Outside of the JW Marriott following the press conference formally announcing his September 12 showdown with Andre Berto, reigning world #1 Floyd Mayweather was approached by a young fan who didn’t quite address him properly. “Mayweather! You’re my favorite fighter- you’re the best,” said the young fan, clad in an oversized TMT shirt with eyes almost as large.
While taking the “TBE” hat extended by the child for him to autograph, the all-time great smiled and offered classic Floyd. “Am I the best? Absolutely not. I’m the best ever.”
There’s great power in now – as in “right now”. One of the best books you could ever get your hands on, “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle, brilliantly chronicles its importance, and in the here n now, Mayweather remains the most skilled pugilist in all of boxing. A cult of personality far more interesting outside of the ring than in it; Mayweather takes away what an opponent does best while giving him the worst case of doubt imaginable. The fact that he wins while being so defensive – even while getting you to buy because you think he’s so offensive, will probably make him [the best ever salesman] the sport will ever know.
But “TBE”? That will be left for pundits of debate to decide, the very same ones who may agree – or not agree – with the 9 other men (that’s the spin on “10” you wondered about) who I believe occupy positions worthy of the absolute best in the game. Since my colleague over at Real Combat Media, Richard Solomon, recently offered his take on who he thought represented the best in the business, I thought I’d drop my own very subjective list.
#1. Floyd Mayweather, 48-0 (26KO)
Somewhere in the deep recesses of his mind, Floyd probably has an Apollo Creed moment, similar to the one Creed had following the fallout from his close encounter with Rocky. “I won, but I didn’t beat him,” Creed reflected. The public outcry and cacophony of boo’s he received everywhere he went in the wake of the insomnia cure he produced with action fighter Pacquiao, will probably lead to a bludgeoning of the totally over-matched Berto. For an uncalled for $75 PPV, we sure as hell hope so.
Next up: Andre Berto, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Sept. 12
#2. Roman Gonzalez, 43-0 (37KO)
If you’re a very nuanced study of the sport, you could probably make the case that “Chocolatito” is already the very best fighter on the planet. The Nicaraguan flyweight champ is absolutely lethal, and at 28, is in his prime and not quite as great as he will be. Though not the defensive specialist that the invisible Mayweather is, Gonzalez possesses the sport’s most complete package and the best left hook in the game.
Next up: Brian Viloria, at Madison Square Garden in New York City on the undercard of GGG/Lemieux on Oct. 17
#3. Manny Pacquiao, 57-6-2 (38KO)
Lost in the sea storm created by his less than epic encounter with Mayweather, is the fact that Pacquiao (a truly great fighter and the best southpaw of all-time) made Mayweather do something which should be considered unusual. He forced Mayweather – as the bigger fighter – to avoid fighting him entirely, while using all of the ring’s space to do so. For perspective, he came directly at Shane Mosley, who was bigger and more powerful than Pacquiao, even though Mosley nearly KO’d “Money” in round 2 during their memorable May 2010 encounter. At 36, Pacquiao is no longer the manic menace of his youth, but he can still strike in calculated bursts behind a complete skillset orchestrated by maestro Freddie Roach. We look forward to seeing what the 2016 version of “Pac-Man” presents.
Next up: Amir Khan, probably in Abu Dubai somewhere around the spring of 2016. A place where you’ll find out that the UK product is, well, a mere con.
#4. Gennady Golovkin, 33-0 (30KO)
“GGG”, with his gaudy 91% KO ratio, is like a modern day Bond villain that’s somehow a “good guy”. It’s weird. Not since the great Julio Cesar Chavez has a fighter graced the ring with an ability to shrink the ring and produce claustrophobia like middleweight boss Golovkin can. Fiercely determined to fight his fight, we would love to see the Kazakhstani badass test the merits of this against a classic boxer like Erislandy Lara.
Next up: David Lemieux, at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 17
#5. Andre Ward, 28-0 (15KO)
It remains to be seen just what exactly happens with the all-world Ward aka “SOG”, under the direction “Jigga” aka Jay-Z and ROC Nation. In light of what we came to know about Chad Dawson courtesy of Adonis Stevenson, his last notable win – which was his Sept. 2012 10th round evisceration of Dawson – has cost Ward quite a few cool points. We don’t really care about wins over a less-than-world class Edwin Rodriguez or a woefully out-of-shape clubfighter in Paul Smith. Still, outside of Mayweather, no one in the game has the type of ring intelligence to paint job any elite fighter the way Ward can. We don’t need to see him wasting anymore time on BET with Friday Night Fight type lollipops. Its time for him to get in there with perhaps Sergey Kovalev, Artur Beterbiev or what should’ve happened in late 2013- the aforementioned “Superman” (Stevenson).
