This has perhaps been the most transitionary decade in boxing’s history. Old adages appear to have been abandoned, and boxing has been forced to adapt and reform.
It's been a decade where boxing has encountered its first legitimate threat for fight night supremacy.
"UFC vs. Boxing" has become a major talking point—each initially exchanged jabs but neither is yet to land either a haymaker or secure a firm triangle choke.
It is often said that there is boxing, and then there is heavyweight boxing.
Well, this decade proved otherwise.
With the heavyweight division in serious decline as the last great heavyweights of yesteryear faded and retired, it was the smaller weight divisions that rightfully took their place in the spotlight.
With great gusto, they have seized their chance, and this decade has seen at least 10 future Hall of Famers emerge, each from 175 lbs. or less.
Admittedly, there remain certain facets of boxing’s make-up that remain its Achilles heel—"Mayweather vs. Pacquiao" negotiations are testament to that.
But this sport—where the fans remain some of the most passionate I have seen, appreciate the complexities and the drama involved in every prizefight, and will never allow the sport to die—may have moments of ineptitude.
Hell, it may even be removed from the public conscience, but never will it be removed from the hearts of its legions of avid supporters.
This decade has seen boxing reach new depths with steroid scandals behind the scenes and political wranglings ruining super-fights—and that’s just "Money vs. Pac-man!"
The amount of Pay-Per-View sales in the heavyweight division has dwindled so drastically that often heavyweight fights are not shown live or are even removed from airwaves all together.
But, hold your horses. This decade has seen massive PPV sales from the likes of Mayweather, De la Hoya, Pacquiao, Trinidad, Hatton, and Marquez—including a new PPV record of 2.4 million buys set by "Mayweather vs. De la Hoya."
So, do not despair, for although the crop that I have unveiled below may not compare with those of the '70s or '80s, it is packed full with record accomplishments and talent the likes of which may never grace the squared circle again.
Anyway enough of the rally cry and on to the rankings.
Below I have attempted to rank the top 20 fighters of the decade—starting with Part One, which includes fighters 20-11.
Over the past month, I have examined all 328 world or lineal champions of the last decade using a number of distinct performance variables. These variables mean the fighters below are ranked according to their level of greatness achieved since Jan. 1, 2000.
This does not mean that a fighter who places higher is technically better pound for pound; it means their accomplishments and achievements over the last 10 years have outweighed those of fighters below them.
It also leads to a set of variables that cannot be influenced by subjectivity and thus are virtually immune to any form of bias.
The three performance measures that I implemented were:
1. World and Lineal Titles
Both boxrec.com and Cyberboxingzone were used to gather information.
2. Quality of Opposition Faced
This included: a) whether the fighter was a world champion or became such; and b) the fighters' standings (I used both boxrec.com and The Ring rankings at the time of the bout).
3. Manner of Victory
Whether victory was obtained by knockout, undisputed decision, or disputed decision.
Previously, Number 20-11 were unveiled as:
20. Sven Ottke
19. Roy Jones Jr
18. Kostya Tszyu
17. Pongsaklek Wonjongkam
16. Ricky Hatton
15. Erik Morales
14. Wladimir Klitschko
13. Rafael Marquez
12. Israel Vazquez
11. Vic Darchinyan
Here are the top 10:
10. Miguel Cotto (PUR) 34(27)-2
Lineal World Titles: 0
Sanctioning Body World Titles: 3, WBO Welterweight Champion (21/02/09-14/11/09); WBA Welterweight Champion (02/12/06-26/07/08); WBO Light Welterweight Champion (11/09/04-2006)
Notable Victories: UD Shane Mosley, SD Joshua Clottey, RTD 5 Carlos Quintana, KO 7 Ricardo Torres, UD Paulie Malignaggi, KO 6 Randall Bailey
Cotto, much like Vic Darchinyan, began his career this decade. When analysing all that he has achieved in such a short space of time it becomes abundantly clear that "Junito" is a very special talent.
