Pound-For-Pound Top 20 Boxers Update, 3/11

Neither rain nor sleet nor hurricanes nor typhoons can prevent the delivery of the TQBR pound-for-pound top 20 update. Nor can the fact that there were only a couple fights that mattered for P4P purposes: Nonito Donaire vs. Fernando Montiel and Timothy Bradley vs. Devon Alexander. Although, hey, seven members of this top 10 are in fights over the next two months, and there are some guys on the periphery who could move in and shake things up in March and April.

By the way, for those of you who hate pound-for-pound lists, you should know that TQBR is getting even more deeply involved in the art/science of them than merely these every-two-months updates. Mike Coppinger and myself are now on the Kevin Iole’s panel that decides his Yahoo! pound-for-pound top 10. And I still think that if you hate pound-for-pound lists, you are wrong. In fact, I’m going to go so far as declaring you satanic.

As usual, the primary standard for pound-for-pound contention around these parts is quality wins, with an emphasis on recent competition; other supplementary standards include the so-called eyeball test, whether the boxer has taken on any quality opponents (or even any opponents) over the last year, career-long resume, etc.

1. Manny Pacquiao, welterweight

Same old story with Pacquiao — nobody is threatening his standing as the pound-for-pound king. So secure is he that he can fight relatively unqualified opponents like Shane Mosley (in May) and he still is miles past anybody else.

2. Floyd Mayweather, welterweight

If only Mayweather fought at all, maybe he could return to the #1 spot. Instead, he has more in common of late with Kim Kardashian and Lindsay Lohan than a professional boxer. Hey, he’s pals with Charlie Sheen! Hey, he had a birthday cake shaped like some dollar bills! If he doesn’t fight by May, and there’s no indication he will, he’ll be gone from this list by virtue of a year of inactivity.

3. Juan Manuel Marquez, lightweight

Here’s where things got a bit complicated. Donaire got consideration for the #3 slot, but I went with Marquez for his far, far longer resume. The draw with Pacquiao, the loss in the rematch that most people thought he won, the wins over Marco Antonio Barrera, Joel Casamayor, Juan Diaz and Michael Katsidis — I think that’s a better body of work. And he still looks like one of the best fighters in the world, doesn’t he? No word on what’s next, with him dropping out of an Erik Morales fight in hopes of getting Pacquiao later this year, but he could be challenged for the #3 spot soon by the more ambitious-sounding schedules of the two men just beneath him.

4. Sergio Martinez, middleweight

As impressive as Donaire’s resounding 2nd round stoppage of Montiel was, memories are short — Martinez just did the exact same thing a couple months ago to Paul Williams, the consensus #3 man in the sport at the time. Martinez belongs above Donaire, I think. The man he’s fighting next weekend, Sergiy Dzinziruk, is moving up from 154, but he’s arguably the most talented junior middle, so Martinez beating him could — could — push him above Marquez. Let’s see if he does it impressively and if Dzinziruk isn’t beaten merely by apparent size advantage.

5. Nonito Donaire, bantamweight

By the eyeball test, Donaire has long belonged in the pound-for-pound top 5. But aside from one very high quality win three years ago over Vic Darchinyan, his achievements haven’t matched his talent. Now they’re catching up. Donaire moved up in weight and absolutely crushed a top-10 guy in the world last month. And there’s at least a strong chance he’ll keep taking on world-class opponents; most indicators point to Donaire facing Anselmo Moreno next in May, unless Moreno signs with Golden Boy — with whom Donaire’s promoter Top Rank refuses to do business. Donaire could be at #3 soon enough if he takes on and beats that caliber of opponent next.

6. Timothy Bradley, junior welterweight

His win over Alexander in January was ugly, to be sure. But it’s hard to deny Bradley’s domination of 140, which got him back into the top 10 here. He’s beaten a pretty long list of top-10 and borderline top-10 junior welters, having added the #2 or #3 man — depending on your view — by comprehensively defeating Alexander. Bradley-Amir Khan for all the marbles at 140 figures as one of the best fights in boxing right now, even if it might not be the world’s most entertaining bout, because you’re talking about two of the world’s best young talents deciding the world’s best boxer in one of the world’s best divisions. And all indicators is that it’s a go for later this year, perhaps July.

