Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather, Or Bernard Hopkins: Who Is The G.O.O.T. In Boxing?

When it comes to the G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time) in boxing, there is no meaningful argument. Sugar Ray Robinson was, is, and almost undoubtedly always will be the man. Like Babe Ruth in baseball, he was a trailblazer who ignited a path so bright and deep that the sport has followed ever since. His records are mythical, impossible for any modern athlete to overcome.

But the G.O.O.T. (Greatest Of Our Time)? That debate is well worth having (as well as an acronym worth saying aloud, repeatedly, because it just sounds funny. Try it. GOOT). While Manny Pacquiao rightly sits undisputed atop the pound-for-pound lists, I place him among two other active fighters who have accumulated resumes deep and historical enough to rank among the 30 or 40 or 50 greatest fighters ever, as well as to vie for the title of G.O.O.T. – the best active boxer from a historical perspective. Alongside Pacquiao stand his recently reactivated would-be rival Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and the ageless Bernard Hopkins.

(No, not GOOP. That’s just pretentious BS. It’s G.O.O.T.)

There are other historically great fighters who are technically (Roy Jones, Jr., Evander Holyfield, Shane Mosley) or meaningfully (Juan Manuel Marquez, Erik Morales, Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko) active. But Pacquiao, Mayweather, and Hopkins have separated themselves from even that great pack. They best define the era in which they fight. And they all have legitimate opportunities to sway the G.O.O.T. argument in their favor in the future.

I am not disputing Congressman Pacquiao’s claim to the pound-for-pound throne, mind you. This exercise is intended to analyze the records and accomplishments of each man to determine which active fighter has accumulated the greatest resume thus far. Of course, their performances this fall could alter this perception, but this is about looking at these fighters at a moment in time and carefully considering their achievements to come to a conclusion that will undoubtedly be mocked and ridiculed in the comments section.

So without further ado, let’s start with the Renaissance Man of boxing, the Pacman.

Manny Pacquiao

Record: 53-3-2, 38 KOs

Impact in a nutshell: Unprecedented dominance through multiple weight classes


  • Linear/Ring Magazine champion in a record-tying three divisions (featherweight, junior lightweight, lightweight)
  • Alphabet titles in a record eight weight classes
  • Over a million PPV buys against Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, and Shane Mosley
  • Three-time Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year (2006, 2008, 2009)
  • Ring Magazine Fighter of the Decade (2000-2009)
  • Ring Magazine #1 Pound-for-Pound three straight years (2008-2010)

Most dominant weight classes:

  • Junior featherweight: 10-0-1, 10 KOs
  • Junior lightweight: 7-1, 4 KOs
  • Welterweight: 4-0, 2 KOs

Record against elite fighters: 9-1-1, 6 KOs

Analysis: Many would begin and end the argument right here. Pacquiao is revered as the best fighter on the planet today and has emerged as an international superstar and a beloved boxing figure among fight fans. His record-breaking ascent up the weight classes earned him widespread acclaim and helped him break through to mainstream stardom with his “David vs. Goliath” victory over De La Hoya in 2008. His all-action style makes exciting fights and his monumental improvement under trainer Freddie Roach is plain to see.

However, while his run through different weight classes has earned him acclaim, the rarely-discussed consequence is that he has not quite established dominance at one weight class in the manner of the other fighters on this list, particularly Hopkins. Pacman ran roughshod on the 122-pound class from 1999-2003, winning 10 of 11 fights by knockout with the only blemish being a technical decision draw. But his best victories at that weight class – Lehlohonolo Ledwaba and Jorge Julio – are insignificant in light of his overall resume.

At junior lightweight and lightweight, there is no shortage of high-caliber names among Pacquiao’s victims. Between 2005 and 2008 at 130 pounds, Pacquiao knocked out Erik Morales twice in high-profile rematches, dominated Marco Antonio Barrera in another rematch, and eked out a split-decision win over Juan Manuel Marquez in yet another rematch. The secondary wins in this period, including Jorge Solis and Oscar Larios, are also strong. Junior lightweight is the best combination of sustained dominance and important wins for Pacquiao, with a particularly eye-popping number of wins over future Hall of Famers in an eight fight stretch. However, he did clearly lose the first matchup with Morales at this weight and his controversial decision over Marquez makes it a compelling debate between Pacquiao and Mayweather as to who has had the most success at 130 pounds.

