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Monday, May 4, 2009

Any Questions? - BoxingScene’s New Pound for Pound Top Ten

Since the retirement of Joe Calzaghe, there had been little reason to revisit the sport’s ten best fighters but a series of events and milestones have shaken up the picture in ways which can appeal to any fight fan.

On Saturday, May 2nd, former multi-division World Champion Floyd Mayweather announced he will be returning to the ring in July for a showdown with reigning World Lightweight king Juan Manuel Marquez. On the evening of the same date, the sports best active fighter made clear who the winner of Mayweather-Marquez should be gunning for. Both of these events have an impact on the new ratings.

Also impacting the new ratings are a pair of absences. The two titans of the Jr. Featherweight class, World Champion Israel Vazquez and former champion Rafael Marquez, have been inactive since their epic third fight on March 1 of last year. Marquez has imminent plans to return; Vazquez does not as yet and is therefore removed from this latest list. When his plans become clear, he will of course be reconsidered.

Their exit makes room for a new if familiar face which you’ll find in these new Boxing Scene Pound for Pound ratings.

1) Manny Pacquiao (49-3-2, 37 KO’S)

Age: 30

Current Titles: World Junior Welterweight (140 lbs.)

Career Titles: World Flyweight/112 lb. champion (1998-99); World Featherweight/126 lb. champion (2003-2005); World Jr. Lightweight/130 lb. champion (2008); additional alphabelts at 112, 122, 130, and 135 lbs.

Last Five Opponents: Ricky Hatton, Oscar De La Hoya, David Diaz, Juan Manuel Marquez, Marco Antonio Barrera

Next Opponent: TBA

The Take: The boxing world might run out of adjectives before it’s over, but it will go down swinging. The idea of Pacquiao as the sports best fighter started to be realistic in 2006 but it took until Mayweather’s now ended sabbatical to fully center attention on what has truly become the best boxing story in years. On May 2, the sport gave witness to a fighter who can now say he won both the World Flyweight and World Jr. Welterweight crowns with a single shot. It’s astounding stuff. Over the last decade plus, since the decline of Pernell Whitaker, the sport has seen pound-for-pound ratings become largely over emphasized, made into a marketing tool for incredibly talented but cautiously maneuvered athletes who sometimes gave the impression they were more interested in not losing than in finding out how great they could be. Pacquiao is different, homage to the eras when greatness was solidified through a combination of accomplishment and the audacity of risk the greatest fighters were willing to take. Pacquiao may or may not go on to defeat men like Mayweather, Shane Mosley, or Miguel Cotto; the odds should still be against it because despite the euphoria of recent encounters, size in skilled fighters still does matter. There is little doubt that he will try at least some of those names and that’s what matters. It would take an even longer step back in history than Whitaker, a step back to the career of Roberto Duran, to find a fighter reaching as far to maximize his talents and it is with the Duran’s and Henry Armstrong’s of history that Pacquiao will dare to compete with from here on out.

2) Juan Manuel Marquez (50-4-1, 37 KO)

Age: 35

Current Title: World Lightweight/135 lb. Champion (2008-Present)

Career Titles: Alphabet titles at 126, 130 lbs.

Last Five Opponents: Juan Diaz, Joel Casamayor, Manny Pacquiao, Rocky Juarez, Marco Antonio Barrera

Next Opponent: July 16, 2009 vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr. (39-0, 25 KO)

The Take: After a better fight than anyone expected, resulting in a knockout win of Joel Casamayor for the Lightweight crown, one could wonder if we’d seen a last great outing from two aging classics. Then Marquez won what remains so far the best fight of 2009 against Juan Diaz in March, giving up a decade on the calendar and enduring serious fire early. Beginning with his tough win over his fellow Mexican great Barrera, maybe even beginning when he was heisted on the cards against Chris John in 2006 at Featherweight, Marquez has been on a tear which took him from acknowledged ‘very good’ fighter to imminent Hall of Fame entrant. Now he’s about to be compensated for those accomplishments with a showdown against the returning Mayweather. If Mayweather were returning from multiple years off, if photos had shown him getting fat, then perhaps this wouldn’t be as intriguing. Clearly Mayweather has taken care of himself as he waited for the perfect time to return to the game which means Marquez will get the best of him in a dangerous fight. Like Pacquiao, he is reaching beyond what the scale says should be his grasp and is in almost a no-lose situation. Short of a blowout loss, he could come out of the fight elevated regardless of the outcome.

