Boxing: The Top 25 Pound for Pound Best Boxers in the World
Now that 2011 is nearly half over, it seems a perfect time to once again gather up the top 25 pugilists in the game.
So far this year, Bernard Hopkins has turned back the clock, the Super Six final has been set, Sergio Martinez further solidified his place among the best, and Manny Pacquiao added another future Hall of Fame name to his resume.
And, along with Floyd Mayweather Jr., all of these fighters have bouts scheduled for the latter half of the year.
Here are the top 25 pound for pound best boxers in the world.
25. Devon Alexander
The boxing world jumped the gun a bit on Devon Alexander before his January unification bout with top junior welterweight Timothy Bradley.
Alexander is a very gifted young fighter, but his experience against elite opponents was lacking. It showed when he was taken out of his comfort zone against Bradley, and seemed to quit after a hard headbutt in the tenth round.
His stock dropped dramatically, but he will jump right back into the fire in an attempt to redeem himself by taking on tough Argentinian Lucas Matthysse on HBO later this month.
It's a great fight and Alexander should be commended for taking on such a tough challenge right after his first professional loss.
24. Victor Ortiz
Nearly two years after quitting in the sixth round of a major HBO fight against Marco Maidana, "Vicious" Victor Ortiz put those ghosts to rest by willing himself through two knockdowns to take a clear unanimous decision over previously unbeaten welterweight titlist Andre Berto.
Ortiz scored two knockdowns of his own over Berto in a fight many are calling the best yet of the year—personally, I thought the constant separations from the ref took it out of the running to eventually win that award at the year's end.
This week, Floyd Mayweather Jr. announced that his comeback to boxing will be against Ortiz in September, for the WBC title Mayweather vacated when he briefly retired in 2008.
With Ortiz being a powerful southpaw, many are figuring him to be a step towards Mayweather fighting Manny Pacquiao. Ortiz will certainly look to throw a wrench in that potential plan.
23. Chris John
Longtime titlist Chris John made the 14th defense of his title in April against fellow Indonesian Daud Yordan.
The fight was a huge deal in Indonesia, but did little to raise John's worth for the rest of the boxing world.
While John is clearly an elite boxer, the fans want to see him against the top of the featherweight division and that doesn't seem likely in the near future.
Yuriorkis Gamboa has been John's mandatory challenger for some time, but neither side has shown any interest in making that fight happen. It would be good for the division however, as it would establish a very clear champion at 126 pounds.
22. Fernando Montiel
Fernando Montiel was involved in one of the biggest fights of the year so far, when he put his two titles on the line against Nonito Donaire on HBO in February. Unfortunately for him, he never landed a meaningful punch in the fight and was brutally knocked out in the second round.
The devastating loss came after a tremendous 2010, that saw Montiel win four fights by knockout and pick up two titles along the way.
Next up, Montiel will look to rebound against former titlist Nehomar Cermeno. The bout should tell us quite a bit about what Montiel has left.
Cermeno has lost three of his last four, but all of those losses were by split-decision and two of them came against the very talented Anselmo Moreno. Also, Cermeno notched two upset wins against Cristian Mijares before the losses to Moreno.
21. Juan Manuel Lopez
Following the highest-profile win of his career against Rafael Marquez, Juan Manuel Lopez took a supposed easier challenge by defending his title against former titlist Orlando Salido in April.
However, Lopez looked slow and Salido repeatedly pounded him with right hands until the ref called the bout off in round eight, giving Lopez the first loss of his career. It was a tremendous upset that possibly ruined a long-awaited showdown between Lopez and Yuriorkis Gamboa.
Lopez has been trying to secure a rematch with Salido since the day after his loss and he will likely get it later this year.
20. David Haye
I think most of you could admit that it is hard to know exactly where to rank David Haye until he fights a world class heavyweight.
