4.7.09

Franchise Thoughts: The Best American Boxers Today

To all of our U.S. readers, a very happy Independence Day. This year's July 4th weekend leaves us without any major boxing action to speak of, but we hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable holiday nonetheless.

It seems only natural to use some of my space today to examine the strength of American pro boxers as a group. While the death of boxing in the U.S. has been exaggerated (ad nauseam) by a number of sources, any rational fan would agree that the sport has fallen a long way from its peak domestic popularity during the 20th Century.

Still, the biggest bouts are still held primarily in the U.S., and American-born fighters continue to have a significant presence among the top levels of most divisions. Who are the best? Glad you asked, because I'm going to lay them out as I see them.

Two notes before I start. First, even though weight classes are becoming less important for purposes of making good fights, they're still useful for the sake of organizing fighters. For simplicity's sake, I'm placing each guy in the division in which he's ranked on BoxRec.com.

Also, I know that people born in Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens. But Puerto Rican fighters and fans tend to identify along ethnic lines, so I'm not including them with boxers born in the States. Obviously, adding the likes of Miguel Cotto and Juan Manuel Lopez would bolster America's ranks significantly.

Starting with the big guys and working down...

Heavyweight - Top American: Chris Arreola - This was a tough call, because the crop of U.S. heavyweights is both aging and, well, not very good as a whole.

It remains to be seen if Arreola has the stamina and defensive skills to truly compete with the Klitschko brothers and other top big men, but he certainly can bring it and he's yet to taste defeat. Plus his career is still on the rise and he's on the right side of 35, which is more than can be said of John Ruiz, Lamon Brewster and Hasim Rahman.

A bit of love also goes out to Eddie Chambers, who's also under 30, has lost just once and is actually fighting tonight in Germany.

Cruiserweight - Top American: Steve Cunningham - The cupboard is also pretty bare for American cruisers too, but Cunningham gets the nod as a former titlist who gave a pretty fair account of himself against the division's current top dog, Tomasz Adamek.

It's tempting to tout BJ Flores as a future hope in this weight class, but he's too old to be a prospect and hasn't exactly pushed himself to find the best fights. I like his announcing work though.

Light heavyweight - Top American: Bernard Hopkins - Until he officially retires, The Executioner remains one of the top U.S. boxers at any weight. His accomplishments speak for themselves, and he's still formidable at age 44.

Since B-Hop floats around in weight to fight so often, the real American champ at 175 could be Chad Dawson, depending on how he fares in his rematch with Glen Johnson. Big names Roy Jones Jr. and Antonio Tarver are still holding on, but just barely.

Super middleweight - Top American: Andre Ward - This was my first difficult decision, as Ward has yet to really cement himself as a top contender. He certainly looks to have all the tools necessary for future success.

If Ward is No. 1, then Andre Dirrell is 1A, and he also could very easily be a star in the making. BoxRec ranks Jermain Taylor ahead of both Andre's, but he's lost three of his last four and is just 1-1 at 168.

So there's hope for Americans in this division, but for right now the top guys (like Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler) clearly reside overseas.

Middleweight - Top American: Kelly Pavlik - This was one of the easiest calls, as the Pride of Youngstown has settled in as middleweight champ. He did get schooled by Hopkins, but that was a few pounds north of here.

BoxRec rates Daniel Jacobs in this division even though he's fought above 160 for most of his fights, so I'll go ahead and say he's the future for the U.S. if he actually can make middleweight. Other than The Ghost and the Golden Child, there's not much else near the top.

Super welterweight - Top American: Paul Williams: The Punisher exemplifies today's trend of floating around between weights, and he's made it very clear he'll fight anyone between 147 and 160. BoxRec places him here and so will I. He's one of the best boxers in the world and easily takes the top spot with his work rate, height and underrated power.

The U.S. is fairly deep at 154 aside from Williams. Vernon Forrest and Cory Spinks have been around for a while but don't look finished yet. And the beginning of the next decade looks promising thanks to James Kirkland (assuming he gets himself straightened out) and Deandre Latimore.

Welterweight - Top American: Shane Mosley - It's pretty much a two-man show at 147, but it's a good two. Sugar Shane showed he still has plenty left in the tank by beating down Antonio Margarito, even if that hasn't resulted in the big paydays he's been seeking.

The other half of the duo is Andre Berto, who has his doubters but just keeps winning. He's young enough to force bigger names to fight him in the next few years if he keeps it up.

Super lightweight - Top American: Timothy Bradley - Though he's kind of an unlikely champion, Bradley has a title and an undefeated record for now. It's tough to say if he's really great at any one aspect of the game, but he's solid in everything.

I almost gave the nod to Nate Campbell here but decided to wait until he actually had a fight under his belt at 140. It's against Bradley, by the way.

The U.S. is loaded in young talent here too, as Devon Alexander, Victor Ortiz (yes, despite his recent loss) and Lamont Peterson are all 25 and under.

Lightweight - Top American: Juan Diaz - The Baby Bull wins this almost by default as others have moved out of this weight class. Despite some rough outings over the past few years, I'd still watch him fight any time, and that counts for something.

Memphis' Anthony Peterson is the one to watch as we roll into and past 2010.

Super featherweight - Top American: Robert Guerrero - The pickings are slim for U.S. fighters at 130, and the "other" Ghost's last fight was at lightweight. His upcoming August bout with Malcolm Klassen is for a super featherweight title though, so he counts here.

Featherweight - Top American: Steven Luevano: This was a tough call. I went with Luevano for his excellent record against some pretty good opponents, but we'll see what he's made of when he fights Bernabe Concepcion in August.

The coin flip loser was Rocky Juarez. I think Rocky is talented, but he's come up short in his biggest fights and was fortunate to earn a draw against Chris John last time out.

Below featherweight - Top American: Brian Viloria: If the U.S. isn't cranking out too many excellent big men, it really isn't developing many top contenders at the lower weight classes. The weight classes below featherweight are almost completely devoid of top talent.

You have to go all the way down to light flyweight to find a notable exception. Hawaiian Punch has been rolling since a 2007 loss to Edgar Sosa, and he gets bonus points for being a frequent and often insightful Twitterer.

Posted by The Franchise

4 comments:

Irvin Ryan said...

I got no problem with the list... but why look at boxrec for rankings? they got very bad rankings in there...

Anonymous said...

how are the boxrec rankings determined?

The Franchise said...

Hey Irvin,

I agree that BoxRec's rankings leave a bit to be desired, in some weight classes more than others. I simply used them as a way to separate everyone by weight because it's a convenient one-stop site for making sure you didn't forget anyone. BoxRec also has little flag icons by each boxer to represent their nationality, so it was helpful for the sake of this post.

The Franchise said...

Anonymous,

BoxRec uses a mathematical formula to rank boxers. I don't pretend to understand it completely, but here's a link to the site's full description.