This is our 15th consecutive annual ranking of the 100 best fighters in the world. And if you’ve been paying attention all these years, you’ve noticed some patterns. First, the fighters who get to the Top 5 or so tend to stay there a long while. There’s not an awful lot of turn-over in that group, and that make sense. If you’re so good that you’re among the very best in the world at something, you’ve already demonstrated staying power, consistency and world-class dedication to your craft.
That holds true this year as Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Juan Manuel Marquez, all Top-5 guys last year and the year before and the year before that, are Top-5 guys this year. They simply are not subject to the vagaries to which the rest of are. That’s what makes them the best.
Here’s another sure thing: Sooner or later those guys will drop off, but it will be when they reach a very advanced age, not when they‘re still close to their prime. Bernard Hopkins, No. 4 last year, takes a big tumble, as does Shane Mosley. They are supplanted by younger guys making their marks and doing very good work. They had good runs and knowing those too we wouldn’t be shocked if we saw them again near the top someday.
Some outside the Top 10 suffered significant demotions, too. Arthur Abraham, Mikkel Kessler, Kelly Pavlik, Rafael Marquez and Ivan Calderon all drop more than a few rungs. This is the result not of age in general, but to the frailties and indignities associated with being humans of standard-issue bodies and minds, at least as compared to those in the Top 5 every year.
Inevitably, guys drop off this list. That’s life. Roy Jones Jr. is gone. The late Edwin Valero, too. Ricky Hatton as well, but that’s the least of his worries. Cory Spinks, Joel Casamayor, Steven Luevano, Carlos Quintana, Kendall Holt, Verno Phillips and more, all gone. It’s lucky for us that every time we turn around there’s some young prospect out there knocking the bejesus out of everyone they put in front of him. That’s what keeps this list interesting year after year after year. We hope you agree.
51. Devon Alexander WBC Junior Welterweight Titleholder 21-0 (13) Last Year’s Ranking: 49 Status Report: Alexander is a very good little fighter, as evidenced by his wins over Juan Urango (KO 8) and Andreas Kotelnik (W 12). He also has a wonderful story that has been skillfully told, and it may be that his story has tricked many into thinking he is better than he is. Future: Tim Bradley on Jan. 29 in Pontiac, Mich.
52. Andreas Kotelnik Junior Welterweight 31-4-1 (13 Last Year’s Ranking: Unranked Status Report: You’re not alone if you thought Kotelnik did enough to beat Devon Alexander when they met in August (L 12) and that’s a good part of the reason Kotelnik cracks the Top 100 for the first time. He also beat highly regarded puncher Marcos Maidana in 2009 (W 12) and went the full distance in a losing effort against Amir Khan (L 12). Future: Kotelnik’s strong showing against Alexander will get him at least one more high-profile fight. For a while it looked as if it would come against prospect Victor Ortiz in what would have been an interesting test for Ortiz. Either way, you’ll see Kotelnik again.
53. Marcos Maidana Junior Welterweight 28-2-0 (27) Last Year’s Ranking: Unranked Status Report: Maidana has gotten a lot of mileage out of his thrilling win over Victor Ortiz in 2009 (KO 6) and followed it with victories over William Gonzales (KO 3), Victor Cayo (KO 6) and DeMarcus Corley (W 12). He’s neither the most-skilled guy out there nor the fastest, but he’s tough as hell and hits like a middleweight. Ask Amir Khan (L 12), who barely got out of the 10th round in their war in December. Future: Maidana will be a player at 140 for as long as he wants.
54. Joshua Clottey Welterweight 35-4-0 (20) Last Year’s Ranking: 24 Status Report: Clottey fans have to face the truth: Your man is one of those guys who will beat every fighter a level below his but lose to every fighter at the level above his. Look at his record: losses to Manny Pacquiao (L 12), Miguel Cotto (L 12) and Antonio Margarito (L 12). Wins over Zab Judah (Tech Dec 9), Jose Cruz (KO 5), Shamone Alvarez (W 12). Don’t feel sorry for him. It’s a living. Future: Nothing signed, but there’s lots of work available for a capable guy like Clottey if he wants it.
