Dougie’s Monday Mailbag (are Andre Ward and Canelo Alvarez all-time greats?)
WARD, CANELO ATG STATUS, FUTURE STARS
Glad to see (and hear) that you and the family are doing well and the mailbag is still going strong. I don’t think I speak for myself when I say it’s keeping us all a little more sane.
MM – Oscar De La Hoya vs Vernon Forest @ 154
– Tommy Hearns vs James Toney @ 168
– GGG vs Froch @ 168 (when it was being discussed around 2014)
I know that you aren’t the biggest fan of him but what is your honest assessment of the skills, accomplishments, level of competition and where he stands in ATG status of Andre Ward (I don’t have any strong feelings towards Ward either way so this one is just out of curiosity caused by the fact he can do no wrong).
Same question for Canelo if he retired tomorrow.
Finally, out of the below 5 breakout fighters in recent memory, who do you think will accomplish most, in terms of accomplishments and star power over the next 5 years (once boxing gets back to normal)
Josh Taylor, Naoya Inoue, Teofimo Lopez, Artur Beterbeiv and Murodjon Akhmadaliev
Thanks as always for the informed and knowledgeable responses you give us. – Euan, Dunfermline, Scotland
Tough question, Euan (and thank you for the kind words about this column).
I want to say Inoue, who has accomplished the most, so far, of the five. He’s a three-division titleholder, he beat a future hall of famer (Donaire) in the World Boxing Super Series bantamweight tournament final, he holds two major titles and a Ring championship belt, and he was in The Ring’s 2019 Fight of the Year. There’s a reason the Japanese star is in everybody’s pound-for-pound top five. HOWEVER, my gut tells me The Monster’s limit might be bantamweight. He may not be able overwhelm 122
and 126 pounders the way he did at 108, 115 and 118 pounds. We’ll see. I think Lopez has the most upside in terms of star power due to his youth, personality and obvious talent, but we won’t know if he’s really ready for Vasiliy Lomachenko until he shares the ring with the pound-for-pound player. And who knows if he can hang with the best junior welterweights once he makes his inevitable step up to 140 pounds?
Taylor has the potential to accomplish the most being a big and versatile 140 pounder. The southpaw Scotsman has already accomplished a lot by winning the World Boxing Super Series tournament, which included title-unifying victories over top-rated Ivan Baranchyk and Regis Prograis, plus The Ring championship. He’s signed with Top Rank and seems on course for a showdown with fellow unified titleholder Jose Ramirez. If he wins, he’ll be the undisputed champ, which is a big deal (just ask Kostya Tszyu and Terence Crawford). He’ll also set himself up for a shot at Bud.
I know that you aren’t the biggest fan of him but what is your honest assessment of the skills, accomplishments, level of competition and where he stands in ATG status of Andre Ward.
Ward’s skills were elite level, as was his ring savvy and IQ. He was a complete and versatile boxer-technician, every bit deserving of his pound-for-pound status. His accomplishments were top notch. He won the Super Six World Boxing Classic tournament, which unified the WBA and WBC super middleweight titles and earned him The Ring championship as well as The Ring’s 2011 Fighter of the Year award. He won three major light heavyweight titles with his close nod over Sergey Kovalev and earned The Ring championship with his stoppage victory in their rematch. His level of competition was very good for his era (the second half of the 2000s and the last decade). I think Ward is a future first-ballot hall of famer (and, yes, he will get my vote – I might scribble “Dre can do no wrong” next to my checkmark if I’m feeling cheeky).
All Time Great? I’m afraid not, and I don’t write that because I don’t think he could have held his own with the greats of past eras – I think he could – I write that because he just didn’t accomplish enough or face enough fellow elites or future hall of famers to draw comparisons to the true ATGs. Greatness is harder to attain in boxing than in any other pro sport because of who old it is and because the best of the best of previous decades did so much, fought so much, and faced so many fellow greats.
Ward fought 32 times as a pro (and scored 16 KOs). It’s very, very hard to earn ATG status with less than 50 pro bouts. Sugar Ray Leonard (who had 40) did it because he had elite-level dance partners and he fought them when they were at or close to their best in a span (Benitez, Duran twice, Hearns) of less than three years. Those men were awesome at the time and they went on to forge hall of fame or ATG careers after losing to Leonard. Then you add the Hagler upset and the top-10 contenders he faced, and you got a modern fighter with a modern record who ranks with the best that ever did it. That’s RARE, Euan.
