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.
1. Manny Pacquiao Welterweight 52-3-2 (38) Last Year’s Ranking: 1 Status Report: As most of us expected, Pacquiao made mincemeat out of Antonio Margarito, who not so long ago everyone was calling the most feared fighter in the world. It wasn’t Pacquiao’s most impressive achievement of the past year; the bludgeoning of Miguel Cotto (KO 12) in November of 2009 gets the nod there, and getting points too is the shutout he pitched against the highly competent if reluctant Joshua Clottey (W 12). Along with everyone else we would have preferred the year ended with a superfight against the next guy on this list, but you can’t have everything. As it is, Pacquiao comes awfully close. Future: Shane Mosey on May 7. Despicable.
2. Floyd Mayweather Welterweight 41-0 (25) Last Year’s Ranking: 2 Status Report: It’s hard to maintain a ranking as high as this fighting just once in all of 2010, but Mayweather did it. How? By completely out-classing Shane Mosley. And he did it by standing right in Mosley’s grill, more or less, and out-fighting him. That Mayweather was rocked in the second round and came back to dominate every second of every round thereafter — as easily as he did against Juan Manuel Marquez — is proof enough that Mayweather remains at worst the second best fighter on the planet. Future: Every time we think we have Mayweather figured out he does something that seems nonsensical to the rest of us, but look where he is and where we are. Who’s smarter? Aside from the legal matters that seem to pop up every other day lately, he’s made the right move for Floyd Mayweather every single time. But he knows this: he must fight Pacquiao. In 2011 he will.
3. Sergio Martinez World Middleweight Champion/Junior Middleweight 46-2-2 (25) Last Year’s Ranking: 71 Status Report: If our math is right, Martinez jumped about 3,000 rungs since last year’s analysis, which might be a record. Either way, it’s deserved. He fought Williams to a standstill in the first match – you‘re not alone if you thought he should have gotten the nod – cut up and damn near stopped Kelly Pavlik in April, then rendered Williams instantly boneless with a single left hand in their long-awaited rematch (KO 2). That’s a hell of a year. Future: Your guess is as good as ours. Martinez is scheduled to defend his middleweight title in March in NYC against either Irish prospect Andy Lee or alphabet mandatory Sebastian Zbik, but he deserves the big paydays that come with more significant fights. Lou DiBella, his promoter, would love a Pacquiao match. He can forget it. That fight’s not happening. Martinez’s best bet for some meaningful fights might be to jump to 168.
4. Juan Manuel Marquez World Lightweight Champion 52-5-1 (38) Last Year’s Ranking: 5 Status Report: Not many thought Marquez was really as bad as he looked in his loss to Mayweather near the end of 2009, but when he took off a full 10 months before getting in the ring again you had to wonder. But there he was again in July, handing poor Juan Diaz another boxing lesson (W 12), and then taking apart the spirited and very tenacious Michael Katsidis (KO 9) in another defense of the straight-up lightweight world title. We don’t know how much longer Marquez can be Marquez, but this much should already be decided: he has a room reserved in Canastota. Future: Marquez, who may face fellow future hall of famer Erik Morales in April, seems as hungry and ambitious now as he ever has. Call him a late bloomer.
5. Nonito Donaire Junior Bantamweight 23-1 (15) Last Year’s Ranking: 6 Status Report: Donaire obliterated Wladimir Sidorenko (KO 4) on December 4, his third fight of 2010 — quite busy indeed for a top pound-for-pounder these days. We wouldn’t mind if the level of competition was as ambitious as the schedule; Manuel Vargas (KO 3) and Hernan Marquez (KO 8) were pretty much no-hopers. Sidorenko was a welcome step up, if not a huge one. Future: Donaire is scheduled to meet Fernando Montiel on Feb. 19 in one of the best matchups that can be made today. Montiel probably qualifies as the best fighter Donaire has ever faced and what happens when they meet will go a long way toward determining where Donaire appears on this list next year.
6. Pongsaklek Wonjongkam World Flyweight Champion 76-3-1 (40) Last Year’s Ranking: 41 Status Report: If all the very good fighters in the world went to work as frequently as Wonjongkam does, we’d see high-quality fights every weekend, and not just in the last two months of the year. Wonjongkam fought four times since last year’s analysis, beating Rodel Tejares (KO 6), undefeated Japanese star Koki Kameda (W 12), Rey Migrino (KO 1), and Suriyan Por Chokchai (W 12). Wondering if that justifies a 34-point jump? Look at it this way: the Kameda fight was big, and Wonjongkam was overdue for a promotion. This year he gets it. Future: Wonjongkam’s arch nemesis, Daisuke Naito, lost to Kameda in 2009 and is 36 years old so another match with him is probably unlikely. A rematch with Kameda isn’t out of the question.
7. Fernando Montiel WBC Bantamweight Titleholder 44-2-2 (34) Last Year’s Ranking: 21 Status Report: Who would have thought that the guy who froze against Mark Johnson in 2003 would now be among the very best fighters in the world? Probably nobody but Montiel himself. Here he is anyway, with four good wins in 2010 propelling him into the top 10. Victories over Ciso Morales (KO 1), Hozumi Hasegawa (KO 4), Rafael Concepcion (KO 3) and Jovanny Soto (KO 2) get him here. Ah, who are we kidding? It was the win over Hasegawa, which also rid Montiel of the stink left from his suspicious technical draw against Alejandro Valdez in 2009. Future: Is scheduled to face fellow tiny pound-for-pound entrant Nonito Donaire on February 19 in a wonderful 118-pound matchup.
