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The Squad: The Pound-4-Pound Best

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“I am learning to love the sound of my feet walking away from things not meant for me.”

Anonymous

We’re guessing that wasn’t Q.

The best fighters in the world do not think this way. At all. They want all the smoke, and will breathe 🔥 walking over hot coals in pursuit of legacy for their only peace is war. 

Anomalous men of singularity, they see themselves – right or wrong – as first name iconic; driven by a need to occupy facial recognition in your mind with the mere utterance of Tom, or Kobe, or Tiger, or Wayne… The Great Ones of the sweet science in circa 2019, will ice you. It’s not a popularity contest with them, where titles don’t really matter or truly honor talent with merit. 

Though great, Canelo Alvarez doesn’t make this list. Not because he isn’t, arguably, the best fighter in the world. If the Mexican icon didn’t have the best gourmet 🍒 pickers in the world… We’d know. Let’s be honest, Austin Trout or Erislandy Lara could’ve won those fights. Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto, Amir Khan, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, Gennady Golovkin and Daniel Jacobs are names. But did he really beat Triple G after his team waited on Father Time? 

Either time? 

Mosley and Cotto were at their best against each other — in 2007, and are we sure Daniel was really the Jacobs of promise, after climbing Mt. Everest to get there? And for the record, no bullshit, I think Errol Spence Jr would “body” Sergey Kovalev right now. So who the fuck are they kidding with all of this weight class jumping potpourri?

It’s not about where they’ve been, rather, where they’re likely to go. And no, I like her, but, this clique does not feature a politically pugnacious Ilhan Omar. This is “The Squad”.

1.) Vasiliy Lomachenko (14-1, 10KOs)

Near the end of Vasiliy Lomachenko is The Fucking MAN, I stated: “According to these trained eyes, this will be the toughest fight of his career.” And it was. Vasiliy’s stealthy game of deadly Mongoose featured plenty of moments from the King Cobra that was “Cool Hand” Luke Campbell. A terse opening stanza featured a big straight left to the head that buzzed him. He was rocked in the 7th round and consistently struck to the body by a fighter of Antonio Margarito-like dimension at lightweight with elements of himself. 

And in a fight that I unofficially predicted he’d win via riveting 11th round KO (which almost happened), I had the now 410-2 gold standard amateur and record breaking pro winning a wide UD by a score of 118-110. We never saw “The Matrix”, or “The One”, or “Neo”. He wasn’t in with a guy that was going to allow him to get cute. He was just… Loma. As complete a fighter as any fighter I’ve ever seen in my life. 

I didn’t see Sugar Ray Robinson in the 1940’s — who was to the professional ranks what Vasiliy was to the amateurs, but we’re seeing something special. Folks he’s NOT a lightweight. He’s maxed. This is it. Yet, he’s hanging around for glory to face the winner of IBF lightweight champion Richard Commey vs Teofimo Lopez. In that one, he thinks Commey stops Teo — whose mouth he’d prefer to close first. Then, he wants it with Gervonta “Tank” Davis, who has moved up to lightweight for the closest chance he’ll get at a Dream Fight with Floyd Mayweather (Great move by Floyd to have Tank force a fight at 135, after Loma stated his best weight is 130. That’s classic Floyd). At 31, the world’s best fighter resides on Difficulty Blvd, featuring an offensive game of aggressive finesse behind a wall of defense that would satisfy Donald Trump. It’s so rare. He’s a pure boxer that always fights to win.

Numbers don’t lie, for Loma’s level of difficulty faced separates him from “The Truth”. Slightly. Nothing I saw on Saturday in England convinces me that Mikey Garcia doesn’t face hell from Campbell, or even a Jorge Linares not broken by Lomachenko. He wanted what Spence most likely ruined in his very first fight. And as far as Bud, Campbell was an Olympic gold medalist who hadn’t been shot in the leg and could not be confused with a mere con. With a hornet having just been stung to death in Australia, Loma, who has faced the toughest 15 professional fight gauntlet of any world champion in the history of boxing, is now just one win away from joining a rare Mount Rushmore of undisputed world champions. Until further notice, the 3-division world champion and 2-time Olympic gold medalist just reinvented himself to “The Man.”

2.) Errol Spence Jr (25-0, 21KOs)

On Sunday afternoon, Fox debuted their version of a modern HBO “Face Off w/Max Kellerman,” only with this one arbitrated by the very capable Brian Campbell. This, to hype what could turn out to be a cult classic, as the bruising IBF welterweight champion faces WBC welterweight champion “Showtime” Shawn Porter on Saturday, September 28 from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, LIVE on FOX PPV for Al Haymon and Premier Boxing Champions.

We’ll never know what Loma would’ve produced against the great Mikey Garcia, but we did see Spence comprehensively beat up a modern legend in a fight experts were split on — whether they want to admit it or not. He ruined Lamont Peterson in Brooklyn and wasted Kell Brook in London. I told anyone who would listen that Spence would do exactly what he did to Garcia. Sure, we have to listen to all-time great Roy Jones Jr express doubt about Spence pending the results of Porter, just as we can raise our eyebrows as Danny Garcia basically went “Meh” in response to that performance. People ask me about Spence, and I tell them he’s a southpaw Sonny Liston at welterweight with elements of Mike McCallum. Shawn Porter must’ve made a joke out of “The Truth” by stating it a million times at their presser on the Pacquiao Vs Thurman platform in Vegas. But “The Truth” is, that’s who the modern Leon Spinks at 147 will see. I don’t think that’s good for him, folks. 

