Floyd Mayweather became lineal champion at 154 pounds after his majority-decision win over the previously undefeated Saul “Canelo” Alvarez on Saturday night. Mayweather proved himself to be the best among all boxers in the game today, but how do the rest stack up against each other?
Bleacher Report has you covered.
Fighters are ranked by quality of recent opposition, strength of resume and how willing the fighter is to accepting all comers.
Why He’s Here: Junior featherweight Leo Santa Cruz is fast making a name for himself in the sport. The 25-year-old has nabbed alphabet titles in two weight classes already, and he appears to be getting better and better every fight.
Santa Cruz is a tornado of activity when the bell rings. His Round 3 knockout of Victor Terrazas last month showed he’s a legitimate threat against anyone, including lineal champion Guillermo Rigondeaux.
Why He Could Climb: Santa Cruz is as entertaining a fighter as any in the sport, so he should have plenty of opportunities to showcase his talent as he continues his march up the ranks.
What’s Next: No word on his next fight, but there are plenty of stars in and around his division. A bout against fellow Golden Boy Promotions fighter Abner Mares is probably the easiest to make. It might also be the most lucrative, but Mares’ first-round loss to Jhonny Gonzalez last month will likely stall things.
Why He’s Here: Marco Huck is an absolute monster. He outworks opponents with fiery jabs and crosses, and he’s never one to run from a toe-to-toe encounter. Huck can’t help but be in close fights, but he almost always comes out on the end of them with a win.
The notable exception was his heavyweight title loss to Alexander Povetkin back in 2012 in a bout many believed he deserved to win. Huck slipped past Ola Afolabi in June to maintain his stranglehold on the division.
Why He Could Climb: Cleaning out the cruiserweight division won’t be easy, but Huck might be just the man to do it. If he’s able, another foray into the heavyweight division might be a chance to climb up the rankings.
What’s Next: Huck is scheduled to face Firat Arslan next year in Germany. The two met last year as well in what was a close decision win for Huck.
Why He’s Here: Former cruiserweight champion David Haye also held a version of the heavyweight crown at one time. The talented and heavy-handed Haye suffered only the second loss of his career to Wladimir Klitschko back in 2011, where he infamously claimed a pre-fight toe injury caused him to put forth a lackluster and disappointing effort.
Still, Haye is probably the best heavyweight in the world not named Klitschko when he wants to be, and his success at cruiserweight cannot be overlooked.
Why He Could Climb: Haye simply needs to stay active. He’s fought only once since the 2011 loss to Klitschko, but he looked great in that fight, dispatching Dereck Chisora in just five rounds.
What’s Next: Haye will clash with undefeated heavyweight prospect Tyson Fury in England on September 28.
Why He’s Here: A southpaw with a nice jab, Devon Alexander just might be the most underrated welterweight in the world. His lone loss was a technical decision to undefeated swarmer Timothy Bradley, and he has defeated notable contenders along the way, including Marcos Maidana and Lucas Matthysse.
Why He Could Climb: Alexander needs to get big-name opponents into the ring, and he needs to beat them when he does. If Amir Khan can’t be had, he should redouble his efforts to land a lucrative bout against Floyd Mayweather.
What’s Next: According to Darren Plant of the Sports Mole, Alexander is rumored to be negotiating a lucrative bout against Amir Khan for either New York or Dubai.
Why He’s Here: The slick southpaw outclassed Miguel Cotto at MSG in New York last year, proving he’s near the cream of the crop in the staunch junior middleweight division. He was outboxed by Canelo Alvarez in his last outing, but the decision was razor thin.
Why He Could Climb: Austin Trout has the ability to defeat any junior middleweight in the world. He just needs the opportunity to do it. More high-level wins against top-level fighters will take his career to the next level.
What’s Next: Internet rumors, per Lem Satterfield of The Ring, connect Trout to fellow slickster Erislandy Lara in a battle of dangerous southpaws no one else wants to face.
