Debut Of The Ring Report’s Pound-For-Pound Lists

We’re in the season where change is afoot on everyone’s list of the best active fighters, weight differences aside. So here at Ring Report, the idea is to throw out the first stab at it now that a fight has transpired in 2008 that shook things up — Saturday’s rematch between Kelly Pavlik and Jermain Taylor. Here’s my list, to accompany Sean’s. The criteria for this accounting of the top 20 “pound for pound” boxers is, like everyone else’s, subjective, but you’ll find it similar to most others. I take into account achievement over a career, recent activity and an overall assessment of a fighter’s abilities. 1. Floyd Mayweather welterweight (147 lbs.), 39-0 (25 KOs) Key wins: TKO10 Diego Corrales, 2000; SD12 Oscar De La Hoya, 2007; TKO10 Ricky Hatton, 2007 Recent activity: W TKO10 Hatton, 12/07 Why he’s here: Mayweather’s the best in the business, and erased all debate once he knocked out Hatton. Defensive genius, blazing speed, extraordinary intelligence in the ring and underrated power make him virtually unbeatable. Prospects for movement: Beating De La Hoya again in September won’t hurt his status, per se, but if that’s all he does in 2008, and another pound-for-pounder has a great year, inactivity might end his reign as #1 with me. A retirement that actually lasts would do it for sure. 2. Manny Pacquiao junior lightweight (130 lbs.) 45-3-2 (35 KOs) Key wins: TKO11 Marco Antonio Barrera, 2003; TKO10 Erik Morales, 2006; KO3 Morales, 2006 Recent activity: W UD12 Barrera, 10/07 Why he’s here: He had an underwhelming 2007, but he still won all his fights. When he’s rambunctious, lands his big straight left and mixes in some smart boxing, he is mighty impressive. Prospects for movement: Defeating fellow pound-for-pounder Juan Manuel Marquez in March would probably not propel him to #1, but it would help him keep his spot. But losing would topple him perhaps all the way out of the top five by April, because he’s looked vulnerable lately and several other pound-for-pounders will have been busy by then. 3. Bernard Hopkins light heavyweight (175 lbs.) 48-4-1 (32 KOs) Key wins: TKO12 Felix Trinidad, 2001; KO9 Oscar De La Hoya 2004; UD12 Winky Wright, 2007 Recent activity: W UD12 Wright, 7/07 Why he’s here: He was #1 before Mayweather took his place following two disputed losses to Jermain Taylor, but since he’s used guile and craft to out-point two fellow pound-for-pounders in Wright and Antonio Tarver (at the time). Prospects for movement: Topping Calzaghe in April, or losing to him, could move him up a little or down quite a few spots, depending on what happens with a few other fights between now and then. 4. Joe Calzaghe super middleweight (168 lbs.) 44-0 (32 KOs) Key wins: TKO2 Byron Mitchell, 2003; UD12 Jeff Lacy, 2006; UD12 Mikkel Kessler, 2007 Recent activity: W UD12 Kessler, 11/07 Why he’s here: The awkward, active and clever lefty has boxing’s longest stretch of title defenses, and after years of feasting on inferior competition, he’s stepped up his resistance dramatically in the last couple. Prospects for movement: Like his other top-five brethren, a win or loss in his next big fight, vs. Hopkins in his case, will be informative. 5. Juan Manuel Marquez junior lightweight 48-3-1 (35 KOs) Key wins: TKO7 Manuel Medina, 2003; TD7 Derrick Gainer, 2003; UD12 Marco Antonio Barrera, 2007 Recent activity: W UD12 Rocky Juarez, 11/07 Why he’s here: His ability — after Mayweather, he might be the best all-around fighter in the sport — had always won him pound-for-pound consideration, but getting a big win in 2007 against Marco Antonio Barrera helped move him back toward the top after the close loss to Chris John and other misfortunes. Prospects for movement: If he beats Pacquiao, he’s my #2. A loss drops him nearer the bottom of the top 10. 6. Miguel Cotto welterweight 31-0 (25 KOs) Key wins: RTD5 Carlos Quintana, 2006; TKO11 Zab Judah, 2007; UD12 Shane Mosley, 2007 Recent activity: W UD12 Mosley, 11/07 Why he’s here: Cotto demonstrated sharp boxing skills against Mosley to go along with his ferocious body punching and vice-like pressure. He’s been polishing off top welterweight and junior welterweight contenders — several of whom have subsequently become titlists — steadily for several years now. Prospects for movement: A loss against Alfonso Gomez in April is unfathomable, so his near-term prospects for movement center on who loses in Pacquiao-Marquez II and Calzaghe-Hopkins. 