Floyd Mayweather is gone. Well, I don't really think he'll never fight again, and you might not either, and maybe only 30% of people really think that's the case, that he's actually retired, but for the sake of discussion, let's all agree that Floyd Mayweather did officially announce his retirement from boxing, and is officially retired. Let's assume he'll never fight again.
If that's the case, Mayweather leaves some big voids. He was the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport, the best welterweight (boxing's current closest thing to a glory division), its biggest pay-per-view star, its greatest bad guy. These are big shoes to fill. Not literally. In actuality he is not very tall and does not have very big feet. (The internet tells me he wears a size 8. Not big actual shoes at all.)
So Floyd Mayweather has left us with some questions. Let's answer them to the best of our ability. (I mean me.)
Who's the best pound-for-pound fighter in boxing?
Probably Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez, the flyweight dynamo who has ruled the 105, 108, and now 112 pound ranks for years. Gonzalez (43-0, 37 KO) made his HBO debut on May 16, smashing veteran Edgar Sosa. It looks as though the Nicaraguan dynamo will be paired with Gennady Golovkin for the near future, which is roughly the No. 1 best idea anyone in boxing has had for a decade now.
One could also make a very legitimate case for Wladimir Klitschko, the 39-year-old Ukrainian world heavyweight champion who has been more dominant in the last nine years than even Mayweather. Klitschko (64-3, 53 KO) does have a perception handicap which is that some people think that heavyweights are disqualified from pound-for-pound consideration. They're not. It just takes a special case to rank really high. In today's landscape, Klitschko is certainly a special case.
If Andre Ward is actually active again for real and fights people regularly and all that, he's also a great choice. I would expand on this thought, but I added it right before I published this post because I am still unable to remember Andre Ward right away.
Who's the best welterweight?
Take a deep breath.
Manny Pacquiao. It's Manny Pacquiao. With Floyd Mayweather gone from boxing, Manny Pacquiao is the best technically active welterweight in the world. Of course, Pacquiao hasn't fought since May 2 and with shoulder surgery isn't likely to fight again until the spring of 2016 at the earliest, but he is technically active, and nobody else has his résumé.
So, OK, let's have more fun with this than "Manny Pacquiao has still accomplished more than the other guys so it's Pacquiao basically by default, honestly." Not counting Pacquiao, who's the best welterweight in the world now that Floyd is gone? That's a much more interesting question.
Kell Brook (35-0, 24 KO) has made his argument, beating Shawn Porter to win the IBF belt last August. He's defended twice this year against Jo Jo Dan and Frankie Gavin, both easy wins for him. You might say, "Of course they were easy, those guys aren't world class." Agreed, but still, he put away a couple of solid pros handily, and did so with Gavin even though Frankie was actively spoiling the fight. Next up is Diego Chaves, a true "rugged competitor" who shouldn't really give Brook any serious issue.
What about Keith Thurman (26-0, 22 KO)? "One Time" is definitely the hottest American star in the division, and has the Al Haymon Promotional Machine behind him. His wins over Robert Guerrero and Luis Collazo this year were dominant, and he's been building up a solid record the last few years, with additional W's against the likes of Carlos Quintana, Jan Zaveck, Jesus Soto Karass, and Leonard Bundu, not to mention the aforementioned Chaves, "rugged competitor."
Amir Khan (31-3, 19 KO) would like to have his name mentioned here, so we will mention Amir Khan. His three fights at welterweight have been one-sided wins over Collazo and Devon Alexander, and a very entertaining bout in May against Chris Algieri, a solid win for Khan. Amir has slipped on a couple banana peels in the past, but at one-four-seven he is stronger than ever, etc. One-four-seven.
After that you have riff-raff such as Shawn Porter, Tim Bradley, and Danny Garcia, who's coming up from 140 with a lot of questions to answer. The hottest rising prospect is Errol Spence Jr, who has unfortunately been tagged as "next Mayweather" even though he really fights nothing like Floyd and will be a star of his own if he does become a star.
Who's your pick for best at welterweight/one-four-seven beyond Pacquiao? I'm going with Kell Brook by a razor thin margin over Keith Thurman, with Amir Khan and his blinding speed lurking in the shadows.
Who becomes the top pay-per-view star?
Canelo Alvarez has this written in the stars if he can beat Miguel Cotto on November 21. He's an already enormously popular fighter, he's Mexican (which gives him a built-in fan base that also genuinely adores him), he fights around the current glory weights, he's got natural charisma, and he's been positioned to be The Guy after the era of Floyd and Manny ended. Also, he's only 25 years old, which means there's a solid chance we haven't even seen his athletic prime yet.
If Canelo doesn't beat Cotto, it could still be Canelo long-term, but delayed. The reality is there aren't many guys who are in position to take over as the top PPV stars. When Oscar De La Hoya left, he had been bested by both Mayweather and Pacquiao on his way out the door. Mayweather is leaving no successor, because he didn't pass the torch -- or, rather, no one took the torch from him. I mean, he beat the guy who was his closest competitor (Pacquiao) and even the guy who was to inherit the role (Canelo).
Gennady Golovkin may be a sleeper here. He's incredibly charming and incredibly violent, two great building blocks for constructing a boxing star. We'll get our first taste of whether or not he's impressed enough to sell a pay-per-view when he headlines against David Lemieux on October 17. GGG has built a fan base through appearances on HBO and word of mouth buzz. He's become a can't-miss fighter. A very organic star, someone who is a star because they're a star, period.
If Deontay Wilder actually backs up the renewed hype, he's also got PPV star written all over him. Big, American heavyweight, with a ton of personality. Wilder is a likable fighter who punches like a freight train. He took a lot of flak for some of his opposition in the past, but his win over Bermane Stiverne legitimized him to some degree. Now, with Haymon trying to recreate his create-a-stars via the PBC platforms, he's fighting guys like Johann Duhaupas again to introduce him to a new audience.
Who becomes the sport's great villain?
Well, here's somewhere Adrien Broner might have a case, but the problem is he keeps doing two things: losing, and losing with relative grace. Broner is pretty laid back about losing for a guy who seems to have such a massive ego. I'm starting to think maybe Broner's entire act is just a true act, and that the reality is he doesn't give a damn at all, and is cool with being as good as he is.
The aforementioned Danny Garcia has a lot of hatable qualities. His haircut. His crazy dad/trainer. His terrible music. The fact that despite all that he keeps beating people and is a really good fighter. Garcia's got a cockiness that sways toward obnoxious, only it's hard to argue that much with it because he just keeps winning his fights, because he's a really good fighter. Which in turn makes him even easier to hate. Garcia could be a great villain, but who will play the hero? Keith Thurman?
Keith Thurman could actually go totally hatable in a hurry, I just realized. He's got all the tools to do it. (I mean this as a good thing.)
In all reality, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to become a Floyd-level sports villain. No one is really close to that. This might be where Floyd leaves the biggest hole, actually.
Who are your picks for best P4P, best welterweight, most likely to become the top PPV star, and boxing's top villain?