By Derek Bilton
Before his recent Super Six final clash with Carl Froch, and despite coasting through the tournament unbeaten, few boxing pundits were giving Andre Ward any 'pound-for-pound' props.
However, so dominant was the Oakland native's display against Ward in Atlantic City recently he's abolsutely impossible to ignore now as a 'pound-for-pound' force.
The 'Son of God' is 25-0 (13) and now reigns as WBC and WBA champion in a super-middleweight division crammed with talent.
Unlike say Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather, who have been feasting on smaller fighters or asking bigger men to boil down to meet them at catchweight, Ward has taken on the very best at 168lbs and looked a million dollars.
He was criticised for not taking his show on the road and having all his Super Six fights prior to the final in his native California. He was also questioned for not having had his chin checked by an elite puncher.
But in beating Froch, a legitimate world-class operator with power in both hands, and doing it outside of his home state, he has answered his critics.
Ward, of course, is the last American fighter to win an Olympic gold medal (back in Athens in 2004). It's also heavily reported that he has not lost a fight since the age of 14 (or 12, depending on who you believe).
His amateur record was a spell-binding 114-5 and now he is showing his full potential in the pro ranks. 'Pound-for-pound' ratings are uber-subjective. Some prefer fighters who lay it all on the line and are regularly involved in fistic mayhem (see Pacqiuao) while others love to watch pure boxers showcase their skills and beat the best around with minimal fuss (see Mayweather).
However, if the art of boxing is still to hit and not get hit then Ward has to figure fairly high on any self-respecting P4P list. He is a brilliant defensive fighter who has respectable if not deadly KO power.
The mark of a true 'P4P' great is someone who can go in against the best in the world and make it all look so easy. Ward has done this now against the likes of Froch and Mikkel Kessler, two of the best super-middles out there.
Plenty of US scribes, high on Ward's clinical dissection of 'The Cobra', are happy to declare that is now the second best fighter on the planet after ignoring him for much of his career to date. I wouldn't go as far as that but I definitely think he deserves a berth inside the top five after bamboozling Froch at the Boardwalk Hall.
Elsewhere on the 'pound-for-pound' beat this month, Miguel Cotto gained spectacular revenge on Antonio Margarito by issuing a beatdown of his own on the controversial Mexican in New York.
It was Margarito, of course, who snapped Cotto's unbeaten record as a pro in 2008 but that win was tainted after he was later exposed as a glove cheat. Everything was on the level when they met on December 3 and this time Margarito couldn't live with the Caguas puncher, who took great delight in shellacking the 'Tijuana Tornado' for roughly half an hour before the Mexican was pulled out with a damaged eye.
The win more or less ensures that Cotto will end up in the Hall of Fame but at 31 there seems to be plenty of life in the old dog yet and another mouthwatering Puerto Rico v Mexico clash has been mooted for 2012 with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr set to test himself against 'Junito'.
It's as you were elsewhere on the list, with Amir Khan clinging to the number 10 spot even though he lost in a huge upset to Lamont Peterson recently.
It was a classic encounter, and while you could make a case for Timothy Bradley replacing him on the list, the cold fact is Bradley has been ducking Khan over the past 12 months and, but for the scoring controversy in DC, Khan might still be IBF and WBA light-welterweight champion.
Derek Bilton covers boxing for PA Sport.
Tags: Andre Ward