The history of pound-for-pound clashes

By Cain Bradley on October 15, 2016
The history of pound-for-pound clashes
Andre Ward fighting Sergey Kovalev is the next bout to join the list. (Photo: Courtesy)

This November will see the eleventh time two of The Ring’s top five pound-for-pound boxers meet in the ring…

This November will see the eleventh time two of The Ring’s top five pound-for-pound boxers meet in the ring. The super middleweight King Andre Ward has moved up to fight light heavyweight King Sergey Kovalev. The number eleven is surprisingly low but The Ring only started their pound-for-pound rankings in 1989. This means bouts such as Hagler v Hearns, Duran v Leonard, Basilio v Robinson and Frazier v Ali were not even eligible. In this, I will look at how those 10 fights played out.

Julio Cesar Chavez v Meldrick Taylor
March 17, 1990
Las Vegas, Nevada

A combined record of 92-0-1 made this fight must-see. Chavez was a three weight world champion with a big following of Mexican fans defending his WBC light-welterweight title. Meldrick Taylor was an Olympic gold medalist in 1984 and after beating Buddy McGirt to claim the IBF light-welterweight title the comparisons were made to Sugar Ray Leonard. Labeled “Thunder and Lightning” it was seen as intense battle of style. The bout also benefited from being just after Tyson lost to Buster Douglas, bringing other boxers to the forefront.

The speed of Taylor clearly confounded Chavez early as he seemed to hit him at will. Chavez was, as ever, relentless in his pursuit of Taylor. Taylor was landing more punches but the power of Chavez was beginning to make an impact. His face was swollen and cut up while the bones around his eye socket had been broken. He was so dazed that at the end of the eleventh round he headed to the wrong corner. Heading into the last round, Taylor was comfortably heading to victory. The scorecards read 107-102, 108-101 and 104-105. Lou Duva, trainer of Taylor, instead told his boxer he needed to win the round and so Taylor chose to trade with Chavez. He staggered around the ring, at one point falling over following a wild left. The last minute saw Chavez pour into Taylor and it was a huge right that would drop Taylor. He made it up before eight but when unresponsive to Richard Steele’s questions, he was deemed unfit to continue. Chavez had famously won with two seconds to go.

Result: Julio Cesar Chavez defeated Meldrick Taylor by Technical Knockout after 2.58

Julio Cesar Chavez v Pernell Whitaker
September 10, 1993
San Antonio, Texas

Chavez continued to roll on by and reached 87 unbeaten, with wins over Hector Camacho and Greg Haugen. Pernell Whitaker had one only defeat to his name, one he avenged against Jose Luis Ramirez. He was another Olympic gold medalist from 1984 and was a three weight World Champion looking to stop Chavez from his fourth title at a different weight. Whitaker was another boxer from the school of Leonard, perhaps the best defensive boxer of his era with incredible speed. The Texan crowd was pro Chavez as the Mexican fans turned up in huge numbers. Whitaker was an underdog heading into the bout and was booed on entrance.

Chavez, as always, came on strong early. Whitaker was more than happy with this but would lose the early rounds. All great fighters adjust and Whitaker circled counter-clockwise and did not let Chavez close the distance. As Chavez tired from throwing right hands that only hit the air, Whitaker would grow in confidence. After nine he was surprisingly not up on the cards but the corner had seen and told Pernell he needed to win the last rounds. He took it to Chavez, pushing back the pressure fighter. The bout ended as a majority draw with Sports Illustrated declaring ‘ROBBED!’ on their next front page.

Result: Pernell Whitaker fought Julio Cesar Chavez to a Majority Draw

Oscar De La Hoya v Pernell Whitaker
April 12, 1997
Las Vegas, Nevada

Billed as “Pound for Pound” the second and third ranked boxers in The Ring would meet. Whittaker had gone on to become a four weight World Champion but returned to welterweight to take on the Golden Boy, Oscar De La Hoya. De La Hoya was a three weight world champion and had stopped Julio Cesar Chavez.

Whitaker uses sharp straights and spoiling tactics early. Oscar though is successful with his bigger shots despite Whitaker trying to take away his left hook. When Whitaker gets his jab away, a punch that lands 160 times in this fight, he tends to control the round. The fight is mainly Whitaker landing more punches efficiently and using great defense and pacing. De La Hoya was landing fewer power punches without hurting him. Whitaker managed to get the only knockdown in the ninth round. He out landed the bigger fighter and ringside observers all thought Whitaker had succeeded. However the judges saw it 116-110, 116-110 and 115-111 to Oscar De La Hoya, the new superstar of boxing.