8. Wladimir Klitschko World Heavyweight Champion 55-3 (49) Last Year’s Ranking: 20 Status Report: This is for everyone who thinks THE RING discriminates against heavyweights, foreign-born and otherwise. For the first time in about forever, a heavyweight is so demonstrably better than the stiffs he’s facing that we have no choice but to assume his genius and rank him among the very best in the game. Certainly, 2010 victims Eddie Chambers (KO 12) and Sam Peter (KO 10) would agree. Future: Though he’s now 34, Klitschko shows no signs of slipping and appears as motivated as ever, even if an abdominal injury forced him to pull out of a fight with one Dereck Chisora. There is talk that he and David Haye are close to signing. We’ll believe that when we see it.
9. Timothy Bradley Junior Welterweight 26-0 (11) Last Year’s Ranking: 30 Status Report: Another big jump, but Bradley did something in 2010 nobody else on this list did: beat two undefeated guys in consecutive fights and signed to fight another. Bradley’s wins over Lamont Peterson (W 12) and Luis Carlos Abregu (W 12) would have gotten him here well enough. Both demonstrated his versatility, skills and level of conditioning. The guy’s a machine. But when he agreed to face rising star Devon Alexander, we found out something else about him. He’s fearless. And that never hurts. Future: Bradley and Alexander will meet on January 29 in Michigan. We like Bradley to win that one big. After that look for a match with another upper-level 140 or 147-pounder, possibly Amir Khan.
10. Juan Manuel Lopez Featherweight 30-0 (27) Last Year’s Ranking: 29 Status Report: Bob Arum’s latest Puerto Rican star convinced Rafael Marquez to quit in one of the year’s best slugfests (KO 8) topping off a fine year indeed for “JuanMa.” His victories over the very good Steven Lueveno (KO 7) and Bernabe Concepcion (KO 2) were not without anxious moments here or there, but this is an exceptionally talented kid just vulnerable enough to keep us on the edge of our seats. Future: Lopez is scheduled to defend his belt on April 16 in Puerto Rico, probably against Philadelphia prospect Teon Kennedy, but the fight everyone hopes happens in 2011 is a showdown with Yurorkis Gamboa. The reality: not until Arum is good and god damned ready.
11. Miguel Cotto Welterweight/Junior Middleweight 35-2 (28) Last Year’s Ranking: 7 Status Report: There’s a reason most fighters don’t want to face the best guys out there all the time — it’s a good way to get your head handed to you. Cotto, bless his heart, has never run from a good fight, and that’s why Manny Pacquiao beat him senseless (KO by 12) in one of 2009’s bigger events. Cotto was never in it after the second round, but he looked as good as new pulverizing gimpy, feather-fisted Yuri Foreman (KO 9) the next time out. Let the other guys talk about retirement. Cotto’s not going anywhere. Future: A money-making “gimme” fight with Ricardo Mayorga on March 12 in Las Vegas, but then what? Bob Arum can threaten all he wants to make Pacquiao-Cotto II, but even he can’t sell it. We know it and he knows it. He’s been talking a lot about Cotto-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. too. That’s even less competitive. So who’s he really thinking about putting in with Cotto? Try Vanes Martirosyan or Antonio Margarito.
12. Vitali Klitschko WBC Heavyweight Titleholder 40-2 (38) Last Year’s Ranking: 22 Status Report: Two heavyweights in the top 20? Have we gone mad? Maybe. But you just can’t deny anymore that the elder Klitschko, as ungainly, awkward, and stiff-legged as he seems, is one of the best in the world at what he does — which is beat up really bad heavyweights. In fact, the only guy better than him at it is his brother. Even if he’s starting to creak a little — he is 39, after all — Big Brother belongs here. Kevin Johnson (W 12), Albert Sosnowski (KO 10) and Shannon Briggs (W 12) can’t be wrong. Future: He denies it publicly, but retirement for the big guy is not far down the road. He and Wladimir seem to be in a longevity contest, and this Vitali cannot win. Nevertheless, his alphabet mandatory is chubby Cuban Odlanier Solis. We can hardly wait.
13. Hozumi Hasegawa Bantamweight 28-3 (12 KOs) Last Year’s Ranking: 12 Status Report: Hasegawa remains a world-class performer, but drops several rungs based on his surprisingly poor showing against Fernando Montiel (KO by 4). Sure Montiel can crack, but we expected more from this guy. In his only other appearances of the period, Hasegawa beat Alvara Perez (KO 4) and outpointed Juan Carlos Burgos for a featherweight strap. Future: We’re doubtful Hasegawa can be as effective at 126 as he was at 118. That’s a lot of weight, relatively speaking, for a guy the size of a one of Nicolai Valuev’s skin tags.
14. Jean Pascal World Light Heavyweight Champion 27-1-1 (16) Last Year’s Ranking: 61 Status Report: Another big jump here, but Pascal earned it, beating Adrian Diaconu (W12) in their rematch, upsetting Chad Dawson (Tech Dec 11) to claim the world light heavyweight title, and barely scraping by an oddly resurgent Bernard Hopkins (D 12). You can say Dawson fought the wrong fight against Pascal or that Pascal got a gift against Hopkins, but it’s nitpicking. Pascal does what he has to do. That counts for something. In fact, it counts for a lot. Future: What we’d like: a rematch against Hopkins. What we’ll get: a rematch against Dawson. We’ll take it.
15. Bernard Hopkins Light Heavyweight 51-5-2 (32) Last Year’s Ranking: 4 Status Report: If you gave the old man no shot against Pascal, you don’t know Bernard Hopkins. When will you learn? Okay, so he looked awful and dispirited against Roy Jones (W 12). He was better against Enrique Ornelas (W 10) but downright nasty against Pascal (D 12), chasing the Canadian all over the ring over the fight’s second half and almost breaking him in half with body punches. This guy is the baddest 45-year-old on the planet. Future: Forget about a rematch with Pascal; he’ll never get it. Who does that leave? How about IBF belt holder Tavoris Cloud? Wouldn’t that be fun?
