Pound-For-Pound Top 20 Boxers Update, 5/12

There was nothing easy about this update of our pound-for-pound list, p4p lists being a concept aimed at determining the world’s best fighters regardless of weight class — and a harmless exercise that isn’t responsible, no matter what HBO’s Jim Lampley said in the debut episode of “The Fight Game,” for making boxers avoid the risk of losing.

(Aside: Every single person on this list took big risks to get to where they are. More commonly, boxing promoters blame HBO itself for fighters avoiding the risk of losing, a not 100 percent accurate claim based on HBO’s record of bringing back fighters with losses, but one more accurate than Lampley’s remarks. This was one of many wild-seeming remarks on Lampley’s new show, which listed Mayweather as the most Arturo Gatti-like of all current boxers, and had Max Kellerman saying Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao was closer than ever, and so forth. I am fine with the concept of this show. The debut episode’s execution had some problems.)

What made it difficult is that for so long, Mayweather and Pacquiao have been neck and neck for the top spot, and I had to decide if May 5 was the moment Mayweather overtook him. I had to figure out what to do with Miguel Cotto, who fought Mayweather extremely well but ultimately lost. And I had to figure out how to handle Lamont Peterson, who recently tested positive for a banned substance that he used prior to the win that got him on the list.

In the end, Peterson drops out — he was only my #20, and if he’s somehow vindicated, we can see about restoring him, but I’m dubious of his defense. Cotto moves up. And we have a new #1. (Plus some other moves.)

As always, the predominant criteria is record against top competition, with an emphasis on more recent times. Other criteria for determining eligibility include inactivity, the “eyeball test,” and a few other minor things. This is the prior update.

1. Floyd Mayweather (welterweight)

As one of those rare cats who scored Mayweather-Cotto a draw — don’t forget, two major boxing writers actually scored it a win for Cotto! — I wrestled mightily with what to do here. But as much as I thought Mayweather struggled with Cotto, the “emphasis on recent form” comes into play. Mayweather moved up in weight and, in the minds of most, clearly won; Pacquiao, in his most recent fight, was facing an opponent moving up in weight and many if not most thought he lost. And Mayweather has overall fought and beat the better competition in the last three years. So, for now, Mayweather takes the top spot from Pacquiao. It might be a short-lived stay, however.

2. Manny Pacquiao (welterweight)

Pacquiao’s struggles with Juan Manuel Marquez were part of the reason Mayweather moved up. If Pacquiao beats Timothy Bradley next month, he’ll have a win over a very good opponent that very well could be enough to take back the #1 spot from Mayweather. Yes, Bradley’s moving up in weight, but he figures as a very dangerous and accomplished man for Pacquiao to face. If Pacquiao struggles to beat him, or there are serious questions about whether he deserved the win, he might stick at #2 for a while longer. And if he loses, well, that would be massive and we’ll worry about it later.

3. Juan Manuel Marquez (junior welterweight)

Marquez wasn’t flawless in his performance since the last update against Serhiy Fedchenko, but he won handily and nobody beneath him has done enough to challenge his status in the meantime. Next up could be someone like Brandon Rios, Zab Judah or Mercito Gesta in July, who would help his p4p status in approximately that order — but right now it’s really just padding the gap between #3 and #4, because only a Pacquiao loss in June would bump Marquez up a spot.

4. Andre Ward (super middleweight)

I’m a big Ward fan, but I’m confounded by what he’s doing lately. I understand taking time off with an injury, but why would Ward complain about Lucian Bute taking a fight against Carl Froch when Ward said he wouldn’t be interested in Bute until he proved himself against top competition? Was it the two-fight contract? I’ve never seen this clarified. Anyway, now there’s discussion about a fall match-up with Chad Dawson, a fight that would definitely boost the winner’s p4p stock and could be for the title of “best young American boxer,” but one that is unlikely to win either major new fans.

5. Sergio Martinez (middleweight)

Martinez awaits the winner of Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. vs. Andy Lee in the fall, but I can’t help but wonder if the recent news about Chavez signing an agreement to face Martinez if he wins being simply another fake-out. Martinez vs. Chavez or Lee probably doesn’t vault Martinez anywhere in these standings, but it would be a nice win against arguably the top challenger to Martinez’ middleweight reign.

6. Nonito Donaire (junior featherweight)

Donaire likely won’t be doing anything before the next update at the end of June, as he is more likely to face Cristian Mijares in July. Fighting Mijares will do absolutely nothing for him p4p-wise, and instead will continue the trend in his career of fighting borderline-acceptable opponents for a year or more then facing one really good opponent. I’d like to see more from Nonito, but this is who he is, apparently.

7. Chad Dawson (light heavyweight)

Dawson is one of the list’s climbers, having now solidly defeated Bernard Hopkins in an April rematch of their earlier inconclusive meeting. You can file it under Dawson’s list of old-men conquests, and that’s fair, but I think you also have to acknowledge that Dawson was the first man to beat Hopkins cleanly in a couple decades.