Since vacating the undisputed cruiserweight championship and moving up to heavyweight, Haye has teased the boxing world with massive fights against the Klitschko brothers, only to change his mind and fight lesser opposition.
Since becoming a heavyweight in 2008, Haye's only meaningful bout was a very tight majority decision win over Nikolay Valuev in 2009 for a title.
However, that all changes just a few weeks from now when he will finally battle the champion of the world, Wladimir Klitschko. It is one of the biggest fights to be made in boxing and will be free on HBO, July 2.
19. Vitali Klitschko
To start off 2011, heavyweight titlist Vitali Klitschko met mandatory challenger Odlanier Solis in Germany.
Solis, an undefeated Olympic gold medalist, stepped back after a grazing punch from Klitschko in the first round and tore a ligament in his knee. He immediately quit and the bout was over before it started.
Many have speculated that it was a preexisting injury that Solis hid in order to receive a massive payday. Klitschko was furious with Solis' performance, but at least he got his mandatory out of the way for bigger fights.
Next up is a meeting with Tomasz Adamek in Poland. Whether you think Adamek has a chance or not, it is one of the biggest fights possible in the heavyweight division.
18. Tomasz Adamek
In his sixth fight at heavyweight, former light heavyweight titlist and cruiserweight champion Tomasz Adamek easily out-pointed longtime journeyman Kevin McBride in April.
It was basically a tune-up fight to prepare Adamek for a major showdown with titlist Vitali Klitschko in September. That fight will take place at the 44,000 seat Wroclaw stadium in Poland, and will likely be filled to capacity.
In such a dismal heavyweight division, this is a fight worth telling your friends about. If Adamek can pull off the upset, his legacy will be secure with a title in a third division.
17. Lucian Bute
Since Lucian Bute's unofficial loss to Librado Andrade in 2008, Bute has looked like a million bucks, winning each fight by knockout, including a redeeming fourth round KO of Andrade.
Most recently, Bute stopped Brian Magee in round 10 for the first fight of his multi-fight Showtime contract.
While Bute has many high-profile options waiting for him in the crowded super middleweight division, including bouts with Kelly Pavlik or Mikkel Kessler, first will be a title defense in his native Romania against unbeaten Jean-Paul Mendy.
Bute looms as the obvious opponent for whoever wins Showtime's Super Six tournament.
16. Paul Williams
Former multi-division titlist Paul Williams has taken some much needed time off in recent months after finding himself on the receiving end of a vicious second-round knockout at the hands of middleweight champion Sergio Martinez.
While many eventually want to see a third fight between Williams and Martinez, Williams is probably better suited at 154-pounds.
In his comeback fight, Williams will be facing undefeated Cuban standout Erislandy Lara in a very intriguing 155-pound catch weight matchup in July. The bout will be shown on HBO and will lead the winner to many big options.
15. Carl Froch
Considering the string of opponents Carl Froch has faced in the last three years, along with his crowd pleasing style, it is hard to comprehend how he is not a bigger name in the sport. But, his time is coming.
Earlier this month, Froch added another former champion to his list of victims by besting Glen Johnson via a well-deserved unanimous decision. The win set Froch up to face American Andre Ward in the finals of Showtime's Super Six tournament later this year.
If Froch can get past Ward, who will surely be favored, there is no denying him his place in the top ten of this list.
14. Amir Khan
Coming off his Fight of the Year win over Marcos Maidana to end 2010, Amir Khan wasted everyone's time by taking on unheralded Paul McCloskey in front of his UK fans.
It was an uneventful and ugly fight, that was stopped in round 6 after an accidental headbutt sent them to the scorecards. Khan had won every round, but impressed nobody.
With that bout behind him, Khan tried to get No. 1 junior welterweight Timothy Bradley into the ring with him to settle any disputes about who the best is at 140 pounds. Sadly, Bradley wanted no part of the fight at this point, as he preferred to wait out his promotional contract and sit idle for the time being.
