Pound-For-Pound Top 20 Boxers Update, 8/10

This is one of those pound-for-pound lists where who’s missing – and who replaced the people who used to be there – is actually more noteworthy than any substantial movement that anyone made for himself.

So let’s start by talking about who isn’t on it since last time, and why. (Because it matters!)

I previously had light heavyweight Chad Dawson at #4. It was a “soft” four, though. It wasn’t a real entrenched four, the way Shane Mosley had earlier been a “hard” three and didn’t drop much when he lost in May to #2 Floyd Mayweather, because Dawson hasn’t been a top pound-for-pound guy for very long. Dawson’s gone now because, while he lost to the clear #1 man in his division, that man – Jean Pascal – had no pound-for-pound credentials of his own. This was a real upset, even if some people wisely anticipated it. And Dawson, in the loss, simply didn’t look very good. Even diehard Pascal fans have to admit that, as well as Pascal fought, a Dawson who fights up to his potential probably beats him, but he increasingly appears to have a mental block about being aggressive. Dawson’s now just on the outside of my top 20, like the rest of these guys.

I previously had junior flyweight Ivan Calderon at #13, but he’d been falling and his loss to Giovanni Segura pushed him out entirely.

I previously had featherweight Chris John at #14. He’s gone now, too. As of just a few weeks from now – not even to the halfway point of the next update — John won’t have fought in a year, and he doesn’t have anything scheduled. That’s pretty much an automatic removal. If he comes back with any quality wins whatsoever, he’s back on the list – but with Fernando Saucedo his anticipated next opponent, I wouldn’t expect anything like that soon.

I previously had bantamweight Nonito Donaire at #15. He’s gone, and I’m sure there will be some shrieking about this one. Donaire has all the talent in the world, and I like him very much. But I place an emphasis on quality wins, especially recent ones, and Donaire has a grand total of one marquee opponent on his resume and hasn’t done anything all that impressive in three years since scoring it, with the anniversary of that big win coming since the last update of this list. In July of 2007, Donaire fought Vic Darchinyan and destroyed him, which put him on the map. From July of 2007 to July of 2008, he had one win over a borderline top-10 flyweight whom Darchinyan had knocked out the year before. From July of 2008 to July of 2009, he had a win over a borderline top-10 flyweight and a flyweight prospect. From July of 2009 to July of 2010, he had a win over an unranked, over the weight limit 115-pounder, a blown up strawweight and a blown up flyweight. Some of those wins were good wins, and, paired with the Darchinyan win, were enough to push him up high on some people’s lists. But it’s been, literally, three years.

That said, if Donaire ever fights Fernando Montiel and wins, I think he goes right into the top 10, because that would be a recent win that, when paired with talent and previous resume, would be impressive.

Now, on to who’s on the list, which includes some new additions. As usual, the emphasis is on quality wins, with an emphasis on recent activity.

1. Manny Pacquiao, junior middleweight

Pacquiao’s so far ahead of everyone outside of Floyd Mayweather that he can afford to fight someone like Antonio Margarito, unranked in any division after a trio of events you can describe thusly: knockout loss, long layoff, lackluster win. There’s no threat of anyone superseding him before the next update. Unless…

2. Floyd Mayweather, Jr., welterweight

…That alleged fight in Dubai that’s supposed to be announced soon would pit Mayweather against Paul Williams or Sergio Martinez in October, and Mayweather gets the W. It won’t happen. Mayweather’s biggest fight now is with how mediocre a presence he can be on Twitter, or perhaps disobedient kids in his Life Skills Class.

3. Paul Williams, junior middleweight

Because he’s not likely to fight Martinez until Nov. 20 at the earliest, Williams is likely to stay put at #3 his damn self. Hey, the list is about to get less boring!:

4. Juan Manuel Marquez, lightweight

Marquez jumped from #7 to here because, while his July rematch opponent Juan Diaz showed he had a lot of miles on his odometer, Marquez exhibited signs that he was not any worse than before his pasting at the hands of Mayweather in 2009. Even adjusted for Diaz, Marquez looked masterful. I had Marquez at #2 prior to that Mayweather loss. Looking like his old self, and beating a lightweight in Diaz who still would have beaten a number of top lightweights that night, suggested the need for a promotion.

5. Shane Mosley, welterweight

Yeah, he still feels a touch high to me. But don’t forget he had Mayweather rocked like he never had been before in a fight where Mosley was rusty. His resume is such that he gets the benefit of the doubt for a while longer. He’s due to fight Sergio Mora Sept. 18. Winning gets him next to nothing, as Mora, while tricky, has accomplished very little of note. Losing gets Mosley evicted from the top 20 altogether.

6. Wladimir Klitschko, heavyweight

Had Klitschko’s original opponent, top-5 heavyweight Alexander Povetkin, stayed put for their Sept. 11 bout, he’d be in position to climb a spot or two. Replacement opponent Samuel Peter, unranked in the division’s top 10 by Ring magazine, doesn’t really help his cause, unless maybe Klitschko demolishes him swiftly. Then I’ll think about it.

7. Sergio Martinez, middleweight

See Williams, above.

8. Timothy Bradley, junior welterweight

Bradley won’t fight until January, it looks like. His opponent would be Devon Alexander, and that’s great, but it’s far away.

9. Andre Ward, super middleweight

Ward’s Super Six tournament bout with Andre Dirrell, which had been pencilled in for October, if I recall correctly, is nowhere to be seen or heard from. It would have been a nice chance for Ward to further cement his pound-for-pound credentials for the next update.

