Makin’ a list, checkin’ it twice. Yeah, Santa Claus is about the only one whose list is not the top fighters pound for pound. That’s because, no, Virginia, there’s no Sugar Ray Robinson any more.
But, with an early 2008 weekend without a major bout to contemplate, and because the old year closed happily with a flurry of activity by the game’s best and brightest, it seems a good time to update my own very personal ratings. So personal, I probably will be tweaking it as soon as it is written.
Remember, this imaginary ranking is based on the absurd premise that all fighters weigh the same. Obviously, a very talented junior flyweight, like Ivan Calderon, would have trouble against most heavyweights, although he could probably entice Foul Pole Golota to hit him low.
There are some noticeable absentees. In boxing, there are few hardy perennials outside of Bernard Hopkins. So 2007 wished fond farewells as Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales went into retirement. Jose Luis Castillo and Joel Casamayor showed their age, Jorge Arce displayed defensive deficiencies.
But Floyd Mayweather Jr. underlined his supremacy as the current best fighter in the world with a brilliant performance last month against, admittedly, the smaller Ricky Hatton. But it’s always a pleasure to watch him duck, roll and counter, bury his chin in his shoulder, and then rapidly switch to offense. Hatton brought out the best. Hopefully 2008, after he finishes counting his money, will see him at his ultimate while facing Miguel Cotto.
Manny Pacquiao is No. 2 and while he didn’t climb any formidable mountains in 2007, he is set to renew acquaintances with Juan Manuel Marquez in March. Marquez is No. 3, just edging out Joe Calzaghe, who unfortunately waited until his dotage to start showing the rest of the world just how good he is.
At No. 5, after a brilliant year in which he stopped Zab Judah and outboxed Sugar Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto has become the compelling competition for Mayweather. Continuing the trend for the best to face the best, we next have Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez at, respectively, 6 and 7, after two hellacious fights last year. Their rubber match is set for March.
Ol’ Man Hopkins is still No. 8. He may be slowing down, but he was still able to wear down Winky Wright in his only 2007 appearance. Probably in March, he goes after Calzaghe. All these head-to-heads of course may not be beneficial to the heads involved, but they have woken the game from the near-dead.
He hasn’t won in a while, but I still think the Winkster’s past efforts grant him a place at No. 9. My top ten is rounded out by one of my favorites, the little left-hander who hits about as hard as a Munchkin, Ivan Calderon. The undefeated Calderon finally moved out of the straw-weight class all the way up to junior fly — a three pound difference — and beat the top guy there, Hugo Cazares. At 32, Calderon is beginning to lose a step, especially after seven or eight rounds of his dazzling footwork, so I want to give the best boxer, outside possibly Mayweather, at least one shot in the top ten.
Sugar Shane Mosley gave Cotto enough of a scare (about the eighth round, I half-expected the 35-year-old man to stop the undefeated Puerto Rican idol) to warrant starting off the next ten, Kelly Pavlik, the new middleweight king who came back from nearly getting knocked cold in the second round to dethrone Jermain Taylor in the eighth, is next at 12, followed by the lord of the superflies, Cristan Mijares.
Joan Guzman, who would be a tight fit for either Pacquiao or Juan Manuel Marquez at 130 pounds, is 14th, followed by Taylor, who in losing to Pavlik at least demonstrated his power hasn’t completely disappeared. I wonder, Pavlik might be soft in the chin. After all, he was almost knocked out by a guy who could not dent Hopkins, Wright along with smaller guys like Cory Spinks and Kassim Ouma.
Mikhail Kessler moves up to No. 16 with a clear loss to Calzaghe. The Dane proved he belongs in the elite, though. Jorge Linares, who may be much higher in a couple of years, cracks the top 25 at 17. Something new, something old — the Venezuelan featherweight is followed by Oscar de la Hoya.
At 19 is another superfly, Alexander Munoz, followed by the bright young kid on the light-heavyweight block, Bad Chad Dawson.
Martin Castillo, who faces Fernando Montiel on the same card with Pavlik-Taylor II next month, is at 21.
Paul Williams, who edged Antonio Margarito to win a welterweight belt in 2007, takes his 6-foot-2 frame and No. 22.
Chris John, who owns a disputed title decision over Juan Manuel Marquez, is next, followed by two other little guys, Nonito Donaire and Hugo Cazares.
Every year, it seems, they prove the bigger they are, the less likely to make this list.