The Top Fighter in Each of Boxing's Weight Divisions

Kevin McRaeFeatured ColumnistFebruary 1, 2013

The Top Fighter in Each of Boxing's Weight Divisions

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    The best fighters in the world.

    We hear much about the mythical pound-for-pound rankings which rank fighters regardless of wh

    But it seems rare that we ever put down in print, or on the Internet, a list of the best fighters in each individual weight class.

    And that's something boxing has many of—weight classes.

    Everything form strawweight to heavyweight will be covered here. This is a subjective business and these types of lists rarely please everybody. 

    That said, feel free to discuss, debate and criticize as we rank the best fighter in each of boxing's weight divisions.

Strawweight (105 Pounds): Moises Fuentes

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    The strawweight division is difficult to rank for a variety of reasons. For one, it isn't much of a mainstream attraction in either the United States or Europe. For another, many of premier competitors rarely leave their home nations.

    Simply put; becoming a star at 105 pounds is very difficult outside of Asia and Mexico.

    Right now, the top dog in this weight division is Mexico's Moises Fuentes.

    Fuentes (16-1, 8 KO) is best known for defeating long-time strawweight and light flyweight champion Ivan Calderon in what would turn out to be the Puerto Rican legend's last fight late in 2012.

    It was an impressive win and solidified Fuentes place as the best in his weight division.

Junior Flyweight (108 Pounds): Roman Gonzalez

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    Roman Gonzalez (34-0, 28 KO) is an absolute wrecking ball, especially given the fact that fighters in the lower weight divisions aren't known for their punching power.

    The concept of a guy fighting at this weight and with this much power is contrary to what many people think about when you discuss the smaller guys. Boxing and not punching is usually the key.

    But not for this Nicaraguan fighter.

    Gonzalez was also a dominant force at strawweight, where he also held a world title, and currently holds the WBA 108-pound championship. 

Flyweight: (112 Pounds): Brian Viloria

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    The flyweight division has several fighters who could reasonably make a claim to be the best in the division. But the pick here is one of the few names American fight fans can easily identify in the lower weight divisions—Brian Viloria.

    Viloria (32-3, 19 KO) is a Hawaiian fighter, appropriately nicknamed the "Hawaiian Punch," who scored an impressive knockout of Hernan Marquez in November of last year.

    The win unified the WBA and WBO 112-pound titles and proved that despite possible claims from Toshiyuki Igarashi who holds The Ring Magazine title, he is the best fighter in this division.

    A possible bout with Roman Gonzalez, who would come up in weight, has been mentioned and would be a huge event for the flyweight division.

Junior Bantamweight (115 Pounds): Omar Andres Narvaez

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    Omar Andres Narvaez (38-1-2, 20 KO) might be getting a little long in the tooth—he will turn 38 this year—but he can sure still fight.

    The lone defeat in his career came in 2011 when he jumped up to bantamweight and was shut out by a fighter named Nonito Donaire in a bout for the WBC and WBO titles. 

    Other than that, nobody has been able to beat him. He will hold this spot until somebody does or until his main competition, Japanese WBC champion Yota Sato, decides to leave the confines of his home country.

Bantamweight (118 Pounds): Leo Santa Cruz

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    Leo Santa Cruz (23-0-1, 13 KO) burst on the scene in a big way during 2012, fighting and winning five times, including capturing the IBF bantamweight crown.

    His all-action style is extremely crowd pleasing and led him to be featured by Golden Boy Promotions on CBS sports boxing as a lead-in to the Amir Khan vs. Carlos Molina bout. 

    It was a huge achievement for Santa Cruz—who is tailor-made to bring fans to the sport—to be featured on network television. 

    He has an extremely bright future and could soon find himself ranked, not amongst fighters in his weight, but on the pound-for-pound list as well.

Junior Featherweight (122 Pounds): Nonito Donaire

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    Nonito Donaire (31-1, 20 KO) is the reigning fighter of the year after capping off an impressive four win 2012 campaign with a knockout of Mexican legend Jorge Arce.