10. Miguel Cotto, junior middleweight

Cotto won’t fight until December, and even then it’ll be against Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., which could be a nice attraction and decent brawl but doesn’t amount to much of a notch on Cotto’s belt.

11. Juan Manuel Lopez, featherweight

Lopez-Rafael Marquez was going to happen in September, but it got postponed because of a Marquez injury. Lopez as such can’t climb the charts until after November, the date of the rescheduled fight — and beating Marquez could be worth a spot’s worth of movement.

12. Fernando Montiel, bantamweight

Ah, here’s Billboard’s Biggest Jump. I had Montiel at #20, but he gained four spots merely by the departure of others. The rest was the result of his dominant, swift knockout win of Rafael Concepcion in July. Now, Concepcion isn’t a major player, but he’s given hell to both Donaire and Jorge Arce, and Montiel went through him like he hardly existed. He was absolutely fantastic, per his recent form. Since I arguably had Montiel too low, I’m using this as an opportunity to make a slight market correction, while I’m at it. As for what’s next: I’m not sure what happened to the idea of Montiel fighting Cristian Mijares in September, but it was a virtually irrelevant fight anyway. What everyone in their right mind wants is Montiel-Donaire, which Top Rank Promotions has been teasing us with forever and is talking about happening in November or December but that I doubt will ever happen.

13. Celestino Caballero, featherweight

The rumored opponents for Caballero in a fall bout, possibly in October, are numerous. You hear names like Ricardo Cordoba and Jorge Solis, both of which are decent, acceptable and even good opponents, but probably not the kind of opponents who push Caballero up much if at all.

14. Vitali Klitschko, heavyweight

Klitschko benefits from the same departures as some others, and from Adamek’s drop. Beating Shannon Briggs Oct. 16 is quite the unimpressive feat. He’s had a lame year, some of it no fault of his own, after a stellar 2009 campaign. If things don’t change by early 2011, I’d expect him to drop some on this particular list.

15. Tomasz Adamek, heavyweight

Since around this time last year — the last year being a key period of evaluation for a boxer to drop even if he’s winning — Adamek has been very busy, but to sometimes poor results. He beat club fighter Bobby Gunn at cruiserweight, then moved to heavy to beat faded Andrew Golota, decent Jason Estrada, top-10 ranked Chris Arrreola and over-the-hill Michael Grant. In the latter three wins, he didn’t look tremendous. Thus, he drops one spot. Really, he’d drop more if not for the fact that he’s still got some fumes in his cruiserweight reign, and if there was someone so obviously better beneath him that a drop was the only answer.

16. Andre Dirrell, super middleweight

It’s getting trickier as we race toward the bottom, with so many slots opening up. Earlier this year Dirrell beat Arthur Abraham, then in my top-10 pound-for-pound, and he lost officially to top divisional foe Carl Froch the year before. It’s my opinion that he beat Froch, though, which, a la Martinez’ climb after beating Kelly Pavlik, had a cumulative effect on his ranking. With some people dropping out recently, Dirrell seems as good a choice as any to me to enter the top 20. For his next opponent, see Ward, above.

17. Arthur Abraham, super middleweight

I wondered whether I should have dropped Abraham as far as I did to begin with, so he’s back now, right behind the man who recently deposed him. If he beats Froch Oct. 2, he probably climbs considerably. If Froch beats Abraham, Froch probably climbs considerably himself. Consider Froch’s resume: wins over Jean Pascal, a still-viable Jermain Taylor and Dirrell, plus a close loss to Mikkel Kessler. I’d expect the winner of Abraham-Froch to crack the top 15 at least.

18. Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, flyweight

Wonjongkam takes the next-to-last newly-available spot, with the slight nod in his direction coming by virtue of him taking the division’s true, lineal Ring championship in March. I don’t expect him to stay long, though. Thai boxers sometimes go long stretches fighting street urchins, with Wonjongkam fighting one such opponent in July and another in October. Wonjongkam is extremely vulnerable to being deposed.

19. Vic Darchinyan, bantamweight

By virtue of departures, Darchinyan now feels a bit higher than he should be, too. I left him at 19 and allowed others to climb over him via the test of what each has done in their last year. Darchinyan has a loss and wins over three so-so-fighters, and in some of them he was said not to look so hot. I’m sure I’ll hear gripes about Darchinyan outranking the man who beat him, Donaire, because I got a lot of them back when I had it that way. But if I can remind you again, that was THREE YEARS AGO. Darchinyan’s unlikely to fight again until December, and his opponent — Abner Mares — is a dangerous one, offering nice advancement or banishment depending on the outcome.

20. Jean Pascal, light heavyweight

This last spot was exceptionally hard. The biggest problem I had with picking Pascal over nearby 168-pounders Froch or Kessler is that Froch beat Pascal and Kessler beat Froch. But, I went with Pascal for a few reasons: 1. The distance between Pascal and Froch in their fight was minimal; 2. Pascal beat someone in Dawson ranked higher than them all, and his wins over Adrian Diaconu are nice, too; 3. Pascal claimed a lineal title with his win, good for an extra nudge; 4. Due to injury, Kessler will, without question, be on the sidelines for at least a year since his last fight, so why rank him? Anyway, Pascal won’t fight again until December, when Bernard Hopkins could give him a slight boost or a swift booting — if someone else doesn’t overtake Pascal first.


Honorable mentions: Giovanni Segura, Ivan Calderon, Chris John, Nonito Donaire, Bernard Hopkins, Chad Dawson, Lucian Bute, Mikkel Kessler, Carl Froch, David Haye, Hozumi Hasegawa, Kelly Pavlik, Yuriorkis Gamboa, Devon Alexander

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.