3) Floyd Mayweather (39-0, 25 KO)

Age: 32

Current Title: None

Career Titles: World Jr. Lightweight champion (1998-2001); World Lightweight champion (2002-04); World Welterweight/147 lbs. (2007-09); additional alphabelts at 130, 135, 140, 147 & 154 lbs.

Last Five Opponents: Ricky Hatton, Oscar De La Hoya, Carlos Baldomir, Zab Judah, Sharmba Mitchell

Up Next: July 16, 2009 vs. Juan Manuel Marquez (50-4-1, 37 KO)

My Take: There will be some wondering what Mayweather is doing back in the ratings before he’s even had a fight. The answer is simple: he’s Floyd Mayweather and he signed a contract. That makes him active enough and given the propensity of fighters to take long layoffs at the star level these days as well as what is already known of Mayweather, it’s enough to assume he’s still at least almost as good as he was before his vacation (c’mon, was anyone stupid enough to think he was really ‘retired?’). It’s just not enough to move him higher given what Pacquiao and Marquez have been up to. There has been some early criticism of his decision to take on the naturally smaller Marquez but why? Since when is the former Lightweight champ taking on the current Lightweight champ a bad thing? While Mayweather against Shane Mosley at Welterweight would be easier to anticipate, Marquez will be motivated and there to win. Mayweather could have his hands full. If he does not, it will be because he hasn’t lost the fastball which guided him to greatness over Diego Corrales, Jose Luis Castillo and Oscar De La Hoya over the years and the drumbeat to the best pound-for-pound showdown in a generation can begin.

4) Bernard Hopkins (49-5-1, 32 KO)

Age: 44 Years Young

Current Title: None

Career Titles: Ring Light Heavyweight/175 lb. titlist (2006-2008); World Middleweight/160 lb. Champion (2001-2005); Alphabelt titles at 160 lbs. from 1995-2005

Last Five Opponents: Kelly Pavlik, Joe Calzaghe, Winky Wright, Antonio Tarver, Jermain Taylor (twice)

Next Opponent: TBA

The Take: There were some dull performances from Hopkins in recent years, performances that made him look like his age was catching up to him as defense came too often before offense. The win over Pavlik was the opposite, Hopkins best performance since the Trinidad fight and, all things considered, perhaps even better than that gem. Given the proof that Hopkins is still capable of fighting at the level he showed against Pavlik, and given the retirement of his most recent conqueror in Calzaghe, there is no way he can rest anywhere else amongst the world’s best fighters than near the top. Consider this as well in appreciating Hopkins: all of his last four foes were near universally rated in the top ten’s that populate Boxing going into their bouts with Hopkins. The losses to Taylor were both highly controversial and the wins over Tarver and Wright were not close. Furthermore, they can’t be viewed as performances from an ‘old’ fighter anymore…at least not in the normal context of ‘old.’ The win over Pavlik, particularly the sheer dominance of it, casts Hopkins recent run in a whole new light and provides compelling evidence that, at 44, he’s still an active all-time great rather a historical one and he gets full credit for the distinction. He looks certain to fight again this year but against who is wildly in the air. Regardless, anyone who loves the sweet science will be there in rapt attention, ready to learn from the professor.

