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Examining the Pound for Pound: Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather JR or Other?

By Daniel “Tex” Cohen

We, as people, require categories to live our lives.  Americans tend to divide into Democrats and Republicans.  The weather outside may range through a theoretically infinite number of degrees, but we still generalize with the terms “hot” and “cold.”

So too does this happen in Boxing.  Obviously, the Pound for Pound concept has a tremendous amount of flaws.  Yet we still cling to the concept with the clinginess of a college girlfriend. 

For all of our belief that we can pinpoint truth in a list or a diagram, our lists and categories often fail.  If models and lists were perfect, the banking collapse would have been foreseeable.  Sometimes, intuition and guts are the key to pinpointing who should belong at the top of the food chain and why. 

This is not to say that the Pound for Pound List is utterly subjective, as a few of my colleagues have claimed.  Rather, Pound for Pound lists are supposed to capture the ten best fighters in the world based on specific criteria.  Those criteria can change, but they have to be based on whatever is BEST.  Pound for Pound lists are NOT about stylistic preferences.  Preference is for the car you drive, the city you live in, and the career you choose.  Being the “best” is not a preference. 

To that end, I have a very, VERY hard time seeing how ANYONE can discount Manny Pacquiao as the Pound for Pound Champion of the world.  Emotions often run high when it comes to sports (especially Boxing), but Manny’s resume is the real deal, a long list of hurt game beatings against an awfully tough motley crew of fisticuff artists. 

That said, I understand that I’m not immune to emotions, either.  I can lose my cool, blow my top, or get down on anyone just like everyone else in the world.  And if that’s the case, there is a possibility that I am (GASP!) wrong. 

Rather than peg a Pound for Pound winner on a weekly basis, it might make more sense for us to understand the Pound for Pound mindset.  To start that little investigation, I draw your attention to the unofficially dominant Pound for Pound list at the legendary Ring Magazine:

1. Manny Pacquiao

2.Floyd Mayweather, JR

3.Shane Mosley

4.Juan Manuel Marquez

5.Nonito Donaire

6.Bernard Hopkins

7.Miguel Cotto

8.Chad Dawson

9.Paul Williams

10.Celestino Caballero

My initial reaction to the Ring list is that it seems to take a comprehensive approach to the rankings.  While the list is mostly grizzled veterans who have earned their dues in the fight game, there are a few exceptions overall.  The list also excludes anyone who weighs less than a lightweight. 

The major criticism to be made of the Ring List (aside from the absence of little men) is that it inflates Nonito Donaire.  I happen to like Donaire, but a top five Pound for Pound slot is a hard case to make.  If Floyd Mayweather, JR., were designing the list, we all know he would want Donaire off the chart because of his solitary loss. 

In fact, Mayweather’s list might look something like this:

1.Floyd Mayweather, JR

2.Ivan Calderon

3.Timothy Bradley

4.Chad Dawson

5.Andre Berto

6.Devon Alexander

7.Andre Ward

8.Carl Froch

9.Yuri Foreman

10.Vanes Martirosyan

Ok, I exaggerated a bit there.  However, that joke of a list tells you several important pieces of information.  First of all, the top of the list has some pretty good fighters that might b getting served a raw deal.  Second, an undefeated record only goes so far when the victories have come against weak opposition.  Those ten fighters might be the ten best undefeated boxers in the whole world, but the makeup of the chart is rather unorthodox.  Most of those fighters box, but they don’t box the same.  We have a few jabbers, a few defensive specialists, a volume puncher or two, and a couple of all –around finishers. 

The problem with focusing on defeat counts can run intellectually deep.  Anyone who knows anything about Boxing realizes that level of opposition is as important or more important than record in determining greatness and status.  Boxing is a sport of moments.  A black swan greatly affects the dynamic of a body of work.  Undefeated club fighters are usually destroyed when they finally fight someone worthy of recognition. 

If we were making P4P List based on level of opposition, we might get something like this:

1.Manny Pacquiao

2.Miguel Cotto

3.Kelly Pavlik

4.Timothy Bradley

5.Paul Williams

6.Vic Darchinyan

7.Juan Manuel Marquez

8.Shane Mosley

9.Antonio Margarito

10.Joshua Clottey

I don’t like that list at first look.  I think those are tremendous fighters and are all certainly top 25-50 in the world today, but there are some very important names left off the list and some fighters that appear to have gotten far too much credit.  As much as I like Kelly Pavlik, he’s not higher than Shane Mosley. 

Then again, shouldn’t a guy get credit for going through packs like this at high speeds? 

Mosley hasn’t fought in thirteen months.  We haven’t seen Mayweather since September.  To give you an idea of how significant that is, Ali Funeka has had three fights since the beginning of last year, while Mayweather and Mosley have had one apiece.  Vitali Klitschko has gotten in three bouts. 

Here’s a list for those that prefer consistent, significant victories over legitimate opposition:

1. Juan Manuel Lopez

2.Andre Ward

3.Tomasz Adamek

4.Robert Guerrero

5.Wladimir Klitschko

6.Vitali Klitschko

7.Jean Pascal

8.Yuriorkas Gamboa

9.Vanes Martirosyan

10.Kermit Cintron

Some of those guys don’t even belong on the list.  Most of the elite fighters in the world take two very important fights in a given year, not three or four.  In spite of that, you can still see some top notch fighters heading up the list.  We can also see what separates “good” from “great.”  Also, we are beginning to see a picture of fringe P4P contenders and why they achieve such a status. 

What is not surprising is that these lists tend to focus on balance fight plans rather than power-heavy ones.  There are barely any brutes on any of the lists.  You might find that strange if you think knockouts are the name of the game, but they’re not.  Overall dominance is the important view of Pound for Pounders. 

If mathematical power (knockouts) were the main consideration for a P4P List, here’s what we would get:

1.Vitali Klitschko

2.Wladimir Klitschko

3.David Haye

4.Edwin Valero

5.Shane Mosley

6.Marcos Maidana

7.Yuriorkas Gamboa

8.Israel Vazquez

9.Arthur Abraham

10.Antonio Margarito

Some, of course have suspicions about where Antonio Margarito get his power, but that’s a story for a different article.

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