Boxing: The Top 25 Pound for Pound Best Boxers in the World
With Nonito Donaire's spectacular knockout of Fernando Montiel last Saturday, every boxing pound-for-pound list was forced to rearrange the top spots.
It was the same kind of performance Sergio Martinez put on late last year over Paul Williams, which catapulted him near the top of the sport as well.
Boxing can use a few more stars, especially with Floyd Mayweather Jr. only fighting every couple years, and they have gotten two more in the last six months.
There are plenty of high-quality fighters that fall just short of the list, but you have to draw the line somewhere.
Here is the top 25 pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Tell me what you think.
25. Bernard Hopkins
Though officially ruled a draw, most observers gave Bernard Hopkins the nod when he challenged light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal in December. If the judges would have seen it that way, Hopkins would have broken George Foreman's record for oldest fighter to become a champion by just a matter of days.
Nonetheless, Hopkins looked good and now, at 46-years-old, he has a signed rematch with Pascal to happen sometime in mid 2011.
With a loss, Hopkins' days among the pound-for-pound list are definitely almost over. With a win, it is another major accomplishment that will not soon be forgotten in a career full of them.
24. Joseph Agbeko
In October of 2009, Joseph Agbeko lost his bantamweight title to Yohnny Perez in a close action fight that saw Agbeko hit the floor in the 10th round from a headbutt that was mistakenly called a punch by the ref.
Agbeko took over a year off from boxing and, in the opening round of Showtime's bantamweight tournament, dominated Perez over 12 rounds to take his belt back in December.
Now, Agbeko is scheduled to meet Abner Mares in the tournament finals on April 23. With a win there, Agbeko will be high in the running to land a fight with Nonito Donaire later in the year.
23. Devon Alexander
After Devon Alexander's destruction of junior welterweight titlist Juan Urango in early 2010, the boxing world was abuzz with praise for the rising St. Louis native. But, after a debatable decision win over Andreas Kotelnik and a lackluster decision loss to Timothy Bradley to start 2011, Alexander's stock is dwindling.
With a quality win in his next fight, his past two bouts could easily be forgotten. He is still young and talented, not to mention the Bradley fight probably came a little too soon.
If Alexander can learn from the loss and move forward, there is no reason he can't win another title at 140 pounds.
22. Andre Berto
Andre Berto continues to suck money out of HBO for fights that nobody cares about, but it is hard to doubt his talent. He has two quality wins under his belt, over Luis Collazo and Carlos Quintana—many feel he lost the Collazo fight, yet he has been paid like a fighter that has proven himself for years.
His last bout, a first-round knockout of Freddy Hernandez, was an absolute waste of time and money.
Next up, Berto will likely face Victor Ortiz in a catch-weight bout for Berto's meaningless title. The bout is intriguing, but it is hard to ignore that Berto is facing another junior welterweight coming up to fight him.
21. Yuriorkis Gamboa
Cuban Olympic gold medalist Yuriorkis Gamboa added another featherweight title to his collection last year when he shut out Orlando Salido for 12 rounds in September.
Next up is a bout with Jorge Solis on March 26 that should be very entertaining but doesn't seem to be garnering much attention.
The bout everyone wants is Gamboa against Juan Manuel Lopez, but if it were to happen too early, it would end up possibly Tim Bradley vs. Devon Alexander. Bob Arum knows what he is doing, and when these two eventually do meet, the boxing world will be on its feet.
20. Chris John
Many thought that when Chris John came to the states to fight Rocky Jaurez, that it would be his coming out party for Americans and we would soon see him on a bigger stage.
Despite dominating Juarez twice, that doesn't seem to be the case.
I was hoping John would face Yuriorkis Gamboa, who is John's mandatory challenger, but the two camps went their separate ways.
Next, John will face Daud Yordan in Indonesia on April 17.
19. Vitali Klitschko
Since coming back from a four-year injury induced hiatus from boxing, Vitali Klitschko has gone 6-0, defending his WBC title five times.
In his last outing, the elder Klitschko beat up ancient former champion Shannon Briggs for 12 rounds. It was a dominant display that should not have lasted as long as it did.
Klitschko now faces his mandatory challenger, Cuban Olympic gold medalist Odlanier Solis on March 19. The bout may represent the stiffest test since Klitschko's reemergence, but the conditioning of Solis is always in question.
Nonetheless, it is a quality fight in a division that needs them.
Too bad Comcast doesn't carry the channel Epix, which will be showing the fight live, because I need to find somewhere else to watch it.
18. Tomasz Adamek
Tomasz Adamek may not be facing the elite of the heavyweights at this moment, but he already has a contract signed to fight one of the Klitschko brothers later this year. I don't blame him for not wanting to risk too much in the meantime.
Adamek first won a title at light heavyweight, then became the undisputed champion at cruiserweight, and now will have his chance to become a champion at heavyweight in 2011. You can not doubt this man's gumption.
