Now that 2009 is getting close to wrapping up, it means this decade is almost over. Before the end of the year, I hope to get through all the weight classes, presenting to you some choices for the best fighter in a given weight class in the decade. I'm not going in any particular order here, but we'll get through all 17 weight classes.
When voting, please only consider the time that the fighter was in the specified weight class during this decade. Also, I'm not going to count obvious ballot stuffing when I tally these up at the end of the year.
Light Heavyweight has a ton of great names, but when you dig a little beyond the surface, they're mostly just names. There are a couple guys (Jones and Michalczewski) who were true stars in the '90's, but who didn't do too much damage this decade, a couple of guys (Calzaghe and Hopkins) who were dominant at other weights but only took a few fights at 175, a couple of guys (Adamek and Erdei) who have shiny records but never really faced the top competition, a couple of guys (Tarver and Johnson) who faced just about everyone but didn't necessarily always shine, and one guy (Dawson) who has the big names and the shiny record, but the names were mostly well past prime.
Tomasz Adamek - Adamek ran up a record of 27-1 at light heavyweight, although much of it came while he was building up a record against no-names in Poland. His three best wins were all in his title fights, including two bloody wars against Paul Briggs, and a win over Thomas Ulrich, who's just on the outside looking in to getting on this list. He was soundly beaten when he faced Chad Dawson, and while he's gone on to do great things at cruiserweight, his resume at light heavyweight isn't nearly as impressive.
Joe Calazghe - He only fought two fights in the weight class, but I can't keep him off of here in good conscience because of who he did beat and the fact that he retired holding the Ring Belt. He scored a close win over Bernard Hopkins and a wide victory over Roy Jones. On the plus side, Hopkins was a top 10 pound for pound fighter when Calzaghe beat him, and Jones was still top 10 at the weight. On the downside, Jones was probably only about 60% of what he was in his prime, and Hopkins was 43 years old.
Chad Dawson - Dawson has gone 12-0 at light heavyweight, and while he seems so natural at the weight, his early fights were actually mostly at middleweight and super middleweight. Key victories include Tomasz Adamek, two wins over Antonio Tarver, two wins over Glen Johnson (one of which was contested) and Eric Harding. The unfortunate part is what could have been. While in the greater scheme of things it doesn't change much, his record would be much less assailable had he taken his mandatories (and likely easy wins) against Adrian Diaconu and Tavoris Cloud rather than dumping his belts in the hopes of getting a bigger money fight.
Zsolt Erdei - Erdei is probably the biggest unknown quantity, and like it or not, he's been the lineal titlist at light heavyweight for the last six years. He's gone 30-0 in the weight in the decade, including 12 title defenses. However, some of those title defenses would make Omar Narvaez blush. Key wins include Julio Cesar Gonzalez, Hugo Garay (twice, but both were controversial) and Thomas Ulrich. However, look at his other title victories, including Alejandro Lakatos, Mehdi Sahnoune, DeAndrey Abron, George Blades and Paul Murdoch - it's just crap, crap and more crap. None of those guys were so much as top 50 LHWs when his promoter scraped the bottom of the barrel to get those defenses. Fortunately for us, it appears that Erdei will end his hijacking of the real light heavyweight title by moving up to cruiserweight to face Giacobbe Fragomeni next month.
Bernard Hopkins - Hopkins has gone 3-1 at light heavyweight, at least nominally, while managing to hold onto a top 10 pound for pound spot and winning a Ring belt. During his reign at light heavyweight, he convincingly beat Antonio Tarver, beat middleweight Kelly Pavlik, beat middleweight Winky Wright and lost to Super Middleweight Joe Calzaghe. Sure, he'd be a tough fight for anyone, but he's come far from proving himself at the weight, instead generally forcing top competition to come up and meet him. He does have one more upcoming fight, but he'll be making yet another middleweight (and this time a no-name middleweight at that) gain 15 pounds to fight him at light heavyweight.
Glen Johnson - Johnson's never had the prettiest record, but anyone who's watched him fight knows the Road Warrior can be a beast in the ring. In the weight class in the decade, he went 12-6-2, including a win over Roy Jones, going 1-1 against Antonio Tarver, going 1-1-1 against Clinton Woods and wins over Eric Harding, Richard Hall and Thomas Ulrich. In addition, he lost twice to Chad Dawson (once controversially), to Julio Cesar Gonzalez (also controversially) and once to Derrick Harmon.
Roy Jones Jr. - While Jones was really at his peak in the '90's, and his best win this decade came at heavyweight, he did manage to inflict some damage early in the decade, holding the Ring Belt until his loss to Tarver. Jones has gone 13-4 in the weight class, including being the unified titlist for most of the early part of the decade, with wins over David Telesco, Richard Hall, Eric Harding, Derrick Harmon, Julio Cesar Gonzalez, Glen Kelly, Clinton Woods, Felix Trinidad and Jeff Lacy. He also went 1-2 against Antonio Tarver and had losses to Joe Calzaghe and Glen Johnson. He does have one more fight coming up, but it will be at cruiserweight against Danny Green.
Dariusz Michalczewski - Tiger really did most of his damage in the '90's, but he did go 7-2 in the 2000's while being the true light heavyweight champion of the world, all in title fights, including wins over Graciano Rocchigiani, Richard Hall (twice), Joey DeGrandis and Derrick Harmon. His losses both came at the very end of his career, against Julio Cesar Gonzalez and Fabrice Tiozzo. It's still a damn shame that he and Jones never faced off to determine who was really the best light heavyweight of their generation.
Antonio Tarver - Tarver went 12-6 in the weight class in the 2000's, but almost all of those fights were high profile bouts. He went 2-1 against Jones, 1-1 against Johnson and 1-1 against Harding, and scored wins over Clinton Woods, Montell Griffin, and Reggie Johnson. He also lost once to Bernard Hopkins and twice to Chad Dawson.
Others for consideration: Clinton Woods, Thomas Ulrich, Julio Cesar Gonzalez, Eric Harding, Silvio Branco