Result: Oscar De La Hoya defeats Pernell Whitaker by Unanimous Decision

Oscar De La Hoya v Felix Trinidad
September 18, 1999
Las Vegas, Nevada

Now a four weight World Champion, Oscar De La Hoya had continued his winning ways. He beat Hector Camacho, Julio Cesar Chavez for a second time and edged a decision against Ike Quartey. He was 31-0 heading into this bout. His opponent, Felix Trinidad, was 35-0. He was the reigning IBF Champion and has impressively vanquished opponents. He stopped Maurice Blocker to win the title in two and then experienced wins over Hector Camacho, Yori Boy Campas, Oba Carr and then most impressively Pernell Whitaker. The unification bout was one of the biggest available in boxing at the time.

The controversy started before the fight as Tito was stalled on the way to the ring, having to spend five minutes stuck in the aisle. This fight was a slow burner as not a lot happened. Oscar looked to box, trying to jab and use an improved right hand to bloody Tito. About halfway through Oscar looked like he had a commanding lead. However he began to sit on his lead instead of continuing the tactics that had proved so effective. Oscar slowed down and entering the tenth round, he shut it down completely. He hoped his lead in the scorecards would carry him through the bout and did not want to risk a stoppage loss. Instead of winning comfortably, Oscar lost a majority decision despite out landing Tito by almost 100 punches. The fight was a disappointing one as both adopted conservative tactics. Billed as the “fight of the millennium” it left a sour taste in boxing fans mouth as the millennium turned over.

Result: Felix Trinidad defeats Oscar De La Hoya by Majority Decision

Oscar De La Hoya v Shane Mosley
June 17, 2000
Los Angeles, California

Despite losing to Trinidad, Oscar was still highly rated. He even claimed the WBC belt as Tito moved up to middleweight. In the opposing corner was Shane Mosley. The California man had been IBF lightweight champion and was undefeated with 34 wins.  He vacated the title to move up to welterweight. He had two wins over non contenders. Oscar was still the favorite with the bookies heading into the fight. Oscar was the superstar of the fight, being payed almost triple Shane. Billed “Destiny” it was a big fight for the both boxers.

The early rounds were split as Mosley used his smarts and subtle combinations. His fast hands and even quicker feet were troubling Oscar. De La Hoya was naturally bigger and used his jab to create forward pressure. He also brought into play his strong left hook. Mosley would adjust heading into the fifth using angle changes to find openings. Shane was looking to be first and last in all exchanges. In the ninth and twelfth rounds the two boxers would trade blows for three minutes. The big right of Mosley would really tell here. He would work in bursts with great speed to trouble Oscar. Shane would take a split decision victory with scores of 116-112, 115-113 and113-115.

Result: Shane Mosley defeats Oscar De La Hoya by Unanimous Decision

Manny Pacquiao v Juan Manuel Marquez II
March 15, 2008
Las Vegas, Nevada

The second and third ranked fighters in The Ring magazine would once again meet. The first fight had taken place four years earlier. Pacquiao knocked Marquez down three times in the first round but Marquez came storming back for a split decision draw. Since then he had won a trilogy over Erik Morales and a second win over Marco Antonio Barrera. Marquez had also beat Barrera after losing to Chris John.

The bout really continued where the second left off. Marquez did wobble Manny at the end of the second and once again at the beginning of the third. He manages to perfectly use the aggression of Manny against him. By the end of the round though, Manny has taken back control with a knockdown counter left. So many of the rounds are open to interpretation. Marquez when controlling the pace looks the better boxer. Pacquiao once again rocks him in the tenth but Marquez takes the twelfth to him and with it makes it a hotly debated decision. I edged it to Marquez 114-113 but the decision went the way of Pacquiao by scores of 115-112, 114-113 and 112-115.

