Recently, ESPN's Dan Rafael hit some of the low lights of the WBC's boxing rankings. And from time to time, I hear people say that Ring magazine's rankings are terrible, too.
My own view is fairly well-established. I think the alphabet sanctioning gang has terrible rankings and that Ring's are about as good as it gets. But I thought I'd endeavor to set aside my pre-existing opinions (and, keeping in mind, I've written for Ring before) and examine the best and worst of those rankings of all four major sanctioning bodies and Ring.
I examined the rankings in each division based, most of all, on whether they were reasonable in a common sense way. But I also examined them for bias. Some have made the case that Ring can't be trusted to accurately rank fighters because they are owned by promoter Golden Boy. The sanctioning outfits have their own conflicts of interest, such as where they're headquartered. They also take percentages of purses from fighters who contend for their titles as sanctioning fees. Therefore, it's important to scrutinize whether they boost the rankings of fighters who, by virtue of big fan followings, are more likely to generate bigger purses.
I could have included Rafael's own rankings, or some of the others who rank fighters, like the IBO or BoxRec, but I had to draw the line somewhere.
We'll go division by division, focusing on the top 10. At the end, I give my conclusions. And I invite you to tell me where I'm wrong.
Turn that frown upside down, kiddo. Showtime's super middleweight tournament is back on solid footing, with Andre Ward-Andre Dirrell and Arthur Abraham-Carl Froch booked for Nov. 27 and, for some inside-baseball reasons, Allan Green staying in the tourney against someone or the other, giving the winner of that bout a knockout's chance of advancing to the semifinals. What will we panic about now????
Actually, once November and December come, things are looking up for the ol' tempermental beast that is boxing, as a whole. You got your Ward-Dirrell and Abraham-Froch, which, dang, Showtime, why you gotta put that on the same date as Juan Manuel Marquez's lightweight championship defense against Michael Katsidis on HBO? But, OK, better to have three killer fights on one night than none, the way we've had lately. Anyway, also coming up before year's end we have the Paul Williams-Sergio Martinez rematch on HBO on Nov. 20 for the middleweight championship of the world, rightly deemed the second-best fight that can be made in boxing behind only Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather. We got another network duel on Dec. 11, with Showtime airing its bantamweight tournament kickoff with Yonnhy Perez-Joseph Agbeko II and Abner Mares-Vic Darchinyan, plus HBO airing the premium junior welterweight clash between Amir Khan and Marcos Maidana.
Thass a nice stretch of boxing, homes. Too bad it's September.
About the worst thing anyone can do when trying to win the current version of TQBR Prediction Game is to be someone who had won an earlier version of TQBR Prediction Game. Something about being inducted into the Hall of Champions makes just about everyone go on a miserable prediction streak or flat stop playing. Over the past weekend, though, two champs of yesteryear revived some of their glory days... but is a new champ emerging?
Paul Kelly took the lead all by his lonesome by predicting a Daniel Ponce De Leon knockout of Antonio Escalante. But Miggs 88, a Hall of Champions inductee, also predicted a De Leon KO and is a mere 100 points behind him. And another inductee, Pretty Toney, had the most accurate call of the week by predicting De Leon would score the knockout in the 7th round, the closest to the actual KO round, the 3rd. So while we celebrate Paul Kelly's new leaderboard status, it's too early to celebrate him or anyone else as a future champion, as five fights remain. As such, we celebrate old champions this day (Would anyone have picked Carmen Basilio, with the way he fought, to live to be 83? Oh, wait, now that I think about it, it totally makes sense) with the idea that the next champion's day will come.
Most of the rest of us were bamboozled in at least one way. The Shane Mosley-Sergio Mora draw robbed everyone of points, a bitter pill for those of us who thought Mosley deserved the win and probably for some of you who thought Mora did. Meanwhile, 20 of us picked Escalante to 13 people picking De Leon (including Beard of Zeus aka Eugene Dammrod, who broke a five-fight skid). It now feels like my dumbest pick of 2010. I usually can imagine how my picks might lose, but I simply didn't imagine the kind of demolition job De Leon did on Escalante.
The problem for those of us who aren't doing so hot is that, yes, we still have a chance at this thing, but we might have to sit with our shame for a long time. I don't see anything prediction-worthy until Nov. 6, unless there's a sudden grassroots groundswell for a prediction on Oct. 15 for Lucian Bute-Jesse Brinkley and/or Oct. 16 for Vitali Klitscko-Shannon Briggs. Let me know what you think, people.
