Pound-For-Pound Top 20 Boxers Update, 12/10

As expected, the last two months of 2010 really shook up the pound-for-pound rankings, with only a handful of the 20 people from the previous update holding their spot. But mostly, things just moved around. It wasn’t a pound-for-pocalypse, per se, despite the image above. Three people exited entirely based on their recent losses: Celestino Caballero, Arthur Abraham and Vic Darchinyan. Three joined: Carl Froch, Nonito Donaire and Bernard Hopkins.

As for how it shook out exactly, well, you’re just going to have to read on, mofo. Remember, the key standard is wins over quality opponents, especially of recent vintage. Secondary factors include career-long resume, what someone has done in the last year and the eyeball test.

1. Manny Pacquiao, welterweight

In November, Pacquiao fought a man in Antonio Margarito who out-weighed him by 17 pounds and didn’t just beat him — he beat. his. ass. One could quibble about whether the belt in an eighth division was more of a “belt in name only” than anything, etc. etc., but even if you did, there’s nobody who did anything to take his pound-for-pound belt away from him. He won’t return until May, when he fights Shane Mosley. His spot should still be safe; nobody’s going to be too impressed if he beats an old Sugar, but then, nobody else is really within shouting distance of him, especially with Mayweather not fighting.

2. Floyd Mayweather, Jr., welterweight

The only fighting Mayweather has done in the last couple months is with the law. So far in his life, Mayweather has fought the law and won. But his current troubles are a bit more like his 2nd round struggle against Mosley. Mayweather in 2011 will be fighting the law still, and the law just might win this time.

3. Juan Manuel Marquez, lightweight

This spot was an extraordinarily close race between Marquez and the man just beneath him, Sergio Martinez. What ultimately shifted it to Marquez is that he has the far lengthier resume. His terrific battle with #1 challenger Michael Katsidis in November was the latest addition to that resume. His next move is unclear — he had hoped to win the Pacquiao sweepstakes, but didn’t.

4. Sergio Martinez, middleweight

Between himself and Marquez, Martinez beat the far better opponent in November when he dramatically wiped out former #3 pound-for-pound Paul Williams in a rematch. It was the capstone on a wonderful 2010. But ultimately, Martinez is a two-win fighter with some borderline fights: the Williams win, the Kelly Pavlik win, the disputed Williams loss, the Kermit Cintron draw robbery and the Alex Bunema victory. In no way am I denigrating Martinez’ achievements. It’s just an explanation of why he’s at #4 instead of #3. Up next is a likely March bout against Andy Lee or someone on that level, which doesn’t do a whole lot for him — but his spot is probably solidified for a good long while either way. I’m sure almost everyone has the same top four pound-for-pound, whatever variations between 1-4.

5. Wladimir Klitschko, heavyweight

Klitscko’s spot is awfully precarious over the next two months. The winner of Nonito Donaire-Fernando Montiel in February, assuming it actually comes to fruition, is going to have a really strong argument for #5. Timothy Bradley could push Klitschko down another spot if he beats Devon Alexander. Klitschko’s strongest counter-argument would be to return in the spring with a fight against David Haye, but one thing you can count on over the last two years is Haye feinting at fighting a Klitschko only to back out.

6. Andre Ward, super middleweight

My high opinion of Ward is one that always gets me in hot water with commenters, so let me explain why he’s at #6. He got onto the list at first by beating the #1-ranked super middleweight, Super Six tournament favorite and pound-for-pound top-20 Mikkel Kessler in an absolute rout. Then he beat two more top-10 super middleweights, Allan Green and Sakio Bika, the latter in November, in one of the most talent-rich divisions in the sport. The man below him, Carl Froch, lost to Kessler and he hasn’t beaten some of his opponents as clearly as has Ward. And, importantly, Ward really passes my eyeball test: Whether it’s pretty or not, he wins in a way that suggests to me that he is one of the best fighters in the world and would beat nearly anyone he faced. He’s scheduled to face Arthur Abraham next in the Super Six, and if it happens in the spring as originally laid out in the tournament schedule, it should be an easy win over a fighter whose stock has dropped hugely over the last year.

7. Carl Froch, super middleweight

No way did I expect Froch to debut this high on my p4p list, but then, no way did I expect him to outclass Abraham in November as thoroughly as he did. That win was the latest bout in a strength of schedule that’s virtually unrivaled in boxing over the last couple years: Jean Pascal (close win), Jermain Taylor (close win), Andre Dirrell (close, disputed win), Kessler (close loss) and Abraham. Froch’s personality rubs some people the wrong way, but there can no longer be any doubt about whether he is a quality fighter. It doesn’t get much easier next, when the Super Six takes him to Glen Johnson, probably in the spring. A win should find him moving up above Ward.

8. Miguel Cotto, junior middleweight

In the spring, Cotto’s team had talked about him facing a top-10 junior middleweight like Vanes Martirosyan, which would help him hold his spot, but it looks like he’s going to face an also-ran like Ricardo Mayorga which would do pure zip for his p4p ranking. In other words, he could be vulnerable at #9 for a good long while. Since the last update, he merely held his spot.

