'The Great Debate': A Look At Boxings Pound For Pound Candidates (Mayweather, Pacquiao, Hopkins, Cotto, Etc)

Floyd Mayweather Jr.By Vivek Wallace: For years, many around the sport have debated the mythical Pound for Pound topic. Sadly, in an era of boxing where money is the 'squeaky wheel' that commands the 'oil' of attention, unfortunately this entitlement has become somewhat diminished because those that typically deserve this billet haven't always consistently taken the fights that show us why they have it.

The overall landscape of the sport has taken on a very scripted position lately which has caused it to lose a bit of its texture, leading some to think the Pound for Pound billet is more fame-based than talent-based. How much credibility that argument holds is questionable when you consider fighters like Roy Jones Jr., who has amazing talent, yet has never been a box office smash, and still managed to hold the status.

When it all boils down, it can be argued that the Pound for Pound billet entails a little of both perspectives. Both talent and fame. If it were simply about the fame alone, despite a horrible ring record lately, Oscar Dela Hoya is still easily one of the biggest draws in the sport, yet his name is nowhere in contention. The flip side of this argument is when you consider talent alone, Winky Wright is by far one of the most talented of our era, yet his name rarely comes up.

Rather than trying to understand the chemistry behind the Pound for Pound equation, today we take a look at a few fighters who categorically entrench themselves right in the middle of the topic. The order you choose to put them in when it's all said and done is where the 'Great Debate' begins.....


Floyd Mayweather Jr (39-0, 25KO's): In the words of boxing greatS Sugar Ray Leonard and the Bernard Hopkins, this is easily "the most gifted fighter of this era" when observing from a total package standpoint. Blazing hand speed, cat-like reflexes, unparalleled footwork, and probably one of the best in-fight strategist to ever lace up a pair. 6-time World Champion in 5 different weight divisions, blah, blah, blah. The accolades go on for days and we've heard them all before. No doubt, when considering his ring accomplishments and the pure talent level of this guy, it's hard not to place him at the very top of this list. The downside argument to Mayweather Jr. lately is the fact that he has appears more interested in making money than defending his straps, leading skeptics to openly queston his heart as he sidesteps the Miguel Cotto's of the world, while reinventing drama to revisit the mega-money associated with the Dela Hoya's and Hatton's of the world. My take on the issue is that although I don't like the delay in welterweight elimination, there's no way to deny his God-given talent. Some see Cotto and a few others as threats, but until Floyd is dethroned, there's no way you can take away from what he's done. Nobody knows what the future holds, but Mayweather currently holds the greatest argument among active fighters for P4P consideration in this era.

Manny Pacquiao (46-3-2, 35KO's): Of all the men in this pound for pound debate, this is probably the one I like to watch fight the most. His fiery heart paired with a lack of true defensive skills put him in position to make for a great fight every time because he will get hit, but he won't ever be deterred, and rarely will you ever see him hurt. If every fighter came into the ring with Pacquiao's passion and spirit, the sport would resemble the flames often displayed on his fighting trunks. The downside to making Pacman a true leader in the P4P argument is the fact that his overall skills simply doesn't matchup to that of the Mayweathers in the boxing world. His defense in particular allows him to take one too many shots, which earlier in his career led to KO losses at the hands of two far less known talents (Torrecampo and Singsurat). To his credit, those losses were in a lower (and probably tougher to meet) weight class, and only one loss has come ever since. That was at the hands of the legendary Erik Morales. The book on Pacquiao is still open with entries unwritten, but if we're judging by pure talent, it's safe to say he doesn't solidify himself as "The Man" either. But only his future actions and time will tell.

Bernard Hopkins (48-4-1, 32KO's): From a pure talent standpoint most could reasonably argue that Hopkins isn't a total package either, but his veteran skill level and his ability to outexecute opponents in the ring make him a close second to Mayweather in my book. Many can argue that the resume of Hopkins is loaded with fighters he beat that weren't in their natural weights, but that argument loses much of its steam when you consider that this is a sport where the great ones have found success from one weight to another with great regularity, it just hasn't happened against him to this point. Oscar Dela Hoya wasn't always a light middleweight or a welter but that didn't stop him from making noise in those divisions. Roy Jones Jr. was never a heavyweight at all, but that didn't stop him from going north to make history. James Toney and a few others have also made the leap with success as well. Bottomline, each of the men Hopkins faced - from Trinidad, to Dela Hoya, to Winky Wright, etc - all posed legitimate threats and were defeated by the better boxer in Bernard Hopkins. And considering that less than two years ago he went to the Light Heavyweight division for the first time and defeated Antonio Tarver in a very humbling fashion only adds more credibility to his argument. Relative to a potential downside to B-Hop, once upon a time I would say it was his non-fan-friendly style, but after watching him take the fight to Tarver and Wright the way he did, that argument flatlines fast. If Hopkins can find a way to humble Calzaghe I don't think that you can place anyone before him in this argument, to include the man he stated as the best of this era, Floyd 'Money' Mayweather.