I’ll break it down to you like this: Sugar Ray Robinson is the ATG standard. He fought 200 times, scored 108 KOs. He was 40-0 by the end of 1942. The man turned pro in October 1940, so in 27 months, he fought more bouts than Ward did in about 12 years. In that span he beat fellow future hall of famers Jake LaMotta (an ATG), Fritzie Zivic (twice) and Sammy Angott (the lightweight champ at the time, twice). He also beat future welterweight champ Marty Servo (twice) and several top-10 contenders, including Izzy Jannazzo (twice).
If you line up the 10 best fighters Robinson faced, you’re talking about hall of famers (and I’m listing these guys in chronological order, I’m not ranking them): LaMotta (five bouts), Zivic, Angott, Kid Gavilan (twice), Carl “Bobo” Olson (four bouts), Randy Turpin (twice), Rocky Graziano, Joey Maxim, Gene Fullmer (four times) and Carmen Basilio (twice). When historians rank the top middleweights of all time, they include LaMotta. When they rank the top welterweights of all time, the include Gavilan and Basilio. You get my point. (I didn’t bother mentioning Henry Armstrong, who was past his prime when Ray fought him, or Joey Giardello who beat a past-prime Robinson in 1963.) THAT, my friend, is GREATNESS.
Ward is EXCEPTIONAL for THIS era, but not all time. The quality of his top five opponents is very good: Kovalev (twice), Carl Froch, Chad Dawson, Mikkel Kessler and Arthur Abraham. (If you want to switch the order, that’s all good, I’m listing them, not necessarily ranking them.) Kovalev and Froch will likely make it into the hall of fame. But you can’t really do a top-10 best fighters list with Ward, whose first 18 bouts (as is the tradition for modern amateur standouts) were “gimmes.”
After Sakio Bika and Edison Miranda, who is there? Allan Green? Edison Rodriguez? OK. They were all solid. But who’s No. 10? Rubin “Hollywood” Williams? Henry “Sugar Poo” Buchanan? Maybe it was the Godfather of Gatekeepers, Darnell Boone. (I’m serious!)
Same question for Canelo if he retired tomorrow. Same answer. Canelo’s skillset is elite. Unlike most modern fighters, he’s got a lot of experience (56 pro bouts) to back up his sharp mind and ring generalship. He’s a complete fighter, a boxer-counterpuncher, who is defensively slick but can also be an offensive force with his body attack and combinations. And he’s extremely accomplished, having won The Ring championship at junior middleweight and middleweight, along with eight major titles over three weight classes. Canelo was in The Ring’s 2018 Fight of the Year and he was the consensus 2019 Fighter of the Year.
If Alvarez retired tomorrow, he’d be a first-ballot hall of famer. He’s probably got a better case than Ward because he’s already faced four or five men who are in or likely will be inducted into the hall of fame: Floyd Mayweather Jr., Miguel Cotto, Shane Mosley, Gennadiy Golovkin (twice) and Kovalev. He’s got a solid top-10 opponents list, as the second five would be Erislandy Lara, Daniel Jacobs, Austin Trout, Amir Khan and Liam Smith (or maybe Smith can be replaced with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. or James Kirkland).
But, as it stands now, I don’t view the Mexican superstar as an ATG. Mayweather, Cotto and Mosley were past their primes (and Floyd beat him handily), although he had just reached the world-class level when he faced Mayweather, who ranked up a few significant victories after their 2013 showdown. The Golovkin fights were controversial (and like Ward’s showdowns with Kovalev the first bouts were more disputed than the return bouts), although I thought he was impressive vs. GGG; the split nod over Lara could have gone the other way, Khan was undersized, and Chavez Jr. was clearly drained and merely showed up for the payday. Still, Alvarez is only 30 (which is mind boggling, really). He’s got time to add to his legacy and he very well could end up with an ATG career.
Your mythical matchups:
Oscar De La Hoya vs Vernon Forest @ 154 – De La Hoya (2001-2002 version) on points in a close chess match.
Tommy Hearns vs James Toney @ 168 – Lights Out by late stoppage in a very competitive fight, one that Hearns dictates with his jab in the early rounds, but Toney gradually takes over from the middle rounds on.
GGG vs Froch @ 168 (when it was being discussed around 2014) – Golovkin by late stoppage or close decision in a hotly contested and very entertaining fight.
RING RATINGS PANEL ALL TIME P4P TOP 10
I’ve been a weekly reader of yours for years. I look forward to your Mailbag every Friday and Monday, especially during these days of the pandemic-caused hiatus from live fights.