    The win was icing on the cake for a year that would've been impressive even without it. Donaire had previously beaten a collection of solid contenders and former champions including Jeffrey Mathebula and Toshiaki Nishioka. 

    The "Filipino Flash" will see his dominance challenged this year with potential matches with Guillermo Rigondeaux and a longshot bout with Abner Mares possibly in the works. 

    Both fighters can argue they are the best at this weight, but will need to beat Donaire to prove it.

Featherweight (126 Pounds): Mikey Garcia

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    When it was announced that Mikey Garcia would challenge Orlando Salido for the WBO featherweight title, many speculated we could be in for a treat.

    Garcia (31-0, 26 KO) is a patient counterpuncher who likes to systematically break down opponents, while Salido is a swarming pressure fighter. 

    All that made sense until they got into the ring and Garcia blew Salido out of the water with four quick knockdowns en route to a stunningly wide technical decision. 

    It was a star-making performance and catapulted the American up the rankings. With all due respect to Chris John, who has held a featherweight title for near a decade, it's hard to make a claim of being the best when nobody has seen you fight.

Junior Lightweight (130 Pounds): Juan Carlos Burgos

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    The junior lightweight division is a bit of a muddled mess in terms of who's on top. But the guy we're going with here is Juan Carlos Burgos, who should be a world champion already.

    Burgos (30-1-1, 20KO) got absolutely jobbed on the Salido vs. Garcia undercard in his bout with WBO champion Rocky Martinez. The draw in that fight made an early case for most egregious decision of the year and the judges should be ashamed.

    Burgos out-landed, out-threw and out-hustled Martinez in no fewer than eight rounds and should have been celebrating his first world championship—not looking towards a rematch.

    With the performance he did however make a very strong case for being the best 130-pound fighter in the world.

Lightweight (135 Pounds): Adrien Broner

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    Adrien "The Problem" Broner (25-0, 21 KO) stepped up to lightweight in November and unleashed an absolute beatdown on a world-class champion in Antonio DeMarco. 

    It was as impressive a performance as one could ask for against a tough, dangerous opponent. It fully highlighted the potential of the 23-year-old from Cincinnati who has drawn early comparisons to a young Floyd Mayweather Jr. 

    In just that one victory he firmly established a grip on the 135-pound division that he will hope to solidify when he faced Gavin Rees on Feb. 16 in Atlantic City.

Junior Welterweight (140 Pounds): Danny Garcia

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    Danny Garcia (25-0, 16 KO) began 2012 as a decent fighter who was just off most people's radar screens. Two explosive knockout victories later and he's emerged as a young star.

    Don't forget—the 24-year-old fighter from Philadelphia was supposed to be nothing more than an undefeated fighter with a belt to help get Amir Khan's career back on track. 

    But he thoroughly upset that apple cart when he knocked Khan out in the fourth round and unified the junior welterweight titles in stunning fashion over the summer.

    A rib injury forced the postponement of his title defense against Zab Judah, scheduled for early February, but the fight will go on later in the year.

Welterweight (147 Pounds): Floyd Mayweather Jr.

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    Floyd Mayweather Jr. (43-0, 26 KO) has been inactive since last May when he scored a tougher-than-expected unanimous decision over Miguel Cotto at junior middleweight. 

    But that's really nothing new for Mayweather, who hasn't fought more than once in a year since 2007, when he beat Oscar de la Hoya and Ricky Hatton.

    He says that's about to change and has scheduled two fight dates for 2013. He presumably will return to the welterweight division, where he holds the WBC title, to face Robert Guerrero in May.

    At that weight there is simply nobody better than Mayweather, though Guerrero will give him a stern test should the fight get made.

Junior Middleweight (154 Pounds): Austin Trout

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    When Austin Trout walked into Madison Square Garden on Dec. 1, he was going into the lion's den. He was expected to simply surrender his WBA title to Puerto Rican legend, and overwhelming fan favorite, Miguel Cotto to pave a way for a bout with Saul "Canelo" Alvarez.