Adamek faces Kevin McBride on March 9 in a fight he should have no problem winning.
17. Carl Froch
Some may complain about Carl Froch being this high on the list, but when you look at his consistent level of competition and his record against them, it is hard to doubt his stature.
In his last five fights, Froch has faced Jean Pascal, Jermain Taylor, Andre Dirrell, Mikkel Kessler, and Arthur Abraham. His only loss was a razor close decision to Kessler, which he rebounded well from.
Next, Froch faces Glen Johnson in the semi-finals of Showtime's Super Six tournament in May. With a win there, he will face the winner of Andre Ward vs. Arthur Abraham in the finals later this year.
The tournament might have taken longer than expected, but whoever comes out on top will be among boxing's best.
16. Fernando Montiel
Formerly in the top-10 on this list, Fernando Montiel suffered the most devastating loss of his career last week when he was knocked out in the second round against Nonito Donaire. It was the kind of loss that will be very hard to full come back from.
Still, Montiel had an amazing year in 2010, going 4-0 all by knockout, and winning a second title at bantamweight from Hozumi Hasegawa.
Sometimes you're the hammer and sometimes you're the nail. Montiel can still make plenty of good fights at bantamweight.
15. Lucian Bute
I understand if some disagree with Lucian Bute being rated this high on the list. After all, his list of opponents aren't exactly elite-level—mostly due to Showtime's tournament taking up all of the top super middleweights. But, who he has faced, he has taken out in style.
Since his controversial win over Librado Andrade in 2008—which should be considered a loss by all observers—has has looked unstappable, especially in the rematch with Andrade.
Bute has now signed an exclusive deal with Showtime, so it should not be long before we see him in against the division's best. Before that, he will have to get by Brian Magee in the first bout of his new contract on March 19.
14. Amir Khan
All critics that questions Amir Khan's heart and chin before are now silenced after the Brit came to America and beat arguably the hardest puncher in his division in Marco Maidana, taking the best he had to offer. The fight was named by many as 2010's Fight of the Year.
The win hopefully sets up a a title unification with Timothy Bradley for July 23.
However, in the meantime, Khan will return to England to defend his title against Paul McCloskey in what many see as a mismatch. Nonetheless, HBO is paying big bucks for it and will air it on tape delay, April 16.
13. Paul Williams
It would be hard to imagine a worst 2010 for Paul Williams than the one he had.
First, he faced Kermit Cintron in a fight nobody really had much interest in. Williams didn't look especially good in the opening rounds In the fourth round, Cintron fell out of the ring and the bout was called off, with Williams winning a confusing technical decision.
In his next bout, he was savagely knocked unconscious in the second round by middleweight champion Sergio Martinez.
Hard to say where Williams goes from here, but punches like those are hard to put behind you.
12. Miguel Cotto
After losing in a spirited war with Manny Pacquiao by TKO in 2009, Miguel Cotto rebounded by switching trainers and moving up a weight class to win a title off of Yuri Foreman at junior middleweight.
The switch to trainer Emmanuel Steward appears to be a smart one and Cotto will now defend that title against aging brawler Ricardo Mayorga on Showtime PPV in March.
The win won't do much for Cotto's career, other than add a little money to his bank account, but a rematch with Antonio Margarito is likely not far behind. Margarito gave Cotto the only other loss of his career in a bout many suspect Margarito was not playing fair.
11. Andre Ward
Nobody has benefited from Showtime's Super Six tournament more than Andre Ward, who has gone 3-0 since it began.
Most recently, Ward won a unanimous decision over Sakio Bika in a rough and tough fight that was closer than the scorecards indicated.
Ward will next face German-based Arthur Abraham in the semi-finals in May, with the winner meeting the winner of Carl Froch vs. Glen Johnson in the finals.
If Ward wins it all, he should become a star in the states, but time will tell.
10. Wladimir Klitschko
Though a match with England's David Haye is what the fans want, Wladimir Klitschko can't force Haye into the ring with him. All he can do is fight who is in front of him.
Most recently, Klitschko defended his title against former foe Samuel Peter in September, knocking him out in round 10. Next, he will face unheralded and undefeated Derek Chisora from England in April.
While many hold out hope for a clash with Haye later in 2011, Tomasz Adamek is also a likely opponent for later in the year.
Times sure have changed when the heavyweight champion of the world is the one trying to get a fight.
9. Pongsaklek Wonjongkam
Flyweight champion Pongsaklek Wonjongkam has put together 10 wins since his draw with familiar foe Daisuke Naito in 2008. And in that time has captured the WBC title and the legitimate Ring championship at 112 pounds.
Since winning the title, Wonjongkam has defended the title once with a unanimous decision over Suriyan Por Chokchai in October.
Following that, he knocked out two totally over-matched fighters in the opening rounds.
8. Giovanni Segura
Giovanni Segura grabbed headlines last year when he knocked out previously undefeated Ivan Calderon in the eighth round. It was a career making performance and put Segura at the top of the sport.
