The Top 25 Active Pound-for-Pound Boxers

Briggs SeekinsFeatured ColumnistApril 21, 2013

The Top 25 Active Pound-for-Pound Boxers

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    Pound-for-pound lists are like dysfunctional family reunions: packed with arguments that can never be resolved in a satisfying manner. If Aunt Emmie believes Guillermo Rigondeaux is a better fighter, factoring for size, than Wladimir Klitschko and Cousin Bert disagrees, there's frankly no way to prove which one of them is correct.

    Still, pound-for-pound rankings and the discussions they provoke are a major driver for fan interest in today's era. It fits the analysis-obsessed ethos of our time.

    The subjective nature of these lists should be obvious. Even people who watch enough boxing and study enough extra video to start from an well-informed position end up having to make a lot of critical judgements based upon hunches and the eyeball test.

    Perhaps, as many as 50 fighters have very good arguments for inclusion in the top 25. And there are plenty of fighters out there who wouldn't currently make anybody's top 25, but might very well knock off fighters who are universally regarded as pound-for-pound top 10.

    That's the thing about boxing that every fan understands: It's fun to have our opinions and argue about them. But on any given weekend, we have to be ready to see them come undone. 


      

25. Lucas Matthysse

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    An all-action style of fighting and unfair treatment from the judges have combined to make junior welterweight Lucas Matthysse from Argentina one of the sport's most popular young stars. His only two losses came by split decision, to Zab Judah in November 2010 and to Devon Alexander in June 2011. 

    The Alexander decision, in particular, has been highly criticized. Many fans still regard Matthysse as an undefeated fighter. 

    Matthysse has rebounded from those two losses to go on a march of destruction since. Last September, he stopped previously undefeated Ajose Olusegun. In January, he dispatched Mike Dallas Jr. in the first round. 

    Most fans regard Matthysse as the most worthy challenger to Danny Garcia's Ring, WBA and WBC belts. Instead, he gets a shot at Lamont Peterson's IBF strap in May, which the IBF allowed Peterson to retain after apparently accepting that he was a legitimate testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) patient.  

24. Lamont Peterson

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    I will predict now that my ranking of Lamont Peterson (31-1-1, 16 KOs) over Lucas Matthysse will be among my most criticized decisions here. I get it. Matthysse is a warrior, and I'm frankly leaning toward picking the Argentinian when they meet next month. 

    But based purely on resume, Peterson deserves the nod. His win over Amir Khan was controversial—even without his subsequent failed PED test. But his disputed win over Khan has to count for more than Matthysse's disputed loss to Zab Judah, a fighter whom Khan dispatched with ease. 

    Peterson also has a majority technical draw against former Floyd Mayweather opponent Victor Ortiz, in a fight where he is widely regarded as having forced Ortiz to quit on his stool. After a slow start, he put on a stellar performance against Kendall Holt in February, TKOing the former world champion in eight. 

    He will have his hands full with Matthysse. Expect a fight with the same kind of excitement as Rios-Alvarado II. 

23. Mikkel Kessler

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    When the Showtime Super Six, Super Middleweight tournament kicked off in 2009, Mikkel Kessler (46-2, 35 KOs) was regarded by many as the favorite. His only loss coming in had been to the great Joe Calzaghe. 

    Instead, he ended up being swept aside by the rising tide that was Andre Ward, losing to the pound-for-pound great by technical decision after 11 rounds. Still, Kessler rebounded to hand Carl Froch the second loss of his career in April 2010.

    Kessler took off nearly an entire year from 2011 to 2012, but he came back strong last year, knocking out Allan Green in four and stopping Brian Magee in three.

    At 34, Kessler may have seen his best days. But he has a rematch scheduled against Froch next month, which should give us a pretty good idea of what he has left.  

22. Austin Trout

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    Saturday night, Austin Trout (26-1, 14 KOs) lost his first professional fight, and his WBA junior middleweight title, when he dropped a unanimous decision to Saul Alvarez at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

    Both fighters had their moments and did some impressive things, and Trout's busier effort had some observers giving him the nod on their unofficial cards. 