Until then, here are your standings. As usual, if you see any tabulation errors, notify me and we'll adjudicate:
One of the refrains of those who back Manny Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito is, paraphrased, that you moral types who don't like Margarito because of the loaded-gloves incident can ban the fight if you want, but it's still going to sell because people love the controversy. On a similar note, Yahoo's Kevin Iole recently penned a piece about how even if Floyd Mayweather goes to jail over allegedly beating up his baby momma, he'll sell more tickets than he did before once he gets out.
Paul Williams-Sergio Martinez II: That's more like it. Way, way, way more like it.
It's no secret that boxing is having a pretty terrible year, but Williams-Martinez II represents a meaningful thaw in the permafrost that is the tundra of 2010. Even when 2010 has had its good moments, something's turned around and screwed it all up. It's wonderful that we've had two Fight of the Year nominees of late (Giovanni Segura-Ivan Calderon, Ricky Burns-Roman Martinez) bouts for two true championship belts (Segura-Calderon, Jean Pascal-Chad Dawson) and a couple nice fights recently signed for December (Showtime's bantamweight tournament, Amir Khan-Marcos Maidana). Beginning this week, though, we have to put up with a solid month and a half of no truly important fights at all, a stretch that includes the postponement and limbofication of Andre Ward-Andre Dirrell, which was a key bout in the wonderful Super Six tournament that now is on shaky ground.
But Williams-Martinez II, that makes up for plenty. No, not for us losing out on Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather, not by a long shot. But Williams-Martinez II is that rare fight that is both extremely meaningful and likely to feature tremendous action, since it's a rematch of one of 2009's best battles. This is the kind of fight that makes boxing fans put up with all the suffering.
I rank Williams the third-best fighter in the world, regardless of weight. I rank Martinez seventh, and he's the Ring magazine lineal middleweight champion of the world. Everyone in the world who maintains a pound-for-pound list has both men in their top 10. They're very accomplished fighters, in other words. Both have been ducked by other fighters in their career, Williams because he's a half-human/half-condor southpaw who never stops throwing and Martinez because he's a slick, fast, crafty counterpuncher who's like Loki on wheels.
Their first bout was a brutal work of art, a musical composition in movements with blood. To this day, fans debate who won, although Williams got the official nod. We at TQBR deemed it the best fight of 2009, and I count it as one of the highlights of my short boxing writing career to have been present in Atlantic City for it, and plan to return to AC for the rematch.
It wasn't an easy fight to put together. Williams wanted to return to welterweight -- which he and his team consider his natural division -- after struggling with Martinez at middleweight and Kermit Cintron at junior middleweight, and Williams' team didn't appear terribly interested in struggling with Martinez again. Before agreeing to a rematch with Williams, Martinez' team was interested in a less difficult match on HBO after winning the middleweight strap from Kelly Pavlik.
Here's where HBO gets some love. I know I'm supposed to hate everything they do, but I don't -- just some of it. If HBO doesn't throw money at Williams-Martinez II, and if it doesn't insist on that fight for Martinez, Williams-Martinez II doesn't happen. That's right, folks. The evil empire, playing the promoter's role of matchmaker, is directly responsible for giving us one of the best fights in boxing, in every sense of the word "best."
There will be some griping about the 157 pound catchweight, and I can understand that. Nobody likes catchweights, but if it's what I have to swallow to get this fight, I can live with it. Williams' team has some cause for thinking he isn't a full-blown middleweight, given his recent struggles with fighters who aren't as naturally slender as he is. Their insistence on a catchweight is understandable, although not preferable.
Given each man's recent form, I'm inclined to think Martinez is likely to emerge victorious in the do-over. Whoever takes the win, I hope the loser doesn't get mistreated by the fans. If Williams loses, it will be to a man likely more suited to the division, who also happens to be a tough match-up for everyone in the sport. If Martinez loses, it will be to a higher-ranked fighter who beat him the first time around.
Both sides took considerable risks to their professional standing by signing on the dotted line (and, OK, probably got paid pretty well to do so, but still). As fans, we ought to be grateful that two of boxing's best are meeting in what is almost certain to be an exciting fight. It's not the kind of thing that occurs very often in the year 2010.
One common rejoinder from some fans and writers alike to the Shane Mosley-Sergio Mora draw on Saturday is that it was a fair result because neither man "deserved" to win.
I beg to differ, on two levels.
