By Lyle Fitzsimmons
There are some fighters who do one thing exceedingly well but lack other important attributes. Think punchers who can’t box, busy guys with no power or fast guys with balky chins.
Then there are other fighters who do a lot of things solidly, though none on a best-in-the-world level. In other words, guys for whom the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts.
So when it comes to creating the perfect fighter – one whose skill set yields A grades across the board – the task becomes one of pulling parts off worthwhile models to produce one that’s truly special.
For the purposes of this experiment, we’ll pick and choose eight qualities from the best 147-pounders in the business through the decade in order to come up with the ideal welterweight for a generation – and a target for today’s emerging stars to shoot toward.
Simply put, Mssrs. Crawford, Spence and Thurman still have some work to do.
Build: Timothy Bradley
His abs looked like a relief map of the Rocky Mountains, and his upper body and biceps were surely the envy of personal trainers, but it wasn’t as if soft-spoken Bradley was just a supermodel wannabe.
He proved his in-ring street cred during an unbeaten run at 140 pounds – including wins over Lamont Peterson and Devon Alexander – then upped the ante at welterweight with a title-winning (albeit almost universally disputed) defeat of Manny Pacquiao.
Bradley added toughness to the championship mix, too, when he outgutted Ruslan Provodnikov to retain his WBO belt over 12 rounds in one of the decade’s best scraps.
Power: Marcos Maidana
It was frequently a conquer-or-be-conquered proposition for Maidana, a rugged Argentine who also made the jump from 140 to 147.
He engaged in a candidate for 2013’s Fight of the Year in California, where he was knocked around several times before finally dropping and stopping a gutty Josesito Lopez – not to mention a couple go-rounds with Floyd Mayweather Jr. in which he pushed “Money” harder than most higher-profile foes.
Maidana recorded 31 stoppages in 35 wins and ended four of his last five victories inside the distance while earning kudos across the boxing spectrum.
Speed: Devon Alexander
The St. Louis-born southpaw was brought along slowly at the start of his career by promoter Don King, but he picked up speed – figuratively and literally – while initially climbing the ladder at junior welterweight and ultimately as a full-fledged welterweight.
Alexander outslicked Junior Witter, Juan Urango and Andriy Kotelnik while defending belts at 140. After a unification loss to Bradley, he continued to perform with the same athleticism while downing sluggers Lucas Matthysse, Maidana, Randall Bailey and Englishman Lee Purdy.
Chin: Shane Mosley
Sure, he started with speed and punching power to burn.
But later on, as the hand speed dwindled and the legs grew less fleet, Mosley depended on the ability to stand in, take shots and keep vertical even against foes who were younger, stronger and busier than he.
He lasted the 12-round distance in all but one of his 10 professional losses, including matches against big punchers like Vernon Forrest (twice), Manny Pacquiao and Canelo Alvarez, not to mention using his chin to ensure wins over Oscar De La Hoya (twice), Ricardo Mayorga and Antonio Margarito.
Defense: Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Go ahead, try to remember.
Look back over his 50 fights over more than 21 years as a professional and try to remember more than one or two isolated times when you remember Mayweather being hit by a solid punch, let alone a solid combination of punches.
It simply didn’t happen.
The still-unbeaten Mayweather elevated defensive prowess to an all-time level thanks to his mastery of the shoulder roll along with quick reflexes and nimble legs. It was all on display during late-career defeats of Robert Guerrero, Maidana, Alvarez and Manny Pacquiao, when “Money” was able to remain in the pocket, avoid damage from his opponents’ inside work and return fire of his own.
Legs: Paulie Malignaggi
Though the run-up to his fights tended to center on what exited his mouth, to focus only on that dismisses some of the undeniable effectiveness of the two-division Brooklyn-born champ.
Malignaggi scored only seven knockouts in 36 victories but nonetheless handled opponents on the level of former lightweight champ Juan Diaz – and went the 12-round route with a then-undefeated Miguel Cotto – by using quick hands and quicker legs to, as the adage goes, fight and run away while living to fight another day.
Workrate: Manny Pacquiao
Just imagine what it’d do to the morale.
You land a combination, perhaps punctuated by a cracking shot or two to the chin, and your opponent shakes his head, smiles and swats his gloves together before unleashing an attack of his own.
It’s precisely the response many a foe saw while in the ring with a vintage Pacquiao, the Filipino dynamo who established himself as a welterweight presence thanks to a pressure-filled, offense-first style.
Pac overwhelmed ex-champs Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto and Joshua Clottey in his initial three efforts at 147 pounds, then added wins over Shane Mosley and Juan Manuel Marquez before a two-fight skid that yielded a controversial decision (Bradley) and a violent knockout (Marquez) – and moved his career into a prolonged, less-stupendous final chapter.
It was fitting, though, that even the KO loss came while he was pressing the action.
Smarts: Juan Manuel Marquez
It’s not surprising that the Mexican veteran, with more than 20 years as a professional under his belt, compiled the sort of in-ring genius that kept him relevant into a third decade.
He was able to play the aggressor against boxers, box superbly against pressure fighters and have the uncanny ability to stay in the pocket amid heavy fire to be in position to land his own shots.
Marquez’s four-fight series with Pacquiao illustrates his acumen. He was the only fighter to repeatedly maintain level ground with the Filipino, and his one-shot sixth-round KO in their most recent fight was a testament to his courage, recuperative powers and overall skill.
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This week’s legit title-fight schedule:
WBC super lightweight title – Fresno, California
Jose Ramirez (champion/No. 15 IWBR) vs. Danny O'Connor (No. 15 WBC/No. 26 IWBR)
Ramirez (22-0, 16 KO): First title defense; Fourth fight at Save Mart Arena (3-0, 2 KO)
O'Connor (30-3, 11 KO): First title fight; First fight scheduled for 12 rounds
Fitzbitz says: The challenger is a respectable commodity, but there’s not a lot on his resume suggesting he’s a title-caliber talent. So the champion should win and look good doing it. Ramirez in 7 (95/5)
This week’s bogus title-fight schedule:
Vacant WBA cruiserweight title – Astana, Kazakhstan
Beibut Shumenov (No. 2 WBA/Unranked IWBR) vs. Hizni Altunkaya (No. 3 WBA/Unranked IWBR)
Fitzbitz says: Where do we begin? Shumenov hasn’t won a fight in more than two years, yet he’s still the No. 2 contender. Altunkaya hasn’t won a scheduled 12-rounder in six years, yet he’s still the No. 3 contender. Oh yeah, and the WBA cruiserweight champion is Murat Gassiev. This is bejeweled garbage.
Last week's picks: 1-0 (WIN: Ramirez)
2018 picks record: 45-20 (69.2 percent)
Overall picks record: 966-324 (74.8 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 [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.