World Cup of Boxing: Which Countries Currently Have the Best Fighters?
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Rumors of boxing's demise, as always, are greatly exaggerated.
This past weekend, HBO featured a triple-header of fights, featuring boxers from the United Kingdom, Russia, Colombia, Spain and Australia. In those fights, we saw three new world champions from three countries.
Boxing is truly a universal game. It's popular in the United States and throughout Latin America and Asia, and it has always found a home across the pond. Thus far, 2013 has proven to be something of a renaissance for the sport, and a growing number of nations are producing top fighters and world champions.
But, at least for now, it seems the old guard is holding up pretty well. The sport's top-tier talent seems to consistently come from the same few nations year after year. Here we rank the five nations that currently have the best fighters in the world.
This is not a historical list, and by all means feel free to dissect it, argue about it and add your own. Everyone has their own preferences. Let the debate begin!
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Cuba makes this list largely on the strength of having two of the most technically sound fighters in the entire business. Those, of course, would be junior middleweight contender Erislandy Lara and WBA/WBO super bantamweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux.
Lara, whose only loss was a ludicrous majority decision against Paul Williams in 2011, recently overcame a ton of adversity to stop the rugged Alfredo Angulo in June. In the process, he positioned himself near the top of the junior middleweight division, and he could be looking at finally securing a title shot in 2014.
Rigondeaux, on the other hand, is one of those fighters you either love or you hate. He has a style that is built for boxing purists, but that turns off those looking for a ton of excitement and action. The boxing clinic he put on against Nonito Donaire was stunning for its efficiency and ease of execution.
Many considered Donaire among the top five pound-for-pound in the sport coming into the fight, and he was made to look like a plodding amateur for nearly the entire match. Whether or not Rigo will be able to capitalize on that fight remains to be seen.
Also, let us not forget Yuriorkis Gamboa, who has had a rough stretch recently but can still be an extremely compelling and exciting fighter to watch.
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This one was a tough call. Argentina may not have as deep a bench as some of the other nations on this list, but its top-tier is as impressive as any.
The class of the group, until proven otherwise, is still Sergio Martinez.
"Maravilla" may be 38 years old and coming off a succession of injuries, but until he's dethroned, he still has a legitimate claim to the middleweight crown. When he returns, he'll have no shortage of challengers available to reiterate his dominance, including the big dog in the yard Gennady Golovkin and recently crowned champion Darren Barker.
Sitting just below the middleweight champion is knockout-artist Lucas "The Machine" Matthysse. If you said his power was frightening, you'd be understating it by just a bit. This guy hits like an absolute tank, and if his demolition of Lamont Peterson this past May is an indicator, Danny Garcia is in trouble on Sept. 14.
Going down the list, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more exciting fighter on the planet than Marcos Maidana. "Chino" is almost never in a boring fight, and he's at his most dangerous when he appears to be in trouble. Just ask Josesito Lopez, who seemed on the verge of blasting him out of the ring, only to get knocked out himself a round later.
You could also include Luis Carlos Abregu and longtime flyweight and super flyweight champion Omar Narvez on this list, but that might seem like overkill after the top three.
3. United Kingdom
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Our friends across the pond are going to have a hard time agreeing with this one, but it was a truly difficult decision between the United Kingdom and Argentina for this slot.
Argentina has a higher level of top-tier fighters but doesn't possess the overall bench depth of the United Kingdom.
At the top of the mountain sits unified 168-pound champion Carl Froch. "The Cobra" avenged an earlier defeat and unified the super middleweight division by defeating the rugged Mikkel Kessler earlier this year. Froch will likely be looking toward a rematch with recognized champion Andre Ward sometime next year.
Darren Barker proved this past weekend that his better-than-expected performance against Sergio Martinez in 2011 was no fluke. He overcame a crushing knockdown to defeat Daniel Geale and capture a share of the 160-pound title in his second attempt. The version of Barker that showed up against Geale could well beat any fighter in the division not named Golovkin.
Here's where the depth comes in for the UK.
Amir Khan is still dangerous and talented (despite his chin issues), Kell Brook is a future world champion, Tyson Fury is exciting and brash enough to make some noise at heavyweight and Carl Frampton has the look of a potential star.
Overall, it's a good time to be a boxing fan across the Atlantic.
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In Mexico, there are few compliments greater for a fighter than being called a warrior. It's a word that embodies the fighting spirit of an entire nation known for their boxing passion.
In its history, Mexico has produced some of the greatest and bravest fighters the sport has ever known. Names like Julio Cesar Chavez, Salvador Sanchez, Carlos Zarate and Ruben Olivares speak for themselves, but the current crop of Mexican fighters is not too shabby, either.
Mexico currently has three fighters ranked within The Ring Magazine pound-for-pound list, and one of them—Saul "Canelo" Alvarez—has a chance to make history when he faces Floyd Mayweather next month for the junior middleweight title.
And he might not even be the best of the lot. That designation should go to Juan Manuel Marquez, who scored a stunning knockout over Manny Pacquiao in December and has a chance to capture a welterweight title against Tim Bradley in October.
Mexico has traditionally been a dominant player in the lower weight divisions, and now is no different. Abner Mares is considered by many to be the best featherweight in the world—ditto for Leo Santa Cruz at super bantamweight.
Rounding out the little guys are a trio of world champions from junior flyweight to super-flyweight about whom you may never have heard. But that doesn't mean Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr., Juan Francisco Estrada and Adrian Hernandez aren't excellent fighters. They are, and if you've seen them fight you can vouch for that.
1. United States
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Call me a homer, but the United States clearly has the best crop of fighters on the planet today.
The good ole US of A has four men ranked within The Ring Magazine pound-for-pound list and currently boasts an impressive 14 world champions in seven weight divisions.
At the top of the class is obviously pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. At 44-0, Mayweather has seldom even been challenged in the ring, and he'll get another chance to solidify his dominance of the sport when he takes on Saul "Canelo" Alvarez on Sept. 14 in Las Vegas.
Also making the list from the United States are Andre Ward—whom many consider to be the No. 2 P4P fighter in the world—as well as ageless light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins, WBO welterweight champion Timothy Bradley and lightweight/welterweight champion Adrien Broner.
If that comprises the starting lineup, then the bench is equally impressive and deep. Danny Garcia is the unified junior welterweight champion, Mikey Garcia is an undefeated knockout artist and former featherweight champion, Peter Quillin holds a share of the middleweight crown and Mike Alvarado and Brandon Rios are as exciting as they come.
Top to bottom, the United States is the class of the boxing world today.