Result: Manny Pacquaio defeats Juan Manuel Marquez by Split Decision

Bernard Hopkins v Joe Calzaghe
April 19, 2008
Paradise, Nevada

Hopkins and Calzaghe had been flinging mud at each other since the turn of the century. Both had dominated their divisions. Bernard Hopkins made 20 successful defences of his middleweight title while Calzaghe made 21 in the super middleweight division. Hopkins moved up to beat Antonio Tarver and Winky Wright at light heavyweight before calling out Calzaghe who had just defeated Mikkel Kessler. The two engaged in a heated argument prior to the Hatton-Mayweather bout. It was dubbed “Battle of the planet” and Calzaghe was the betting favorite.

Hopkins was the man who controlled the early stages of the bout. He dropped Joe with a short right hand in the first round. Joe Cortez was heavily involved in the second round, a bout he referred completely opposite to Hatton v Mayweather not long before. It was a dirty start to the fight with a slow and scrappy feel. The second half of the fight was where the phenomenal work rate and relative youth of Calzaghe came into play. The last few rounds were marred by Bernard Hopkins looking to get points taken off for Joe Calzaghe after alleged low blows. Hopkins had just not done enough has Calzaghe landed more punches on Hopkins than any previous opponent and double that Hopkins landed on his. Calzaghe only won a split decision with scores of 116-111, 115-112 and 113-114.

Result: Joe Calzaghe defeats Bernard Hopkins by Split Decision

Floyd Mayweather Jr v Shane Mosley
May 1, 2000
Paradise, Nevada

Another fight that had been talked about since the turn of the century, it took place between the second and third ranked boxers. Floyd has recently returned from a layoff to shutout Juan Manuel Marquez. The former number one was a five weight world champion who had sensational wins over Oscar De La Hoya, Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo. Since Shane beat De La Hoya he had lost twice to Vernon Forrest and Winky Wright and beaten Vargas, Collazo and De La Hoya. Cotto would beat him but Mosley regained his place in pound for pound lists with two strong wins. He stopped Mayorga in the final round when behind on the scorecards and then controversially destroyed Margarito.

The first two rounds saw Mosley beat Mayweather up to an extent that it seemed we had never seen before. The second round saw Mayweather hanging on as Shane rocked him with some huge right hands. Following this thought it followed the blueprint of the majority of Mayweather bouts. His combinations and the use of the body jab worked together to slow down Shane. As the bout wore on he clearly became frustrated and stated after that he tried to stop Mayweather early so the speed did not take over the bout.

Result: Floyd Mayweather defeats Shane Mosley by Unanimous Decision

Manny Pacquiao v Juan Manuel Marquez III
November 12, 2011
Paradise, Las Vegas

After the previous Marquez bout, Pacquiao would go on a legendary run of victories. De La Hoya, Hatton, Cotto, Clottey, Margarito and Mosley were all defeated by the Filipino as he ventured as high as light middleweight. Juan Manuel Marquez had instead chosen to try and rule the lightweight division. He beat Juan Diaz and Michael Katsidis. His only previous attempt to box at welterweight had saw him defeated by Floyd Mayweather. Given his stunning run, Manny Pacquiao entered this as the favourite and was billed as “The 25th Round Begins.”

It was a slower start to this bout but Marquez works well to the body. Pacquiao looks faster but Marquez lands at a higher rate. In the fifth, Marquez hurts Pacquiao with a big right hand. He suffers a few mental lapses throughout the fight and just cannot adjust to Marquez. Manny comes on late in the fight as he pressurises Marquez but once again Marquez probably bucks the last fight. It is probably the least memorable of the four bouts and the decision Marquez will feel he deserved most. However, the majority decision went the way of the Filipino star.

Result: Manny Pacquiao defeats Juan Manuel Marquez by Majority Decision

Manny Pacquiao v Floyd Mayweather Jr
May 2, 2015
Las Vegas, Nevada

After years of negotiation and these two men dominating the pound-for pound rankings they finally agreed to a bout. Boxers agreed to a larger percentage for Floyd and USADA testing. Since Floyd had beaten Mosley, he had continue to win including notable victories over Miguel Cotto, Saul Alvarez and Marcos Maidana. Pacquiao had lost twice. Once controversially to Timothy Bradley, whom he beat in a rematch and when stopped by Juan Manuel Marquez with a thunderous shot. It was billed as “Fight of the Century” and despite being a few years too late was arguably the most anticipated fight on this list.

