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Doghouse Boxing's: Pound For Pound Best In Boxing

Jan 9, 2004: By Alex Pierpaoli

First let’s establish that the idea of pound-for-pound is already discriminating against fighters of smaller stature. The idea is that the heavyweight champ is not only the baddest of the baddest, he’s also the baddest of the biggest. Anyone less than two hundred pounds cannot hope to fight and defeat him. Now that’s not really a derogatory thing it’s more of a physics thing. The heavyweight champion, theoretically and mythically, is the fighter who can lick any man in the house, crush every Kong, slay every Godzilla. For example, if Floyd Mayweather and Lennox Lewis were to fight each other it might take a bit for Lennox, an in shape Lennox, to catch Pretty Boy Floyd, but when he did what he would do to him would be criminal.

The Pound-For-Pound list, and the honor making it bestows, is second only to the greatest prize in sports, the Heavyweight Championship. That’s a fact men who cannot get any larger just have to accept. It’s why DeNiro makes Joe Pesci hit him with all his might as Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull when he’s upset that he’ll never be able to face heavyweight king, Joe Louis. Heavyweights are a different sort of animal and they aren’t allowed on the pound-for-pound list.

The Pound-For-Pound ratings measure everyone under heavyweight using their fighting skills, techniques, ability to remain champion for extended periods in a single weight class, and to move up and down in weight class while beating the best of the respective divisions. Those are the requirements to make the list and when you get to the top spots the relative difference between the exceptional men in the top 3 or 4 is almost imperceptible. But it’s also what makes this stuff so much fun to argue about.

1: Bernard Hopkins- Shame on anyone who removed Nard from the top spot after his objectionable defense against under qualified Morrade Hakkar. Hopkins 12 round beating of William Joppy was systematic and beautiful in its relentless inevitability and it cemented the Executioner’s position at number one on this list. Short chopping punches on the inside from Hopkins punished the second best 160 pounder on earth and hard lead right hands from the outside left Joppy with few options, save for swelling and bruising. With the win Hopkins proves his 39 years of age are a non-issue and he will continue dominating the division until he sees fit to retire. In light of Roy Jones’ recent performance against Antonio Tarver, should Jones and Hopkins ever meet again at a weight south of 180 pounds Hopkins will bust Jones up in a tactical and brutal fight the Pensacola native couldn’t imagine. Don’t expect De La Hoya to fight him anytime soon either.

2: Floyd Mayweather Jr-one of the most dominant in-ring performances this year was Mayweather’s victory over Phillip N`dou. Mayweather fought masterfully using his shoulders and torso to deflect and absorb punches while he placed seismic counter punches all over N`dou and stopped the durable South African in 7 one-sided rounds. As brutal as Hopkins victory over Joppy was, Mayweather’s effort against N`dou was equally as impressive for its display of fistic expertise. Mayweather is sure to be moving up from the lightweight division in `04 and has said he wants De La Hoya all the way up at 154.

3: Roy Jones Jr—he looked about as good as ever and as BIG as ever in March while having his way with WBA Heavyweight Titlist John Ruiz. In the fourth it looked as though Roy would actually knock Ruiz out, it was no longer a question of whether or not he could. By the year’s end Jones went back down to light heavyweight to take on Florida rival and his professional successor, Antonio Tarver. He rallied in the later rounds to secure a victory and win back his precious belts but he took more punches than ever before and was visibly dehydrated from the self imposed change in phenotype.

4: Kostya Tszyu-Although he fought only once in 2003, the Australian junior welter added another legendary name to his record with his TKO victory over Jesse James Leija in February. Looking slow and vulnerable early on, Tszyu began to breakdown San Antonio’s Leija in typical fashion, showing why, when he is in shape and focused, he is one of the most dangerous punchers in the sport with underrated boxing skills galore. Next month Tszyu faces Sharmba Mitchell in a rematch of their February 2001 bout and if Tszyu is not in great shape look for the streaking and much improved Mitchell to outbox him over the distance.

