Finding Boxing’s GOAT

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The debate on who is boxing’s GOAT, the GREATEST OF ALL TIME, rages on. The boxing world has no clear verdict on who really is TBE, THE BEST EVER.

Muhammad Ali claimed decades ago when he was on top of his game that he’s the greatest. Floyd Mayweather, Jr., who just recently equaled Rocky Marciano’s immaculate record of 49 and 0, disagreed and declared himself instead as the best ever. But the boxer whose record Mayweather tried to equal is seemingly left out in the discussion of who is the king of the boxing hill.

On top of the belt (medal or trophy), cash prizes and possible product endorsements winners earn the proverbial bragging rights. Some athletes, when they become so successful in their field, would unabashedly exercise that right to brag and put themselves loftily on a pedestal.

Perhaps, when Ali started losing and got tempered by his conversion to Islam, he may have wanted to retract his claim. Conversely, Pretty Boy, as he kept racking up the Ws and marched closer and closer to equaling Marciano’s win-loss record, made his claim of being the best ever more emphatic to the point of  taking jabs  not just at Ali but also at Sugar Ray Robinson who seemed to be getting the nod of most boxing experts in the discussion of who’s boxing’s alpha male.

When asked who he considers as the top-five best boxers, both present and past, the undefeated boxer  ranked himself as no. 1 and Ali just no. 5. Sugar Ray Robinson was not in the list. Neither was Rocky Marciano whose achievement he was then trying to equal. When finally he achieved the milestone after defeating Andrei Berto, he was asked during the post-fight interview if he believes he was the best ever, he, of course, said YES.

But is he? Is Floyd Mayweather, Jr. the best ever? Has his boxing’s resume and earnings pushed him past all the great legends of the squared arena? Has going undefeated and equaling Marciano’s 60-year old record enough for him to be proclaimed as the greatest boxer who ever lived?

Believers and supporters of the American pugilist would understandably say amen but his bashers and naysayers would resoundingly disagree.

There are differing opinions when discussing Pretty Boy’s position, and that of other boxers, in the pantheon of greatness. There are also different ways to tread in determining who among the boxers, both past and present, deserves the title “The Best Ever.”

What may be considered as the most objective method in measuring greatness in boxing is to go the way of numbers…statistical analysis.

In an article he wrote for ESPN, Igor Guryashkin made a comparative analysis of the ComputBox numbers churned by Pretty Boy and some notable boxers, past and present,  in order to find out how the American boxer compares against the greats of both the contemporary and bygone eras. The comparison made focused mainly on how subject boxers often hit their opponents and how often do they get hit in return.

The plus/minus comparisons done through CompuBox revealed that among his notable contemporaries in the welterweight and other divisions,  Floyd Jr. is the best with a plus-30 percent. Andre Ward comes in far second at plus-15 percent. Ranged against those of the greats of the past era, Mayweather’s numbers stand firmly on top of the hill. Joe Louis comes at second with plus-26 percent. But Floyd Jr.’s stranglehold in this statistical area is not complete because Louis and Lennox Lewis both had a slightly better connect percentage than him.

Guryashkin’s analysis was premised on the assumption that “the best boxers connect often and avoid being hit too frequently.” Such assumption made the scope of his analytics limited.

If numbers were to be used to determine who’s the greatest boxer of all time a formula that will include other significant stats in boxing must be created. Such may be comprised of, aside from the plus/minus comparisons, winning and knockout percentages, number of rounds needed to get a win, and how many years would a boxer stay (or had a boxer stayed) active to get those wins? Appropriate weights should be assigned to each category.

Winning crowns in different weight classes cannot be added because it will put the Heavyweights at a disadvantage. Mayweather, when he declared himself as TBE, cited among other reasons, his being a champion in 5 different weight divisions. Well, if this category will be added, Manny Pacquiao might be included in the discussion of who is boxing’s best having won championships in 8 different weight divisions.

Knockout and winning percentages would be given more weight than the hit-and-not-get-hit percentage because the desired end result is to win, if possible in the shortest possible time, not to connect often and avoid being hit too frequently. Winning by knockout will obviously get more points than winning by unanimous decision.

Pretty Boy’s knockout percentage stands at 53%. What about the two boxers who had better connect percentages than him?  Lennox Lewis’ is 20% better than Floyd’s at  73% but Joe Louis had 75%. However, Floyd Jr. won all his fights while Lewis and the Brown Bomber have, 3 and 2 losses, respectively. So, when the record of all these 3 boxers are computed, given all these numbers, who would end up with the best stats?

