By Derek Bonnett: The United States of America, or USA, is a federal republic comprised of fifty states, forty-eight of which are assembled within North America between Canada and Mexico. The USA has been a consistent topic in world news thanks largely to our recent election of real estate mogul Donald Trump to the role of President Elect. The Land of the Free is commonly spoofed in a variety of other manners such the old adage "What do you call someone who speaks three languages? Tri-lingual. What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bi-lingual. What do you call someone who speaks one language? An American." As an educator in Connecticut, I can smirk at such jokes for their humor and unfortunate reality. I also have to cringe at the prospect of the next four years politically. The rise of Trump eerily reminds me of the short story by Ray Bradbury "A Sound of Thunder" and I can’t help but wonder, who stepped off the path and crushed the butterfly?
All jokes aside, I am proud of the melting pot in which I live and readily accept good Muslim people and a future without walls. The country was founded on rebellion and populated by immigrants, who established an unhealthy closeness to firearms instead of his fellow man. As the son of an immigrant and school dropout, I am proud of the opportunities I have been afforded and have made the most of them. The academic long ago lost the battle among the athletes and the entertainers, the racial tension has not vanished between whites and people of color, and the socio-economic divide is staggering. The American Dream exists, but it is tailored by the individual and not a one size fits all Snuggy available at Wal-Mart. The USA’s love affair with professional boxing is not what it once was following The Great War or World War II, but the sport still holds a special place somewhere well behind football, baseball, basketball, hockey, and probably skateboarding, but never, at any time, has there not been an abundance of American talent representing the sport , particularly above the lightweight division.
Presently, the nation boasts thirteen world titlists and several which rate among the best Pound for Pound depending on your source. The USA has long been a boxing powerhouse with an estimated five hundred and thirty-six male and female world champions throughout history. The current crop of talent isn’t the nation’s best, but at the top today there is a special group of fighters who will contribute to many important bouts for pundits and fans. The following four boxers lead the parade of American talent in the world of professional prize-fighting.
4.) Jermall Charlo, 25-0-0 (19), has likely defended his junior middleweight title for the last time. The unbeaten American is expected to made a move to the middleweight division to make the greatest mark of his career. At six feet even, he should have no trouble adding the additional weights and establishing himself among the division’s elite. With victories over Cornelius Bundrage, Austin Trout, and Julian Williams, Charlo should begin to move into the Pound for Pound conversation in the next year should he continue to make the right moves in the ring. A solid boxer with a powerful jab, Charlo’s greatest attribute could be his ability to finish a foe once he has hurt him. This trait could help endear him to the American audience which often dictates a fighters financial success in terms of Pay-Per-View viability. The lanky, but muscular, junior middleweight disposed of a promising peer this weekend in Williams. Charlo had to overcome some solid boxing ability to power his way to victory. Charlo showed both moxie and a mean-streak, which might help him sell his brand as a boxing villain should he choose to go that route. Charlo would be wise to test the middleweight waters, but not too carefully. A showdown with Andy Lee could go a long way toward earning a shot at the best 160-pounders in the world.
3.) Danny Jacobs, 32-1-0 (29), has a story which does not require any villainy. The "Miracle Man" overcame a nineteen month layoff from boxing following a diagnosis of osteosarcoma, a life-threatening form of bone cancer to reach the top of his division as a recognized world champion. Jacobs’ career looked in doubt following his lone loss to Dmitry Pirog, but grew downright grim in light of his battle with cancer. Even upon his return, the road back was not highly convincing for Jacobs, who dispatched such usual suspects as Keenan Collins, Giovanni Lorenzo, and Milton Nunez. However, solid showing against Jarrod Fletcher and Caleb Truax helped affirm the idea that Jacobs was at least back. It was Jacobs’ crossroads bout to stardom with Peter Quillin which established him as arguably the world’s best middleweight today. In a bout that had "pick ’em" written all over it and plenty of dissenters going against Jacobs, the Brownsville native dispatched his greatest challenge in 1:25 of round one. Although a titlist three bouts prior to fighting Quillin, this win made him a champion of the ring. A pair of defenses against Sergio Mora sandwich Jacobs’ most salient win, but it is a potential showdown with Gennady Golovkin which might define Jacobs career. Jacobs, the only career middleweight with legitimate ability to upset the favored Pound for Pound entrant, is currently in uncertain negotiations for this bout.
2.) Terence Crawford, 30-0-0 (21), has been establishing himself among the world’s elite since 2014. Once likened to Pernell "Sweet Pea" Whitaker, Crawford has shown himself to be a lot more "Sugar" Ray Leonard during his lightweight and junior welterweight reigns. Among the most active American champions today, Crawford has three victories in 2016, including his career best victory over top Ukrainian boxer Viktor Postol (See Each Nation’s Best: Ukraine). Postol had previously established himself as the most likely Crawford foil with destructive wins over Selcuk Aydin and Lucas Martin Matthysse. Surrounding the Postol victory were stoppages over the wily Henry Lundy and the destructive hitter John Molina. However, after Postol, Crawford best victories are over primed Ricky Burns, Yuriorkis Gamboa, and Raymundo Beltran. Collectively, Crawford dossier since 2014 has put him in the upper echelon of the Pound for Pound rankings. What Crawford needs is a rival, much like Ray Leonard had in his prime years. It’s likely "Bud" will not find that below 147 pounds in the current state of the game. Crawford is of comparable standing in the boxing world as Manny Pacquiao and, with the same promotional ties, that Super Fight is a likely outcome.
1.) Andre Ward, 31-0-0 (15), has claim to the distinction as Pound for Pound the best fighter in the world. Those enthusiasts who cannot imagine that title being bestowed upon a 115-pound pugilist or who scored Ward’s last contest in his favor, seem to think so. Regardless of how you scored Ward’s victory over Sergey Kovalev (See Each Nation’s Best: Russia), Ward narrowly lost at best and has been among the world’s elite since finishing first in Showtime’s Super Six World Boxing Classic as a 168-pounder. Following tournament wins over Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham, and Carl Froch among others, Ward completely dismantled the universally recognized light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson, who dropped in weight to meet Ward. Since 2012, inactivity and limited opposition has plagued Ward, but his showdown with Kovalev was a genuine Super Fight in the history of the sport and arguably the most important fight of the year. A rematch with Kovalev to set the record straight is essential since most ringside experts favored the Russian by about three points. Even Ward loyalist Max Kellerman admitted Kovalev was a one point margin winner on his unofficial card upon review of the fight. Fighting close with Kovalev is no easy task as ring legend Bernard Hopkins learned in his last outing and Ward has numerous other feathers in his cap to be considered the best boxer in the USA, the best super middleweight in the world, and an eventual hall of famer.
The USA sports other very qualified talents. Danny Garcia a two-division titlist at 140 and 147 has earned high regard, but some close and questionable scores against non-elites have him a notch below the best in the world. Charlo’s twin brother Jermell has put up solid numbers, but lacks the quality wins of his brother. Keith Thurman just misses the cut, but he too has plateaued, unable to fully assert himself over his greatest challenges. Shawn Porter, one of those challenges, similarly has failed to rise to the occasion when it mattered most. Errol Spence Jr. has the backing of the world has a fine prospect and ranked contender, but the opportunity to put it all on the line has not yet been afforded to him at this time. However, it is likely that he and perhaps another name or two on this honorable mention list will soon elevate themselves to the level of Each Nation’s Best.
Be sure to "LIKE" the SecondsOut Facebook page.
December 12, 2016