The man who "deserves" to win a decision is the man who wins the most rounds. That's the main standard for whether anyone "deserves" anything. Reasonable people have certainly differed on who won the most rounds in this particular junior middleweight fight, but I think those on the side who think Mora won the most rounds are wrong.
CompuBox statistics aren't the end-all be-all, but they confirmed what I saw with my eyes. Some have said Mosley mostly swung and missed. But Mosley landed 161 punches to Mora's 93, or 56 percent more. He landed more in every round but one, the 11th, where they tied; Mora only landed in double figures in three rounds. Some have said Mora landed the "scoring" punches, and it's true that in some rounds, he landed a crisp punch or two. But Mosley landed almost double the number of power punches, and some of those weren't just "power" in name -- they were hard shots, harder than anything Mora even could throw. And he was more accurate, too, landing 31 percent to Mora's 18. This isn't about me blindly scoring a fight for the aggressor. I'm a fan of counterpunchers and boxing technicians. I thought super middleweight Andre Dirrell easily beat Carl Froch last year.
But there's also a problem of false equivalence. Even if you think it was a close fight, it's not right to say that both sucked and therefore neither deserved to win.
Mora wasn't trying very hard and Mosley was doing everything he could to win. I think if Mora had tried, he probably would have won, actually. How do I know Mora wasn't trying very hard, besides my eyes? Because he said so. "I thought I was winning, so I didn't fight as hard because I have respect for Shane," Mora said. "I didn't want to hurt him." Also, don't mistake Mosley's refusal to criticize the decision as acquiescence that he was in a close fight. Mosley was being a gentleman in the immediate aftermath, like he always does. Look at his Twitter feed and notice how he's become more vocal. Ultimately, even if you think there were close rounds, there's no reason to give those close rounds to the man who was running away and holding on for dear life. When there's a tie on other merits, the more willing combatant should win the round.
If anybody can't get worked up over Mosley-Mora being ruled a draw, I can't blame them. It was a boring, unappetizing fight that doesn't offer much inspiration for passion. But saying neither man deserved to win gives one man too much credit and the other not enough. Neither man was scintillating, but they sucked in different ways, ways that matter. One tried; one didn't. And while neither delivered a great performance, one man landed better, more often and more accurately -- round by round and over the course of the entire fight.
David O. Russell does good work (I just quoted I Heart Huckabees in this space recently, in fact) and this trailer for "The Fighter," about Micky Ward, starts slowly and builds good momentum. Some of the remarks I've seen about it say it looks pretty standard for a boxing story, but if you know Ward's tale, it's not that way. The one thing about the movie that bothers me is that from what I can tell, is that it doesn't include the Arturo Gatti trilogy, which is more dramatically interesting than most things in Ward's life.
But that's a topic for another day. For now, we have some Quick Jabs to jab.
Sergio Mora might be the only fighter I want banned more than Antonio Margarito. For all but a few rounds, he hardly did anything Saturday night; you might say he wasn't a participant in his boxing match with Shane Mosley at all. Yet somehow he managed a draw in his junior middleweight bout with the future Hall of Famer, who didn't look all that hot, but at least managed to do something, anything as Mora ran and held.
With the exception of a some of the late rounds, it was a bout that exceeded my expectations for how badly it would suck, and my expectations for its suckiness were high. And while the undercard at least had a few sensational knockouts, it wasn't anything to celebrate. Somehow, 13,000 fans bought tickets (or were given them) for the show, and I was one of the suckers who was ambivalent about the HBO/Golden Boy pay-per-view card but still bought it at the last minute, hoping for the best or maybe just desperate for some boxing tonight. If you were wiser, I applaud you.
Think hard about how many boxers in 2010 have taken a legitimate chance in a highly risky fight. There's the Super Six tournament, Floyd Mayweather-Shane Mosley, Sergio Martinez-Kelly Pavlik, and some a tier or two below that like Chad Dawson-Jean Pascal or Pongsaklek Wonjongkam-Koki Kameda.
So, while I welcome Showtime's bantamweight tournament (one participant, Abner Mares, pictured at right via Golden Boy) and Amir Khan-Marcos Maidana on HBO, I kind of wish they weren't both on Dec. 11. I've got a DVR these days, but not everybody does. And I guess I'd rather get a few risky bouts on the same night than not at all. You just wish with a whole year to put on bouts like this and so few occasions where it happened, they didn't end up competing.
I'll discuss all those bouts at length more below, but because I've missed two weeks of fights in the works, we won't be going in order of importance. We'll just go division by division.