MANILA, Philippines – World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight champion Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao and WBO super bantamweight champion Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire are included in a list of “most relevant” boxers in the world today.
Grantland, an affiliate website of ESPN, ranked Pacquiao and Donaire first and seventh, respectively, in their “Relevance Rankings,” wherein they “blend traditional pound-for-pound criteria with assorted Q-rating quotients.”
“The goal is to strike a 50-50 balance between ability and marketability, but the former always plays some role in the latter,” said writer Eric Raskin, former managing editor of The Ring magazine.
Raskin admitted that he had a tough time rating Pacquiao as the no. 1 “most relevant” boxer instead of undefeated American superstar Floyd Mayweather Jr., who eventually placed no. 2.
“I changed my mind about the order of the top two a dozen times,” he said. “I believe Floyd Mayweather, at this moment, to be the best fighter in the world. But the Relevance Rankings is considerably more complicated.”
Face of boxing
Raskin believes that Mayweather is the top pay-per-view attraction in boxing as well as the top pound-for-pound fighter, but added that he “keep(s) coming back to Pac-Man as the right guy to place atop this list.”
“If you put their faces on a billboard in Times Square, which fighter would a greater percentage of folks walking down the street recognize?” he asked.
“It’s fair to say that eight or nine out of 10 everyday Americans know former Dancing with the Stars contestant Mayweather. But somewhere in the vicinity of 95 out of 100 know the smiling, goateed mug of that Filipino boxer who sings on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Every six months,” Raskin said.
“Manny Pacquiao, in part because he’s the ‘good guy’ and an ambassador we’re more comfortable with, is the face of boxing in the 2012.”
The Relevance Rankings were created from a “USA-centric” point-of-view, Raskin said, but he cannot ignore Pacquiao’s global appeal.
“Let’s not forget that an entire nation stops working, stops committing crimes and presumably stops making babies when Pacquiao fights,” Raskin said.
“Pacquiao also fights more frequently than Mayweather (by a 9-3 margin since 2008) and earns his side coin through endorsements rather than sports betting,” he added.
But Raskin said that he will have to reassess the list in two months, after Mayweather’s May 5 fight against Miguel Cotto and Pacquiao’s June 9 showdown against Timothy Bradley.
He expects Mayweather-Cotto to outsell Pacquiao-Bradley. “Odds are that Mayweather will win his fight with less difficulty,” Raskin added.
“A reassessment may very well be in order two months from now. But until then, it’s ‘Pacquiao, Mayweather,’ and not the other way around.”
Donaire, meanwhile, is ranked seventh on the list. Raskin compared “The Filipino Flash” to a surefire top pick in “boxing fantasy keeper league,” noting:
“If you were part of a boxing fantasy keeper league, where maximum points would be earned by fighting frequently, engaging in 12-rounders, appearing on HBO or Showtime, and of course, winning, Donaire would be one of the first guys drafted.”
Raskin said at 29-years old, Donaire is relatively young, reliable for three to two fights a year, all of which will be shown on HBO or Showtime, and all fights will most likely end with him as a winner.
“If you’re drafting a fighter you expect to hold on to for three to five years, there isn’t a safer pick in the sport,” he added.
Donaire is also a marketable boxer, being an “American citizen who speaks perfect English (with an engaging personality),” but he also has a strong Filipino fan base, Raskin said.
Donaire is far from a perfect boxer, and Raskin notes that he makes technical mistakes and suffers from “inconsistency issues.”
“(But) Donaire’s talents are sublime... and when he’s on, Donaire’s fists put dents in dudes’ heads,” Raskin added.
Donaire is rated fourth on most pound-for-pound lists, following Mayweather, Pacquiao and Argentine champion Sergio Martinez.
Mayweather, who was ranked number two, became a superstar after he rebranded himself as a villain in 2005, Raskin said.
“Mayweather has perfected the bad-guy role like no other boxer who came before him,” he added.
But while Mayweather will be favored over Pacquiao should they every meet in the ring, Raskin could not put him at number 1.
“It’s Pac-Man who has been carrying the sport the last few years while Floyd has toyed with retirement,” he said.
Raskin does not believe that Mayweather’s upcoming jail stint will affect his marketability or relevance, but “it does make his boxing plans for the 2012 harder to map out.”
“So for now, we’re ranking Mayweather no. 2,” he said.
Other boxers in the list are: Mexican champion Juan Manuel Marquez (no. 3); Ukrainian heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko (no. 4); Argentina’s Martinez (no. 5); Vitali Klitschko (no. 6); light heavyweight Bernard Hopkins (no. 8); 2011 Fighter of the Year Andre Ward (no. 9); and Puerto Rican star Miguel Cotto (no. 10).
Pacquiao’s June 9 opponent, Timothy Bradley Jr. places 11th, and his stablemate Amir “King” Khan of Britain is ranked 12th.