Both Manny Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito made the Bad Left Hook 100, though at very different levels. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
This is a project I thought to get drunk and do about a week ago, but instead I'm doing it hungover. I hope some of my good humor remains from the 17 Maker's and Cokes I had last night, as I also think I might still be slightly drunk as I start this in the morning. (Note: I finished at night.)
The idea here is sort of a top 100 pound-for-pound as it stands right now, a snapshot in time to close out another year of boxing. And this year definitely had its highlights and its dead months and its messes and controversies and B.S. and all of that jive. But it's not meant to be taken all seriously, either. I'm sure I "underrated" your favorite fighter. "No way is Carl Froch that low!" or the like, and that's great and all, but honestly? For honesty's sake? I don't care if I didn't rank your favorite fighter. It's just a stupid list.
Note: This is really long. If you want some extra toilet reading material, this might be worth printing. And if you don't like it, you will then have an immediate use for it.
100. Arthur Abraham
How can I put this nicely...hmm. I've got it: It was a crap year for Arthur Abraham. The German-based Armenian went 0-2 in 2010, getting pretty thoroughly outboxed by Andre Dirrell before a foul thwarted any comeback Abraham might have been making and resulting in a DQ loss to boot, and then later being dominated by Carl Froch. Watching Froch-Abraham was sort of like watching a football team (American rules, to be clear for our commie foreigner friends) getting stuffed constantly. Abraham's miserable non-showing against Froch was one of the worst performances in recent memory by a major fighter. It doesn't mean he can't come back from it. He's got Andre Ward next, and an upset win over Ward would not only vault Abraham into the Super Six finals, but it would basically revitalize his career, which right now is sort of reeling. Everyone and their mama and their mama's dog has called Abraham a one-speed, overrated fighter since the Froch fight, and with good reason. Now he has to prove he's more than that. To be honest, I don't think he can, because I don't think he is. Abraham is not the fighter many thought he was.
99. Orlando Salido
Salido won the IBF featherweight title from rival Cristobal Cruz in May, knocking Cruz down twice in the second round en route to a pretty wide decision victory. In September, Salido turned up as about the 13th choice to fight Yuriorkis Gamboa on HBO, and he did his best, but Salido just wasn't good enough, though he gave it his best shot and probably troubled Gamboa as much as anyone has as a pro.
98. Librado Andrade
Andrade fought just once this year, recovering from his KO-4 loss at the end of '09 to Lucian Bute with an RTD-8 win over a game but outgunned Eric Lucas in May. At 168 pounds, the rugged Andrade is sort of on the outside looking in as the Super Six finishes up, and he's already 0-2 against the division's other star (Bute), so there isn't a whole lot for him to get after. He could move to 175 soon. With his limited ability and fan-friendly style, Andrade would be a welcome opponent for a lot of people.
97. Ricky Burns
Honestly, I don't think Burns is all that good a fighter. He's sloppy, doesn't have the best chin, and is miles away from any sort of amazing talent that makes you turn your head. But he's maximizing what he does have, and a lot of the time that's just as important as having a ton of natural ability. He worked hard, got a 130-pound title shot in September, and to the shock of most everyone who isn't Scottish, knocked off Roman "Rocky" Martinez in one of the year's bigger upsets. And his first cupcake defense against Andreas Evensen went as expected, as Evensen had no business fighting for a major title, even in the sorry super featherweight division.
96. Jhonny Gonzalez
Jhonny Gonzalez, as we've oft discussed on this site, is a tremendous fighter. A wonderful talent. Great boxer. And he has a terrible chin. If Jhonny Gonzalez had even a mediocre chin, he'd be in the top 20. He's that talented. He's also marvelous fun to watch fight, because you never know if he's going to get sparked, even if he's cruising, and he comes to fight.
95. Edgar Sosa
Last November, Sosa was fouled like a son of a bitch by Rodel Mayol and then wound up knocked out mere seconds later, losing the 108-pound title he'd held for two years and defended constantly. In 2010, he came back and moved up to flyweight, going 4-0 against mediocre opposition. He's a WBC favorite so he'll get his title shot sooner rather than later, and while I wouldn't say he's "earned it" at 112, his years as titlist at 108 make for a solid enough reason from where I sit. I mean, it's boxing. Who really earns their title shots anymore?
94. Satoshi Hosono
"Bazooka" won a couple of easy fights this year and picked up the Japanese featherweight title, but his real coming out party was a very close loss in a good fight to Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym in January.
93. Danny Green
Danny Green may not be the legend he believes he became by punching wobbly old shot Roy Jones Jr. in the ear last December, but he's a good fighter. He also finally became an actual cruiserweight this year with his win over BJ Flores, where he outboxed a taller guy who was supposed to be the better technician in the ring. That fight was supposed to be brawler Green against boxer Flores, but instead Flores did his shtick where he feinted a lot and didn't throw enough, and Green took him to school at points. It was a good, solid win that helped Green erase a little of the stigma following his sad wins over faded Manny Siaca and whatever you want to call the Paul Briggs disgrace.
92. Cristian Mijares
That poster is from 2009, but it's so incredible I'm using it anyway.
From 2005 to mid 2008, Cristian Mijares had a terrific run, highlighted by a complete mauling of Jorge Arce in 2007, along with wins over Alexander Munoz and Jose Navarro, among others. But then it went to pot when he ran into Vic Darchinyan in November 2008 and was completely obliterated by a strong, arrogant fighter who clearly thought little of Mijares' style or ability. After that, he lost a controversial decision to Nehomar Cermeno, and then a rematch, which was totally clear. After three straight losses, Mijares put himself back down at the bottom of the ladder and fought his way up. That culminated in a win over Juan Alberto Rosas in December of this year, putting another super flyweight trinket back around his waist. It was a quiet and fine comeback for the Mexican slickster.
