With a decade in the books, boxing pundits took a vote to decide who is the best of the last decade.
The names are well-known: Manny Pacquiao, Wladimir Klitschko, Canelo Alvarez but the results were varied as two prominent organizations are split on the winner.
However, Sports Illustrated bucked popular convention and chose Andre “Son Of God” Ward as its Fighter of the Decade. Led by S.I. senior writer and DAZN Interviewer Chris Mannix, a case is made for Ward as boxing’s most deserving athlete of the accolade.
I never desired to be the most popular fighter. I never cared for the spotlight. There were things I just refused to do in order to chase that carrot. I only wanted to be the best !Glorify God, my family, and leave the right way. #MissionAccomplished ✌🏽. https://t.co/3qOjtt93Cs
— Andre S.O.G. Ward (@andreward) January 16, 2020
Admittedly saying that “Ward’s resume isn’t sexy”, Mannix sets up a defense for the choice based on Ward becoming the undeniable best Super Middleweight after his Super Six tournament win. The 2004 Olympic gold medalist defeated Sakio Bika, Arthur Abraham, and Carl Froch to become the best 168-pounder in the world.
You might be scratching your head at the mention of these opponents, but according to S.I. these fighters were all in their prime when Ward beat them. This comparison is made to Mayweather’s wins which have always been heavily debated about his opponents being past their prime.
After stopping “Bad” Chad Dawson, who was well-known for beating Bernard Hopkins, Ward moved to light heavyweight. It was there that he made his most lasting impact with his two wins over Sergey Kovalev. The Russian was previously undefeated in 31 bouts and was considered the boogeyman of the division.
In their second fight, Ward knocked him out to stamp his legacy and retired the game a winner after. Ward’s 32-0 career was clean and statesmanly. Although there was a period of almost two years that Ward was out of competition, S.I. still felt that Ward was boxing’s best of the last ten years.
The Mayweather Effect
When you look at a boxer’s pedigree, the question is always to style over substance?
Over the last ten years, no other fighter has defined this more than Floyd Mayweather, Jr. who made more “Money” than any other athlete on the planet during this time.
The 1996 Olympic bronze medalist made the welterweight division the money weight leagues where his purse amounts skyrocketed from event to event.
Starting with his 2010 win over Shane Mosley, KO over Victor Ortiz and testy fight against Miguel Cotto, Mayweather closed out his HBO contract with a bang.
His lucrative Showtime PPV deal then started and it was where Mayweather would truly define himself as the star of the sport. From over-the-top ring entrances featuring artists like Lil’ Wayne, circus performers and much more, Mayweather continued his pop culture superstardom.
He schooled a young Canelo Alvarez, had two wars with Marcos Maidana, and finally answered who is the best between him and Manny Pacquiao. He “finished” his career at 50-0 with the hype of the decade against Conor McGregor which he won handily.
Still, with Mayweather calling himself “The Best Ever” having retired undefeated one has to wonder if S.I.’s selection of Ward is warranted. He too retired undefeated, beat the best of his generation and has an Olympic gold medal.
With Canelo Alvarez as boxing’s current cash cow, the sport has to decide if income generation, pop and sizzle, or straight-up boxing is the barometer for judging who is the best.
However, with the two undefeated champions being labeled the best of the last ten years, it is clear who the top two choices are right but how you compare resumes will forever be up to every fan’s interpretation.