Andre Ward’s retirement suddenly has created the debate of who is boxing’s best pound-for-pound fighter.
Although there is no official sanction recognizing the preeminent fighter, media outlets, records services and organizations linked to the sport have pound-for-pound lists. The advent of pound-for-pound gained significance after the proliferation of sanctioning bodies that watered down world titles.
Before he retired, Ward deserved the “pound-for-pound title.” Ward made the successful move from a dominant run as super-middleweight champion to light-heavyweight. Despite an abbreviated stint at 175 pounds, Ward ended his unbeaten career with consecutive victories over Sergey Kovalev, who had amassed three sanctioning body belts.
Now that Ward will no longer be counted as pound-for-pound elite, other fighters who are on the short list merit notice as Ward’s replacement.
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Terence Crawford became the first fighter in 12 years to win the sport’s four major sanctioning body belts with his third-round knockout over Julius Indongo in a 140-pound unification bout on Aug. 19. Crawford previously had a lightweight reign and is already targeting a future move to the talent-deep and lucrative welterweight division.
Vasyl Lomachenko’s professional body of work totals 10 fights. But thanks to an impressive amateur pedigree that includes two Olympic gold medal championships, the native of Ukraine gained a title opportunity by his second professional fight. Lomachenko already has won titles as a featherweight and junior lightweight.
After knockout victories in his first 17 middleweight title defenses, Gennady Golovkin finally looked mortal in 2017. Golovkin defeated Daniel Jacobs in a close decision and fought to a draw against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in their highly-anticipated bout on Sept. 16, although many believe Gennady won the bout. Despite the two close bouts, Golovkin should remain in the discussion for best fighter.
Since Mike Tyson’s dominance in the mid-1980s, the heavyweight division has lacked a best fighter. If he continues his impressive career-starting, 19-consecutive knockout streak, reigning heavyweight titleholder Anthony Joshua will earn consideration.
As previously mentioned, the welterweight division features arguably the sport’s best talent. Gradually emerging as the division’s top fighter is Clearwater resident Keith Thurman. Thurman already has solidified his welterweight stripes with hard-fought victories over former champion Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia in a unification bout.
Miami resident Guillermo Rigondeaux already is in most top 10 pound-for-pound lists, and the reigning super-bantamweight champion could make his case as best fighter when he moves up two divisions to face Lomachenko on Dec. 9.
His draw against Golovkin should enable Alvarez to remain in the pound-for-pound rankings. Before his permanent move to middleweight to face Golovkin, Alvarez enjoyed separate stints as super-welterweight champion.
Determining a clear cut best fighter to replace Ward depends on additional matches involving elite-level fighters, such as the recent Golovkin-Alvarez bout and the upcoming fight between Lovachenko and Rigondeaux. For the foreseeable future, however, the spot will likely remain a popular topic for discussion.
AROUND THE RING
A memorial service for trainer Dave Clark will be held Saturday afternoon at the Tropical Park Gym in west Miami-Dade. Clark, who trained amateur and professional fighters during a four-decade career, died Sept. 1 after a lengthy illness. He was 85.
Clark guided boxers at the Tropical Park and Liberty City gyms for 25 years. Notable fighters under Clark’s tutelage were eventual professional world champions Robert Daniels, James Warring and Freddie Pendleton and 1980s heavyweight contender Jose Ribalta.
Saturday’s service will start at 2 with a reception showcasing boxing memorabilia beginning at 11 a.m.