BEST FIGHTERS NOT ON HBO
Boxers. And "best" combines in roughly equal proportion three definitive criteria: how hard is it for opponents to beat you? How dominant are your wins? And do you connect to the entertainment responsibility of an entrepreneurial sport?
- •Floyd Mayweather: the record speaks to his consummate skills as a professionally self-protective boxer, along with his astute risk-management gifts. His overall persona provides substitute intrigue for his audience. Still the hardest for any opponent to beat.
- •Keith Thurman: a gifted athlete who can punch, well-trained in a title-caliber gym, Thurman is the potential star of stars on Al Haymon's PBC venture. He is the welterweight who can beat any other PBC welterweight. So he should be given the fights in which to prove it. For example, any reason he can't fight Danny Garcia?
- •Danny Garcia: unbeaten still and with quality wins over Amir Khan and Lucas Matthysse, the Philadelphia left hooker has shown the ability to rise to the occasion---or to fall off against lesser opposition, of which he's been seeing too much. He should be fighting Thurman, but the grapevine says Robert Guerrero. See above re "lesser opposition".
- •Amir Khan: just when it appeared Khan and trainer Virgil Hunter had thoroughly rebuilt his game, he got wobbled by Chris Algieri. But superior skill held the fort for the British star, setting him up to be publicly jilted by Mayweather yet again. So we get it, he's no Andre Berto. Let HIM fight Thurman, or the next name on the list.
- •Kell Brook: the other English welterweight, stronger and sturdier than Khan, a runaway winner on American soil over Shawn Porter in a fight in which Porter was favored. What Mayweather did to Khan, Amir now replicates with Brook. But at some point, barring a collapse, they'll fill an English soccer stadium.
- •Errol Spence: PBC is welterweight-heavy. Here is the sixth one, and the role Terence Crawford plays at HBO-- potential inheritor to the American welterweight tradition of Robinson, Leonard, Mayweather-- is played by super-prospect Spence at PBC. But he needs a breakout fight, like Crawford got against Breidis Prescott and Yuriorkis Gamboa.
- •Adonis Stevenson: Montreal-based lineal light heavyweight champ may be the hardest one-punch puncher in boxing, but he won't keep getting credit for it unless he can prioritize and attract fights with star opponents like Kovalev and Montreal-based Russian Artur Beterbiev, a colossal talent who may eventually replace Stevenson on this list.
- •Guillermo Rigondeaux: world's best 122 lb fighter is a self-threatening equation. Ranks very high on the "hardest-to-beat" scale, somewhere in a Mayweather suburb. On the hardest-to-watch scale he is number one, imperiously deconstructing opponents while occasionally swatting them like flies. Would be favored over larger Nicholas Walters.
- •Erislandy Lara: like Rigo, a former Cuban Olympic star. And the comparison continues. Southpaw? Check. Defense-first counterpuncher? Check. Regal and arrogant? Ditto. To his credit Lara beat both Austin Trout and (ignore the scorecards) Paul Williams. Only real loss was to Canelo Alvarez. Number three at 154 behind Canelo and Cotto.
- •Leo Santa Cruz: two years ago, on way up to featherweight, non-stop punching LSC was one of most exciting commodities in the sport. That was before a succession of pedestrian opponents visibly reduced his intensity. Can restore a lot of the luster in showdown fight with Abner Mares in their showdown fight this coming Saturday 8/29.
- •Abner Mares: was on a path toward becoming a new iteration of Oscar de la Hoya until he walked into former sparring partner Jhonny Gonzalez' lethal left hook. Still a dynamic talent with a chance to fulfill featherweight destiny, beginning this coming Saturday 8/29 vs Leo Santa Cruz.
- •Alexander Povetkin: if his mandatory status somehow translates to a date with American beltholder Deontay Wilder, Povetkin will be the narrow favorite. Former Russian Olympic super heavyweight gold medalist is the second best heavyweight behind Wladimir Klitschko, who both held him and knocked him down repeatedly in their 2013 fight in Moscow.