91. Moruti Mthalane
Mthalane (26-2, 17 KO) only fought once this year, beating Zolani Tete in September. He's a really good fighter who hasn't gotten his global due yet, and might never.
90. Miguel Vazquez
After his, erm, "shocking" win over Breidis Prescott in the summer of 2009 on Friday Night Fights, Vazquez found himself without a fight for a year. When one did come, it came in the form of a crack at the vacant IBF lightweight title, against another limited brawler, Ji Hoon Kim. Vazquez made mincemeat of Kim winning a near shutout decision in Texas. In late November, he did the same thing to Ricardo Dominguez in Mexico. Vazquez (27-3, 12 KO) luckily has a title, or I don't think many people would want to fight the guy. He's still a virtual unknown, doesn't have a pretty undefeated record, and has really come into his own. His only career losses have come to Saul Alvarez (SD-4, Vazquez's pro debut), Timothy Bradley (UD-10, 2007) and Alvarez again (UD-10, 2008).
89. Raul Martinez
Another flyweight, and one who like Mthalane, might be best known as a post-Vic victim of Nonito Donaire. Martinez, 28, is one of my favorite "other guys" in the sport. I have no belief that he's going to become some great fighter; he probably won't. But he's enjoyable to watch and seems to bust his ass. In 2010, he beat John Alberto Molina, demolished Gabriel Elizondo, and then had a damn good fight with Rodrigo Guerrero on Top Rank Live in November, winning a split decision in an IBF eliminator. The San Antonio native could be one to watch if you're the sort who keeps track of titles, and WHO ISN'T that sort???
88. Luis Concepcion
25-year-old Panamanian Concepcion is just demolishing dudes these days, which wasn't all that notable when it was the likes of Roberto Leyva or even Eric Ortiz, but when he blitzed Denkaosan Kaovichit in the first round, knocking Kaovichit down three times, eyes opened. Nobody should be doing that to Kaovichit, but Concepcion (22-1, 17 KO) put himself on the map as a very dangerous flyweight contender with that one.
87. Wilfredo Vazquez Jr.
Vazquez (20-0-1, 17 KO) was a breakthrough fighter this year, and has become an Integrated Sports PPV favorite. In February, he took on Marvin Sonsona for a vacant 122-pound belt. Sonsona came in the far more celebrated prospect, as like all other young Filipino fighters with legitimate promise, he was The Next Manny Pacquiao, which is sort of like the army of guys from the past 45 years who have been The Next Bob Dylan. There's one Bob and one Manny, and it should be left at that. But that night in February, it was Vazquez who systematically tore Sonsona apart, winning by fourth round knockout on a body shot. I liked Vazquez coming into that fight, and was one of the few who had him ranked in the top ten at 122 pounds. After that, of course, he shot into the lists like a bullet, and deservedly so. Whether Sonsona is mentally there or not (he's not), he's a talented fighter, and Vazquez ripped him up. Vazquez followed that with a dominant TKO-10 over former amateur star Zsolt Bedak in May, and in October showed some flaws against fringe contender Choko Hernandez, but came out the victor and got better as the fight went along. Vazquez, like a lot of his fellow Puerto Ricans of recent vintage, does come off as perhaps unnecessarily cocky, and that might turn some off. But he's a real talent.
86. Jorge Solis
Lately I've been considering calling the Solis brothers "one of the best brother tandems in all of boxing." I mean there are only a couple that are even worth mentioning as notable brother tandems, and I wouldn't be lying, but we're not exactly talking about the Klitschkos or the Marquez boys when talking about Jorge and Archi, so what would my point be? Mostly I would hope that someone would read it, try to get angry about me "overrating" the Solis brothers, and then figure out that it's hard to argue because technically it's true, so maybe I'm being kind of a dumbass, but I'm not wrong, you know? Jorge went 3-0 this year, beating Francisco Cordero, Mario Santiago and the great Likar Ramos.
85. Kell Brook
Kell Brook is right there as one of the better welterweights in today's crappy welterweight landscape, the good news being he's one of the young talents that might help make the division uncrappy in the next couple of years. In 2010, Brook laid waste to Krzysztof Bienias, Michael Jennings and Philip Kotey. No, it's not murderer's row, but he handled his business when there was business to handle, though the Jennings fight was an odd letdown with the way it ended, and the fact that Brook didn't quite seem to quite get out of the starting blocks before it was over. But what do I care, really? That fight was long overdue and I wasn't all that interested in it, anyway.
84. Daniel Ponce de Leon
Hey, I like Daniel Ponce de Leon as much as the next guy. He has made some legitimate improvements in his game, both offensively and defensively, and has gotten himself back into contention at 126 pounds after years at 122, where he won title belts and got spanked by Juan Manuel Lopez as a parting gift from the rising new force of that division. Of course, the trouble for Ponce's future is that now he's at 126, where Lopez resides now, where Yuriorkis Gamboa is plying his trade, where there is a lot of talent. So again, I like Ponce de Leon. I really do. But I can't help but maintain the feeling that eventually his key weakness -- lack of speed -- is going to once again be exposed when he's in with someone better than Cornelius Lock, Sergio Medina or Antonio Escalante.
83. Michael Katsidis
Hey, speaking of guys who tend to get "exposed" when in against top fighters, here's Michael Katsidis. If there's a boxing fan out there reading this who doesn't like Katsidis, please stop reading this site and don't come back. That said, we've seen Katsidis' peak. It probably came against Joel Casamayor, a fight he lost anyway. I just don't think there's a whole lot left for him to do, because he's simply not quite good enough to do more than he's done. But this is a guy who fights because he truly loves the game, and that's something you don't see a ton of anymore. Katsidis has never made excuses for losses, and never gotten to a point where he just wants to take easy fights, maybe grab some paper title belt to hoist over his head and defend against schlubs, and take it easy while proclaiming himself the greatest. Michael Katsidis wants to actually earn being the best in the world, and he's proven that by fighting top fighters. How could you not like this guy?
