Five guys have dropped out of the top 20 since I updated it in February, and there's some shifting around. Things change fairly quickly in boxing, and we've seen some eventful stuff of late.
Since Last Time: Do you have to ask? Manny Pacquiao's two-round blitzing of Ricky Hatton wasn't just stunning and didn't just cement his status as the sport's best pound-for-pound fighter, it put a massive amount of distance between himself and the rest of the field. I have watched the fight several times and still feel that Juan Manuel Marquez won a close one against Pacquiao last year, but it's so close that the official win for Pacquiao isn't some level of bunk or anything. I have also said many times here that I feel if they fought again, Pacquiao would stop Marquez.
I now not only feel Pacquiao would stop Marquez, but I have to agree with Freddie Roach: Pacquiao would take him out early. Roach says inside of three rounds, and he said the same thing about Hatton. Roach has been describing Manny as a different fighter than even the guy that fought Marquez last March, when he was phenomenal against a great fighter, both guys at what was then their best. Roach says "something clicked." Nothing even needed to click for him to be great. But I think Freddie's right; Manny's better now than he was then.
I picked against him this time on the feeling that Ricky Hatton had "it" in him for this fight. It took less than a round for Manny Pacquiao to take whatever "it" Ricky might've had and knock it to the floor. Once Hatton got dropped the first time, he never had a chance. Manny could fight Kelly Pavlik and I'd pick Manny now. I might actually be serious, too.
Up Next: Pacquiao said before the fight that he wanted to return in November, which might still be the plan, but he could literally fight this coming weekend if he wanted to. He took no damage from Hatton. Right now it's up in the air, but I think most likely we'll see Manny next against the Mayweather-Marquez winner, Shane Mosley or Miguel Cotto.
Since Last Time: Marquez stopped Juan Diaz in the ninth round of the fight I currently have leading the race for 2009 Fight of the Year. It was a thriller and showed Marquez to be not just highly skilled, but a warrior who could take flush shots, fire back, and win the battle in the trenches.
Up Next: It will be his biggest payday and probably his most-watched fight ever, and that means that the money coming in will soften any blows he takes as a fighter, but Marquez is showing huge huevos taking a fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr., who comes out of his, ahem, "retirement" to fight the lightweight champeen at a 143-pound catchweight in July.
Mayweather likely is a stylistic nightmare for Marquez. He's kept himself in great shape during his time out of the ring, so I don't think rust will be a major factor. Marquez would need the rust to be there. Marquez would also need to catch Floyd flush, repeatedly, which is hard to do. I don't hate the fight, but... well, we'll come back to this some other time.
As for Mayweather himself, no matter how he beats Marquez (if he beats Marquez), he won't jump back to No. 1 pound-for-pound on this list. Pacquiao's resume is just too strong.
Since Last Time: After regaining his welterweight strap from Carlos Quintana, Williams went to 160 last year to smash club fighter Andy Kolle. He then went back down, this time to 154, and pretty well dominated Verno Phillips, a good fighter who hadn't been stopped in about two decades until he met Tall Paul last November. A few weeks ago, Williams went back to 160 to face the returning Winky Wright -- and he gave Winky Wright the worst beating of his career.
Sure, Wink had been out of the ring forever (nearly two years, in fact), but he didn't look out of shape, didn't really look rusty. He was just completely overwhelmed by Williams' insane stamina and punch rate. It was a loss so clear that the usually outspoken Wright, who has complained about a few decisions in his day, just went, "Yep, that guy's a good one, and he whooped me tonight."
Paul Williams is 27 -- by far the youngest guy in my top five (Pacquiao, at 30, is the second-youngest). A couple years ago if you'd have told me I'd have Paul Williams at No. 3 in my pound-for-pound rankings, I'd have assumed one of two likely reasons for this: (1) A lot of people retired, (2) something downright crazy happened. But it's not really that crazy, and retirements have nothing to do with it. He's gotten a lot better, learned to utilize his freakish reach, and proven himself both tough and able to learn from defeat.
Up Next: Williams and his camp talk big, but they back it up. They've talked about going all the way up to 168 pounds if necessary, and about fighting Bernard Hopkins. I think they'd cut back down to 147 if that meant a fight with Shane Mosley, who Williams also has talked about facing. There are a lot of possibilities just because Paul is so willing to make a fight at whatever weight he has to; there aren't that many possibilities because there aren't too many guys that are going to want to fight him. He's fixed his flaws. He's at his best right now. And he still isn't a "star."
