Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Flash Forward to 2012: Top 3 P4P

The title of "pound-for-pound king" brings no belt or official prize, but the financial rewards that come with it are definitely real. It also looks really good on a fighter's resume.

Photo © Marty Rosengarten / Ringsidephotos.com

The boxing landscape goes through some pretty harsh changes every year and we thought it would be interesting to see just how different things could look at the very pinnacle of the sport in three years time.

We've put our heads together and decided that perennial elites like Hopkins, Calzaghe and Marquez are likely to be out of the picture by 2012, so who will be replacing them on the P4P lists by then?

(The votes were totaled based on lists submitted by each member of The Boxing Bulletin panel - Lee Payton, Jeff Pryor, Michael Nelson, Andrew Fruman, Mark Lyons and John Vaci)

Juan Manuel Lopez (4 votes)

“Another youngster who has been dynamic against the limited elite competition we've seen him in with, Lopez announced his arrival last year by blasting out Ponce De Leon in the first round.

Wielding a rare combination of blazing speed and concussive power, the 25 year old Puerto Rican has begun to garner the kind of attention in his home land that suggests he may be the true successor to Trinidad's throne.

Most recently, pitted against Sergio Manuel Medina (33-1), who was to provide a stern test and extend Lopez, he instead blasted out his opponent, again within the first frame. Lopez's team got on him for his listless performance against Hugo Dianzo on the Morales-Diaz undercard. Since then he's been all action and high intensity. It is that kind of ability to adjust and utilize criticism that may propel "Juanma" to the pinnacle of sport.” - JP

“The 122 lb titlist from Puerto Rico has the talent to be a great fighter, but it is timing that gives him a real chance at rising to the top of the pound-for-pound lists. The junior featherweight division has a lot of character. Mexican legends Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez are thought of as two of the best fighters in the world thanks to their epic trilogy, and Celestino Caballero is a cobra waiting to strike.

These fighters are extremely dangerous, but Lopez has something over all of them - time. At 25 years old, he has lots of it. We don't know just how much the two Mexicans have left after taking part in three of the most brutal fights in recent boxing history. In another year or two, they will have gotten older, while Lopez gets stronger.

He's got a powerful promotional firm, tons of talent, a growing fan base and he fights in a division where the top guys might be a little long in the tooth. The opportunity is there for this little lefty.” – LP

“It looks like Lopez has serious power and skills. He just hasn’t had much tough competition yet. He’s young enough where he’ll probably still be at the top of his game in 2012---and blowing out Ponce De Leon was impressive.” – JV

“If he’s as durable as he is skilled, the sky’s the limit for the quick handed, explosively powerful junior featherweight. Hopefully he’ll soon get a chance to prove himself against some of high level talent around 122.” - AF

Paul Williams (3 votes)

“The Punisher has a built-in pound-for-pound edge given his height. This 6'2 left-hander has the body to fight effectively at 147-168 lbs, and has shown a willingness to fight anyone in those weight classes.

Paul's physical gifts are obvious upon one look, but it's his fighting spirit that has me convinced that he will be a major player for years to come. While he's not the most technically proficient guy out there, his durability and guts make him a nightmare for pretty much everyone.

Up next is Winky Wright. A win there will have the major networks even more interested.” – LP

“Out of the young fighters I find most promising, Paul Williams is the most tested. His chin and durability aren't in question after his heated 2007 battle with Antonio Margarito, but what’s most striking is the ability he has shown to learn and improve.

Since the slick Puerto Rican southpaw Carlos Quintana defeated him in an early 2008 upset, Williams went from an awkward, swarming fighter who wasn't considered to be a big puncher to a more conscientious knockout artist, thoughtful of where he places his shots.

His last three fights are a testament to his adaptability, which will be needed to remain on top of his game for years to come. His willingness to fight tough opponents doesn't hurt either.” – MN

“For my money Paul Williams is the toughest man in the game. I honestly don't see anyone from 147-160 beating him anytime soon. Seeing him sit down on his punches more and fight tall has to be giving any possible opponents nightmares. Putting knockout power with the overwhelming activity and his granite chin makes the future inevitably bright for the Punisher.” – ML

Jorge Linares (3 votes)

“A relative unknown until his dismantling of perennially underrated Oscar Larios, Jorge Linares is already an awe inspiring, technically impressive boxer at age 23. His precision combination punching is a rival to any fighter's in the sport.

It's time to ratchet up the competition for Linares and see just how good he can be, but from everything seen so far the "Golden Boy" has shown little in the way of weaknesses.

A bout against Rocky Juarez, Chris John or Humberto Soto might kick start the kid into the recognized elite and start building the necessary resume for a pound for pound run.” – JP

“With his size, quickness, and explosive power, Jorge may be the fighter with the most potential on the list, but the lack of activity and progress in his career since his dominant victory over Oscar Larios in July of 2007 is a point of concern.