16. Paul Williams Middleweight/Junior Middleweight 39-2 (27) Last Year’s Ranking: 11 Status Report: Williams takes a big tumble after going to sleep against Sergio Martinez in their rematch (KO by 2). He had an interesting 2010 even before that disaster; an all-out punch-a-thon with Martinez in the first match (W 12) that said both good and bad about “The Punisher,” and then a curious and not altogether inspired win over Kermit Cintron (Tech Dec 4). Future: Here’s what 2011 will not include for Williams: a match with Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, Andre Berto or any other fighter who practices at or around 147 pounds, or a rubber match against Martinez. Can you say “rebuilding year?”
17. Shane Mosley Welterweight 46-6-1 (39) Last Year’s Ranking: 3 Status Report: It’s not entirely the Floyd Mayweather fight (L 12) that results in Mosley’s demotion here. After all, there’s no shame in dropping 10 of 12 rounds to Little Floyd. It is Mosley’s mostly ineffectual performance against Sergio Mora (D 12), too. “Sugar Shane” will still beat a lot of guys, which is why he’s ranked where he is. Give him a pressure guy and he’ll look like he’s 25 again. Movers and counter punchers? Not so much. Future: Manny Pacquiao, whom he deserves like we deserve a Pulitzer. It just isn’t right.
18. Lucian Bute IBF Super Middleweight Titleholder 23-0 (18) Last Year’s Ranking: 58 Status Report: It’s hard to have a better year than Bute had. His wins over Librado Andrade in their rematch (KO 4), Edison Miranda (KO 3), and Jesse Brinkley (KO 9) were as good as anything anyone did in the Super Six tourney, which is why he jumps 41 spots. Future: A match against Ireland’s Brian Magee in March.
19. Chris John WBA Featherweight Titleholder 44-0-2 (22) Last Year’s Ranking: 17 Status Report: You can make a case for demoting John more than we did; he was inactive for 14 months before beating Fernando Saucedo in Indonesia in December (W 12). This inspired the WBA to hand out featherweight title belts of varying color and significance to every upright-walking primate on the eastern seaboard, but that’s not John’s fault, and until someone beats him he stays on this list. Future: There are lots of good featherweights out there for an ambitious guy like John. Keep your fingers crossed that he meets a couple of them.
20. Chad Dawson Light Heavyweight 29-1 (17) Last Year’s Ranking: 16 Status Report: It must have been fun being Dawson when he finally gave in to the media’s insistence that he fight Glen Johnson again and promptly beat him clearly and without controversy (W 12). We imagine it was less fun when Jean Pascal upset him in Montreal to receive recognition as the world light heavyweight champ ( L Tech Dec 11). But that’s just a guess. Future: A rematch with Pascal, apparently. And if he wins that one? We’ll put it this way: Ali-Frazier these two are not.
21. Andre Berto WBC Welterweight Titleholder 27-0 (21) Last Year’s Ranking: 37 Status Report: Berto crushed Freddy Hernandez (KO 1) in November. Insert sound of crickets here. The guy is undeniably talented, as his demolition of Carlos Quintana (KO 8) also demonstrated, and has every gift one could want in a fighter along with a few you wouldn’t. For example, it’s not his fault there was an earthquake in Haiti, but he would have taken a giant step forward fighting and beating Shane Mosley when he had the chance. Future: Berto’s still a relative baby at 27 years old, but cripes, what’s he waiting for? The welterweight division is full of very good fighters, including him. Let’s see him against Josh Clottey or Jan Zaveck if he can’t get Mayweather or Pacquiao. It’s a start, for chrissake.
22. Andre Ward WBA Super Middleweight Titleholder 23-0 (14) Last Year’s Ranking: Unranked Status Report: It’s a surprise to most of us that Ward has emerged as the star of the Super Six tournament, beating favorite Mikkel Kessler (Tech Dec 11) and then, less surprisingly, late entrant Allan Green (W 12). Last month he out pointed another sub, Sakio Bika outside the tournament (W 12). That‘s a heck of a year in anyone‘s book. Future: Unless something unusual happens, Ward wins this tournament. He’s the most athletic and maybe the hungriest fighter in there. It’s hard to picture any of the remaining guys beating him.
23. Yuriorkis Gamboa WBA Featherweight Titleholder 19-0 (15) Last Year’s Ranking: 79 Status Report: In the course of 12 months Gamboa went from gifted but amateurish prospect to one of the WBA’s 6,712 titleholders, so there’s real progress there. How’d he do it? A new trainer and a bit more discipline led him to wins over Rogers Mtagwa (KO 2), Jonathan Victor Barros (W 12) and the very good Orlando Salido (W 12).
Future: Gamboa is a special talent. He and JuanMa are going to make beautiful music together someday.
24. Rafael Marquez Featherweight 39-6 (35) Last Year’s Ranking: 10 Status Report: This is a big tumble for one of the game’s most respected warriors, but it’s just. Marquez fought just once since last year’s analysis, obliterating rival Israel Vazquez (KO 3) who looked entirely shot. (Though we imagine we have to give Marquez credit for making him shot.) He gave star Juan Manuel Lopez a good run for a few rounds (KO by 8), but never seemed in control. Still, his resume gets him here. Future: He’s 35 years old and has been around the block a couple dozen times, but is nowhere near retiring. What is it with these Marquez boys anyway?
25. Giovani Segura World Junior Flyweight Champion 25-1-1 (21) Last Year’s Ranking: 80 Status Report: What a year for Segura. Wins over Walter Tello (KO 3) and Ronald Ramos (KO 4) were good enough, but then he stops the undefeated and wonderful Ivan Calderon (KO 8) to secure the title. This guy isn’t pretty in there, but he can punch and he’s all fighter. Those two things will take him a long way. Future: A rematch with Calderon is possible and who would mind that? A shootout with Rodel Mayol or Ulises Solis might be even more fun.
