by Bobby Mac
OK, let’s start with a brief primer of the history of the P4P concept that is poorly understood by modern boxing fans who too often only want to justify their favorite P4P fighters rather than to impartially compare top fighters across the divisions. Other less than honorable fans are only bent on destructive argumentation lacking any merit based on their personal dislike of certain fighters that may even bleed into unseemly hatred for a fighter.
The “modern” concept of boxing “Pound for Pound” dates back to a series of many P4P tributes to the incomparable Sugar Ray Robinson who turned pro to much acclaim after an undefeated amateur career. I’d imagine there are earlier references to the concept of P4P framed in different terminology probably going back to the 18th century bare knucks era and beyond to the David vs Goliath era and then beyond that.
Every new generation tends to rediscover a concept to reframe for their own understanding, leaving the original concept in an increasingly fuzzy state. For the blessed purpose of establishing a set of base level P4P guidelines, let us start with a representative comment penned a few years later in 1951 by Wilfred Smith that is typical of the P4P accolades heaped on Sugar Ray Robinson:
“Ray Robinson has been called the finest fighting man for his pounds in the history of pugilism.”
The early P4P concept incorporates the values of weight disparities, excellence of application, and skills. The mid 1900s concept of weight is important because the original weight class dating back to the days of James Figg was an open one, i.e., the fighters could weigh whatever they wanted which ultimately became the heavyweight division by way of general consensus. Naturally folks took note when a smaller fighter challenged a bigger one, so fighters were weighed to satisfy curiosity, but in truth, the ritual was constructed in order to harden the betting line since the bigger fighter usually prevailed.
Weight stipulations begin working their way down from that original open class in order to more closely match up fighters of different weights that eventually began to be known as middleweight and welterweight divisions that were further split into the some 17-18 modern weight classes we have today. Weights and ages of fighters were almost important as the claimed records of the fighters in those unregulated bare-knuckled days.
Sugar Ray Robinson fought in the middle range of modern divisions, starting his career at 130 lbs and working up to 160lbs at his peak. He was often matched against larger fighters as was the norm back then, and was always victorious save the first Lamotta loss, his only anomaly in his first 140 fights. The importance of weight was such that appropriately skilled fighters with an established record of excellence across these weight disparities were naturally lauded as the top fighters. The thinking was` that when proportionately sized up and down various weight classes in his era, Robinson could beat every fighter regardless of weight, the ultimate fantasy culmination of a rabid boxing enthusiast come true.
Objective interpretation of the attributes needed today when comparing fighters across widely disparate weight classes would follow:
1. SIZE, as in results of fights with obvious height, weight, and reach disparities that are the historical holy trinity of significant boxing physical measurement records. Successfully moving up through weight classes is very important to today’s generation of more heavily regulated fighters who usually are no longer allowed to make matches against much heavier opponents save the open heavyweight division that sees the dramatic size differences..
2. Skills, as in the number of skills and strategic nuance the fighter shows on offense and defense.
3. Dominance, as in the excellence of application of natural talents and abilities over opponents.
4. Quality of Opposition as in a record full of quality, ranked or otherwise highly regarded fighters.
5. Power, as in genuine knockout power that takes the result out of the hands of subjective judges.
OK, now with the essential historical background and modern concepts of P4P established, how about we move to the main course, the meat of this P4P debate, Pacquiao vs Mayweather. To get to the main course, I have to make proper preparations such as asking the essential question that nobody ever bothers to ask and then look at the answers.
Starting in sequential side by side career order, Manny Pacquiao as the younger fighter was the first to turn professional as so many future boxers do in impoverished “3rd World” countries lacking a public education system. It was 1995 at age 16, when this skinny junior flyweight scaling 106 lbs entered the ring to earn a hard fought 4 round decision. The very next year, 1996, Floyd Mayweather Jr turned pro after a stellar amateur record including a bronze medal in the Olympic Games. He was age 19 at 129 lbs campaigning as a super featherweight, usually winning by knockout.
Mayweather was the first to win a title in 1998, the WBC superfeatherweight belt that he took from the highly regarded Genero Hernandez, 38-1-1 by way of 8th round KO. He was now age 21 in his 3rd year of boxing and earned his first Ring P4P ranking with the win at the #10 spot.
Pacquiao followed a couple of months later by winning his first title, the WBC flyweight title that he took from highly regarded Chatchai Sasakul, 33-1, also by way of 8th round KO. Pacquiao was now age 19 in his 4th yr of boxing, but he did not earn Ring P4P honors.
So, to sum up 1998, both hold their first titles, a WBC belt for each with Mayweather earning an additional Ring P4P ranking. Neither had yet to fight much less beat a Ring ranked P4Per. Remember though, Ring Magazine is American based and Mayweather was well known to the voters, whereas Pacquiao was almost completely unknown in America and certainly not yet fighting in Vegas on American broadcasts as Mayweather was from the gitgo of his career.
