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Pound for Pound: The Top 12 Fighters

BY David A. Avila ON October 19, 2007
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The year 2007 could go down in history as the period that the sport of professional boxing took a sharp turn upward with a necklace of sterling fights that glistened for fight fans. It began in March with junior featherweight champions Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez and has continued with last week’s Juan Diaz and Julio Diaz showdown.

Long-awaited fights that were begging to be made have transpired and boxing has delivered.

Because of several explosive confrontations a number of fighters formerly on the Pound for Pound list have dropped off or moved up. There are lots of changes in the top 12. A number of elite fighters suffered losses and are not on the current Pound for Pound list including Rafael Marquez, Oscar De La Hoya, Jermain Taylor and Marco Antonio Barrera.

Lets remind everybody how the fighters are selected. Pound for Pound means if all the fighters fought at the same weight, who would be the man to beat? Taken into consideration is the fighter’s record, knockouts, and above all else a boxer’s overall offensive and defensive skills.

Popularity doesn’t really matter on this list.

Here is the list for the current best 12 fighters Pound for Pound in the world of prizefighting:

1. Floyd Mayweather (38-0, 24 KOs) – The Las Vegas-based fighter has super quickness, has captured titles in the junior lightweight, lightweight, junior welterweight, welterweight and junior middleweight divisions. For a while he was fighting nobodies after beating somebodies like the late Diego Corrales, but he’s back on track with victories over Oscar De La Hoya, Zab Judah and now set to fight Ricky Hatton. That’s what a Pound for Pound king can do, beat the elite fighters. If you ask Floyd how he does it, it’s simple he says: “It’s about using your brain inside the ring,” said Mayweather two weeks ago. “How can anyone say Manny Pacquiao is the best fighter if he has three losses and been knocked out twice. I’ve never been knocked out and never been beaten.”

2. Manny Pacquiao (45-3-2, 35 KOs) – In the last three years the humble Filipino bomber has accumulated a huge fan base aside from his home country where he’s the most popular sports figure ever. The reasons are simple: he’s fast, fearless and provides electrifying knockouts. Early in his career he suffered knockout losses but that was probably due to fighting at a weight that weakened him. Now he’s in the proper weight class and his skill level keeps increasing. His trainer Freddie Roach says “Manny picks up things quickly.” Plus he’s a demon during training sessions. If Floyd slips up then Manny takes over as the best. But Pacquiao does own the right as the sport’s most exciting fighter. He could probably go up to lightweight and maybe junior welterweight if he desires. But at 130 pounds it’s hard to see anyone beating him.

3. Bernard Hopkins (48-4-1, 32 KOs)  – Not everyone thought Hopkins could beat a younger Winky Wright but that’s what he did last summer. Hopkins proves that age is not a factor just yet. He may fight the winner between Joe Calzaghe and Mikkel Kessler. Hopkins wanted a rematch with Roy Jones. Jr. but we’ll see if television wants to buy that possible match up. After he claimed he was retiring it was difficult to take Hopkins serious. But after out-boxing both Antonio Tarver and Winky it’s difficult to not take him serious. The Philadelphia fighter proves if you have tremendous skills and keep fit you can go on long after the age of 40. Hopkins reminds me of old Archie Moore who was able to combat some fierce customer well into his 40s too.

4. Juan Manuel Marquez (47-3-1, 35 KOs) – The Mexico City native beat fellow chilango Marco Antonio Barrera and is finally getting some respect and the paydays for his scientific boxing approach taught by Nacho Beristain. Now he faces the always-dangerous Rocky Juarez next month in Tucson, Arizona. It won’t be an easy fight. Juarez is very hungry. But if Marquez can survive he’s headed to a confrontation with Pacquiao or perhaps the winner between Joan Guzman and Humberto Soto. No easy matches in sight for Marquez. Yet it seems he doesn’t want it any other way. That’s a real warrior. But age is a factor for the 130-pound division titleholder. If he does get a rematch with Pacquiao, has he improved as much as Pacman? That was a different version than the fighter he drew with in 2004.

5. Joe Calzaghe (43-0, 32 KOs) - The Welsh fighter has successfully defended his super middleweight title 20 consecutive times but some of the opponents were guys most boxing fans have never heard about. After beating Jeff Lacy the world finally saw what the British press was clamoring about and discovered the thinking man’s fighter. Calzaghe faces a daunting test against Denmark’s Mikkel Kessler on Nov. 3.  It’s the toughest test of his career. Kessler is a true boxer-puncher with speed. The winner is in line to fight Hopkins and earn a hefty payday in the U.S. Expect Calzaghe to be at his best with the world finally watching.