Floyd came out with surprising aggression and took the early rounds. Pacquiao may have had his best argument in the third after landing a few solid shots. The fourth finally was his as he managed to stagger Mayweather slightly. Mayweather was once again dominant in the fifth, limiting Manny to only two shots landed according to CompuBox. The next saw Manny come out aggressively and win the round forcing Floyd backwards. With this, Mayweather choose to once again be the aggressor and took a couple of rounds. The bout once again shifted to favor the aggressor over the next couple of rounds as Manny took a couple of rounds. Floyd would finish strong using his solid defensive work to avoid shots and land big ones in return. Most fans labeled it a disappointment but Mayweather put on a class showing. The question does still remain what would have happened in the prime of these boxers careers.

Result: Floyd Mayweather Jr defeats Manny Pacquiao by Unanimous Decision

Andre Ward fighting Sergey Kovalev is the next bout to join the list. Fans will hope for a classic but as shown, these big fights can be a major letdown. Ward is like a few of these fighters with defensive smarts and an ability to control the pace of an opponent. Kovalev is an aggressive power puncher with a propensity for stopping his opponents. That equation tends to go well for the defensive fighter who can manage to stop his opponent being effective.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Julio Cesar Chavez Vs Meldrick Taylor 1 Full Fight of the year 90

Oscar De La Hoya - Pernell Whitaker. 1997-04-12

Oscar De La Hoya V Felix Trinidad

Shane Mosley vs. Oscar De La Hoya (06-17-2000) Complete Fight

Manny Pacquiao vs Juan Manuel Marquez II Highlights

Hopkins vs. Calzaghe: Highlights (HBO Boxing)

41. Floyd Mayweather Vs. Shane Mosley (HD)

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  1. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 08:04am, 10/19/2016

    Seven pounds difference between super middleweight and light heavy. Ward has always been a light heavy….always, that’s where he got his Olympic Gold. Kovalev KOs Ward’s last ten opponents and that includes Froch and Kessler…and he will KO Ward.

  2. Eric 04:03pm, 10/18/2016

    Koolz… I have lived in several different states in America and visited numerous others, without a doubt there are truly beautiful women everywhere. Never been to California, but I would imagine that Cali would definitely be numero uno for beautiful women. Of the states and places I’ve lived or visited, I would rank Florida first. I’m sure that a lot of people would vote Texas, NYC, and other places as well.

  3. Koolz 03:11pm, 10/18/2016

    Eric you have no idea just how Hollywood weird it is.
    I have to say there are beautiful women all over. 
    Here is how I think the Kovalev vs Ward fight is going to go down.

    Ward’s only chance is fighting on the inside.  The reason for this is because Kovalev can control the whole fight from the outside and be completely exact on his punches, the guy has really great eye and hand coordination.
    Are we going to expect Ward to try and tie up on the inside to slow the fight down.  Ward comes in in hits ties up…
    I have this 60/40 I think Ward has a chance but I also see Kovalev being the better and stronger boxer of the two.
    Going to be a great November as it is just stacked!

  4. Carlos Torres 06:30pm, 10/17/2016

    Regarding the Whittaker and Chavez fight. You forgot to mention that Whittaker intentionally punched Chavez twice south of the border. This is something that takes a lot away from a fighter.

  5. Eric 04:52pm, 10/17/2016

    Can’t always rely on second hand info. Most Europeans tell us fat, stupid, and lazy Americans that everyone in Europe is beautiful, thin, and intelligent. hehe. During the manufactured, “Cold War” era, Hollyweird had us thinking that all Russian women looked like Caitlyn Jenner. Leave it up to Hollyweird to distort the truth.

  6. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 04:25pm, 10/17/2016

    Koolz-Very nice. I checked out photos on line that were supposed to show how backward the Russians are and the thing that actually grabbed my attention was how stunningly beautiful some of the young Russian women in the photos were.

  7. Koolz 03:41pm, 10/17/2016

    Irish I watched big boxing match in Russia the girls Danced and were wearing see through clothing, they were all blondes and attractive.  Their dance routine not to bad a little rough but not bad.
    There was a huge light show with it too.  OH and before that they had some live band.
    Now do I remember the fight?  No, maybe it was a heavy weight fight?  Russia always goes way out!

  8. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 01:53pm, 10/17/2016

    Koolz-I got the inspiration watching the T J Doheney fight on Youtube. The girl who sang the national anthem was wearing a black pants suit. The jacket was short and tailored to highlight her fabulous ass.

  9. Koolz 10:43am, 10/17/2016

    Irish that sounds like a Sound Idea!