Mayweather beats a Ring P4Per for the first time when he knocks out #5 Diego Corrales in 2001. That upgrades him to the Ring #8 spot by the start of 2002 with Eric Morales, Kostya Tszyu, Oscar de la Hoya, and Marco Antonio Barrera notably ranked over him. 2002 happens to also be the year Pacquiao fights his first ever Ring P4Per, beating #3 Barerra that earns him the #6 Ring ranking, just under #5 Mayweather by the start of 2003.
So, by 2003, these natural adversaries are starting to look like two peas in the P4P pod, but Pacquiao has to become a marquee name across the globe before the P4P debate between these two becomes serious.
Since Pacquiao quickly becomes the best known boxer across the globe, than by all means, let the serious fun begin.
2004 starts the year with some shakeout of the Ring rankings due to losses resulting in Mayweather being bumped up to #2. Manny moves into Floyd’s old #5 slot and fights his 2nd P4P fight ever against the #6 making his P4P debut, Juan Manual Marquez, in their forever controversially fabled draw. Other notable P4P names that year at or near their divisions ` are #3 Kostya Tszyu, #7 Barrera, #8 Morales.
2005 starts with Mayweather in the #1 slot courtesy of Jermaine Taylor who dethroned #1 Bernard Hopkins. #3 is Barrera who worked his way back up with back to back wins over #6 Morales. #4 is Ricky Hatton with #5 occupied by Pacquiao, notable because he fights #6 Morales who wins a close decision. That would be Pacquiao’s 3rd P4P fight. Marquez is #7, and noteworthy that old Mayweather foe, Jose Luis Castillo makes his P4Pdebut at #9 followed by Zab Judah’s return to the rankings at #10 after a 4 yr absence thanks to a big upset of reigning welter champ Cory Spinks that earned Judah the unified title.
So, 2006 starts with Mayweather still in the #1 slot and scheduled to fight #10 Judah, but Judah is upset by unknown journeyman Carlos Baldomir, negating Mayweather’s opportunity to match up against his 2nd ever Ring P4P. Meanwhile, Pacquiao has fought his way to #2 before twice knocking out #6, Morales in back to back fights that are Pacquiao’s 4th and 5th opportunities against a P4P fighter.
2007 starts again with Mayweather still in as #1. In his 2nd ever P4P fight, he knocks out #8 Ricky Hatton and then retires. Pacquiao and Marquez are #2 and #3 with Miguel Cotto making his debut at #7. Pacquiao doesn’t make any P4P fights in 2007.
2008 sees Mayweather retired with Pacquiao installed as the new #1. He promptly makes his 6th ever P4P fight, beating the new #2, Marquez. Antonio Margarito makes his P4P debut at #6 while Cotto is bumped to #8 and Hatton goes to #10.
2009 sees #1 Pacquiao has his 7th and 8th P4P fights, knocking out #9 Hatton and #8 Cotto while Mayweather returns to beat #2 Marquez in his 3rd ever P4P fight. Noteworthy is Shane Mosley returning to the P4P rankings after a long absence to #5 by knocking out Margarito who has his boxing license suspended and is promptly stripped of his Ring P4P and welter rankings.
2010 sees #1 Pacquiao and #2 Mayweather scheduled to fight in March and then later in November, but Mayweather mysteriously backs of both of the fights and dates, choosing instead to fight #5 Mosley in May, Mayweather’s 4th ever P4P fight. After winning a decision, Mayweather announces a 2 yr retirement.
So, the current P4P tally is #1 Pacquiao holding a career 6-1-1, 5 KO record against Ring ranked P4P fighters in comparison to #2 Mayweather at 4-0, 2 KO.
Pacquiao is scheduled to fight his 9th ever P4P fight, the current Ring # 4 P4P, Marquez, in their long anticipated rubber match this coming November. The results of that fight are obviously pending. Mayweather announced his return from retirement with a fight against the new WBC welter champ, Vicious Victor Ortiz, this coming September 17th. Ortiz who has no P4P ranking yet, so for 2011 Mayweather looks set with 4 total career P4P fights to Pacquiao’s anticipated 9th ever P4P fight.
It’s probable that the Pacquiao has already set some P4P records that may never be broken in both the number of P4P fights he has already had, 8, and the number of P4P wins he has notched, 6, and the # of P4P knockouts he has, 5.
