This spot is reserved for some fighters who despite recent uneven performances, are steadily moving back towards championship form; the others are ones who have yet to be given a shot or have toiled in obscurity because of their recognizable skills but lack of economic viability.
With a bounce-back win or continued positive results, any of these fighters have the potential to crack the top 15.
Talent-wise, Caballero (36-4, 23 KO), 36, could crack the top 10, but as he approaches nearly a year of inactivity with no fight scheduled, the WBA “regular” featherweight champion has slipped into relative obscurity.
After consecutive losses to Jason Litzau and Jonathan Victor Barros, Caballero rebounded by defeating Barros in a rematch and defending his regular title against Satoshi Hosono. Caballero has the talent to be in and win a significant fight; he just needs to get active.
The 35-year-old Stevenson (18-1, 15 KO) is one of the most feared punchers in the super middleweight division. At this point, one of Stevenson’s biggest hindrances is finding a contender willing to fight him.
Since hooking up with trainer Emanuel Steward, Stevenson has scored two sickening knockouts in a row, and a win on October 12th over Don George will hopefully set him up for a significant fight or title shot.
A two-time Canadian Olympian and winner of “The Contender” boxing reality series, Ross (25-3, 16 KO), 37, has proven to be a skilled and powerful cruiserweight contender.
In his first bid for the IBF title, the former Canadian and Commonwealth champion knocked Steve Cunningham down but was stopped due to a nasty cut when Cunningham thumbed him in the eye.
In his last fight, Ross appeared to outpoint the heavily favored Yoan Pablo Hernandez after almost stopping the Cuban champion in a thrilling fight. Ross deserves an immediate rematch.
After losing to Lucian Bute by knockout, it appeared that Magee (36-4-1, 25 KO), 37, was finished as a viable contender.
However, two consecutive wins—including a thudding body-shot stoppage of Rudy Markussen—have secured Magee the interim WBA super middleweight and a shot against Mikkel Kessler for the vacant title. An upset win would propel Magee into the top 15.
The 36-year-old Zaveck holds the distinction of being Slovenia’s first ever world champion, a status he acquired by wresting the IBF welterweight title from Isaac Hlatshwayo in 2009.
After three defenses, Zaveck gave nearly as good as he got in a slugfest against Andre Berto where Zaveck was forced to abandon the fight due to obstructed vision.
A bounce-back win has garnered Zaveck the WBO Inter-Continental welterweight title; expect him to parlay this into an important fight soon.
Before consecutive losses to Giovani Segura, few things were as sure in boxing than Calderon (35-2-1, 6 KO), 37, winning a fight by lopsided unanimous decision.
A two-weight world champion, Calderon rode an unbeaten run that included 18 title-fight victories (and one draw) for almost a decade.
Now on the comeback trail, Calderon eked out a split decision over the obscure Felipe Rivas, though he is now positioned for a WBO 105-pound title shot. A win could resurrect his career.
Though he has lived in the shadows of older brother Juan Manuel Marquez’s success and fame, Rafael Marquez (41-7, 37 KO), 37, has been an excellent fighter in his own right.
His four-fight series with Israel Vazquez is legendary, though recent losses to Juan Manuel Lopez and Toshiaki Nishioka have stalled the two-weight champion’s career. Marquez, however, rebounded to stop Eric Aiken in the first round, and it shouldn’t be long before he lands a meaningful fight.
A Thai legend, Wonjongkam (87-4-2, 46 KO), 35, is a two-time WBC flyweight champion who made 17 defenses during his first historic reign.
After losing the championship to rival Daisuke Naito, Wonjongkam regained the title with a virtuoso win over Koki Kameda.
A few defenses followed before a stunning upset loss to Sonny Boy Jaro. Wonjongkam has won four in a row against obscure opposition, and it is now time for him to step back up in class.
After scoring a nice win over B.J. Flores, the 39-year-old Green (32-5, 28 KO) lost two consecutive fights to Antonio Tarver and Krzysztof Wlodarczyk in a bout where Green was ahead on the scorecards before getting stopped.
Green rebounded by halting the badly faded Danny Santiago, but an upcoming IBO cruiserweight clash against domestic rival Shane Cameron could lead to a big fight.
A former “Contender” participant, Soliman (42-11, 17 KO), 38, has not tasted defeat since 2008 when he lost a unanimous decision verdict to Anthony Mundine in a bid for the WBA super middleweight title.
Since then, Soliman has gone 7-0 with solid wins over Eromosele Albert and Giovanni Lorenzo in an IBF eliminator. The tricky Soliman, who gave Winky Wright all he could handle in 2005, has diligently moved into title contention.