the gift decision victory he took from Marquez. Inactivity and constant distractions outside the ring appear to be using up what’s left of Pacquiao’s prime. Unless he returns to form against Bradley, expect him to possibly fall further on this list in the future.
6. Floyd Mayweather Jr.: Resting on his laurels for the last three years or more, Mayweather’s inactivity has to be factored in when deciding his standing, as well as the fact he hasn’t seriously risked his precious undefeated record since his superfight with De La Hoya more than four years ago. Hatton was made to order; Marquez was simply outmatched physically; Mosley was several years removed from his prime, and no one gave Ortiz a serious chance. To be the best pound-for-pound you need to be active, and you need to on occasion face someone who actually has a chance of defeating you.
7. Anselmo Moreno: “El Fantasma” is a boxer who promises to make repeated appearances on these kinds of lists for several years to come. Slick and intelligent, with excellent counter punching ability, Panama’s Moreno won the WBA bantamweight title back in 2008 but has toiled in obscurity until quite recently. His masterful domination of Vic Darchinyan this past December showed a mature, confident and courageous boxer with a truly impressive skill set.
8. Miguel Cotto: “Junito” has rebounded nicely after the drubbing he took from Pacquiao, winning another title against Yuri Foreman, giving the fans an exciting showdown against Ricardo Mayorga, and avenging his defeat to Antonio Margarito in impressive fashion. We give him points for staying active and looking sharp in his most recent efforts.
9. Pongsaklek Wongjongkam: As far as we’re concerned, consistency and activity are virtues to be taken very seriously. Flyweight Wongjongkam first won a world title all the way back in 2001. Since then he’s lost only one fight. In 2011 he scored seven wins, three of them title defenses. ‘Nuff said.
10. Lucian Bute: Bute doesn’t get a whole lot of respect outside of his adopted home of Quebec, Canada, but the fact is he’s put together a long run of wins, most of them dominant, and has emerged as one of the top technicians in the sport. His combination of sharp boxing skills and impressive punching power make him a very dangerous proposition. A proposed bout with Froch will be a major event, but we’re really looking forward to a showdown with Ward.