Whenever I submit a Pound for Pound list there are queries on why I did this and did that. First off, the quality of the fighter and head-to-head competition matters most of all. That’s why a fighter like Manny Pacquiao has no problem among any writers or fans. He’s fought and beaten the best.
When selecting this list it’s best to imagine if all the fighters were the same size fighting each other. That’s another way I select this list.
If Israel Vazquez and Kelly Pavlik were the same size who would win? In my estimation I’d pick Vazquez.
He went head-to-head with fellow pound-for-pound fighter Rafael Marquez, a murderous puncher and elite technician. He captured two of the three most electrifying bouts you’ll ever see. Each fight displayed more technical prowess combined with power punching and varying methods of attack that would stupefy the heavyweight division. He’s done this for a number of years with many of his bouts not televised.
Vazquez and Marquez beat each other so bad that it’s taken more than a year for both to recover. One had severe eye problems and operations and the other suffered from dizzy spells until recently. Now they’re primed to return to the ring and both earned a spot on the list.
Another consideration is the way a fighter lost. A simple loss by decision does not eliminate a boxer from this list. But a clear knockout or bludgeoning that forces a referee to stop a fight is one way to determine if a fighter does not belongs on this list.
A lot of changes have taken place since my last list including the retirement of Joe Calzaghe, losses by Winky Wright, Ricky Hatton, and Antonio Margarito. Suddenly there are some new faces on the list.
Here’s the new top 12 pound-for-pound list for May 2009:
1. Manny Pacquiao (49-3-2, 37 KOs)– His obliteration of tough guy Ricky Hatton reminded me of those Bruce Lee movies where the smaller guy beats the bigger or heavier guy with ease. Manny’s a lot like that. Despite his size he can beat much bigger guys and it’s not fiction but fact. He’s the real life Bruce Lee.
2. Israel Vazquez (43-4, 31 KOs) – The Mexico City warrior has been out of action for more than a year after under going surgery to his eye. Finally, the doctors have given him the OK. He’s one of the better boxers and only recently is getting notice. It’s the last go-round for this great fighter. Fighters of his ilk don’t come along often. I wouldn’t be surprised if he retires sometime this year.
3. Bernard Hopkins (49-5-1, 32 KOs) – You know when a fighter who’s 43 can’t find an opponent then he’s got to be good. The Philadelphia master craftsman is looking for that one last opponent before riding into the sunset. He wanted cruiserweight champion Tomasz Adamek or light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson but it doesn’t look like they want him. There is some talk by Golden Boy Promotions that if David Haye beats Wladimir Klitschko, then Hopkins would fight Haye. Really.
4. Juan Manuel Marquez (50-4-1, 37 KOs) – After toiling for years for chump change while in his 20s, the money is finally rolling in. Now 35, he gets the big payoff with a showdown against the much bigger Floyd Mayweather. Can the former featherweight replicate Pacquiao’s performances against bigger guys this July 18 in Las Vegas? One thing is certain, he won’t embarrass himself. Those big knockout wins over Joel Casamayor and Juan Diaz proved he stayed in the featherweight division too long. Moving up to lightweight proved beneficial, but fighting at 143 pounds might be stretching it too far. We’ll see in July.
5. Shane Mosley (46-5, 39 KOs) – The long-time warrior walked into the lion’s den in Los Angeles with most of the 20,000 fans rooting against him and slew the lion in Antonio Margarito. Very few people including myself thought he would succeed. He’s one of the best fighters of his generation. Now it’s up to Pacquiao or Mayweather to give him a match. It’s the fight real fans of boxing want to see. Pacquiao and Freddie Roach had mentioned a fight with Mosley was tantalizing, but Top Rank’s Bob Arum wants Miguel Cotto to step in against Pacman. Hopefully, Mosley gets Pacquiao after his big win over Margarito. He deserves it.