Instead, Khan has signed to face fellow titlist and former welterweight champion Zab Judah in a terrific fight to take place July 23. If he isn't fighting Bradley, this is the best option for the fans.
With a win over Judah, I may be convinced that Khan is the top junior welterweight at this current time.
13. Yuriorkis Gamboa
In a stacked featherweight division, Yriorkis Gamboa has clearly separated himself from the rest of the pack.
Though Gamboa has been unable to get the other big featherweight names in the ring with him so far—Chris John and Juan Manuel Lopez—he has proved himself to be the man to beat by easily taking care of Jonathan Barros, Orlando Salido, and most recently Jorge Solis.
The Solis fight was especially eye catching, as Gamboa knocked Solis down five times before the fight was called off in the fourth round.
Gamboa is a guy that can get casual fans interested and he needs to be marketed accordingly.
12. Miguel Cotto
Last year, after losing a memorable war with Manny Pacquiao in 2009, Miguel Cotto jumped up a division to junior middleweight and won a title by stopping Yuri Foreman in the ninth round.
For the first defense of his title, Cotto took on former welterweight champion Ricardo Mayorga in what many perceived as a bit of a mismatch. However, it turned out to be a very entertaining fight, as Mayorga put on a very credible performance before being stopped in the 12th round by one of Cotto's powerful left hooks.
Now, Cotto has been waiting to exact revenge on Antonio Margarito for months, but Margarito is taking much longer than expected to heal from the wounds left on him by Pacquiao last year.
It is unclear what Cotto's next move will be, but he is clearly one of the few bona fide stars in boxing today.
11. Bernard Hopkins
After having to settle for a draw in December when Bernard Hopkins took on light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal, Hopkins got another shot at becoming the oldest champion in boxing history by rematching Pascal in May.
This time, the 46-year-old Hopkins got the job done by outwitting the younger Pascal over 12 rounds, solidifying his place among the greats of this era, and arguably any era.
Hopkins does not plan to rest on his laurels. Top contender Chad Dawson is already in negotiations to take on Hopkins sometime this fall. That will be a very intriguing fight.
10. Andre Ward
Nobody has benefited more from Showtime's Super Six tournament more than Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward.
The Oakland, California native started off the tournament by upsetting and dominating Mikkel Kessler to win his first title. Since then, he has defended that title against Allen Green, Sakio Bika, and Aurthur Abraham.
Now, it is on to the finals against the very tough Carl Froch, in a fight that will have total attention from the boxing world. With a win there, Ward is clearly the champion at super middleweight.
Ward has shown himself to be a consummate pro in and out of the ring. Proving he can fight with any style, he will be a tough opponent to prepare for for anyone in the future.
He is a throwback.
9. Pongsaklek Wonjongkam
Flyweight champion Pongsaklek Wonjongkam has put together 13 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 Sor Rungvisai last October.
Following that, he knocked out three totally over-matched fighters in the opening rounds.
His next title defense is on July 1 against Takuya Kogawa.
8. Wladimir Klitschko
Heavyweight champion of the world Wlaimir Klitschko will finally get what he has been asking for over the last two years: a fight with former cruiserweight champion and current heavyweight titlist David Haye.
After Haye pulled out of a fight with Klitschko in 2009, the two have been trading words and building to this massive moment. It is one of the biggest fights to be made in the sport, and both fighters have signed to meet on July 2.
Since regaining a title in 2006, Klitschko has looked unstoppable, making nine defenses with only one of them going to a decision.
Now he will fight arguably the toughest opponent of his career and the world will be watching.
7. Giovani 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 an easier knockout of Calderon in the April rematch.
Segura is clearly the top light flyweight in the world, but an obvious challenger he does not have.
6. Timothy Bradley
Timothy Bradley took in a career-high million dollar-plus payday for besting Devon Alexander in January. The fight did not live up to the unfairly lofty expectations many boxing writers had put on it, but it was a very meaningful win for Bradley.
