Ring Reports Pound-For-Pound List Part 2

Pound-for-pound lists are a lot like Britney Spears, flashy and attention grabbing but lacking of any real substance.  Of course that does little to stop my need to share my own subjective list of boxing’s current best.  My renown colleague Tim did an excellent job on sharing his pound-for-pound list and while we share similar taste in fighters you will see that our lists have some differences.  While the term pound-for-pound is thrown around ad nauseum these days, such arguments further serve to keep the sport a blaze in heated debates in bars and message boards throughout the world. Before we get to my list a few things to consider in my decision making process are that a) I do not include heavyweights and b) my selection is based off a combination of pure talent, accomplishments, and level of opposition. So with out further ado……. 1. Floyd Mayweather Jr.– No real surprise here folks.  “Money” is hands down the most gifted and talented fighter in the game today.  While his reign as a welterweight has been met with outcry’s that he has yet to face an actual welterweight since beating Carlos Baldomir, you cannot deny the fact that he beat a very game Oscar De La Hoya as well as knocking out the previously unbeaten Ricky Hatton.  While Mayweather is currently enjoying a hiatus from the ring before he dances with De La Hoya again the fact remains that the “Pretty Boy” is the best in the business right now. 2. Manny Pacquiao – The Filipino Idol slipped a spot in my list due to the dramatic drop in his level of competition in 2007.  After a tear in 2006 the Pacman took a it easy with the likes of an outmatched Jorge Solis and a faded Marco Antonio Barrera in ’07.  Still Pacquiao remains the most explosive fighter in the game when his heart is in the fight.  2008 seems to be the year that Pacquiao gets it back on track as his highly anticipate rematch with Juan Manuel Marquez is taking place next month in what is sure to be a MAJOR event.  Win and the Pacmonster may just regain the number one spot. 3. Bernard Hopkins – At the tender young age of 43 the Executioner is still going strong like the Energizer Bunny.  After dropping his middleweight title to Jermain Taylor in 2005, Hopkins has reinvented himself 15 pounds north in the light heavyweight division.  For a man at that age to dominate Antonio Tarver, follow that up with a victory over the defensive genius that is Winky Wright is truly a remarkable tale.  And Hopkins keeps on going as he is scheduled to face super middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe this April in what looks to be a huge even on both sides of the pond.  4. Juan Manuel Marquez– None come close to displaying the skillful mastery of boxing in such a pure form as Juan Manuel Marquez.  Avoided like the plague by some of his more famous countrymen, Barrera and Morales, Marquez was forced to fight his way into the public consciousness.  Hindered by the sometimes baffling business decision of his lifelong trainer Nacho Bernstein the road to recognition for Marquez has been a hard one.  This all changed of course after his gutsy performance against Pacquiao in 2004, pulling a draw out after being blind sided in the opening round, and let’s not forget his thorough domination of Barrera last year.  As mentioned before, Marquez is scheduled to face Pacquiao in a rematch that has hardcore fight fans salivating.  5. Joe Calzaghe – The Pride of Wales was a relative unknown to most here in America but boy did that all change in March of 2006 when Jeff Lacy, the super middleweights stud, was beaten in a manner that would be considered criminal in all 50 states.  Suddenly Calzaghe’s stock rose through the roof and while the undefeated WBO champion had been a fixture in the British boxing scene, now America wanted to see more.  After two lackluster performances against Sakio Bika and Peter Manfredo, Calzaghe solidified his place in history when he dominated Mikkel Kessler this past November.  Calzage is one of the best around and a win over Bernard Hopkins would solidify his place as an all-time great.  6. Miguel Cotto – Some may question my decision to put the pride of Caguas, Puerto Rico  in the top ten but to that I point to Cotto’s breakout year in 2007.  He stopped an always dangerous Zab Judah as well as pulled out a solid victory over Shane Mosley.  Not bad for a fighter some labeled as nothing more than a limited brawler.  Cotto is on the fast track to stardom after being masterfully moved by his promoter Top Rank.  After he beats Alfonso Gomez this April, a clash with the winner of Antonio Margarito/Kermit Cintron is likely.  7. Israel Vazquez– Vazquez could not be in a bad fight if he wanted to.  The Mexico City native has engaged in more wars than I’m sure his handlers would like but when you posses the will of a warrior and TNT in your fists what other way to fight is there?  Always on the fringe of recognition despite his exciting style and accomplished record, Vazquez burst into the mainstream with his scintillating war with Jhonny Gonzalez (in a fight that may have ruined the once promising Gonzalez).  However, it Vasquez’ very next fight that took him from a hardcore fan’s favorite to a household name when he took on fellow countryman Rafael Marquez.  Though Vazquez was stopped due to a damaged nose, the fireworks produced in that fight are the stuff of legends.  The rematch a mere five months later was hands down winner of Fight of the Year honors and gave Vazquez a win for the ages.  The rubber-match is scheduled in a few weeks and you just know it is going to be an all action affair. 8. Rafael Marquez – Drops  down the list a bit due to his stoppage loss to Israel Vasquez but still holds a case to be in the top ten.  Marquez has all the tools you would want in constructing a prizefighter, power, technique, and heart.  His only detriment may be his shaky whiskers but the fact remains that Marquez is about as good as a fighter as you will ever find.  His highly anticipated rubber-match with Vazquez is all but guaranteed to produce fireworks and should he win, his legacy will be sealed.  9. Ivan Calderon– Most people don’t opt to include fighters in such a low weight class as their exposure is almost non-existent here in America.  