7. Wladimir Klitschko, heavyweight

The heavyweight champion was docked from the #5 spot by no fault of his own. It’s just that others have scored more impressive wins of late, because they have impressive opponents to beat who will face them. Klitschko’s was going to be fighting Derek Chisora in April — although that now looks to be canceled — simply because that’s about all who was available and willing, and at this point Klitschko is in this top 10 at all based on sustained ownership of his weak division. However, things could be changing soon. Talks with David Haye — a borderline top-20 pound-for-pound fighter — are heating up, and are hotter because of Klitschko-Chisora being canceled. And even if the rug is pulled out from us again on that one, Klitschko could be fighting Tomasz Adamek — a borderline top-20 pound-for-pound fighter later this year, too. Those are about the only two opponents who can move Klitschko up again.

8. Andre Ward, super middleweight

Ward gets Arthur Abraham in the semi-finals of the Super Six in May, and so badly has Abraham’s stock dropped that Ward beating Abraham might not do a good goddam for his pound-for-pound placement. We’ll see. But there are people beneath him who have more formidable opponents in the offing. Like, say, Carl Froch.

9. Carl Froch, super middleweight

Also in May, Froch faces Glen Johnson, who’s a more impressive scalp right now than Abraham — if Froch can get it, since most everybody who faces Johnson has trouble beating him if they do it at all. I still think Froch is criminally underappreciated out there. He has wins over Jean Pascal, Jermain Taylor, Andre Dirrell (however disputed) and Abraham, plus his one loss was a close one to Mikkel Kessler. Over the past two years, there is nobody who’s taken on competition that tough, let alone come out ahead.

10. Miguel Cotto, junior middleweight

Cotto is back in action next weekend against Ricardo Mayorga, who does absolutely nothing for him pound-for-poundwise. Yeah, OK, I probably have Cotto higher than I should. He’s due to be docked soon, not just because others are facing top opponents but because Cotto’s resume is aging — he has so, so many wins over top guys that I’ve been giving him a pass for his two losses, against Pacquiao and against a then-elite, untainted Antonio Margarito. But a good win over Yuri Foreman in a new division, a tough win over Joshua Clottey and an expected win over Mayorga are the highlights for the past two years, and that won’t be enough to keep him in good stead by the next update.

11. Juan Manuel Lopez, featherweight

Lopez faces Orlando Salido in April, and while Salido is a respectable enough opponent on one level, it’s teeth-gritting material in that Salido is coming off a loss to Yuriorkis Gamboa and Top Rank simply can’t muster the balls to put on Lopez-Gamboa — a fight that isn’t any bigger today than it was last year and won’t be any bigger tomorrow if Lopez beats Salido. Lopez’ refusal/unwillingness/inability to face an elite feather like Gamboa, Chris John or (until recently) Celestino Caballero limits his upward mobility, but Lopez could move up a spot by beating just because I have Cotto ranked too high.

12. Paul Williams, welterweight

Williams benefits from the Donaire-Montiel shakeup, nothing more. There’s talk of him fighting in April, but it’s reportedly more likely that he’ll be fighting in July. Williams’ team wants him to move to welter and go in tough despite his recent devastanting KO loss, the latter a brave, high-risk and possibly foolish move. But there are compelling young opponents for Williams at 147, among them Andre Berto (won’t happen because both are represented by Al Haymon and Al never ever ever puts his guys in against one another) and Mike Jones.

13. Vitali Klitschko, heavyweight

Klitschko will face his best opponent in almost two years when he takes on Odlanier Solis in March, which makes his dilemma his brother’s, only magnified. Vitali might be better than his brother, but because he won’t fight him we can’t know. Plus, Vitali hasn’t faced as many of the top heavies in recent years as has little brother. Solis is borderline top-10, but the only thing he really brings to Vitali is speed and the hope that Vitali’s balance between “looks like he’s one the decline” and “still has it” favors the former. Beating Solis can’t do much for Vitali’s P4P cred, if anything. Because of the peculiar deal the bros struck with Adamek, though, Vitali could land a fight with him later this year and therefore move up.

