May 27, 2009

From the future top pound-for-pound boxer, to the top trainer in the game,'s boxing experts weigh in on the latest news in the ring.

1. Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez are battling to be boxing's top pound-for-pound fighter. However, all three are over the age of 30. In five years, who will be at the top of the P4P list?

CHRIS MANNIX: Boxing isn't kind to those who try to predict its future, mainly because there are no sure things. Too many fighters are coddled, their records inflated by inferior opponents. Julio Cesar Chavez has the bloodline to be a great fighter and a sterling record (39-0-1) to match but if you can name one of his opponents off the top of your head, you are a better man than me. AndreBerto is an explosive welterweight titleholder with an undefeated record (29-0) but the jury is out on Berto after he looked average in squeaking by gatekeeper Luis Collazo in January and with only former junior welterweight champ JuanUrango on the docket this weekend.

With all that in mind, my pick is Victor Ortiz. Ortiz is a hard-hitting junior welterweight prospect with speed and power (19 of his 24 wins have come by knockout). While Ortiz faces similar questions about his caliber of opponents, he did KO Mike Arnaoutis in March, and Arnaoutis has gone the distance with Kendall Holt and Ricardo Torres. Ortiz's size (5 feet, 9 inches) should help him as he develops his skills, and in a few years, he could be a real force at welterweight, boxing's glamour division.

RICHARD O'BRIEN: In five years, Marquez will be (I hope) enjoying a well-deserved retirement, living as a national hero in Mexico. Pacquiao will be president of the Philippines and Mayweather will be fighting for air time on The Celebrity Apprentice.

As for who'll sit atop the P4P list, my vote goes to either the by-then-49-year-old Bernard Hopkins (I'm kidding ... sort of) or Jorge Linares of Venezuela. Only 23, Linares, the reigning WBA 130-pound champion, is 26-0 (17 KOs) and a wonderful fighter to watch. He's fast and fluid, has terrific footwork and punches in hard, accurate combinations. At 5-foot-8, he's got room to grow into a few more weight classes. Linares, who is based in Japan, hasn't gotten the exposure he should. A change of promoters could help, but he's the real deal. Other candidates would be Puerto Rican bantamweight Juan Manuel Lopez and Filipino flyweight Nonito Donaire.

BRYAN ARMEN GRAHAM: Bernard Hopkins. Just kidding. (I think.)

There could be a chance for Paul Williams, the so-called "most avoided man in boxing," who's one of the sport's most intriguing physical specimens. The crafty defensive southpaw has the work rate of a lightweight and the reach of a heavyweight. He insists he's most comfortable fighting at 147 pounds -- which would seem to make him a prime contender for a pay-per-view fight with Mayweather, Pacquiao or Miguel Cotto -- but he's spent the past couple years migrating outside his division in search of competition.

Victor Ortiz, natural right-hander who fights as a southpaw, is another guy everybody is watching. He won his past five fights by knockout in five rounds or less. Juan Manuel Lopez and Yuriorkis Gamboa are two other prospects who could make their mark in the pound-for-pound rankings given the right opportunities.

2. Roy Jones recently signed to fight former super middleweight titlist, Jeff Lacy, in a light heavyweight bout on Aug. 22. What do you make of Jones at this point?

MANNIX: It's a shame when fighters don't know when to quit. Jones should have walked away years ago. You can't blame him for fooling the public into thinking he could hang with Joe Calzaghe, but who in their right mind wants to see Jones in a main event again? The sad reality in boxing is that by beating Lacy, whose career was also derailed by Calzaghe, Jones could conceivably be a fight or two away from getting another title shot. But to what end? Do we really need to see Jones get carved up by Chad Dawson or dismantled by BernardHopkins? Hasn't Jones' legacy taken enough hits?

O'BRIEN: "Y'all must have forgot," Jones rapped in 2002 hit. And, indeed, I wonder how the fighter is going to be remembered. Already it's hard to recall just how highly regarded Jones was in his prime (which lasted for more than a decade). Now he's 40 with a record of 4-4 over the past five years, including back-to-back KO losses, and a bloody, humiliating beat-down at the hands of Calzaghe. I can't think of another truly great fighter who had such a calamitous close to his career. And I fervently hope it is the close. Wins over the likes of Omar Sheika or Jeff Lacy are sadly irrelevant at this point. Because he was so superior to the opposition for so long, there's a sense we never saw the best of Roy Jones Jr. That may be true, but I've seen far more than I want to see of the worst.

GRAHAM: Jones collected eight titles at four weight classes in two decades as a pro, never dropping a single round in his prime, much less an entire fight. But the superhuman speed, the essence of his once-superlative defensive skills, is long gone, relegating Jones to the ranks of third-tier contender at best.

That said, Jones remains one of the sport's most recognizable names and people are still going to watch his fights (for now, anyway). It's my opinion a champion cannot tarnish what he's already accomplished, so I have no problem with Jones continuing to compete even if his days as a championship contender have passed.