Interestingly, the two divisions Pacquiao won the linear championship besides junior lightweight, featherweight and junior welterweight, saw Pacman spend very little time overall at the weight. His record at featherweight is just 3-0-1, including his win over Barrera for the crown and his controversial draw with Marquez, and his junior welterweight career includes exactly one fight – his title-winning triumph over Ricky Hatton.

Pacquiao can still add to his legacy at welterweight, which currently includes big names like de la Hoya, Miguel Cotto, and Shane Mosley, but includes only four victories overall. Pacman was most dominant at junior featherweight and scored his most impressive string of victories at junior lightweight, though his ability to transcend weight classes and maintain his edge over bigger opponents is far more impressive than his performance against any one weight class.

Even more than his weight-hopping, what figures to give Pacquiao the biggest edge in this analysis is the number of elite wins he has amassed over his career. Pacquiao is 2-0 against Barrera, 1-0-1 against Marquez, 2-1 against Morales, and 1-0 against De La Hoya, Hatton, Cotto, and Mosley. That adds up to a spectacular record against the very best fighters of this generation, a legacy he can add to in December in his third fight against Marquez.

Floyd Mayweather, Jr.

Record: 41-0, 25 KOs

Impact in a nutshell: Perfection personified (in the ring)


  • Undefeated in 41 fights across 5 weight classes
  • Linear/Ring Magazine champion in two divisions (lightweight, welterweight)
  • Olympic bronze medal in 1996
  • Highest-selling PPV bout in history – 2.4 million buys vs. De La Hoya
  • Over a million PPV buys against Hatton, Marquez, and Mosley in addition to De La Hoya
  • Two-time Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year (1998, 2007)
  • Ring Magazine #1 Pound-for-Pound three straight years (2005-2007)

Most dominant weight classes:

  • Junior lightweight: 14-0, 10 KOs
  • Welterweight: 6-0, 2 KOs
  • Lightweight: 17-0, 11 KOs

Record against elite fighters: 7-0, 2 KOs

Analysis: From the most beloved fighter in the sport to the most divisive. Mayweather and Pacquiao’s names will be linked forever in boxing history, either because of the results of the long-anticipated fight between the two or because of all the “what ifs” that would be left in the wake should they retire without facing off. Mayweather is the polar opposite of Pacquiao in nearly every way – his style hinges on impenetrable defense and genius ring generalship as opposed to furious unpredictable bursts of action, he was a decorated amateur with Olympic credentials as opposed to a poor unheralded teenage Filipino pro, he makes news out of the ring with criminal charges and civil disputes as opposed to congressional elections and hit adult contemporary singles (though Floyd did appear on Dancing With the Stars and his WrestleMania XXV match against The Big Show is generally regarded as one of the best celebrity matches in WWE history, whatever that’s worth).

As much as Pacquiao’s supporters cherish the trinkets he has collected across weight classes, Mayweather’s fans idolize him for his unblemished record. This makes Mayweather’s claim to fame far more tenuous than Pacquiao’s. No matter what Manny does between now and the end of his career, his accomplishments throughout the weight classes can never be taken from him. He’s already got those victories in his pocket. Mayweather, on the other hand, loses a defining element of his legacy the minute he loses his first fight. Sure, he could avenge that defeat and tout the Lennox Lewis “I beat everyone I ever fought” line, and he could always boast about winning his first 41 (or 42 or 43, whatever it turns out to be) fights before losing, but by making his undefeated status a crucial part of his identity, Mayweather is in the difficult position of needing to win every time out to maintain his standing.

That is not to say that a loss would completely destroy the legacy Mayweather has built in the ring. Not by a long shot. He has earned the linear championship in two of the original weight classes, lightweight and welterweight, divisions which could be argued are more prestigious than the intermediary divisions (junior lightweight, junior welterweight) given the extensive history behind those belts. And while he cannot boast the record number of weight divisions that Pacquiao has spanned, he is nevertheless in rather exclusive company of fighters who have achieved success in five different weight classes.

Where Mayweather seemingly has an advantage over Pacquiao is in his sustained dominance over one division – junior lightweight. Pacquiao had an extremely dominant run at junior featherweight but did so against relatively nondescript opponents. He also racked up a great number of elite victories at junior lightweight but did not do so for an extensive period of time or a great number of fights. Of the 14 fights in which Mayweather made the 130 pound weight limit, he won all of them in dominant fashion and scored knockouts in 10 of 14 bouts spanning six years (1996-2001). He also earned a borderline elite win against Genaro Hernandez to establish himself on the world scene and a legitimate and utterly overpowering elite win against Diego Corrales to establish himself as the pound-for-pound player he remains today, over a decade later. He also beat top notch contenders like Angel Manfredy, Carlos Hernandez, and Jesus Chavez during that reign. While he did not beat the exceptional caliber of opposition that Pacquiao did, Mayweather’s opponents were really only a half-step down and his far greater dominance (he barely lost a round at the weight, let alone a fight) gives him the slightest edge at 130, in my estimation.