It's not hard to envision a scenario where we don't see Linares against a name opponent until 2010. Regardless, junior lightweight and its surrounding divisions is laden with talent, so he should be able to lock down big fights eventually.

Don't be fooled by the 65% knockout ratio, Linares can pop. I've seen him knock at least five fighters out cold with a single punch; a type of power that I think gives him an edge against prospective elite opponents.” - MN

“He certainly looks like he has all the tools for big time stardom. He just needs to stay active, but unfortunately injuries have limited Linares to only 2 fights since his American debut against Larios back in June of 2007. If he can stay healthy – and right now he is – very big things await the smooth boxing, big punching Japanese based junior lightweight.” - AF

Chad Dawson (2 votes)

“The 26 year old southpaw has already displayed some of the important intangibles that make fighters great. This might be slightly blasphemous to some, but I think Bad Chad has some Roy Jones in him. He's a fabulous athlete who is capable of throwing stinging combinations with great speed.

He was defensively responsible and cool-headed while defeating Tomasz Adamek, and was able to come up with the answer when he was dropped late by a fantastic right hand. He showed that he could stick to a plan all night when he beat up Antonio Tarver for 12 rounds. And his fighting heart was on display in a war with the stubborn warrior, Glen Johnson.

Interestingly, it's his willngness to fight that has some holding off when it comes to the declaration of Chad Dawson as the future, but I see it as a plus. I was impressed with how he responded to being put through the meat grinder against Johnson. He acted like a champion, and that's not something he was taught. This guy is going to be fun to watch for years.” – LP

“This guy has everything you could want in a fighter. I believe my thoughts on him have already been expressed here: The Future P4P King" – ML

Photo © Ray Kasprowicz

Manny Pacquiao (1 vote)

“Sure, he'll be thirty three in 2012, but it's not so far fetched to see Pacquiao's continuing progression as a fighter extend his longevity with the help of Freddy Roach's tutelage.

Over the next few years I could see the Filipino bouncing between 135-147, taking on and taking out well chosen marquee names, before settling into 147 and riding out the remainder of his career there.

He will have the fodder to maintain his lofty status, in the form of plentiful and meaningful opposition, and I think he's a fighter who can hang around the top of the pound for pound list for several years to come.” - JP

Timothy Bradley (1 vote) Photo © Justin McKie

“Like Linares, Timothy Bradley has only had one test: his split decision over Junior Witter to win the WBC light welterweight title last year. Impressive in his poise and defense, I didn't view the fight as being that close. Certainly not as close as the 112-115, 114-113, 115-113 scorecards indicated.

His head movement, jab, quick right hand, and dedicated body punching would be hell for anyone. The only factor I see inhibiting his rise to the top is his size; he'd be a small welterweight, should he decide to move up for more lucrative bouts.” – MN

Juan Diaz (1 vote)

“The way Juan responded against Michael Katsidis after a very hard loss to Nate Campbell showed me all I needed to know about the mental strength in this young warrior. Critics have gone on for quite sometime about many "weaknesses" in the Baby Bull. I don't see it. I see a nasty body puncher with very fast hands and the toughness to remain at the top for a lengthy stretch. I think his accent on these lists will begin later this month.” - ML

Victor Ortiz (1 vote)

“He’s kind of a long-shot, but he’s got the talent. He has plenty of power and if he can improve his overall skills a little, he could be quite dominant.” - JV

Photo © Ray Kasprowicz

Devon Alexander (1 vote)

“He looks to have the slickness and skill to be world class. Still a very big question mark in terms of his elite potential as he hasn’t yet faced top opposition, but to be P4P, you need at least one very solid dimension, along with some complementary skills, and his boxing skills are looking very good up to this point.” – JV

Mikkel Kessler (1 vote)

“So far, a decision loss in Cardiff against one of the sport’s best fighters is the only blemish on Kessler’s record. Before that fight, the 168 pound Dane found himself in the lower half of many P4P lists, but a hand injury has limited his activity since then. As the best fighter in a stacked division, Kessler will get plenty of chances against quality opposition to re-affirm is status as one of the world’s best.” - AF

What's your opinion? Who do you think the best of the best will be 3 years from now?

Our list is dominated by young fighters, but perhaps some savvy veteran that we had written off, or never fully recognized will earn an overdue spot near the top of the pound for pound list, like Calzaghe, Marquez and Hopkins before him.

No matter who ultimately perches atop the 2012 pound for pound list, no doubt we'll all be watching, punch for punch, as they stake their claim for greatness. The old axiom of story telling holds true for boxing too; the joy is in the journey, not so much the destination.

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