He began his career in the immediate aftermath of his disappointing Olympic Games. Within three years, Cotto had established himself as one of the principal light welterweights in the world.
He over-awed the then-undefeated Kelson Pinto to claim the WBO belt and went on to defend it six times.
What is most striking about Cotto’s resume this decade is that he fought 12 world champions, going 10-2. Even more poignant is that seven of those victories came against either incumbent champions or future champions.
Names like Maussa, N’dou, Torres, Malignaggi, and Quintana may not have been the household variety at the time of their bouts with Cotto, but all subsequently went on to gain success and world titles.
Whilst at 140 lbs., Cotto struggled to recieve the super-fights which were becoming of his talent. Fights with lineal champ Hatton passed him by, Mayweather eluded him, and Kostya Tsyzu chose Hatton then retirement.
At 147, however, he suffered no such complications.
He defeated both Zab Judah and the supreme talent that is Shane Mosley. The latter may serve as Cotto’s career-defining victory, during which he displayed courage, versatility, and punching power en route to his unanimous decision victory.
It is only in the last 18 months of this decade that Cotto has suffered defeat.
First where he was left battered and bruised by a gorged gloved Antonio Margarito. A fight which most say would have had a different result had both fighters been on a level playing field.
Secondly and just two months ago, he was outgunned and over-matched when confronted with the whirlwind that is Manny Pacquiao.
Cotto’s future in the sport may look bleak to some considering his last defeat, but one can point to his eight years of success prior to his Pacquiao loss as evidence that "Junito" still has much to offer to the boxing world.
9. Shane Mosley (USA) 13(8)-5
Lineal World Titles: 3, Light Middle-Weight (13/09/03-13/03/04); 2x Welterweight (17/06/07-26/01/02 & 24/01/09-Present)
Sanctioning Body World Titles: 4, WBC Light Middle Champion (13/09/03-13/03/04); WBA Light Middle Super Champion (13/09/03-13/03/04); WBC Welterweight Champion (17/06/00-26/01/02); WBA Welterweight Super Champion (24/01/09-Present)
Notable Victories: SD & UD Oscar De La Hoya, TKO 9 Antonio Margarito, TKO 10 & TKO 6 Fernando Vargas
Looking at Mosley's list of opponents this decade, the quality of the fighters he has dispatched and his astonishing three lineal world titles, you would be permitted to think he deserved a higher placing.
When you add to that mix his inimitable dexterity and his ability to adapt on the fly, Sugar Shane is one of the most talented boxers of this generation.
What prevents me from placing him any higher is that not only has Mosley experienced major highs this year, but also he has encountered the depths of despair.
Outclassed by Winky Wright on two occasions and similarly twice taken apart by an inferior Forrest—who in turn was dismantled by the less-than-stellar and slightly primitive Ricardo Mayorga—2002 to 2004 turned out to be a rather destructive time for Mosley.
His status this decade is further denigrated when his most triumphant display against De la Hoya was undermined, having admitted in 2007 to taking BALCO steroids prior to the pair’s 2003 bout. A further loss at the hands of Miguel Cotto in 2007 adds to his dismay.
Still, Mosley entered the decade as a lineal champion and leaves the decade holding that same mantle, having peaked again with a dominating stoppage of Antonio Margarito in January 2009.
This is testament to his longevity as it was the same speed and stamina that carried him to that seminal victory over the Golden Boy, which opened his decade with such promise.
8. Ivan Calderon (PUR) 33(6)-0
Lineal World Titles: 1, Light Flyweight (25/08/07-Present)
Sanctioning Body World Titles: 2, WBO Light Flyweight Champion (25/08/07-Present); WBO Straw-weight Champion (03/05/03-2007)
Notable Victories: TD 7 & SD Hugo Fidel Cazares, TD 7 Rodel Mayol, UD Nelson Dieppa, UD Isaac Bustos
Don’t be alarmed if you are not familiar with Ivan Calderon. There’s a very good chance you’re not in the minority.