Since Last Time: Well, he's been on ESPN2 a few times. He's pretty good at that.
Oh, and he talked up how exciting it would be to fight cruiserweight champion Tomasz Adamek for another legit title in another division.
And then he insultingly low-balled Adamek with an offer that was first reported as a $500,000 flat fee, which was just ridiculous. The Adamek camp later said it wasn't even that much, and that they might've taken that offer.
Basically, Bernard's been a lot of hot air in 2009. No disrespect intended, he's a great fighter, but that's what he's been.
Up Next: Don't know! Hopkins turned 44 in January, which makes it understandable that he might've had some second thoughts about fighting Adamek, who isn't a young man at 32, but he also presents a better style matchup than did Kelly Pavlik, I think, and Admaek carries his weight very well. I'd happily take Hopkins against Paul Williams, I suppose, partly because it'd just be intriguing to see how high Paul can go. There's also been slight talk of Hopkins facing 26-year old Chad Dawson, even though Bernard initially said after Pavlik that he didn't want to fight the young guys anymore.
What's strange for me personally is that since he hasn't fought since October, some of the shine has worn off when I first think of the Pavlik win, and I let my mind stray to a "What have you done for me lately?" sort of place, and then I think and I go, "You know, he IS 44 years old..."
But Hopkins' performance against Pavlik was shocking. He still deserves all the credit in the world for that fight.
Since Last Time: Nothin' new to talk about. Mosley's career had serious momentum again after he destroyed Antonio Margarito, but sadly the biggest story out of that fight was Margarito and his handwraps. All that momentum has turned into nothing as far as getting a fight signed goes; he wanted Mayweather, but Floyd was too busy being retired.
A month later, Floyd heard Marquez call him out, and responded, "And fight me you shall!"
Up Next: No clue right now. He says he'd like to fight Miguel Cotto again, but Cotto has his hands full on June 13. Mosley also says he won't do it at Madison Square Garden again, which I think is kind of cheap; why not? It'll do a great house and it's not like the judges or referee are going to be Cotto's personal friends. Mosley's career is on hold while everyone else fights, basically.
6. Miguel Cotto (Welterweight, 6)
Since Last Time: Cotto predictably destroyed poor Michael Jennings in February. Every time I talk about that fight, I can't help but call him "poor Michael Jennings." Maybe that should be his new nickname: "Poor" Michael Jennings. It's no worse than his actual nickname, "The Lurcher." Once he got to Jennings' body, the fight was over. He looked just as vicious as ever; for now, there are no apparent side effects from the Margarito fight.
He's also split with uncle/trainer Evangelista Cotto after a nasty and physical dispute in camp. He's now working with Joe Santiago.
Up Next: A dangerous fight with Joshua Clottey on June 13 in New York. A lot of people really like Clottey, and I agree he's a tough, durable dude and a fighter who has more than earned a chance like this, but I just don't see him beating Cotto. I actually don't even think the fight will be close assuming Cotto's camp with Santiago has no problems and he's totally focused. There are too many times I've seen Clottey lay off the gas and just not look very impressive, and certainly not like he'd be any great challenge for a fighter of Cotto's level. But again, a lot of people like him to pull the upset in that fight.
7. Vic Darchinyan (Junior Bantamweight, 10)
Since Last Time: Vic had just come off of an absolute pummeling of Jorge Arce. He's decided to move up to 118 pounds (bantamweight) for his next fight.
Up Next: A July 11 date with bantamweight titlist Joseph "King Kong" Agbeko in what could be a war. Both guys are heavy-handed and Agbeko takes a hell of a punch, too. If Darchinyan is impressive at 118, I wouldn't expect he'll stay too long; he seems on a mission to get to 122 pounds.
8. Ivan Calderon (Junior Flyweight, 7)
Since Last Time: Calderon still hasn't fought since August, when he beat Hugo Cazares in their rematch by way of technical decision after seven rounds.
Up Next: A featured spot on the undercard of Cotto-Clottey, though he won't be on HBO. Calderon will face Rodel Mayol (25-3, 19 KO), a Filipino who makes for exciting fights but hasn't beaten a good opponent in...well, ever. He does have losses to Ulises Solis (TKO-8), Eagle Den Junlaphan (UD-12) and Adrian Hernandez (KO-4). Calderon is 34 and slowing down a little bit, but he's still going to have way too much skill for Mayol.