26. Celestino Caballero Featherweight 34-3 (23) Last Year’s Ranking: 8 Status Report: Caballero was so God-awful against Jason Litzau (L 10) that our immediate preference was to start a campaign to get his license revoked. You know, start a petition or something. Lucky for him, cooler heads prevailed and we came around to the thinking that anyone can have a really, really bad night. Besides, his pummeling of tough Daud Yordan (W 12) earlier in the year wasn’t bad. So we dropped him 18 rungs. It’s called tough love, baby. Future: If Caballero gets his way, a rematch with Litzau. But guess what: Caballero won’t get his way.
27. Amir Khan WBA Junior Welterweight Titleholder 24-1 (17) Last Year’s Ranking: 42 Status Report: Good news: Khan took everything Marcos Maidana could give him and stayed upright, more or less (W 12). The bad: Maidana is slower than erosion and still landed enough to nearly lay Khan out. Still, in wins over Dmitriy Salita (KO 1), and Paul Malignaggi (KO 11) Khan was hardly touched. Soft chin and leaky defense or not, his offense will take him a long way. Future: Call us crazy, we think Khan will meet the winner of Tim Bradley-Devon Alexander.
28. Ivan Calderon Junior Flyweight 34-1-1 (6) Last Year’s Ranking: 14 Status Report: One of the best pure boxers of the last decade takes a substantial drop here, not due just to his loss to Giovani Segura but to the downward trajectory he’s been on the last couple years. His struggles against Rodel Mayol in 2009 were followed by a win over Jesus Iribe (W 12) in which he was floored, and then Segura stopped him. Calderon is still a brilliant little fighter, just not as brilliant as he used to be. Future: We’d love to see a rematch with Segura. Maybe we can get a mini Ali-Frazier series out of it.
29. Carl Froch Super Middleweight 27-1 (20) Last Year’s Ranking: 59 Status Report: Few of us really believed Froch would whip Arthur Abraham (W 12) but damned if he didn’t all but shut that little troll out. Froch earned our respect last year — and not just because he has the hottest girlfriend in all of boxing. In close, exciting struggles with Andre Dirrel (W 12) and Mikkel Kessler (L 12), Froch showed grit, poise and a fighter’s mentality, even if he lacks real athleticism. And his win over Jean Pascal in 2008 looks better than ever. Future: Intriguing matchup with hard-ass octogenarian Glen Johnson in the next round of the Super Six tournament. Bombs away!
30. Tavoris Cloud IBF Light Heavyweight Titleholder Light Heavyweight 22-0 (18) Last Year’s Ranking: 98 Status Report: Cloud’s win over Glen Johnson (W 12) gets him a long way, as it should. You can make the argument that Johnson outworked him, but there was only one guy who wobbled around the ring a few times that night and it wasn’t Cloud. This guy can crack, and he shows up in shape to punch hard for all 12 rounds. Ask steel-chinned Fernando Zuniga (W 12). He’s going to be hard to beat, and at just 28 years old he’s got time to do damage. Future: Who wouldn’t like to see this kid against any of the other top 175-pounders — including Dawson and Hopkins?
31. Mikkel Kessler WBC Super Middleweight Titleholder 43-2 (32) Last Year’s Ranking: 19 Status Report: We’ll forgive Kessler for starting the stampede that left the Super Six tourney a shell of its former ambitious self, and note that his loss to Andre Ward (Tech Dec 11) and his razor-thin win over Carl Froch (W 12) both were exciting bouts that revealed the sorry truth that he gave his last very good performance against Joe Calzaghe. It won’t get better from here. Hence the demotion. Future: At just 31 Kessler can still make money fighting outside the Super Six tournament once his “injury” has healed, and he will, against soft WBC mandatories.
32. Humberto Soto WBC Lightweight Titleholder 54-7-2 (32) Last Year’s Ranking: 33 Status Report: Soto had a very solid and busy year, with victories over Jesus Chavez (W 10), David Diaz (W 12), Ricardo Dominguez (W 12), Fidel Munoz (W 12), and highly-rated Urbano Antillon in a war (W 12). That’s the good news. The bad is that he hasn’t stopped anyone since moving up from 130 pounds. That’s discouraging for a guy who could crack the way he could at junior lightweight. Still, he remains one of the best 135-pounders in the world who can’t get a very big fight, thank you very much, Bob Arum. Future: Reportedly a match with up-and-coming Brandon Rios. You’ll want to lock up the women and children for that one.
33. Kelly Pavlik Middleweight 35-1-0 (31) Last Year’s Ranking: 15 Status Report: It was a rough year for everyone’s favorite blue-collar puncher. After scoring an easy title defense against Miguel Espino (KO 5), Pavlik was beating Sergio Martinez in a war until Martinez opened a cut the size of all of Ohio over Pavlik’s eye (L 12). Future: At this writing Pavlik is undergoing treatment for alcoholism and might never fight again. If he does it’s hard to imagine he will be as good as he was before he realized his every dream.
34. Robert Guerrero Lightweight 28-1-1 (18) Last Year’s Ranking: 39 Status Report: Guerrero remains an interesting case. Wins over Vicente Escobedo (W 12), Robert Arrieta ( KO 8) and a completely shot Joel Casamayor (W 10) did little to advance his career, but Guerrero can fight. He didn’t lose any momentum in the past year, but he didn‘t gain any significant ground either. Future: Nothing scheduled as we went to press, but wouldn’t it be nice if he met the winner of Soto-Rios?
35. Antonio Margarito Welterweight 38-7 (27) Last Year’s Ranking: 23 Status Report: Margarito won about six seconds against Manny Pacquiao (L 12) but there’s no shame in that. He didn’t look great in his comeback win over Roberto Garcia (W 10) either, but you don’t see guys lining up to face him. Until proven otherwise, Margarito remains a moderate threat to anyone doing business around 150 pounds. Future: Our guess? A rematch with Miguel Cotto.