Joe Calzaghe (44-0, 32KO's): The UK's Joe Calzaghe is a fighter whose relevance has suddenly become very strong on a global level in recent years. Destroying every man put before him in England, this masterful pugilist has now set his eyes on the prize, which equates to one of the better fighters to ever come along in middleweight history - Bernard Hopkins. The attributes that makes Calzaghe great is not only his work-rate, but his heart. Aside from his heart, Calzaghe's fierce will to win and remain dominant is what makes him a threat to any foe in the ring. The downside argument to Joe Calzaghe is the fact that his reign as a dominating force hasn't really crossed paths with true legendary fighters of this era who could test him on that 'other' level. Aside from Eubank - (which was some 11 years ago) - Mikkel Kessler was the stiffest competition to stand opposite Calzaghe in recent times. Hard to pin any true hopes on a claim that Calzaghe is a legitimate Pound 4 Pound leader, but a victory over Hopkins would go a long way.

Miguel Cotto (31-0, 25KO's): Fairly new to the argument, and still unmentioned in the minds of some, this is a fighter whose heart and determination, combined with an undefeated record puts him in contention, even if only from an honorable mention standpoint. For such a quiet figure, few carry the fierce nature of the young Miguel Cotto. His close, yet secured victory over future Hall 0f Famer Shane Mosley solidified his status as a figure in this argument. If there is a true downside to Cotto's argument as a P4P rep., it has more to do with his resume which aside from Shane Mosley, boasts no true legendary fighters. Most of his other opponents were "B" level opponents on the brink of greatness, but if Joe Calzaghe makes this discussion, you can easily argue that Cotto has faced a higher stature of opposition, as most of his opponents were at least well known threats. Within the remainder of this calendar year, the sport will get an exact idea how relevant Cotto is in this argument, as he squares off against the Cintron/Margarito winner later in the fall. If he wins his currently scheduled matches, he will then get to truly gauge his ability against the man who currently leads the P4P argument, Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Best of The Rest: If the requirement for this list was narrowed down to 10, aside from the 5 aforementioned, I think middleweight Kelly Pavlik (33-0, 29KO's), heavyweight Wladimir Klitschko (50-3, 44KO's), super featherweight Joan Guzman (28-0, 17KO's), middleweight Winky Wright (51-4, 25KO's) and middleweight Jermain Taylor (27-2-1, 17KO's) would conclude the list. Pavlik - An incredible fighter on the rise with fist of steel, has proven his mettle against formidable opponents Edison Miranda and Jermain Taylor. The sky is the limit for him if he remains focused. Klitschko - perhaps the most flawed of all mentioned - is still a very solid pugilist and with a few tweaks could be the man to carry the heavyweight mantle for quite some time. Joan Guzman - rarely discussed in this topic, but extremely gifted and a thorough talent. Winky Wright - perhaps the most talented defensive fighter of this era, and feather fist aside, is a complete package with a highly underrated jab. Jermain Taylor - Not as fundamentally sound as some would like, but brings heart and labors at all cost to make it happen.

Among all the men mentioned in this article, each one makes a very strong case as the sports mythical Pound for Pound Champ. For anyone who thinks this is an easy topic to decipher, consider the fact that the last man mentioned (Jermain Taylor) has twice defeated the man - who according to most charts - is at the head of the line (Bernard Hopkins). There's no more telling stat than the one just mentioned, and between those two guys there are 8 others with a talent to be viewed and a case to be heard. With that in mind I pose the question to my readers......Who do you like?

(Got Feedback or Questions, write ESB's Vivek Wallace at, or show some love at

(Check out Wednesday's "Left-Hook Lounge" Q&A Mailbag session as I place my 'earz to the streetz' and talk Boxing with the some of the sports biggest fans).

Article posted on 25.03.2008

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