Pound-For-Pound Top 20 Boxers Update, 4/11

(Seemed appropriate, given how we get to arguing about pound-for-pound stuff. Via, and h/t to friend of the site Shae)

This update of TQBR’s pound-for-pound list marks the dismissal of Floyd Mayweather, Jr. from the top 20. As of the beginning of next week, he will have been inactive for one year, the arbitrary time period that triggers removal from all pound-for-pound consideration around these parts. This will surely upset his fans, but it’s simple, really. You can gamble and (allegedly) poke security guards in the face and even show up at boxing matches like Mayweather did a few weeks back or whatever else you want, but if you don’t fight, you aren’t one of the best fighters in the world.

Also, this update marks the dismissal of Juan Manuel Lopez and Tomasz Adamek. Lopez was just on the edge of the top 10, but he lost to a non-elite fighter this month and now has been dropped. If he gets a rematch with his conqueror, featherweight Orlando Salido, and wins, he’s likely to return. Adamek drops from the list for a severe lack of quality competition, with his latest win over Kevin freaking McBride this month. His only win that’s worth half a damn over the past year was against heavyweight Chris Arreola, and he barely beat him and beating Arreola isn’t that great a win anyway. You have to go back to 2008, when he was a cruiserweight, to find a win that’s worth a full damn, that being his defeat of Steve Cunningham. Adamek is in line for his own return to this list should he upset Vitali Klitschko later this year.

This all means three new names join the rankings. Find out which ones after the jump. First, a note on criteria: Quality wins, especially of recent vintage, are the most important factor in deciding pound-for-pound placement. Career achievement is also important; so are competitive showings in losses against top opposition as long as they are counterbalanced by some wins, too; so is the “eyeball test” of how much a fighter merely looks like one of the top boxers in the world. But actual achievement is worth more than perceived excellence, since perception can be so quickly erased when a boxer who looks good faces the best competition of his life and comes up short. Here is the previous update.

1. Manny Pacquiao, welterweight

Despite spending the last year-plus facing somewhat less than the best available competition — a trend that continues next weekend against Shane Mosley — Pacquiao has ruled the pound-for-pound list without much of a challenge from the #2 man. When Mayweather was on the list, his lack of activity meant he couldn’t catch Pacquiao. Now, with a new #2, he’s largely unthreatened for another reason. We’ll get to that in a split second. (Mosley isn’t the main reason: He’s a massive underdog.)

2. Sergio Martinez, middleweight

Martinez would have moved up this list even if Mayweather hadn’t departed. His comprehensive win over top junior middleweight Serhiy Dzinziruk — a difficult style problem that he defused with grace and power — was enough to edge him past the inactive Mayweather, when combined with their respective records over the past year or two. He’s got one problem in taking over the #1 spot, the one I said I’d explain: There aren’t that many fantastic opponents for Martinez at middleweight or junior middleweight who could push him over the top of anything Pacquiao is doing.

3. Juan Manuel Marquez, lightweight

The news on the Marquez front is as follows: He’s been offered a fall fight with Pacquiao, apparently at welterweight, as well as a junior welterweight bout with Zab Judah in July. It’s not clear which one he’ll take. If the Pacquiao bout is at welter, I’d just as well like to see him against Judah. Welterweight is just too high for Marquez, as he definitively proved in his one stop there; junior welterweight might or might not be too high. Beating Pac would obviously do him the most pound-for-pound favors, but he could still maybe climb with a win over Judah.

4. Nonito Donaire, bantamweight

I’ve already explained why I have Donaire at #4 rather than #3 and nothing’s changed since then. What’s in Donaire’s future is extremely uncertain. The good news is that if both sides have agreed to arbitration in their promotional feud over him, Top Rank or Golden Boy should be selected sooner rather than later as Donaire’s promoter going forward. Golden Boy probably ends in a lengthy bantam stay — Abner Mares, Joseph Agbeko, that kind of thing. Top Rank probably ends in a junior feather stopover and a feather bout against the likes of Yuriorkis Gamboa. Both are a gateway to pound-for-pound advancement.

5. Timothy Bradley, junior welterweight

As I mentioned last week, I sure hope Bradley is just playing tough in negotiations with Amir Khan for a bout July 23 by balking at what are favorable-sounding terms. Bradley-Khan is a major fight for both men, with a win providing the victor with the division’s lineal Ring Magazine championship belt. It would also be the best win of either man’s career.

6. Wladimir Klitschko, heavyweight

Things from #2 to #8 are fairly fluid through the summer, no? Klitschko, were he to beat David Haye in July, would be doing himself a really nice pound-for-pound “solid.” Haye still maintains pound-for-pound cache in some quarters, and he’s not entirely undeserving. Klitschko beating Haye would be the best win of a career of dominance over so-so heavyweights. I’m not saying it gets him to #2, but he could jump several spots.

7. Andre Ward, super middleweight

Ward’s chance at advancement comes sooner than anyone else after Pacquiao. At this phase of his career, Arthur Abraham’s scalp isn’t worth what it once was, but if Ward can take it impressively, maybe he inches up some. Plus, Abraham’s power makes him a real risk to Ward, since Ward once demonstrated difficulty taking punches, although that was long ago. Ward-Abraham comes May 14.

8. Carl Froch, super middleweight

Froch is the most underrated fighter in the sport, I’m afraid, and I speculate that it’s because he doesn’t “look” like a pound-for-pound fighter. In the last Yahoo! poll, he only got 2 points. If you go by achievement — wins over Jermain Taylor, Jean Pascal, Andre Dirrell and Abraham — then Froch is a top-10 guy. If you go by your eyes, he isn’t. When will the eyeballs finally catch up with the accomplishments? Maybe if Froch beats Glen Johnson June 4.

