Did you hear the one about how Floyd Mayweather, Jr. thinks he gets to retain his title as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, that is, the best fighter in the world regardless of weight division? “I am the king and no one has taken my crown,” he said Saturday afternoon as he announced his unretirement.
BWAHAHAHA. Good one, Floyd. You crack me up. I know you were bowling Saturday night so you didn’t see what Manny Pacquiao did to your former opponent Ricky Hatton, but your joke was a heckuva lot funnier retroactively because of Pacquiao-Hatton.
So I think we all know who the reigning king is. But it’s been two months since I updated my top 20, and a good deal has happened since then.
My criteria focus heavily on track record against quality competition, with an emphasis on recent competition. For a lengthier explanation of those criteria, click here; one year of inactivity, for instance, will result in removal from the list, which explains the absense of the otherwise top-10-worthy Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez. For our last update, click here.
1. Manny Pacquiao (junior welterweight): Mayweather doesn’t qualify even though he’s unretired now because of his own inactivity. But even if he has a successful return in his July fight against Juan Manuel Marquez, he hasn’t accomplished as much as Pacquiao and won’t take back his “crown.” Pacquiao stomped Mayweather’s last two opponents, Hatton and Oscar De La Hoya, with ease, even though each gave Mayweather a little static. Pacquiao has already beaten Marquez, and he did it without asking Marquez to move between seven and 12 pounds beyond any weight he’s ever fought at, the way Mayweather has arranged. And Pacquiao has beaten Marco Antonio Barrera and Eric Morales multiple times, both opponents that trump Mayweather’s other best wins, over Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo.
2. Juan Manuel Marquez (lightweight): Some made an argument for Marquez at #1 after he beat Juan Diaz, and though I disagreed, it wasn’t crazy. Marquez’ wins over Diaz and Joel Casamayor, plus his arguable loss over Pacquiao in early 2008, trumped Pacquiao’s win over David Diaz and De La Hoya. With Pacquiao’s demolition of Hatton, the argument holds significantly less water. But if Marquez upsets Mayweather? I’d put him at #1. Those are serious strategic advantages he’d have to overcome, and he’d be beating the next most recent pound-for-pound king. Strangely, though, there’s some speculation out there this fight won’t happen. De La Hoya said at the news conference Saturday that the fight would be at 143 lbs. Mayweather and his team, though, kept calling it a welterweight fight and wouldn’t comment on the weight limit. Golden Boy’s CEO then said it was 144 “max.” Apparently we’ll be getting a news release on this soon. But it is more than a little sloppy that the weight isn’t settled yet, and more than a little crucial to Marquez’ chances of winning.
3. Bernard Hopkins (light heavyweight): Hopkins isn’t retired yet, but he sure is cornering himself career-wise. First he said he wanted a rematch with Joe Calzaghe. Calzaghe is retired and said he wouldn’t give Hopkins a rematch anyway. Then he said he would be interested in fighting cruiserweight champion Tomasz Adamek, but he proceeded to lowball Adamek during negotiations to such a degree that negotiations broke off. He says he won’t fight Chad Dawson, his most viable opponent at light heavyweight, and now he’s talking about fighting super middleweight Carl Froch in a fight that is a long drop from Calzaghe, Adamek and Dawson, in both money and quality of opposition. But he’s obviously still a vital boxer, judging by the evidence from his October defeat of Kelly Pavlik. He just can’t move up if he’s not fighting, and he risks being passed if he doesn’t fight soon or doesn’t fight top opponents.
4. Shane Mosley (welterweight): Mosley has an outside chance of getting a shot at Pacquiao, which would obviously enhance his opportunties to move up this list. It goes like this: Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum says he wants to match Pacquiao with Miguel Cotto by December. But Cotto could lose his fight next month with Joshua Clottey. Since Arum is insisting (be it negotiating gamesmanship or not) that Pacquiao deserves the biggest cut of dough against Mayweather, something Mayweather is unlikely to agree to, if Cotto’s off the table, the next most viable opponent is Mosley. But if Mosley doesn’t get Pacquiao, he also might end up as Mayweather’s post-Marquez opponent. That, too, would give Mosley a chance to ascend this list. Since Mosley doesn’t want Paul Williams, and a Cotto rematch looks unlikely for monetary reasons, there’s also a chance Mosley won’t be left with many options if he doesn’t strike gold with Mayweather or Pacquiao.