The fight was supposed to set up an opponent for Amir Khan to determine the undisputed champion at junior welterweight. Disappointingly, Bradley turned down another career-high payday to fight Khan and decided to wait out his promotional contract with Gary Shaw before he fights again.
Likely, Bradley is also considering himself in the running for fights with Floyd Mayweather Jr. or Manny Pacquiao and didn't want to possibly ruin that opportunity.
Frankly, the Khan fight could have been a legacy-building kind of bout, and he has lost some major points in the eyes of the boxing world by sitting idle for the rest of the year.
5. Nonito Donaire
Nonito Donaire was one of the hottest fighters in the sport after destroying Fernando Montiel with one punch in February, but attempted to jump out of his contract with Top Rank for a suitcase full of money from Golden Boy and is now stuck in limbo while the situation is sorted out.
It was a ill-advised move by Donaire's team, as Top Rank will likely have the rights to him for another year and punish him for the move. Granted, that is speculation, but I have seen this movie before.
Donaire is clearly one of the most talented boxers around. A bout with the winner of Showtime's bantamweight tournament would please all boxing fans. Hopefully, it gets put together at the end of the year.
4. Juan Manuel Marquez
Since being shut out in his lone trip to welterweight against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2009, Juan Manuel Marquez returned to lightweight, where he belongs, to defend his undisputed championship against Juan Diaz and Michael Katsidis.
Now, Marquez will get a third crack at familiar rival Manny Pacquiao, who he fought to a draw in 2004 and lost a razor-thin split-decision to in 2008. The bout will be contested at a catchweight of 144 pounds on November 12.
However, for that major bout to take place, Marquez must win a tuneup bout against former super featherweight titlist Likar Ramos in July.
3. Floyd Mayweather Jr.
I had originally intended to drop Floyd Mayweather Jr. off of this list entirely due to inactivity. However, with a contract recently signed to face welterweight titlist Victor Ortiz in September, he is officially relevant for the time being.
By the time Mayweather faces Ortiz, it will have been 16 months since he was last in the ring, a dominant decision victory over Shane Mosely.
Most are connecting the dots that Ortiz is a powerful southpaw and could be getting Mayweather ready for the ever-expiring bout with Manny Pacquiao, but I refuse to buy into any of that. Yes, it would be nice, but let's all just stop talking about that bout for a while and try to enjoy what we get.
2. Sergio Martinez
Middleweight king of the world and 2010 Fighter of the Year Sergio Martinez has no phony title belts left and, frankly, I prefer it that way.
Martinez has consistently fought top-level competition, but still the alphabet titles have been taken and given to far less deserving fighters over the last year. Instead of complaining about it, we should all just be thankful that we have a legitimate champion not having to break bread with the organizations ruining this sport.
Sadly, he probably will anyway.
For the second defense of the undisputed middleweight championship, Martinez blew out undefeated junior middleweight titlist Sergiy Dzinziruk in March, knocking him down five times before the bout was stopped.
After chasing down a meaningful opponent over the last few months, Martinez will have to settle for European champion Darren Barker in a bout to take place in October. The opponent doesn't do much for his standing, but it is better than not fighting.
1. Manny Pacquiao
After everyone predicted a bout with Shane Mosley would be a waste of everyone's time and money, Manny Pacquiao fought him anyway. For the fans, the bout turned out to be what everyone predicted: a waste of time and money.
For Top Rank and Pacquiao, however, it was an easy payday.
Now Pacquiao will face old rival Juan Manuel Marquez in November. The two battled to a draw in 2004, and Pacquiao won a close split decision in 2008.
While many see Pacquaio as a fresher and larger fighter these days, it is an important fight for his legacy and Marquez has earned the shot.
If Pacquiao can seal the deal against Marquez, it is hard to envision what is left for him, other than a fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. And, I have given up on ever seeing that fight.
Everything aside, Pacquiao is very clearly the best fighter in the world.