The Top 25 Active Pound-for-Pound Boxers

Briggs SeekinsFeatured ColumnistDecember 9, 2012

The Top 25 Active Pound-for-Pound Boxers

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    Overall, 2012 has been a very good year for boxing. That's been especially true over the last few months. While another year has come and gone without the long-anticipated showdown between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, there's been more than enough quality action to compensate for it. 

    Nearly every top pound-for-pound boxer had important, career-defining fights in 2012.

    We saw the continued emergence of budding young superstars like Danny Garcia, Saul Alvarez and Adrien Broner. We also saw veterans like Brian Viloria and Robert Guerrero add to their already impressive resumes. 

    Andre Ward, almost everybody's choice for 2011 Fighter of the Year, elevated his career to a new level with his Round 10 TKO of Chad Dawson in October.

    And 2012 closed out with yet another chapter in the greatest ring rivalry of our young century: Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez.

25. Miguel Cotto

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    Going into his Dec. 1 fight against Austin Trout, most pound-for-pound lists I saw had Miguel Cotto ranked somewhere between No. 11 and No. 15. The consensus list I compiled at the beginning of November after canvasing a number of top Bleacher Report boxing writers put him at No. 14. 

    And in the January 2013 issue of The Ring, Cotto was listed at No. 11 in their annual list of the top 100. 

    Obviously, though, he will plummet after losing decisively to Austin Trout.

    While I think the two ringside judges who turned in 119-109 cards were slightly off, the third judge, who came in at 117-111, was probably just about right. 

    Cotto was clearly beaten by a bigger, younger fighter. 

    To many, this indicates that the three-division world champion is through. Though he is only 32, there is no doubt he is old for his age, having absorbed a tremendous amount of punishment in his career. 

    Still, only last May, he gave Floyd Mayweather the toughest fight Money has had in years.

    While Cotto's performance against Trout warrants a drop in the rankings, I am loathe to make Cotto's decline the entire story. 

    The fight should properly be viewed as Trout's coming-out party. He revealed himself to be a highly skilled boxer with elite athletic ability. 

    So until Cotto retires or loses to another young, emerging star, I am keeping him in my own top 25. 

24. Chad Dawson

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    In the first half of the year, Chad Dawson turned in a one-sided unanimous-decision victory against Bernard Hopkins, earning him The Ring's light heavyweight championship. While beating the 47-year-old legend doesn't mean the same thing as it did 10—or even three—years ago, a win over B-Hop is still a legitimate gold star on a fighter's resume.

    Hungry to fight the best available opponent, Dawson next targeted super middleweight champion Andre Ward. He even cut down to 168 to make it happen.

    The drop in weight class may have been ill-advised, though. He endured a one-sided beatdown before the fight was stopped in the 10th.

    I interviewed Dawson the week before the fight, and he told me the cut was going well and that he expected no negative consequences from it. But in the ring against Ward, he clearly seemed to have lost some of the strength he showed at 175.

    A lot of that is on Ward, of course, who many now view as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. But I expect to see the two of them fight again at some point when Ward moves up to light heavyweight. And at 175, the fight should at least be more competitive. 

23. Austin Trout

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    Austin Trout's Dec. 1 unanimous-decision victory over Miguel Cotto sent a message to the boxing world: Saul Alvarez is not the only undefeated star in the 154-pound division. 

    Trout was coming off a one-sided decision victory over Delvin Rodriguez last June.

    Rodriguez is a talented and gritty journeyman/fringe contender, and cruising to victory against him is impressive any way you look at it. But Trout certainly didn't wow anybody in that fight. 

    Against the superstar Cotto, though, he put on a show. The southpaw controlled range throughout the fight and generally got the better of the exchanges, even when Cotto managed to work his way inside. 

    Boxing nuts need to embrace Trout and talk him up to casual fans. Trout vs. Saul "Canelo" Alvarez is the most interesting fight out there now at 154 pounds.

22. Saul Alvarez

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    Still just 22 and already undefeated in 42 professional fights, the red-headed Mexican has emerged definitively in 2012 as one of boxing's greatest attractions. 

