Floyd Mayweather Jr. reigns supreme as the acknowledged best fighter in the world of professional boxing. But during the last seven months a number of contests took place to change the dynamics of the pro game for all other elite fighters.
Losses by Erik Morales, Antonio Tarver, and Juan Manuel Marquez have caused many to rearrange their pound-for-pound listings. Near losses by Marco Antonio Barrera, Jermain Taylor, and James Toney have also made some pause. Then there was the failure of Mexico’s Jose Luis Castillo to make weight during a big third showdown with Diego Corrales that further shook up the standings.
The return of Oscar De La Hoya last May in his momentous victory over Ricardo Mayorga caused some to rethink his status. Should he choose to accept a challenge with Mayweather on May 2007, that could have major implications for boxing. The East Los Angeles fighter at one time was considered the best boxer pound-for-pound in the world but lost to Felix Trinidad in a bad decision in 1999. He never attained that ranking again as the best fighter in the world but was ranked by many in the top 20. Does he deserve to be there again despite an almost two-year absence?
Any pound-for-pound listing is subjective. There are no definite selections even at the top. But here is this writer’s selection for July 2006:
1. Floyd Mayweather Jr. (36-0, 24 KOs) – Born into boxing, Mayweather’s considerable boxing pedigree vaulted him to the top of the boxing world. With speed, cunning and defensive skills that supercede most opponents, the son of De La Hoya’s trainer desperately seeks a match with the Golden Boy. Though Mayweather captured the IBF welterweight title against Zab Judah, many consider that win to be against a junior welterweight. Not a true 147-pound fighter. If Mayweather fights De La Hoya he won’t be fighting a 5-7 tall southpaw with equal height. He’s hit the glass ceiling in my opinion.
2. Winky Wright (50-3-1, 25 KOs) – Wright’s ability to fight undisputed middleweight champion Jermain Taylor on equal terms for 12 rounds certifies his remarkable ability. After beating Felix Trinidad a year ago, then struggling a bit with Australia’s Sam Soliman, the Florida-based southpaw boxer extraordinaire showed the world he could match Taylor’s raw strength and athletic ability with his honed boxing arsenal. Some felt Wright won the fight last month. A rematch seems inevitable.
3. Manny Pacquiao (42-3-2, 33 KOs) – After beating Mexico’s Oscar “Chololo” Larios this past weekend despite a lack of training, Pac-Man proved his mettle. Last January he knocked out longtime champion Erik “El Terrible” Morales. It was the Mexican’s first loss by knockout. Pac-Man avenged his earlier loss to the Tijuana boxer by shifting to another level. The left-handed power puncher is one of the best boxers in the world today. A third match with Morales awaits, or a second with Marco Antonio Barrera. Either way Pac-Man wins.
4. Bernard Hopkins (47-4-1, 32 KOs) – The Philadelphia boxer known as the Executioner was a 3-1 underdog against light heavyweight world champion Antonio Tarver. Hopkins proceeded to dominate the bigger man with a display of tactics and energy that proved he’s still one of the best fighters today. Now he’s retiring as one of the all-time greats. Pretty good for a 41-year-old. The question for EX, is he a first ballot Hall of Fame inductee? This writer says yes.
5. Marco Antonio Barrera (62-4, 42 KOs) – For 18 years the Mexico City boxer has graced the ring with his ability to win by ring smarts or raw power. Barrera, 32, edged out a win over Rocky Juarez last May but took some licks he normally didn’t take in the past. It’s time for the Baby-Faced Assassin to call it a career before one of the young guns beat him to the draw. Barrera’s had a magnificent career and captured world titles as a junior featherweight, featherweight and junior lightweight.
6. Jermain Taylor (25-0-1, 17 KOs) – Though he only earned a draw against Winky Wright last month, Taylor, 27, proved he’s one of the most naturally-gifted fighters in the world. He not only survived Wright, but also endured 24 total rounds with Bernard Hopkins who now has the light heavyweight crown. Taylor will get better every time. He’s a natural fighter who relies on strength, athletic ability and determination. Once he adds more skill and experience, he could be virtually unbeatable.
7. Diego Corrales (40-3, 33 KOs) – The tall and lanky lightweight was hours away from a third decisive match with Jose Luis Castillo in the ring, but ended up winning it on the scales. Chico has the power in either hand to move up one or two weight divisions. Corrales, 28, reminds some of Tommy “The Hitman” Hearns with his combination of speed and power. He’s also one of the good guys of the sport. Fans love the lightweight world champion.
8. James Toney (69-4-3, 43 KOs) – Lights Out Toney is scheduled to meet Samuel “Nigerian Nightmare” Peter in a heavyweight showdown on Sept. 2 in Los Angeles. The pair will be fighting for Toney’s IBA title and for a shot at the WBC belt. Toney remains the most skillful heavyweight fighter in the world. People forget he began as a middleweight and now plies his trade against opponents almost a foot taller. He’s one of the greats. Enjoy him while he’s still fighting.
9. Rafael Marquez (35-3, 31 KOs) – The Mexico City fighter is a precise boxer-puncher who knocks out opponents with science. Marquez, 31, is slowing down, but still maintains enough speed and power to win a tactical battle. A showdown with fellow Mexico City fighter Jhonny Gonzalez is in the works. But first he has a rematch next month with Silence Mabuza who he stopped in four rounds last November.
10. Joe Calzaghe (41-0, 31 KOs) – Because he’s held the little respected WBO super middleweight title, Calzaghe, 34, was given the same treatment. But then he bewildered and befuddled Jeff Lacy while taking away the IBF title last March. The pride of Wales is looking for a marquee opponent. Hopefully he fights someone in America. The super middleweight division is one of the richest in boxing. Mark my words.
11. Oscar De La Hoya (38-4, 30 KOs) – Most boxing fans felt De La Hoya’s days were over, especially at junior middleweight. But he returned and completely annihilated the fearsome Ricardo Mayorga by knocking out a fighter known for being able to take a punch. De La Hoya still has the power and speed to battle with anyone. But will he return or retire? We’ll see. Millions of dollars are at stake for the boxing world. Once again the Golden Boy holds the keys.
12. Shane Mosley (42-4, 36 KOs) – When Pomona’s Sugar Shane Mosley signed to fight Fernando Vargas last February most questioned the ability of both fighters. What fans got was one of the most riveting bouts of the year by two boxers still capable of fighting at the elite level. If Mosley wins, he could face a number of great opponents including Floyd Mayweather Jr., Antonio Margarito or the winner between Arturo Gatti and Carlos Baldomir. Mosley, 34, still has plenty left in his legs.