I’ve never been much of a pound-for-pound list guy. Until recently I never placed any stock in those lists because they serve no real purpose. Everyone has their own personal thoughts as to what constitutes the best pound-for-pound fighters. The only thing I was ever absolutely certain of was that Sugar Ray Robinson was – and still is — the greatest combination of elite boxing, speed, power-punching, movement and toughness packaged into one fighter. The pound-for-pound moniker was coined for him and I believe the greatest pound-for-pound fighters should mostly emulate him.
Who are the most complete and versatile combatants in boxing today? Taking it a step further, who has the most unsolvable style and fewest vulnerabilities? Again, the term pound-for-pound was created to signify the brilliance of Robinson who during his prime had no known weakness in the ring. To me that means interpreting who is really the most complete fighter and makes the fewest mistakes……not who captures the most titles in 4-5 pound increments. If jumping up in weight was the standard bearer, then Michael Spinks and Roy Jones are truly the best ever. In one move up they defeated a defending champ who weighed 50 pounds more than any opponent they had ever faced, respectively Larry Holmes and John Ruiz….roughly going from featherweight to light heavyweight per the scale
Quality of opposition also plays a factor. For example, Andre Ward’s resume is marginally stronger than Terence Crawford’s, but does it offset the difference separating them regarding who is more complete in the ring? I say Crawford’s more complete repertoire edges him past Ward, but have no issue with anyone who ranks Ward above Crawford.
Below are the fighters I believe to be the most stylistically well-rounded and most formidable. For comparison purposes, I show where they rank in The Ring magazine’s updated top-10 pound-for-pound list.
1.-Terence Crawford 31-0, 22 KOs (the WBC, WBO and The Ring junior welterweight champ)
(The Ring magazine #4)
If I were fighting, Crawford is the last fighter I’d want standing in the other corner. Why do I say that?……Because what’s my plan of attack? Unless I’m truly a special fighter, exactly where do I try to take him to exploit his weakness?
Crawford is long and rangy with the ability to throw every punch in the book and has the ability to process what the opponent is doing faster than any fighter in boxing with the exception of Guillermo Rigondeaux. If you attack and go after him, he’ll hit you from unconventional angles and counter you while you’re reloading and searching for an answer. He’s murder on the inside and if you think you can draw him to you looking for the counter, good luck. He can attack and defend fighting right or left handed and also hit with power from either side. He’s physically strong and he punches hard because he gets great leverage and accuracy on his shots. No matter how hard you fight and go after him, he always has another gear for separation. So far he’s shown that when you buzz him, which has been rare, he raises his game. And don’t get him mad because in the ring he’s a mean cat. He is the complete fighter and has a strong resume.
2.-Andre Ward 32-0, 16 KOs (undisputed WBA/IBF/WBO and The Ring light heavyweight champion)
(The Ring Magazine #1)
Ward shares many of Crawford’s special traits as a fighter. He’s meaner and mentally tougher than he projects and his will to win is undeniable. Since his pro debut Ward has shown that he can handle any style opponent and along with that he’s fundamentally sound, which complicates attacking him. Ward also doesn’t omit any part of his opponent, attacking the head and body with equal efficiency. He uses his left jab to the body both offensively and defensively and to buy time on those rare occasions when he is searching for a solution to what the opponent is doing. When watching Ward in the ring he never stays with the same strategy or punch sequence which makes him so difficult to go all out after……and when he finds something that’s working, he does it in a way that’s not obvious, thus making it tougher for his opponent to figure it out and adjust to. And, similar to Bernard Hopkins, Andre has a black belt in straying from the rules and doing underhanded things to give him an advantage. As a puncher Ward isn’t near what I would consider a life-taker, but as we saw against Sergey Kovalev during both fights, Sergey was selective when he chose to become bold. Ward is one of the most versatile fighters of this era and has compiled a great resume fighting everyone who was considered a threat to knock him off of his lofty perch.