82. Joshua Clottey
I would tell you what Joshua Clottey did this year, but you all know he turtled for 36 minutes against Manny Pacquiao, so we'll leave it at that. Frankly, I've written more than enough about Clottey this year considering his effort for 2010.
81. Antonio Margarito
I promise you I didn't put Manny's 2010 victims back-to-back on purpose. That's just the way the cookie crumbled, y'all. Margarito was "game" and "valiant" against Manny, but he was also "overmatched," "way out of his league" and "got his ass kicked something awful by a guy he's a lot bigger than." Truth be told, I'm kind of sick of talking up Margarito's effort. Yeah, he came to fight, and it was an enjoyable one-sided beating, but it was a one-sided beating. Let's not make more of it than it was. But he takes a better beating than just about anyone, I'll give him that.
80. Erislandy Lara
If I had done one of these in 2009, I'd have probably had Lara somewhere between 80 and 100, figuring he'd jump into the 60s or 50s in 2010. He did not make many strides, though, and his future seems a bit less bright than it used to. Of the recent crop of Cuban exiles (COMMUNIST REGIME COMMUNIST REGIME), he's the second-best so far, but that might not hold for long. Lara started his year well with wins over Grady Brewer and Danny Perez, but then took big steps back against William Correa, Willie Lee and Tim Connors.
79. Shane Mosley
It was a rough year for Sugar Shane. In the ring, he gave Floyd Mayweather Jr. a scare in May before getting routed, and that was the last we really saw of the old Shane Mosley. After that we got an old Shane Mosley fighting to a terrible draw against Sergio Mora, and as much as I feel Mosley won that fight by scoring rounds of boxing, I really don't think anyone won that fight, and certainly the folks who paid $55 for it on pay-per-view didn't win anything. Now he's left Golden Boy Promotions so that he could secure a 2011 fight with Manny Pacquiao on May 7, which already has boxing fans groaning. Shane's a longtime favorite of mine, but that bird is cooked.
78. Ryan Rhodes
Now this might be a point where you would ask me, "OK, do you really think Ryan Rhodes would beat Shane Mosley, Erislandy Lara and Antonio Margarito?" And I would answer that I think he has as good a shot at beating them as they do beating him. Rhodes is a damn good fighter and doesn't get his due. Of course, Ryan also didn't have the best year, as he missed his biggest fight against Lukas Konecny with injury, and scored wins over overmatched Luca Messi and Rocky Junior. Hopefully the former "Spice Boy" can get back on track in 2011. At 34, time's not on his side, and boxing politics are never going to be on his side as he tries to get a major international fight.
77. Gennady Golovkin
Golovkin (20-0, 17 KO) isn't the biggest middleweight out there at just 5'10", but he's got a ton of skill and is one of the most promising prospect/contenders in the game today. At 28, he's got plenty of amateur experience and hasn't carried over any "bad habits" from his pre-pay days, either. He's an aggressive, confident fighter, and he wiped out his opposition this year. True, it wasn't the greatest opposition, but he did what he was supposed to do and then some against both Milton Nunez (KO-1) and Nilson Julio Tapia (KO-3). Hopefully that fight with Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam gets made.
76. Dmitry Pirog
Another emerging middleweight contender, Pirog is 30 and had a major coming out party this year. Matched against American prospect Daniel Jacobs in the main undercard bout of the Marquez-Diaz II pay-per-view, Pirog wasn't supposed to win. But after five excellent rounds of action, Pirog flattened Jacobs and came out the surprising winner. Those who saw him that night are clamoring to see him again, but he's all but disappeared since then. HBO does keep mentioning him when they have middleweights on, though, so he's apparently at least in their thoughts for 2011.
75. Beibut Shumenov
Shumenov impressed a lot of folks when he pretty well dominated Vyacheslav Uzelkov in August, but one shouldn't forget that Shumenov got a 100% gift decision over Gabriel Campillo in January. He's far from perfect. But it's not hard to like his ambition and his savvy. He's like a young, Kazakh version of Oscar de la Hoya, except not as good in the ring and probably won't be driving teenage girls mad any time soon. The upside of that is that he probably won't release any Godawful music. He'll waste no time in 2011, fighting Juergen Braehmer on January 8 in an effort to unify two belts at 175.
74. Kelly Pavlik
Of the many top names who had bad years in 2010, Kelly Pavlik might have had the worst. He fought just once, losing to Sergio Martinez in April. It was a really good fight and I thought the best Kelly had looked in a good while, since at least the Jermain Taylor rematch. But it was part of a spiral for the former middleweight champ. He had had some trouble before that fight, and after it was nothing but trouble for "The Ghost." He canceled a fight with Brian Vera for the Pacquiao-Margarito show, then wound up in rehab for alcohol-related issues. Here's hoping Kelly gets back in the groove. He might not be the fighter we once thought he could be, but I still think he's good, and maybe we'll find out that focus -- or lack thereof -- was a bigger problem than anything physical.
73. Takashi Uchiyama
Uchiyama came into 2010 a virtual unknown outside of Japanese boxing circles, but started fast with a win over Juan Carlos Salgado in January to pick up the WBA super featherweight belt. Sadly, Uchiyama spent the rest of 2010 holding a belt hostage in Japan and not fighting relevant competition, scoring wins over Angel Granados and Roy Mukhlis. He takes on Takashi Miura in January, and that could be an early sleeper fight for 2011. I like the matchup a lot. As for my thoughts on Uchiyama, he's arguably the best in the world at 130, which ain't sayin' much since that division is so relentlessly awful and depleted. But the guy can fight, and I like that he finishes people when he gets the chance. He could have cruised to a decision over Salgado, but scored a 12th round TKO instead to put an exclamation point on the big win.