9. Juan Manuel Lopez, featherweight

Here’s another one where people think I’ve got someone rated too high. It did factor into my consideration; Lopez merely held his spot. However, in November, he did beat a former pound-for-pound top-10 fighter in Rafael Marquez, and it was his third top-10 opponent in the featherweight division of 2010 — another absolutely loaded division.

10. Timothy Bradley, junior welterweight

Bradley had been ranked higher, but using the “what has he done in the last year” standard, he was due for a drop. Since this time last year, Bradley has only fought a fringe contender at welterweight, Luis Carlos Abregu, and he didn’t exactly set the world on fire with that win. However, as mentioned before, his January bout with Alexander could get him up to about #6 or so.

11. Fernando Montiel, bantamweight

Montiel had a win in December, but it was over a journeyman, Jovanny Soto. But, as mentioned above, he could be due for a big boost in the next update if his February fight comes through. Which brings us to the next man.

12. Nonito Donaire, bantamweight

Donaire had been evicted because of a three-year run of lackluster opponents. When he returned with a good one in November, against Volodymyr Sydorenko, he returned with a full-throated roar. Now, if he beats Montiel, he will deserve the top-5 ranking that Ring magazine has given him.

13. Paul Williams, welterweight

One could defensibly dock Williams more, coming off such a devastating knockout loss. I didn’t for a couple reasons: I’m usually sympathetic to pound-for-pound fighters who lose to other pound-for-pound fighters; and I’m convinced by the loss, and had already largely been sympathetic to the view, that Williams actually is a welterweight.

14. Vitali Klitschko, heavyweight

This is another situation where a fighter didn’t do anything to drop in the standings, but where he did nothing exceptional to maintain his spot either. This Klitschko is on a downward arc. His next opponent could be Odlanier Solis, unless it’s Haye, but it probably won’t be. Solis helps him a little; Haye helps him a lot.

15. Giovanni Segura, junior flyweight

Segura climbs a couple spots because of the movement of others, and because the man beneath him — Pongsaklek Wonjongkam — struggled with his recent journeyman opponent, while Segura once more knocked out a top-10-worthy divisional contender, Manuel Vargas, in November. His next step is unclear (a rematch with Ivan Calderon?), but he’s been very busy by the standard of most elite boxers, fighting four times in 2010, so expect something soon.

16. Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, flyweight

Like a lot of Thai fighters, he stays busy, and has another fight scheduled for Dec. 30. The real fight that matters could be the one after that: a bout against Edgar Sosa, the long-time top junior flyweight who lost a controversial bout to Rodel Mayol late last year and has joined the flyweight ranks. That one could do Pongsaklek’s p4p status some favors.

17. Bernard Hopkins, light heavyweight

He only got a draw against Jean Pascal, but I thought he won cleanly and most people do, too. That, combined with his extremely lengthy list of quality wins, got him back into the pound-for-pound top-20.

18. Jean Pascal, light heavyweight

Maybe he doesn’t deserve to stay on the list, but think of it this way: He still has a win over the then-#4 Chad Dawson to claim the lineal belt, he went life-and-death with #7 Froch, he has two wins over a then-top-10 175-pounder in Adrian Diaconu and he kept things reasonably close with a living legend in Hopkins who still “has it.” That’s enough to keep him barely hanging around near the bottom of the list.

19. Chad Dawson, light heavyweight

Dawson could face Tavoris Cloud as early as February or March. A win over Cloud would get him back into excellent stead — a good number of spots higher — after a big drop in 2010 following the loss to Pascal.

20. Tomasz Adamek, heavyweight

Adamek, like Bradley, came in for a re-orienting based on his last year. He acquired a total of one decent win, a close decision over Chris Arreola, and this is one where some of the criticism of my ranking of him was convincing. You do have to go back to the end of 2008 to find a particularly good win by Adamek. Still, I maintain that ranking him over David Haye is fair, especially if you look at Haye’s 2010, with wins over John Ruiz and Audley Harrison that aren’t more impressive than Adamek’s win over Jason Estrada, Arreola, a shaky win over Michael Grant and a December win over Vinny Maddalone. Haye’s heavyweight record overall is better; their respective cruiserweight reigns were comparable; and Adamek has a nice light heavyweight run that Haye doesn’t. There’s little to separate them, other than that Haye lost some ground with inactivity back in 2008-2009, when he was out for nearly a year. If Adamek fights Roy Jones in the spring, he very well could be evicted from the ratings entirely. If he fights a Klitschko instead, it could be quite determinative.

Honorable mentions: Hozumi Hasegawa, David Haye, Lucian Bute, Shane Mosley, Chris John, Ivan Calderon, Mikkel Kessler, Andre Dirrell, Yuriorkis Gamboa, Devon Alexander, Abner Mares, Joseph Agbeko, Amir Khan

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.