6. Rafael Marquez (37-5, 33 KOs) – After three brutal battles with Vazquez that took a symbolic chunk of flesh out of Rafael Marquez, he’s returning to battle. The younger brother packs big time power in his little frame and a fierceness that he just can’t hide. He’s a miniature-fighting machine who’s built a fan base in Mexico and the U.S. But can he still fight at the same level after one of the best boxing trilogies in history? Marquez is looking for a big payday like his brother before he hangs up the gloves.
7. Kelly Pavlik (35-1, 31 KOs) – His loss to Hopkins was no reason to drop him from the list. Pavlik proved he has guts, strength and determination in going the distance with the Phillie fighter. Pavlik needs a couple of big wins before returning to mega fights. His postponed match with Sergio Mora would have been a good start. Hopefully they can still meet later this summer. Pavlik needs the work before challenging others on this list, especially against boxers who move. He’ll need more experience against boxing stylists if he wants to clash with Arthur Abraham.
8. Paul Williams (37-1, 27 KOs) – All anyone could say after his shellacking of Winky Wright was “wow.” For those who thought William’s victory over Margarito was an aberration or that his beating of tough-nosed Verno Phillips was not much, the domination of former pound for pound fighter Wright was awe-inspiring. He needs to fight Pavlik or one of those super middleweights, that’s how good he is. No welterweight in his right mind would challenge big tall Williams who can hit you from across the ring. He’s a middleweight or super middleweight now and he doesn’t seem to get tired. He’s dangerous.
9. Chad Dawson (27-0, 17 KOs) – Sorry Floyd Mayweather Sr. and Jr., Bad Chad is not the best fighter pound for pound as they insisted last October. He’s good, real good, but still has a lot to learn. He has the hand speed, defensive techniques and combinations, plus he can take a decent shot to the chin, but has yet to put together a performance like the guys above him on this list. Maybe one day he will. He also needs a win over an elite fighter to prove his worth. A win over Hopkins could prove it. Most are talking about Glen Johnson getting a rematch with Dawson. That’s not a bad fight, if there is money in it. Why fight somebody that tough for pennies?
10. Nonito Donaire (21-1, 14 KOs) – Just when you think that Nonito Donaire has peaked out, he goes and drags you back to his corner with a superb performance over formerly undefeated Raul Martinez. His win over the Texan proved that he still has the speed and power to dominate in the flyweight or super flyweight division. The left-handed Filipino bomber has a pleasing style and he’s hard to hit. A rematch against Vic Darchinyan would be great but, Gary Shaw doesn’t seem to want that match after Donaire left him. No matter, there are other fights to be made in the junior bantamweight and bantamweight divisions for the speedy champion.
11. Ivan Calderon (32-0, 6 KOs) – The Puerto Rican slickster ran out of competition at the minimum weight, so now he’s picking on the junior flyweights. At 34, the super quick southpaw is running out of time. Calderon deserves a lot of credit for moving up to fight the bigger guys. He’s had much tougher battles in the 108-pound division than the 105-pound division, but he’s still going for it. His next test against Rodel Mayol of the Philippines should be even tougher next month. Mayol has power and speed. Calderon will be fighting at Madison Square Garden so that should be a boost.
12. Vitali Klitschko (37-2, 36 KOs) – The older of the Klitschkos is the only heavyweight to make this list in quite a while. And it’s not because of his technical prowess but his willingness to engage in a fight once in the ring. He doesn’t look pretty when he fights but he has heart. The WBC is attempting to make him fight Oleg Maskaev instead of Chris Arreola. Once again the WBC is sticking its foot in its mouth. Klitschko wants Arreola because he knows people want to see the fight. For whatever reason, though Arreola is ranked number one by the WBC and Maskaev number four, it has ruled the latter is the mandatory. It doesn’t make sense.
Vic Darchinyan, Ricky Hatton, Hozumi Hasegawa, Arthur Abraham, Celestino Caballero, Mikkel Kessler, Chris John and Wladimir Klitschko.