    I thought Alvarez legitimately won the fight, 114-113—six rounds each with the Round 7-knockdown providing Canelo with his narrow margin of victory.

    Trout did an outstanding job of taking away Alvarez's normally dangerous left hook to the body. But Canelo's hard, accurate counterpunching seriously disrupted Trout's ability to get off with the type of effective combination punching that he employed so well against Miguel Cotto last December.

    I blame the Texas open-scoring system and incompetent/corrupt Texas judging for making Saturday night's fight much less exciting than it should have been and for putting Trout in a pretty unfair spot.

    When the official cards were revealed to the corners after Round 8, it became clear that the judges had been watching a totally different fight than nearly everybody else. The final round should have been a show-stopper, with both fighters going for broke in a fight that seemed extremely close. 

    Instead, Alvarez was able to coast home, aware that he was protecting an absurdly wide lead on the cards. 

    The good thing about Saturday night's fight is that both boxers are young—Trout is 27, and Alvarez is 22. They will both learn from this fight, get better, and hopefully, meet again further down the line. 

21. Mikey Garcia

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    Mikey Garcia (31-0, 26 KOs) was already on the radar for most fans as a young fighter to watch by 2011, but this past January was his official coming-out party.

    He captured the WBO featherweight belt by thoroughly outclassing Orlando Salido in Madison Square Garden, knocking the tough veteran down four times en route to a unanimous technical decision. 

    The younger brother of super-trainer Robert Garcia, Garcia has always looked like a prodigy in the ring—an intelligent, methodical worker with killer finishing instincts. 

    In his in-ring, post-fight interview after beating Salido, Garcia called out former featherweight champion Yuri Gamboa, who debuted at 130 pounds last December on the Marquez-Pacquiao IV undercard. Gamboa is one of the most explosive and dangerous punchers in the sport, but he has balance and defensive issues which I think Garcia could exploit.

    Now that Guillermo Rigodeaux has knocked off Nonito Donaire, Garcia would make an intriguing follow-up opponent if the Cuban star is ready to move up in weight. Garcia is the kind of smart fighter who might be able to exploit his reach and length advantages to negate Rigondeaux's ability to control distance with his speed.

    The older Garcia brother is also Donaire's trainer, so it's likely he came away with a few useful observations, even as he watched his fighter go down in defeat earlier this month.  

20. Chris John

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    Chris John (46-0, 22 knockouts) is undefeated and has been the WBA featherweight champion for a decade. He holds a victory over Juan Manuel Marquez, so he is legit. Still, that victory came back in 2006, and he has not faced another major western star since.

    So it is hard to know how legit he remains. He did beat Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo of Thailand last year, who entered the fight sporting a perfect 44-0 record. But few U.S.-based fight writers are really in a position to judge how significant a victory over Piriyapinyo really is for a world-class talent like John.

    There are currently two undefeated young stars campaigning at featherweight, Mikey Garcia and Abner Mares. Even after losing to Guillermo Rigondeaux, Nonito Donaire could still make for an exciting international matchup. 

    So the fights are there, if Chris John wants to prove a point and take one last fight outside of his comfort zone before he hangs it up.

19. Danny Garcia

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    Next weekend, undefeated Ring, WBA and WBC junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia (25-0, 16 KOs) will defend his belts against Zab Judah at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Judah was stopped by Amir Khan, the man whom Garcia stopped to win his belts, so fans are not exactly giddy with anticipation about this. 

    Still, Garcia sits atop a loaded weight class and should not lack for tough fights against big-name opponents going forward, so the fight with Judah will be watched with interest, at the very least. 

    Garcia was the breakout boxing star of 2012. In March, he captured the WBC title by beating Mexican legend Erik Morales. It was a fight in which Garcia seemed to settle down and get better, almost as if he was learning while the fight progressed.

