There'll be a lot of amendments made through the rest of the year, but here's a quick update of my P4P Top 20 following Joe Calzaghe's win over Roy Jones and Cristian Mijares' loss to Vic Darchinyan.
1. Manny Pacquiao (1)
Stays in his spot, as most guys will. A win over Oscar de la Hoya in December cements his status as No. 1, but what does a loss do? Does a loss put Oscar back in the top 15-20 discussion, if you like me have him out of the top 20 now? Does a loss really drop Pacquiao from being No. 1 considering the weight he's adding for this fight? Does Pacquiao losing to a much bigger man give this spot to Calzaghe, or to Marquez, a man Pacquiao has beaten? I dunno. I guess it also depends on how he lost, theoretically.
Next: December 6 v. Oscar de la Hoya.
The light heavyweight champ is now 46-0 following a dismantling of former P4P king Jones, but I still think the race for #2 between Calzaghe and Marquez is very, very tight. There may not be a big enough fight to entice Calzaghe, 36, to stick around any longer. Saturday night's win over the faded legend really may have been the end.
3. Juan Manuel Marquez (3)
It's a shame that there has been no serious talk of Marquez's next fight since his impressive knockout of Joel Casamayor in September, when he became the lightweight champion of the world. Marquez turned 35 in August, but doesn't appear to be slowing down at all. He desperately wants a third fight with Pacquiao, of course, but Manny's busy with the huge bucks, and should Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton both win their upcoming fights, there's no doubt they'd get together, I don't think. Possible opponents for Marquez that have been mentioned include Nate Campbell, Juan Diaz and, yes, Erik Morales. Campbell is the most deserving, of course.
4. Bernard Hopkins (4)
The 43-year old "Executioner" is as ageless as they come in this sport. Whether or not Hopkins fights again is still quite well up in the air, but he hasn't talked retirement at all since thumping Kelly Pavlik. Anyone hoping for a rematch with Calzaghe is wishing down the wrong well; it ain't happening.
5. Israel Vazquez (5)
Vazquez has been out of the ring since his March war with Rafael Marquez, and while he's back in the gym, he won't be back competitively until late in the first quarter of 2009, it seems. It's good Vazquez is letting his wounds heal, but it looks like he may be out of the ring for a year by the time he gets back in there. There's been talk of a fourth fight with Marquez and a Mexican showdown with big-talking, always-exciting Jorge Arce. Either fight will be an instant candidate for Fight of the Year.
6. Antonio Margarito (6)
Though it hasn't been officially announced, all signs point to Margarito facing Shane Mosley on January 24 in California. Margarito should be considered the favorite, as he's younger, bigger, and stronger, but Mosley is not a guy you can count out, regardless of his advancing age and regressing skills. It's a good fight, and continues the working relationship between Top Rank and Golden Boy, which is imperative to the sport's success on the whole.
Next: January 24 v. Shane Mosley
7. Miguel Cotto (7)
Since losing to Margarito, we've heard rumblings that Cotto may want to get a new trainer, replacing his uncle Evangelista. So far, that isn't going to happen. The most interesting idea bandied about for a comeback opponent has been Andre Berto, which would be a world title fight and a huge test for the young Berto.
8. Rafael Marquez (8)
Like his rival, Marquez has been dormant since March, and also doesn't appear headed back any time soon. There are a lot of good matchups that can be made, particularly since Marquez isn't really capable of having a bad matchup.
9. Ivan Calderon (9)
Hugo Cazares has tested Calderon twice, but lost both times. The only fight for Calderon that I truly could say I am dying to see is a matchup with Ulises Solis, a fighter becoming notorious for delays and re-schedulings, either his fault or not. Calderon-Solis has only been mentioned by fans, it seems. It's not close to happening. Here's hoping the suddenly active Versus Network tries picking up a Calderon fight next time out. It would be a great vehicle for both parties.
10. Kelly Pavlik (10)
The Arthur Abraham people are aggressively talking about fighting Kelly Pavlik next summer. Pavlik will almost surely return against WBC mandatory Marco Antonio Rubio, who won a grueling contest against Enrique Ornelas underneath Pavlik-Hopkins. Rubio, while tough, seems tailor-made for Pavlik. Pavlik hits a lot harder than Ornelas, and Rubio's not exactly elusive.