On September 28, not only will they all understand what “The Truth” is, so will the many fairweather boxing staff writers, who switch up bandwagons more times than ESPN.com or RING Magazine will “unofficially” switch their pound-for-pound rankings every time a star fights. Spence, who features the most savage inside game in the sport, will take the words of Jones, DSG and Porter’s ‘when I cut you’ threat to heart and issue a rather cruel statement in a few weeks. I have Spence here because I think he’d break Crawford — who so many see as #1. Again, let’s be honest, the dynamic duo of Andre Ward and Timothy Bradley do work for ESPN and Top Rank. Do you really think they’re going to tell “The Truth” on that airspace that he’s the shit? It would be easier to put Bud here if he’d stopped “Swift” instead of Amir Khan — who’d already been KTFO by DSG. But, I guess that’s between Bob Arum and Al Haymon. 

2.) Terence “Bud” Crawford (35-0, 26KOs)

I’ll have to take the word of the aforementioned first ballot legend “SOG” and future Hall of Famer “Desert Storm” in their individual assessments of The Hemp Man. Augmenting the stellar Joe Tessitore for ESPN, Ward and Bradley are now the best on-air tandem in 🥊 hands down. When they talk — I listen. I know that Bud routinely pushed a then-active world champion in Bradley, and there are numerous accounts of his exploits against names you know who’ve surrendered to the game’s modern incarnation of an offensive Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker (RIP). 

Crawford is evil in the ring — at once an irascible and unorthodox lefty; then one who will knuckle up orthodox, making attempts at adjusting to him very problematic. But as good as he is inside of the ring, he’ll struggle with fans and media outside of it, resulting in struggles at the box office. I think that absolutely matters in ranking him, for he just may be the best in the world. Problem is, he’s got a “Money” contract and is not a personality cult. I think he should just start cussing people the fuck out, basically. I bet you that would make Al Haymon start using AT&T for a little chat with Jerry Jones about the availability of his gorgeous Cowboys Stadium for Spence Vs Crawford. Who knows? Maybe there’s an impatient Bob Arum in there on an old school 3-way call. I’m pretty sure Bud would’ve preferred DSG this past April too, as opposed to Aladdin at MSG. 

All I know is on December 14, after he gets rid of Kava– (Uggh… you do it. I can’t pronounce his name) with the most all-purpose game from the southpaw stance in the sport… Just give us the damn fight to end all of the su-Spence.

4.) Oleksander Usyk (16-0, 12KOs)

Since retiring Tony Bellew in sensational fashion to cap a stellar 2018, Usyk has been on the shelf in anticipation for a much awaited heavyweight debut. Though injuries and bureaucracy have gotten in the way, Usyk is set to unveil the 2019 edition of himself on October 12 as a headliner in Chicago. Carlos Takam, a compact, brick house of a heavyweight that troubled Anthony Joshua, is under new management and passed. Then, a potential fight with Andrey Fedesov was scrapped, over concern that a bout with the mighty Russian could lead to very real war for Ukraine, where there exists tension with Putin’s Russia like never before. But someone other than Eryka Badou decided to call Tyrone — former MMA badass Tyrone Spong that is. This will be a great match-up in Chicago on October 12. 

Usyk, the unbeaten World Boxing Super Series breakout star and former undisputed cruiserweight world champion, is most likely in Ukraine, home to some of the toughest fighters on Earth who seem to all fight southpaw. An obsessive worker of sharpness and precision, the Kiev product has the most athletic array of skills set to wreak havoc on the heavyweight division. How good is Usyk? He turned Abel Sanchez’s 190lb edition of GGG into a rank clubfighter. He would beat the shit out of Anthony Joshua and turn unified heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz into a pinata leaking guacamole. There would always be the chance of being bombed by the “Bronze Bomber,” WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, but Usyk’s game is sick enough and slick enough to diffuse and dismiss the Alabama Mauler. Only Tyson Fury could conceivably put him together — and that may be a reach. 

5.) Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16KOs)

He just may be the best fighter in the world right now, and his peers would tell you that. In fact, if someone asked me to dial up any dream fight scenario involving Inoue, the world’s best bantamweight and Japan’s authentic “Rising Sun,” I’d put what I’m seeing from him right now in front of the Manny “Pac-Man” Pacquiao that launched a legend by bludgeoning Lehlo Ledwaba in 2001. And I’d pick the “Monster” — fuck that, “Godzilla”, to overcome and overwhelm that Pacquiao, in a way that would make Juan Manuel Marquez blank stare and swallow with a gulp. He. Is. Amazing. I saw all-time great former world champion Nonito Donaire in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand for Pacquiao Vs Thurman in the lobby and briefly discussed his upcoming bout with Inoue in the World Boxing Super Series finale on … I could see the fear through a nervous smile. He doesn’t deserve what’s about to happen to him — which is most likely what he did to Fernando Montiel long ago. I shook hands with the “Filipino Flash” as if to eulogize a ghost, because he’s GONE after November 7 at Saitama Arena in Saitama, Japan. It would really be something if we saw Shakur Stevenson in the opposite corner from him one day. Future Legends happen like comets of once upon a time frequency. Inoue… He’s out of this world.  

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About John Gatling

John Gatling

Senior correspondent for NY Fights and author of upcoming book, "The Fist Club." Conscious indie recording artist "T@z" and humanist advocate for the Green Party.

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