72. Celestino Caballero
TIMBEEEER! The big skinny tree took a tremendous fall with his November loss to Jason Litzau, which proved a couple of things. First off, Caballero does not look special at all when he's in there with someone he doesn't dwarf. I've harped on that before, during, and after that fight, but it just cannot be overstated. When you take away Caballero's height as an advantage, he is absolutely not the same fighter. But it also proved -- sort of along the same lines -- that he's not a 130-pound fighter. He's just not. Caballero is a freak of nature at 122 and 126, and sure he's tall and long at 130, but his power doesn't carry up that high and his arrogance seems a lot more hilarious. He's still a legit fighter at 126, though sadly for him, that loss to Litzau has probably wiped out any chance he has of landing a major fight with JuanMa Lopez or Yuriorkis Gamboa. Everyone at Top Rank is still going to know that Caballero presents serious problems for both of them stylistically, but now the demand for one of those fights is non-existent. And Caballero is 34 years old, too, so working his way back into that demand is probably not going to happen.
71. Ulises Solis
Here's one way that I think Jorge and Ulises actually do resemble the Klitschkos and Marquez brothers. I don't really have any strong opinion on which one is better in a historical sense. I mean, nobody's going to be debating this for years or anything like you might with the Klitschkos, and as famous as Juan Manuel has become, Rafael was/is in my opinion just as good (there was a time when I had Rafael ranked only behind Floyd Jr. in the pound-for-pound sense), so I think that's a great debate, too. But the Solis boys are on basically the same level themselves. Jorge hasn't accomplished as much, but he also hasn't had the same chances. Ulises might well be slowing down for good, but he was robbed of a title win in December in Argentina, which would have made him a two-time titlist at 108 pounds. I'd actually love to see him try his hand at 112 next year, maybe rematching Brian Viloria.
70. Omar Narvaez
I'm not going to lie and act like I have a lot to say about Narvaez. He's a good boxer who has zero ambition and enjoys hiding away in Argentina and mostly fighting crap competition. He's never going to get the respect he probably should, and it's his own fault.
69. Nehomar Cermeno
Cermeno is a Venezuelan native now living in Panama, and rose into the diehard boxing fan line of sight with a pair of wins over Cristian Mijares in 2009, which he followed by knocking out Alejandro Valdez that same year. In 2010, he lost a couple of extremely close decisions to Anselmo Moreno in Venezuela and Panama, and closed the year out with a bounce-back win over an inexperienced foe in Panama. Cermeno is a second-tier guy in the incredibly hot bantamweight division, and because he has no name value in the States, probably will find himself outside looking in along with a few other guys, Moreno being the best of that lot.
68. Mzonke Fana
Congratulations, Mzonke Fana! You're the default top 130-pounder in the world according to one a-hole's rankings! You did it! The dream has come true! Fana is probably best known for being absolutely pulverized by Marco Antonio Barrera back in 2005, but to be fair to Fana he's gone 8-1 since then fighting back home in South Africa, including a win over Malcolm Klassen in 2007, and in his lone fight this year, a win over Cassius Baloyi. Baloyi handed Fana his only post-Barrera loss in 2008 by majority decision, so avenging that one was pretty big, and it put a belt on Fana, too. He's a good fighter, but that's about it. If the division beefs up, he'll probably become an afterthought in no time, because the upside isn't there for him. This is as good as he's going to get.
67. Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym
It's not often that guys this small are called "rugged," but Poonsawat is a rugged little dude. He's listed at 5'4½", but that's a load. He's probably closer to 5'2", tops. In his 2009 title win over Bernard Dunne, the Irishman towered over him, but couldn't keep the relentless little Thai brawler off of him. Poonsawat is one of those guys who clearly loves a good fight. His January win over Satoshi Hosono was one of the overlooked fights of 2010, and he knocked out Shoji Kimura in May. His year didn't end on a high note, losing his 122-pound belt to Ryol Li Lee in a bit of an upset on October 2, but Poonsawat seems like one of those guys who could be around a long time, like countryman Pongsaklek Wonjongkam.
66. Elio Rojas
It was damn near a wasted year for featherweight titlist Rojas, who owns the WBC's trinket. He had a win over veteran Guty Espadas Jr. in February, but that was it. Rojas was being set up to fight Yuriorkis Gamboa in August, which could have been a great little matchup and had some potential to be a stern test for Gamboa, but it fell through because of injury or politicking or whatever, I don't remember and I don't care enough to look it up. Point is, it didn't happen. Hopefully, though, Rojas will get more active and get a major fight in 2011. I wouldn't count on it, because he's promoted by Don King, but it'd be nice is all I'm saying.
65. Alfredo Angulo
Alfredo Angulo had his issues outside the ring this year, but what he did when he was in the ring was good stuff. Angulo is limited, but he's a pure monster pressure fighter and a ton of fun to watch. He's a bomb that can be defused, but bombs are no fun to deal with even if you know how to defuse them. His wins over Joel Julio and Joachim Alcine were quality, even though Alcine is well past his best days, but he probably got more reaction for turning down a career-best payday to fight Sergio Martinez, with the guarantee from HBO that win, lose, or draw, they'd give him another fight. That took some wind out of the sails of his enthusiasts, but hopefully it'll be a forgettable footnote.
64. Raul Garcia
Raul Garcia is a good fighter and you don't care because he fights at strawweight. He did fall a little this year, though, to be serious for a moment. His loss to Nkosinathi Joyi is nothing to be ashamed of, as Joyi is a wonderful talent, but he lost really wide, and he barely escaped a fight with the inexperienced Luis de la Rosa in October, too. Garcia may be heading over the other side of the hill.