5: James Toney—even though he’s now a heavyweight this bad ass started his career as a middleweight and within the last twelve months he became the all-too-rare unified champion. In beating Vassily Jirov, Toney beat an undefeated champ who had held and defended the title frequently and impressively for three years. After his title winning effort Toney moved to heavyweight and took on the perennially top ranked Evander Holyfield and joined Riddick Bowe in the prestigious club of just two men who have stopped The Real Deal. With a potential rematch with Roy Jones a lingering possibility should his Royness accept, Toney has the chance to erase one of the few blemishes on his Hall of Fame career.

6: Sugar Shane Mosley- Started 2003 with a February no contest against Raul Marquez and just when a spectacular victory was needed to invigorate his career, Mosley beat the Golden Boy by unanimous decision in September. Had it not been for the pro-DeLaHoya spin HBO put on the PPV broadcast more of the public would have realized the fight wasn’t as close as Jim, Harold, George, Larry, and the folks at Compubox made it seem. With the victory, Mosley’s new promoter Gary Shaw made sure his star junior middleweight did the promotional rounds that were lacking after his 2000 victory over DeLaHoya. From an appearance on the Jimmy Kimmel show, a guest spot on James Caan’s Las Vegas, to sounding the opening bell at the NY Stock Exchange, the 21st century Sugar was enjoying a sweet autumn until he was named as a witness in a grand jury indictment of a West Coast supplement company rumored to be producing and supplying illegal performance enhancing drugs. No charges were filed and no allegations were made against Mosley but his name did appear on a list of athlete clients of the company being investigated, though Mosley’s camp reported that only nutritional supplements were purchased. Should Mosley face and defeat IBF Junior Middleweight king Winky Wright in March, the Sugarman will restore much of his pre-Forrest luster.

7: Manny Pacquiao- Despite his young career, any fighter capable of man-handling one of the top five best fighters on earth the way Pacquiao did to Barrera deserves to be recognized as a significant accomplishment. In a talent rich division, the sky is the limit for the upstart Filipino who is likely to face J.M.Marquez, Paulie Ayala or Barrera in a rematch by the end of 2004 and we will see if his stay in the Pound-4-Pound list is only a temporary one.

8: Erik Morales- El Terrible made three ring appearances in 2003, and was done before round five in all of them. Most recently he crushed Guty Espadas in their rematch and made it difficult to believe that their first meeting was even close. Morales faces Jesus Chavez next month in what is likely to be a thrilling fight with major implications at 130 pounds. Whoever emerges from that match-up would make an amazing foil for Joel Casamayor.

9: Oscar DeLaHoya-So what he entered the most important fight of the year with a half-assed strategy that would have only worked wonders in the Golden Gloves or at the finals in Barcelona all over again, he still showed that he can box his ass off. He has a lot more heart than many detractors give him credit for. There were body shots in round eleven of his fight with Mosley that had Goldie in more trouble than he’s ever been in as a pro and he sucked it up like a champion. Yes, he should have kept his mouth shut at the post fight press conference and let his promoter roll around in the dreck by himself, but emotions were running high and Goldie knows that Vegas is supposed to be his town.

10: Joel Casamayor- Started the year off with a close decision win over Nate Campbell, which this writer felt he lost. By year’s end the Cuban southpaw left little doubt who the power broker is at 130. A rematch with Diego Corrales is doubtful to end in any other way than their October meeting did, but in March we will see Casamayor-Corrales 2. No complaints here, the first fight was almost as thrilling as it was an impressive exhibition by the Cuban defector. Casamayor looked so good in defeating Corrales it seems likely he’ll be the only one left standing if a unification tournament is staged at 130 pounds.

Fighters that are one big win away from being pound-for-pound material: Rafael Marquez, Juan Manuel Marquez, Antonio Tarver, Juan Lazcano, Sharmba Mitchell, and Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson

Alex Pierpaoli has been obsessed with the Sweet Science for the past 18 years and is both a fan and a writer. He has a degree in English from the University of Maine. Send comments or questions to:

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