    All he needs now are a few worthy opponents for 2013. 

    Saul Alvarez started 2012 by turning in a very impressive fifth-round stoppage against Kermit Cintron. In May, he looked great again when he thoroughly beat up future Hall of Famer Shane Mosley on the Cotto-Mayweather undercard. 

    His next fight was supposed to be against Paul Williams, which would have been a serious test for the young star and a potential treat for fans. But tragedy intervened when Williams was paralyzed from the waist down in a motorcycle accident. 

    Next, he was supposed to fight former welterweight champ and Mayweather victim Victor Ortiz. But that fell through when Ortiz got his jaw busted by the gritty and game Josesito Lopez.

    Without any other good options, Alvarez fought Lopez on Sept. 15. He pounded down the smaller man, and about the most credit anybody was willing to give him for it was acknowledging that he had done what he needed to do.

    Most boxing fans were already anticipating a showdown with Miguel Cotto for Alvarez sometime in the spring of 2013. Canelo was ringside in the Garden when Cotto lost to Austin Trout on Dec. 1.

    A fight with Cotto could still happen at this point, but a lot of the luster would be off it now. I'd prefer to see Alvarez fight Trout, a fellow undefeated belt holder.

    I expect to see Canelo put his zero on the line against Floyd Mayweather sometime in the coming year as well. The PPV sales for that would likely approach Mayweather's fight with Oscar De La Hoya in 2007.

21. Danny Garcia

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    The exciting young fighter from Philadelphia had about as good a year as anybody in the sport in 2012. In March, he captured the WBC junior welterweight belt via one-sided decision over Mexican legend Erik Morales.

    In July, he turned in one of the top performances of 2012, stopping Amir Khan in four and capturing the WBA and Ring titles in the process.

    Then, for some reason, he fought Morales again last October. The fight seemed pretty pointless to me, but Garcia did record perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing knockout of the year, dropping Morales with his sensational left hook.

    Garcia is scheduled to fight Zab Judah in February—a fight that makes about as much sense to me as the second Morales fight did.

    But from a business perspective, the fight is probably a good choice after all. It will take place in Judah's native Brooklyn, at the newly opened Barclays Center.

    Garcia's famously outspoken father, Angel, instigated a shouting match and melee with Judah at the Dec. 1 press conference, ensuring that the fight will be among the most talked about heading into 2013.

    I don't expect it to be competitive, though.

    Still, Garcia is only 24 and has a lot of career left ahead of him. I can't fault him for taking a fight here and there strictly for financial reasons.

    But I sure want to see him fight Lucas Matthysse and/or Brandon Rios next.

20. Roman Gonzalez

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    The 25-year-old WBA junior flyweight champion is 34-0 with 28 KOs. He is one of the most devastating pound-for-pound punchers in the sport. When he throws his right hook to the body/right uppercut combination, you would swear you were watching a mini version of Mike Tyson circa 1988.

    Roman Gonzalez fought four times in 2012, knocking out three of his opponents. It's tough for fighters south of 118 pounds to get the sort of recognition they deserve, but Gonzalez has the charismatic style to force his way onto big-time premium cable cards.

19. Guillermo Rigondeaux

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    Guillermo Rigondeaux is one of the greatest amateur boxers of all time—a two-time Olympic gold medalist for the legendary Cuban national team. But his extended career in the amateur ranks delayed his entry into the pro game.

    Still, since turning professional, the 32-year-old has wasted little time. Last January, in only his ninth fight, he knocked out Rico Ramos in six to capture the WBA junior featherweight title.

    In June, he stopped Teon Kennedy in five. Kennedy is not an elite talent, but he is a legitimately tough opponent and had never been handled with such ease.

    Rigondeaux closed out the year by outpointing Roberto Marroquin in September.

    While Rigondeaux has yet to be tested against an elite opponent, his performances against high-quality gatekeeper types leaves little doubt that he is ready for the move up in competition.

    In 2013, he should get a shot against Nonito Donaire or Abner Mares. Either fight would be among the most anticipated of the year.

