For once, boxing's heavyweight division has gotten it right. The best championship fight that could be made is actually the one that has been made.
Vitali Klitschko will defend his World Boxing Council belt at the Staples Center in Los Angeles against Cristobal Arreola in a fight that could turn out to be the finest heavyweight championship match since Klitschko and Lennox Lewis put on a classic in 2003.
That's not to say, however, that Klitschko-Arreola, however appealing it may be, is the best heavyweight fight out there. That fight, however, simply can not be made.
That would be a match of the division's two most talented men: Klitschko and his younger brother, Wladimir, the owner of the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Organization belts.
They have long insisted they would never fight each other and there have been no indications that stance is about to change.
If it happened, it would be a classic confrontation by two large, enormously skilled men. This fantasy fight would feature knockout punching, classic boxing and surprising athleticism.
There are three reasons to think Wladimir would win were he to take on his older brother, but there are an equal number of reasons that would favor Vitali.
On Wladimir's side:
1. He's a classic boxer with the division's best jab.
2. He has more fluidity and athleticism in his movements than Vitali, who tends to be more lumbering.
3. He puts his punches together better in combination and has a more varied arsenal of shots.
On Vitali's side:
1. He's got the sturdier chin, as he's never been knocked out and has taken the best blows the best men in the division have had to offer.
2. He's the harder hitter, has one-punch power in either hand and has the kind of heavy blow in which the pain lasts for a long time.
3. He's brilliant at making opponents fight his fight. Vitali is an expert at taking away an opponent's strengths and forcing the opponent into a disadvantageous style.
If the two ever met, I'd go with Vitali by a knockout. I believe he would be troubled by his brother's jab and movement, but I also believe he'd eventually be able to cut off the ring and turn the bout into a slugfest in a corner. That would only favor him.
The fight taking place, though, is one that should be highly entertaining. We'll have complete advance coverage of the fight all week and my colleague, Martin Rogers, and I, will be ringside at Staples Center on Saturday.
Now, before I jump into the mailbag and answer your questions and comments, I'd like to ask you to follow me on Twitter, if you're not already.
How can Floyd Mayweather Jr. be considered pound-for-pound the best when he's fighting smaller men and ducking men his size? Just because he beat Juan Manuel Marquez on Saturday doesn't mean he's better than Manny Pacquiao. Pacquiao and Marquez fought on even terms; Mayweather was just too big. Granted, I am a Pacquiao fan, but I think all three common opponents (Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Marquez) should be considered when comparing the men.
Floyd Jr. is the most complete fighter in the game, Arwin. He best combines offense and defense, is incredibly difficult to hit and is a master tactician. Marquez didn't look nearly as slow facing Pacquiao as he did against Mayweather, who put on a defensive clinic. Holding an opponent to a 12 percent connect ratio is like an NBA team holding its opponent to 42 points. And holding a guy to just 21 jabs landed in a bout in which he came in with the plan of jabbing a lot is mind-blowing. No question, Pacquiao beat De La Hoya and Hatton more decisively. And while I have great respect for Manny and believe he's come a long way, he doesn't have the overall game in my opinion to beat Floyd.
Your column on Mayweather's win is exactly why boxing is quickly becoming the second choice for fight fans. Your assertion that Floyd "would beat Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto, Shane Mosley or anyone else whose name was mentioned as potential opponents Saturday," is boxing's idiotic way of thinking. You may very well be right (and we all know he won't fight all three of those fighters because Floyd is now a promoter first, fighter second) but promoters' and columnists' beliefs that fights aren't worthwhile because they are apparently fought on paper is why people are starting to stop caring. Yes, Manny fought Marquez in a pair of close fights (one a draw, one a split decision), but your current-events mindset neglected to mention that Manny destroyed both Oscar and Hatton in exponentially greater fashion than Floyd did. Apparently, Floyd is the best fighter in the world again by beating a man who moved up 10 pounds more than his previous maximum weight (and Floyd didn't even bother to cut the last two pounds). How is that impressive, even if Marquez is a pound-for-pound great? If he does that to a champion or legitimate contender in his own weight class (like the three you mentioned), he can be called the best. Until then, he just beat up an overmatched, lighter fighter. Why can't boxers take on all comers, instead of hiding behind money and promoters? It is pathetic and growing old.
