The New Era – A historical look at the difficult concept of deciding boxing’s next superstar!
When fans and pundits confer over a boxer’s supremacy sport-wide, they tap into a rich aspect of boxing history. Whether they are aware or not, each accolade and justification calls upon boxing’s age-old question of “who can beat who?” At the heart of these debates is the ultimate consensus on where a fighter rates on the pound-for-pound (P4P) list; a factual list that rates skill, excitement, and popularity to justify who is most arguably the greatest boxer of present. The P4P list was designed to acknowledge typically smaller, craftier fighters in contrast to their more popular, super heavyweight counter-parts.
Origin’s of the Pound-for-Pound Rankings
Boxing as we know it today is a sport of glamour and competition; a true test to determine the toughest man in the world to some. Such associations date back to boxing’s earliest traceable history back in the ancient Greek era of 688 BC. The gloved-spectacle evolved into what we know today from 16th-century prizefighting, which was famous in Great Britain. Crowds of hundreds would gather, some having traveled several thousands of miles, just to behold the toughest fighter in the world in person. This development evolved into what is currently known as the Marques of Queensberry rules circa 1867.
With the Marques of Queensberry rules came the creation of weight divisions. It was officially no longer fair contest for a 130-pound man to compete against a 230-pound man. Before the new rules, people were witnessing for smaller men outmaneuver larger men up until the larger man was able to land one successful knock-out punch to win the contest. The change helped alleviate the issue of a man dominating 80% to 90% of a fight, only to suffer serious injury and tragic loss by stoppage or knock out.
With the development of weight classes, the most glorified division of the world’s greatest sport became the heavyweight division. Owning the title of world heavyweight champion was one of the most prestigious and glorified accolades of the time. However, many boxing enthusiasts took notice that although the heavyweights would typically secure more glory and interest, the smaller guys were usually much more skillful and graceful combatants in the art of boxing. Enter the pound-for-pound rankings.
The Evolution of the Pound-for-Pound Benchmark
The P4P list was developed to recognize and glorify the greatest boxer alive in a truer sense. All humans are designed differently. Some are larger and stronger than others. Therefore, the rankings served to evaluate a boxer’s superiority irrespective of their division. Boxing found it’s first P4P superstar in the fall of 1937. Then-world featherweight champion Henry Jackson, aka Henry Armstrong, destroyed Petey Sarron via brutal 6th round KO. In 1938, Armstrong jumped two divisions and delivered a brutal beating to Barney Ross; becoming the welterweight world champion by unanimous decision in the process. One fight later, he drops down a weight class and defeats Lou Ambers by split decision. Armstrong became a global superstar and the poster child for what a P4P global star needed to accomplish and look like.
We are at the sunset of one of the greatest defenses and highest IQs to ever step into the squared circle. Love him or hate him, Floyd Mayweather has raised how far the heights of boxing can reach. Half a billion dollars in total earnings is no chump change or easy accomplishment. With such big shoes left to fill, the boxing world is left to question the future of the sport and who will try on Cinderella’s magic slipper.
Looking to the Future
From a global perspective, not even the Super Bowl can put the world at a stop the way a boxing super fight does. Case in point, the Mayweather/Pacquiao super fight of 2015. It’s arguable that the fight failed to lived up to its hype. Nonetheless, it certainly placed the world at a standstill for those 45 minutes. Even the riots that were taking place across our great nation stopped for those 45 minutes. You could walk outside in the worst of all neighborhoods and not be able to find even a stray cat. How can people say boxing is a dying sport?
The future of boxing is very bright. Its akin to a lighthouse beaming light across the sea’s horizon, and on that horizon are several prospective greats we will have the privilege and honor of witnessing. With the rise of Haymon, #FreeBoxingForAll and TopRank, and the successful launching of their ESPN+ mobile app, we might never again see a Pay-Per-View event as large as the May vs Pac fight. However, boxers will continue to become household names in America and across the world.
Still, we ask “who will the next superstar be?” Will the sport’s glory be restored by the emerging landscape in the heavyweight division? Could it, instead, be one of the incredible athletes from the lower divisions to do so? Stay tuned as this series will highlight and follow many current champions which might have the potential to return boxing to the pinnacle of sports.
By: Cesar Rivas