Boxer of the Decade
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - January 8, 2020 - 12:00am

There’s a fierce debate that’s raging on who deserves to be Boxer of the Decade with WBO lightheavyweight champion Saul Alvarez, undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr., undefeated Andre Ward and super WBA welterweight ruler Sen. Manny Pacquiao the leading contenders for the honor. Both Mayweather and Ward are retired with their last fights coming in 2017.

Yahoo.sports has picked Mayweather for the honor and said the decision wasn’t close. Writer Michael Rosenthal listed Mayweather, Pacquiao, Alvarez, Ward and Wladimir Klitschko as his finalists. He voted for Ward in the end. Former WBC/WBO lightwelterweight and WBO welterweight champion Tim Bradley chose Pacquiao, the man who beat him in two of three encounters in the past decade.

“Pacquiao’s definitely a fighter who defined this decade,” said Bradley. “Look at the past 10 years and the opponents he faced. Yes, he had a few losses but they were in big events that helped bring boxing to many casual fans. Pacquiao won 12 world titles in eight divisions. He’s a pay-per-view monster and commanded eyeballs anytime he stepped into the ring. When you think about boxing, you think about Manny Pacquiao. He’s always willing to fight guys in their prime. It’s rare that a fighter actually wants to fight the best out there. He’s an unbelievable fighter. Even at 41, he’s still fighting at the highest level, against these young guys and he’s still able to beat them. He still has that competitive nature. He still has speed and power. He’s fearless. There will never be another Pacquiao. Guys such as Pacquiao come once in a lifetime.”

Ward, 36, packed it in after compiling a 32-0 record, with 16 KOs. Injuries cut short his career and the 2004 Olympic gold medalist walked away with the super WBA/WBC supermiddleweight and WBA/IBF/WBO lightheavyweight crowns. Since 2010, Ward saw action in 11 fights. He was out of the ring in 2014 and retired three years later. At the height of his ascent, Ward won the Super Six World Boxing Classic final in 2011. His farewell fight, a rematch with Sergey Kovalev, generated only 130,000 pay-per-view buys, an indication of his poor drawing power. He earned a career-high $6.5 million for stopping Kovalev in the eighth round. Kovalev, who was ahead in one of the three judges scorecards at the time of the stoppage, said he could’ve gone on and wasn’t badly hurt when referee Tony Weeks stepped in. In their previous bout, Ward got off the canvas to score a controversial unanimous decision over the Russian.

It’s difficult to justify Ward as Boxer of the Decade because he fought in only seven of the 10 years and surely didn’t make a major impact globally. Mayweather, who turns 43 on Feb. 24, saw action in 10 fights in the last decade, including seven with world titles at stake. Although he had limited appearances, Mayweather raked in $915 million from 2010 to 2019. On the average, Mayweather fought only once a year. His last fight was a farcical knockout over MMA battler Conor McGregor in 2017. A year later, showing no respect for the purity of the fight game, Mayweather stopped Japanese kickboxing patsy Tenshin Nasukawa in 140 seconds of a bizarre Tokyo circus that didn’t count in his record. The carnival performance was worth $9 million for Mayweather.

Mayweather has made a mockery of boxing with his “fights” against McGregor and Nasukawa. While he defeated Alvarez and Pacquiao in the last decade, those wins couldn’t erase the ignominy that was created by the fiascos with McGregor and Nasukawa. It would be a travesty if Mayweather is named Boxer of the Decade for the disgrace that he caused the sport.

Alvarez, 29, was extremely active in the last decade, compiling a 23-1-1 record, with 14 KOs. Of his 25 fights, 16 were for world titles. Alvarez held the super WBA/WBO/WBC superwelterweight, super WBA/WBC middleweight and WBO lightheavyweight titles during the decade. In 2018, he signed an 11-fight, five-year $365 million contract with DAZN. The Mexican redhead was suspended six months after testing positive for the banned drug clenbuterol, a steroid-like chemical, twice. In five fights, Alvarez couldn’t make weight and negotiated for catchweights. His only loss was to Mayweather in 2013 and he figured in a split draw with Gennady Golovkin in 2017. Alvarez beat Golovkin by a majority decision in a rematch a year later.

While Alvarez was the symbol and rallying figure of Mexican boxing in the last 10 years, it may be too soon to name him Boxer of the Decade. His suspension has tainted his reputation and the lack of discipline in making weight tarnished his image as a role model.

That leaves Pacquiao who racked up a 12-4 record since 2010. It was during the last decade that he beat Antonio Margarito to win the WBC superwelterweight title, his eighth world in as many divisions – an unprecedented feat. Pacquiao fought in every single year from 2010 to 2019 and ended the decade by defeating a younger Keith Thurman via a split decision in an incredible display of courage, skill and conviction. As Bradley justified, Pacquiao deserves the recognition for what he has done for the sport in and out of the ring. In the last decade, Pacquiao bankrolled $435 million.

In The Ring Magazine’s Boxer of the Decade honor roll, only Sugar Ray Robinson was cited back-to-back for the 1940s and 1950s. If Pacquiao is named by The Ring, he’ll be only the second ever to be recognized in two decades. The first Boxer of the Decade for the 1910s was Sam Langford then it was Benny Leonard for the 1920s, Henry Armstrong for the 1930s, Robinson for the 1940s and 1950s, Muhammad Ali for the 1960s, Roberto Duran for the 1970s, Sugar Ray Leonard for the 1980s, Roy Jones for the 1990s and Pacquiao for the 2000s.

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