6. Ricky Hatton (43-0, 31 KOs) – The amiable Hatton revisits the U.S. where he faces his toughest test against Floyd Mayweather on Dec. 8, in Las Vegas. Still undefeated, Hatton is moving up to welterweight once again to test the heavier weight division and to make a pretty handsome sum of money. The Hitman has made many new friends in the U.S. with his dogged style and take-no-prisoners approach. Don’t expect Hatton to be timid inside the ring with Mayweather. That’s why his fans are willing to cross the Atlantic Ocean to cheer him on and raise havoc. Hatton has remained undefeated for 10 years despite his devil-may-care style. You got to give him his props.

7. Israel Vazquez (42-4, 31 KOs) – After losing the first firefight against fellow Mexico City fighter Rafael Marquez, only a few thought he had a chance in the rematch. He thought otherwise and proved it by knocking out Marquez a few months later. Vazquez continues to surprise fans with his ability to survive knockdowns and come back roaring. He’s severely under-rated despite a combination of speed, power and strength. In the beginning of his career more than a few boxing writers dubbed Vazquez a journeyman type of fighter. Now he’s one of the best fighters in the sport with knockout victories over Jhonny Gonzalez, Oscar Larios and Marquez. He’s also one of the nicest guys in the boxing.

8. Kelly Pavlik (32-0, 29 KOs) – The gunslinger from Youngstown, Ohio fought his way out of the west with his reliable brand of two-handed firepower. This kid can hit. For years only fans west of the Mississippi River were able to witness his impressive victories over a murderer’s row of fighters like Fulgencio Zuniga, Jose Luis Zertuche and Edison Miranda. You can add Jermain Taylor to that list now. Pavlik earned his way to the top with a blue collar style of fighting that brings back visions of the middleweights who would rather win by their own justice than rely on judges. He’s not the fastest, he’s not the strongest, but his punches equalize whatever deficits he has. So far he’s mostly fought guys that walk toward him, let’s see what happens when he meets the slick movers and defensive-minded middleweights.  It’s going to be enjoyable to watch Pavlik.

9. Winky Wright (51-4-1, 25 KOs) – The Florida boxer lost against Bernard Hopkins but that’s not embarrassment. Wright still has the tools to beat several fighters on this list if they are willing to accept a challenge. He’s like a puzzle that’s difficult for anyone that’s not a boxing master. Wright has problems getting fights because nobody wants to be his foil. After he decimated Felix Trinidad and humbled Jermain Taylor, you won’t find too many fighters from junior middleweight to light heavyweight willing to tangle with the Winkster. The Floridian from D.C. would love to fight Oscar De La Hoya. That would be a good match. Right now everything hinges on Mayweather’s match against Hatton. If Hatton wins then he gets De La Hoya who said he’s going to fight in May and September. Maybe Wright can fit in his schedule.

10. Juan Diaz (33-0, 17 KOs) – The Texas cyclone is calling out Manny Pacquiao he’s that confident. His attacking style reminds many of the great Henry Armstrong who fought during the Depression era to the 1940s. Juan Diaz is the 21st century version and has grabbed three of the four major lightweight titles. Forget the Ring magazine champion Joel Casamayor, he had his chance and refused to take it against Juan or Julio Diaz. The Baby Bull is the absolute true lightweight champion of the world. If a fight against Pacman can’t be made than there are a host of other fighters willing to step up including Michael Katsidis, WBC titleholder David Diaz and Casamayor if Diaz feels like giving him a second chance. The biggest money-maker would definitely be the Baby Bull versus Pacman. That would be a memorable fight.

11. Shane Mosley (44-4, 37 KOs) – Just when people began writing off Sugar Shane Mosley as a second tier fighter he comes roaring back with convincing victories against Fernando Vargas and Luis Collazo. Now he faces Puerto Rico’s undefeated Miguel Cotto for the WBA welterweight title at Madison Square Garden. Writers are describing it as an experienced veteran in Mosley against a young lion Cotto. But from what the Pomona speedster has shown in his last two fights is that lightning quickness and ability to adapt in the middle of a fight. If he beats Cotto then there are several mega fights waiting to happen for Sugar Shane. He’s been among the elite fighters for seven years now.

12. Joan Guzman (27-0, 17 KOs) – The Dominican dandy has a boxer-punching style that utilizes his speed and power to maximum perfection. He’s still undefeated and running out of time to prove his talent. At 31, he faces an extremely tough test next month against Mexico’s Humberto Soto. Once again Guzman faces a guy who may not be known to the casual boxing fan, but Soto is one monster opponent who can end it for Guzman. Some people say Guzman’s victories over Javier Jauregui and Jorge Barrios doesn’t merit being mentioned on this list. I say otherwise, those guys he beat he beat easily. And that’s not easy to do. Guzman could fight Pacquiao but needs to beat Soto first to gain that recognition. A very skillful fighter indeed.

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