Sunday, December 9, 2007

Best Fighters In The World: Update

I contributed a ballot to Bad Left Hook's "P4P" or "pound for pound" list, and I've updated my own along the right side rail. My standard in determining the best fighters in the world regardless of weight takes into consideration the general ability of each boxer (skill, natural talent, determination) quality of wins (what other good fighters they've beaten), strength of schedule (win or lose, whether they're fighting great competition), recent activity (whether the fighter is performing like an elite fighter now as opposed to two years ago) and a rough estimate of how beatable they'd be if weight wasn't a factor (would a heavyweight version of Floyd Mayweather beat a heavyweight version of Manny Pacquiao?).

1. Floyd Mayweather (welterweight, 147 lbs.): What's not to like? That win over Ricky Hatton was meaningful, and and Floyd looked better than he has in a long time. He's the total package.
2. Manny Pacquiao (junior lightweight, 130 lbs.): I'm tempted to drop him because he looked a little underwhelming vs. Marco Antonio Barrera -- not like his usual action hero self -- but his past accomplishments and agreement to fight Juan Manuel Marquez again wins him a hold on second place.
3. Bernard Hopkins (light heavyweight, 175 lbs.): Beating Winky Wright and Antonio Tarver back to back, plus his well-earned former #1 P4P status and all-around craftiness, equals third place, at least until we see what happens against Calzaghe.
4. Joe Calzaghe (super middleweight, 168 lbs.): He's erased all doubts in my mind, and presumably in the mind of everyone, by toppling Mikkel Kessler and Jeff Lacy, and doing it impressively with his awkward, busy style. It's time for Hopkins and Calzaghe to stop yappin' and get it on already.
5. Juan Manuel Marquez (junior lightweight): Off a career best win over Barrera and a dominant dismantling of legit contender Juarez, he'd be ranked higher if Calzaghe hadn't just beaten a prime Kessler. The consummate-boxer puncher could be primed to avenge a 2004 draw vs. the Pac-Man.
6. Miguel Cotto (welterweight): What a great year this guy had. He's a potential fighter of the year candidate after stopping Judah and defeating Shane Mosley in a real eye opener. We now know he can box and steamroll.
7. Winky Wright (middleweight, 160 lbs.): Losing to Hopkins doesn't knock him out of the top 10. Wright was stepping far up in weight and losing to B-Hop in a competitive fight under those circumstances can't erase what he's done, and is an accomplishment in and of itself. His jab-and-defend strategy has given way to some more offense, but he's still got a tough style.
8. Rafael Marquez (junior featherweight, 122 lbs.): I'm probably the only person who has Marquez ranked higher than Israel Vasquez, but my they're 1-1 against each other, I think Marquez has a better record of achievement and my eyes tell me Marquez is better than Vasquez. He's got the punch and the skills.
9. Israel Vasquez (junior featherweight): Until he beat Marquez, nobody much thought of Vasquez as a P4P type, foolishly; perhaps because he's lost a few, too. But wins over Oscar Larios, Jhonny Gonzalez, etc. helped propel him here. He's proven vs. Marquez that he's not just a brawler.
10. Ricky Hatton (junior welterweight, 140 lbs.): Like Wright to Hopkins, Hatton's loss to Mayweather in a step up in weight doesn't knock Hatton down far. It's remarkable that so many people in my top 20 have recently lost, but it's because everyone's fighting the best. I'm not going to punish them too much for losing in close fights against their fellow best fighters, and I still think Hatton's overall record and ability make him one of the top 10.
11. Kelly Pavlik (middleweight): It's tempting to move Kelly into the top 10 because he's so dangerous, but his number of wins over fellow P4Ps totals exactly 1 -- over Jermain Taylor. Beating Edison Miranda, Jose Luis Zertuche and a few other borderline contenders makes him worthy, and certainly puts him in strong contention for fighter of the year, but I still give Hatton a slight edge. But I expect Kelly to move up again soon, because he looks like he's gonna hurt a lot of people in his career with that devastating power.
12. Juan Diaz (lightweight, 135 lbs.): Ah, the lovable, energetic Diaz. Topping fellow Diaz Julio was a big deal, and so was beating Acelino Freitas. Diaz looks like he's gonna be tough to beat as long as he's fighting.
13. Shane Mosley (welterweight): I had the slick, sturdy Mosley and Cotto in a draw, so, again, he can't get knocked down too far. Pavlik and Diaz's years just happen to have Mosley eclipsed; I had Mosley at about #10 before the Cotto fight.
14. Ivan Calderon (junior flyweight, 108 lbs.): After knocking off top 108-pounder Hugo Cazares and another young gun at 108, Calderon has moved past his days of dominating the 105-pound division. He still can't punch a lick, but his pure boxing skills give him an edge.
15. Oscar De La Hoya (welterweight): No. Shame. In. Losing. To. Mayweather.
16. Jermain Taylor (middlweight): I'd drop him farther after getting KO'd by Pavlik if not for the fact that Jermain's previous wins were impressive. I don't know how much longer he'll stay in the top 20 after the rematch because it looks like his skill will never catch up to his athleticism; we'll see. Brave move, though.
17. Cory Spinks (junior middleweight, 154 lbs.): Lucky thing that "good" and "watchable" aren't mutually exclusive propositions, or Spinks wouldn't be on my map at all. Jab and circle specialists aren't the most thrilling.
18. Chris John (featherweight, 126 lbs.): His best win, over Marquez, was probably a gift, but the guy can fight and if he ever bothered to leave home, he probably would have had less dubious career wins. He's clearly talented enough.
19. Vladimir Klitschko (heavyweight, unlimited): It's not Klitschko's fault that the heavyweights suck. He beats everyone put in front of him, from former conquerors (Lamon Brewster) to undefeated contenders (Brock). He gets points for recovering from a rough period and fighting better and smarter and with more confidence, and for unifying with Sultan Ibragimov. He's got the height, jab and power to be the top heavyweight for a while.
20. Mikkel Kessler (super middleweight): I think the super middleweight division is his to own for a good long while with Calzaghe leaving. With his power and basic-but-solid skill set, I bet that loss makes Kessler an even better fighter.
21. Joan Guzman (junior lightweight): Yes, the second half of his win over Humberto Soto was frustrating, but it's an excellent win and he's undefeated + talented, what with all that speed.
22. Paul Williams (welterweight): We're getting into borderline territory here; Willaims has beaten some borderline contenders and has a close win over Antonio Margarito. But how many people would want to fight the 6'2" freak?
23. Antonio Margarito (welterweight): Still looking for that career-defining win, but he's beaten up a lot of well-regarded guys, and a close loss to Williams isn't so bad. If he gets his mitts on Cotto, I think Margarito could wear him down with big shots.
24. Glen Johnson (light heavyweight): Forgotten since losing to Tarver in a rematch and a debatable loss to Clinton Woods, the rugged Johnson got a nice win over Virgil Hill in 2007 and is primed to meet borderline P4Per Chad Dawson.
25. Nonito Donaire (flyweight, 112 lbs.): He has one big win, one good win and a few other decent wins on his ledger, but this speedy power-puncher has the raw ability and skill to be special. Everyone I thought of putting at 25 was in about the same position -- a better skill level than resume.

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