Unfortunately for the "Iron Boy," he began his career as a Straw-weight and finally graduated to Light-Flyweight in 2007.
Of course, neither of these weight classes garner much attention from casual fans and neither are they found worthy of precious column space.
There is no doubt in my mind that, had Calderon fought in a higher weight class, he would have gathered more notoriety and would be heralded as a consensus Top 5 Pound for Pound fighter.
Eminent boxing analysts have described him as the "The game’s finest pure boxer."
He is blessed with incredible foot speed, agility, cat-like reflexes, and his defensive prowess is such that even the defensive genius himself Floyd Mayweather, Jr., would look up and take notice.
What is most astounding about Calderon is that he stands a diminutive 5’0" tall.
It is entirely credible to say that had weight classes existed below 105 lbs., Calderon may have found a home there.
If you watch only one Calderon fight, view his first fight with Hugo Fidel Cazares, where all of the aforementioned attributes are most evident. As with the majority of his fights, he was faced with an astonishing height and reach disparity, yet overcame it with his superior boxing skills.
He was the class of the Straw-weights for most of the decade and made 12 consecutive title defenses.
Critics point to his lack of unification fights as reason for not taking him too seriously, but regularly the "Iron Boy" was a victim of his reputation preceding him. Often high-ranking fighters would avoid him, preferring to take fights offering less risk.
Those fights were more forthcoming. However, at 108 lbs., he achieved his most impressive victories with defeats of Cazares (twice), Dieppa, and Mayol.
He remains unbeaten to this day and one of the most feared fighters in lower weight class. Both factors are all the more impressive when you consider the physical discrepancies Calderon is forced to overcome in each and every bout.
7. Ronald ‘Winky’ Wright (USA) 12(1)-2-1
Lineal World Titles: 1, Light Middleweight (13/03/04-07/11/05)
Sanctioning Body World Titles: 3, IBF Light Middle Champion (12/10/01-2004); WBC Light Middle Champion (13/03/04-2004); WBA Light Middle Super Champion (13/03/04-2005)
Notable Victories: UD & MD Shane Mosley, UD Felix Trinidad, UD Bronco McKart
"Winky" endured almost all of his success this decade at 154 lbs., where he was a perfect 9-0. He made six title defenses, including becoming unified and lineal champion by beating Shane Mosley. Prior to this, he defeated sturdy opposition in Robert Frazier and Bronco McKart.
Wright in his heyday was a defensive marvel with a guard reminiscent of a turtle—head pulled in and gloves held strategically close—enabling him to put much reliance on his magnificent reflexes.
It wasn’t until 2004 that Wright got his big break.
His scientific style that hearkened back to the great practitioners of the past didn’t sell tickets, neither was his style endearing to world champions who saw a slick no-name southpaw who figured to beat them.
This meant for a large part of the decade, Wright was extremely underrated and made no imprint on the boxing landscape. Forced to fight on undercards, he regularly picked up wins against the best 154 lbs. had to offer.
His big break came when he outboxed Shane Mosley on two separate occasions, outclassing him in the first and producing gritty victorious performance in the rematch.
His jaunt above 154 has seen mixed success. He was embarrassed and dismantled by the hardest puncher he had ever faced in Tito Trinidad, who at the time was still one of the smartest and trickiest of world class boxers even if a little past his best.
Following a credible victory over Ike Quartey, he then suffered one draw (against Jermain Taylor) and two defeats when he was outboxed by Bernard Hopkins and Paul Williams, the latter following a two-year period of inactivity.
Winky Wright is a sure-fire Hall of Famer, and these losses which taint his decade’s record pale in comparison to the prior seven years of unrivalled success.
