Using the ratings of the published issues of Ring Magazine, and the archived ratings of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (TBRB) since their debut in October 2012, and under the assumption they act as a reasonable gauge of the state of each of boxing’s seventeen weight divisions over the last decade, a select group of fighters was evaluated with two questions in mind:
- What fighters rated by Ring, TBRB, or both, did the men considered face?
- What were those opponents rated divisionally when they fought?
Things like being a future or former titlist don’t matter here, nor do title defenses. Those are important things to consider for many but this isn’t meant to be the last word on what makes a great run. It’s just one lens to look from based on the simple question of what would happen if we looked at just the two questions outlined.
With four belts per division, lineal crowns, Ring Magazine belts and more around to win, this is not a cumulative look at every fighter for the decade. Instead, a baseline was established by looking at the pound-for-pound ratings published by Ring Magazine in print form and then a review of the archived pound-for-pound ratings of the TBRB for any fighters who appeared on those lists but not Ring’s.
It left a pool of more than fifty fighters to consider; heavyweights Vitali Klitschko, Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury, and Deontay Wilder were also scored. Heavyweights often fall short of pound-for-pound consideration but represent the peak of the sport in literal terms. None of the three made the top twenty regardless.
For the Ring lists, because they represented the full ten years, a point system was used for each month printed. In the final part of this series, the results of that top twenty and how it was generated will be shared.
For this series, a different point system was tallied using the most recent ratings available in an issue of Ring or the most recent archived TBRB ratings prior to a fight. The rules worked like this:
Wins over rated opponents started at 11 points for a recognized champion (TBRB/Ring) down to one point for defeating a number ten contender. Draws got half credit. No points were given for a No Contest or No Decision but the result will be noted.
Losses to rated opponents were given an inverse score, beginning with -1 for a champion down to -11.
Losses to unrated opponents received a universal score of -12 (with some logical exceptions that will be explained when applied).
If there is a difference between a fighter’s Ring and TBRB rankings, the average of the two numbers was used (i.e. a win over a fighter rated second by one body and fifth by the other would be worth 3.5 pts).
If a fighter was rated by only Ring or TBRB, half credit was given for a win. A loss total would come from an average of -12 and the point loss that would apply to the rating that was in place.
Moves between weight classes were adjusted for by taking into consideration the body weight shift between weight classes. In other words, if a rated Jr. welterweight jumped up to beat a rated welterweight, the math would work like this: 147/140 multiplied by the divisional rating. It works in reverse for a win over a fighter from a fighter rated lower (i.e. 160/168 multiplied by the smaller man’s rating in his class). In an over the weight class fight, the divisions the men were rated in were used.
All divisions were treated equally based on the idea fighters can only face the men in their division while they are there and all point totals were applied based on official results.
5) Mikey Garcia - 52.78 Points
Record for the Decade: 20-1, 0 KO, 14 KO
Record Against Rated Opponents: 8-1
Rated Opponents in the 2010s: Tech. Dec. 8 Orlando Salido (Ring/TBRB #1 - 126), TKO4 Juan Manuel Lopez (Ring #10/TBRB #7 - 126), KO8 Roman Martinez (Ring #2/TBRB #4 - 130), UD12 Juan Carlos Burgos (Ring #5/TBRB #3 - 130), KO3 Dejan Zlaticanin (Ring #1/TBRB #3 - 135), UD12 Adrien Broner (Ring Unrated/TBRB #3 - 140), UD12 Sergey Lipinets (Ring #7/TBRB #2 -140), UD12 Robert Easter (Ring #3/TBRB #5), L12 Errol Spence (Ring/TBRB #1 - 147)
Part of a fighting family, Garcia competed successfully in the decade from featherweight to Jr. welterweight before he bit off more than he could chew at welterweight. Part of a fighting family that includes trainer and former Jr. lightweight titlist Roberto Garcia, fans in the 2010s got a look at his waning prospect days, move to contention, and what likely was the largest chunk of Mikey Garcia’s prime over the last ten years. His four knockdown performance of Salido snared him his first belt before a quick move to Jr. lightweight. Returning from a lengthy layoff, he resumed where he left off with titles at Jr. welterweight and a partial unification of lightweight. Garcia combined high ring IQ acquired through a lifetime around the game with devastating power.
Missing in the Numbers: Garcia could have had slightly more points for the win over Martinez but his failure to make weight in his fight prior, against Lopez, was factored in and it was not treated as a first fight in a new division. Like Ward one spot behind him, the biggest thing missing for Garcia is time. He missed two and a half years between 2014-16 in a contractual dispute, a critical time where he would likely have had openings to add another contender or three. In terms of opposition, we may have lost the window for a lightweight showdown with Vasyl Lomachenko. It was arguably the best lightweight fight that could have been made in the last two years of the decade.
