Many elite choices to replace 'Money' as boxing's next pound-for-pound king

Kevin Iole
Boxing
Champion Roman Gonzalez of Nicaragua, left, lands a right to Rocky Fuentes of the Philippines during their WBC flyweight title bout in Yokohama, Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

Gonzalez defends WBC flyweight title

Champion Roman Gonzalez of Nicaragua, left, lands a right to Rocky Fuentes of the Philippines during their WBC flyweight title bout in Yokohama, Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Roy Jones Jr. have held a stranglehold on the mythical position as boxing's pound-for-pound champion for more than 20 years.

Jones elevated to that status by at least 1994, when he routed James Toney in one of that year's most anticipated fights. Jones, who was coming off a wide 1993 victory over Bernard Hopkins, won the super middleweight title on Nov. 18, 1994, by topping Toney at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas.

That earned him widespread acclaim as the best fighter in the world, which he held until Mayweather ascended to that throne. Mayweather didn't widely become recognized as the best until 2007, when he defeated Oscar De La Hoya, but those who watched closely knew that he was No. 1 for at least six or seven years prior to that.

His reign ended a little after midnight Eastern time on Sunday, after he blew out Andre Berto and announced his retirement with a 49-0 professional record.

Mayweather sat atop the rankings for so long that after a while, it almost seemed his birthright to be called the pound-for-pound best.

But now that he's gone, there's a scramble to replace him at the top.

Andre Ward is unbeaten and is talented enough to finish his career with a perfect record. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Andre Ward is unbeaten and is talented enough to finish his career with a perfect record. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

There are a number of very good candidates, including Gennady Golovkin, Andre Ward, Canelo Alvarez, Terence Crawford, Roman Gonzalez, Guillermo Rigondeaux and Wladimir Klitschko.

In my mind, though, the debate truly centers on three men: Golovkin, Gonzalez and Ward.

Ward for years seemed like the heir apparent. In 2004, he became the last American male to win a boxing gold medal in the Olympics, capturing light heavyweight gold in Athens, Greece. He won Showtime's loaded Super 6 tournament and has compiled a 28-0 record with 15 knockouts.

Golovkin has come seemingly out of nowhere, though he won silver in Athens in 2004, but he's forced himself into the equation by scoring a series of impressive knockouts. He's 33-0 with 30 knockouts and the only thing lacking on his resume is a win over a truly elite opponent.

Gonzalez, nicknamed "Chocolatito," has long been a favorite of the hardest of the hard core fan base. He's 43-0 with 37 knockouts, but he fights at flyweight, a division virtually ignored by the television networks in the U.S., and he's largely been unseen.

But he created a furor with a brilliant and destructive performance in a second-round stoppage of Edgar Sosa on May 16 while fighting on Golovkin's undercard in Inglewood, Calif.

Gonzalez will meet ex-U.S. Olympian and world champion Brian Viloria on Oct. 17 in New York on the Golovkin-David Lemieux pay-per-view undercard.

What fans who are seeing him for the first time can expect is a guy with Mayweather's boxing ability and Golovkin's power and killer instinct.

He's got several significant wins, including one over Juan Francisco Estrada, a truly elite flyweight who himself is one of the 10 best fighters in the world. A Gonzalez-Estrada rematch would be one of the biggest flyweight fights in years.

Gennady Golovkin will face David Lemieux on Oct. 17 in a middleweight title unification bout on HBO Pay-Per-View at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 17. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Gennady Golovkin will face David Lemieux on Oct. 17 in a middleweight title unification bout on HBO Pay-Per-View at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 17. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

My pick at this point is Gonzalez because he's fought better overall opposition than Golovkin and he has a more well-rounded game than Ward. Ward fought a slew of tough contenders as he was on his rise and as he ripped through the Super 6, but he's been injured a lot and was sidelined by a senseless lawsuit with his now former promoter, the late Dan Goossen.

Ward appeared as if he was about to erupt as the complete offensive and defensive star following his decimation of Chad Dawson in 2012, but he's only fought twice in the three years since and seems most interested in tune-up fights.

Golovkin could easily be the choice, and he'll have the opportunity to outshine Gonzalez on Oct. 17 when they bout fight on the same night at Madison Square Garden. But Golovkin hasn't beaten the kind of opposition that either Ward or Gonzalez have, and his candidacy loses a bit of luster because of that.

Gonzalez is an intelligent fighter who nonetheless fights with aggression. He pushes the pace and he creates his own openings. He's an extremely accurate puncher and a hard hitter.

He's exactly the kind of fighter who would appeal to the masses with more exposure.

With Mayweather gone off to enjoy his riches in retirement, welcome Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez as the sport's new king.

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