Our First Pound-For-Pound Top 20 List Of 2009

There has been a fair amount of moving and shaking in early 2009 amid The Queensberry Rules’ pound-for-pound rankings, but I haven’t posted a full update since December. There was Shane Mosley-Antonio Margarito and its subsequent fallout. And Vic Darchinyan-Jorge Arce. And Tomasz Adamek-Johnathon Banks. Also, Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez reaching the one year of inactivity mark. And so forth.

So here’s a pretty full update. Feel free to offer your own top-20 list, or just give mine the Bronx cheer.

(And please note the new “TQBR ON TWITTER” widget at middle right. I’ve included this week’s blog posting schedule, which I could repeat here, but I want people to get used to looking at that part of the homepage even if they don’t feel like going to the actual Queensberry Rules Twitter page.)

As usual, my criteria includes, in approximate order of importance: recent activity, career achievement and overall ability.

1. Manny Pacquiao (junior welterweight): Some might make an argument for Pacquiao’s rival Juan Manuel Marquez to take the spot, and I wouldn’t put up too much of a fight, but it’s not the argument I’d make. It’s my personal opinion that Pacquiao and Marquez should be 1-1 against each other right now, but the record says Pacquiao’s 1-0-1 against Marquez. And as good as Marquez was this weekend, Pacquiao still has an overall better career resume. Only losing to Ricky Hatton in May can drop him from the #1 spot, really, and winning would put more distance between #1 and #2. Manny’s the best. He’s likely going to stay that way at least until he fights Floyd Mayweather, Miguel Cotto, Marquez again or Shane Mosley, and even then he could just as easily sweep that fearsome foursome. Which is not the same as saying it would be easy.

2. Juan Manuel Marquez (lightweight): JMM be rockin’ it. Not only is he a sublime boxer, but he keeps finding himself in Fight of the Year candidates, which his knockout win over Juan Diaz certainly was. In his last three fights, he’s fought Pacquiao to a disputed decision loss that I thought he won, knocked out lineal Ring magazine champion Joel Casamayor to take his belt, then defended it against #1 challenger Diaz. He knocked out two men who’d never been knocked out before. The Sweet Science dubbed him “Juan Manuel Magnificent.” But what he does next is unclear. In a just world, he gets Pacquiao again. This probably isn’t a just world.

3. Bernard Hopkins (light heavyweight): Fresh off the finest performance of his entire, storied career, a defeat of middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik in October, the ageless B-Hop is contemplating a showdown with cruiserweight champion Tomasz Adamek. He already moved up a spot with the retirement of Joe Calzaghe, as did everyone below #3, but taking his third lineal championship belt would warrant moving him up above Marquez, perhaps.

4. Shane Mosley (welterweight): Mosley simply thrashed Antonio Margarito, the previous #1 welterweight, in January. Now Mosley is the top man in boxing’s most promising division. He wants Mayweather or the winner of Pacquiao-Hatton next, but he’s more likely to get Andre Berto, and, hopefully, after that, a rematch with Miguel Cotto for the vacant Ring championship. If he beats Berto, it’ll be a little boost, but beating Cotto would go a longer ways.

5. Miguel Cotto (welterweight): I’m going to catch hell for this one, so I’m going to defend it in advance. First off, I had him at #6 following the Margarito loss, and some people dropped him to more like #7 or #8, so this isn’t that different considering the Calzaghe retirement. Second, Ring magazine and some others, for no apparent reason, dropped him out of the top 10 entirely. They didn’t promote people above him who’d recently picked up big wins — they just removed him arbitrarily a month or two ago. Third, he did beat Mosley, the man ranked just above him. Fourth, the Margarito loss is now suspect, given that Margarito was caught with loaded gloves prior to the Mosley bout. Fifth, he just came back from the Margarito loss and looked excellent. It feels weird to have him at #5, I admit, but I stick by it. If he beats Joshua Clottey or Kermit Cintron in summer, it’s probably just good enough for him to hold steady.

6. Ivan Calderon (junior flyweight): Calderon, the junior flyweight champion, is the biggest mover in the top 10, benefiting not only from the Calzaghe retirement but the removal of Vaquez and JMM’s brother Marquez due to one year of inactivity. I feel bad about dropping those two, but I made the rule and I’m going to follow it. As soon as they come back, if they come back, they get their spots back. Calderon is currently without a next opponent. Beating Ulises Solis would be a nice chart-climber.

7. Vic Darchinyan (junior bantamweight): The cantankerous Armenian gets points for beating yet another top-10 divisional rival, Arce. Darchinyan’s recent stretch is awesome stuff: Knockout wins over Arce and fellow titleholders Cristian Mijares and Dimitri Kirilov, and a draw with Z Gorres. Next up could be tough bantamweight Joseph Agbeko, and that would be a good if not guaranteed chart-climbing win.

8. Ricky Hatton (junior welterweight): I don’t think Ricky’s long for the top 10, given that his next opponent is Pacquiao, but his thorough December defeat and knockout of his nearest divisional challenger, Paulie Malignaggi, showed that he’s by far the class at his weight. He didn’t get that Ring magazine belt for nothing.

9. Paul Williams (junior welterweight): As much as I like Williams, I think others have him ranked too high. His three best wins are over Margarito, Carlos Quintana and Verno Phillips. That’s good, but compare that to anyone I have listed higher and tell me how it stacks up. A win over Winky Wright in April would prompt a considerable jump. Wright might still be in my top 10 if not for his own inactivity, and he might get his spot back by beating Williams.