18. Chris John

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    WBA featherweight champion Chris John is a real enigma for any American boxing writer trying to put together a pound-for-pound ranking. He is 48-0-2 and has held his title for nine years. Clearly, he deserves to be ranked among the elite.

    At the same time, though, the quality of his competition deserves to be viewed with some skepticism. He pretty much never fights outside of the Asia-Pacific region, and the top win of his career, over Juan Manuel Marquez—though undeniably impressive—came in March 2006.

17. Orlando Salido

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    Orlando Salido (39-11-2, 27 KOs) is the sort of fighter that fight writers love. In a sport that frequently suffers because top prospects are overprotected and different promotional champions avoid each other, Salido is a throwback fighter who came up the hard way and ducked nobody.

    His 11 losses are a lot for a list like this one, but they are of little relevance. Most of them occurred in the 1990s, when he was a young prospect scuffling to survive as he was thrown to the wolves. In the past four years, his only loss has come against Yuri Gamboa—one of the most gifted and dangerous boxers on the planet.

    Salido forced his way into conversations like this one in April 2011 when he traveled to Puerto Rico and exposed undefeated sensation Juan Manuel Lopez, dismantling him en route to a Round 8 TKO and capturing the WBO featherweight title in the process.

    He went back to the island for a rematch last March, this time finishing Lopez in Round 10. Astonishingly, Salido was actually down on the cards at the time.

    If it had gone to the cards like that, it would have been the worst decision of the year—Pacquiao-Bradley included. Salido outclassed and beat the crap out of Lopez all night long for a second time.

    But it was characteristic of a hardscrabble veteran like Salido to not leave it to the judges to screw him over.

    Salido is set to meet undefeated rising star Mikey Garcia, younger brother of super trainer Robert Garcia, in January at Madison Square Garden. This is one of my most anticipated fights for the early part of 2013.

16. Anselmo Moreno

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    In November, Anselmo Moreno, the WBA bantamweight champion, moved up to 122 pounds to challenge WBC junior featherweight champ Abner Mares. The result was an exciting 12-round war. Moreno was knocked down once and lost an additional point for pulling down Mares' head.

    The point deduction was pretty questionable, in my opinion, and I also thought the fight was much closer than the judges did, who scored it 116-110 twice for Mares and 120-106 once.

    On my own card, I scored the fight six rounds each, with Mares winning due to his knockdown and the point deduction. I don't have a big problem with an 8-4 split for Mares, though.

    Mares forced the fight to take place on his terms, and while he was not landing anywhere near as much as the judges seemed to think he was, he made every round close and definitely pushed the tempo with his nonstop aggression. 

    Still, the judge who scored 120-106 needs to be seriously examined by the California AC.

15. Brian Viloria

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    For the past two years, Brian Viloria has been as dominant as any fighter in the sport. His career record is 32-3 with 18 KOs.

    The former Olympic bronze medalist has had some struggles in his career, but he appears to have fully hit his stride in his early 30s.

    In July 2011, he captured the WBO flyweight title from Julio Cesar Miranda. He followed that up in December by breaking Giovani Segura's jaw and stopping him in Round 8. At the time, Segura was ranked in The Ring pound-for-pound Top 10.

    Last May, he avenged one of his three career losses by stopping Omar Nino Romero in Round 9. Last month, he faced Hernan Marquez in a unification bout.

    Marquez vs. Viloria was the sort of matchup that should have found a home on a premium cable channel. It was a legitimate superfight on paper that delivered in the ring.

    In a thrilling, action-packed war, Viloria imposed his will and beat his rival down. Marquez had his moments, but Hawaiian Punch was simply too physically dominant.

    Viloria's recent run pushes his career towards Hall of Fame territory. To me, the best possible matchup for him would be against 108-pound top dog Roman Gonzalez.

    It would be a classic matchup—the explosive athleticism of youth vs. the shrewd, measured power of experience. If that fight couldn't find a spot on HBO or Showtime, it would break my heart.