3.-Guillermo Rigondeaux 17-0, 11 KOs (WBA super bantamweight champ)
(The Ring magazine #6)
Rigondeaux is often overlooked because of his size and lack of challengers who represented a real threat to him. He is by far the most efficient fighter in the world, never wasting a motion. He gets leverage with every shot he throws and can lead with either hand even though he’s a southpaw. He’s mastered manipulating his opponents into going where he wants them three steps or moves before he gets there. Also, he can fight as the aggressor to set up traps and counters, and is at home letting the other guy lead, even though he’s really steering the action where he wants it to go. He hits hard enough so that, once he’s landed, most of his opponents decide they’ll just let him win a decision. And perhaps most impressive is his punch placement….with each shot setting up the next. With the exception of Vasyl Lomachenko, he has the best footwork in boxing. He’s on balance whether on offense or defense. And because of that, along with his sense of distance, he’s nearly impossible to hit with a clean shot. His resume could be deeper, but there is simply nobody around close to his weight who can give him a good go. The fact that he’s most likely going to fight Vasyl Lomachenko tells you everything regarding how terrific he is, because Vasyl is too big for him, but not too skilled. The problem for Rigondeaux is that he has no other good options and is crowding 40 years old.
4.-Mikey Garcia 37-0, 30 KOs (WBC lightweight champ and WBC Diamond junior welterweight champ)
(The Ring magazine #9)
If there is one fighter in boxing that you’d have a beginner study – just so he could see how things look when they’re done the way they are supposed to be done in regards to fundamentals and structure — Mikey Garcia is the one you’d have him watch. Garcia holds his hands high and pursues behind a high guard with his elbows tucked in. His punches are usually short and concise and very accurate. Like those previously mentioned, he is efficient and everything he does is done with a purpose. What sets him apart is the way he uses half steps to work his way in and out, thus he’s always in position to punch without having to reset. This drove his last opponent, Adrien Broner, crazy. Another thing he does that goes unmentioned is that he routinely makes his opponents miss by centimeters instead of by a wide margin, which leaves him in an ideal position to counter and make them pay. The effect in the Broner fight was that Adrien either threw too many shots and became predictable or was more judicious offensively, which enabled Garcia to re-assert himself…..and Broner became another in a long line who were bewildered by Mikey Garcia. Fighting between 126 and 135, Garcia’s right hand and left hook clearly have finishing power, something I’m not sure applies above 135. Because of his fundamentals, unparalleled gauging of distance, and intuition when it comes to timing, Garcia can adapt to most any opponent regardless of style. Mikey has compiled a terrific resume and if he were to beat Vasyl Lomachenko, most would rank him as the number one pound-for-pound fighter in boxing.
Quick thoughts on some of the others in The Ring magazine’s top-10
Gennady Golovkin (2) is simply too one-dimensional and like most attackers has shown that when forced back, he’s not nearly as dangerous. The first fighter he met who used the entire ring and fought on the move, namely Daniel Jacobs, gave him a fit. The next day many observers were asking if GGG became old overnight. Golovkin is a terrific two-handed puncher and a slightly better boxer than given credit for, but he’s too power-reliant to be considered totally complete at the highest level.
Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (3) is fun to watch because he’s one of the best offensive fighters in boxing. It was tough to omit him from the above list. However, as we saw in his last fight against Wisaksil Wangek, as good as Gonzalez is at finding the opening and getting into position to attack, he’s not the same fighter if he can’t force his opponent to fight in retreat. If his physicality and volume punching isn’t overwhelming his opposition he is a little one-dimensional.
Vasyl Lomachenko (5) has the best footwork in boxing and he’s difficult to get a read on inside the ring because he’s so unconventional, so fast, and is a southpaw. So far he breezes the eye test, but I’m sorry, he’s won only nine of his 10 pro fights. I tire of the excuse that the loss came in only his second pro bout. If he is supposedly the most accomplished fighter ever after only 10 bouts, then the second one counts. Lomachenko is on the right trajectory; he just needs to beat a pound-for-pound guy to justify the hype and the stir he’s created. He has plenty of opposition in front of him that he’ll most likely meet to strengthen his case and if he were to beat Mikey Garcia when he gets to lightweight, he’d vault to the top of the list, and some foolishly might even consider him the pound-for-pound GOAT.
Canelo Alvarez (8) is a fighter who needs things lined up and set to be effective. When forced to pick his feet up and turn, he’s much less effective. Miguel Cotto, who’s not a mover, got up on his bicycle and moved for much of his fight against Alvarez and really never had a close call during the bout. Cotto was out-gunned when he slowed, but while circling and jabbing he profoundly reduced Canelo’s effectiveness as the terrific counter puncher that he is. And the same applied when Canelo fought Amir Khan, only he knew he’d only need to catch Khan cleanly once or twice to knock him out, so he never panicked. But he looked terrible through most of the fight. Alvarez, like Golovkin, is very one-dimensional and that makes their upcoming confrontation so intriguing.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
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