63. Kermit Cintron
I hope Kermit Cintron releases an autobiography someday. For one thing, I'm sure it'd be at least a little bit interesting. He has an unusual background and came to boxing differently than most guys do, especially most guys with Puerto Rican roots. But I'd also like to read in-depth, first-person examinations of some of the things in his career. The Sergio Martinez draw being one, his meetings with Antonio Margarito, his career-best win over Alfredo Angulo, what it felt like to nearly decapitate Walter Matthysse, and the complete debacle that was his cinematic dive through the ring ropes this year against Paul Williams, which led Cintron to a stretcher after he lay motionless for several minutes on the arena floor, only to wildly flail his arms while strapped down and proclaim his great desire to continue fighting. Kermit Cintron is one of the weirdest goddamn guys in boxing, so weird that you often forget he's actually pretty good.
62. Victor Ortiz
Oh, Victor Ortiz. When people talk about "hypejobs" and don't include Victor Ortiz on their list of overblown young fighters, it pains me. There is not a more overhyped young fighter in the sport. Ortiz "recovered" from his 2009 loss to Marcos Maidana by rattling off wins over three shot guys and a nobody, then got in the ring in December with Lamont Peterson. Ortiz, to his credit, should have won the fight, but he walked out with a draw, and if either Patricia Morse Jarman or Dave Moretti had found just one more point to give to Peterson, then Lamont would have scored a majority decision win. That Ortiz didn't win that fight despite knocking Peterson down twice in round three is kind of a stunner -- he had no business not walking out of a ten-round fight where he decked Peterson twice without the win, but he pulled it off. It's not a physical issue. Ortiz is a strong, pretty sturdy junior welterweight. He's got legit power in both hands, throws well in combination, and has improved his defense pretty well over the last three years or so. It's a mental thing with Ortiz, who has been accused by former friend Robert Garcia of being scared to get hit and not being quite the jovial, stand-up guy he's made out to be. Of course Freddie Roach has basically said that Robert Garcia is a world-class jerk, so I'm not taking Garcia's word as gospel or anything. But there's an X-factor missing from Victor Ortiz. He might well have a long, successful career, but Golden Boy wanted him to be the new Oscar. He won't ever come close to that.
61. Nathan Cleverly
At 23, young Nathan Cleverly is not showing signs of becoming The Next Joe Calzaghe, which was his immediate tag because they're both from Wales. Unlike Calzaghe, Cleverly seems ready, willing and able to go abroad as soon as possible and go after some major titles at 175. I'm not really knocking Calzaghe here, because Joe was a great fighter and I've got nothing against the guy, but he and Cleverly just seem to be tremendously different personalities. That said, there's a downside to not being Joe Calzaghe. Calzaghe was incredibly smart in the ring, knew how to disrupt rhythm as well as anyone, and got a lot out of doing a little. He was efficient. Cleverly is not that type of guy. Against Karo Murat, Cleverly went out and warred just to prove that he could, and he won a good fight that he made harder on himself. In December when he faced Nadjib Mohammedi, Cleverly didn't seem totally focused or at his best. He got out of there with a win, but it shouldn't have been that close, even granting that Mohammedi came in on short notice and is sort of a pain in the ass fighter. There are big things on the horizon for Nathan Cleverly, and it's time to shake the prospect tag for good. He's still got some polishing to do on his overall game, but who doesn't at 23?
60. Gabriel Campillo
Speaking of pain in the ass fighters, here's one of the best. Campillo was robbed in January against Beibut Shumenov, and his attempts to force a mandatory rematch (which would have been a third fight between the two) fell on deaf and dumb ears. Campillo is in sort of a rich man's Miguel Vazquez position that I talked about earlier. He's so good, and his record so unpretty, that nobody wants anything to do with him. Having a belt really helps a guy like that, but when they get jobbed out of one, it's easy for them to fall through the cracks. Since none of the major light heavyweights wants a damn thing to do with him, Campillo is now targeting the European belt as he heads into a new year.
59. Sakio Bika
Fighters in today's boxing landscape don't come much rougher or meaner than "The Scorpion," which is seemingly at odds with his actual personality. Despite his reputation as a nasty fighter in the ring who will do what he has to do to get an advantage, the real person outside of the ring seems like quite a nice guy. Boxing is weird like that sometimes. Guys who seem like gentlemen in the ring are sometimes bastards out of it, and vice versa.
There have been times since Sakio won the best season of "The Contender" in 2007 that Bika has been lost in the shuffle, and that almost happened again in 2010. A fight with Allan Green to decide the Super Six replacement for Jermain Taylor in February fell apart, and then Bika had no interest in joining the tournament later, but managed to land a fight with Andre Ward anyway. In a tight, action-packed, foul-filled brawl, Bika came up short in Oakland with one completely heinous scorecard that saw a Ward shutout somehow, and reaffirmed himself as one of the better fights in the class.
58. Ryol Li Lee
Lee, 28, started his 2010 with a February win over Kazunori Takayama to claim the vacant Japanese featherweight title, and defended it successfully against Hisashi Amagasa in June. But it was his step down in weight to super bantamweight in October that really jumped him up the list, as he took the WBA title from Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym at Korakuen Hall, where Lee has fought every one of his 19 professional bouts. He'll move to Ariake Colosseum for a bout with Akifumi Shimoda on January 31.
57. Denis Lebedev
While I wouldn't say Lebedev was robbed against Marco Huck in December, he was definitely a victim of hometown scoring for the German. Lebedev knocked out Ignacio Esparza in four rounds in February, then creamed Alexander Alexeev in two five months later. His fight with Huck promised action, and though it wasn't as explosive as it could have been, Lebedev had the normally fearless and hyper-aggressive Huck backing down, which is no easy feat. It would be great to see those two rematch and settle what feels like unfinished business.