The fact remains that Calderon is the best pure boxer in the game not named Mayweather.  Little in stature but large in heart, Calderon was doomed to toil in anonymity until his August battle with Mexican badass Hugo Cazares brought him the attention he so deserved.  The only knock on “El Nino de Hierro” is his lack of pop, only registering 6 KO’s in his 30 fights.  Still if you want to ever witness the “science” of the sweet science simply pop in a tape of Calderon. 10. Ricky Hatton– Hatton’s decent on my list was caused not only by his loss to Mayweather (there is no shame in that) but the fact that he has been inconsistent at best in some of his recent outings.  Though he managed to beat the likes of Juan Urango and Luis Collazo, the fact remains he looked immensely beatable.  Hatton is a great fighter don’t get me wrong but his mauling tactics will only take his so far in the game.  Of course should he decide to fight Junior Witter and prevail, well then he shoots up a couple notches.  11. Cristian Mijares– Mijares burst onto fight fan’s radar after his one-sided domination of Jorge Arce last year.  Mijares is poetry in motion and has skills beyond comprehension.  Check the way his punches seemed to flow effortlessly in his last bout with Jose Navarro, in one word, it was awesome.  Now that Mijares has teamed with DiBella Entertainment look for his stock to continue to rise. 12. Ronald “Winky” Wright– Aside from appearing on the side of a milk carton Wright has been missing in action since his loss to Bernard Hopkin last year.  Still in light of that defeat Wright continues to posses an abundance of talent and definsive genius that has contributed to him being avoided by almost every name fighter out there.  Of course his crazy financial demands do not aid in his cause but still Winky deserves to ply his craft after the dues he put in for is career.  13. Juan Diaz– 2007 was a breakout year for the “Baby Bull” as he forced both Acelino Freitas and Julio Diaz to say “no mas” as he walked away with their titles.  When you think of Diaz you think of a constant whirlwind of punches that while no independently powerful manage to do considerable damage when thrown at such high volume.  Scheduled to face the always dangerous Nate Campbell next month, a win for Diaz would solidify his claim as the “man” in the lightweight division, regardless of what the Ring wants you to believe.  A win would also set the stage for a can’t miss battle with Michael Katsidis, provided he beat Casamayor.  14. Kelly Pavlik– My pick for “Fighter of the Year” cracks the top twenty with his breakout year.  The Pride of Youngstown not only captured the middleweight championship of the world by handing Jermain Taylor his first loss but he backed up his claim by out-hustling him in the rematch.  Pavlik is one of those fighters you watch and think to yourself, “wow, he looks beatable”, that is until his wicked right hand is rendering an opponent helpless on the canvas.  Pavlik will need to tighten up some of his defensive flaws if he hope to remain undefeated but the fact stands that this power-punching Buckeye is a force to be reckoned with.  15. Joan Guzman– Much like Winky Wright, Guzman may be too talented for his own good.  While Guzman possesses a flashy style and awe inspiring defensive moves, his high risk low reward standing hurts his chances of landing some real money fights.  After beating the always dangerous Humberto Soto the stars of the junior lightweight division have been avoiding Guzman like the plague.  It’s a shame as Guzman has earned the right to fight the best out there, it’s too bad that he may never get the opportunity.  16. Shane Mosley-Despite losing to the very talented Miguel Cotto this past November you cannot discount Mosley’s skill and heat.  Even in the twilight of his career Mosley continues to show flashes of brilliance that made him the superstar he is today.  Should he emerge victorious over his rumored spring showdown with Zab Judah, Mosley may have it in him to make another run at a title.  17. Chris John– I will freely admit that I have not seen much of John but looking at his record the fact remains that he did beat one Juan Manuel Marquez regardless of the controversy surrounding the bout.  I witnesses it and while extremely close (I did score it for Marquez) the fact remains that John kept it close enough to go to the scorecards.  Now his record could be a bit suspect given his opponents all hail from the eastern half of the world but John has beaten some very tough and durable fighters and for that he demands inclusion in this list.  18. Junior Witter– The stylistically awkward Witter can make a claim to being one of the most avoided men in the sport as it seems no junior welterweight wants any part of the UK fighter.  Though Witter may be unfairly labeled a boring fighter, the manner in which he knocked out Vivian Harris is a chilling reminder that the “Hitter” does indeed carry some pop in his mitts.  It seems that his posturing may be paying off as some notable 140 pounders have begun to mention his name, though the caveat always seems to be “if the money is right”.  Undaunted Witter continues to plug along in hopes that one day one of the fighters in his division will step up.  19. Vernon Forrest– After taking a hiatus for the sport due to injury Forrest seems back and poised to make another run at stardom in the junior middleweight division.  His thought domination of Carlos Baldimir and stoppage victory over Michele Piccirillo have given Forrest a new lease on life in boxing.  The Viper contains some seriously dangerous tools when healthy so don’t expect a plethora of the sports larger names to come calling.  20. Arthur Abraham– The German based Armenian IBF middleweight title holder has yet to fight in America but that does not mean that he is any less deserving of inclusion on this list.  Abraham is undefeated and considered by many one of the few challengers to the middleweight crown that can actually beat Kelly Pavlik.  This has yet to be seen but we should be excited as it appears that Abraham’s handlers are planning to have him fight here in the states this year.

About Tim Starks

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