10. Chad Dawson (light heavyweight): A contracted and unnecessary rematch with Antonio Tarver, recently postponed and rescheduled, slows Dawson’s shine somewhat. But I’ve also moved him up one spot because of the continued success of Adamek, whom Dawson had a rather easy time with prior to Adamek’s recent spate of considerable success. To those who are skeptical of Dawson still, consider his top three wins: Adamek, Glen Johnson and Antonio Tarver. That’s not bad. Not bad at all.

11. Kelly Pavlik (middleweight): This may also strike some as a strange placement, but Pavlik’s only loss is to an all-time great in B-Hop, and he’s got two top-notch wins over Jermain Taylor to go with quality wins over middleweight top-10 types like Edison Miranda, Jose Luis Zertuche and as of last month, Marco Antonio Rubio. Unless he goes after Arthur Abraham or Felix Sturm next, though — signs are that his promoter will not — he’s in danger of being surpassed by boxers beneath him with a better strength of schedule.

12. Nate Campbell (junior welterweight): I thought about moving Nate even higher, because beating Ali Funeka, who turned out to be better than anyone realized, has to be worth something. But there’s a tiny cloud over that win because Campbell came in over weight, which affected his stamina but also appeared to give him extra power and punch resistance. Beating a top-10 opponent in his new division is worth a short jetpack boost up the list. It’s not clear whom that next opponent will be.

13. Tomasz Adamek (cruiserweight): I’d arguably had Adamek underrated just outside of the top 20, so I’m making up for it by taking the occasion of his knockout of Johnathon Banks over the weekend to shoot him up several spots. Besides, the win over Banks showed that Adamek continues to have dimensions we didn’t know about, and Banks proved better than I realized. Adamek’s stay here might be short, though — Hopkins would pose serious style problems, a rematch with Steve Cunningham could have the opposite result of the December bout, and a heavyweight move sounds like the definition of “ill-considered.”

14. Chris John (featherweight): I know John just got a draw with Rocky Juarez over the weekend, but everyone’s scorecard, including mine, had John winning. So that — plus a demonstration that, against top competition, John is very, very good, not an illusion built up on easy pickings — is worth several notches of upward movement. He looks to me like he has top-10 potential, and if he fights Steve Luevano next and beats him, thereby taking the vacant featherweight championship of the world, that could very well do the trick. No word yet, though, on John’s next opponent.

15. Wladimir Klitschko (heavyweight
): I honestly wish people just above Klitschko wouldn’t keep dropping out, because this is another of my picks that is worthy of questioning. To me, Klitschko feels like barely top-20 material. I say that despite the fact that I defy you to show me anyone besides Hatton who’s dominated his division the same way Klitschko has for the past few years. That’s why he’s here, plain and simple. David Haye may have the speed and power to put an end to that, if they fight in June.

16. Jermain Taylor (super middleweight): With the names on Taylor’s resume, you could make a case for him to be higher. But the two wins over Hopkins were questionable, the draw with Wright was questionable and his peformance against Cory Spinks was terrible. I dropped him out of the list after two consecutive losses to Pavlik, but beating the highly-ranked if over-the-hill Jeff Lacy warranted his reintroduction. He’s just benefited from the removal of others. Beating Carl Froch in his next fight would give me a chance to move him above Klitschko (yes!) but probably not much higher.

17. Arthur Abraham (middleweight): There’s just not a marquee win on Abraham’s ledger yet, and that hurts him with me. And yet, his destruction of anyone just below the elite level points to what he’s capable of, and counts en masse for a good number of points. If he gets Sturm or Pavlik and beats them, look out — he’ll rise very quickly.

18. Celestino Caballero (junior featherweight): Obviously, Caballero can beat a whole slew of top-5 caliber junior feathers, because he’s done just that. One suspects he can beat pound-for-pound worthy opposition like Vazquez, Marquez or Juan Manuel Lopez, too. The question is whether he ever gets a chance. Until he does, we don’t know if he can, and it’s all speculation.

19. Nonito Donaire (flyweight): Unlike some just above him, Donaire DOES have a marquee win, over Darchinyan, but he has a good number fewer wins over other top-10 opponents. It isn’t because he can’t beat that level of opposition. Fernando Montiel dropped out of a fight with Donaire for what now look like scurrilous reasons, and a rematch with Darchinyan may never happen because of promotional feuds. His replacement fight after Montiel pulled out has been rescheduled, re-opponented and altered so many times that his manager pulled the plug on the whole affair.

20. Mikkel Kessler (super middleweight): Irritate me though Kessler may with his unsubstantiated big talk about taking on top opposition and/or fighting in America, the fact remains that he’s beaten several of his division’s beltholders and has a totally defensible loss to Calzaghe. If only he’d substantiate that big talk, because not even the rumor mills suggest he’ll fight anyone very dangerous next.

Hanging around, in no particular order: Fernando Montiel, Glen Johnson, Joshua Clottey, Steve Luevano, Ulises Solis, Juan Manuel Lopez, Cristian Mijares, Roman Gonzalez, Joan Guzman, David Haye, Israel Vazquez, Rafael Marquez, Winky Wright

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.