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Best pound for pound: Still Hopkins

Oct 19, 2004 12:19 AM

Boxing’s Oktoberfamine, when The Curse and Albert Pujols take over the sports pages and no major fights outside of Pedro Martinez vs Don Zimmer are allowed, affords us the time to take stock. The stockpile was shaken by the spectacular return of Felix Trinidad Jr.

In fact, with Tito and without Roy Jones Jr. and Oscar de la Hoya, it might improve pugilistic enlightenment to re-evaluate the creme de la creme, the mythical "pound-for- pound" list.

Actually, I take a perverse delight in these practices knowing it could start arguments in lieu of Presidential debates. But remember, this is MY list. You can have yours, but until you put in 35 years at ringside and 35 years of having to deal with Don King and Bob Arum and the ilk, keep your list to yourself.

Trinidad’s destruction of Ricardo Mayorga, while expected, underlines our post-Jones choice as No. 1.

Bernard Hopkins: The only man to have beaten Tito. The Executioner’s slow but methodical, inevitable really, beatdown of de la Hoya — the only other boxer to at least claim to have beaten Trinidad — was perhaps less indicative of Hopkins’s credentials than to Oscar’s decline.

Hopkins may have shown some slight decrease in his reflexes, but de la Hoya can not be in my elite list any more. His legs have become heavy with age; he now stands in front of opponents instead of attacking from angles. He "was" a good fighter. Alas, no more. Next for Hopkins: Probably Felix Sturm in January. Hopefully a rematch with Trinidad in the spring.

Floyd Mayweather: About the only way to defeat Floyd Jr. is to own a television network and not let him ply his trade. Eventually, boxing’s most talented practitioner will rot away. I expect Little Floyd to return to HBO early next year, play out his option with the network and become a gainfully employed free agent. Next: Top Rank, representing Mayweather, has until Nov. 1 to work out a deal for Mayweather to rightfully challenge Arturo Gatti for a 140-pound title (the real one, of course, is owned by Kostya Tszyu). Gatti intends to fight Jesse James Leija in January, which means either Floyd will face someone for the vacant title, or a mark-time opponent until a showdown with the popular Gatti in the spring.

Felix Trinidad: Breaking in above Antonio Tarver, whose knockout of Roy Jones lost a bit of luster when it was repeated by Glencoffe Johnson. Trinidad, at 31, has not lost a beat and the 29-month hiatus appears to have done him good. Next: It would be lovely if he could work in a showdown with Howard Eastman of England, the longtime No. 1 middleweight contender for the WBC recently replaced by Tito, to really set up the rematch with Hopkins.

Antonio Tarver: His one-punch KO of Jones of course helped Johnson’s nine-round demolition, has been too long inactive. It appears financial and promotional problems have been worked out and he has a WBC mandatory 175-pound defense due against Paul Briggs of Australia. Next: Don King has arranged for the Briggs bout to take place New Year’s Day in Dubai, which is at least a hotbed of heat. Tarver could demur and instead look for a Dec. 18 date on HBO against Johnson.

Erik Morales: Perhaps moving up soon. Morales, who has gone from 122 to 130 pounds without sacrificing any of his power or passion. Next: The rubber match with Marco Antonio Barrera at the MGM Grand Garden on Nov. 27, a bout for which boxing fans can truly be thankful on Thanksgiving weekend.

Manny Pacquiao: Should be in an early 2005 rematch with Juan Manuel Marquez.

Winky Wright: Giving a rematch to Sugar Shane Mosley on Nov. 20 at Mandalay Bay in Vegas.

Rafael Marquez: The more I think of Marquez’s little brother, Rafael, who scored consecutive knockouts of top 10 fighters Marc (Too Sharp) Johnson and Tim Austin, the more I like. He is perhaps, pound for pound, the biggest puncher.

Juan Manuel Marquez: The big brother of Rafael.

Cory Spinks: The welterweight king, who may be headed for a rematch with Zab Judah under Don King’s keep-it-in-the-house program.

Diego (Chico) Corrales (victories this year over Joel Casamayor and Acelino Freitas), Shane Mosley, Barrera, Casamayor, Jose Luis Castillo.

I’ve gone further than I wanted because I’m next going to reach James Toney. With no further adieu, let’s wish a warm farewell to Jones, de la Hoya and Marc (Too Sharp) Johnson.