56. Felix Sturm
Sturm got back in action this year, reportedly buying out his contract from Universum and going all but off the grid in German boxing by promoting himself. That might mean Sturm was sick of the patsy schedule he was facing as a long-standing top middleweight, as Universum had matched him with the likes of Jamie Pittman and Koji Sato toward the end, which was damn near disgraceful given that Sturm is actually talented. Occasionally you'd get lucky and someone like Randy Griffin would actually put a scare into Sturm and produce a competitive fight, but for the most part Sturm was living on Easy Street with his WBA belt. After a year out of the ring, Sturm came back to completely dominate Giovanni Lorenzo in September, having basically no trouble along the way. I later saw a super dramatic highlight video of that fight, which was basically slow-motion jabs for three minutes. It was pretty awesome.
55. Troy Ross
By my count there are four legitimately top-line cruiserweights out there. We just mentioned Lebedev, and Ross is second on the list. At 35, Ross has sort of had a wasted career, but the upside of that is that he's 35 and doesn't have the wear and tear on his body that a normal 35-year-old fighter does. In June, he faced Steve Cunningham for the vacant IBF cruiserweight belt, which meant that the American Cunningham and Canadian Ross had to go to Germany to find their division's audience, which is a shame and all, but just the way it is. Ross was giving Cunningham all kinds of trouble before Ross suffered a bad cut, which was the result of a foul and not a punch, but the TKO-5 win for Cunningham, who went down in the fourth, stands. Ross deserves a rematch that he probably won't get.
54. Tavoris Cloud
In August 2008, Cloud earned a mandatory title shot at the light heavyweight belt that was at the time held by Chad Dawson. Dawson, despite his reported financial troubles, has only seemed to want money fights since beating Tomasz Adamek a few years ago, and Cloud, who has zero fanbase, was not on his radar. But instead of fighting, Cloud sat on his mandatory for a year, until Dawson had vacated the belt and the IBF put the vacant strap up for grabs between Cloud and Clinton Woods. Cloud beat Woods to win the belt, then sat out another year before defending it against Glen Johnson. That came about because Cloud decided to bail on his former management and promotional team to sign with Don King, which of course led to some legal mumbo-jumbo. I found it odd to pick Don King as a promoter if you truly want to fight more than your annual August rumble, but to the credit of both men, Cloud got back in the ring in December against Fulgencio Zuniga after edging Johnson in August. So that's good. Cloud is one of those guys who I think will be generally enjoyable to watch for his career, but he has a lot of flaws and it appears his power has been overrated, which isn't so bad since he's got enough to keep guys honest and can bang when he has to.
53. Vic Darchinyan
Vic would probably rank at least 15 spots higher if he were still fighting at 115 pounds, but at 118 he loses a lot of what makes him who he is. Guys at 118 just don't seem intimidated by him, a big part of that being that those three pounds seem to really sap some of his power. Darchinyan has even made noise about fighting at 122 sometime, which I guess would be fine if he wanted to face Jorge Arce again, but that's not really Vic's style, so instead I figure he'd just get destroyed by somebody he's better than pound-for-pound. Darchinyan did go 2-1 on the year, but his wins over a brave but hopelessly outclassed Rodrigo Guerrero and veteran mediocrity Eric Barcelona (Ron Mexico?) said a lot less than his loss to Abner Mares did. Darchinyan is 34 now, and he just doesn't work at bantamweight, where the money is. Not like he works at 115. Time might be running out for the latest "Raging Bull," but Darchinyan has surprised folks and come back strong before, so time will tell. And I don't believe in time.
52. Marco Huck
Huck is, as they say in some parts of our great country, a real sumbitch. He's mean, aggressive, reckless, strong, and cocky. And he's also got a reputation for being dirty in the ring. That's why it was kind of oddly satisfying to see Lebedev back him down. Huck is a bully -- a bully I like watching fight, but he's a bully. And as far as I'm concerned, if you can't connect some sort of nonsense "extra" to watching boxing, you're going to get too hopelessly mired in the sport's constant barrage of bullshit to get consistent enjoyment out of it. Huck-Lebedev became theater to me, really. Lebedev was just as tough and strong as Huck, but didn't have that nasty reputation, and it was sort of like good conquering evil, except in the end evil got the duke and good was left to ponder whether or not there's really any justice in the world. That reeks of sequel to me, but again, constant barrage of bullshit, so I won't hold my breath.
51. Lamont Peterson
Yes, I have Lamont Peterson ranked 11 spots higher than Victor Ortiz, but keep in mind that you could jumble this stuff up pretty well from about 13 down, especially in packs of 10 or so. Peterson is not remarkably better than anyone ranked from 90-100, even, just higher on my list. It is what it is. Peterson has now given good accountings of his talent against both Timothy Bradley (which he lost wide, but it was a competitive wide) and Ortiz, so I think we've confirmed that he's definitely the better of the Peterson brothers. This isn't a Solis situation.
50. Marcos Maidana
As far as meanness goes, I've often said I think it's the single most underrated quality in boxing. Bernard Hopkins is the proverbial cerebral assassin, but I think a big reason he's been Bernard Hopkins is that he's constantly pissed off at something. Marco Huck makes a living on meanness, so does Sakio Bika. But Marcos Maidana might be the nastiest guy in the sport today. He's not a foul machine or anything, but he appears to be an incredibly unpleasant human being when he fights. I think his angry nature in the ring is a big reason he got up from that vicious body shot combo that put him down in the first round against Amir Khan in December. If he didn't have that level of attitude, he might have stayed down. He was being overwhelmed by Khan's speed and precision. But he got up and kept hunting Khan until finally catching him square in the 10th round and battering the Brit all around the ring. It was a great show of guts and resolve from Khan, but it was also a great show of stubborn persistence from Maidana, who could have gone away any time in the first nine rounds but refused to stop his pursuit of Khan's head. Realistically, I still don't think much of Maidana's skills, but he has the sort of X-factor that, coincidentally, old foe Victor Ortiz just does not have. He's dangerous every minute of every fight. But he also almost lost to a badly worn-out DeMarcus Corley in Argentina before fighting Khan, so hopefully he learned to not take anyone lightly this year, too.
