I'm a sports fan who grew up in the United States, so I love football and baseball. As a product of northern New England, I follow my Patriots and Red Sox with devotion.
But deep down I've always been more drawn to the individual combat sports, both as a fan and a competitor. "Once you get out there, nobody can help you but you," one of my old wrestling coaches liked to say, when chiding us to push harder in the training room.
To me, the struggles of one-on-one competition represent the highest athletic drama.
And because of weight classes, the combat sports offer opportunity to all athletes, regardless of size. Even the smallest competitor has a chance to chase glory on even terms.
Still, even in boxing, the smallest fighters often get overlooked. It's a shame because there is plenty of great action taking place at 112 pounds and below.
Just how overlooked the little guys are came home to me as I compiled this list. It was honestly a challenge.
If I were going to make a list of my top 10 fighters at junior welterweight and welterweight, it would be a relatively straightforward affair. I would have seen the most recent fights for almost everybody worth discussing on HBO, Showtime, ESPN or NBC Sports. Any holes in my notebooks would be easy to fill in with a few hours on YouTube.
For the best small fighters on the planet, the task is more difficult. Many of the top fighters from strawweight through flyweight fight in Asia or South America. Even a former U.S. Olympian and dominant world champion like Brian Viloria doesn't get the media exposure he deserves.
YouTube helps here a lot, of course, but not as much as in the more high-profile, heavier divisions. Even some of the most highly rated small fighters have a limited amount of video uploaded to the web.
Still, for me the big draw of writing about boxing is to praise and promote a sport that rarely gets the attention it deserves. Because of that, I think it's important to spend time telling the stories that are often ignored even by those who do follow the sweet science.