He followed that up with a TKO over Manuel Vargas in November, and will now meet Calderon in a rematch set for April.
With a win there, it is hard to say where he goes afterward, but his No. 1 status will be cemented.
7. Juan Manuel Lopez
After vacating his super bantamweight title and capturing the WBO featherweight tile from Steven Luevano to start 2010, Juan Manuel Lopez defended it against Bernabe Concepcion in July, setting up a highly anticipated showdown with Rafael Marquez.
After a scintillating slugfest for eight rounds, Marquez retired on his stool and Lopez had the biggest win of his young career.
Everyone wants to see Lopez face fellow titlist Yuriorkis Gamboa, but Bob Arum is going to let that fight marinate a bit longer. In the meantime, Lopez will face former titlist Orlando Salido in April.
Salido's last fight was a decision loss to Gamboa.
6. Timothy Bradley
It may not have been the most exciting performance of his career, but Timothy Bradley got the job done in his high-profile unification bout with Devon Alexander to start 2011.
Bradley pushed the action and threw the harder shots throughout, but his constant headbutts are becoming a major issue. I am surprised I'm not hearing it from more members of the boxing community, but the fight ending butt looked very intentional from Bradley.
It looked to me like he put his arm behind Alexander's head and went forward with the top of his skull.
He is a tremendous fighter, but if he keeps that stuff up it will keep the big names from ever fighting him.
Still, you can not doubt his skill and mental toughness. He reminds me a bit of a smaller, younger Bernard Hopkins—not just because of the headbutts.
5. Nonito Donaire
What can I say about Nonito Donaire that hasn't already been said in the past week?
His knockout of Fernando Montiel was the stuff stars are made of and I don't see him stopping here.
There is talk of him moving up already to test the waters at junior featherweight and featherweight, but I would prefer him to stick around and become the undisputed champion at bantamweight first.
A bout with Joseph Agbeko would produce absolute fireworks.
Either way, if he keeps winning, it won't be long before he is in the top three on this list.
4. Juan Manuel Marquez
Juan Manuel Marquez seems to be slipping out of the public consciousness after Donaire's jump up the rankings, but Marquez's greatness can not be doubted.
Though he lost to the much bigger Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2009, he rebounded greatly by defending the legitimate lightweight championship against Juan Diaz and Michael Katsidis in 2010.
The Katsidis fight was particularly exciting and impressive, as Marquez showed why the fans love him by getting off the floor and stopping Katsidis later in the fight.
Many were hoping for a throw-back fight between Marquez and the reemerging Erik Morales, but negotiations fell through. Now, Marquez's next opponent could be anyone, as he waits to see if a third fight with Manny Pacquiao can materialize for late 2011.
3. Sergio Martinez
Sergio Martinez is now the defending middleweight champion of the world after he won the title from Kelly Pavlik and defended it with the Knockout of the Year against Paul Williams to become 2011's Fighter of the Year.
And what does he get for it? Total disrespect from HBO, who forced him to vacate his WBC title and face largely unknown Sergei Dzindziruk on March 12.
Nonetheless, it is an intriguing fight and should be a special one for the fans who love two technical masterminds.
If Martinez looks good against Dzindziruk and Floyd Mayweather Jr. remains inactive throughout the year, Martinez will likely jump up a spot on the list.
2. Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Due to inactivity and an absolute refusal to entertain the idea of fighting Manny Pacquiao, the stature of Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the sport is shrinking day by day.
In May of 2010, Mayweather dominated Shane Mosley from the third round on, despite getting rocked in the second. It was a terrific win, but the critics can point to Mosley's age and long layoff prior to the fight.
The world wants to see Mayweather fight Pacquiao, but he clearly does not want to risk losing a fight.
Many say that the fans would be so happy to see the fight that there would be no loser, but the reality is if Floyd were to lose, the fans would never stop criticizing him. it is just the way it is.
There are many immature boxing fans who have an issue with respecting everyone at the top of the sport, win or lose, which is the reason Mayweather protects his record as much as he does.
Still, he will be remembered for the fights he didn't participate in, more than the ones he did, if he never takes this fight.
1. Manny Pacquiao
Many fans are complaining at the choice of Shane Mosley for Manny Pacquiao's next opponent, but the truth is that it is still a dangerous fight and is just one in a long string of impressive challenges for Pacquiao.
If this fight was made a year ago, fans would be salivating. Sure, a lot can change in a year, but it will still be an intriguing fight.
Not to mention, a win for Pacquiao clearly keeps him as the best boxer on the planet and adds another hall of fame fighter to his resume.
Hopefully, Pacquiao will face either Floyd Mayweather Jr. or Juan Manuel Marquez in the second half of 2011. The man only has so many fights left in his career, so let's make the rest of them as good as possible. And, instead of tearing down his fight with Mosley, just accept that it is happening and try to enjoy the man while he is still around.