4) Gennady Golovkin - 57.6 points
Record for the Decade: 22-1-1, 20 KO
Record Against Rated Opponents: 11-1-1
Rated Opponents in the 2010s: TKO5 Grzegorz Proksa (Ring #9 - 160), TKO7 Gabrial Rosado (Ring Unrated/TBRB #10 - 154), KO3 Matthew Macklin (Ring #5/TBRB #6 - 160), RTD8 Curtis Stevens (Ring #9/TBRB Unrated - 160), TKO3 Daniel Geale (Ring #2/TBRB #5 - 160), KO2 Marco Antonio Rubio (Ring #8/TBRB Unrated), TKO11 Martin Murray (Ring #6/TBRB #4 - 160), TKO8 David Lemieux (Ring/TBRB #4 - 160), TKO5 Kell Brook (Ring/TBRB #1 - 147), UD12 Daniel Jacobs (Ring/TBRB #2 - 160), D12 Saul Alvarez (Ring Champion/TBRB #2 -160), L12 Saul Alvarez (Ring/TBRB Unrated* - 160), UD12 Sergey Derevyanchenko (Ring #6/TBRB #3 - 160)
Only two accolades at middleweight have thus far escaped the grasp of the Kazakh knockout artist: the WBO belt and the lineal crown. Golovkin never had a chance at the former; there are still many who believe he earned the latter in his first battle with Saul Alvarez. While detractors pointed to a less than stellar middleweight class throughout his run, Golovkin faced a who’s who of the available top ten in much the same way Marvin Hagler and Bernard Hopkins did until the big names emerged. Golovkin carried on his wait with devastating authority, starting the decade with 18 straight knockouts and ultimately unifying three of the four major alphabet titles in the only division he’s ever called home.
Missing in the Numbers: As noted, some logical exceptions were applied to the deduction for unrated fighters for this list. Shinsuke Yamanaka, who ultimately did not make the top twenty, was one for his rematch with Luis Nery. The Alvarez-Golovkin rematch was another. Due to Alvarez’s failed tests for PEDs after the first fight, he was removed from both the Ring and TBRB ratings. However, heading into the rematch, both bodies declared they would recognize the winner as the genuine champion at 160. Therefore, Alvarez was treated here as a loss to a #2 contender. At various times in the decade, Golovkin failed to secure showdowns with lineal champions Sergio Martinez and Miguel Cotto, either of which could have added to his final tally if he’d won.
3) Terence Crawford - 57.78 Points
Record for the Decade: 26-0, 20 KO
Record Against Rated Opponents: 11-0
Rated Opponents in the 2010s: UD12 Ricky Burns (Ring/TBRB #3 - 135), TKO9 Yuriorkis Gamboa (Ring Unrated/TBRB #7 - 135), UD12 Ray Beltran (Ring/TBRB #2 - 135), TKO6 Thomas Dulorme (Ring/TBRB #9 - 140), TKO10 Dierry Jean (Ring #7/TBRB Unrated - 135), UD12 Viktor Postol (Ring/TBRB #1 - 140), TKO8 John Molina (Ring #8/TBRB #3 - 140), RTD10 Felix Diaz (Ring Unrated/TBRB #9 - 147), KO3 Julius Indongo (Ring #2/TBRB #1 - 140), TKO9 Jeff Horn (Ring #5/TBRB #4 - 147), TKO9 Egidijus Kavaliauskas (Ring #8/TBRB #10 - 147)
With alphabet titles in three weight classes, Ring and TBRB championships at lightweight and Jr. welterweight, and a rare four belt unification of Jr. welterweight, the pride of Omaha quietly amassed more wins against rated fighters than almost anyone in the top twenty. While questions of his quality of opposition grow louder at welterweight at the dawn of a new decade, his overall body of work was exceedingly solid. With three wins against the men rated best, or next best to Crawford, in his favor across lightweight and Jr. welterweight, Crawford did everything he could with what was available and never came close to losing before arriving at welterweight.
Missing in the Numbers: Crawford couldn’t get a crack at Manny Pacquiao when both were with Top Rank and is the odd man out at welterweight with most of the best in that class engaged in a round robin currently under the PBC banner. Crawford’s win over Felix Diaz was, like Andre Ward’s win over Chad Dawson, adjusted for the man rated in the higher class (Diaz) having come in at the lower weight limit.
