Currently, there is a stalemate at the top of the pound for pound rankings with two fighters in their thirties who may never step into the ring together. However, this inactivity has opened the door for other fighters to gain notability and begin to establish their position in the pound for pound rankings. A list of ten pound-for-pound fighters to watch.
Tomasz Adamek has risen up to heavyweight even more deftly than people expected, and unlike David Haye, he actually wants to fight one of the Klitschko brothers.
A former light heavyweight and cruiserweight champion who has the boxing talent to win in those divisions, Adamek now has comfortable heavyweight wins over Michael Grant and Chris Arreola.
He probably doesn’t have the power to knock out a Klitschko, but he’s a speedy, tactical fighter and at age 33 is in the prime of his career. Having already proven his skill in three weight divisions, if he can pull an upset over one of the Klitschko brothers, Adamek will get major recognition on the Pound for Pound lists.
Paul Williams and Paul Williams Jr.
Paul "The Punisher" Williams - with his tall, sinewy build and his slick, unconventional style - was considered the most avoided fighter in boxing prior to his controversial majority decision over Sergio Martinez, in which one judge gave Williams a ridiculous 119-110 margin, while Julie Lederman scored the bout 114-114.
Williams has since had an unconvincing technical decision win after Kermit Cintron fell through the ropes and was injured. There are whispers that "the most avoided fighter in the world" is himself hesitating on a rematch with Martinez.
Even if that fight doesn't happen, there are a host of other quality matchups for Williams, who is willing to fight in three or four weight divisions: Kelly Pavlik, Felix Sturm, a rematch with Cintron, Cotto, Margarito, Alfredo Angulo, Vanes Martirosyan, or Dmitry Pirog.
Despite going just 1-1-1 in his last three fights (a win against Kelly Pavlik, an action-packed close loss to Paul Williams, and a controversial draw with Kermit Cintron), Martinez has seen his reputation grow with each passing fight. He is now ranked as the top fighter by Ring Magazine in both the middleweight and light middleweight divisions, as well as holding the #7 spot in their pound-for-pound rankings.
Martinez is an exceptional athlete (he was a former professional cyclist and soccer player before he started boxing at age 20) and one of the few fighters today who doesn’t hesitate to take on top quality opposition every single fight.
Many exciting options exist: a middleweight rematch with Williams or Cintron, a fight against light middleweights Miguel Cotto or Antonio Margarito, or a match against Lucian Bute at super middleweight.
The Argentine is 35 years old, but has showed no signs of slowing down, and will want to log some big fights in the coming year. The Williams fight could happen as soon as November, and if it's in 2010 and Martinez wins, he'll be the front runner for Fighter of the Year.
A strawweight who has just celebrated his 23rd birthday, Roman Gonzalez is already 26-0 and has defended his WBA title four times against quality opposition. He has all the makings of a pound-for-pound champion - great speed, great power (only four of his 26 wins have been by decision), and incredible composure for such a young fighter.
His biggest obstacle is gaining awareness in boxing's smallest weight division, and he might need to show some versatility in the junior flyweight division to gain serious attention. Giovanni Segura and Ivan Calderon just had a thrilling FOTY candidate last week in that division, and either of those fighters or another top junior flyweight could give Gonzalez a huge win that could land him on the Pound for Pound top 10 list. Gonzalez has time, however, and may want to wait until the perfect opportunity before moving up in weight.
So far, Ward has been the standout in the Super Six tournament, and is the only one to remain undefeated. Smooth and talented, Ward has a lot of boxing observers clamoring over his potential. He is 26 and is already a complete fighter, and pulled off a huge win against Mikkel Kessler two fights ago.
Andre Ward and Andre Dirrell will be facing each other on September 25th in a marquee fight that Ward is favored to win. If he can do that, and then dispatch either Carl Froch or Arthur Abraham, then there will be no questioning Ward’s pedigree as a fighter.
He is already on the doorstep of the Pound for Pound top 10 rankings, and one or two more quality wins will establish him as one of the best in the world. Following the Super Six tournament, there’s a natural matchup between the tournament winner and Lucian Bute – the #1 ranked super middleweight who most think should have been in the Super Six. If Ward can continue to impress, he is a potential pound for pound king.