9. Giovani Segura, junior flyweight

Segura climbs a few spots as much because of what those ahead of him did or didn’t do — Lopez, for instance — as for his repeat knockout victory over Ivan Calderon. That didn’t hurt, of course. Calderon, a former pound-for-pound top-10 fighter, is surely not what he used to be, but he was undefeated prior to running into Segura last year. Now, after a second meeting with Segura this month, he’s 0-2 in his last two. Next for Segura: flyweight opponents, but which ones?

10. Vitali Klitschko, heavyweight

Vitali’s situation is very similar to Segura’s. Yes, he beat Odlanier Solis in March, but the victory was anything but a coronation — Solis was giving him problems, then Vitali legitimately decked him, then Solis retired with a torn-up knee. I suspect Vitali will be evicted from the top-10 by my next update, given the potential for movement just beneath him.

11. Miguel Cotto, junior middleweight

I’d warned that Cotto would get docked soon enough if he didn’t pick up the level of competition, but his decline was not as steep as I expected because of things like Mayweather and Lopez departing. In his March win over Ricardo Mayorga, he offered fuel for both his backers and his detractors. I’m more the former than the latter, but in the “what have you done in the last year” test, Cotto suffers — it’s wins over Mayorga and Yuri Foreman, and that’s it.

12. Paul Williams, junior middleweight

This feels too high compared to last time, but I’m not going to arbitrarily knock him down the list just cuz. Sooner or later — he’s due to fight an unnamed opponent in July — Williams will get a win that makes me feel better about it or he’ll lose. With Martinez once more proving he’s very, very awesome, the devastating KO loss hurts Williams’ standing a bit less anyway.

13. Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, flyweight

Wonjongkam got his latest “nothing” win in Thailand in March against a one-win, two-loss opponent, which is a pretty shameful thing for a veteran of 84 fights to be spending his time doing. His opponent before that was 0-2, and before that 1-3. I know some people have him higher, but I worry I have him too high. No matter: If he keeps it up against that level of competition, he’ll drop soon enough or get passed by someone doing something better, which is almost everyone.

14. Bernard Hopkins, light heavyweight

If old man Hopkins beats Jean Pascal May 21, he’s a strong candidate to return to the top five. He’ll have reclaimed the lineal light heavyweight championship and beaten an opponent who, like Froch, doesn’t look like a pound-for-pound guy but manages to get some things done. Maybe Pascal escaped two defeats in his last two bouts, but he showed he was good enough to hang with two much more highly-touted opponents. Hopkins’ career in toto would factor in, too.

15. Jean Pascal, light heavyweight

I spent a lot of Hopkins’ space talking about Pascal, so I’ll reverse it here. Were Pascal to beat Hopkins in the rematch, yeah, he’d be beating a 46-year-old man. But he’d be beating a legend, one who’s still fighting at a high level, and it might be enough to get him into the pound-for-pound top 10. Some people already have Hopkins in the top 10. It sounds odd, but Pascal in the top 10 could very well be defensible based on achievement.

16. Chad Dawson, light heavyweight

On the undercard of Hopkins-Pascal II, Dawson fights Adrian Diaconu, a bout that does little for Dawson in a pound-for-pound sense. A win, though, could get him a rematch with either a top-5 Hopkins or top-10 Pascal. That would get him very nearly back to his old spot in the top five his damn self. (Like several men on this list, Dawson has climbed through no doing of his own — everybody shifted upward with some evictions.)

17. Amir Khan, junior welterweight

The first of our newbies. No, Khan didn’t look so hot beating Paul McCloskey this month. But he remains one of the sport’s best pure talents, and has wins over two of his deep division’s toughest outs: Marcos Maidana and Andriy Kotelnik. Maybe you diminish the Maidana win in the aftermath of Maidana-Erik Morales, but I don’t. Throw in a few other wins — Paulie Malignaggi, tops among them — and I think Khan is a pound-for-pound top 20 fighter.

18. Yuriorkis Gamboa, featherweight

This one is all about looks. Even as one of the top proponents of YURIORKIS GAMBOA!, I was dismayed that he cracked Yahoo’s top 10. His best win is over Jorge Solis in March, which is the worst top win on this whole list. That said, with spots opening up, there was surprisingly little competition, and I gave some extra weight to Gamboa’s performance against Solis, where he put it all together. Next on his to-do list for p4p excellence: beating an elite opponent.

19. Lucian Bute, super middleweight

Bute’s career-best win, over Librado Andrade, is the second worst career-best win on this entire list. Again, if you go by looks alone, Bute belongs higher. That’s not me. That said, he does have an array of wins over fringe super middleweight contenders, and by every sensory measure, he is the goods. Numbers 17-19 were pretty hard for me to delineate, but Khan’s best wins trumped Gamboa’s and Gamboa’s looks trumped Bute’s. (Bute beat Brian Magee in March.) 

20. Fernando Montiel, bantamweight

I thought Montiel would be gone by now, but he hangs on almost by default. Adamek’s departure was the main thing that kept him on the list. We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of his demolition of Hozumi Hasegawa, which combined with his hot streak prior to the Donaire loss is enough that I don’t feel bad leaving him on the list.

Honorable mentions: Floyd Mayweather, Tomasz Adamek, David Haye, Juan Manuel Lopez, Abner Mares, Joseph Agbeko, Shane Mosley, Chris John, Mikkel Kessler

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.