“There are all kinds of stupid people that annoy me but what annoys me most is a lazy argument.” – Christopher Hitchens
As we come limping into the homestretch of an ache-infested 2016, our collective sensibilities steel for the usual merry parade of the end-of-year annoyances and mediocrities: the passing endearment of holiday cards, the government cheese of baked goods known as fruit cake and, of course the fleeting manliness of Billy Squier dry humping Christmas in song.
These acts we accept with judgments muted and annoyances suspended. Their uninspired package we all looked past knowing that very soon they will be on their way to a 11-month walkabout and away from our lives.
But there are some middling traditions that don’t leave. Pound-for-pound lists are one of them. I wish we only talked about this list once a year. Keeping it in the season, for me pound-for-pound lists are the “Love Actually” of the boxing world, a reality-retarded, absurd-soaked synthetic that says little and explains even less.
The much ballyhooed power roll call was created by The Ring in 1990, where former Ring writer and current Ring Theory podcast quitter William Dettloff said “…it introduced to fight aficionados a whole new realm in which to debate fighters’ merits.”
As a loyal Ring reader at that time, I recall seeing its debut and greeted it with a base amusement akin to my roommate having a naming system for his farts. (“My Three Sons” for a three-fer that got progressively louder was my favorite).
And with all due respect to Bill, that realm has become a makeshift den for fanboys who use the hypothetical list to make lazy cases for their rankings. “He’s a badass. He would so kick his ass.” Occasionally a lightly probing “Super middle is a tougher class than junior flyweight so he should be #2” is heard. But all in all, the pound-for-pound list is a playground for those who tend to fall to masturbatory bias — thinking the fighters who you get off on are the ones who should reign on your fictional list.
Pound-for-pound lists are the dinner rolls in the buffet of discussions that boxing presents us fans. Much like the yeasty mound, it may please the palate but it’s empty calories provide no nutrition. And boxing needs conversations that provide sustenance and restore some of the vigor it’s malnourished body has last 10 years.
And this is my biggest grouse with pound-for-pound list. It’s not only built on a flimsy foundation of unprovable hypotheses, it siphons attention away from more meaningful discussions that should be had about boxing. The sport has been in a hurt locker for a number of years, primarily due to seemingly endless stream of crappy cards featuring one banal bout after another. Us boxing fans are an easy lot: We ask for steak but will settle for a decent deli tray. But the last 10 years or so we’ve been getting served regurgitated street kabobs served on a bed of ass-grown radishes.
Here’s what us fans and media need to do instead of discussing pound-for-pound lists: take that natural hankering for lists and make one for the fighters in the match-ups we’d like to see. Then start social media-ing the shit out of it. All the players have a Twitter, Instagram and Facebook account. Send shit to the fighters, their manager, their promoter and, most importantly, the boxing friendly networks. Make a demand.
Look, even if the second coming of Cesar Chavez appeared and took up this rally for us all, it wouldn’t be enough to get all boxers and promoters make all the fights we want. But it could make enough noise that some would happen. There is strength in being obnoxiously persistent in numbers. Better to stop talking hypothetical and spend more time pushing the sport we love to a reality we know would help rebuild the sport. Not to a zenith, but just farther up then we are now.
In other words, if you’re gonna be an asshole about your opinions, at least do it so it can actually give others something to enjoy. By the way, the fight I most want to see in 2017: Chocolatito Gonzalez vs Naoya “The Monster” Inoue.