While Mayweather’s lightweight resume may look even more impressive on paper, most of that is due to the fact that many of his early bouts were fought a pound or two over the 130-pound limit and therefore technically qualified as lightweight bouts. Still, Mayweather’s true run as a lightweight saw him add another elite scalp to his collection, as he scored the only controversial win of his career against Jose Luis Castillo to earn the Ring Magazine lightweight championship and gave Castillo an immediate rematch (demonstrating that, at least at the time, Mayweather is capable of taking tough, losable fights), which he won decisively to put the dispute to bed.

Mayweather’s junior welterweight run was almost as noteworthy for whom he didn’t fight (Kostya Tszyu) as for whom he did (Arturo Gatti, Henry Bruseles, Demarcus Corley). Mayweather made the jump to welterweight to defeat rival Zab Judah and wrest the welterweight championship from Carlos Baldomir before jumping to junior middleweight to defeat De La Hoya in the highest-selling PPV fight in history, the fight that established Mayweather as a crossover superstar.

Since, Mayweather has fought sporadically. When he has, however, he’s gone after elite opposition. Starting with the De La Hoya fight, Floyd has fought an elite name in each of his last four fights – Oscar, Ricky Hatton, Juan Manuel Marquez, and Shane Mosley. Despite a reputation for ducking the best available opponents (an argument that best applies to his junior welterweight run, although there are certainly welterweight examples like Antonio Margarito and Paul Williams and even lightweight examples like Joel Casamayor), Mayweather has added significantly to his resume with his recent run.

Due to his undefeated status and inconsistent fight schedule, Mayweather arguably has the most volatility moving forward. Were he to fight and beat Pacquiao next year, win a few more big fights, and retire undefeated, he could go down as one of the greatest to ever step into the ring. Should he lose to Victor Ortiz this September and drop a few more fights after that, all-time estimation of his status would surely dip notably.

As of now, Mayweather is undoubtedly among the G.O.O.T., but probably not at the top of the list.

Bernard Hopkins

Record: 52-5-2, 32 KOs

Impact in a nutshell: Ageless wonder


  • Oldest world championship win in history (46 years, 5 months)
  • Most middleweight title defenses in history (20)
  • Linear/Ring Magazine champion in two divisions (middleweight, light heavyweight [2 reigns])
  • One million PPV buys vs. de la Hoya in 2004
  • Ring Magazine #1 Pound-for-Pound two straight years (2004-2005)

Most dominant weight classes:

  • Middleweight: 27-3-1, 16 KOs
  • Light heavyweight: 6-2-1, 0 KOs

Record against elite fighters: 5-2, 2 KOs

Analysis: Had I told you in March 2003 that in eight years Bernard Hopkins (coming off a forgettable win over Morrade Hakkar Noir) would be the light heavyweight champion of the world and a pound-for-pound entrant and Roy Jones (coming off a highly-publicized win over John Ruiz in Jones’ first and only heavyweight fight) would be scrambling around Europe and Australia for paychecks and getting knocked out like a journeyman, you would have said I was crazier than Arnold Schwarzenegger running for governor.

Fast-forward those eight years to see the story of the tortoise and the hare come to life. The eccentric Hopkins, with his executioner’s mask and sometimes inflammatory pre-fight rhetoric, defied both critics and time to surpass his longtime rival Jones on the all-time lists. While Jones ascended quickly to the top of the sport with his natural gifts of otherworldly speed and skills (dispatching a young Hopkins while on the rise to fuel the rivalry between the two), Hopkins took the working class route, diligently developing his craft in the ring while perfecting the Spartan training regimen and discipline that have defined his remarkable post-40 surge.

On paper, Hopkins’ accomplishments don’t quite measure up to Pacquiao’s or Mayweather’s. He was named the Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year in 2001, while both Manny and Floyd have achieved that distinction more than once. He held the Ring Magazine #1 Pound-for-Pound spot from 2004-2005, a year shy of the three-year reigns of Pacquiao and Mayweather. He never became a big pay-per-view attraction or crossover star.