49. Andriy Kotelnik
I don't like to throw around "robbed" when I talk boxing. It's an abused term applied to every sort of close fight ever. It's ridiculous. It makes me hate when people talk about boxing. I want to shake them and tell them to stop it. I want to delete their posts and ban them. I want them to shut up. And I know plenty of smart people really think Devon Alexander deserved his win over Andriy Kotelnik. We had some great discussion about it on the site, and I respect those opinions in that way you can respect something you absolutely do not agree with. But as far as I'm concerned, Andriy Kotelnik was robbed against Devon Alexander, and I will never, ever feel differently. From my seat, Kotelnik clearly won that fight, and it wasn't close. The best case for Kotelnik now might be a rematch with Maidana.
48. Robert Guerrero
I know Robert Guerrero is talented and all, but the guy just does nothing for me. I don't know what it is. I'm sure everyone has these fighters, guys you know are good, and you don't actively dislike them or anything, but they just do zilch for you, you're never excited to watch them fight, and you never think much of anything they do even when it's impressive. Guerrero is a damn fine boxer, but if he won the lottery and retired tomorrow, I don't think I'd really notice. He had a good 2010, though. Though he did have to sadly to cancel a fight with Michael Katsidis when Guerrero's wife took ill again, he fought three times on the year, beating veteran Roberto David Arrieta, former lightweight champion Joel Casamayor in one of the most depressing fights I've ever watched, and Vicente Escobedo, the latter of which was easily his best win of 2010. He's targeting a title at 135 now, which will go great with the paper titles he won at 126 and 130.
47. Steve Cunningham
A few times a couple of years ago, I called Steve Cunningham "The Nicest Man in Boxing." To my delight, his promotional team actually ran with that and included it in his press releases and stuff. I thought that was really cool, and was happy to have contributed something positive since I'm so often such a Debbie Downer. Since his 2008 Fight of the Year candidate against Tomasz Adamek, Cunningham's career has stalled. He's still largely considered the best cruiserweight in the sport, but promotional issues and other nonsense have kept the now 34-year-old "U.S.S." out of the ring too much. He signed with Sauerland to get more active, but fought just once in 2010, his iffy win over Troy Ross. Cunningham is probably another guy who's headed down the other side of the hill, and it would be a shame if that's the case, because it feels like we only got to see flashes of what he could have been due to prolonged periods of inactivity.
46. Hozumi Hasegawa
This is sort of a tentative ranking, really -- it wouldn't feel right to not have Hasegawa here, as he went from top 10 P4P guy at 118 to a loser to Fernando Montiel in a fight I felt he was winning until Montiel's power got him, and now he's trying a comeback at featherweight, a two-division jump that started well with a very good win over Juan Carlos Burgos. There is a lot of "wait-and-see" here with Hasegawa at the moment.
45. Glen Johnson
Hey, Glen, would you mind aging sometime so we can tell if you're human? I thought Glen had made his last stand in late 2009 when he was thoroughly outboxed by Chad Dawson and made to look old, slow and finally out of his depth against top contenders. And as good as he looked against Yusaf Mack in February, it was still just Yusaf Mack. But then he fought tooth-and-nail with Tavoris Cloud in August, and came back just three months later, moving down to 168 pounds for the first time in a decade, and put a beating on Allan Green in the Super Six World Boxing Classic. What the hell does this guy eat? And as crazy as it would have sounded no less than a few months ago, is anyone counting him out of winning the Super Six at this point? Glen Johnson is a joy to watch, a credit to boxing, and a class act through and through. Sometimes people talk about appreciating Bernard Hopkins' incredible career more once he's retired, but I think Glen Johnson's winding career is going to really catch some people by surprise in retrospect. He's had a hell of a journey, and he's not done yet.
44. Rafael Marquez
A lot of people thought Rafael Marquez was fighting too heavy at featherweight, and I do agree that he is, but he can still fight at that weight and put more than a couple of jolts into Juan Manuel Lopez in a losing effort in November. That fight lived up to its promise, cut sadly short when Marquez had to quit due to an injury after eight terrific rounds. Rafael also evened the series with Israel Vazquez this year in a fight that I don't think anybody respectable really regards as a true part of their historic and magnificent rivalry. Rafael is getting old (he's 35) and probably won't be beating any of the best featherweights any time soon, but I'd pick him to beat Chris John, I think, and I just hope we get a couple more classic Rafael Marquez fights before he hopefully heads out of the sport on his own terms, as healthy as he can be.
43. Anselmo Moreno
Moreno is one of the top bantamweights in the world, and one of the most ignored top fighters in the world, too. He's really good -- nobody gets two road wins in Germany over a standing titlist and then continues going on the road to beat decent or better fighters without being really good. But as Brick astutely pointed out when I once wondered aloud if Moreno might possibly get some U.S. TV time sometime, he's also incredibly dull to watch, and I think he'd definitely have serious problems against the other top bantams -- guys like Montiel, Donaire, Mares, Agbeko, Perez, I'd pick all of them to beat Moreno.