7. Kelly Pavlik middleweight (160 lbs.) 33-0 (29 KOs) Key wins: TKO7 Edison Miranda, 2007; TKO7, Jermain Taylor, 2007; UD12 Taylor, 2008 Recent activity: W UD12 Taylor, 2/08 Why he’s here: Two straight wins over Taylor, even if the second was close and disputed, go hand-in-hand with a terrifying campaign of knockouts of contenders. I’ll have to catch the replay, but in Saturday night’s win, most observers said he looked smarter in the ring than they realized he was. Prospects for movement: Even if he faces and beats John Duddy this summer, it’s not much of a conquest. Like Cotto, his best chance of moving up depends on losses by higher-ranked boxers. 8. Rafael Marquez junior featherweight (122 lbs.) 37-4 (33 KOs) Key wins: TKO8 Tim Austin, 2003; RTD9 Silence Mabuza, 2006; RTD7 Israel Vazquez, 2007 Recent activity: L TKO6 Vazquez, 8/07 Why he’s here: I’m pretty much the only one who has Marquez, who emphasizes power but has plenty of technique, above rival Vazquez. But he’s been more consistent over his career, and my eyes tell me that his first win over Vazquez was the more accurate of the two fights in assessing who’s better. Prospects for movement: Taking two out of three against Vazquez, as he hopes to do next month, could put him in position to rocket up the list several spots. 9. Israel Vazquez junior featherweight 42-4 (31 KOs) Key wins: TKO3 Oscar Larios, 2005; TKO10 Jhonny Gonzalez, 2006; TKO6 Rafael Marquez, 2007 Recent activity: W TKO6 Marquez, 8/07 Why he’s here: His raw power, and improving boxing skills, put him in the pound-for-pound stratosphere for the first time when it helped him KO Marquez. But his record of eventually getting the better of quality opponents who have had him down and/or out was a solid foundation for that ascension. Prospects for movement: Same as Marquez, but in reverse. 10. Winky Wright middleweight 51-4 (25 KOs) Key wins: UD12 Shane Mosley, 2004; MD12 Mosley, 2004; UD12 Felix Trinidad, 2005 Recent activity: L UD12 Bernard Hopkins 7/07 Why he’s here: Losing to Hopkins in a closely-fought bout at a weight he was unaccustomed to (170 lbs.) didn’t hurt his standing nearly as much as his inactivity. But he’s still one of the trickiest fighters to beat out there, and for years before his loss to Hopkins, nobody could figure out his defense and jab. Prospects for movement: Until he fights somebody, and somebody good, he’s got nowhere to go but down. There are no potential fights for him even on the horizon, let alone under serious discussion, that anyone has reported. 11. Ricky Hatton junior welterweight (140 lbs.) 43-1 (31 KOs) Key wins: RTD11 Kostya Tszyu, 2005; KO9 Carlos Maussa, 2005; KO4 Jose Luis Castillo, 2007 Recent activity: L TKO10 Floyd Mayweather, Jr, 12/07 Why he’s here: I had him at #8 before Mayweather knocked him out, but Pavlik’s win dropped him out of the top 10 all together. I still think he can be a pound-for-pound factor at his more natural weight — he fought Mayweather at 147 lbs. — because of his frenetic, mauling style. Prospects for movement: He may get leapfrogged again soon, several times over, because of his long layoff and the likelihood that he won’t even have a real challenge when he returns this summer, since it’s more a “welcome home to Manchester” affair than anything that might threaten his record. 12. Juan Diaz lightweight (135 lbs.) 33-0 (17 KOs) Key wins: UD12 Lavka Sim, 2004; RTD8 Acelino Freitas, 2007; TKO9 Julio Diaz, 2007 Recent activity: W TKO9 Diaz, 10/07 Why he’s here: Diaz is right on the verge of top-10 status because he has just worn down several top opponents in a row by employing his all-action, all-the-time, every-round attack. Prospects for movement: As soon as he beats Nate Campbell in March — if he beats Nate Campbell — he’s in my top 10. 13. Shane Mosley welterweight 44-5 (37 KOs) Key wins: SD12 Oscar De La Hoya, 2000; UD12 De La Hoya, 2003; TKO6 Fernando Vargas, 2006 Recent activity: L UD12 Miguel Cotto, 11/07 Why he’s here: I scored Mosley-Cotto a draw, and had him in my top 10 before then. Even at his advanced age, he’s got great speed, a helluva chin and enough power and boxing smarts to be trouble for any welterweight. Prospects for movement: They’re not great. Even if he scores a summer date with Zab Judah or Carlos Quintana and wins, he still may not sniff the top 10. 14. Ivan Calderon junior flyweight (108 lbs.) 30-0 (6 KOs) Key wins: TD9 Eduardo Marquez, 2003; SD12 Hugo Cazares, 2007; UD12 Juan Esquer, 2007 Recent activity: W UD12 Esquer, 12/07 Why he’s here: After years of dominating the tiniest weight class, he’s climbed one rung and proven potent against both division vet Cazares and young gun Esquer. Most see his boxing skills as second only to Mayweather’s. Prospects for movement: A rematch with Cazares looms, but as with Mosley, a win in his next date might not be enough to get him into top-10 status. 