I defy you to point to a spot in that column where I said the fights aren't worth fighting. The opposite is true. I have called for a Mayweather-Cotto fight in the past, after Cotto had defeated Zab Judah. I agree that sometimes, media view the fight as a promoter or manager would and dismiss a fight for reasons that have nothing to do with the fact that it would be a great match. I want to see Mayweather fight those guys, as well as Paul Williams, among others. I think of Mosley, Pacquiao and Cotto, he will fight at least two of them. But I will agree that the sport would be in far better shape if the best fought the best on a regular basis. And that's not just Mayweather.
Do you think Mayweather Jr. deserves to be the No. 1 pound-for-pound boxer even after he and Marquez put up one of the most boring fights ever?
Yes, I think he does. Mayweather is so good, Marquez couldn't lure him into a toe-to-toe shootout. I don't think size was that much of an issue in the fight, either. It's not like Mayweather was knocking Marquez down like a bowling pin. It was his quickness, his lightning-fast hand speed, his ring awareness and his defense that won him that fight, not his size.
Hey Kevin, I think Floyd is completely right when he says he can't win. If he beats Pacquiao, he beat a smaller guy. If he opts to fight Mosley or Cotto, he's ducking the arguably more talented (than Mosley or Cotto) and pound-for-pound king in Pacquiao. Every expert has a different take on what would enhance Mayweather's legacy more. Save a Paul Williams fight, who do you think is a better fight for Mayweather, and "for boxing?"
Daly City, Calif.
The best fight for boxing would be a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. You'd have the two guys with the claim to No. 1 going at it. If Pacquiao defeats Cotto in November, then I'll start a campaign for Mayweather-Pacquiao. If Cotto wins, though, I think a Mayweather-Mosley fight would be the one that should be made. But I would hope a Mayweather-Williams fight will be made, too. That would be the one I see as the most difficult for Floyd Jr.
A lot of people do not realize the true talent Floyd Mayweather has. He is a natural. Manny Pacquiao will not stand a chance against a defensive specialist. Floyd will knock him out only because Pac-man will make Floyd fight. The more pressure you put on Mayweather, the harder he fights, and he can take a punch. To be a great counter puncher, one must be able to take plenty of good hits. Pac-man is not good at defending counter punchers and speed sometimes frustrates him also. Mayweather just has too much skill for Pac-man and Shane Mosley. The only fighter out there who can give Mayweather any type of challenge is Paul Williams. He has a lot of advantages he really knows how to use that would bring the best that we all would love to see brought out of a boxing genius like Floyd.
I agree totally, Roy, with most everything you say. I don't think it's fair to say Williams is the only one who would present any type of challenge, but he would present the most difficult challenge.
Hi Kevin. I just wanted to say I appreciate your article. I am 25 and a full-time musician, but boxing is my passion. I have been boxing for a long time and still love it as much as ever. I must admit I love boxing in the true sense. Floyd Mayweather is one of the best ever. If you have some others in mind, I would like to check them out. I appreciate you giving Mayweather a fair shake. I feel like a lot of the media tries to make him the bad guy, which isn't hard, and they don't want to give him credit were it is due. I can't agree with you that he isn't a great fighter. Any time you are having punches thrown at you and you are throwing them back, well, my friend, that's a fight. I know what you are saying, though. Maybe brawler would have been a better word. I believe one of Floyd's biggest problems is that his skills really are on a different level than the other fighters. I would love to see him fight Pacman, Cotto, or Mosley. I really believe he would beat any of those candidates. Also, how come nobody even talks about the fact Mosley did steroids? If he were a baseball player it would be the topic of all conversation.
People say Floyd is boring because he hasn't been in one of those fights like Hearns-Hagler or Ali-Frazier or Corrales-Castillo. But no one has forced him into a situation like that. He's so good defensively that he's able to deflate the tires of even the best opponents. As far as the steroids issue, Shane took them unknowingly (or so we've been led to believe). With no evidence to prove otherwise, he deserves the benefit of the doubt.
- Miguel Cotto
- Manny Pacquiao