55. Toshiaki Nishioka WBC Junior Featherweight Titleholder 37-4-3 (23) Last Year’s Ranking: Unranked Status Report: Nishioka breaks the Top 100 on the strength of victories over Jhonny Gonzalez (KO 3), Choko Hernandez (KO 3), Balweg Bangoyan (KO 5) and Rendall Munroe (W 12). This guy’s the real deal. Two of his four losses were to Veeraphol Sahaprom, with whom he also drew twice, and he’s riding a 14-fight winning streak. Future: A title defense against Akifumi Shimoda before the end of 2011.
56. David Haye WBA Heavyweight Titleholder 23-1 (21) Last Year’s Ranking: 66 Status Report: Haye bombed out once-promising Audley Harrison in November (KO 3) to set up, allegedly, a fight with Wladimir or Vitali Klitschko. Haye had a good year, outpointing mountainous Nicolay Valuev (W 12) and then stopping and retiring human barnacle John Ruiz (KO 9). Future: There’s no end to the number of pitiable heavyweights the WBA could trot out to keep Haye’s sanctioning fees flowing, so if he doesn’t face one of the Klitschkos, don’t fret. He’ll still be around.
57. Kermit Cintron Junior Middleweight 32-2-0 (28) Last Year’s Ranking: 84 Status Report: You can make a case for rating Cintron higher; he does have that win over Alfredo Angulo (W 12), and his “draw” against Sergio Martinez looks better all the time. He’s held back by a fairly meaningless win over Juliano Ramos (KO 5) and his bizarre technical-decision loss to Paul Williams (L 4) when he flew out of the ring and either couldn’t or wouldn’t continue. Future: The junior middleweight class is stronger right now than it has been in years. We’d love to see Cintron against young Vanes Martirosyan or maybe even Miguel Cotto or Sergei Dzinrizuk. He also has said he’s interesting in fighting Andre Berto at 147 pounds.
58. Joan Guzman Junior Welterweight 31-0-1 (17) Last Year’s Ranking: 32 Status Report: Guzman failed to make weight once again before his fight against Jason Davis in December (KO 2), leaving officials at Golden Boy Promotions disgusted and his future in question.
Future: There are many very good fighters at 140 and Guzman is right with the best of them talentwise. However, his lack of self discipline is making him a pariah in the boxing world.
59. Ali Funeka Junior Welterweight 30-3-3 (25) Last Year’s Ranking: 89 Status Report: Funeka is 0-2-1 in his last three fights, and he still gets bumped up. Why? He fought Nate Campbell to a standstill (L 12), is widely thought to have been robbed blind in his first match with Joan Guzman (D 12) and in the return struggled to make weight while Guzman came in nine pounds overweight (L 12). This guy can’t get a break. Future: Nothing scheduled, which is a shame. Funeka can fight and deserves a shot at one of the bigger names.
60. Omar Narvaez Junior Bantamweight 32-0-2 (19) Last Year’s Ranking: 57 Status Report: Are we being xenophobic if we say we’d like Narvaez to fight in the United States already? He should take it as a compliment. We like undefeated guys as much as anybody, and Narvaez stayed that way in 2010 with wins over Santiago Acosta (W 10) in a non-title bout and Evirth Briceno for some bogus title (W 12). Both took place in Argentina. Future: How about a showdown with excellent Mexican Hugo Cazares?
61. Daisuke Naito Flyweight 34-2-3 (22) Last Year’s Ranking: 27 Status Report: We predicted in this analysis last year that Naito would suffer a drop and for once we were right. (No, we’re not psychic; the guy’s 36 years old.) His loss to Koki Kameda (L 12) was a huge blow to his standing, and a win over journeyman Liempetch Sor Veeraphol (KO 5) at junior bantam wasn’t going to help much. Future: He’d love a rematch with Kameda, but he shouldn’t count on it. Kameda has bigger fish to fry.