    But Trout didn't get that memo, as he dominated Cotto and won a wide unanimous decision, firmly placing himself in the discussion for the best fighter at 154 pounds and a possible showdown with Alvarez.

    The reason that Trout gets the nod here over Alvarez is competition. If you look at Alvarez's resume you will find several names that take in isolation are more impressive than Trout's.

    But timing matters and Alvarez has never fought and beaten a legitimate junior middleweight in his prime. Most of his big wins are against smaller, past their prime name fighters.

    That could change in May if he faces Trout. But until he defeats a real junior middleweight the nod goes to the guy who has already done so.

Middleweight (160 Pounds): Sergio Martinez

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    Sergio "Maravilla" Martinez (50-2-2, 28 KO) was a bit of a late bloomer and only recently achieved true stardom in the sport. He has dominated the middleweight division since winning the title from Kelly Pavlik in 2010.

    He reasserted his supremacy this past September when he absolutely dominated Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in what was, up until the final round, one of the most one-sided big fights in boxing history.

    Martinez will face Martin Murray in his native Argentina in April before returning for a rematch with Chavez possibly later in the year. And if not, there's always the hard-hitting and dangerous Kazakh, Gennady Golovkin.

    Should be a very challenging year for the middleweight champion with top contenders emerging to threaten his reign.

Super Middleweight (168 Pounds): Andre Ward

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    Andre Ward (26-0, 14 KO) is the undisputed No. 1 fighter at super middleweight. He's so good that he might even be too good, as he's running out of possible opponents.

    Thus is the gift and the curse of being so talented. Ward has beaten literally every possible foe in his own division and even the recognized champion in the division just north.

    Shoulder surgery forced the cancellation of a February bout with Kelly Pavlik, who subsequently retired, and will allow some of the other super middleweights to build their profiles for a while.

    But make no mistake about it. It doesn't matter what Carl Froch or Mikkel Kessler do in Ward's absence. He's beaten both of them and is the top dog until he gets taken down.

Light Heavyweight (175 Pounds): Chad Dawson

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    "Bad" Chad Dawson (31-2, 17 KO) was just that—bad—when he stepped down to challenge Andre Ward for the super middleweight title last year. 

    But fans of the sport can simultaneously give Ward credit for his impressive performance while not using it to bury Dawson. 

    Coming down in weight is extremely difficult and made more so when facing an opponent the caliber of Andre Ward. 

    By defeating long-time champion Bernard Hopkins last year, Dawson showed he is the best light heavyweight in the world. He will seek to solidify his place when he tries to avenge a 2010 decision loss to Jean Pascal in May.

Cruiserweight (200 Pounds): Yoan Pablo Hernandez

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    The cruiserweight division doesn't get a lot of love these days. Many fighters only use it as a brief stopover for a jump to heavyweight and the division isn't marketed very much in the United States.

    Part of the reason is that cruiserweight is an odd division, sandwiched between the more popular luight heavyweight and heavyweight divisions, and there are few premier attractions.

    Yoan Pablo Hernandez (27-1, 13 KO) could become that sort of attraction should he stay below 200 pounds. His last performance, a controversial decision over Troy Ross, was less than impressive. 

    But you wouldn't know that because he has never fought outside of Germany. and for that matter neither has the number two cruiserweight Marco Huck.

    Hernandez however holds the most impressive victories including two over Steve "USS" Cunningham.

Heavyweight (Unlimited): Wladimir Klitschko

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    This is quite possibly the easiest call on the entire list. 

    Wladimir Klitschko (59-3, 50 KO) hasn't lost a fight in nearing nine years and has seldom even been challenged during that stretch. 

    Unfortunately, his dominance, combined with the weak overall state of the heavyweight division, has resulted in a less than stellar series of fights. Unknown Europeans and a series of retreads will do nothing to revive the division but you can't blame Wlad for the era.

    He's been an absolutely dominant force and there isn't another heavyweight on the planet, short of his older brother Vitali, that can stake anything close to a claim to be the best.