36. Steve Cunningham IBF Cruiserweight Titleholder 23-2 (12) Last Year’s Ranking: 34 Status Report: The good news: Cunningham finally got out of his contract with Don King. The bad news: he signed with Sauerland Event, which means virtually all of his fights will take place in Europe. The first example: his win over Troy Ross (KO 5) for an alphabet strap, which went down in Germany. Future: Cunningham is almost certainly the best cruiserweight in the world now that Tomas Adamek is a heavyweight. Her deserves the chance to prove it. Frequently.
37. Glen Johnson Light Heavyweight 50-14-2 (34) Last Year’s Ranking: 18 Status Report: If not for Bernard Hopkins, Johnson would be the sport’s most astounding older fighter. As it is, his performances against Allan Green (KO 8), Chad Dawson (L 12), Yusef Mack (KO 6) and 27 year-old Tavoris Cloud (L 12) prove his mettle and worth, even now. There is not a tougher, harder-working guy in this game. Still. Future: Carl Froch in the next round of the Super Six tournament.
38. Anselmo Moreno WBA Bantamweight Titleholder 30-1-1 (10) Last Year’s Ranking: 38 Status Report: Moreno is still one of the busier titleholders in the sport, which we guess you have to be as one of the WBA’s ubiquitous super-duper championship belt holders, but it’s gotten a little dicey for him lately. He stopped Frederic Patrac (KO 11) but just scraped by Nehomar Cermeno twice (W 12). He’s just 25 years old so he shouldn’t be slowing down already. Future: We’d like to see him settle unfinished business with Cermeno
39. Koki Kameda Flyweight 22-1 (14) Last Year’s Ranking: Unranked Status Report: The Japanese star breaks into the top-50 based on a win over Daisuke Naito (UD 12), a close loss to Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (MD 12), comeback victory over Cecilio Santos (KO 4), and bantamweight strap-winning performance over Alexander Munoz (UD 12). The critics were hoping Kameda would fall apart when he finally stepped up. He didn’t. That’s why he’s here. Future: An April title defense in Japan (where else?).
40. Abner Mares Bantamweight 21-0 (13) Last Year’s Ranking: Unranked Status Report: Mares’ wonderful slugfest with Vic Arachnidan (W 12) in the first leg of Showtime‘s bantamweight tournament gets him here, as does his struggle with Yonnhy Perez (D 12). The amateur background doesn’t lie: the kid can fight. Future: A hell of a hard assignment against the resurgent Joseph Agbeko in the tournament finals.
41. Andre Dirrell Super Middleweight 19-1 (13) Last Year’s Ranking: 68 Status Report: There was only one thing Dirrell could do to negate all the good will he earned with his upset win over Arthur Abraham (W DQ 11): quit the Super Six tournament. And that’s what he did. Maybe the claims about his neurological problems are true; it remains that the match against Andre Ward was troubled from the very start and those who said it wouldn’t happen were proved correct. Future: Dirrell will fight again but not at the level he would have if he’d stayed in the tournament. A bummer for everyone
42. Joseph Agbeko Bantamweight 27-2 (22) Last Year’s Ranking: 52 Status Report: Agbeko’s loss to Yonnhy Perez last October (L 12) was close enough to warrant a rematch, and we all expected another shootout. What do we get? A boxing clinic. We had no idea “King Kong,” could make like a little Gene Tunney. Good for him. Future: Abner Mares in the final round of the bantamweight tournament on Showtime.
43. Roman Gonzalez WBA Strawweight Titleholder 26-0 (22) Last Year’s Ranking: 35 Status Report: Gonzalez remained busy over the last year, but the quality of his opposition plummeted, hence the demotion. He beat Ivan Meneses (KO 4), Jesus Limones and, in October, Francisco Rojas for some alleged interim belt or some such. Future: Wouldn’t a showdown with Nkosinathi Joyi be fun?
44. Jorge Linares
Junior Lightweight 29-1 (18) Last Year’s Ranking: 43 Status Report: Linares demolished shopworn Jesus Chavez (KO 4) and won a wide decision over veteran contender Rocky Juarez (W 10) in July. Everyone’s beaten Juarez, you say? True enough. But at the end most were hanging on for dear life — including Chris John. Linares suffered no such drama. And, he knocked Juarez down. Future: Anyone else see the parallels between Linares and Amir Khan? We do too. Here’s another: a year from now Linares will be much higher on this list.
45. Alfredo Angulo Junior Middleweight 19-1 (16) Last Year’s Ranking: Unranked Status Report: Angulo rebounded from his puzzling loss to Kermit Cintron in 2009 with impressive wins over Gabriel Rosado (KO 2), Harry Joe Yorgey (KO 3), Joel Julio (KO 11) and Joachime Alcine (KO 1). That’s enough to get him in the discussion, and then some. Future: Several sources reported in late September that Angulo was found to have been residing in the United States illegally and was being deported. If true it throws a fat monkey wrench into his burgeoning title hopes. Plus, no guy this talented should be sitting on his hands, or, even worse, fighting in a place where we can’t watch.
46. Hugo Cazares WBA Junior Bantamweight Titleholder 32-6-2 (23) Last Year’s Ranking: 44 Status Report: Cazares keeps plugging along. Wins over Nobuo Nashiro (W 12), Everardo Morales (KO 7) and Alberto Rossel (KO 9) keep him from losing ground and also mark him as one of the more consistent and reliable titleholders in the business. Future: The only guy to beat Cazares over the last 10 years is Ivan Calderon. Now that Calderon is over the hill, we guess it’s safe to say Cazares can be expected to keep winning over the next what, 10, 20 years?