The average ranking of Pacquiao’s eight P4P opponents is a 6 with Marquez being the highest at #2, Barrera #3, Morales #6 x3, Marquez again at #6, Cotto #8, and Hatton at #9. Noteworthy is that against 3 of these P4Pers, Pacquiao simultaneously made his divisional debut against the 2 best fighters at that weight, Barrera at featherweight, and Hatton at juniorwelter. Pacquiao could have made his 3rd divisional debut against #1 Barrera who had moved to the superfeather division, but Barrera refused to exercise his rematch clause since he didn’t want to risk losing the new plaudits he found in his new division. Pacquiao’s divisional P4P debut record is 2-0, 2 KO.
The average ranking of Mayweather’s 4 opponents is #5 with Marquez being the highest at #2, Corrales #5, Mosley #5, and Hatton #8. Mayweather has no divisional debut P4P fights in his record.
Also noteworthy is that Pacquiao also eventually beat the #2 fighter, Marquez in this case, to consolidate his #1 status, the only fighter in the brief history of P4P rankings that I can recall having done this.
The more inventively argumentative might claim that former #1 Mayweather later returned after a two year absence to beat the #2 in Marquez, but that seems a lesser achievement since Marquez had to jump two weight divisions to where he was unranked just to make that fight happen, technically a fight between two divisionally unranked fighters designed as an unlikely and unexpected novelty bout that attracted quite a bit of interest, it’s only intent.
Lest anyone need a reminder, Pacquiao already beat #2 at #2’s best weight at the apex of Marquez’s career. Why Mayweather has steadfastly refused to challenge #1 after repeatedly teasing the boxing public by having his team hammering out expensive, arduous negotiations leading to agreed upon terms that Mayweather then chose to reject may end up as the ultimate unsolved mystery of 21st Century boxing.
Few would doubt the overall skills, dominance and quality of opposition of each fighter. As prime fighters, they generally match up well against most of the greats in history in my opinion regardless of where any fighter ranks.
Pacquiao has also established a significant edge in moving through weight classes, winning belts in 8 divisions and has held all the major belts at one time or the other, the WBC, WBA, IBF, WBO, IBO, and Ring belts. Mayweather has been successful in winning belts as he moved through 5 divisional belts, but he is more limited in the variety of those belts, confining himself to the WBC and Ring belts though technically he also won the IBF belt from the disgraced Judah after he was beaten into ignominy by the ancient journeyman Carlos Baldomir. Baldomir in any fair world deserved that IBF strap to go with his WBA and WBC belts, but boxing doesn’t always operate under fair terms.
Pacquiao also has a significant advantage in power as he moved up, notching several serious knockouts of P4P opposition, whereas Mayweather just has two of those kind of knockouts.
So, there it is folks, the current history of the P4P careers of Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. Make of it what you may at your own peril since P4P rankings are still evolving. Many fighters have been able to make P4P lists on the excellence of their records without beating an actual P4P ranked fighter. Fighters often don’t have an available P4P fighter near their division to fight, so it’s always a bonus when two P4Pers do fight, but that’s no guarantee of memorable classic like the fans are want to project when they dream of these fights happening.
I deliberately chose to ignore the broader overall career record comparison because that’s been done to death and just muddies waters that need clarification. I am more interested in the narrow focus of the historical Ring P4P rankings regarding these two to sharpen any objective differences rather than run off on another subjective dead end, and that was accomplished in this case.
I recall Ring Magazine not long ago updating their P4P rankings by noting that P4P rankings are “mythical.” I would add that all rankings are “mythical”, including past or current Ring divisional rankings. The only thing “tangible” in boxing is who holds which belt, and as we all know, the belt holder may not come close to being considered the best in their division nor may he have any financial or personal interest in even fighting the best.
Nonetheless, Ring Rankings establish a general framework for a consensus benchmark in a sport that is too often is one of the most of the most subjective sports. Boxing desperately needs objective oversight for any true understanding, but that won’t stop every fan, boxing analyst and their grandmothers from constructing their own personal P4P lists, dismissing all lists that came before them, so I won’t bore anyone with my own P4P rankings.
Interestingly, however, I have often suggested combining P4P consensus rankings to get a broader consensus average ranking, which led to me constructing the BSIBRO alltime heavyweight ranking a few years back. That would be the Boxing Scene all time heavyweight rankings compiled by vote by one dedicated fellow named Hurricane that I combined with the International Boxing Research Organization ratings, an amalgamation of the largest fan boxing website with the most established boxing “historian” organization.
Though the top two rankings remained the same with Joe Louis edging out Muhammad Ali, more modern heavies from the 70s era on up dominated the Boxing Scene poll compared to the IBRO poll of older “gentlemen” who preferred the older heavies. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that folks tend to like and vote for fighters they grew up knowing about rather than rate by any serious objective standard that isn’t even established anyway, so in that regard, putting together the BSIBRO poll highlighted the bias that I had long noticed in “objective” Ring rankings.
So, that concludes the Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr Ring P4P comparison. It was a tedious exercise for me, but worth the information and understanding it ultimately imparted.