(Floyd Mayweather re-enters the rankings on his "legal sucker punch.")
September and October had the potential to disturb these pound-for-pound rankings more than they did, but the onset of fall didn't do as much rumbling as anticipated. It didn't help that the Super Six finale got canceled and that there were some lackluster performances where nobody really separated themselves.
Nonetheless, there was some legitimate, if incremental, movement. The big debut comes from Floyd Mayweather, which forced out Brandon Rios. And I had to figure out how to handle the Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson controversy. I won't tell you how both those things affected the rankings because you've got to have a little mystery to entice you to read the rest. I showed you my ankle! You have to buy the cow if you want the rest of the ankle-milk! So read on.
As usual, my primary standard for pound-for-pound placement is quality wins, especially of recent vintage. Fighters inactive for a year are not eligible, and poor opposition over the past year can lead to downgrades. There's a dollop of the "eyeball test" thrown in there, where a boxer's evident talent can help his status -- but because a lot of talented-looking fighters lose when they step up their competition, it's better to see them prove how good they are rather than speculating based on how they fare against less-than-world-class opponents. The most recent update, for comparison's sake, is here.
1. Manny Pacquiao (welterweight)
Over at the Yahoo! poll, Pacquiao barely held off Mayweather, and I'm in the camp that believes Mayweather's most recent competition is better than Pacquiao's, so I get it. But Pacquiao still has the edge in career victories, and while Pacquiao's competition hasn't been great, it hasn't been totally horrendous. Until Pacquiao's opponents get even worse or Mayweather unexpectedly gets busier, it will be hard for Floyd to dislodge Manny. Or, if, somehow, Pacquiao loses his next fight in November.
2. Floyd Mayweather, Jr. (welterweight)
Believe it or not, I considered putting Mayweather lower than this. Mayweather has wins over Shane Mosley and Victor Ortiz -- in his last fight, in September -- in the same period where Martinez has wins over Kelly Pavlik, Paul Williams, Serhiy Dzinziruk and Darren Barker. I'm more impressed by the Martinez roster of recent wins. But Mayweather's two-fight run is very good, and he has a far longer resume than Martinez overall. Who knows when or if we'll see Floyd again; he's unreliably interested in being a boxer, and ever-present legal troubles hover over his head.
3. Sergio Martinez (middleweight)
Martinez was far from overwhelming against Barker this month -- some of it Martinez' fault, some of it Barker's -- but he ultimately got a win over a man in his division with top-10 talent, closing the show late in their bout with a knockout. The lackluster nature of his showing didn't help his argument for remaining at #2 upon Mayweather's return. But he was helped by another lackluster showing in not dipping further, which brings us to...
4. Nonito Donaire (bantamweight)
...Donaire wasn't stellar this weekend. We'll discuss his performance at length in a future blog post, but as with Martinez, at least some of it was the fault of his reluctant opponent, in Donaire's case Omar Narvaez. He gets some credit for beating the top junior bantamweight, but he didn't do anything to truly surpass Martinez in my book. Neither Martinez nor Donaire will have anything booked for a while, so their position is dependent until then on what others do.
5. Juan Manuel Marquez (junior welterweight)
And here's Pacquiao's November opponent, who's the lightweight champion but I have listed at junior welter because that's where he was for his last fight. Nothing has convinced me yet that Pacquiao won't blow him out, but should Marquez somehow win, I can picture Mayweather-Marquez-Pacquiao going 1-2-3. With a loss, Marquez has to get docked but can't be docked too much for fighting and losing two weight classes above his current one.
6. Wladimir Klitschko (heavyweight)
The heavyweight champ will be back in action before 2011 ends, but not in any way that will help his status. I can defend his December opponent, Jean Marc Mormeck, as a decent-money, stay-busy fight for a man coming off his most difficult fight in many years, but I can't defend him as a legitimate, respectable foe. As such, Klitschko could be lower by the final update of 2011. He benefited this time, actually, from the Dawson-Hopkins silliness.
7. Carl Froch (super middleweight)
On paper, October was going to be the month where my higher-than-most ranking of Froch was resolved as wise, or given cause for adjustment. But we'll have to wait to see whether Froch can beat Super Six tournament betting favorite Andre Ward in a fight rescheduled for December, owing to Ward suffering that cut.
8. Andre Ward (super middleweight)
When the fight happens, and if Ward wins as expected, I can see moving him up to #5 or even slightly higher, depending on how decisively he handles his business. Ward gets a lot done with me on the "eyeball test," because it's hard to imagine with that big toolbox of his how someone beats him. Froch, who's tough and tricky and an underrated athlete, is the biggest threat yet to the limits of my imagination.