15. Oscar De La Hoya junior middleweight (154 lbs.) 38-5 (30 KOs) Key wins: UD12 Pernell Whitaker, 1997; SD12 Ike Quartey, 1999; TKO11 Fernando Vargas, 2002 Recent activity: L SD 12 Floyd Mayweather, Jr., 5/07 Why he’s here: He fought Mayweather closer than just about anyone ever has, which is an achievement in and of itself. He still has one of the best left hooks in the biz, and it’s been enough to see him winning or coming close to winning several high-profile fights with the best of his era. Prospects for movement: Can De La Hoya beat Mayweather in a September rematch? Probably not, but I’d nominate him for a return to top-10 stature if he did. His next fight, against a too-small Steve Forbes, won’t do much for him. 16. Cory Spinks junior middleweight 36-4 (11 KOs) Key wins: MD12 Ricardo Mayorga, 2003; UD12 Zab Judah, 2004; MD12 Roman Karmazin, 2006 Recent activity: L SD12 Jermain Taylor, 5/07 Why he’s here: He’s boring as all get out, but Spinks knows how to fight. Some — not me — thought he beat Taylor last year. Prospects for movement: He’s probably more on a downward arc, because it’s going to be tough to get top fighters in against Spinks, whom no one outside of St. Louis wants to see and therefore won’t help boost many purses. Beating Verno Phillips won’t change opinions of him much, at least not with me. 17. Chris John featherweight (126 lbs.) 41-0-1 (22 KOs) Key wins: UD12 Osamu Sato, 2004; UD12 Derrick Gainer, 2005; UD12 Juan Manuel Marquez, 2006 Recent activity: W RTD7 Roinet Caballero, 1/08 Why he’s here: A career-best win over Marquez, however disputed, plus his all-around talent and longevity are enough to push him into the top 20. Prospects for movement: He’s the most vulnerable of my top 20 to drop out, because he just has never fought outside of his home country of Indonesia and his caliber of opponent has mostly been suspect. 18. Vladimir Klitschko heavyweight (unlimited) 49-3 (44 KOs) Key wins: UD12 Chris Byrd, 2000; UD12 Sam Peter, 2005; RTD6 Lamon Brewster, 2007 Recent activity: RTD6 Brewster, 7/07 Why he’s here: After some shaky losses (and even a shaky win, against Sam Peter), Klitschko has, I think, proven he’s the best of all the heavyweights in the last year or two. Trainer Emmanuel Steward has restored his confidence, however temporarily, and honed his already potent jab to accompany his crushing straight right. Prospects for movement: Very good, because he’s a heavy favorite to beat his most threatening opponent in some time, Sultan Ibragimov, this weekend. 19. Mikkel Kessler super middleweight 39-1 (29 KOs) Key wins: UD12 Anthony Mundine, 2005; TKO10 Eric Lucas, 2006; KO3 Markus Beyer, 2006 Recent activity: L UD12 Joe Calzaghe, 11/07 Why he’s here: Kessler had eliminated a string of top super middleweights until he ran into Calzaghe and lost. But there’s little shame in that. He proved he’s got the chin and power to be the best now that Calzaghe’s left the division, and I suspect he’ll be a craftier boxer, too, after going 12 hard rounds with a master. Prospects for movement: There’s strangely little talk of Kessler these days despite all the action in and around super middleweight. Until he makes a fight, it looks like he could soon be on his way out of my top 20, despite the fact that he’s one of my personal favorites. 20. Joan Guzman junior lightweight 28-0 (17 KOs) Key wins: TKO7 Agapito Sanchez, 2004; SD12 Jorge Barrios, 2006; UD12 Humberto Soto, 2007 Recent activity: UD12 Soto, 11/07 Why he’s here: Forget the Jekyll and Hyde act in his win over fellow most-avoided combatant Huberto Soto last year — he won, and his prodigious speed and ever-improving craft under the tutelage of Floyd Mayweather, Sr. put him just on the outside looking in of the class of the junior lightweights, behind only Pacquiao and Marquez. Prospects for movement: He might inch up a little if he beats top-10 junior lightweight Alex Arthur in April, but he’ll need to snag a win over a Pacquiao or Marquez to break through for top-10 pound-for-pound consideration. So there you have it. My next five? In this order: Jermain Taylor, Cristian Mijares, Antonio Margarito, Glen Johnson and Nonito Donaire. But the likes of Chad Dawson or David Haye, and a couple other fighters who have immediate meaningful bouts on the horizon, could jump over them all, depending on the outcomes.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.