6. Marco Antonio Barrera (MEX) 16(7)-5
Lineal World Titles: 1, Featherweight (07/04/01-15/11/03)
Sanctioning Body World Titles: 5, WBC Super Featherweight Champion (27/11/04-17/03/07); IBF Super Feather Champion (17/09/05-2006); WBC Featherweight Champion (22/06/02-2002); 2x WBO Super Bantamweight Champion (01/01/00-19/02/00 & 17/06/00-2001)
Notable Victories: UD & MD Erik Morales, UD Naseem Hamed, UD Johnny Tapia, UD Robbie Peden, TKO 10 Paulie Ayala, KO 2 Mzonke Fana
To call Barrera one of the greatest Mexican fighters who ever lived is no exaggeration. Most of the wins which make him deserving of such a moniker came this decade.
He produced one of the virtuosic performances of the decade when he embarrassed and humbled the once braggadocios Prince Naseem. "The Baby-Faced Assasin" delivered a near-perfect display against a supreme talent.
There have been claims that Hamed was an over-hyped media phenomenon. I don’t buy into that.
Hamed may have been somewhat of an oddity, considering he had no real conception of defence, but he boasted a great punch and had dominated the division for five years.
This success is in stark contrast to how Barrera’s decade started. He began the '00s with a defeat in his the first of his classic bouts with Erik Morales.
Nevertheless, he gained retribution in their rematch and perhaps proved the first fight to be an aberration with his decision victory in their third and final bout.
A brilliant, versatile fighter who had the ability to assess a situation and know exactly what game-plan it called for.
All of his fights at Featherweight and Super-Feather were against premier level opposition. Of his 13 bouts at 126 lbs. and above, Barrera was 11-2 and nine were world title bouts.
In the latter part of his career, he has begun to slow and was defeated on three occasions.
I am very quick to throw out his defeat against Khan, as not only was Barrera fighting above his usual weight class, the fight should have been stopped earlier resulting in a no-contest.
Therefore, his four legitimate defeats came against Erik Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez, and Manny Pacquiao (twice).
When you consider that all three of those fighters feature on this list, Morales he went on to defeat twice and the latter two place in the top five, we see that Barrera suffered defeats only against the very best, arguably when past his best.
5. Joe Calzaghe (WAL) 19(9)-0
Lineal World Titles: 2, Super Middleweight (04/03/06-2008), Light Heavyweight (19/04/08-2009)*
Sanctioning Body World Titles: 4, IBF Super-Middleweight Champion (04/03/06-27/11/06); WBA Super Middleweight Super Champion (03/11/07-21/06/08); WBO Super Middleweight Champion (01/01/00[11/10/97]-01/06/08) WBC Super Middleweight Champion (03/11/07-04/07/08)
Notable Victories: SD Bernard Hopkins, UD Mikkel Kessler, UD Jeff Lacy, UD Sakio Bika, KO 2 Byron Mitchell
One of the most polarizing figures for boxing fans.
His detractors say that it was only in his latter years he began to test himself—devaluing his previous 10 years of dominance at 168 lbs. He was often referred to as pitty patty, due to his propensity to punch with the inside of the glove but even if this is true it didn’t dissuade Calzaghe from his always-aggressive style
His advocates point to his skill and that he fought nearly every Super Middleweight who mattered, his brief sojourn at light-heavy being the icing on the cake.
Crude statistics point to an overbearing dominance. Seventeen of his bouts this decade were fought at Super-Middleweight, and all were title defenses.
He remains the only man to have held all the major sanctioning bodies in the class. He faced seven world champions, in which, remarkably, Calzaghe posted commanding decisions or knockout victories in six out of the seven fights.
Analysts often use his bout with Jeff Lacy as the beginning of a new epoch in Calzaghe’s career.
His major wins pre-Lacy were mostly mandatory defences against the likes of Charles Brewer, Richie Woodhall, Omar Sheika, and David Starie. None of which inspire awe. In fact only his win over Byron Mitchell is noteworthy.