9. Chad Dawson (Light Heavyweight, 12)
Since Last Time: Dawson hasn't fought since October, when he dominated Antonio Tarver.
Up Next: Dawson will fight this coming Saturday when he dominates Antonio Tarver. It's a horrible rematch that no one wants, but it's a formality and I guess Tarver has every right to exercise his option. I still wish he'd had the good taste to not. HBO's promotion for the fight has barely acknowledged that Tarver also plans to be there.
10. Kelly Pavlik (Middleweight, 11)
Since Last Time: Pavlik faced off with battle-tested mandatory challenger Marco Antonio Rubio in February and made him look like a bum. Dawson and Pavlik are really good young fighters, but I also want to note that both have cracked the top ten mostly because of other fighters losing or retiring or just being inactive.
Up Next: Another Top Rank PPV fight, this time with former 154-pound titlist, "Contender" season one champ and all-around beloved legend of the ring Sergio Mora. It's a fight so unattractive at the price it costs to make it that the networks took a pass on the second straight Kelly Pavlik fight. One gets the impression -- as has been said before by others -- that as much as many people like Kelly Pavlik, it seems like most people just aren't buying it.
Since Last Time: Lopez wasn't ranked last time out, though I'd put him into the honorable mentions. For some people, Cuban featherweight Yuriorkis Gamboa is The It Prospect, the guy who will be so good and so entertaining that superstar status is sure to arrive.
For me, it's Lopez. In fact if the two of them fought at 126 pounds, I'd pick Lopez every day of the week and twice on Sunday. He's incredibly powerful, bigger than Gamboa (5'7" to 5'5") and I dare say he's a higher skill as a pure boxer, too. What he unleashed upon Gerry Penalosa was astounding.
Up Next: Nothing on the horizon right now.
12. Arthur Abraham (Middleweight, 15)
Since Last Time: Abraham predictably won a wide unanimous decision over rather unknown American Lajuan Simon in Germany.
Up Next: The talk of Abraham's inevitable move up to 168 pounds has intensified, but so has the idea of the IBF titlist facing middleweight champ Pavlik late in the year. He'll likely fight this summer, sometime around the time Pavlik fights Mora, I'd guess, and then we'll see if both sides can get a deal done for Pavlik-Abraham provided they both win. It is the only middleweight fight that really matters.
13. Nonito Donaire (Flyweight, -)
Since Last Time: Donaire flattened previously unbeaten Raul Martinez at the famous Araneta Coliseum on April 18.
Up Next: There's been a lot of talk that he'll go to 115 pounds, as he apparently has some trouble cutting down to 112. I'm starting to feel like Donaire is becoming legitimately underrated, as if he beat the tar out of Darchinyan and then disappeared. His career did lose some steam during his battles with Gary Shaw, but he's 3-0 since beating Darchinyan and he's not out there struggling with guys, he's knocking them out. Do I think he'd beat Darchinyan again? I want to say no, but there's also part of me that thinks Darchinyan would be so aggressive he'd run into another left hook in short order.
14. Chris John (Featherweight, 17)
Since Last Time: It may have been a draw, but he had a heck of a good fight with Rocky Juarez on the Marquez-Diaz undercard. (And I thought he won, too.)
Up Next: John continues his American boxing vacation by re-matching Juarez in Los Angeles on June 27, paired on HBO with the Victor Ortiz-Marcos Maidana fight, an attractive alternative to the Pavlik PPV to say the least.
15. Rafael Marquez (Junior Featherweight, 9)
Since Last Time: Marquez still has not fought since his rubber match with Israel Vazquez in March 2008. He stays on the list only because he does have a scheduled return now.
Up Next: A fight with Colombian Jose Francisco Mendoza (21-2-1, 17 KO), who has never beaten anyone and is 0-2-1 in his last three bouts. But given Marquez's layoff, his reckless nature, and the fact that he's coming off of three brutal wars with Vazquez, it has to be said: Beware the unheralded Colombian slugger.
16. Celestino Caballero (Junior Featherweight, 16)
Since Last Time: Caballero struggled with but beat Jeffrey Mathebula this week.
