03.08.04 – By Matthew Hurley: It’s a question that gets banged around in boxing repeatedly. Whether it’s in historical terms or in our present day situation. Who is the best fighter in boxing, pound for pound? That mythical term was established primarily for Sugar Ray Robinson. Ever since he graced the ring Robinson was anointed by sports writers and fighters as legendary as Muhammad Ali as “pound for pound” the best fighter ever to lace on a pair of gloves. There are a few who came close, including Ali himself, Henry Armstrong and, if you believe talking heads like Max Kellerman, Roy Jones Jr. But for the majority of writers and indeed the public, many of whom may not have even seen films of his fights, Robinson remains number one.
The pound for pound entrant in the daily boxing world is often either overrated or simply bumped into the boxer’s dozen because he knocked off a previous member. Vernon Forrest was never mentioned as a pound for pound great until he beat Sugar Shane Mosley. Yet when Vernon lost to Ricardo Mayorga he disappeared. No one ranked Antonio Tarver very highly but he beats the purported best fighter in the world and we suddenly see him on some lists as high as number two or three.
How did a fighter, who was never thought of too highly (let’s be honest), leap frog over such mainstays as Kostya Tszu or Oscar De La Hoya on the basis of one rather good fight (his first against Jones) and one knockout? Doesn’t a wealth of experience and a record of title defenses against consistently tough opposition count for anything anymore?
Which brings us to Erik Morales. On the basis of his record, his style, his willingness to get in the ring with anyone and his almost unheard of desire to negate his natural abilities to decimate his opposition he, not Bernard Hopkins, not Floyd Mayweather Jr., should be ranked number one on this much debatable list. As far as this corner is concerned there is no fighter out there who deserves it more. Then how in the world could Manny Pacquiao, primarily on the basis of his knockout of Marco Antonio Barrera (who disappeared from the list after his loss to the Filipino), be rated above “El Terrible”?
It’s all subjective of course. Writers and fans enjoy and appreciate certain styles, as do judges (which accounts for some of the strange decisions we’ve seen ever since the Queensbury Rules). You like who you like and fight fans are some of the most passionate sports fans out there. Tell a fellow fan you’re a Roy Jones fan and chances are the person your talking to can’t stand the former “Superman” and a heated discussion on whether or not he’s great or simply overrated will ensue.
Which is why I’m comfortable rating Erik Morales number one on my list. The simple fact is, he doesn’t lose. He just keeps on winning and keeps on fighting the best fighters out there. Now, after beating a tough Carlos Hernandez to unify the junior lightweight title, Morales is brazenly calling out Mayweather – who is ten pounds above him. There is no fear in this little warrior from Tijuana. He loves to fight and his fights are consistently thrilling. That can’t be said for a Jones or a De La Hoya or a Hopkins. He brings everything to the table and leaves it all there by fights end. Sometimes he gets busted up, but when the bell rings at the end of the twelfth round his gloved hand is raised in victory. He simply doesn’t lose. (His record signals one loss, the rematch to Barrera, but a lot of people, myself included, think he won that fight.)
Morales is not as physically gifted as Roy Jones, not as marketable as Oscar De La Hoya and doesn’t have as many defenses as Bernard Hopkins, but what he holds over all of them is consistently exciting fights in which he emerges victorious. Take from that what you will and build your own list, but mine has “El Terrible” atop them all.