    In July, Garcia turned in one of the year's biggest performances, stopping Khan in four rounds, adding the WBA strap to his collection in the process. Khan won the first two rounds of the fight, but Garcia stayed patiently in range on Khan, probing with attacks from various angles, before finally scoring with his big shot that turned things around in the third. 

    In November, Garcia fought a return bout with Morales, this time ending the night early against the former Hall of Famer via the year's most perfectly delivered left hook.

    Hopefully Garcia fights the winner of Matthysse-Peterson next, though a return bout with Khan could be interesting.  

18. Yuri Gamboa

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    Cuban star Yuri Gamboa (22-0, 16 KOs) has the kind of cat-like agility and explosive power that dazzles crowds and overwhelms opponents. He has dispatched world-class opponents like Ponce De Leon and Jorge Solis with ease. 

    Still, inactivity and a less-than-impressive performance against Michael Farenas when he returned to action on the Marquez-Pacquiao undercard last December have caused his stock to drop in the past year. 

    Against Farenas, he looked altogether too easy to hit and was even knocked down en route to an otherwise one-sided unanimous decision. 

    But Gamboa would still have to figure to be a formidable opponent for anybody in the world at 130 pounds. I think he gets hit too much to beat Adrien Broner, but he might also be the only fighter in the world south of 140 pounds with the kind of punching power that "The Problem" would be forced to respect. 

    Gamboa fights undefeated Columbian Darley Perez in June. 

17. Saul Alvarez

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    Saturday night, Saul Alvarez improved his professional record to 42-0-1 with 30 KOs, when he beat Austin Trout by unanimous decision, unifying the WBC, WBA and Ring titles at 154 pounds. As seems to always be the case with the red-headed Mexican star, his win is already being met with overreaction from both sides. 

    Alvarez's ubiquitous detractors will point out that Trout thoroughly out-hustled him and that Alvarez took off long parts of many rounds and even appeared to be gassing at times against the active Trout. Despite cards that favored Canelo by wide margins, most observers thought the fight was extremely close, and some came away feeling Trout deserved to win.

    Alvarez's diehard fans will point to Canelo's surprisingly effective head movement and level changes. The 22-year-old showed significantly improved defensive abilities against the toughest opponent he has faced to date.

    Still, internet commenters, such as the one I saw suggesting that Alvarez now deserves to rank No. 2 in the pound-for-pound rankings, are wildly exaggerating.

    The truth is, Alvarez did what he has done in all of his recent fights: look like a still improving fighter. That is a very good thing for a 22-year-old who has already had world class success.

    When Trout took away Alvarez's bread and butter, the left hook to the body, Alvarez adjusted and used hard, accurate counterpunching to completely disrupt Trout's ability to score with combination punching like he had against Cotto last December.

    So long as Floyd Mayweather takes care of his business against Robert Guerrero on May 4, I expect him to go up and fight Canelo next. I think Alvarez will surprise people with how well he does, even though he will lose.

    Beyond that, he should remain a big draw for the next few years at least.  

16. Anselmo Moreno

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    Last November, WBA bantamweight champion Anselmo Moreno (33-2-1, 12 KOs) moved up to 122 pounds to challenge fellow standout Abner Mares. Mares forced the action and earned a unanimous decision, though I felt the fight was much closer than the scores indicated. James Jen-Kin's 120-106 was particularly absurd. 

    I had the fight very close to even, with Mares winning on the strength of his knockdown and the point deducted from Moreno for grabbing Mares' head.  

    Moreno is among the finest defensive fighters in the sport. I would love to see him matched up next against the all-action Leon Santa Cruz, who fought on the Mares-Moreno undercard. 

15. Carl Froch

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    Carl Froch (30-2, 22 KOs) is one of the hardest working, best-conditioned fighters in the sport, which has allowed the Brit to emerge as a major star in his mid-30s. Since beating Jean Pascal for the WBC super middleweight title in 2008, he has fought nothing but top competition, going 7-2.