5) Shane Mosley (46-5, 39 KO)

Age: 37

Current Title: WBA Welterweight

Career Titles: World Welterweight (2000-02); World Junior Middleweight (2003-04); Additional Alphabelt at Lightweight

Last Five Opponents: Antonio Margarito, Ricardo Mayorga, Miguel Cotto, Luis Collazo, Fernando Vargas (twice)

Next Opponent: TBA

The Take: At the tail end of the post-fight press conference for Pacquiao-Hatton, Mosley can be heard calling Pacquiao out more than once. He wants the fight but, as has been too often the case for Mosley, he rests in line behind men who promise bigger ticket sales. It’s too bad. While he can’t quite claim to be the undisputed king of the class following his humbling of Antonio Margarito (though the Cyber Boxing Zone has installed him as such in their online encyclopedia), there can be no doubt he reigns again as “The Man” seven years after losing the Welterweight title to Vernon Forrest. Sure, he lost narrowly to Miguel Cotto in 2007 but there were arguments for both men. Mosley never even let Margarito make a case. Like another great Sugar at the same calendar age, Ray Robinson, Mosley showed the ability to handle a younger pressure fighter and summon youth from an aging body for victory. Margarito may not have been Carmen Basilio, but he had never been made to look the way Mosley left him, loaded gloves or no. Add to that a powerful run of recent competition and Mosley figures prominently amongst boxing’s best. With Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum already hinting that Pacquiao could be aimed at Miguel Cotto rather than Mayweather in the immediate future, Mosley could end up the only viable foe for “Money” if Mayweather out duels Marquez. Mosley-Mayweather is a battle over a decade in the making and would be no one’s consolation prize.

6) Ivan Calderon (32-0, 6 KO)

Age: 34

Current Title: World Jr. Flyweight/108 lb. Champion (2007-Present)

Career Titles: Additional alphabelts at 105 & 108 lbs.

Last Five Opponents: Hugo Cazares (twice), Nelson Dieppa, Juan Esquer, Ronald Barrera, Jose Luis Varela

Next Opponent: June 13, 2009 vs. Rodel Mayol (25-3, 19 KO)

The Take: You’ll read from many a knowledgeable scribe that this diminutive Puerto Rican champion ‘might be the best pure boxer in the sport.’ Calderon can do it all in the ring short of knock opponents dead, making his inability to lose thus far all the more remarkable. His game is all skill with just enough thrill (usually) to make his fights worth watching; this is no Sven Ottke. After years as the uncrowned king at 105 lbs., Calderon outboxed and outgutted a much larger (at the opening bell) Cazares in August 2007 to cement his foothold among the game’s elite by capturing the World title at 108 lbs. The similarly small Ricardo Lopez was marvelously underrated for years of his prime; no need to make that mistake twice with Calderon facing the near end of his. Over the last year, it appeared his biggest challenge could come from Ulises Solis but the rousing upset of Solis by former titlist and U.S. Olympian Brian Viloria for the WBC belt has changed the state of the class. If Calderon gets by the rugged Rodel Mayol, and he should, Calderon-Viloria is the biggest money fight at 108 lbs. in a long time.

7) Paul Williams (37-1, 27 KO)

Age: 27

Current Title: None

Career Titles: Two alphabelt reigns at Welterweight

Last Five Opponents: Winky Wright, Verno Phillips, Andy Kolle, Carlos Quintana (twice), Antonio Margarito, Santos Pakau

Next Opponent: TBA

The Take: For twenty years, the only way Verno Phillips missed a final bell was if he sent his opponent home early. In other words, Williams’ stoppage of Phillips in November 2008 was an impressive feat. Had Phillips not had to vacate his IBF belt at 154 lbs., it also would have been the start of his third major title reign in his second division. Add to that a tough win over Margarito in July 2007 and a first-loss avenging first round blasting of Quintana and Boxing fans could see in Williams a potentially special fighter. Then he went out and won every round against a probable future Hall of famer in Wright in April of this year and it was clear we may be watching the best fighter in the world even if we don’t know it yet. Long layoff prior to the bout or not, Wright still looked good in the ring. It just didn’t matter. At 6’1 with speed, power and an off the charts work rate, Williams figures to be a tough out for anyone from Welterweight to Middleweight and that’s why he’s in a bind to get a serious fight in any of those classes. Contests with either of the world’s top two Middleweights, Kelly Pavlik and Arthur Abraham, would be high drama. Eighteen months from now, Williams versus Cuban defector Erislandy Lara could well be the best fight in boxing.