47. Vic Darchinyan WBC, WBA Junior Bantamweight Titleholder 32-3-1 (26) Last Year’s Ranking: 53 Status Report: Darchinyan won three straight after dropping a decision to Joseph Agbeko (L 12), beating Tomas Rojas (KO 2), Rodrigo Guerrero (W 12) and Eric Barcelona (W 12) before losing to Abner Mares in a terrific fight (L 12). Darchinyan gets bonus points for creeping us the hell out. Future: The loser’s bracket showdown: Darchinyan against Yonnhy Perez.
48. Sergio Mora Junior Middleweight 22-1-2 (6) Last Year’s Ranking: Unranked Status Report: You can laugh at Mora all you want, there’s more to this business than being able to knock a guy’s brain loose. Whether or not you agreed with the decision, Mora demonstrated against Shane Mosley (D 12) that he can stay on even terms with a world class-fighter and on his better nights maybe beat him. “The Latin Snake” also beat Calvin Green (KO 7) in April. Future: Mora is hopeful that his new promoter, Golden Boy Promotions, will keep him active. There’s no good reason a fighter as good as Mora is shouldn’t be working consistently — whether or not he‘s a knockout puncher.
49. Tomasz Adamek Heavyweight 42-1 (28) Last Year’s Ranking: 31 Status Report: We know, this looks all wrong. Adamek jumps up to heavyweight, beats Andrew Golota (KO 5), Jason Estrada (W 12), Chris Arreola (W 12) Michael Grant (W 12) and Vinny Madalone (KO 5) and gets demoted? Damn right. Here’s why: He was the best cruiserweight in the world. He’s not the best heavyweight in the world. Clearly he was better at 200 than he is at 215-plus. And you thought we didn’t put any thought into this stuff. Future: Reportedly a fight in Poland against an opponent to be named.
50. Yonnhy Perez IBF Bantamweight Titleholder 20-1-1 (14) Last Year’s Ranking: Unranked Status Report: You can’t blame Perez for not knowing Joseph Agbeko could box and move the way he did in their rematch (L 12). Who did? Their first meeting was a riveting punch-a-thon; we’re surprised they weren’t throwing punches at their cornermen between rounds. And it was Perez who forced the pace. It was the same in his war with Abner Mares (D 12). He is a hard guy to beat. Future: An interesting meeting with Vic Darchinyan in the loser’s bracket.
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.
76. Ulises Solis Junior Flyweight 32-2-2 (21) Last Year’s Ranking: 56 Status Report: You probably thought Solis was going to disappear after his KO loss to Brian Viloria in April 2009. Nope. After four straight wins — over Direcu Cabarca (W 8), Bert Batawang (KO 6), Eric Ortiz (W 10), and Luis Carlos Leon (W 10) — Solis drew with Luis Lazarte (D 12) in December. All the work keeps Solis active and honest and in the conversation. Good for him. Future: Nothing scheduled, but maybe the best fight in the class would be a shootout between Solis and Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. Bombs away!
77. Paulie Malignaggi Junior Welterweight 28-5 (5) Last Year’s Ranking: 47 Status Report: If you thought we were going to abandon Malignaggi just because he got his head handed to him by Amir Khan (KO by 11), forget it. It was a terrible style matchup for Malignaggi, who needs a little guy to come forward. Which brings us to Malignaggi’s virtuoso win over Juan Diaz (W 12) in their rematch, and the first one (L 12) was pretty damn good too. Those are why he’s here. His stoppage win over Michael Lozada (KO 6) is the boxing equivalent of raining frogs. Future: Malignaggi has changed promoters and locales, moving to California from his beloved New York. Let‘s see what it does for him.
78. Daniel Ponce de Leon Featherweight 41-2-0 (34) Last Year’s Ranking: Unranked Status Report: Few of us can forget how easily Juan Manuel Lopez annihilated Ponce de Leon in 2008, but the Mexican slugger has come back admirably. In the last year, he beat Orlando Cruz (KO 3), Cornelius Lock (W 10), Antonio Escalante (KO 3) and Sergio Medina (KO 7). He might be caught between styles a bit, but he’s still all puncher and is a threat to pancake a guy at any moment. His punch keeps him in any fight and gets him on this list. Future: There are many entertaining possibilities at featherweight. Pick one.
79. Nehomar Cermeno Bantamweight 20-2-0 (12) Last Year’s Ranking: 73 Status Report: It’s not often that a guy who’s gone 2-2 in his last three fights slides just six spots from last year, but here it’s warranted. Cermeno beat Alejandro Valdez (KO 11) and Hugo Berrio (KO 1), but lost two squeakers (L 12 twice) to the very good Anselmo Moreno, who appears on this list at No. 39. A judge glances at a round card girl or turns his head to pick his ear, maybe those fights are wins for Cermeno. Oh, like that stuff never happens. Now who’s being naïve? Future: Cermeno’s not in the bantamweight tournament, so that’s out, but why not fight a guy like, say, Eric Morel or Christian Mijares?
80. Miguel Acosta WBA Lightweight Titleholder 28-3-2 (22) Last Year’s Ranking: Unranked Status Report: One sure way to get on this list is to beat two pretty good undefeated guys back to back, and that’s what Acosta did in stopping Urbano Antillon (KO 9) and Paulus Moses (KO 6). As far as we can tell, Acosta is a full level below Michael Katsidis and two levels below Juan Manuel Marquez, but we think he can hold his own and then some with any other lightweight in the world. That includes upstarts Brandon Rios, John Murray and Anthony Peterson. Especially Anthony Peterson. Future: Brandon Rios on Feb. 26 in Las Vegas.
