by Paul Magno
After having come back from a much-deserved vacation I thought I’d throw one of these lists at y’all mainly because they’re always fun to do, to read and to debate.
So, here’s my list of the 10 Most Important People in the sport today. I limited my scope to only including actual fighters, promoters or others directly connected to boxing. TV executives and the heads of the sanctioning bodies were not taken into consideration.
1. Oscar De la Hoya: As a fighter, he has the power to instantly boost any opponent’s credibility and marketability. As a promoter, he has a direct link to HBO and Ring Magazine. With the talent roster he has at Golden Boy, at some point any fighter with a desire to be the best has to either join him or beat one of his guys. From Joan Guzman right up to new signee David Haye, Oscar has his fingerprint on most of boxing.
2. Wladamir Klitschko: As much as purists hate to hear it, all roads to mainstream success in boxing lead through the heavyweight division. When the heavies are great, the sport is prosperous; When the heavies are a load, the sport has to work harder to reach the mainstream. Klitschko is the closest thing we have now to an undisputed champion (He’s IBF and WBO champ). If he puts his foot on the gas and stops being so cautious, we could really have something special. He definitely has it in him to steamroll past some of his lesser foes, but has been unwilling to leave himself open. Wlad is just one Ivan Drago “I must break you” and an obscene gesture to the American flag away from being the biggest draw since Tyson, but such tacky behavior is not in Klitscko’s affable nature. So, instead, we need to see more hunger and less caution when he fights. Another showdown with Sam Peter is the only major fight to be made at the moment in the heavyweight division. In such cases where there isn’t much competition, a fighter needs to over-emphasize his dominance (ala Tyson).
3. Bob Arum: The old school promoter has been slipping a bit of late and needs to get his head back in the game as he has guys like Miguel Cotto, Kelly Pavlik, Manny Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito fighting under his banner. All of these guys produce compelling performances and should be much bigger stars than they are. Actually booking two of his fighters against eachother in Cotto vs. Margarito is a step in the right direction and hopefully an indication that he realizes the importance of being Yin to Golden Boy’s Yang.
4. Floyd Mayweather: The mostly undisputed Pound for Pound champ needs to stop resting on his laurels and get back to the dirty business of boxing. After his rematch with De la Hoya in September, he will find himself with no other huge mega fights in sight. Here’s hoping he realizes that he needs to bury the hatchet with his old enemy Bob Arum since Arum is promoter to 3 of his more marketable foes: Cotto, Margarito and Joshua Clottey. A retired, mega-rich Floyd Mayweather does nothing for the sport.
5. Manny Pacquiao: The Philippine sensation has the innate ability to produce exciting encounters and he’s not done yet. His next fight will be against game but pedestrian WBC champ David Diaz. While this fight falls just short of being a gimme for Manny, its the type of fight for a paper title that Pacman deserves after giving us so many classics. Also, it paves the way for future wars at lightweight against the likes of Nate Campbell, Joel Casamayor, Juan Diaz and Michael Katsidis- any of which would likely be classics.
6. Kelly Pavlik: After Heavyweight, Middleweight is boxing’s glamor division and there’s nothing the boxing public likes more than a small town, likeable, white boy who can punch like a mule and doesn’t know the meaning of the word “reverse.” Pavlik is money in the bank regardless of who he’s fighting. If Kelly keeps knocking them out, people will pay attention. Gary Lockett and the hard-hitting Mexican, Marco Antonio Rubio are on Pavlik’s short list, but a possible Middleweight unification with Arthur Abraham or a move up to Super Middleweight or Light Heavy would grab a lot of headlines.
7. Tie (Israel Vazquez, Rafael Marquez, Jorge Linares and Yuriorkis Gamboa): These guys are inheriting the 122 to 130 pound divisions- Areas previously dominated by first ballot Hall of Famers: Manny Pacquiao, Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales. This is a very tough act to follow, but they are capable of taking over and producing some very interesting wars- either with one another or with others in their divisions. If the Vazquez/Marquez trilogy is any indication, we’re in for some good times ahead.
8. David Haye: Even as a Cruiserweight he would’ve made this list as the best, most marketable Cruiser since Holyfield. However, as he moves up to Heavyweight, he becomes even more important as he stands a chance of adding some life to the Heavyweight division. His hand speed may very well take him to the very top.
9. Mikkel Kessler: With Joe Calzaghe out of the picture at 168, the time is right for Kessler to make a big comeback and establish himself as the class of the division. Kessler’s important because with a revamped and rededicated Kessler at the top of the Super Middleweight division, new life may be sparked into the European boxing scene which will be suffering from Joe Calzaghe’s near future retirement as well as the decline of other European stars such as Ricky Hatton, Felix Sturm, Jean Marc Mormeck and Clinton Woods (among others). Future mega fights against fighters like Jermain Taylor and Carl Froch may prove to be extremely important to the European fight landscape in the near future.
10. Ruslan Chagaev: Before I get accused of having lost my mind, let me explain myself. Chagaev holds one-fourth of the most important prize in the sport- The Heavyweight Championship- and he’s the only one with a piece of the prize who could possibly be content with just disappearing into the Eastern European background to defend against the worst of the worst. Klitschko will take on quality opponents and Sam Peter will fight anyone, anywhere. It’s Ruslan who is the key to a unified Heavyweight title. We’ll just have to see whether it’s fight or flight for him.
Vitali Klitscho: If he insists on fighting Sam Peter and beats him, we might have to go 10 years before we get a unified Heavyweight champ since the Klitschko Bros. will not fight one another.
Don King: He’s a rat with a forked tongue, but there’s no one alive who’s better at grabbing the media’s attention to promote a fight. A healthier Don King Productions would put the pressure on both Golden Boy and Top Rank. A comeback for King would make for a real promotional war which would, in turn, be good for fans.
Jin Mosley: Can I just spell it out for ya? M-I-L-F. Despite being Shane Mosley’s manager, she really is not that important, but you gotta give a woman props for keeping it together like she has and for looking that good after long hours of chasing kids around and following the Zab Judah drama…Plus, I just wanted an excuse to talk about her…