There are top-notch boxers who like Mayweather is undefeated at this point and has far better knockout percentages than him. Gennady Golovkin has won 33 straight bouts, 30 via the short route for a whooping knockout percentage of  91%. But Deontay Wilder’s record of 34 knockouts out of 35 fights (97%) is more astonishing. However,  Golovkin’s 16 and Wilder’s 14 fights away from equaling Floyd’s 49-0.. But the one silently lurking so close behind that record and has the tools to get to 49 wins also is Roman Gonzales who has won all his 43 fights so far and whose percentage of putting his opponents to sleep is 86%.

The boxer conspicuously missing in Gurhashkin’s discussion is Rocky Marciano, the boxer whose win-loss record Mayweather worked so hard to equal, the boxer who defeated Joe Louis who outpointed Mayweather in the connect percentage department.

What if all the statistics involving Marciano and Mayweather be compared? Who would come out the better boxer?

Yes, they both now have 49 wins and no losses but the disparity when it comes to knockout percentage is huge for the latter has put the lights out on 46 (86% percent) of his opponents 26 of whom did not get past round 3. While Pretty Boy bicycled his way to victories, Rocky bulldozed his.

So in the proposed formula to determine who is the best ever, they are equal when it comes to number of wins. However in the knockout percentage department it’s a no contest in favor of Rocky Marciano. Possibly,  Floyd Jr. may surpass Marciano’s win record (for it is hard to believe that he is really retiring) but would never come close to the latter’s KO record. The other area where Mayweather would pale in comparison is the number of years it took  them to record 49 wins. Marciano spent less than 9 years to achieve the feat while the boxer who claims to be the best ever took a month short of 19 years.

In comparing the two boxers, the main focus should only be on actual statistics and none of the intangibles. Earnings cannot be included because they fought in different eras where the popularity of the sports and the income it generates from advertisements, broadcasting and gate receipts greatly differ.

As to the fact that it seemed very rare that boxing fans and experts mention the name of Rocky Marciano in the discussion of who among the boxers is the GOAT is incomprehensible. Boxing experts dismiss Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 as not impressive because of the quality of his opposition, thus, they say, he could not be ranked among the greatest in the heavyweight division. Can Marciano be faulted for fighting in an era where there was dearth of talent? Or there were good ones then but not willing to test their mettle against him. Or was he too good that those who dared to exchange leathers with him looked puny?

But why is Mayweather getting too much respect and recognition even if he was accused of cherry-picking his opponents and fighting the good ones only when they were past their prime?

In this case, let “quality of opponents” be included in the analytics and let there be value added on whether opponents were in their prime or not when they squared off so finally we could settle the issue of who’s the best among the best boxers.

What else can be added?

Well, some argue that in finding boxing’s GOAT, the boxers’  affairs outside of the ring should be taken into consideration. Boxers and other athletes, are first and foremost, persons… members of humanity who need to conform to established norms of propriety and morality. So in weighing their value as athletes what they do as persons cannot be separated. The way they conduct affairs in their lives should be factored. If this will be done, Floyd will have difficulty claiming the throne of being the greatest for obvious reasons.

But the most definitive and objective way of finding boxing’s top dog is still by statistical analysis. Numbers cannot be disputed. Experts just need to agree on a specific formula, something similar to the NBA’s player’s efficiency rating (PRE).

As to Mayweather’s claim of being TBE (The Best Ever) it will always be refuted. Maybe TRE (The Richest Ever) will no longer be disputed.

————

Reference used for boxers’ records: BoxRec.com

About HARDPEN

Teacher-Writer Hardpen is my nom de plume. My real name is Massuline Antonio Dupaya Ligaya. Many times I was asked the question, "Why do you write?" I don't write for rewards nor adulation. When I write poems, stories or essays, seeing them completed gives me immense joy and satisfaction. The happiness and sense of fulfillment I feel when completing my works are my rewards. When I teach, I don't work but I play. The classroom is my playground, the students are my playmates, and the subject is our toy. Proud to be me! Proud to be a FILIPINO! TO GOD BE THE GLORY!

Posted on September 26, 2015, in Boxing, Greatest Boxer of All Time, Sports, The Best Ever and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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