81. Sebastian Sylvester IBF Middleweight Titleholder 32-3-1 (15) Last Year’s Ranking: 86 Status Report: Sylvester gets a small bump based on wins over Billy Lyell (KO 10) and decisions over Roman Karmazin (W 12) and Mahir Oral (W 12). Future: We’re going to go out on a limb and bet that in 2011 Sylvester will defend his belt two times against average or below-average European flotsam. Any takers? Didn’t think so.
82. Ryan Rhodes Junior Middleweight 45-4-0 (31) Last Year’s Ranking: Unranked Status Report: Since his inexplicable loss to Gary Lockett way back in 2006, Rhodes has been on a bit of a tear, winning 10 in a row, eight by knockout. That’s the good news. The bad is that unless you follow boxing very closely in the UK, you have no clue as to how good any of those 10 guys are. At the least, wins over the fairly well-credentialed Luca Messi (KO 6) — a terrible name for a fighter, we’re sure you’ll agree — and Jamie Moore (KO 7) get him into the Top 100. Future: Rhodes is competitive with the guys THE RING rates beneath him at 154, and gets absolutely destroyed by any of the monsters rated above him. Here’s a bit of advice, Ryan: Go under.
83. Brandon Rios Lightweight 26-0-1 (19) Last Year’s Ranking: Unranked Status Report: Rios’ thrilling win over Anthony Peterson (W DQ 7) in November on HBO was clearly a breakout fight for him, even if Peterson’s incessant nut-punching deprived viewers of the conclusive ending for which they were looking. Between that fight and a win over reasonably tough Jorge Luis Teron (KO 3), and another over Omri Lowther (KO 4), Rios had a very good year if you don’t count his ill-advised impression of Freddie Roach. Future: Reportedly will face Miguel Acosta on Feb. 26 in Las Vegas.
84. Mzonke Fana IBF Junior Lightweight Titleholder 28-4-0 (11) Last Year’s Ranking: Unranked Status Report: Fana may be the best of a wretchedly poor division, but he’s doing something right. You can’t discount entirely a year in which he bested once-beaten Jasper Seroka (KO 6) and then avenged a majority-decision loss to nemesis Cassius Baloyi (W 12). And the margin of victory over Baloyi was a combined 27 points. He dominated the way a guy at the top of his division should. Future: A fight against Scotland’s Ricky Burns would be wonderful. More likely is an alphabet defense against Leva Kirakosian. He will have no part of Jorge Linares, whom the THE RING and IBF still rate at 130 pounds.
85. Alexander Povetkin Heavyweight 20-0-0 (14) Last Year’s Ranking: 64 Status Report: Povetkin slides 21 rungs almost entirely because his trainer, Teddy Atlas, said he’s not good enough to face Wladimir Klitschko yet. Who are we to argue? Also, we have to say that for all the talk about Atlas taking him to the next level, Povetkin’s recent resume — wins over Leo Nolan (KO 3), Javier Mora (KO 5) Teke Oruh (KO 5) and Nicolai Firtha (W 10) — is a bit underwhelming. Future: If Atlas thinks fighting stiffs is the way to get ready for a Klitschko, we’ve got bad news for him: It’s been tried.
86. Nathan Cleverly Light Heavyweight 21-0-0 (10) Last Year’s Ranking: Unranked Status Report: Cleverly is one of just two undefeated guys in THE RING’s Top 10 at light heavyweight (Tavoris Cloud is the other) and he hasn’t been bowling over just stiffs; in December he beat 23-1 (12) Nadjib Mohammedi, for what that that’s worth and he also stopped the heretofore undefeated Karo Murat (KO 10), THE RING’s No. 8-ranked 175-pounder. Future: Nothing signed yet but how about a trip across the pond, Nathan old boy?
87. Librado Andrade Super Middleweight 28-2-0 (21) Last Year’s Ranking: 83 Status Report: You could make the argument that this is an unfairly low rating for a guy who’s hell to fight for anyone who can’t jump around like a meth addict for 12 rounds, but let’s remember a couple things. First, he was way behind on points when he almost stopped Lucian Bute in their match in 2008 (L 12); Bute obliterated him in their rematch (KO by 4); and even the ancient and decrepit Eric Lucas had some success against him before Andrade walked him down (KO 8). We love to watch the guy fight, too, but we shouldn’t mistake “exciting” for ability that merits a higher ranking than this. And for a face-first guy, this is a hell of a good rating. Future: Nothing scheduled at the moment, but we’d like to see him against … well, anyone at or around 168 pounds.
88. Sakio Bika Super Middleweight 28-4-2 (19) Last Year’s Ranking: 85 Status Report: Andre Ward beat Bika in November (L 12) but Bika didn’t lose much value. Ward is seen as no worse than the second best 168-pounder around, and Bika pushed him fairly hard. In his only other appearance during the year, Bika nearly disemboweled poor Jean Paul Mendy (L DQ 1). He’s big, crazy-strong and maybe a little insane. No one ever has an easy time of it with him — ask Joe Calzaghe — but Bika’s not skilled enough to have put it all together yet. Future: Bika has already lost to the division’s best, and the second tier won’t have much inclination to fight him. He’s in a tough spot.
89. Dmitry Pirog Middleweight 17-0 (14) Last Year’s Ranking: Unranked Status Report: It would seem that Pirog’s lone noteworthy accomplishment for the year was his beautiful annihilation of Danny Jacobs (KO 5), but he also has wins over Americans Eric Mitchell (KO 5) and Kofi Jantuah (W 12). Don’t think this guy can’t fight because he’s whiter than Ricky Hatton and looks like he hasn’t hit puberty yet. He’s the goods. Ask Jacobs. Future: Pirog will be on HBO in 2011, with any luck against someone noteworthy.