14. Giovani Segura, junior flyweight

Segura could be headed for the top 10 as soon as the next update, since he’s rematching with Ivan Calderon in April. Granted, Segura enters as the favorite, but beating Calderon twice would still make him potentially top-10 material when combined with Segura’s accumulating wins over the best guys in his division and a large number of fringe contenders, as well as him being the clear champeen. It’s always funny to me when a guy as crude as Segura gets into the P4P elite, but it goes to show that fighting the fights — not just how a boxer looks — is what makes the best.

15. Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, flyweight

For once, Wonjongkam doesn’t have an opponent booked, rare for the busy Thai boxer. I understand why some people have him higher than I do, but all he’s done for years is beat the talented but somewhat unproven Koki Kameda, beat the fringe-y Julio Cesar Miranda and struggle with Suriyan Sor Rungvisai; before that, it’s a draw and a loss to Daisuke Naito, and that takes us back to 2007. Everybody above him has taken on, and beaten, better opponents or more good opponents or both in the past four years. If Wonjongkam-Segura ever happens, and that’s the big idea — and were Wonjongkam to win — we would be looking at a very different story.

16. Bernard Hopkins, light heavyweight

By career achievement and by whom I think deserved a win in Hopkins-Jean Pascal last year, Hopkins is top-10 worthy. But I do put some stock into the actual Ws and Ls, so Hopkins is here for now. He’s got to be the favorite in a rematch, but you wonder if someday Hopkins’ age doesn’t catch up with him. We’ll find out in May. If it goes how I expect, B-Hop could be back in the top 10 he long inhabited.

17. Jean Pascal, light heavyweight

The skepticism of Pascal is somewhat warranted; he doesn’t look like much and was lucky to escape without defeats in his last two fights. But the facts remain that he legitimately beat then-P4P #3 or #4 Chad Dawson to claim the divisional championship, fought the legendary Hopkins tougher than a lot of people have, nearly beat current top-10 PFP Carl Froch and has two wins over then-top-10 light heavy Adrian Diaconu. That’s a pound-for-pound top-20 resume, to me, even if I think he’s not much longer for this list.

18. Chad Dawson, light heavyweight

There are those who believe Dawson’s P4P resume was built on beating old guys, but have I mentioned lately that he beat a not-old Adamek, too? He also very well might have been on his way to a stoppage win over Pascal before a head butt ended matters early. With new trainer Emmanuel Steward in his corner, he’ll face either Librado Andrade or Diaconu next on the Hopkins-Pascal II undercard, then is in line for the winner of that bout. Wins in those fights are a map for an upward climb.

19. Tomasz Adamek, heavyweight

Adamek is in line for a drop based on fighting a series of nobodies at heavy before and after beating Chris Arreola; he can only live off his cruiser and light heavy resume for a little longer, because his heavy resume is, um, light. Although Arreola is heavy. This paragraph got away from me. Let’s just keep going. With his last quality win in April of last year over Arreola, he’s due to fall based on my “what have you done in the last year?” standard. He fights Kevin McBride in April, just to give you a sense of things. What with honorable Khan, Gamboa and Bute fighting over the next two months, and what with the bantamweight tournament finale coming up, Adamek should soon be gone. Beating a Klitschko in the fall? That gets him back here lickety-split.

20. Fernando Montiel, bantamweight

Thus continues my tradition of not docking world-class boxers too much for losing — no matter how graphically — to other world-class guys. Cotto, Williams and Dawson are the prior such beneficiaries of that principle, and Montiel’s the latest. Losing to another world-class guy doesn’t make you un-world-class; it just makes you less so than the person who beat you. That said, Montiel’s in danger of falling out the bottom of the list just because of the Khan/Gamboa/Bute/bantam tourney business upon us.

Honorable mentions: Hozumi Hasegawa, David Haye, Lucian Bute, Shane Mosley, Chris John, Ivan Calderon, Mikkel Kessler, Andre Dirrell, Yuriorkis Gamboa, 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.