Juan Manuel Lopez is an undefeated fighter from Puerto Rico who has held world titles in two different divisions and made seven successful defenses. Juanma is 27, just entering the prime of his career, and has knocked out Bernabe Concepcion, Steven Luevano and Daniel Ponce de Leon.
Lopez is still viewed by many as an unfinished product, which speaks to the very impressive ability of a fighter who is 29-0 and has already held titles in two different weight classes. He is scheduled to fight legendary featherweight Rafael Marquez in November in what is already being billed as a five-star fight and potential fight of the year candidate.
If he wins this fight, he'll be one of the front runners for fighter of the year, and this is a huge opportunity for Juanma to make a statement on the world stage.
In 2007, a 24-year-old Donaire shocked the world with his bone-crushing knockout of undefeated flyweight champion Vic Darchinyan. After defending his flyweight title three times, he has moved back up to super flyweight - his original and most natural division, and handled all competition he has faced.
The 24-1 Donaire, whose only loss came after breaking his hand in his second pro fight, is a highly skilled fighter with extraordinary confidence and calmness, and has won 7 of his last 8 fights by knockout.
His rise has stalled under the protective booking practices of Top Rank, but he nonetheless ranked #4 pound for pound behind Pacquiao, Mayweather and Juan Manuel Marquez. Another match with Darchinyan or a fight against Hugo Cazares or Fernando Montiel could bolster his P4P ranking.
Fernando Montiel is currently ranked number 9 pound for pound by Ring magazine and being mentioned as a possible 2010 fighter of the year after his three knockdown wins against Ciso Morales, Rafael Concepcion, and a big upset over Hozumi Hasegawa. All three knockouts happened within four rounds.
A quick, agile and skilled fighter, Montiel's penchant for accurate punching and his high boxing IQ make him a thrilling fighter to watch. His ability combined with potential matchups with fourth ranked P4P fighter Nonito Donaire (which may or may not happen, depending on how Bob Arum feels about it) and Ring magazine's top junior bantamweight Vic Darchinyan (an unorthodox, exciting power puncher) makes this a recipe for a future pound for pound number one.
Recent reports have confirmed that the two undefeated American light welterweights will be fighting on January 29, 2011, in a potential early candidate for 2011's Fight of the Year. Both have years left in the tank (Bradley is 27, Alexander, 23), and both Americans are coming off an impressive series of wins against solid opposition.
In the past two years, Bradley has wins over Junior Witter and Kendall Holt, and has dispatched two consecutive unbeaten fighters (Lamont Peterson and Luis Carlos Abregu) in his past two fights. He was not considered a top prospect, but has now won two titles and has continued to impress with big victories over top-ranked opponents.
Alexander, nicknamed "The Great" as a prospect when moving up through token opposition, has begun to live up to his nickname in his last three fights against big-name top 10 opponents: Junior Witter (who retired in his seat in the 8th round), Juan Urango (TKO 8) and the veteran Andriy Kotelnik whom he beat by unanimous decision.
The winner has a very good chance of landing in the Pound for Pound Top 10 rankings, and has a natural next match against Amir Khan or Juan Manuel Marquez.
The amazing thing about boxing is that every fight teaches you more about the fighter. Five years ago, Manny Pacquiao was a promising fighter under a new, unproven trainer (Freddie Roach) with quality wins over Barrera and Marquez, but was just coming off his third career loss at the hands of Erik Morales. Few could have predicted the meteoric rise that led to Pacquiao going undefeated in his last 12 fights against top quality opposition. Until Nonito Donaire upset Vic Darchinyan three years ago, it was Vic who was in the pound for pound talks. Now Nonito is #4 on the Ring P4P list. The only thing that is certain is that somebody not on this list will factor into the equation in the next few years.
Both Amir Khan and Jorge Linares have fought well since the first round knockouts that made them once-beaten prospects. Was that stunning loss a freak occurrence, or did it foreshadow problems with a weak chin?
Will Lucian Bute or David Haye continue to impress as they face top opposition in the higher weight classes?
Will Dmitry Pirog, Vanes Martirosyan, or Yuriorkis Gamboa stay unbeaten as they take on more seasoned fighters instead of top prospects?
This can only be learned by watching, and the fighters on this list are a good place to start.