    Froch suffered his first career loss to Mikkel Kessler during the Showtime Super Six tournament in 2010, but victories over Jermaine Taylor, Andre Dirrell, Arthur Abraham and Glen Johnson were enough to earn him a trip to the finals anyway, where he lost for a second time as a pro to Andre Ward.

    He rebounded strongly, exposing previously undefeated Lucian Bute last May with a Round 5 TKO. In November, he knocked out Yusaf Mack in three.   

    Next month, Froch has a chance for revenge, when he has a rematch with Mikkel Kessler. If he can avenge one of his two career losses, expect him to campaign for a rematch with Ward next.

14. Adrien Broner

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    The Ring currently ranks Adrien Broner (26-0, 22 KOs) No. 5 on their own pound-for-pound list. I think that's still way too high, given what he has done so far, but I concede, it is likely only a matter of time. He has the look of a potential pound-for-pound king.  

    Broner is a boxing prodigy with explosive punching power in both hands. He wreaked havoc on smaller athletes at junior lightweight and picked up where he left off when he stepped up to 135 to face Antonio DeMarco, beating the lightweight champion by TKO in eight.

    Broner is coming off from another one-sided beatdown of former junior welterweight world titleholder Gavin Rees. While the result was no surprise, it was, once again, impressive to see him handle a world-class opponent with ease.

    As Broner told me in an interview I did with him last year, "I make everybody look like nobodies."

    Next up for Broner is a jump all the way up to welterweight. He is set to face 147-pound belt holder Paul Malignaggi in June at Brooklyn's Barclay Center. 

    The Magic Man is a wily professional and could very well end up giving Broner his toughest fight to date. But it is unlikely that he will have either the power or speed to beat the explosive, 22-year-old Broner. 

13. Timothy Bradley

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    Due to being on the winning side of a wildly unpopular decision against Manny Pacquiao last June, Timothy Bradley (30-0, 12 KOs) became the object of an unfair amount of fan scorn in 2012. And even fans who have continued to acknowledge his high-level skills have often criticized his fights for being awkward and lacking in action.

    But last March, Bradley did the one thing always guaranteed to win over fan sentiment: He engaged in a war, with the rugged Siberian Ruslan Provodnikov. After nearly getting knocked out in both of the first two rounds, Bradley demonstrated amazing resolve and took control of the fight, before withstanding a late charge from Provodnikov to hang on and win.

    The fight is an early leader for 2013 Fight of the Year.

    The fight was great for Bradley's career, but I've moved him down slightly in my own rankings as a result. As exciting as the fight was, it, once more, emphasized what has always seemed to be a flaw in Bradley's game—a lack of truly destructive, fight-ending power.

    With the accuracy Bradley was landing on Provodnikov, if he was a bigger puncher, Provodnikov would likely have been unable to climb back into the fight late. A lack of respect for Bradley's power was the sole thing that kept Ruslan in the fight for much of the night.

    Still, Bradley's other skills are substantial. He is a very strong athlete with tremendous heart and is never going to be an easy fight for anybody. He is set to face Mexican legend Juan Manuel Marquez next September, in what should be a very intriguing matchup.  

12. Robert Guerrero

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    On May 4, Robert Guerrero (31-1-1, 18 KOs) will get the biggest opportunity of his entire life—a shot at pound-for-pound kingpin Floyd Mayweather. 

    Guerrero's career already reads like a movie script. After having to temporarily retire to support his wife's well-known struggle with cancer, Guerrero reached new heights in 2012. 

    Make no mistake, "The Ghost" had always been recognized as a top talent by knowledgeable fans. The former feather and lightweight champion has always showed a rare mixture of grit and skill. 

    But last year, Guerrero put himself into some pretty select company, becoming one of the few men in the sport's history to capture world titles at 126, 135 and 147 pounds. In July, he captured the interim WBC belt by beating Selcuk Aydin.

    In November, Guerrero turned in one of the year's best performances, knocking down Andre Berto twice en route to winning a grueling unanimous decision. Guerrero fought a very rough and physical fight and left no doubt that he had the physical ability to handle himself at welterweight. 