Why He’s Here: The tremendously talented Adrien Broner has moved up in weight like an all-time great. He jumped two weight classes to defeat Paulie Malignaggi earlier this year and didn’t skip a beat.
Why He Could Climb: Broner has defeated some very good fighters, but avoiding the best competition in each weight class isn’t a recipe for gaining respect. He needs to start looking for competition that will impress before fans tire of his antics.
What’s Next: Broner appears to be on a collision course with offensive juggernaut Marcos Maidana next in what would be a step in the right direction. Broner has the talent to be great, but he needs to show it.
Why He’s Here: Undefeated, longtime featherweight titleholder Chris John is somewhat of an enigma. He fights almost exclusively halfway around the world but holds wins on his ledger against former title challenger Rocky Juarez and all-timer Juan Manuel Marquez. Still, the 34-year-old seems destined to remain off the radar.
Why He Could Climb: There are plenty of great matchups to be had for John. A bout against Mikey Garcia would be his best bet to make some noise, but don’t count on that happening anytime soon. John hasn’t fought in the West since 2009.
What’s Next: There is currently no word on Chris John’s next opponent.
Why He’s Here: Canelo showed well against boxing’s best Floyd Mayweather on Saturday night, but his inexperience was just too much to overcome. The 23-year-old lost a majority decision to Mayweather but fought a tough and competitive bout to prove himself elite. Alvarez is as good a junior middleweight in the world besides Mayweather.
Why He Could Climb: Alvarez is just 23. His prime is yet to come. He gave Mayweather as tough a bout as anyone in recent memory.
What’s Next: Alvarez will likely chase an alphabet belt so he can get back in line for Mayweather.
Why He’s Here: Matthysse lost a close but clear decision against Danny Garcia on Saturday. Matthysse is the clear No. 1 contender to Garcia and should try to get a rematch as soon as possible.
Why He Could Climb: The sooner Matthysse can get a rematch against Garcia the better. It was a close fight, and Matthysse could win a rematch.
What’s Next: It’s time for Matthysse to regroup. A rematch with Garcia or a match against another top contender would be ideal.
Why He’s Here: Mikey Garcia has just about everything you want in a fighter. He’s smart, punches hard, has fast hands and feet, and he’s a student of the game. His wins over Orlando Salido and Juan Manuel Lopez in his last two fights were impressive, even if the latter was somewhat spoiled by Garcia not making weight.
Why He Could Climb: As the 25-year-old ages and moves up in weight, so too do his chances of nabbing bigger name opponents. A bout just north of him against fellow undefeated fighter Yuriorkis Gamboa would be explosive.
What’s Next: Garcia is tentatively scheduled to face Roman Martinez next at a location and date to be determined.
Why He’s Here: Garcia burst on the scene after beating up on old legend Erik Morales in Houston back in 2012. He followed it up with a shocking knockout victory over Amir Khan before dominating Morales in a rematch as well as grabbing a close but clear decision over Zab Judah. Now, he’s beaten Lucas Matthysse to become top dog at 140 pounds.
Why He Could Climb: Garcia has done just about all he can do at junior welterweight. It’s time for him to move up to 147 pounds.
What’s Next: Garcia does not have an opponent next but would be wise to look at welterweight now. A bout against Floyd Mayweather makes the most sense.
Why He’s Here: Gennady Golovkin may be the best middleweight in the world. He certainly looks the part. He demolishes everything and everyone his handlers put in front of him. The 31-year-old made tough guys Matthew Macklin and Nobuhiro Ishida look like rank amateurs in his last two outings, destroying each in less than three rounds.
Why He Could Climb: Golovkin has plenty of chances to rack up impressive wins at middleweight and beyond. A bout against Sergio Martinez would be the ideal way to make some noise, but a tussle with super middleweight Andre Ward could do even more for his career. Heck, why not both?
What’s Next: Golovkin is scheduled to fight upstart slugger Curtis Stevens on November 2 in New York.