Next up: Who the hell knows. It just better not be Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. for Christ’s sake.
#6. Wladimir Klitschko, 64-3 (53KO)
Dr. Steelhammer is an awesome physical specimen, and by achievement alone, is an all-time great and one of the greatest heavyweight champions to have ever lived. Whether you think that’s enough to include him among the pantheon of the very best heavyweights is an entirely different story. But after sitting ringside to witness a rather iffy showing against a stout Bryant Jennings, it was clear that at 39, Wlad’s long odometer revealed a justifiable amount of mileage. Still, after he shellacs the outrageously crude Tyson Fury, we want to see him in there with the young and powerful WBC champ Deontay Wilder. Then, he can go. If he wins, it would be an ending similar to the one Lennox Lewis had after a long career that saw him defeat his brother Vitali.
Next up: Tyson Fury, at the ESPRIT Arena in Dusseldorf, Germany on Oct. 24
#7. Guillermo Rigondeaux, 15-0 (10KO)
“El Chacal” aka “Rigo”, just may be the most enigmatic fighter in all of boxing. Desperate to allow the world to see just how very great he is, the best Cuban fighter of all-time defected from the island of Castro only to leave all the action behind. Rigondeaux features a game that technically borders on science-fiction, but the problem is its BORING. Since drowning Nonito Donaire at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, Bob Arum figured he’d either die from depression watching him or live on by hiding him somewhere. Watching him live on the Boardwalk in Jersey against Joseph Agbeko was one of the most frustrating experiences ever, and what he’s done in the orient (KO1 Sod Kokietgym) and the far east since (KO11 Hasashi Amagasa) hasn’t exactly been enthralling.
Next up: We don’t really know yet, but its looking like Scott Quigg. Let’s all pray to God it is.
8. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, 45-1-1 (32KO)
The 25 year-old Mexican sensation is an absolute star. With matinee idol looks and an entire national traditional behind him 2000%, the sky is the limit for the cinnamon haired boxer/puncher still learning on the job. His thrilling and spectacular knockout of James Kirkland resuscitated the game a week after the May/Pac fiasco, and we’re eagerly anticipating what happens in November with Miguel Cotto.
Next up: Cotto, in what should be 2015’s fight of the year
9. Miguel Cotto, 40-4 (33KO)
Cotto’s career has been guided brilliantly over the last 2 years after residing in purgatory following a respectable loss to Floyd and a head scratcher against Austin Trout. What has really happened for the most dubious WBC middleweight champion in history is clever matchmaking and the anatomy of Freddie Roach. The Puerto Rican legend has fully morphed back into his 140lb self (where he was best), and we’re all eager to see just what that means opposite Canelo, in what should be a true “superfight”.
Next up: Canelo, as soon as they can dot a few i’s and cross a few t’s, on Nov. 21
10. Sergey Kovalev, 28-0-1 (25KO)
Kovalev has an aggressive mode of attack that qualifies as beautiful violence. He is a stealthy, long-armed striker that gets tremendous pop on his shots while managing to be athletic enough to avoid serious return fire. Let’s hope his recent 3rd round bombing of Nadjib Mohammedi didn’t scare off the so-called “Man of Steel”, as we’d love to see Kovalev finally square off against Stevenson, a man he threw kryptonite at while calling him ‘a bitch’. If not, there’s an interesting clash on the horizon against a surging Artur Berterbiev, or maybe (just maybe) an outside chance we’ll get to see a showdown with the mega-talented Andre Ward.
So there you have it. That’s my squad. Some of my favorite fighters like Danny “Swift” Garcia, Keith Thurman, Timothy Bradley, Juan Manuel Marquez, Juan Francisco Estrada, Terence Crawford or Kell Brook didn’t quite get there for me due to a number of reasons- but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worthy. From my point of view, some of them are the past and a few of them are the future. Whatever the case, the sport is alive and well, and set to give us some epic action for the remainder of 2015 and beyond. Thanks for reading fight fans.