62. Marco Huck Cruiserweight 31-1 (23) Last Year’s Ranking: Unranked Status Report: American fans know Huck only as the guy who lost to Steve Cunningham a couple years ago, but since then he’s won 11 in a row, including stoppage wins over Americans Adam Richards (KO 3), Brian Minto (KO 9), and Matt Godfrey (KO 5), all in 2010. In December, he scraped by undefeated Denis Lebedev. This guy can fight. Future: It sure would be nice to crown a RING champion at cruiserweight, which a rematch with Cunningham would get us. And now that Cunningham is based in Germany, maybe it’ll happen.
63. Daiki Kameda WBA Flyweight Titleholder 19-2-0 (11) Last Year’s Ranking: Unranked Status Report: Daiki isn’t as flashy as his brother Koki, but he had at least as good a year, beating Denkaosan Kaovichit in their rematch (W 12), Rosendo Vega (W 10), the big one over Takefumi Sakata (W 12) and close decision over Silvio Olteanu (SD 12). If he keeps this up, maybe he gets another promotion next year. Who knows, maybe he and Koki can be the new Klitschkos. Future: He has many good options in and around his weight.
64. Steve Molitor IBF Junior Featherweight Titleholder 33-1 (12) Last Year’s Ranking: 62 Status Report: Molitor stayed busy over the last year, earning a slight bump by beating Jose Saez (W 8), Takalani Ndlovu, (W 12) and Jason Booth (W 12). Good for him. What happens when he gets in with a top guy again? Does he freeze, like he did against Caballero? Future: Scheduled to face Ndlovu again in Montreal on March 19.
65. Sergei Dzindziruk Junior Middleweight 37-0 (23) Last Year’s Ranking: 77 Status Report: It’s amazing what a little activity and American exposure can do for you. Last year Dzindziruk was on the verge of dropping off this list altogether for lack of activity, and, not coincidentally, lack of interest. And who could blame us? He didn’t fight at all in 2009. He finally showed up at a casino in California of all places, and we’ll be damned if he didn’t box the bejesus out of Daniel Dawson (KO 10). This guy can fight after all. Future: American promoter Gary Shaw is trying hard to get Dzindziruk on television. Let’s hope he succeeds. Dzindziruk is the real deal, but only if he fights more than once a year.
66. Arthur Abraham Super Middleweight 31-2-0 (25) Last Year’s Ranking: 13 Status: How the mighty have fallen. Abraham got his head handed to him by Carl Froch (L 12). That came after getting thoroughly outboxed by Andre Dirrell and then clubbing Dirrell when he was down, resulting in an embarrassing disqualification loss ( L DQ 11). Also, cripes, how about throwing a punch once in a while, Artie? Future: A one-sided decision loss to Andre Ward.
67. Michael Katsidis Lightweight 27-3 (22) Last Year’s Ranking: 77 Status Report: Katsidis turned in his typically gutsy performance in a losing effort against Juan Manuel Marquez (KO by 9) in November. Still, Katsidis is tremendously improved over the fighter who lost to Joel Casamayor and Juan Diaz in 2008. Too bad for him exciting rarely beats great. Future: As long as his skin and spirit hold up, Katsidis will make a living bleeding all over the place and knocking second-tier guys into next week. There are worse ways to make a buck.
68. Felix Sturm WBA Middleweight Titleholder 34-2-1 (14) Last Year’s Ranking: 81 Status Report: Fans of Sturm will lament his relatively low placement here; they shouldn‘t, and not only because no one can hear them over the yawns. Despite all the hoopla around his new promotional ties, Sturm fought just once during the subject period, jabbing Giovanni Lorenzo’s nose into the back of his head (W 12). Still, he gets a bump from last year, as much as anything an acknowledgment that we might have underrated him last year. He’s a good fighter. He’s just blander than mayonnaise. Future: We’ve given up hope Sturm will face a young, exciting middleweight, and not only because very few exist right now. He’s just not into it.