8) Chad Dawson (27-0, 17 KO)

Age: 26

Current Title: IBF Light Heavyweight

Career Titles: Another Alphabelt at 175

Last Five Opponents: Antonio Tarver, Glen Johnson, Epifanio Mendoza, Jesus Ruiz, Tomasz Adamek

Next Opponent: May 9, 2009 vs. Antonio Tarver (27-5, 19 KO)

The Take: This Light Heavyweight star in the making has put together an impressive run since toppling veteran Eric Harding in 2006. His win over Adamek was almost bell to bell control; Adamek has since established himself as the best Cruiserweight in the world. Johnson and Tarver give him wins over two recent, popular choices for Light Heavyweight champion of the World. The Johnson bout in April 2008 could have gone either way but he survived a war and came out a better fighter for it, showing the improvements in handling a game Tarver last October. An endorsement from Floyd Mayweather as the sport’s best fighter while he was out may be premature, but Mayweather knows his Boxing. He sees something special. At this point, so should everyone else. The Tarver rematch is less than anticipated but it’s a classic trap fight and, interestingly, Tarver has never lost a rematch.

9) Miguel Cotto (33-1, 27 KO)

Age: 28

Current Title: WBO Welterweight

Career Titles: Alphabelt reigns at Jr. Welterweight & Welterweight

Last Five Opponents: Michael Jennings, Antonio Margarito, Alfonso Gomez, Shane Mosley, Zab Judah

Next Opponent: June 13, 2009 vs. Joshua Clottey (35-2, 20 KO)

He’s had the requisite ‘comeback soft but not too soft’ bout after his first defeat at the hands of Antonio Margarito in 2008 and the good news for fans was he still looked like Cotto. That could be bad news for the rest of the Welterweights. Cotto has amassed a remarkable body of work this decade, having faced eleven current or former major titlists since turning pro in 2001. Cotto has defeated ten of them and is the last man to defeat a Mosley. His lone loss must now be called to serious question in light of Margarito’s suspension for attempting to load his gloves and he follows walloping Jennings for a vacant WBO belt with one of the toughest outs he could ask for, Ghana’s Joshua Clottey. Clottey was recently forced to give up his IBF title or this would be a unification bout. It’s not but who cares? It promises to be a rough battle, meaning par for the course in an already loaded 2009.

10) Rafael Marquez (37-5, 33 KO)

Age: 34

Current Title: World Jr. Featherweight (2007)

Career Titles: Alphabelt Bantamweight/118 lbs.

Last Five Opponents: Israel Vasquez, Silence Mabuza, Ricardo Vargas, Mauricio Pastrana, Heriberto Ruiz

Next Opponent: May 23, 2009 vs. Jose Francisco Mendoza (21-2-2, 17 KO)

My Take: After three early career stoppage losses that might have doomed him to be just “Juan Manuel’s brother,” Marquez found his way into the ring in 2001 and 02 with American Flyweight great Mark Johnson. Johnson marked his first great rival and Marquez ended Johnson’s prime while emerging victorious in both those bouts. In 2003, he ended the run of another solid American, this one undefeated bantamweight Tim Austin, annexing the IBF belt at 118 lbs. in the process. Seven title defenses later, he stood out as one of the best Bantamweights to come around since the 1980s heyday of Jeff Chandler. His world title victory in the first Vasquez fight and the two subsequent losses put the icing on the cake. His has been a great career and it’s not over yet. His return after a long layoff will draw scrutiny as fans wonder what he brings to the table after the wars of 2007 and 2008. Given the long layoff, he drops just slightly to the ten spot.

Exiting the Ratings: Israel Vasquez (Previously #5)

Five More Who Could Easily Be Here: Vic Darchinyan, Fernando Montiel, Hozumi Hasegawa, Chris John, Nonito Donaire

Five More Who Could Be Here Shortly: Juan Manuel Lopez, Kelly Pavlik, Arthur Abraham, Mikkel Kessler, Celestino Caballero

As always, feel free to agree…and disagree. This list is for entertainment purposes only and based purely on imagination, hypotheticals and conjecture just like every other pound for pound list ever written. Neither it nor any other such list made up of such illusory ingredients should be used to forward corporate agendas of any kind.

That doesn’t make it any less fun to argue about.

Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at


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