His defeats of both Jeff Lacy and Mikkel Kessler are testament to his talent. Much underestimated and determined to prove a point Calzaghe pitched a shut-out against Lacy, battering the American slugger and ultimately destroying the Lacy façade.
Lacy’s staggering fall from grace since this bout can be attributed to that fateful night in Manchester.
The Kessler bout forced Calzaghe to display versatility. Early on in the fight, Kessler was having success so the "Italian Dragon" adapted his strategy, employing a more sturdy defence and showing technical and tactical astuteness, whilst bouncing in and out of range on way to an unanimous points verdict.
Bernard Hopkins was dispatched in a close fight that was, at times, very difficult to score. To be given the decision on foreign soil against a spoiler such as Hopkins deserves all of its plaudits and marks his greatest scalp.
His defeat of a haggard Roy Jones adds little to Calzaghe’s legacy, as I tend to agree with one critic’s observation that his defeat was more like "vandalizing a relic" than outclassing a legend.
Undeniably, his resume would have been bolstered by facing the likes of Sven Ottke, Chad Dawson, or even Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones, Jr., in their pomp.
Perhaps even more ventures outside of the UK early in his career would have increased his legitimacy. Had such challenges been negotiated successfully, Calzaghe would be free from the divergence in opinion often displayed when fans debate his standing amongst the greats and he could have been legitimately considered for a top three spot on this list.
*Disputed as many eminent boxing historians held Zsolt Erdei and not Bernard Hopkins as the Lineal Champion.
4. Juan Manuel Marquez (MEX) 20(14)-3-1
Lineal World Titles: 1, Lightweight (13/09/08-Present)
Sanctioning Body World Titles: 5, WBO Lightweight Champion (28/02/09-Present); WBA Lightweight Super Champion (28/02/09-Present); WBC Super Featherweight Champion (17/03/07-15/03/08); IBF Featherweight Champion (01/02/03-2005); WBA Featherweight Super Champion (01/11/03-2005)
Notable Victories: TKO 9 Juan Diaz, TKO 11 Joel Casamayor, UD Marco Antonio Barrera, TD 7 Derrick Gainer, TKO 7 Manuel Medina, RTD 10 Robbie Peden, UD Rocky Juarez
Much like his fellow countryman Marco Antonio Barrera, Marquez campaigned at three weight classes, winning five world titles and one lineal title along the way. Their resumes this decade feature victories against a similar level of opposition and thus make it difficult to select who was more deserving of the higher spot on this list.
One aspect of their resume that offers some separation is the manner in which they suffered blemishes on their record. Each of Marquez’s four blemishes came with a hint of controversy.
His draw and loss against Pacquiao were both hotly contested and could have been legitimately scored for either fighter. Marquez was forced to step up two weight classes to be defeated by Floyd Mayweather. His fight against Chris John took place in Indonesia, where he was subjected to dubious scoring.
Barrera, on the other hand, was knocked out by Pacquiao in their first fight and subjected to a shutout in their second fight. He was also soundly beaten by Marquez himself.
Marquez began the decade as a Featherweight and quickly became a dominant force.
"Dinamita" amassed 12 consecutive victories and unified titles, whilst defeating the likes of Derrick Gainer, Manuel Medina, and Robbie Peden.
It was to be his 44th professional fight when he met the incomparable Manny Pacquiao in an instant classic.
Marquez suffered three knockdowns in the first round (along with another in Round Three) but immediately began to make inroads. Forcing Pacquiao to become much more wary of his much heralded counter-punching, the Mexican began catching him at will.
Ultimately, it was to be the four knockdowns that allowed Pacquiao to escape with a draw. Their second fight was just as close but, again, the Filipino came away victorious.
It could be argued that although Marquez went 0-1-1, these results against Pac-Man were his greatest triumphs of the decade. For only Morales had defeated Pacquiao in the '00s and even he was then subjected to two decisive defeats in their return bouts.
