Posted: Friday September 9, 2005 10:24AM; Updated: Friday September 9, 2005 12:31PM
A look at boxing's best, regardless of weight class ...
Pound-for-Pound Power Rankings
Floyd Mayweather Jr. (34-0, 23 KO's)
His masterly six-round destruction of Arturo Gatti to win the WBC 140-pound title on June 25 got folks talking about Pretty Boy Floyd as if he were the second coming of Sugar Ray Robinson. He's not. But against the woefully-overmatched Gatti (who, despite his HBO star status is -- face it -- no more than a crowd-pleasing B-rater), the brash Mayweather displayed the combination of crisp punching, great defense, well-schooled attack, superb conditioning and speed, speed, speed that has so far made him not just unbeatable, but darn near untouchable. He still needs a worthy opponent (IBF champ Ricky Hatton? Zab Judah?) to test his grit and his chin, but for now, he's the best in the business.
Winky Wright (49-3, 25 KO's)
Wright likes to say it took him 15 years to become an overnight sensation, and there's some truth to that. The IBF junior middleweight champ's brilliant 12-round shutout over Felix Trinidad in May showed the world what boxing insiders have known for a long, long time: Wright may well be the best pure boxer in the game. A southpaw with great hand and foot speed, lots of awkward angles, plenty of experience, a rock-solid chin and a relentless jab, he is also -- despite a lack of real power -- the last guy anybody wants to fight. His dream bout would be against Oscar De La Hoya or the winner of Bernard Hopkins-Jermain Taylor II.
Marco Antonio Barrera (60-4, 42 KO's)
Even if he never throws another punch, I'll always love Barrera for his hard-knock schooling of that pugilistic popinjay Naseem Hamed back in 2001. Since then, the magnificent Mexican has continued to carve out a place among his country's greatest champions with his toughness, his great jab, his ring savy and, of course, his withering body punching. In his three fights against Erik Morales (Barrera won two, including the rubber match last November), Barrera showed tremendous guts and dazzling versatility. His next fight is a mandatory defense on Sept. 17 against Robbie Peden. Beyond that loom high-stakes bouts against Manny Pacquiao or Juan Manuel Marquez. The Baby-Faced Assassin may be 31, but he's as deadly as ever.
Erik Morales (48-2, 34 KO's)
Morales lost two out of three to Barrera, but if they fought three more times (and what boxing fan wouldn't pay to see a second helping of that brutal, beautiful trilogy?), it easily could go the other way. A five-time world champion (from super bantam through junior welter), the rangy Morales is a powerful boxer-puncher with an iron chin and bottomless heart. He'll make his 135-pound debut Saturday night on HBO against Zahir Raheem. If he gets past Raheem, and he should, El Terrible may face the winner of next month's Diego Corrales-Jose Luis Castillo rematch.
Bernard Hopkins (46-3-1, 32 KO's)
You say he lost to Taylor in July? Well, maybe. I had B-Hop winning 115-113. Certainly it was close -- on the scorecards. But I'll tell you this: If the fight had been a 15-rounder, Hopkins would have stopped Taylor. Once he gets going, Hopkins (who held the middleweight crown for a decade) can do more in the ring than any fighter in the game today: box, counterpunch, bang, break you down, rough you up and -- always -- out-think you. Of course, he's 40 years old and age could catch up to him before his December rematch with the young, strong, still-improving Taylor.
Manny Pacquiao (39-3-2, 31 KO's)
OK, Pacquiao lost a close, bloody, 12-round decision to Morales in March. Morales lost two of three to Barrera. But in 2003, Pacquiao shockingly dominated Barrera on the way to stopping him in 11. The three-way featherweight fandango proves that old boxing maxim, "styles make fights." Pac-Man's style of all-out two-fisted attack is more limited than those of his two celebrated opponents, but he's one of the most exciting fighters at any weight. Watch him Saturday night on the HBO card against journeyman Hector Velasquez and you'll be lining up for the rematch against Morales, reportedly already set for Las Vegas in January.
Juan Manuel Marquez (44-2-1, 33 KO's)
A brilliant technical boxer and a gifted counterpuncher, Marquez went down three times in the first round against Pacquiao in May 2004 and came back to earn a draw. Currently the WBA and IBF featherweight title, "Dinamita" would like another shot at Pac-Man.
Diego Corrales (40-2, 33 KO's)
Extremely tall for a lightweight at 5-foot-11, Corrales is a strong puncher with either hand who also can move and box. As his electrifying battle with Castillo in May made clear (certain to be the Fight of the Year unless their rematch next month tops it), he also can bang inside and has tremendous resilience. If he wins again against Castillo -- and still can stand -- look for Corrales to move up and seek a rematch with Mayweather, who beat him decisively in 2001.
Zab Judah (34-2, 24 KO's)
Judah, who holds all three welterweight belts, goes by the nickname "Super." He may not be all that yet, but at 27, he is coming into his own -- a far better and more complete fighter than the cocky kid who was stopped by Kostya Tszyu in two rounds back in 2003. In his last two bouts (KOs over Corey Spinks and Cosme Rivera, the southpaw showed a Mayweather-like blend of raw speed and pop.
Antonio Tarver (23-3, 18 KOs)
The lightheavyweight champion lost a disputed decision to Roy Jones Jr. (everybody's choice for best pound-for-pound boxer at the time) and then flattened Jones in the rematch. Tarver then lost a disputed decision to Glen Johnson (who had also knocked out Jones) last December before coming back to beat Johnson convincingly in June. An accomplished boxer with good ring smarts and some real punch (ask Jones), Tarver will go around once more with Jones on Oct. 1.