Next: TBA, most likely against Marco Antonio Rubio
11. Paul Williams (11)
The welterweight titlist moved up to middleweight and crushed club fighter Andy Kolle in September, taking just 1:37 to finish his opponent. Next up will be Verno Phillips, who vacated the IBF's junior middleweight title to fight Williams for the interim WBO version of the strap. Phillips didn't deserve his title win over Cory Spinks in March, and the 38-year old veteran will have a huge size disadvantage against Williams, who is five-and-a-half inches taller than Verno. Williams' willingness to fight from 147 to 160 is nice, though.
Next: November 29 v. Verno Phillips
12. Chad Dawson (13)
He barely retained against Glen Johnson in April, but destroyed Antonio Tarver in October. Dawson has all the tools. While he might be praying that he can land a fight in Wales with Joe Calzaghe, he most likely is going to have to settle for something less, and the fact remains that many desire a Dawson-Johnson rematch. I get the feeling at some poiint Dawson will have to scratch that big itch, whether he wants to or not.
13. Nate Cambpell (14)
No fight with Joan Guzman, a bankruptcy filing, and an attempt to get out of Don King's control. Campbell's 2008 should have been a dream year. He finally got his title shot, and he took advantage of it by beating young Juan Diaz in Mexico. Since then it's been a series of unfortunate events, leaving Nate probably wishing 2008 would just get the hell over with already. Hopefully he can get his career back on track soon. A fight with Marquez or a rematch with Diaz would be greatly welcome.
14. Ricky Hatton (15)
The 30-year old "Hitman" lost his first-ever fight last December, but he did it against a future Hall of Famer at a weight we all knew was just too high. Since then, he's been fairly loud while also being quiet. He's only fought once, beating Juan Lazcano in Manchester in a by-the-books comeback, a fight so unappealing that neither HBO nor Showtime cared to pick it up in the States, leaving it to Versus. Paulie Malignaggi is the type of fighter Hatton has struggled with before. He's slick, he's technically superior, and he's tough. Mayweather wound up smoking Hatton, and Luis Collazo gave him all he could handle and then some. The good news for Hatton is that Malignaggi is no Mayweather, and they'll be fighting at 140. The bad news for Hatton is that Malignaggi is every bit as credible as Collazo. It's a really interesting fight, and is very near a must-win for Hatton. A loss to Malignaggi would be incredibly damaging, and it's a very real possibility.
Next: November 22 v. Paulie Malignaggi
15. Arthur Abraham (17)
Another fight, another win for King Arthur. The gutsy old Raul Marquez just wasn't good enough, and the question now is only whether or not Kelly Pavlik is the best middleweight in the world, or if it's Abraham. Pavlik has the slight advantage in resume, but Abraham is not some creampuff, over-hyped, fundamentals-and-boredom European fighter. Abraham, while technically very skilled and excellent defensively, has world-class power and takes a great shot. If bomber Edison Miranda couldn't thwart Abraham despite breaking his jaw, then how is Kelly Pavlik going to stop him? Punch his ear literally into the side of his head? Despite Pavlik's loss, Pavlik-Abraham is a serious dream fight, and one we have to hope will become a reality next summer.
In the build-up to Darchinyan's win over Cristian Mijares, most just went ahead and wrote off Darchinyan and his chances to beat a slick, highly-skilled boxer. A year ago, Nonito Donaire not only knocked Darchinyan flat, but he dominated him before doing so, too. Mijares was on an outstanding run, climbing into many pound-for-pound top ten lists, and noted by some as the world's best fighter under 120 pounds. On fight day, I had a strange feeling that Darchinyan was going to knock Mijares out, so I picked that to happen, which put me in the minority camp. But I didn't expect that Darchinyan would make Mijares look like a hype project that didn't belong in with the big boys, which is exactly what he did. It's also not true; Mijares remains a hell of a fighter. But Darchinyan fully matured with that performance, and it all but erases the Donaire loss.
