Wanna Be Pound-For-Pound, Juan Manuel Lopez And Jorge Linares? PROVE It.

It almost doesn’t make sense to spend much time arguing for pound-for-pound criteria, because of how subjective it is, but dammit, like I’ve said, there’s more defensible and there’s less defensible. I’ve said time and time again that pound-for-pound standings ought to be based on record of actual accomplishment, rather than what people imagine a fighter might accomplish. This weekend vindicates that point of view, if you ask me.

I must say, I didn’t watch the junior featherweight Juan Manuel Lopez-Rogers Mtagwa fight this evening, because I expected a mismatch and because $40 seems too steep a price to pay for a mismatch and a few other mismatches. All accounts are that it was in reality a war, and, like the Jorge Linares knockout loss — with the exception of Lopez pulling out the win — there was some suspicion that Lopez was “exposed.”
Let’s think about this. First off, like the Linares fight, everybody has a night that might be explained as a fluke, and maybe that was Lopez’ night like that. Linares had been in with Oscar Larios, and not much more. Maybe Linares lost a fluky loss, which is my inclination to believe, because he looked like the real deal. And, tonight, maybe Lopez won a fight where a notoriously tough guy was tough enough to really bother such a wonderfully talented fighter. But Lopez had been in against Daniel Ponce De Leon, and not much more.
Is it possible — and that’s all I’m asking, whether it’s possible — is it possible that it was premature to hold both men in so much high esteem until such point they PROVED that they deserved to be held in such high esteem?
Again, as with Linares, I have been a tremendous Lopez booster. I love both fighters. They’re my kind of fighters — skill, speed, power, technique, heart. Boxer-punchers, if you will, but aggressive, and with guts. But Lopez is hanging around the bottom of my top-20 pound-for-pound list. Linares isn’t on the list at all. And the reason is because neither man has beaten much of anybody of note. They look good. But it’s easier to look good against Cesar Figueroa than it is against Celestino Caballero, you know? Maybe it’s crazy to put Lopez in the top-10 pound-for-pound until he beats somebody really good, right? Maybe I saw him as POTENTIAL elite pound-for-pound material, but there’s a difference between pound-for-pound and POTENTIAL pound-for-pound, and the difference is that there are guys who are more than potential, it’s because they’ve DONE it, you dig?
Linares and Lopez very much may be pound-for-pound kings someday. I’m inclined to believe that both their shaky outings aren’t reflections of them being bad fighters. Good fighters have bad outings sometimes. It’s part of the game. Anybody can get hit and find themselves in trouble. It’s one of the things that makes boxing so fantastic a sport. I guess I’m just saying: You people who like to use your imagination alone in determining whether a fighter is a pound-for-pound great, maybe your imagination isn’t what you think it is. Maybe you need to go by reality. It’s a better measure, really.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.