8. Wladimir Klitschko (heavyweight)

Sustained heavyweight dominance put Klitschko here, with David Haye the only opponent on his list of victories who’s ever come close to sniffing p4p status. In March, he easily dispatched Jean Marc Mormeck, himself an extreme symbol of the lack of competitive heavyweights. He’ll probably never leave the top 10 until he loses, but he’ll also be bounced around from time to time as others beat top competition. Up next is a Tony Thompson rematch in July.

9. Vitali Klitschko (heavyweight)

There’s nothing on the calendar for Vitali, and he’s lately talked of retirement. I might think he would’ve beaten his brother in their respective primes (Wlad is probably still in his) but Wlad has just done more in his career, thanks to Vitali’s stretches of prolonged injury rehab.

10. Timothy Bradley (junior welterweight)

With Hopkins’ loss — I had him at #9 — any one of four people could’ve entered the top 10. I went with the man just behind Hopkins and Dawson last month, #11 Bradley. His overall resume is very good, although he hasn’t faced anyone top notch since January of last year and has had a really sparse schedule in the past nearly three years. I’m almost talking myself out of this.

11. Abner Mares (junior featherweight)

Mares has had one of the most brutal schedules in boxing for several years now, and has seemingly bucked his trend of narrow escapes, or, in the case of the draw against Yonnhy Perez, narrow draws. I don’t give him a world of credit for beating Eric Morel at a catchweight in April, but that was an inspired version of Morel and it was a really solid win.

12. Anselmo Moreno (bantamweight)

Based on a pure evaluation of physical abilities and skill, Moreno is tip-top. He had a series of close wins a few years ago but like Mares, seems to have bucked that trend with menacing, one-sided dismantlings of Vic Darchinyan last year and David De La Mora in April. He’s one of this update’s biggest climbers, but a meeting with Mares probably isn’t in the cards, in my estimation.

13. Miguel Cotto (junior middleweight)

How much credit does Cotto deserve for being competitive for stretches against the best two fighters in the world and of the past decade? This much, I figure, even if you can make an argument for #10. He did still lose the fights against Pacquiao and Mayweather, though. It’s now clear, anyway, that Cotto still has some elite-level boxing inside him, so loss or not, he deserves to be mentioned as a p4p top-10 style fighter.

14. Lucian Bute (super middleweight)

Talent-wise, Bute has always looked the package, especially since he got that rematch win over Librado Andrade. Now, on May 26, he’ll get the chance to beat the best opponent he’s ever faced — by far — in Carl Froch and win over those remaining skeptics who contend that his talent and his resume are far apart. A top-10 p4p berth is assured if he wins convincingly.

15. Yuriorkis Gamboa (featherweight)

If I docked people for bad career decisions, Gamboa would be off the list altogether. As it is, he was merely surpassed by the achievements of a few men who did things while he sat around in a promotional dispute with Top Rank that could stretch out indefinitely. If he’d faced and beaten Rios in April, he could be replacing Bradley right now.

16. Brian Viloria (flyweight)

At the last update, I wrote that if Viloria followed up on his big Giovani Segura win with a victory over Omar Nino Romero, it would be a sign that Viloria truly deserved to be a p4p fighter, rather than an erratic talent with bursts of quality victories peppered between mysterious losses who can only walk on the periphery of p4pness. That’s what he did last weekend, so here he is, up a couple spots.

17. Bernard Hopkins (light heavyweight)

Hopkins lost decisively to Dawson, but I also still think he’d beat most light heavies even at his age, plus he’s not far removed from a long career of fantastic wins, and as such retains a spot on this list. He will, however, be vulnerable to being bumped downward at this spot, should anyone beneath him do much of anything.

18. Carl Froch (super middleweight)

I’d had Froch in my p4p top 10 before a lot of people, and I’ve kept him in my top 20 despite the thorough defeat at the hands of Ward. But if he beats Bute, he’ll probably get broader p4p love than he ever has.

19. Brandon Rios (junior welterweight)

Richard Abril beat Rios, I thought, although it wasn’t as clear cut to me a robbery as some say. Still, it was good enough for him fall a few spots. Rios has never looked like a p4p fighter, but he’s always gotten the job done anyway. When he doesn’t get the job done, then, he gets docked.

20. Roman Gonzalez (junior flyweight)

This is the one people always think I’ve excluded, and now he’s here. He benefits from Peterson’s departure, and as well from yet another solid win, this one over Ramon Garcia Hilares, to make his top 20 debut.

Honorable mentions: Amir Khan; Lamont Peterson; Giovani Segura; Andre Dirrell; Mikkel Kessler; Orlando Salido; Juan Manuel Lopez; Erislandy Lara; Paul Williams; Chris John; Robert Guerrero; Toshiaki Nishioka; Devon Alexander; Pongsaklek Wonjongkam

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.