69. Victor Ortiz Junior Welterweight 28-2-1 (22) Last Year’s Ranking: Unranked Status Report: Give Ortiz this: He has worked fairly hard rehabilitating his image after the quit job against Marcos Maidana, beating Antonio Diaz (KO 7), Hector Alatorre (KO 10), Nate Campbell (W 10) and Vivian Harris (KO 3), and drawing against Lamont Peterson in December (D 10). Future: After a very odd performance against Peterson, it’s hard to know where to go next with Ortiz. The kid knows how to fight, we’re just not sure he wants to.
70. Lamont Peterson Junior Welterweight 28-1-1 (14) Last Year’s Ranking: Unranked Status Report: Only a special fighter like Tim Bradley could make Peterson seem as impotent as Bradley did in their meeting last December. Sure, Bradley won by a combined 32 points. That says more about Bradley than it does about Peterson, who beat Damian Fuller (KO 7) next time out and drew with Victor Ortiz (D 10) in December. Peterson can fight, and we predict he’ll land quite a bit higher on this list next year. So long as he stays away from a rematch with Bradley. Future: How about a rematch with Ortiz?
71. Nobuo Nashiro Junior Bantamweight 13-1-0 (8) Last Year’s Ranking: 51 Status Report: Nashiro takes a bit of a tumble, his reward for giving a rematch to Hugo Cazares. Not the best move he has ever made (L 12). Cazares won by a wide margin, pretty much invalidating the good will Nashiro gained with his draw against Cazares in 2009. Nashiro’s only other appearance of the year was a win over 6-6 (4) neophyte Iwan Key (KO 3). Future: Tomas Rojas on Feb. 5 on Osaka. Another year like this and Nashiro will find himself a 14-time WBA champion. Go Nobuo!
72. Ryol Li Lee WBA Junior Featherweight Titleholder 17-1-1 (8) Last Year’s Ranking: Unranked Status Report: Talk about a jump in class. The three guys Lee beat before taking down the very formidable Poonsawat Kraetingdaenggym (W 12) had a combined record of 34-13-6 (17). But apparently Big M Or Boonchuay (KO 3), Kazunori Takayama (W 10) and Hisashi Amagasa (W 10) prepared Lee for one of the year’s bigger upsets. Good for them. Especially Big M Or Boonchuay, just because it’s so much fun to say. Future: Akifumi Shimoda on Jan. 31 in Tokyo.
73. Zsolt Erdei Cruiserweight 32-0-0 (17) Last Year’s Ranking: 55 Status Report: In his first fight in a year, Erdei beat one Samson Anyang (W 8) in December. Another month sitting on his behind would have resulted in his omission from this analysis altogether. As it is, he suffers a severe but entirely deserved 16-place tumble. In his last fight of importance, Erdei beat Giacobbe Fragomeni (W 12) to claim an alphabet strap. Future: We’re hopeful that Erdei’s recent alliance with American promoter Lou DiBella means Erdei will go to work frequently and primarily in America so we can figure out once and for all whether he’s as good as his record suggests.
74. Poonsawat Kratingaenggym Junior Featherweight 41-2 (29) Last Year’s Ranking: 36 Status Report: This is a hell of a long way to topple for the once-mighty Kratingaenggym, but he did lose to upstart Ryol Li Lee (L 12), and not by a little. And it wasn’t as though anyone had heard much of Lee before; he didn’t make this analysis last year and had beaten no one of consequence before relieving Kratingaenggym of his alphabet strap. We agree it’s a bit harsh, but if we’re not hard on these guys, how will they ever learn? Future: The best thing he could do is get Lee back in the ring, and we mean now.
75. Omar Nino WBC Junior Flyweight Titleholder 30-4-2 (12) Last Year’s Ranking: 91 Status Report: Nino shockingly lost a majority decision to journeyman Gilberto Keb Baas in November (L 12), but did beat tough Rodel Mayol (Tech Draw 3 and W 12), and the useful Ronald Barrera (KO 6). Future: Needs to set the record straight against Keb Baas. Talk about having an off night.