14. Adrien Broner

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    Adrien Broner is the hottest young star in the sport this side of Saul Alvarez—and with good reason. In November, the former junior lightweight champion made his lightweight debut against WBC title holder Antonio DeMarco.

    The result was a one-sided beatdown that ended inside of eight rounds. 

    It was supposed to be a test for the brash, cocky Cincinnati native. Instead, it ended up being just another example of why the 23-year-old is justified in being so brash and cocky.

    When I interviewed Broner last summer, he told me, "I make everybody look like nobodies." Against the usually very tough and game DeMarco, that was once more the case.

    Broner is the total package, with lightning-quick hands, explosive power, feline agility and balance. I think the fight most people would like to see him take next would be against Yuri Gamboa.

    Broner will likely move up to 140 sooner rather than later, and a matchup against Brandon Rios would be a crowd-thrilling tilt. In my opinion, though, it ultimately would not be that competitive.

13. Yuri Gamboa

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    Yuri Gamboa (22-0, 16 KOs) has become sort of like the mythical snow leopard in recent years—a breathtaking legend that is rarely seen in the flesh.

    On Dec. 8 he finally returned to action as the co-main event on the Pacquiao-Marquez pay-per-view card, after a layoff of nearly 15 months. His opponent was the extremely game but ultimately overmatched Filipino Michael Farenas (34-3-4, 26 KOs).

    The fight was at 130 pounds, but according to the HBO broadcast team, Gamboa had come back in at 148 pounds the night of the fight. That kind of rehydration suggests Gamboa will be moving up in weight class before too long.

    While it was clear that Gamboa still has the same blazing hand speed and jolting power that made him one of the sport's most exciting fighters, he looked rusty. His balance was frequently off and his defense lacking.

    He beat Farenas up but took a number of hard, flush shots throughout the fight. When he looked like he was cruising home and possibly on the brink of ending the fight in Round 9, he got over aggressive and was dropped hard by a powerful Farenas counter-shot.

    If Gamboa fights that carelessly against the likes of Adrien Broner or Brandon Rios, he might very well see his legend fall.

12. Robert Guerrero

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    WBC interim welterweight champion Robert Guerrero ends 2012 moving up the pound-for-pound rankings with a bullet.

    The former 126- and 135-pound champion was already regarded as a highly skilled fighter with a solid resume, but when he went up to welterweight to challenge Selcuk Aydin for the vacant WBC belt last July, a lot of fans and writers predicted that he would not have the frame to withstand a 147-pound punch.

    He beat Aydin in decisive fashion, though, using his superior boxing skills to keep Aydin turning all night. Still, as impressive as the win was, Guerrero's November meeting with former welterweight champion Andre Berto was expected to be much tougher.

    The fight was tough, but Guerrero still won convincingly. This time he changed up his style and crowded Berto in order to deny the extremely athletic Haitian room to attack with his explosive punching.

    The result was a 12-round war—a brutally beautiful affair that will be on everybody's short list for 2012 Fight of the Year. Guerrero knocked down Berto twice in the early rounds and absorbed plenty of damage in return the rest of the way.

    By the end of the fight, both of Berto's eyes were swollen shut, and one of Guerrero's was badly swollen as well. BoxingScene.com reported that Berto was urinating blood the next day as a result of Guerrero's brutal body attack.

    Guerrero has made no secret of the fact that he wants Floyd Mayweather for his next fight. His status as interim WBC champ makes him the mandatory No. 1 contender for Mayweather's regular WBC belt.

    Obviously, Guerrero would be a heavy underdog against Mayweather. But I also don't see anybody at 147, aside from Manny Pacquiao, who would give Mayweather a tougher fight.

11. Carl Froch

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    Carl Froch (30-2, 20 KOs) is another tough veteran who has earned his way onto lists like this after years of grueling dedication to the sport. He is a technically proficient boxer with world-class athletic ability, but there's no doubt that hard work has played a big role in separating him from so many of his peers. 

    Froch has a granite chin and is consistently among the best-conditioned fighters in the sport. He made it to the finals of the Showtime Super Six Super Middleweight Tournament, where he was decisively handled by Andre Ward.

