PONTIAC, Mich. -- The look on Brandon Jacobs' face was a blend of anger, frustration and disbelief, the kind of expression the New York Giants' running back usually only gets after a late hit from a linebacker. The source of Jacobs' ire wasn't a cheap shot, though. It was Devon Alexander, who moments earlier had wriggled his way out of his 140-pound unification fight with Timothy Bradley after complaining about a cut over his eye.
BEST FIGHTER: Manny Pacquiao Pacquiao opened the decade as a 21-year-old, ex-WBC flyweight champion who owned a 27-2 record and had fought just three times outside his native Philippines. His final pre-2000s excursion resulted in a third-round knockout loss to Medgoen Sengsurat in Thailand in 1999. Today, Pacquiao (50-3-2 with 38 KOs overall; 23-1-2 with 20 KOs this decade) owns seven world titles in as many weight classes, and is quite possibly the finest fighter in the world, pound-for-pound.
In the spring of 2002, Vernon Forrest and I sat in front of his television watching a DVD from his previous fight. A few months earlier, Forrest had unexpectedly beaten Shane Mosley to win the WBC welterweight belt. Forrest was training for a summer rematch, but had carved out time to entertain a stranger with a notepad for two days in Atlanta. As he replayed the win over Mosley, Forrest would pantomime his moves, cleaving the air with jabs and bobbing his head. Then he'd pause the DVD.
Arturo Gatti won't be remembered by anyone for his superior boxing skills. His name won't be recalled for the handful of titles he won over the course of a 16-year career. And, to be fair, Gatti won't be canonized as one of the greatest fighters in his weight class. But he will be remembered for one thing, something perhaps no fighter will ever be able to match.
These lists are not mere compilations of all-time bests in their respective sports but all-time bests at quickening the pulse and evoking a visceral response from those fortunate enough to have witnessed their artistry.