Up Next: Lots of talk of him taking his act to 126 pounds, perhaps to face Yuriorkis Gamboa in what could be all sorts of entertaining. I guess some might think I have Caballero low, but the truth is I've never been too crazy about him and I really don't like watching him fight that much, so maybe I'm biased, but I also just don't think he's that good. He's a guy that gets by making some bad mistakes because of the way he's built. Paul Williams is a freak of nature but he's become less awkward over time. Caballero has not; he can be downright ugly to watch. If Caballero fought Lopez, I think he'd get chewed up and spit back out. If Caballero fought Marquez...I dunno, I haven't seen Marquez in forever and we don't know what he has left, but the Marquez of the Vazquez fights would be too accurate and too strong for Caballero. If you wonder how these guys are going to get inside on Caballero, I think they'd just get inside. He's slow and not that big of a hitter. All that aside, he's beaten good fighters, is on a great run right now, and deserves his spot on any P4P list like this. Leaving him off would be real bias.
17. Hozumi Hasegawa (Bantamweight, -)
Since Last Time: Hasegawa started his career 3-2 and hasn't lost since. You'd also guess with a look at his record (26-2, 10 KO) that he can't punch, but his last three wins have been TKO-2, TKO-2 and TKO-1. He's held the WBC's bantamweight strap since 2005, when he beat Veeraphol Sahaprom. He stopped Sahaprom in a rematch in 2006, too. Here he is on March 12 against Vusi Malinga.
Up Next: Nothing right now, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say he fights in Japan.
18. Tomasz Adamek (Cruiserweight, -)
Since Last Time: Adamek joins my P4P party after bringing the hammer down on then-unbeaten Johnathon Banks in February. After seven competitive rounds (at least scorecard-wise), the tide was turning in Adamek's favor. He finished Banks off with a huge flurry.
Up Next: Matt Godfrey on July 10. Is anyone going to try to make Adamek-Cunningham II?
19. Mikkel Kessler (Super Middleweight, 20)
Since Last Time: Promoter squabbling and inactivity, the new Kessler routine. Not that it's his fault.
Up Next: For now, more promoter squabbling and inactivity.
20. Edgar Sosa (Junior Flyweight, -)
Since Last Time: Sosa, like Humberto Soto or Carlos Baldomir, didn't start so hot but has turned into a hell of a late bloomer. All five of his losses came between 2000 and 2003, and when you look at the names, there's not a bad fighter there: Young versions of Ulises Solis (twice), Manuel Vargas, Omar Nino and veteran Isaac Bustos. His most recent fight was an April win over Pornsawan Porpramook (TKO-4).
Up Next: No fight currently scheduled. I'd love to see -- as in, actually see on television -- a fight between Sosa and Ivan Calderon, and now there's some real intrigue in a rematch between Sosa and Brian Viloria. Sosa beat Viloria by majority decision in 2007.
Honorable Mentions: Nate Campbell, Omar Narvaez, Daisuke Naito, Lucian Bute, Wladimir Klitschko, Joan Guzman, Steven Luevano, Edwin Valero, Fernando Montiel, Raul Garcia, Roman Gonzalez
Israel Vazquez (8) falls off because he hasn't fought in 14 months and there's nothing solid about a return. He wants to, but he has to be medically cleared. ... Nate Campbell (14) falls off because as solid a fight as he had in February with Ali Funeka, he had some trouble and also failed to make weight. We haven't seen how he'll look moving up to 140 at 37 years of age. ... Ulises Solis (18) is out after his loss to Brian Viloria. No shame in the loss, and a hell of a war, but he's out. ... Wladimir Klitschko (19) is out because he's just out. We might learn a little about him against Haye in June, but right now I feel like I've learned absolutely nothing new about Wladimir in his last seven fights. He's not really among the best of the best guys in their divisions, I'm starting to think; it's just the perfect landscape for him to dominate because he hasn't fought anyone that hits him.
Ricky Hatton (13) is out. This one was really hard for me. Ricky Hatton has been in my top 10-20 pound-for-pound fighters for a long, long time, and there's no shame in losing to Manny Pacquiao, but he wasn't even in Pacquiao's league. Hatton has not just lost to the two guys who were pound-for-pound kings, he was worn out and blown up by Mayweather, and Pacquiao made him look like a complete scrub. I still feel Ricky Hatton could be a hell of a good fighter, but he was hurt by everything Manny threw. If Hatton fights on, he might well earn his way back onto one of these lists in the future. But I just don't see him as one of the 20 best in the sport, and if this thing went to 30 I don't think I'd have him on anymore.
But don't think I've stopped being a Ricky Hatton fan. I haven't.