    Mayweather has to be regarded as a significant favorite, but I don't believe the tenacious Guerrero is ever going to be an easy night's work for any fighter.

11. Roman Gonzalez

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    For a while now, I have been conflicted about where to rate Roman Gonzalez (34-0, 28 KOs).

    The former minimumweight and current junior flyweight champion has looked like a mini-Mike Tyson, chopping opponents down with brutal uppercuts and hooks. But the smallest weight classes get very little coverage in the U.S., and the talent there can be hard to evaluate. 

    Still, Gonzalez's growing resume, and the manner in which he is compiling it, demonstrate that he is clearly the top fighter in the world at 112 pounds or lighter, and it's not even currently close.

    Last year he stopped Ramon Hirales in five, a contender who went the distance with Donnie Nietes and has a split-decision victory over John Riel Casimero.

    Gonzalez also beat Juan Francisco Estrada by an easy unanimous decision last year. Earlier this month, Estrada went up to 112 pounds and upset Brian Viloria, the man almost everybody recognized as the top flyweight in the world.

    With Top Rank and HBO pushing hard to open the Chinese market with Olympic hero Zou Shiming, Gonzalez could figure as a super-fight opponent down the line. Although, I suspect it will be a little while before anybody lets the Olympian in the ring with a fighter as dangerous as Gonzalez.

    In the meantime, I would like to see him fight Giovani Segura.  

10. Abner Mares

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    Undefeated Abner Mares (25-0, 13 KOs) is among the sport's most exciting young stars, an all-action, pressure fighter who works at a breathtaking pace. In the past few years, he has fought and beat a murderer's row of opponents: Yonnhy Perez, Vic Darchinyan, Joseph Agbeko twice, Eric Morel and Anselmo Moreno. 

    Now competing at featherweight, Mares is set to return to action against tough veteran Daniel Ponce De Leon later this month. Ponce De Leon will be the biggest fighter Mares has faced, which makes it an interesting proposition, considering Mares' physical, bullying style.

    Mares fights for Golden Boy, and many of the better potential opponents for him are signed with Top Rank. He's definitely a fighter who has suffered due to the feud between the sport's two biggest promoters. A matchup with Nonito Donaire would have seemed like a natural fight for this spring, but instead, the opportunity went to Guillermo Rigondeaux.

    Still, Mares is a crowd-pleaser. If he can continue to win as he moves up in weight, he will continue to find big fights.  

9. Nonito Donaire

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    Nonito Donaire went into his showdown with Guillermo Rigondeaux earlier this month ranked between three and five on virtually every pound-for-pound list in existence. But the Cuban star exposed some serious defensive holes in Donaire's game and some bad habits that might have been developed during Donaire's previous run of one-sided dominance.

    In the end, Rigondeaux gave the "Filipino Flash" a boxing lesson.

    But while Rigondeaux might have revealed a blueprint for beating Donaire, it was a blueprint that very few other fighters have even a few of the tools to implement. Rigondeaux showed that Donaire is very vulnerable to defensive wizards with an uncanny knack for controlling distance and power in both fists.

    So against most mortals anywhere close to him in weight, Donaire is still an elite talent. He's only 30 years old, and the damage he suffered against Rigondeaux was minimal.

    He'll be back again, better than ever.  

8. Vitali Klitschko

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    Forty-one-year-old Vitali Klitschko has stopped 41 of 47 opponents in his career, giving him one of the highest KO percentages in the history of the heavyweight division. 

    His only two career losses came due to a shoulder injury and on cuts. He has barely lost a round in years and would still most likely dominate every other fighter in the heavyweight division aside from his kid brother Wladimir.

    And I would frankly favor big brother in that matchup, too.

    But evaluating Klitschko as a pound-for-pound fighter is a challenge. His greatest talent is to be a 6'7" giant who can move around nimbly enough to get into position to batter his (usually) smaller opponents with both hands. 