In the wake of his defeats of the Hall-of-Fame-bound Barrera and the always-tough Rocky Juarez, Marquez finally gathered the public acclaim he so richly deserved as he was promoted to No. 2 in pound for pound lists.
Although he has only fought twice at 135 lbs., he defeated the two best fighters at the time. Marquez knocked out both lineal champion Joel Casamayor in the 11th round and then Juan Diaz in the ninth round.
Giving the great Manny Pacquiao the two toughest nights of his life is worth credit.
Surpassing Morales and Barrera to gain the right to be called the greatest Mexican fighter of the decade is worthy of greatness.
3. Bernard Hopkins (USA) 14(5)-3
Lineal World Titles: 2, Light Heavyweight *(10/06/06-19/04/08) Middleweight (29/09/01-16/07/05)
Sanctioning Body World Titles: 4, WBC Middleweight Champion (14/04/01-16/07/05); WBA Middleweight Super Champion (29/09/01-16/07/05); WBO Middleweight Champion (18/09/04-16/07/05); IBF Middleweight Champion (01/01/00-16/07/05)
Notable victories: TKO 12 Felix Trinidad, KO 9 Oscar de la Hoya, UD Antonio Tarver, UD Keith Holmes, UD Ronald Winky Wright, UD Kelly Pavlik
Bernard Hopkins will turn 45 in 10 days' time.
Yet here remains the "old man river" of boxing—still one of the top pound for pound fighters on the planet and the standard bearer for the Light Heavyweight division.
Hopkins dominated the loaded Middleweight division for the first five years of this decade, defeating Hall-of-Fame fighters Felix Trinidad and Oscar de la Hoya, as well as capable opposition in William Joppy and Keith Holmes. He unified all four of the titles at 160 lbs. and scored 10 defenses.
His win over Tito Trinidad in 2001 is his finest hour.
Going into their bout, the seemingly untouchable Trinidad was the reigning Fighter of the Year, regarded as the pound for pound king and had secured titles at 147, 154, and 160 lbs. Hopkins proved to have scant regard for reputation and produced the most one-sided display to occur in a super-bout for years.
His first loss this decade came against Jermain Taylor. Little emphasis should be placed on this result as not only was it a razor-thin split decision, but one judge staggeringly scored the 12th round in favour of Taylor, despite Hopkins doing all of the pressing and eventually staggering his opponent.
Their second bout and Hopkins second bout was a dreary snooze-fest which was rightly scored in favour of Taylor.
Hopkins had been written off the boxing landscape but bounced back to prove the critics wrong when he defeated lineal Light Heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver.
His only victories since then came against blown up fighters Winky Wright and Kelly Pavlik. Although victory against both deserves credit (considering both Wright and Pavlik’s status in their own respective weight divisions) neither are by any means "natural" Light-Heavyweights. His recent bout with Ornelas continues this trend.
If Bernard has a New Year's resolution, let's hope for the sake of fight fans he fights someone his own size.
Those remain as the only criticisms one can levy against Hopkins.
He has secured a period of dominance in the Middleweight division that has never seen before and may never see again, his victories at 175 lbs. only serve to add to his legacy.
His refusal to bow to the hands of time has justifiably been likened to that of the great Archie Moore, who successfully defended his Light-Heavyweight title at 48.
Like a fine wine, many think Hopkins gets better with age. Only Archie could claim to have been a greater fighter still active after his 40th birthday.
2. Floyd Mayweather, Jr. (USA) 18(8)-0
Lineal World Titles: 3, Super Featherweight (01/01/00-2002), Lightweight (20/04/02-2004), Welterweight (04/11/06-2008)
Sanctioning Body World Titles: 6, WBC Light Middleweight Champion (05/05/07-2007); WBC Welterweight Champion (14/11/06-2008); IBF Welterweight Champion (08/04/06-2006); WBC Light Welterweight (25/06/05-2005); WBC Lightweight Champion (20/04/02-2003); WBC Super Featherweight Champion (01/01/00-2002)
Notable victories: SD Oscar De la Hoya, UDx2 Jose Luis Castillo, TKO 10 Diego Corrales, TKO 10 Ricky Hatton, UD Zab Judah, RTD 9 Jesus Chavez, UD Juan Manuel Marquez
Quite simply, one of the only boxers this decade who could have held his own in any era.