2) Floyd Mayweather - 65.48 Points
Record for the Decade: 10-0, 2 KO
Record Against Rated Opponents: 8-0
Rated Opponents in the 2010s: UD12 Shane Mosley (Ring #2 - 147), KO4 Victor Ortiz (Ring #2 - 147), UD12 Miguel Cotto (Ring #1 - 154), UD12 Robert Guerrero (Ring #3/TBRB #5 - 147), MD12 Saul Alvarez (Ring Champion/TBRB #1 - 154), MD12 Marcos Maidana (Ring #8/TBRB #6 -147), UD12 Marcos Maidana (Ring/TBRB #5 - 147), UD12 Manny Pacquiao (Ring #1/TBRB #2 - 147).
The recently announced BWAA Fighter of the Decade won lopsided decisions against Miguel Cotto, Saul Alvarez, and Manny Pacquiao to punctuate a career that can fairly be argued as the finest to date of the 21st century. During the decade, Mayweather won the Ring and TBRB championships at both welterweight and Jr. middleweight, became only the second man after Pacquiao to claim a lineal crown in a fourth weight division, unified three belts at welterweight and two at Jr. middleweight, and was really only pushed anywhere near the brink of defeat in his first fight with Maidana. Mayweather beat the highest rated available fighter at welterweight or Jr. middleweight three times and added two more wins against men rated right behind Pacquiao during their long dance around each other.
Missing in the Numbers: There will always be those who wonder about the result of a Pacquiao fight earlier in the decade. Considering what Pacquiao continues to do since his loss to Mayweather, it waters down the argument against the superior quality of the win. Alvarez and Cotto both went on to win the lineal middleweight crown to add to the quality of those victories as well. From the Cotto win through his final pure boxing match with Andre Berto, Mayweather was often rated at both welterweight and Jr. middleweight and retired the lineal king of both classes.
1) Saul Alvarez - 82.5 Points
Record for the Decade: 23-1-1, 14 KO
Record Against Rated Opponents: 11-1-1
Rated Opponents in the 2010s: TKO12 Ryan Rhodes (Ring #4 - 154), TKO5 Josesito Lopez (Ring #8 - 147), UD12 Austin Trout (Ring/TBRB #2 - 154), L12 Floyd Mayweather (Ring #1/TBRB #2 - 154), SD12 Erislandy Lara (Ring #2/TBRB #1 - 154), UD12 Miguel Cotto (Ring/TBRB Champion - 160), KO6 Amir Khan (Ring #2/TBRB #3 - 147), KO9 Liam Smith (Ring/TBRB #8 - 154), D12 Gennady Golovkin (Ring/TBRB #1 - 160), MD12 Gennady Golovkin (Ring/TBRB #1 - 160), TKO3 Rocky Fielding (Ring/TBRB #9 - 168), UD12 Daniel Jacobs (Ring/TBRB #2 - 160), KO11 Sergey Kovalev (Ring/TBRB #2 - 175)
A fighter with matinee idol looks and the ability to put butts in seats before they’ve fully proven their mettle in the ring always draw cynics. Alvarez started the 2010s as one of those kind of battlers and ended it laying waste to the skepticism. Slowly, Alvarez chipped away at doubters and ended the decade regarded by many as boxing’s best active boxer in any weight class. He won a Ring title at Jr. middleweight, lineal recognition at middleweight, and a belt at light heavyweight to close the last ten years. Possessing keen counter punching ability, underrated defensive skill, and plenty of pop, Alvarez is still in the midst of his prime with options from middleweight to light heavyweight. He’s already a Hall of Fame certainty and will have chances to add to his ledger in the years ahead. Love him or not, Alvarez has faced a slew of top talent over the last ten years and ran hard with every one of them but Mayweather.
Missing in the Numbers: Three things can be considered when looking at Alvarez’s ultimate finish ahead of Mayweather: a little luck, sheer volume, and the year 2019. It doesn’t take much work to find educated viewers who thought Trout and Lara deserved better than losses to Alvarez and there will be debates about the scoring of both Golovkin fights (particularly the first) for years to come. That his loss to Mayweather wasn’t unanimous only fuels perceptions in such debates. Greater activity meant a greater volume of contenders faced but it wasn’t until the last year of the decade that Alvarez pulls away from Mayweather in this comparison. The wins over the highly rated Jacobs and Kovalev pushed Alvarez over the top not just in this list but in the eyes of many fans as regards his overall elite status as there was no controversy in either contest.
Results Versus Perceptions
While readers digest the results so far based on wins and losses against rated fighters, we now turn to what can be called the perception game. Put another way, in real time, how were the results across seventeen weight divisions often being processed to come up with the ever popular pound-for-pound lists? There are lots of ways people come up with who they think the best fighters in the sport are. Some weigh career accolades versus current form; others rely on the question of who they think would win if everyone was the same size.