    Still, Klitschko has dominated his weight class for a decade in nearly unprecedented fashion. That is the definition of pound-for-pound. 

    Klitschko appears to be nearing the end of his fighting days. His political career in the Ukraine is already underway. 

    As of right now, Vitali has no next fight scheduled. British heavyweight David Haye, who flopped spectacularly against Wladimir in 2011, has campaigned loudly for a shot at the older Klitschko brother. He's done nothing to earn it, aside from, perhaps, annoying Vitali so much that the big Ukranian will take the fight just for personal satisfaction. 

    I think 6'9" Tyson Fury would make a far more compelling opponent for what might be Klitschko's final fight. 

7. Manny Pacquiao

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    Manny Pacquiao face down and asleep on the canvas is the iconic image for the year in boxing, circa 2012. 

    But it's important to remember that prior to Juan Manuel Marquez landing the big right-hand counter, Pac had been turning in some of the best rounds he had fought in years. In the fifth round, he very nearly had his longtime rival out of the fight, and up until the last-second KO, he was about to go up four rounds to two for the fight. 

    For a while, Pacquiao looked about as good as he has looked. He was using head movement and feints to absolutely disrupt the supreme counterpuncher, Marquez. Fighting like that, Pacman still beats just about every other fighter in the world at 147 pounds and below.

    Marquez has opted to fight Timothy Bradley next, rather than give Pacquiao a fifth fight. If Pacquiao wants to come back, there are exciting potential fights for him. One possibility might be Mike Alvarado.  

6. Wladimir Klitschko

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    In 2012, Wladimir Klitschko (59-3, 50 KOs) recorded stoppages against former cruiserweight champion Jean-Marc Mormeck, American Tony Thompson and undefeated Pole Mariusz Wach.

    That's not exactly a run through the all-time greats, though, as Thompson demonstrated with his Round 2 stoppage of David Price recently, he remains one of the division's big hitters. 

    The biggest problem the Klitschko brothers have faced throughout their careers has been a lack of adequate opponents. In an era of thin talent, they have towered over the heavyweight division. 

    2013 could prove more interesting for the longtime heavyweight champ. Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev has yet to face anybody at Klitschko's level, but he has demonstrated the punching power to cut a big heavyweight down.

    In the meantime, Klitschko's decision to fight undefeated German-Italian Francesco Pianeta next has not won him any fans on the North American side of the Atlantic.   

    Other serious threats to Klitschko may not materialize. It seems like fans have been waiting years to see Russian Alexander Povetkin finally face off against a Klitschko, but whether or not such a fight ever happens remains to be seen.

    Mexican-American contender Chris Arreola probably has the power to challenge Klitschko's notoriously suspect chin—and might even have enough skill to reach it.  

    But Wladimir Klitschko has one of the finest jabs in the history of the heavyweight division and a sledgehammer for a right. He is an almost technically perfect fighter. Reaching that questionable chin is never going to be easy for anyone. 

    At this point, Klitschko may very well retire without ever finding an opponent with the talent to test it again. 

5. Guillermo Rigondeaux

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    Earlier this month, two-time Olympic gold medalist Guillermo Rigondeaux (12-0, 8 KOs) took a gigantic leap up in competition when he faced Nonito Donaire in a bout to unify the WBA, WBO and Ring 122-pound titles. Despite his stellar amateur background and his obvious skill level, many questioned if he was ready for such a highly decorated pro.

    Instead, the amateur gave the pro a boxing lesson, as Rigondeaux easily controlled nearly every minute of every round of the fight, completely taking away Donaire's fearsome left hook, while walking Donaire into his own right hooks and overhand lefts again and again.

    It's tough to predict how high up in weight Rigondeaux might be able to climb. It's not hard to imagine him using his exquisite skill set to beat bigger fighters.  

4. Sergio Martinez

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    In 2012, Sergio Martinez (50-2-2, 28 KOs) finally got the big pay-per-view headline date he has wanted for years, facing the immensely popular Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. on Mexican Independence Day weekend.

