A Fresh Four Kings - Plus Conclusive Blows on Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather Jr, Antonio Tarver and More!
By JD Camacho (Jan 6, 2010) DoghouseBoxing  
By the end of this year, the boxing landscape may witness something not seen since the decade that brought the wider world the music video and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

According to esteemed boxing historian George Kimball (and any fight fan who grew up in the 1980s), the hall-of-fame quartet of Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns, and Roberto Duran established a golden age of boxing some 25 years ago. These four rulers of the ring stood above most of their other peers, and against each other they engaged in a rousing series of pugilistic coups.

Now consider the following: If Floyd Mayweather fights Manny Pacquiao in March, and Ricky Hatton battles Juan Manuel Marquez in May as rumored, the modern boxing world may see its own version of the Four Kings. Just as their 80s counterparts did, each fighter would have fought every other in the group at least once.

Some may cry foul at this point and claim that Ricky Hatton doesn’t deserve any mention alongside greats like Leonard and Duran, or even his conquerors Mayweather and Pacquiao. Other of the more curmudgeonly persuasion may state that no one – not just Hatton, but NO ONE – of the current foursome warrants a place among the quartet of the past.

Indeed, if all-time rankings are taken into account, the 80s royalty’s average ranking may come out to around 20th. The present group? Ricky Hatton’s non-register among the Top 100 fighters of all-time throws the average all haywire.

But before you label the label preposterous, mull over what the original Four Kings really meant to boxing. The exploits of the 80s were, in large part, about the best fighting the best and about that same wider world mentioned earlier caring about the sport, if only for a night.

Are these four fighters the best of the generation? Certainly, an argument can be made for Mayweather and Pacquiao, while the other two may fall short. After all, this generation also houses such names as Joe Calzaghe and Bernard Hopkins. But the 1980s were not the exclusive domain of the Four Kings, either, when names like Holmes and Tyson and Spinks and Pryor and Arguello also made the rounds in the mainstream and in the history books. And from a competitive standpoint, the current set carries an impressive record against the field. If Mayweather fights Pacquiao, the combined record of the four at the time Mayweather fought them all would add up to 183-7-3. Leonard and company’s combined record against the rest, at the time Leonard first met each? A comparable 198-4-2.

Did these modern fighters bring mainstream attention and make the greater sports scene care about boxing? Absolutely. Popular ESPN writer Bill Simmons covered Mayweather-Hatton as a fan, and wrote, “that boxing still has life.” Some sports outlets called the on-paper mismatch between Mayweather and Marquez a “super fight.” Pacquiao’s devastating knockout of Hatton became an Internet sensation. And the coverage of the potential Mayweather-Pacquiao showdown has flowed to media conduits all over the globe.

And what about the entertainment factor? Both Pacquiao-Marquez battles were Fight of the Year candidates, while Hatton’s dual stoppage losses were memorable in their own way.

With the controversy and intrigue surrounding the March fight, and with Hatton’s fanatical army swarming to say good-bye to its hero on Mexican Independence Weekend in May, both fights demand attention. If Mayweather-Pacquiao and Hatton-Marquez deliver on the excitement end, maybe more will see what these four fighters have meant to this generation – and for boxing as a whole.


- The Fighter of the Decade is clearly Manny Pacquiao. He has defeated six hall-of-fame caliber opponents last decade, across four different weight classes. The only guy close to the Filipino-phenom on an accomplishments-scale is old man Hopkins. Unlike Hopkins, though, Pacquiao avenged his only loss last decade – twice…

- The Fight of the Decade? Corrales-Castillo I. It’s barely a discussion, the way I see it. And unlike the Gatti-Ward fights, this one was meaningful in the legacy-sense, too, with twin lightweight belts on the line…

- The Event of the Decade happened in June 2002, when Iron Mike Tyson finally met Lennox Lewis. If the 24/7 series was around for Tyson and Lewis, who knows how many more pay-per-views might have been sold – and how many more juicy quotes Tyson might have offered…

- Antonio Tarver inflicted the Knockout of the Decade on the once-invincible Roy Jones, Jr. Of course, stoppages like Pacquiao’s over the hapless Hatton may be prettier, but Jones’ loss sent shockwaves through not only the sports world, but the hip-hop world as well…

- The Trainer of the Decade became famous for building 80s king Thomas Hearns. Emmanuel Steward gets the nod for training the two dominant heavyweights of the past 15 years in Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko. Steward brought the two behemoths back from embarrassing KO losses and through all of their biggest fights…

- The Upset of the Decade saw perennial ham-and-egger Carlos Baldomir unseat perennial head-case Zab Judah in New York City. Those who believe that Baldomir was the worst welterweight champion in history, however, may have forgotten that Judah himself only held the title for eleven months – the same length of time as Baldomir’s ignoble reign…

- Thoughts on the recent controversy? In short: Blood sucks. Let’s mediate!

JD at: jdcamachorj@gmail.com

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