90. Juan Diaz Lightweight 35-4 (17) Last Year’s Ranking: 46 Status Report: Clearly, Diaz is trending downward. Just two years ago, he landed at 22 in this analysis. Two years later, he’s lost twice to Juan Manuel Marquez (KO by 9 and L 12) and split a pair of fights with Paulie Malignaggi (W 12 and L 12). That’s the bad news. The good is that the first fight with Marquez was The Fight of the Year, and Diaz didn’t disgrace himself in the rematch. And it wasn’t Lady Gaga he lost to, for chrissakes, it was Juan Manuel Marquez. So for now, Diaz stays. Future: Guys who fight like Diaz burn out young. He’s only 27 years old, but it’s a hard 27. And he has that whole law school thing going on. Don’t be surprised if you don’t see him in a ring again.
91. Orlando Salido Featherweight 34-11-2 (22) Last Year’s Ranking: Unranked Status Report: If this list were concerned solely with straight-up hunger and balls, Salido might be in the Top 10. The guy is workboot-tough, and if you don‘t believe us, ask Cristobal Cruz, who Salido beat last May (W 12), avenging a split decision loss that occurred in 2008. His spirited if hopeless showing against Yuriorkis Gamboa (L 12) evidenced typical Salido: relentless, indefatigable, but just not as talented as he is tough. It’s s damn shame. Future: Guys with double-digit losses are frowned on by the networks, but Salido will get work for as long as he wants it. At 29 years old, he has a couple years left to make a few guys wish they’d gone into another line of work.
92. Juan Urango Junior Welterweight 22-2-1 (17) Last Year’s Ranking: 88 Status Report: Devon Alexander owes Urango a big debt. It was Alexander’s knockout of Urango (KO by 8) that made people think Alexander is suddenly a big puncher (he isn’t) and a special fighter (he might be). Urango hasn’t fought since, but he got enough good work done at junior welter before the Alexander fight that he stays on the list. For now. Future: Nothing scheduled, but Urango should get while the getting is still good. There are lots of good 140-pounders right now, and he can get in on some of the bigger fights if he wants to. Who wouldn’t want to see Urango against Marcos Maidana, for example?
93. Anthony Mundine Middleweight 40-4 (24) Last Year’s Ranking: 63 Status Report: Before his surprising loss to novice Garth Wood (KO by 5), Mundine had been on a roll against guys no one has ever heard of — Robert Medley (W 12), Carlos Jerez (W 12) and Ryan Waters ( KO 10). He drops 30 rungs not just because of the KO loss, but for wasting our time all these years. Future: Mundine will return to the “spotlight” in a rematch against Wood. Be still our hearts.
94. Takefumi Sakata Flyweight 36-6-2 (17) Last Year’s Ranking: 70 Status Report: Sakata plummets 25 spots following a dismal year in which he beat an absolute no-hoper in Eric Siregar (KO 1) and then lost to Daiki Kameda (L 12). This after falling from 44 to 70 in last year’s analysis. Don’t get us wrong; it’s still a hell of a thing to be rated one of the best 100 fighters in the world. But dropping 51 rungs in two years is remarkable. And unless we expand this analysis next year to include the Top 150 fighters in the world, we suspect this is Sakata’s final appearance. Future: Nothing scheduled, which, all things considered, might be a good thing.
95. Nkosinathi Joyi Strawweight 21-0-0 (15) Last Year’s Ranking: Unranked Status Report: Joyi is on a roll, having beaten Florante Condes (W 12) and, importantly, Raul Garcia (W 12) over the last 18 months. He’s not a bad puncher for a little guy and isn’t afraid to get in there and work. He could be around a while. Future: Katsunari Takayama on Jan. 29 in South Africa.
96. Cornelius Bundrage IBF Junior Middleweight Titleholder 30-4 (18) Last Year’s Ranking: Unranked Status Report: Laugh all you want, but this fact remains: We put Cory Spinks at 48 last year. And in August, “K9,” if you can stand it, blew him out of the ring (KO 5). We don’t like it any better than you do, but maybe we all should just accept that with his innate strength, drive, awkwardness and Emanuel Steward in his corner, maybe Bundrage can fight a bit. We’ll bet Spinks thinks so. Future: Nothing scheduled, but there’s no reason Bundrage can’t get in on some of the good business getting done among the Top 10 guys at 154. We don’t think he beats any of those guys, but hey, we underestimate this guy at our peril.
97. Ricky Burns Junior Lightweight 30-2 (7) Last Year’s Ranking: Unranked Status Report: How does Burns crack the Top 100? Almost entirely on the weight of his win over then-undefeated Roman Martinez in September (W12). Wins over Kevin O’Hara (W 12) Michael Gomez (KO 7) and Andreas Evensen (W 12) don’t hurt either. Burns has faced a lot of sub-.500 guys, and that makes us suspicious. But the Martinez fight carries weight. Future: Tough Terdsak Jandaeng is in Burns’ near future.
98. Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. Junior Featherweight 20-0-1 (17) Last Year’s Ranking: Unranked Status Report: It’s easy to underrate the sons of famous fighting fathers, but Vazquez looks like the real thing — a rarity in this genre. Wins over Genaro Garcia (KO 7), Marvin Sonsona (KO 4), Zsolt Bedak (KO 10) and Choko Hernandez (KO 11) don’t lie. The kid can punch like a welterweight, and as his record makes clear, he carries his power late into a fight. Keep your eye on this kid — even if he is a junior. Future: Probably a blockbuster of a showdown — relatively speaking — with Mexican favorite Jorge Arce.
99. Urbano Antillon Lightweight 28-2 (20) Last Year’s Ranking: Unranked Status Report: Look at it this way: Antillon took No. 32-ranked Humberto Soto to hell and back in their wonderful brawl (L 12) in December and his only other loss is to Miguel Acosta (KO by 9), who appears at No. 80 and frankly might be a little low there. Antillo is a rough, tough guy who will press any 135-pounder in the world. He deserves to be here. Future: Future? The guy is still o