9. Vitali Klitschko (heavyweight)
Vitali in September wiped out one of the last, best options for the Klitschko brothers at heavyweight, Tomasz Adamek. It wasn't even close. At his advanced age of 40, Klitschko has had performances that vary somewhat in their quality, but against Adamek, he was as good as he'd ever been. If Vitali and Wlad ever fought, and they won't, I'd pick Vitali. But Wlad has simply done more in the division, largely because of Vitali's long injury layoff.
10. Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (flyweight)
I've long maintained that people have gotten carried away in their praise of Pong, but he's slowly winning me over. His win this past weekend against Edgar Sosa was the latest installment: Sosa was only at #7 in The Ring's divisional rankings because of a strange, head-butt induced knockout loss that didn't count much against Sosa. He'll inevitably have five more fights next with some 0-1-1 opponents, so that doesn't burnish much, but if that Giovani Segura fight could happen, he'd have some high stakes P4P poker going.
11. Chad Dawson (light heavyweight)
I had Dawson at #17 before, and Hopkins at #5. This is them meeting almost exactly in the middle, with Dawson getting the slight edge because on his official record, it says he has a technical knockout win over Hopkins, no matter how much his lift-and-throw move to end the fight means it should be rendered a no contest. Furthermore, I think Dawson had all the edges early, although I can't say for sure he would've won because Hopkins is a notorious slow starter. Ultimately, these two rounds of weirdness don't prove much about either man, but I couldn't just leave people be with one person having an official "W" over the other. By the time of the next update, I could switch things back because a "no contest" shouldn't have much impact if any on one's ranking.
12. Bernard Hopkins (light heavyweight)
See Dawson, above.
13. Timothy Bradley (junior welterweight)
He's finally getting back into action next month, but it's against decrepit Joel Casamayor. For 2010 and 2011, he'll finish with that modest win over Luis Carlos Abregu, a quality win over a top divisional contender in Devon Alexander, and a likely crap win over Casamayor. The Alexander win gets him real mileage, but if anyone's due for a docking in early 2012, it'll be Bradley, who's already suffered in these rankings for his inactivity.
14. Giovani Segura (flyweight)
Segura helped himself a little in 2011 with a rematch victory over Ivan Calderon, but outside of that he's wasted his year. He doesn't have anything scheduled and talk of taking on, say, Brian Viloria or Julio Cesar Miranda or Roman Gonzalez or Pong has gone nowhere. It's too bad, because there are some good opponents for him out there and some exciting fights.
15. Amir Khan (junior welterweight)
Khan's one of the people here due to fight in December. His opponent, Lamont Peterson, is Ring's #6 140-pounder, and he figures as a semi-safe opponent, but a good enough one that with little separation between himself and some of the people just above him he could move up a smidge with a defeat of Peterson.
16. Yuriorkis Gamboa (featherweight)
YURIORKIS GAMBOA! has nothing scheduled. He's not even been rumored for anything. There's nothing all that amazing for him at 130, where he's talked about fighting, but there could be some wonderful competition for him if he sticks around 126 in 2012. If he wants to go back and forth until the featherweight options materialize, I could live with that.
17. Lucian Bute (super middleweight)
At long last Bute is fighting someone for whom there is the teensiest bit of uncertainty whether he'll win, a clash next month with Glen Johnson. On the eyeball test, Bute is top-10 material. But on resume alone, he's significantly overrated in most P4P lists, appearing above Froch too often. Against Johnson, he'll at last have a chance to get a higher-quality win than he has of late.
18. Miguel Cotto (junior middeweight)
It'll be hard to judge how much credit Cotto deserves for beating Antonio Margarito in December until and if he does it. We just don't know how much Margarito has left with that bad peeper of his, with him needing medical clearance rather late in the process. If Margarito looks good and Cotto doesn't look too faded, I can see the win helping him a smidge.
19. Fernando Montiel (junior featherweight)
There was some news recently about Montiel being cleared for a "fall return," but against whom is uncertain. I wouldn't expect anyone too terrific. Considering his hanging-by-a-thread status, he very well could be gone from this list by the close of 2011 unless something unexpected happens and some others drop off.
20. Abner Mares (bantamweight)
If all goes well, a Mares-Joseph Agbeko rematch in December will end with us knowing definitively who's better between the two. Mares has the edge on this P4P list for now, because he got the win the first time, however controversially. The winner of the second meeting should be very well-positioned for a nice jump, unless things are settled in a murky way.
Honorable mentions: Brandon Rios, Mikkel Kessler, Juan Manuel Lopez, Erislandy Lara, Paul Williams, Chris John, Robert Guerrero, Marcos Maidana, Joseph Agbeko, Orlando Salido, Andre Dirrell, Toshiaki Nishioka