Pay us like you owe us for all the years that you ho'd us. We can talk- but money talks. Let's talk more bucks.”
Jay-Z, from The Blueprint (2001)
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Jigga's lines clearly define the road paved by Gen X all-time great fighters (born around 1965 – 1985), who had no regard for a dark fork in the road left for their Millennial would-be pimps.
The all-time greats below came of age in a time of AT&T vs. MCI for long-distance calling from house phones. They had “beepers” instead of cells. AOL powered the still developing internet, and the idea of Google and social media was a secret unrevealed by the Illuminati.
Oh yes, they got payed– but raised middle fingers in the process. ‘The Great Recession' was survived by exploiting PPV and the public through the supply of premium cable and fan demand; demand killed by Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, an enormously successful failure.
After the brutal year 2016, Millennials are now tasked with taking boxing forward in a reverse market that's far more competitive. This will be a tremendous challenge, as fighters like Canelo Alvarez, Vasyl Lomachenko, Anthony Joshua and Errol Spence will need an ‘X-factor' in 2017.
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#10. Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin (36-0, 33 KOs) 2006 –
Or simply, “GGG”. An almost scientific hybrid of the great Julio Cesar Chavez and Kostya Tszyu, imagine this complete middleweight problem in front of Marvelous Marvin Hagler instead of the great Roberto Duran (the greatest lightweight ever) in November 1983. The natural middleweight GGG beats Hagler. I don't know about Canelo.
If he mauls Daniel Jacobs at Madison Square Garden on March 18, perhaps Triple G gets Miguel Cotto next if Canelo has other plans. The only other thing he could do for the glory of Achilles is face Andre Ward.
#9. Miguel Cotto, (40-5, 33 KOs) 2001 –
After Cotto turns James Kirkland into a UFO next month (Feb. 25 in Ford Center at The Star) a close encounter of the worst kind with Gennady Golovkin could happen. Unfortunately if it does, we'll witness his abduction. However, no matter where Cotto goes from this time in his career, he'll resurface for induction into the hall of fame.
Powerful and gritty, methodical and multi-dimensional, the converted southpaw Cotto is the best Puerto Rican fighter of all-time. No other fighter from his country ever dared to be great against as many greats as Cotto. He was The Devil against Mayweather after testing Pacquiao's faith.
#8. Shane Mosley (49-10-1, 41 KOs) 1993 – 2016
Mosley was a high energy version of Sugar Ray Robinson at lightweight who morphed into Evander Holyfield at welterweight. Tasked with facing the most dangerous fighters of his era beyond natural weight, only Pacquiao's resume is sweeter than Sugar Shane's in this generation.
Mosley ruthlessly challenged ultimate competition; facing the likes of Vernon Forrest, Ronald “Winky” Wright and Oscar De La Hoya; the same way his millennial prototype: Mikey Garcia (up next against Dejan Zlaticanin, MGM Grand in Las Vegas Jan. 28 ), would challenge elites ranging from Terrence Crawford, Errol Spence or Vasyl Lomachenko.
#7. Juan Manuel Marquez (56-7-1, 40 KOs) 1993 – 2014
Marquez was a nastier version of all-world countryman Ricardo Lopez who would drink his own piss to beat you. Imagine Marquez vs. Pernell Whitaker instead of Chavez at super lightweight. Totally willing to die in the ring for the glory of Mexico, “Dynamita” combined the mind of a master chess player with a violent counterpunching spirit from Hell. This made him perfectly designed to deal with Pacquiao– which laid the blueprint for a new Mexican icon. Canelo Alvarez is a millennial Juan Manuel Marquez, with elements of Julio Cesar Chavez.
#6. Andre Ward (31-0, 15 KOs) 2004 –
A calculated and cerebral Tim Duncan-like version of Sugar Ray Leonard, Andre Ward prevailed over [his] Thomas Hearns in Sergey Kovalev, and is now leaning toward retirement. Andre compares physically to what Leonard was after a gut-check KO of Don LaLonde in 1989. At age 32, it was Sugar Ray's last moment of greatness, as superfights with Benitez, Hearns, Duran and Hagler zapped his prime. Ward, 33 on February 23, has little left to prove and a lot to lose.
When the “Son of God” defeated an elite line up of super middleweights from 2009-2011 (as an unheralded 2004 Olympic gold medalist) in the “Super Six” tournament over five fights, for perspective, it was the mental and physical equivalent of Mayweather beating: Joshua Clottey, Paul Williams, Antonio Margarito, Miguel Cotto and Shane Mosley in this span. After reaching the summit of light heavyweight, only a megafight for the ages with GGG makes sense, as both wear the Jordan brand.