    Martinez gave the much younger and larger challenger a boxing lesson for 11 rounds before suffering a knockdown in the 12th and hanging on for the win. 

    Next weekend, Martinez faces undefeated Brit Martin Murray. Murray is a nice fighter who put in good work in his first step up to the world-title level, earning a draw against Felix Sturm in front of Sturm's home crowd is Germany. 

    But the southpaw Martinez is an entirely different animal than Sturm. And while Murray can be expected to make a heroic effort, he can only be viewed as a long shot. 

    The fight most fans would like to see Martinez fight in 2013 is against Gennady Golovkin, the undefeated WBA champion from Kazakhstan. "GGG" is a dangerous puncher with a solid chin. Golovkin is set to face Matthew Macklin next—a scrappy, relentless fighter who has already lost to Maritnez.

    If Golovkin beats Macklin in the same impressive fashion he has handled everybody else, he should generate enough excitement to attract Martinez next.

    But the fight that would be best for Martinez from a business standpoint is Floyd Mayweather, though he would probably have to be able to get back down to 154 pounds to have a chance of getting it. 

3. Juan Manuel Marquez

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    On Dec. 8, 2012, Juan Manuel Marquez (55-6-1,40 KOs) finally connected with the big right hand he had been waiting over 40 rounds to find, the perfectly timed counterpunch that sent his longtime nemesis Manny Pacquiao into la la land, their storied rivalry ending decisively for a change. 

    In a sense, it was the right hand he had been waiting his whole career for—the punch that proved once and for all that Marquez is truly one of the elite of the elite among this generation of fighters. 

    And now, at 39, the great Mexican champion, who never seemed to get his due, finds himself suddenly near the very top of the pound-for-pound ratings. 

    Instead of a fifth fight with Pacquiao, Marquez has opted to fight Timothy Bradley next. While Bradley lacks the explosive power of Pacquiao, his strength and athletic ability could make for a challenging fight for Marquez. 

2. Andre Ward

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    In 2011, Andre Ward (26-0, 14 KOs) completed his run through the Showtime Super Six Super Middleweight tournament, beating Arthur Abraham and Carl Froch by easy decisions and earning Fighter of the Year honors. 

    He followed that up in 2012 by thoroughly dismantling light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson, TKOing his fellow star in 10. The win propelled him to near the very top of pound-for-pound rankings. 

    At this point, Ward is somewhat a victim of his own success. He has convincingly thrashed the entire division and the champion from the next division up. Who does he fight next?

1. Floyd Mayweather

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    Floyd Mayweather fought just once in 2012, staging his most exciting fight in years, but ultimately coasting by Miguel Cotto. It is enough to allow Mayweather to hold onto his No. 1 pound-for-pound ranking, given the history of his career. 

    Still, at 36, it is fair to wonder how much longer he will hold onto his status. 

    Judging from the six-fight deal he has signed with Showtime, "Money," no doubt, figures he has three good years left. This would appear to be Mayweather making the final push to establish his career legacy. 

    He starts next month against Robert Guerrero. It is hard to imagine "The Ghost" being able to beat Mayweather, but there is no doubt that he will make the fight a war. As slick as Mayweather is, I expect the tenacious Guerrero to draw him into a rough, violent fight.

    It might be a tough night for Mayweather, but it's also likely to be the sort of exciting fight that will start winning fans back to him. 

    From there, expect Mayweather to take on Canelo Alvarez in September. Alvarez showed improved defense against Austin Trout this past weekend, even as he struggled at times. He will attempt to make full use of his size advantage against Mayweather and bully the older fighter.

    Again, Mayweather would be the favorite. But he would also be another six months further into his late 30's.   

    If Mayweather can beat Sergio Martinez (or Golovkin, if GGG ascends to the top at middleweight) in the next year or two, even at a 154 pounds, then I think he will retire with a serious argument for all-time, top-five consideration. 

     

    Follow Briggs Seekins on Twitter at #BriggsFighttalk.