Mayweather may not have been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but it seems he was blessed with a gum-shield.
He possesses the kind of innate talent that only emerges every once in a while and should be appreciated whilst it lasts. A master of the art of self-preservation, his reflexes, ability to see a punch, and exceptional guard make him at times impossible to hit. Exceptionally quick, he can fire off two or three punches before many fighters have time to react.
Although Floyd debuted in 1996 and became a World Champion in 1998, this decade has been where he has achieved almost all of his illustrious accomplishments. He remains undefeated, reigned as the pound for pound king for five years, and captured six world titles in five weight classes, becoming lineal champion in three of them.
Beginning the decade at 130 lbs., the "Pretty Boy" rattled off victories against Carlos Hernandez, Jesus Chavez, and Diego Corrales. Mayweather decimated the latter, who was a consensus top 10 pound for pound at the time.
His prolonged period at 130 lbs. before the turn of the century coupled with the victories mentioned above means he has legitimate claim to being the greatest Super-Featherweight of all time.
At Lightweight, Mayweather wasted little time acclimating. He jumped straight into a fight with Lineal champion and No. 1 at 135 lbs., Jose Luis Castillo.
Their first bout represents Mayweather’s closest victory of his career, and many see it as the only night that he was beaten. If there was any doubt in the outcome, Floyd brushed it away in the rematch with a clear decision victory.
It is when he left the Lightweight division in pursuit of titles at higher weight classes that holes in his resume become apparent.
At Light-Welter, Mayweather never fought the cream of the crop, avoiding such luminaries as Kostya Tszyu, Miguel Cotto, Zab Judah, and Ricky Hatton.
The latter two "Money" fought at 147 lbs.—the Judah victory came of the back of Zab’s shocking defeat to primitive fighter Carlos Baldomir and his victory over Hatton can also be undermined.
"The Hitman’s" previous visit to 147 lbs. was not very convincing—a narrow decision over Luis Collazo. He was much more effective at 140.
Further wins at 147 have come against Carlos Baldomir and Juan Manuel Marquez. The former is perhaps one of the worst Welterweight champions of all-time, and, despite Floyd's dominating virtuoso shutout against the latter, one must remember Marquez was a natural 130 lb. fighter.
Once again Mayweather was seemingly avoiding the likes of Cotto, Margarito and Shane Mosley.
Arguably, his greatest victory came when he snatched the WBC 154 lb. title away from Oscar de la Hoya. The "Golden Boy" was viewed as one of the top three Light Middleweights at the time and was still a force to be reckoned with.
Despite his successes, Mayweather remains somewhat unloved (I have written more on this topic). Most of this can be attributed to his self-styled persona and endless braggadocio.
The latter is not a novel concept—fighters have been singing their own praises for years. Ali often claimed to be "the prettiest" or "the greatest,"’ but there was touch of insouciance and humour which Mayweather has yet to grasp.
Unfortunately for Mayweather, he loses out on the No. 1 spot to Manny Pacquiao by a measly 2.5 pts.
Still throughout the '00s, Floyd rarely lost rounds and will start the fight with Manny Pacquiao as the betting favorite. His perfect record has rarely been in jeopardy but he will face his toughest test yet against the Filipino.