Pound-for-pound lists don’t always respond in lock step with developing results. First, wins and losses don’t compute the way they do inside individual divisions. A divisional loss can cost a fighter a single spot in the ratings but send them all the way out of a pound-for-pound list. Second, we can look back at many such a list and find that, in retrospect, one might never rate fighter x over fighter y knowing what we know years later. That’s the benefit of hindsight. We can also look back and see that a fighter was hanging on to a high spot based on what was; that when they finally exited pound-for-pound lists we all should have known they didn’t belong there anymore anyways.
Pound-for-pound lists can still be a fun way to snapshot moments in time before new knowledge was acquired.
Along with the twenty fighters explored so far in this series, additional fighters ranked in the pound-for-pound top ten of Ring or TBRB over the last ten years were scored as well along with aforementioned heavyweights. Their order of finish was: Timothy Bradley, Errol Spence, Oleksandr Usyk, Carl Frampton, Joshua Taylor, Bernard Hoppkins, Deontay Wilder, Juan Francisco Estrada, Shinsuke Yamanaka, Juan Manuel Marquez, Artur Beterbiev, Tyson Fury, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Giovanni Segura, Adrien Broner, Vitali Klitschko, Keith Thurman, Jorge Linares, Kell Brook, Miguel Cotto, Yuriorkis Gamboa, Takashi Uchiyama, Paul Williams, Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, Anselmo Moreno, Brian Viloria, Chad Dawson, Fernando Montiel, Juan Manuel Lopez, Robert Guerrero, Shane Mosley, and Celestino Caballero.
As noted at the beginning, the published Ring Magazine pound-for-pound lists were tallied separately from the results against rated fighters. It was a simple process of taking each monthly list and assigning point totals for positions. The number one fighter got ten points for any given issue; the number ten fighter got one point. For a chunk of the middle of the decade, the magazine went to only nine print issues a year instead of 12 or 13. To balance that out, additional ‘missing issue’ scores were added to equalize the findings, looking for any changes that occurred between, say, a January and March dated issue with a missing February.
Using that metric, the top twenty fighters of the decade would look like this:
1. Floyd Mayweather
2. Manny Pacquiao
3. Andre Ward
4. Gennady Golovkin
5. Juan Manuel Marquez
6. Terrence Crawford
7. Wladimir Klitschko
8. Sergio Martinez
9. Vasyl Lomachenko
10. Roman Gonzalez
11. Saul Alvarez
12. Nonito Donaire
13. Guillermo Rigondeaux
14. Sergey Kovalev
15. Timothy Bradley
16. Naoya Inoue
17. Oleksandr Usyk
18. Mikey Garcia
19. Errol Spence
20. Pongsaklek Wonjongkam
Mayweather’s lead using this measure was big. He finished close to 50 points ahead of Pacquiao and over 100 ahead of Ward. Jumping out at number five is Juan Manuel Marquez. Marquez was only 3-2 against rated fighters in eight total fights between 2010-14. However, his career before the start of the last decade, the form he displayed through his retirement, and posting arguably the most memorable win of the decade against Pacquiao, earned him his place near the top of the pound-for-pound charts for roughly half of the 2010s. Contrast that with Alvarez who struggled with how he was perceived for most of the last ten years, only really moving up the charts in the last few years.
This brings to mind one more question: what happens if we measure the final standings of the decade based on opponent ratings and average them against where at least the Ring pound-for-pound snapshot says these fighters placed? It produces one more potential top twenty distinct from the other two.
1. Floyd Mayweather
2. Gennady Golovkin
3. Terence Crawford - tie
5. Manny Pacquiao
6. Saul Alvarez
7. Vasyl Lomachenko
8. Sergio Martinez
9. Mikey Garcia - tie
12. Nonito Donaire - tie
14. Roman Gonazalez
15. Guillermo Rigondeaux
16. Timothy Bradley - tie
Juan Manuel Marquez - tie
18. Abner Mares
19. Oleksandr Usyk
20. Errol Spence
Only five fighters appear in all three top tens: Mayweather, Golovkin, Ward, Crawford, and Pacquiao. The BWAA Fighter of the Decade ballot was a choice between Mayweather, Ward, Pacquiao, Alvarez, and Klitschko.
Five might not have been enough.
All this will beg the question of which list is right, if any of them, and, well, who says there has to be a right answer? Ultimately, the way fighters are rated, across all time or specific periods of time, is always going to be open to debate.
What does one value?
Do belts collected matter more than who they were collected against? Is it more impressive to rule one weight class for years or bounce around the scale? There will always be room for disagreement and that’s part of the barbershop joy of arguing about it.
If nothing else, what this series hopefully displayed is that the 2010s, like every decade before it, was rich with top talent making big fights all over the scale and facing top available talent where superfights couldn’t be found; that the good as always outweighed the bad. Time never stood still. Accomplishment was there to be had from the lowest points of the scale to the peak of the heavyweight mountain.
It was all our privilege to bear witness.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]