Why He’s Here: At 48, Bernard Hopkins has shown himself to be one of the best fighters in boxing history. His dismantling of Tavoris Cloud last March keeps him more than just relevant, and the old master doesn’t seem ready to retire anytime soon.
Why He Could Climb: Hopkins probably won’t be heading back up near the top of this list in the latter part of his storied career, but capturing another lineal championship in the light heavyweight division would certainly bolster his chances. Current champ Adonis Stevenson could be on the horizon, assuming he gets past Tavoris Cloud first.
What’s Next: Hopkins is scheduled to face Karo Murat of Germany on October 26.
Why He’s Here: Swarming welterweight Timothy Bradley built his glossy record fighting seriously tough competition. He’s out-slugged the likes of Lamont Peterson, Luis Carlos Abregu and Devon Alexander, and his slugfest win over Ruslan Provodnikov was a Fight of the Year candidate.
Why He Could Climb: Bradley is undefeated, and he takes on all comers. As long as he keeps winning, he’ll keep heading toward the top of this list.
What’s Next: Bradley will face Juan Manuel Marquez on October 12 in Las Vegas. That’s a tall order.
Why He’s Here: Vitali Klitschko is probably as dominant a heavyweight as the world has ever seen. The elder Klitschko has but two losses on his impressive resume. Each was against a notable titleholder whom he was beating at the time of stoppage.
A shoulder injury did him in against Chris Byrd way back in 2000, and superstar heavyweight Lennox Lewis dug deep to stop Klitschko on cuts in 2003. Besides that, Klitschko has barely lost a round, much less a fight.
Why He Could Climb: At 42 years old and increasingly inactive, Klitschko (he hasn’t fought in well over a year) might be headed to pasture. We’ll keep him just outside the top 10 until he decides.
What’s Next: There is no bout on the horizon for Klitschko, but he hinted he might be interested in tussling with David Haye before he hangs up the gloves for good.
Why He’s Here: Fighting at junior flyweight doesn’t lend itself to attention, at least on this side of the globe, but Roman Gonzalez is as good as any other fighter in the sport. The 26-year-old clobbered Ronald Barrera earlier this year to earn a TKO in Round 5 to stay undefeated.
Why He Could Climb: Bouts against big-name, upper-echelon divisional mates like Brian Viloria or Hernan Marquez would be just what the doctor ordered. A win over either or both would garner Gonzalez more of the attention he deserves.
What’s Next: Gonzalez will face Francisco Rodriguez Jr. on September 21 in his home country of Nicaragua.
Why He’s Here: Nonito Donaire was the 2012 BWAA Fighter of the Year, and he absolutely deserved it. The hard-punching showman fought four bouts over the course of that year and looked impressive in each outing. Donaire was up in the top five of most pound-for-pound lists until he was outpointed by purist Guillermo Rigondeaux last April.
Why He Could Climb: Donaire didn’t seem to take Rigondeaux seriously. He went into the fight with no game plan, and it showed. He just needs to get refocused. A rematch down the line with Rigondeaux would help him climb back up the ladder.
What’s Next: Donaire’s comeback fight will be a November 9 rematch against Vic Darchinyan. Donaire blasted the former titleholder in just five rounds back in 2007, and he’ll hope to do the same this fall so he can get his mojo back.
Why He’s Here: Former Cuban amateur star Guillermo Rigondeaux dominated Nonito Donaire last April in just his 12th bout as a professional to prove he belongs among boxing’s elite. Moreover, the win made him the super bantamweight lineal champion.
Why He Could Climb: Rigondeaux just needs opportunities. The junior featherweight division has plenty of interesting fights for him so long as his promoters and managers can get him the gigs.
What’s Next: Rigondeaux isn’t currently scheduled to fight again this year, though you can probably expect to see him on one of Top Rank’s pay-per-view undercards before the start of 2014.
Why He’s Here: Despite lackluster divisional competition, Wladimir Klitschko has put together an all-time great career as heavyweight champion. Klitschko’s championship run of over seven years is now second place among all heavyweight title reigns by length. Only Joe Louis, who held the crown for 11 years, eight months and eight days, surpasses him.