5. Paul Williams (junior middleweight): For the life of me, I can’t figure out why Ring magazine is STILL skeptical of Williams, who’s not even in their pound-for-pound top 10. Before his layoff, Winky Wright was pound-for-pound top-10, and Williams absolutely blanked him last month, even though Wright fought pretty well. On the other hand, there are people arguing that Williams might be #1, and I think that’s too far, although I see the case — he’s clearly an excellent fighter who it’s hard to imagine anyone beating. His problem with moving up is the same as always, which is that other boxers avoid him like the plague. His risk/reward ratio is just too unfavorable. He’s even talking about moving up to super middleweight to find fights. So far, nobody is biting, be it Mosley, Pavlik, Hopkins or anyone else. His most favorable scenario for a big, meaningful fight is if Clottey beats Cotto, because Clottey does want Williams, almost unique among fighters with name recognition.
6. Miguel Cotto (welterweight): As mentioned, Cotto figures into some big potential fights (Pacquiao, Mosley, etc.) if he gets past Clottey, and getting past Clottey — quite the avoided, dangerous opponent himself — would likely do him some good in my pound-for-pound standings.
7. Ivan Calderon (junior flyweight): Calderon has a decent test against Rodel Mayol on the Cotto-Clottey undercard, but it’s probably not enough to leap upward if he wins. A mega-little-man-fight with Brian Viloria, which is likely afterward, judging by the talk from both sides? That would do the trick.
8. Vic Darchinyan (bantamweight): Darchinyan’s stepping up to another weight class to fight Joseph Agbeko in July, a dangerous brawler and an attractive match-up. Darchinyan would move up a spot, I think, if he wins (although Dawson may pass him by then). I said before I wasn’t sure beating Abeko would. I’m thinking now that it would.
9. Chad Dawson (light heavyweight): Dawson is the first person on my list to shift upward by the departure of Hatton, who drops from the list entirely because he was borderline top-10 at best and got destroyed in a way that raises questions about his future. Repeating his defeat of Antonio Tarver this weekend might shift him up one more. Let’s see how it goes.
10. Kelly Pavlik (middleweight): Pavlik’s only loss remains to Hopkins, and his last fight was against a top-10 middleweight whom he beat with ease. Beating Sergio Mora in June gets him virtually nothing, but a tentative agreement for a super fight with Arthur Abraham offers him plenty.
11. Nate Campbell (junior welterweight): Campbell is slightly higher here than I’m comfortable with, because I thought he was lucky to get the win against Ali Funeka. I can’t figure out who he fights next, though.
12. Tomasz Adamek (cruiserweight): If only he had got that shot at Hopkins. He would have lost, probably, but if he had won, look out. Instead, he’s now likely to fight a non-status-enhancing opponent like Matt Godfrey. Still, he might be underrated by some.
13. Chris John (featherweight): A healthy John, in a neutral location this time, is likely to beat Rocky Juarez more soundly than he did a couple months back. Look for John to inch up come June. I know some don’t like him, but I’m sold on his abilities.
14. Nonito Donaire (flyweight): Donaire is my biggest climber. He recently sliced through Roman Martinez, an opponent expected to give him a tough go, and that Darchinyan win looks better all the time. If he gets and beats Fernando Montiel, he’s top 10.
15. Wladimir Klitschko (heavyweight): I ha
te that Klitschko keeps holding on to a spot this high, but he keeps benefiting from others’ missteps, like Jermain Taylor’s departure. At least a June win over David Haye, if he can do it, offers him some positive arguments for staying put.
16. Arthur Abraham (middleweight): A talked-about fight against Giovanni Lorenzo this summer is more of Abraham spinning his wheels. Talent-wise, he’s got the look of a top-10 p4p boxer, but absent a marquee win, such as over Pavlik, he hasn’t proven it.
17. Celestino Caballero (junior featherweight): His recent shaky win — some thought he lost — against a relatively unknown opponent justifies, I think, Caballero being this low, rather than top 10 like Ring has him. Yuriorkis Gamboa, up next, offers chances for a modest increase.
18. Mikkel Kessler (super middleweight): Like Abraham, he’s got it all talent-wise, but his level of competition recently and prospectively is so terrible he hasn’t been able to rebound ranking-wise following a forgivable setback against Calzaghe.
19. Juan Manuel Lopez (junior featherweight): His beatdown of Gerry Penalosa two weekends ago debuts him in the top 20. Others have better top wins than Penalosa and Daniel Ponce De Leon, but Lopez’ talent makes me think he’s a p4p #1 man some day.
20. Fernando Montiel (bantamweight): Montiel debuts for no reason byond others dropping off, and I’m not convinced he’s worthy quite yet. I don’t know how much beating Eric Morel next month helps him substantially, but if he beats Donaire next, that would.
Hanging around: Floyd Mayweather, Jr.; Israel Vazquez; Rafael Marquez; Vitali Klitschko; David Haye; Hozumi Hasegawa; Glen Johnson; Ricky Hatton; Roman Gonzalez; Joan Guzman
(As always, I’m interested in everyone else’s lists, too. So drop them in the comments section if you wanna.)