    Let’s do it Russian Style with Babes dancing in thongs…not wait to much for wimpy America, ok Babes dancing period in some sexy clothing.

    With pupped up House Music and light Show!  Just make it big! 

    I have great ideas.

  10. Ragin' Mutt 06:48am, 10/17/2016

    Maybe have a kick Bobby Deniro in the nutz contest before some of these major bouts. Dat would put butts in the seats. What a mutt dat guy is.

  11. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 04:44am, 10/17/2016

    Here’s what boxing really needs….more female ring announcers with nice shapely asses.

  12. Koolz 10:50am, 10/16/2016

    yea those later rounds will prove very tough for Kovalev.  He has to not get frustrated and try not to rush.  One thing Ward like to do is take one hand and block the other fighters attacks and then get inside and punch with his other hand.  This is why it looks like he will only fight with say one hand.

    It certainly won’t be a War.  Because both fighters will be trying to control the distance of the fight and Ward will be trying to slow the fight down and negate anything Kovalev does.
    I just see Ward getting Knocked down once or twice sometime during the fight.
    This is also Ward’s toughest fight.  Kovalev isn’t just some knock out artist the guy is a great Boxer who happens to have heavy hands. 

  13. Eric 09:32am, 10/16/2016

    Just checkin’ out the pitcher of Kovie & SOG and noting that both have nearly identical veins on their shoulders. Makes me think of Lou Savarese. That guy had the largest, thickest veins pumpin’ trew his skin on his shoulders during a fight, dem things were gross as hell. I’ve heard dat people who have visible veins showing in their neck is a sign of a healthy heart and an ideal weight. Might be healthy but it don’t look good.

  14. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 07:16am, 10/16/2016

    Really good fight analysis in this article, kinda’ reminds of Robert Ecksel…only thing missing is what corner they’re fighting out of and the color of their trunks.

  15. AkT 03:49am, 10/16/2016

    *Koolz (sorry .. spellchecker gone wrong!)

  16. AkT 03:47am, 10/16/2016

    Kola - You have a great point there. No one knows how Ward will react to Kovalev’s power. I believe though that Ward is stronger than most people think, and much more full of guile. If Ward doesn’t get KO’d, it’ll be a very frustrating fight for Kovalev, and a much easier fight for Ward than people think.

  17. Koolz 12:47pm, 10/15/2016

    I honestly think this fight will be like B-hop fight.  Kovalev will control the distance and knock Ward down a couple times but maybe Ward will slow the fight down and try and gain points to win, except the knock downs will be Ward’s undoing.

    Anyone see Kovalev’s training pretty impressive!
    Looking forward to this fight.  When Kovalev wins it will blow up the internet and everyone will go after GGG to fight Kovalev.

  18. AkT 10:17am, 10/15/2016

    This fight will surprise a lot of people. It will be much easier for Ward than people think. Much easier ...

  19. Eric 07:46am, 10/15/2016

    The Kovalev-Ward fight will be a snooze fest right up until the time the Krusher knocks out the SOG around the 7th or 8th round. I would much rather see a Stevenson vs. Kovalev bout. Granted, Stevenson doesn’t realistically pose a greater threat than Ward, but at least there could possibly be a pretty good slugfest while it lasted. Me thinks that the Ward vs. Kovalev bout will be a big disappointment and not live up to the hype. Unfortunately few of these Superfights ever really do exceed or even meet expectations with the possible exceptions of Ali-Frazier I, Duran-Leonard I, etc. Even though Whitaker won the Chavez fight going away, it was a pretty damn boring fight.

  20. didier 07:29am, 10/15/2016

    How on earth did get Ward the chance for this big fight?
    Been mostly inactive the last years thats why he will be
    smashed to bits by Kovalev

  21. Eric 06:36am, 10/15/2016

    Chavez received two gifts with his fights against Taylor & Whitaker. How in the hell, do you stop a fight with 2 seconds to go? And the Whitaker-Chavez decision is one of the worst decisions ever for a major fight. As time goes on, Whitaker is one of those fighters that seem to be slipping from people’s memories. Whitaker could have held his own in the Fab Four era, hell, he had the style to actually beat Hands Of Stone. Calzaghe is another fighter that doesn’t receive that much love from the boxing scribes and sportsworld. Sure, the guy did more slapping than punching, but the results speak for themselves.

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