    Ward outclassed Froch, with Froch even admitting in his in-ring, post-fight interview with Jim Gray that Ward's movement and timing made it impossible for him to "get (his) punches off."

    However, the Cobra rebounded from the setback by exposing previously undefeated Lucian Bute, TKOing him in five and capturing the IBF 168-pound belt in the process.

    Froch is the kind of hard-as-nails competitor who would no doubt jump for a shot at redemption against Ward. Personally, though, I would first rather see a rematch with Mikkel Kessler, who handed him his only other defeat.

10. Abner Mares

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    Abner Mares (25-0-1, 13 KOs) has been among the hottest young fighters in the sport over the past two years. Just as Andre Ward saw his stock skyrocket thanks to winning the Showtime Super Six tournament, Mares received his own bounce as a result of triumphing in the smaller Showtime bantamweight tournament.

    In December 2010, Mares beat Vic Darchinyan by split decision—an impressive win over a veteran for a fighter who had just turned 25. He then won the tournament final with a controversial majority decision over Joseph Agbeko in August 2011.

    Mares won the rematch against Agbeko in December, this time by a near shutout.

    Last April, he was even more dominant against tough veteran Eric Morel, as he captured the vacant WBC super bantamweight crown.

    In November, Mares won a unanimous decision against fellow pound-for-pound star Anselmo Moreno. While I thought the fight was much closer than the judges did, Mares clearly deserved to win.

    Mares fought like a whirlwind, attacking nonstop against the defensive wizard Moreno, forcing the fight to be waged on his terms.

    Mares made no secret after the fight that he wanted Nonito Donaire next. His aggressive style might get him in trouble against the Filipino Flash, but it would be a great fight for the fans no matter how it ended up going down.

9. Vitali Klitschko

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    At 41, WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko (45-2, 41 KOs) is winding down one of the most dominant careers in the history of the heavyweight division. Of his two career losses, one came against Chris Byrd back in April 2000, due to a shoulder injury in a fight that Klitschko was dominating.

    His other loss came against Lennox Lewis in June 2003—a stoppage due to cuts in Round 6. Klitschko had taken the fight on short notice and still was giving the champion all the problems he could handle. It looked like it was building into one of the greatest heavyweight title clashes of all time. 

    In the nine-plus years since, he has scarcely lost a single round.

    However, the criticism of Vitali Klitschko will never be about his record, but instead the competition against which he compiled that record. As of late, the competition has been particularly weak. 

    In September, Klitschko beat undefeated German heavyweight Manuel Charr by TKO. While the stoppage was widely viewed as premature, there was also little disagreement over the fact that Charr had appeared entirely overmatched by Klitschko.

    In February, an injured Klitschko pitched a near shutout against Brit Dereck Chisora, fighting with only one good arm. While it was yet another display of his formidable skills, it is also hard to deny that Chisora was one of the least qualified heavyweight-title challengers in recent years.

    In September 2011, Klitschko turned in an impressive Round 10 TKO of Polish contender Tomasz Adamek. While Adamek is clearly a world-class talent, he is also a former 175-pound world champ. Against the 6'7" Klitschko, he was simply physically overmatched.

    Indeed, I have trouble even evaluating Vitali Klitschko in a pound-for-pound context, because being a nimble giant who can deliver dangerous punches from a lot of angles is among his greatest attributes.

8. Timothy Bradley

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    Last June, Timothy Bradley (29-0, 12 KOs) defeated Manny Pacquiao by split decision in a fight that well over 90 percent of the boxing world views as an outright robbery.

    The controversial decision does not seem to have helped his career.

    Rather than arranging a rematch with the man who "beat" him, Pacquiao opted to end the year with a fourth clash against Juan Manuel Marquez. Meanwhile, Bradley's next opponent remains up in the air.

    I was a Bradley fan before the Pacquiao fight, and even though I don't think he possibly deserved more than four rounds in that fight, I don't blame him for the judges' incompetence/corruption. Bradley put on a gritty, hustling performance, fighting on two badly injured legs.