We talked a lot about a Mijares win giving Cristian a serious case for 2008 Fighter of the Year. How about Darchinyan's case? Yeah, he drew with Z Gorres, but many have questioned the legitimacy of the scoring in that fight. He dominated Dmitri Kirilov, a good fighter, and came right back out to dominate Mijares, a really good fighter. Not bad. And if you're wondering, I rank Darchinyan and not Donaire because if they fought again, I would not pick Donaire to repeat. Nonito's proven to be more than a one-fight guy, but Darchinyan has really stepped it up and become a better fighter this year.
17. Fernando Montiel (16)
Lost in the 115-pound talk all year has been Fernando Montiel. While he obliterated Martin Castillo on the Pavlik-Taylor II undercard and laid waste to tough Luis Maldonado a few months later, Cristian Mijares was emerging as a darling of the hardcore boxing fans and landing big unification fights with Alexander Munoz and Darchinyan. Montiel fought on November 2 and got a very stiff test at 118 pounds from Juan Alberto Rosas, who took him all 10 rounds. If Montiel wants to do it, a full 115-pound unification with Darchinyan would be an excellent fight. We know Showtime will back it. Make it happen, boys.
18. Jermain Taylor (18)
All quiet on the western front this year for Taylor, who fought better in his rematch against Pavlik but lost again. Since then he's gotten his body properly adjusted for the full jump to 168 pounds, and he's signed on to fight friend and former U.S. Olympic teammate Jeff Lacy. There was a brief period when the idea of Taylor-Lacy might have seemed like a matchup worthy of "Fight of the Decade" in some regards. Taylor was middleweight king of the world, having beaten Bernard Hopkins twice, and Lacy was supposed to go over to Manchester and shut Calzaghe up for good.
We all know how Calzaghe-Lacy turned out, and since then Jeff has gone 3-0, fighting once a year, and truthfully none of the performances have been impressive at all. He was always an overhyped fighter, which is not his fault. Taylor, since beating Hopkins in their rematch, has gone 2-2-1, beating inflated junior middleweights Cory Spinks and Kassim Ouma, drawing Winky Wright, and losing twice to Pavlik. Instead of the huge fight one might have imagined this someday being in late 2005/early 2006, it's an HBO World Championship Boxing main event from the campus of Vanderbilt University, and it's a serious crossroads for both men.
Next: November 15 v. Jeff Lacy
19. Wladimir Klitschko (19)
With Alexander Povetkin out, Team Klitschko has turned to super-faded Hasim Rahman. Those wanting to apologize for the state of heavyweight boxing will insist that you not count Rahman out, as he always has a puncher's chance and Wladimir doesn't like to get hit. The problem with that is that Wladimir hates being hit so much that he's become very good at not getting hit, and Rahman isn't what he was in his prime, period. It should be a quick Klitschko wipeout, or a routine Klitschko decision, depending if Wladimir has any real fear of Rahman's power or not. Still, I think I might actually believe Rahman has a better shot than Povetkin did.
Next: December 13 v. Hasim Rahman
20. Shane Mosley (20)
Sugar Shane is hanging on to his status in the top 20, but barely. There are a lot of good fighters nipping at his heels, and his win over Ricardo Mayorga made him look old. Should he lose to Margarito, off the list he goes. Should he win, hell, maybe he's top 10 material again, or maybe you're looking at a typical SEC football season-type situation at 147, where all the best fighters can absolutely beat each other and nobody truly separates from the pack. So far, Margarito has beaten Cotto, Cotto has beaten Mosley, Williams has beaten Margarito, and nobody but Margarito has wanted to fight Williams, who lost to Carlos Quintana and later avenged the loss with great vengeance and fuuuurious an-gah.
Next: January 24 v. Antonio Margarito
Out: Cristian Mijares (12)
Honorable Mentions: Mijares, Chris John, Roman Gonzalez, David Haye, Nonito Donaire, Ulises Solis, Hozumi Hasegawa, Celestino Caballero, Daisuke Naito, Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, Steven Luevano, Mikkel Kessler, Juan Diaz