I was wondering if these times could afford The Ring’s Rating Board the time to do an All Time Pound-for-Pound Top Ten. I know it’s hard to compare fighters from very different eras, but I have to ask. How about YOUR OWN All Time Pound-for Pound?
All the best to you and yours. Stay safe and healthy! Thanks. – Chris from Chicago
Thanks for the kind words, Chirs.
The Ring’s Ratings Update has been frozen since early March, so the Rings Panel hasn’t had its weekly debates in almost three months. Maybe they’re bored and would be into such a task. (Or maybe they’ll tell me to tell you to get a life! LOL) It doesn’t hurt to ask.
I don’t think I’ve tried to compile such a list in several years. The last time I did, it was a top 20 and it didn’t include fighters whose last bouts took place before 1943. I’m as busy as ever with The Ring magazine and the special issues that we’ve been doing, but I could take some time to come up with my own all-time great top 10. Maybe some members of the Ratings Panel are willing to do the same. I’ll propose it to them this week. If I get a good enough response I’ll publish it.
I’ve been thinking about substituting a new bi-weekly ratings column in place of the Ring Ratings Update until we get a decent boxing schedule. One idea is to do a Ring Ratings Flashback series, which posts the pound-for-pound and divisional rankings of the years that pertain to the aforementioned special issues. The next magazine will celebrate the Gatti-Ward trilogy, so the Ring Ratings Flashback to coincide with it’s release would either be right before the classic first bout, which would be late April or early May of 2002, or between the return bouts, which would be the start of 2003. The special issue after that will focus on the career of Mike Tyson, so I’d probably go with a Ring Ratings Flashback from the absolute peak of his championship prime (anytime in 1988 or ’89). If the response is positive, I’ll keep it going until boxing is all the way back.
AWESOME Mailbag today (Friday) – loved it.
You prompted your readers to instead of protesting who you left off (such as Marvin Hagler for ‘Best Chin’ for example) turn that “silly outrage into an email to the mailbag that includes YOUR picks but also asks me my choices in more specific/creative categories, such as “Best technician,” “Best ring generalship,” “Most natural talent,” “Best timing,” “Best combination puncher,” “best body puncher,” “Craftiest/Most Cagey,” “Dirtiest,” “Most awkward/unorthodox,” etc. ”
Well – Challenge accepted
I’m quite sure that those categories will be asked by SOMEONE reading the mailbag this week so I’ll go a different route:
In your lifetime, as a boxing fan, which boxer had the best…..
Who was the best body puncher?
Which southpaw had the best RIGHT jab?
What fighter was the best natural athlete?
Who cut off the ring the best?
Who had the quickest reflexes?
Finally, in your lifetime, which fighter had the best 1-2 combination that you saw?
One mythical Matchup: Wilfred Benitez (the version from 1981-82) vs. Mike McCallum (1987 that beat McCrory and Curry) at 154?
In closing, thanks for all that you do to make these days go by faster. I’ve enjoyed your column for many years. – Darren
Thanks for the kind words, Darren. It’s my pleasure. And fans like you keep me doing what I love.
Good call out on Hagler for Best Chin. He was definitely worthy of at least one of the Runners Up.
Off the top of my head, here are the best I’ve seen in my lifetime with your categories:
Left hook? Sugar Ray Leonard
Runners up: Thomas Hearns, Roy Jones Jr., Arturo Gatti, Diego Corrales
Right Cross? Hearns
Runners up: Mike Tyson, Kostya Tszyu, Lennox Lewis, Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Runners up: James Toney, Riddick Bowe, Lewis, Antonio Margarito
Who was the best body puncher? Julio Cesar Chavez
Runners up: Hearns, Marco Antonio Barrera, Micky Ward, Gatti,
Which southpaw had the best RIGHT jab? Winky Wright
Runners up: Hagler, Pernell Whitaker, Kevin Kelley, Cory Spinks
What fighter was the best natural athlete? Roy Jones Jr.
Runners up: Naseem Hamed, Shane Mosley, Manny Pacquiao, Edwin Valero
Who cut off the ring the best? Chavez
Runners up: Dwight Muhammad Qawi, Hagler, Tszyu, Gennadiy Golovkin
Who had the quickest reflexes? Jones Jr.
Runners up: Tyson, Tszyu, Pacquiao, Mayweather Jr.
Finally, in your lifetime, which fighter had the best 1-2 combination that you saw? It’s gotta be Mike Tyson’s right to the body-right uppercut combo.
Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter and IG at @dougiefischer, and join him and Coach Schwartz and friends on Periscope every Sunday.