    I'd actually be curious to see how he would do in a rematch, fighting uninjured. Meanwhile, he is one of the most talented boxers in the sport, and the 140- and 147-pound divisions probably have the most talent in the sport, so there should be some sort of high-profile fight available to somebody with Bradley's resume.

7. Wladimir Klitschko

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    Aside from his older brother Vitali's WBC strap, Wladimir Klitschko (59-3, 50 KOs) holds every heavyweight championship belt that means anything.

    I know that the WBA recognizes Alexander Povetkin as the "regular" world champion and Wladimir as the "super" world champion, but I bring that up only to point out how stupid it is.

    Wladimir Klitschko is the only real heavyweight world champion. His older brother VItali is a kind of honorary world champion. I agree that Alexander Povetkin is probably the legit No. 3 in the world at heavyweight, but nobody but the WBA sanctioning body considers him any sort of "world champion." 

    At times, Klitschko can appear to be a nearly flawless boxer. He has impeccable lateral movement mixed with the best jab in the division since Larry Holmes, and he uses these gifts to set up a decapitating overhand right.

    The knock on Wladimir Klitschko, though, will always be his chin. All three of his career losses were due to stoppage, and all those opponents he would have been able to beat if only he hadn't gotten caught.

    In November, Klitschko notched an easy unanimous-decision win over previously unbeaten Polish heavyweight Mariusz Wach. I expect him to possibly face British-Irish giant Tyson Fury in 2013, who is coming off a unanimous decision over American Kevin Johnson.

6. Manny Pacquiao

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    Manny Pacquiao may have been knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez on Dec. 8, and his career could now be over. But until he announces his retirement, I'm not dropping him any lower than sixth on this list. He might have been put to sleep, but he got put to sleep by a fellow legend.

    This fight was our generation's version of Marvin Hagler vs. Thomas Hearns.

    Up until Marquez caught him with that crushing counter right, Pacquiao actually looked as good as he has in years. From Round 1 on, Pacman appeared focused and enthusiastic.

    He showed the best head movement of his career, clearly befuddling Marquez slightly in the first two rounds. Marquez dropped him and appeared to hurt him badly in Round 3, but Pacman recovered quickly. He arguably won Round 4.

    In Round 5, Pacquiao nearly ended the fight. He knocked down Marquez with a right hook about midway through the round, and then with under a minute left, he hurt Marquez badly with another right hook.

    Marquez's legs went wobbly. I'm not sure any other fighter in the sport would have survived the round.

    Right up until the moment Marquez caught up to him, Pacquiao appeared to be taking control of the fight and threatening to pull away. Round 6 would have been another round for Pac, giving him as much as a five-round lead at the midway point of the fight.

    Marquez may have won in sudden, decisive fashion, but while it lasted, Pacquiao demonstrated that he is still clearly among the elite in the sport.

5. Nonito Donaire

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    In October, Nonito Donaire (30-1, 19 KOs) turned in a masterful performance against highly regarded Japanese star Toshiaki Nishioka, stopping him by TKO in the ninth and adding the WBC diamond and the vacant The Ring super bantamweight titles to his WBO and IBF straps.

    Donaire has turned in some of the most iconic one-punch knockouts in recent years against elite talent like Vic Darchinyan and Fernando Montiel. That he can deliver such devastating power at such low weight classes is uncanny.

    Part of it is predicated upon his ability to see brief openings that even other top fighters would not have time to register. On a media call, I once heard his trainer Robert Garcia declare that Donaire has in-ring vision that is far beyond even most other elite talent.

    He's like a superstar point guard who simply sees openings on the floor before a defense even knows they are there.

    Later this month, Donaire will be back in action against Jorge Arce—an opponent for whom I personally heard Donaire ask Bob Arum after his boring unanimous decision over Omar Narvaez in Madison Square Garden last October.

    Arce shouldn't be much of a challenge for Donaire, but he should be a willing opponent who will help make a thrilling fight.

