What if… there existed another universe where fighters were ranked pound-for-pound — i.e., who’s best regardless of weight — based nothing at all on any actual evidence from what a fighter had actually accomplished? A dimension where some figure or the other just points at a fighter and says, “I think he looks like he’s pretty good, he’s the man. That guy over there is pretty good, too, I surmise. He’s #2″? And so on and so forth, for 20 different fighters.
That universe exists, friends, right here in this annual exercise in silly thought experimenting. You are welcome to debate it or ignore it. But if the list makes you mad — either because you disagree violently, or because you think a website that has hundreds upon hundreds of articles a year shouldn’t be doing a pound-for-pound list every couple months — you are a sourpuss who needs to invest in some quaaludes.
This list is no stricter in its criteria than the following guideline: “Based on absolutely nothing other than my subjective judgment, these are the fighters who LOOK like the best fighters independent of having established it in reality.”
As if to provide evidence of how fleeting is this “eyeball test” p4p evaluation, last year’s list has been pretty dramatically reworked. Turns out looking like you’re good and being good are different things.
1. Floyd Mayweather, welterweight
Even with his struggles against Marcos Maidana last time out, even at age 37, there’s no more obvious choice here than the real-life p4p king. On Sept. 13, he’ll get a chance to prove his genius by beating Maidana more conclusively.
2. Gennady Golovkin, middleweight
He probably wouldn’t beat Andre Ward at 168; but if GGG and Ward were both middleweights, GGG would be my pick to win. Yeah, he’s unproven, still. But when he touches middleweights, they fall down.
3. Andre Ward, super middleweight
In an alternate universe, the litigious super middleweight champ does his fighting in the ring, nyuk nyuk nyuk. He might be accumulating rust but until proven otherwise he’s the most versatile pound-for-pounder in his prime.
4. Wladimir Klitschko, heavyweight
His style at heavyweight is unbeatable by the current contender crop. Would better contenders struggle so? Hard to say. But his height, dedication, power and control of the ring would factor in even if you shrunk him into another weight class.
5. Guillermo Rigondeaux, junior featherweight
Some people might have this dude as high as #2. It’s not crazy. Yet he’s not so far removed from a couple spots where he struggled against people or in cases where he shouldn’t have. Certainly, the pure boxing skill (and some power) is there.
6. Bernard Hopkins, light heavyweight
Somehow, at nearly 50, B-Hop is still schooling the youngsters. Lately, it’s been a particularly hapless bunch. Sergey Kovalev in November ain’t so hapless. And B-Hop is still favored by a sizable contingent of fans and writers.
7. Roman Gonzalez, flyweight
Chocolatito has flown under the radar with non-ultra-hardcores for a long time. The awareness is growing, however, at least among regular hardcores. This weekend, against champ Akira Yaegashi, he can prove the big hype is right-sized.
8. Miguel Vazquez, lightweight
Speaking of unbeatable styles: Vazquez hasn’t encountered much of a challenge in a long time with his jab/power shot/run/hold technique. You don’t gotta like it; hardly anyone does. Undeniably, it works for the W’s.
9. Vasyl Lomachenko, featherweight
He’d be higher if it hadn’t taken him a little time to adjust to an overweight Orlando Salido; the dismantling of Gary Russell, Jr. was thorough. But it looks like he’s recovered from the Salido loss and will be higher on this list next year.
10. Manny Pacquiao, welterweight
There was a lull in Pacquiao’s effectiveness for a couple fights, most noticeably in the consciousness lull Juan Manuel Marquez put on him. That’s why he’s this low. But he has reestablished himself a good deal.
11. Juan Manuel Marquez, welterweight
He gets docked for struggling against fellow slick boxers, like Timothy Bradley, and for his frequent rockings and droppings. Overall, his mastery remains at 41 years old. Just ask Mike Alvarado.
12. Terence Crawford, lightweight
Could he beat Vazquez? Absolutely. Would he? Not so obvious. If anyone at 135 can, it’s him, and a late wobble against Yuriorkis Gamboa cost him in this accounting. He is, however, young and improving and seems very, very focused.
13. Juan Francisco Estrada, flyweight
The better Gonzalez looks, the better Estrada looks for giving him such a stiff challenge. He’ll be favored against Giovani Segura in this savory weekend of flys.
14. Sergey Kovalev, light heavyweight
Is this too low? It’s worth remembering he’s not even as proven as Golovkin right now, in the comparison of wicked Soviet bloc punchers. Beating Hopkins would move him convincingly head.
15. Carl Froch, super middleweight
He never, ever looks like much. He has to claw out even some of his best wins. You can’t argue with results, is all. He fights the best in his division, he beats the best (all with the exception of Ward, of course).
16. Timothy Bradley, welterweight
A healthy and active Pacquiao was too much for a Bradley who probably fought the wrong fight in the rematch. That 2013 Fighter of the Year campaign isn’t so far in the rear view mirror, though.
17. Danny Garcia, junior welterweight
Is there anyone whose stock rose as quickly as Garcia’s did after beating Lucas Matthysse only to drop just as quickly after Mauricio Herrera and Rod Salk? That makes it hard to properly evaluate him.
18. Adonis Stevenson, light heavyweight
Fighter of the Year-worthy campaign, followed by disappointment: That’s Bradley, Garcia and Stevenson, all in a row. They can’t be counted out entirely because of some explainable setbacks.
19. Jermell Charlo, junior middleweight
Charlo bro #1 has shown glimpses of some “future of the division” shit. It’s early, and one of the people he did it against was Gabriel Rosado. Let’s see if he can do it some more before promoting him too high.
20. Shinsuke Yamanaka, bantamweight
I’d pick him for “most underrated fighter” right now. People don’t talk about him at all. He’s versatile and proven. CAN WE PLEASE START RALLYING FOR YAMANAKA VS. ANSELMO MORENO EVERYONE.
Honorable mentions: Nonito Donaire, Canelo Alvarez, Marco Huck, Takashi Uchiyama, Demetrius Andrade, Mikey Garcia, Erislandy Lara, Lucas Matthysse, Leo Santa Cruz, Nicholas Walters, Marcos Maidana, Anselmo Moreno, Kell Brook, Carlos Cuadras, Akira Yaegashi, Miguel Cotto