#5. Joe Calzaghe (46-0, 32KOs) 1993 – 2008
Andre Ward's predecessor was a jazz musician in the ring and Prince Naseem Hamed with great skills. Saturday night in Brooklyn at Barclays Center, James DeGale vs. Badou Jack takes place for super middleweight supremacy. They are good fighters, but both would have been Vasyl Lomachenko'd by Calzaghe– who was Lomachenko before Lomachenko. The tragedy of the great Calzaghe was American Jeff Lacy, who was widely panned as overrated garbage by fans and media after being destroyed by Calzaghe. But could it be the “Pride of Wales” was just that dominant?
No one knew what kind of anomaly Bernard Hopkins was in 2008, when Calzaghe defeated B-Hop for no credit. He got even less beating an “old” Roy Jones for the hell of it, forever unfairly sealing him as an overrated ‘white boy'. Somewhere, Rodney Dangerfield shakes his head.
#4. Wladimir Klitschko (64-4, 50KOs) 1996 –
The most disrespected, disregarded and underrated all-time great in history, Wladimir Klitschko is one of the greatest heavyweight champions of all-time. “Dr. Steelhammer” will probably get nailed by heir apparent Anthony Joshua (Apr. 29, Wembley Stadium in London), but when the coffin really closes on his career, the new king will be the main pallbearer of Klitschko's heavy legacy.
Impossibly intelligent and presidential, Klitschko's reign came during the most diverse and international era of boxing, as he vetoed foes with force for nearly 20 years. So why does it feel like he was merely a Gen X iteration of Primo Carnera?
#3. Bernard Hopkins (55-7-1, 32KOs) 1988 – 2016
The Malcolm X of boxing turned pro while Ronald Reagan was still president and fought until Donald Trump was elected. The Hopkins trail of victims damn near dates back to World War II, for B-Hop defeated Baby Boomers, Gen X'ers and Millennials.
He stomped on the flag of Puerto Rico (in Puerto Rico, mind you) before executing their legend Felix Trinidad. He drowned Oscar De La Hoya and bodied Antonio Tarver. Suffocated Kelly Pavlik and Dr. Lecter'd Jean Pascal. The seven year penitentiary resident was a serial killer of great fighters left unconvicted, because they were often finished as elite fighters after ‘X' finished them.
#2. Floyd Mayweather (49-0, 26KOs) 1996 – 2015
Mayweather was a villainous Muhammad Ali, and a boxing hybrid of the great Roy Jones Jr. and James Toney. He was, in my opinion, better than the truly great Wilfred Benitez. If Benitez could outbox a still prime Duran, then stylistically, so could Floyd. The one who survived a Shane Mosley bomb before sinking him like a U.S. Navy battleship, could've been captain over any all-time great. His invisible defense, lightning speed and laser-like offense– in perfect sync with a unique personality cult across all races and colors, makes Floyd Mayweather historically special.
But we'll always have problems with his precious 49-0. Mosley was too late. As was De La Hoya, Cotto, and most importantly, Pacquiao. No Antonio Margarito. No Paul Williams. No Kostya Tszyu. No Vernon Forrest (RIP). No Winky Wright. No [insert name]. No rematch with De La Hoya. No rematch with Pacquiao. No Golovkin… As much as “Money” made, he'll be remembered for what he didn't, or was smart enough to avoid.
#1. Manny Pacquiao (59-6-2, 38KOs) 1995 –
There will never be another eight division world champion in boxing. Ever. Joe DiMaggio's 56 game hitting streak would fall first. Pacquiao was, for all intents and purposes, the fight god's answer for Mayweather.
At the height of his powers (circa mid 2008 – 2012), Pacquiao was a lethal blend of Aaron Pryor (RIP) and the legendary Roberto Duran. With 8 1/2 inch wrists, his skeletal density was that of a heavyweights, making his frame a natural PED. The best southpaw fighter of all-time, “Pac-Man” was difficult to hit and possessed supernatural speed; was fearless and reckless, and a persistently dangerous striker from unusual angles in any and every round.
An offensive tsunami from abject poverty in the Philippines, Pacquiao forced his way into a globally iconic status not seen since the great Muhammad Ali. No other boxer has appeared on the cover of Time. A congressman turned senator. Floyd's immensely more popular Frazier and Ali-spirited Pacquiao never lied to us in the ring. 2017 should show us an unseen truth between himself and Mayweather.