3. Shane Mosley said recently that he would fight anyone the fans want him to fight. Who should that be?

MANNIX: Let me go on the record as saying I don't believe Mosley for a second when he says he will fight whomever the fans want. He'll fight whomever his accountant wants. There's a reason we aren't seeing Mosley-Paul Williams or Mosley-Andre Berto. There's not enough money there. Mosley has made it clear on many occasions that he wants the mega dollars that come with a Floyd Mayweather or Miguel Cotto fight. But those fights are unlikely to happen until at least 2010, if at all.

But if Mosley is serious with his declaration, my vote is for Williams. I'm buying Williams as the most feared fighter in boxing. He's 6-foot-1 and throws 100 punches a round in three weight classes. And if Mosley is serious about wanting the best fights (another statement he may have made a few hundred times), he should sign a deal to fight Williams at 154 pounds and wait for the various sanctioning bodies to declare it to be a title fight. If Mosley can slay Williams, it will put even more pressure on Mayweather and Cotto, who both believe they are the top welterweights, to agree to face him.

O'BRIEN: At 37, Mosley's at the top of his game, making up for anything he might have lost to age with smarts and aggression and a ferocious work rate. I'd like to see him fight just about anyone, including Miguel Cotto again. Mosley darn near beat him the first time and I'm sure he'd have something more to offer a second time around, even as Cotto himself has improved.

Beyond that, Mosley would be a fine test for undefeated welterweight Andre Berto. Of course, even Mosley can't keep going forever, so maybe he should go straight to the two sweetest matchups out there: Mayweather and Pacquiao. At this point, I'd give Shane a real chance against either.

GRAHAM: A lucrative payday should have fallen on Mosley's lap after his stirring destruction of Antonio Margarito in January. But when Mayweather came out retirement and announced a four-man tournament on the morning of the Pacquiao-Hatton fight -- setting himself up for a July fight with Marquez -- it effectively left Mosley on the outside looking in. Welterweight contenders Andre Berto and Juan Urango are fighting this Friday. Cotto and Josh Clottey are meeting June 13. And neither Zab Judah nor Carlos Quintana is the type of high-profile opponent Mosley seeks, and both have upcoming commitments anyway.

So it's wait-and-see mode for Mosley, not the most advantageous position for "Sugar." If Floyd dispenses of Marquez, as expected, I can't see Pacquiao passing up the huge payday of a Mayweather megafight -- in particular because it's a fight Freddie Roach seems absolutely positive he'd win. But if Marquez upsets Mayweather, there's a chance Mosley could hit the jackpot and land Pacquiao by year's end.

4. The war of words between boxing trainers has become almost as spicy as the verbal jabs exchanged by the fighters. In your opinion, who is the best trainer in boxing?

MANNIX: Here's a hint: It's not Floyd Mayweather Sr. Is there any doubt that Freddie Roach is the best in the business? You have to throw a lot of credit at Roach's No. 1 student, Manny Pacquiao, for his intelligence and willingness to learn, but Roach has become boxing's Midas. In the last two years, he has helped make Pacquiao a dominant fighter at four weight classes and he is on his way to resurrecting Amir Khan's career. I'm a big fan of Nazim Richardson,but he's a distant second at this point.

O'BRIEN: Reality shows and press conferences aside, trainers make their reputations with their boxers. Clearly, Freddie Roach has worked magic with Manny Pacquiao, and I think Emanuel Steward no longer gets the props he should, given his body of work. (Turning the almost tragically-flawed Wladimir Klitschko into an often-more-than-competent heavyweight is, by itself, an achievement.)

But overall, my vote goes to Nacho Beristain. (And this is for trainer, not manager, remember.) The 70-year-old Mexican legend has produced some of the most technically-sound fighters of recent years, including Rafael and Juan Manuel Marquez, Daniel Zaragoza, Gilberto Roman and the great RicardoLopez. Granted, he couldn't help Oscar De La Hoya against Pacquiao, but had Beristain trained Oscar from the very beginning, I think the "Golden Boy" would have been a far greater fighter. And that's the true measure of a trainer.

GRAHAM: The kneejerk pick is Freddie Roach. But I'm going to honor my Philadelphia roots and choose Nazim Richardson, the quiet sage behind Bernard Hopkins' quadragenarian success. Richardson trained Hopkins in his undressing of Antonio Tarver for the light heavyweight title, his unanimous decision victory over Winky Wright and, perhaps, most impressively, his stunning whitewash of middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik last October. In each fight, Richardson's ingenious game plan was just as important as the Executioner's, er, execution.

Richardson trained Mosley for his welterweight title fight with Antonio Margarito. (It was Richardson who spotted the illegal foreign objects in Margarito's hand wraps during the pre-fight taping, an offense which led to the Mexican's loss of license and credibility.) Mosley's decisive ninth-round TKO over an opponent on the fast track to superstardom -- in a fight where the three of us picked Margarito with no reservation -- ensured Richardson's place among the sport's elite trainers.

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