By Lyle Fitzsimmons
If legitimate news/opinion about football, baseball, basketball or hockey is what you’re after, the “traditional” media outlets and a handful of new-generation online sources are rock-solid choices.
But when it comes to boxing, it’s a modern-day wild, wild west.
Just a few seconds of cyber globe-spanning can elicit news with myriad degrees of reliability, opinion with myriad degrees of sanity and overall material with myriad degrees of value.
The wide range of content out there is a testament to the new normal, where anyone with a functioning keyboard and steady Internet access can apply for a credential and call himself/herself a journalist.
A common denominator of all strata is the pound-for-pound list.
Whether the writer has been out there for hours or years – and whether his/her site traffic is measured in the dozens per week or the thousands per day – it seems every wannabe Red Smith believes he/she has got the chops to assemble a top 10 list worthwhile for human consumption.
So naturally, after doing all this snooping around, I got to feeling left out.
Though I’ve been writing 1,000 or so words in this space every Tuesday morning for more than half a decade, it occurred to me that I’ve never decided to take myself seriously enough to let you all know which guys I think warrant inclusion among the best of the best.
No more, friends. No more. Rather than doing some interviews, watching some fights and coming up with a coherent concept for this week’s Tuesday installment, I’m punching my ego card and joining the cool – read: actual legwork and journalistic due diligence optional – crowd.
Without further ado… the P4P gospel, according to me:
10a. Sergio Martinez: The consensus best middleweight in the world since he dethroned Kelly Pavlik nearly four years ago, the multi-faceted Argentine seems to be facing the same chronic injury issues that plague millions of guys in their late 30s who don’t get punched in the mouth for a living. Still, while a showdown with Gennady Golovkin might very well result in his demise, he gets the final spot for the time being as commendation for a career’s worth of ring time well spent.
10. Bernard Hopkins: Speaking of old dudes, there’s the fighter once known as “The Executioner” and more recently labeled as “The Alien.” But unlike his fellow member of the “I was a middleweight champion” and “I beat Kelly Pavlik” clubs, it seems – even at the ridiculous age of 48 years, 357 days (Happy Early Birthday, Bernard) – that Hopkins has at least a smidge more to offer these days than Martinez. His foes in 2013 were 31 and 30, respectively, and he might have lost six rounds, combined.
9. Carl Froch: OK, I’m human just like everyone else. You have your favorites and I have mine. And I’ll concede Froch is one of the guys I simply cannot miss when it comes his time to fight. Most of it is because he never fails to be entertaining, and, yes, some of it is because he’s got the hottest Baby Momma of any athlete I can recall in any sport. Either way, I’d have had him a lot higher on this list the day before his fight with George Groves, which was a colossal disappointment, even in victory.
8. Manny Pacquiao: Sorry, PacMan haters, just when you thought you’d rid yourselves of the Filipino who’s been the championship scourge of seven divisions, he’s right back (almost) where it seems he’s always been. Though more than a few were predicting his post-Marquez freefall would continue courtesy of Brandon Rios, that minority could scarcely have been more wrong. Instead, Pacquiao won nearly every second of every round and set himself up for a rematch with another familiar foe.
7. Danny Garcia: Seems like only yesterday when the Showtime cameras cut to ringside after Lucas Matthysse blitzkrieged Lamont Peterson, and instantly the world determined that the reigning and unbeaten two-belted king of the 140-pounders – hiding conspicuously behind a pair of Ernest Borgnine-sized specs – was downright terrified at the prospect of getting it on with “The Machine.” Until, that is, he did a number on said machine with the whole world watching in September.
6. Guillermo Rigondeaux: It was springtime in New York, and boxing opinion-givers of all levels of competence were shouting their love for Nonito Donaire. He was the BWAA’s fighter of the year. He hadn’t lost since George W. Bush’s first 60 days in office. And he provided excitement that made said scribes get all tingly inside. Then, poof… he got his ears boxed off by a Cuban interloper, and all they could come up for his conqueror with was a collective “Meh.” Too bad for them, this guy’s special.
5. Mikey Garcia: Ask me who’s the best fighter in boxing aged 26 or younger, and I’ll say it’s Mikey Garcia. Ask me who’s the best fighter in boxing who weighs less than 147 pounds, and I’ll say it’s Mikey Garcia. Ask me who on this list today is the closest thing to a lead-pipe cinch to be on it if we revisit five years from now, and I’ll say it’s Mikey Garcia. Get the point? He’s got everything you need in a great fighter, and he’s not nearly done with belt acquisition. Lightweights, beware.
4. Timothy Bradley: Funny how styles come and go. Just 12 months ago, a suggestion that Pacquiao’s dubious 2012 conqueror was worthy of a P4P spot this high would have drawn laughter and scorn from website smart-alecks and wise-cracking bloggers proselytizing in basements across the country. Now, there’d be just as many claiming his placing at No. 4 isn’t showing enough respect. If all is right with the boxing world, he’ll get another crack at Manny this year. And it says here he’s 2-0 when it’s done.
3. Wladimir Klitschko: Gentlemen, start your dissents. Despite the fact that he’s held two of his title belts since 2006, beaten nine guys since who’ve had a championship of their own at one time or another and has beaten at least one highly-rated contender twice, the consensus opinion of the 6-foot-6 Ukrainian with the best nickname since Mario “Bucket of Blood” Chavez is that of a trumped-up kingpin of a mediocre division. I disagree. To me, he’s the fifth-best heavyweight since Clay beat Liston.
2. Andre Ward: I’m not the tallest, shortest, thinnest or fattest member of the BWAA, but I will defend to the death my status as the first guy on the Ward bandwagon. I chatted him up before he fought Jerson Ravelo, traveled to the Cayman Islands – joined only by Tim Smith on press row, as I recall – to see him win that ShoBox main event and was one of a tiny minority that picked him to beat Mikkel Kessler to win his first super middleweight gold in 2009. Everyone knows it now, but I was first.
1. Floyd Mayweather Jr.: The drama was enhanced by counting down instead of counting up, wasn’t it? OK, I guess not. Sorry, there’s not a whole lot of mystery these days when it comes to the best in the world. He’s got titles in five weight classes, has beaten more fighters at their ideal weights than any of his list-topping rivals – Corrales, Castillo, Gatti, Mosley, De La Hoya, Alvarez – and is as close to his peak at age 36 as any fighter of any recent vintage. Barring divine intervention, the 0 ain’t going anywhere.
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
No fights scheduled.
Last week’s picks: 1-0
2014 picks record: 1-0 (100 percent)
Overall picks record: 549-194 (73.9 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA “world championships” are only included if no “super champion” exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.