1. Manny Pacquiao (PHI) 23(20)-1-2
Lineal World Titles: 3, Light Welterweight (02/05/09-Present); Super Featherweight (15/03/08-2008); Featherweight (15/11/03-2005)
Sanctioning Body World Titles: 4, WBO Welterweight Champion (14/11/09-Present); WBC Lightweight Champion (28/06/08-2009); WBC Super Featherweight Champion; (15/03/08-2008); IBF Super Bantamweight Champion (23/06/01-2003)
Notable victories : TKO 12 Miguel Cotto, KO 2 Ricky Hatton, RTD 8 Oscar de la Hoya, TKO 10 & KO 3 Erik Morales, TKO 11 & UD 12 Marco Antonio Barrera, UD Juan Manuel Marquez, TKO 9 David Diaz, TKO 6 Lehlohonolo Ledwaba
There really wasn’t much discernible difference between Pacquiao and Mayweather’s resume this decade—the 2.5 point difference is testament to that.
So I attribute this ranking to two things—i) Mayweather’s 18-month period of inactivity from 2008 to September 2009 (during which time Manny defeated Marquez, Diaz, De la Hoya, and Hatton); and ii) Manny’s annihilation of Miguel Cotto which transpired just six weeks ago.
Unlike Mayweather, Pacquiao wasn’t greatly acknowledged by boxing insiders when 2000 began. It took time before Manny had the type of recognition lavished upon him that we see today.
History judges elite fighters in large measure by their record against other elite fighters. Pacquiao has faced five of the fighters on this list—going 7-1-1. If you add his victory against Oscar de la Hoya, Manny has defeated seven Hall of Fame fighters this decade.
Manny does not carry around an ‘0’ as if it's some affidavit to his credibility.
He indeed has experienced three blights on his record, arguably four if you consider his rematch with Marquez.
These knocks on his resume are a direct result of consistently fighting the best boxing has to offer—inevitably following such a path will result in defeat at some point.
Six different weight classes have been graced with the Pac-Man’s presence. In the process, he has won four world titles at four different weights, adding two lineal championships in the other two divisions.
He began the decade at Super Bantam where he was a naive, rugged, unrefined fighter who was defensively suspect.
It was Freddie Roach who can take the credit for moulding him into the powerful, all-around fighter that stands before us today. Roach’s mentoring immediately paid dividends when in their first fight together Manny upset the lineal champion Ledwaba.
His victory over Marco Antonio Barrera marked his coming out party at Featherweight and finally Manny gained recognition from boxing insiders.
Barrera was the world No. 1 at 126 lbs. The Mexican legend had cleared out the division with defeats of Hamed, Morales, and Tapia. Pacquiao blew Barrera away scoring a resounding 11th-round stoppage and adding his second lineal title.
During the period of 2004-2005, Manny drew against Marquez and suffered his last defeat of the decade against Morales.
It was to be a year later that he began his remarkable run that lasts until this day. It began with avenging his defeat against Erik Morales in which he handed "El Terrible" his first stoppage loss.
A rematch with Marquez shortly followed, and Pacquiao’s third-round knockdown of the Mexican proved to be the deciding factor in a series which requires a third and, hopefully, conclusive chapter.
Manny followed up his sole bout at 135 lbs. by challenging the "Golden Boy." Although Manny looked extremely impressive in forcing Oscar to quit on his stool, the Golden Boy was a severely dehydrated shell of his former self.
If anyone wished to argue that Bernard Hopkins or Floyd Mayweather was more deserving of this top spot, the rebuttal of such a theory was etched all over Miguel Cotto’s battered, bruised, and swollen features in November 2009.
It could be argued Manny deserves a place on this list for that win alone.
Manny fought the best and knocked out the best, 20 KOs in 23 bouts is an awesome percentage considering the majority of his bouts were against elite fighters.
"The Pride of the Philippines" has pulverised genetic barriers with an awesome determination and will to succeed. Often he has been placed in scenarios where he has been forced to dig deep, but as the true greats often do, he comes out with a victory.
I hope all of you have enjoyed my countdown, and I look forward to hearing your own lists and comments.
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