Why He Could Climb: If young heavyweight prospects like Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury emerge as real contenders, Klitschko could rise in the ranks by fending off yet another set of heavyweight foes.
What’s Next: Klitschko will finally get undefeated titlist Alexander Povetkin into the ring on October 5 in Moscow.
Why He’s Here: Like super middleweight rival Andre Ward, Carl Froch has faced stiff competition in his career. He holds impressive wins over Jean Pascal, Arthur Abraham, Glen Johnson and Lucian Bute, and he avenged one of his two career losses last May when he out-slugged Mikkel Kessler.
Why He Could Climb: Froch takes on all comers. He’ll keep the competition top notch until he can lure division champion Andre Ward into a rematch, this time across the pond.
What’s Next: Froch will take on undefeated prospect George Groves this November in the United Kingdom.
Why He’s Here: Until getting crushed to the canvas by a perfect right hand from rival Juan Manuel Marquez last December, Manny Pacquiao had challenged Floyd Mayweather for the No. 1 spot for over five years.
Pacquiao’s resume as a fighter is as good as it gets. His multiple fights against Marquez, Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales in mostly lighter weight classes, along with his incredible run at welterweight and beyond, are more impressive than any other fighter’s in the sport today.
Why He Could Climb: Pacquiao simply needs to rebound. He appeared to be on his way to defeating Marquez last December before getting reckless.
What’s Next: Pacquiao is set to face slugger Brandon Rios in Macao, China, on November 23.
Why He’s Here: Sergio Martinez is small by middleweight standards, but his athletic prowess and tremendous courage have allowed him to stay atop the division since defeating Kelly Pavlik in 2010 for the lineal championship. It hasn’t been easy, but each time Martinez has faced adversity, he’s risen to the occasion to remain champ.
Why He Could Climb: The middleweight division is stacked with talent. Wins over contenders mean something there, and nothing would mean more than defeating rising middleweight monster Gennady Golovkin.
What’s Next: Martinez is resting the remainder of 2013 due to injuries he sustained against Martin Murray last April.
Why He’s Here: Juan Manuel Marquez is 40 years old now, but he’s been consistently excellent for over a decade. Marquez delivered the knockout of the year last December when he crushed nemesis Manny Pacquiao in the fourth encounter between true boxing icons. After three very close bouts, it was his first official win, and it couldn’t have been more emphatic.
Why He Could Climb: Marquez looked bigger and stronger than ever last December. If he maintains that level of physicality, there’s no reason to believe he won’t stay near the top of the sport.
What’s Next: Marquez is scheduled to face undefeated welterweight Timothy Bradley on October 12 in Las Vegas.
Why He’s Here: King of the super middleweights, Andre Ward came out clean on the other side of a murderers’ row of competitors. He earned his place among the best in the world by defeating Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham, Carl Froch and Chad Dawson, and he’s just 29 years old. Ward isn’t just the future of boxing, he’s the now.
Why He Could Climb: Ward likely has the best of his career ahead of him. Whenever he’s ready, light heavyweight glory beckons.
What’s Next: Ward had surgery to repair a tear in his right shoulder in January, but he’s ready for a comeback fight soon. The last rumor was a showdown against Edwin Rodriguez, but the sides haven’t yet agreed to terms, per Scott Gilfoid of Boxing News 24.
Why He’s Here: Mayweahter’s greatness simply cannot be denied. His win over Canelo Alvarez on Saturday night gave him the lineal junior middleweight championship. He’s as good a fighter as there has ever been.
Why He Could Climb: Mayweather has nothing left to prove. He’s No. 1 in the world, and he’s been so for years.
What’s Next: As great as Mayweather has been, he missed opportunities to fight against Manny Pacquiao and younger versions of Miguel Cotto and Shane Mosley. A win over lineal middleweight champ Sergio Martinez would go a long way in terms of his legacy, and it seems to be a winnable fight at this point in his career.