Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Taking On The Ring 100

I'm a sucker for subjective lists. Every time VH1 airs one of its endless lists -- top 100 one-hit wonders, top 100 heavy metal bands -- I rail against its injustices. The Pixies are the 81st best "hard rock band" ever, while Living Colour is the 70th? Screw you, VH1. But I can't stop watching them. Therefore, I = sucker.

As lists go, I'm in substantial agreement with The Ring's annual enumeration of the 100 best fighters, published in the January issue but compiled in September. Theirs is a subjective account, like so many others, of the best active "pound for pound" boxers -- that is, who's best/most accomplished regardless of what weight class they fight in.

My substantial agreement aside, there are two howlers on the list.

Vladimir Klitschko is ranked 55th. Nuh-uh, no they di-int. I'm by no means a Klitschko loyalist. But Klitschko looks to be the best heavyweight by a country mile, with only Sam Peter in shouting distance. And Peter lost in 2005 to the version of Klitschko whose confidence was in the dumpster and was far more mentally fragile than the Klitschko who is fighting now, while Peter looked shaky in his most recent outing. This Klitschko is very, very good, if flawed -- I suspect he's one really nasty punch away from wondering whether he will get knocked out and fighting scared again. But no matter. He's top-25 "pound for pound" material on a great many lists. A recent poll of top boxing writers at Yahoo! Sports won him enough votes for top-10 status that he placed, in effect, 13th. Yeah, 55 is way too low.

Another big man, Jean-Marc Mormeck, gets ranked at just 48th, another robbery. Now, granted, Mormeck just lost his cruiserweight (200 lbs.) crown this month to David Haye. But this list was compiled well before that defeat. Prior to that in 2007, he'd avenged his loss to O'Neil Bell, ranked 40th last year, to resume his reign as Ring Magazine's official 200-pound champ. And prior to that, he'd whooped the cream of the cruiserweight division. I'm not sure if Mormeck cracks the top 25 on my list, but he's significantly higher than 48th.

My complaints would be totally lame unless I suggested moving someone down. I can name a few. My first nominee is Nobuo Nashiro, ranked 42nd. The junior bantamweight (115 lbs.) is a mere 9-1, with his only significant victory coming via upset over Martin Castillo this year. That's a very nice win, but the next time Nashiro faced a high-caliber opponent, he lost to Alexander Munoz. So how is this guy better than Mormeck, let alone Klitschko, both of whom stood atop their respective divisions when the magazine went to print and both of whom are significantly more accomplished (26-2-1 and 49-3, respectively) over their careers and have proven themselves more than once against top competition? Want another? How about Zsolt Erdei, ranked 43rd? The light heavyweight (175 lbs.) titlist defeated absolute nobodies since last year, yet he moved up in the mag's rankings from 49th. Even Ring acknowledged that he fought nobodies. So far as I can tell, Erdei only has one good win in his career, too.

The discrepancy may be a result of Ring's explanation that its rankings incorporate "perceived potential" as one measure. "So a semi-unproven fighter with a tantalizing upside may get the nod over a proven veteran whose limits have already been established." That's fine to consider, but I don't think it much applies to picking Nashiro and Erdei over Klitschko and Mormeck. How can anyone assess the perceived potential of Nashiro after just 10 fights with one good win and one loss against proven opponents? The magazine even concedes that: "Hard to say how good he really is after going 1-1 against Castillo and Munoz, and at 25, hard to say how good the Japanese fighter can be." I'm not knocking the kid, I'm just saying nobody, not even The Ring, has a feel for whether he's really good or not. And amazingly, they ranked him 37th last year. Meanwhile, Erdei "gets points for consistency," because he's successfully defended the WBO's title belt eight straight times, according to The Ring. Which is weird, because Erdei's mediocre title reign seems to me like an indictment of the very "alphabet soup" belt system which The Ring is in mortal combat against. There's not even any mention of Erdei's "perceived potential."

Still, when the standard is "perceived potential" versus "established limits," Klitschko and Mormeck rank pretty well. Both have navigated their faults to the top of their respective divisions, with Klitschko the consensus best heavyweight and Mormeck having twice taken the cruiserweight crown. Would that everyone's limits be "best in class." Apparently, though, their most established limits are in The Ring 100.

Next I will take on this totally bogus list about why I should buy a University of Waterloo Food Services Meal Plan.


JimPanzee said...

Compiled in SEP...released in JAN. and you comment on it here in NOV. just days before DEC?!?!? Talk about your alphabet soup!

I have to check out that list before I can fully appreciate your commentary but the material here and your arguments, as always, are solid.

Tim -- tstarks2@gmail.com said...


Thanks. I tried to write it in a way so anyone could jump in from afar...