    Hopefully, in 2013, Donaire will make time to fight fellow bantamweight titleholder Guillermo Rigondeaux and/or Abner Mares.

4. Sergio Martinez

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    In September, Sergio Martinez (50-2-2, 28 KOs) provided the world a classic illustration of the difference between a good young fighter and a great older fighter, surviving a Round 12 knockdown to earn an easy unanimous decision over the previously undefeated Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

    Martinez remains firmly entrenched at the top of the middleweight division. At 37, he has yet to show any signs of slowing down.

    A 154-pound showdown between Martinez and Floyd Mayweather has begun to get as much chatter among more serious fans as a hypothetical Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. Martinez fought successfully at 154 pounds for years, so it is possible that he would still be able to make the junior middleweight limit.

    Undefeated WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin has also emerged this year as a very interesting potential opponent for Martinez, though I suspect Golovkin will need to get more name recognition in the U.S. before that fight can happen.

3. Juan Manuel Marquez

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    Most elite boxers are long past their prime and hopefully in retirement at 39. Juan Manuel Marquez, meanwhile, is climbing up the pound-for-pound rankings.

    On Dec. 8, Marquez authored the definitive win of his career, a thrilling one-punch knockout of his great rival, Manny Pacquiao, at 2:59 of Round 6.

    Like Bernard Hopkins before him, Marquez is a boxing genius who has learned how to be an aggressive brawler when he needs to be. Meanwhile, he retains his brutally effective counter-punching abilities.

    Against Pacquiao, he put both styles together beautifully. He allowed the more athletic Pacquiao to get comfortable in a take-no-prisoners-style war. Then, when the opening came, he was ready with a textbook overhand right that will go down in boxing history.

    Another important part of the story when it comes to Marquez is his amazing resiliency. It allowed him to survive his first round with Pacquiao eight years ago, when he was dropped three times, and it allowed him to survive Round 5 of their most recent fight, when Pacman looked to have Marquez knocked out on his feet.

    I'm not sure another fighter of his generation survives either of those two rounds.

    I can imagine some people will knock Marquez's accomplishment by saying Pacquiao was a shot fighter. But that flies in the face of reality.

    The Manny Pacquiao who fought Juan Manuel Marquez on Dec. 8 was still very much an elite fighter. Whatever he may have lost in speed or reflexes, he had made up for with increased intelligence and smarter tactics.

    But ultimately, he could not hang with Marquez in a chess match.

2. Andre Ward

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    After being named The Ring's 2011 Fighter of the Year, super middleweight champion Andre Ward (26-0, 14 KOs) has continued to rocket up the pound-for-pound rankings in 2012.

    After triumphantly completing his run through the Showtime super middleweight tournament and capturing nearly universal Fighter of the Year accolades in 2011, he came back in 2012 and turned in the most dominating performance of his career, stopping light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson by Round 10 TKO in September.

    The last American boxer to win Olympic gold, Ward has supposedly not lost a fight since he was eight years old.

    The scary thing about Ward is that he appears to still be entering his prime. He has been fighting elite talent every time out for the past three years, looking better each time.

1. Floyd Mayweather Jr.

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    2012 has been a mixed year for Floyd Mayweather (43-0, 26 KOs). In May, he added Justin Bieber to his entourage and won an exciting unanimous decision against Miguel Cotto, collecting a title at junior middleweight.

    It was exactly the kind of action fight in which fans have clamored to see him engage. While Cotto had his moments, Mayweather thoroughly dominated, even rocking Cotto with an uppercut in Round 12. 

    Only a few weeks later, Mayweather turned himself in to the authorities to begin serving a 90-day sentence for domestic abuse.

    He ends 2012 publicly feuding with former BFF 50 Cent and once more being accused of ducking Manny Pacquiao. Still, his performance against Cotto last May and the memory of his entire resume are enough to keep him in the No. 1 spot on this list for now.

    Earlier this week, Mayweather announced that he planned to fight twice in 2013. My prediction is that he'll fight Robert Guerrero on Cinco de Mayo weekend in May and Saul Alvarez on the weekend of Mexican Independence Day.