What Bernard has done is embody the most underrated characteristic in modern sports – consistency. It’s become cliché to say about him, but Bernard is a throwback to another era. Nothing he does in the ring is made for ESPN highlights and YouTube clips (his interviews are another story). He doesn’t have monstrous power or blinding speed. He doesn’t even have a fervent fan base.

He just shows up and wins fights. With reliability that defies the brutal nature of his occupation.

After Jones and James Toney moved up from middleweight in pursuit of multi-division acclaim, the division became a dictatorship ruled by Hopkins’ iron fists. While his early middleweight run included a healthy share of lackluster names (you won’t be seeing Steve Frank, William Bo James, or Andrew Council on any G.O.O.T. lists), it also saw him notch high quality wins against the likes of John David Jackson and Glen Johnson, with the latter win looking more and more impressive every year as Johnson mimics Hopkins’ age-defiance, particularly because Hopkins stopped the iron-chinned Johnson.

Hopkins did not earn his first truly elite victory until the unimaginably advanced age of 36, when he dominated and knocked out the seemingly invincible Felix Trinidad in Madison Square Garden just weeks after the September 11 attack. With the win, Hopkins claimed the middleweight championship and announced himself as much more than just another very good fighter.

Almost exactly three years after the win over Trinidad, Hopkins’ returned to the spotlight for his second elite win, scoring a destructive body shot knockout of De La Hoya in the biggest fight of Hopkins’ career. With dominant knockout wins over two of the biggest stars of the late 1990s/early 2000s, Hopkins finally began to earn his due as he crept toward the age of 40. The victory over de la Hoya helped Bernard ascend to the top of the Ring Magazine pound-for-pound list.

When a forty-year-old Hopkins lost consecutive fights by razor thin decisions to Jermain Taylor, it looked as though his career as a top fighter was in decline. Had he stopped there, Hopkins still would have been a clear Hall of Fame fighter and one of the best middleweights in history. His record at middleweight was outstanding and his control over the division stretched over a dozen years. Neither Mayweather nor Pacquiao ever ruled a division as Hopkins did the middleweight class.

Hopkins, however, was far from finished. As single-minded and determined as anyone in boxing, Bernard set his sights on a new goal, targeting Roy Jones-conqueror Antonio Tarver and the light heavyweight championship. A significant underdog against Tarver, Hopkins defied the odds and his age to claim his second championship with a one-sided victory over the Magic Man, adding a third elite win and another world crown to his list of accomplishments.

Perceived as vulnerable due to his advanced age, Hopkins had a far easier time getting big names into the ring than he did early in his career. He added another elite name to his resume with a win over Winky Wright before dropping another razor-thin decision to undefeated Joe Calzaghe. Despite dropping Calzaghe in the 1st round and seemingly landing the harder blows, the judges rewarded Calzaghe’s high work rate on two of the three scorecards.

Undaunted, Hopkins challenged his second consecutive undefeated champion in his next fight, once again defying the odds to thoroughly outclass middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik over 12 rounds, handing Pavlik his first career defeat. Hopkins settled an old score 18 months later by avenging an early career loss with an ugly victory over rival Roy Jones, by now badly faded, to nevertheless earn yet another win over an elite name.

Most recently, Hopkins twice challenged light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal, earning his second light heavyweight championship in the rematch and making history by surpassing George Foreman’s record as the oldest man to win a championship in boxing, perhaps the most impressive achievement on Hopkins’ lengthy resume.


Clearly, each man has his strengths. For Pacquiao, it’s his weight defiance. For Floyd, it’s his perfection. For Hopkins, it’s his incredible achievements at an advanced age.

Ultimately, the one distinguishing factor I can point to that separates the G.O.O.T. from the group is elite wins. Pacquiao has nine wins in 11 fights against elite fighters, while Floyd has seven wins in seven fights and Hopkins has five wins in seven fights. By facing the great Mexican featherweights early in his career with great success before becoming a major PPV star against top fighters around the welterweight class, Manny manages to separate himself slightly from the pack and claim the title of the G.O.O.T.

For now, at least.

Given the recent focus on alphabet titles on this blog, I did find it particularly interesting that I was able to basically ignore Manny’s much ballyhooed eight trinkets without any impact on his status. Ultimately, the greatest fighter of our generation might be able to boast that he has paid more sanctioning fees than any other, but he doesn’t need that distinction. His achievements in the ring, regardless of the title at stake, tell us everything we need to know.

About Tim Starks

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