42. Carl Froch
Carl Froch had a very good 2010 and might finally be getting his earned respect as a very good fighter. His war with Mikkel Kessler took a lot out of both men, and though Froch came out on the losing end, he lost zero respect. And after that he made Arthur Abraham look like a hack in a shockingly easy win. Froch has been a personal favorite of mine for a while, even though I thought his obsession with Joe Calzaghe bordered on crazy for a while, and it was nice to see him have such a good year. But perhaps the most memorable thing of Froch's 2010 is going to be Rachael Cordingley endlessly screaming during his fight with Abraham. That was an incredible vocal performance.
41. Koki Kameda
I know nobody cares about this but me, but back in the 90s in Japan, there was a pro wrestling stable called Fuyuki-Gun, who later were called Team No Respect, which is a horrible thing to be accused of in Japan. They were great fun. The Kameda family sort of reminds me of Fuyuki-Gun. Anyone who knows their pro rasslin', I think, can see that the Kamedas do what they do in order to gain notoriety. And it has worked. But Koki, Daiki and Tomoki are all good fighters, too. I'm a big fan of Koki, in particular, and I'm sure I have him ranked higher than most would. But his loss to Pongsaklek Wonjongkam was a good loss to have, and he came back from that just yesterday to defeat Alexander Munoz and pick up a title at 118 pounds, making him a three-division titlist (108, 112, 118). And don't forget that these guys all have a lot of career ahead of them. At 24, Koki is the oldest brother.
40. Yonnhy Perez
It wasn't quite as good as his 2009, but Perez's 2010, despite being winless, was solid stuff. In '09, he made a big rally to stop Silence Mabuza in South Africa, then beat Joseph Agbeko in a war on Halloween night. This year, he and Abner Mares stole the show on the unfortunate Vazquez-Marquez IV card, fighting to a spirited draw. Perez then signed on for Showtime's bantamweight tournament and lost a rematch to Agbeko, which looked similar to their first fight except with the scores going the other way. Perez is tentatively set to face Vic Darchinyan next in a consolation fight, basically, but that's a lousy way to put it since it's two top fighters who will be looking to win and get another title shot.
39. Chris John
Every now and again I almost slip back into the habit of "hating on" Chris John, but I do know he's a good fighter. John sat out most of 2010 with injuries, returning after 15 months off to win a fight in December against non-threat Fernando David Saucedo in Indonesia. John is part of that moronic WBA puzzle at featherweight, and supposedly he's willing to fight anyone in the division, including Lopez and Gamboa. Whether or not that actually happens is a whole other ball of wax. John's handlers have not been shy about saying they think the 31-year-old is past his prime, and I bet if the money men behind him in Indonesia had their way, he'd hide out at home and continue to fight the likes of Saucedo, Roinet Caballero, Zaiki Takemoto, etc. But John seems like he's actually thirsty for a challenge. He's a skilled boxer, but not as quick as he used to be and I think he'd be in for a terrible night against someone like Lopez or Gamboa, who are hard hitters. Rocky Juarez rocked Chris John pretty bad, and that's just Rocky Juarez. John's one of those guys I hate to say was overrated, because he is/was a really good fighter, but also hate to say was underrated, because the complaints about a lot of his title defenses are valid.
38. Sergiy Dzinziruk
Eh, pass. As ridiculous as I find his Ring ranking, that's about all I really have to say about Sergiy Dzinziruk. It's good that he signed to fight in America from now on, but he's also 34 years old and probably doesn't have a whole lot of big fights in the tank at this point. His May win over Daniel Dawson was his first fight in almost two years, not that that was his decision, really.
37. Joseph Agbeko
Welcome back, Joseph. After not fighting for over a year following his loss to Perez in 2009, he came back in December to avenge that defeat. He didn't look the least bit rusty or out of sorts. In fact, Agbeko looked revitalized, which is rare for a guy coming into a tough fight after that long of a break from the ring. Whether or not "King Kong" can handle the young and talented Abner Mares remains to be seen. Personally, I like Mares a lot in that matchup, but Agbeko is a tough nut to crack with his style and the fact that he'll gladly get chippy if it comes down to it.
36. Chad Dawson
(Photo by Tom Casino/Showtime)
Another guy for whom 2010 was a lousy year. Dawson came into the year in most P4P top ten lists, and rightfully so. He'd earned a lot of respect for wins over Tomasz Adamek, Glen Johnson (twice, once definitively) and Antonio Tarver (twice, in dull fights but clearly Dawson wins). I don't think anybody expected Dawson to become a superstar or anything. He wasn't that sort of guy. Quiet, almost shy on interviews, and just someone who went about his business. A long, productive career was easy to see, but we weren't looking at some crossover household name or anything.
Dawson had a lot of reported financial issues out of the ring this year, but I don't want to focus on that. One problem is that he fought only one time. After his November '09 handling of Johnson, Dawson sat out until August to wait for Jean Pascal to get healthy enough for a fight. Dawson also had to go on the road, as his fight in Connecticut (his home state) with Johnson in November had done a bad house and Dawson's safety-first performance saw him booed at home, which is a rare and frankly depressing thing to see.
So off Chad went to Montreal to fight Pascal, and he ... stunk. He stunk the joint out. Sure, Chad came on late, but it was all for naught when the fight was stopped on a cut, giving Pascal a technical decision victory. And why did he wait so long to come on anyway? Was he doing his best Rocky Juarez impersonation?
I'm really not sure about Chad Dawson's future anymore. That type listless performance can say a lot about a fighter, and Dawson never came off as a particularly passionate fighter in the first place. He seems like a guy who fights because he's good at it more than anything, if that makes sense.
35. Devon Alexander
As much as I think Alexander got a gift against Andriy Kotelnik in August, those things do happen. Floyd Mayweather Jr. was, in my estimation, lucky to leave his first fight with Jose Luis Castillo still unbeaten. And Floyd's done alright for himself in the ring since then, I'd say. Alexander is not Mayweather and I don't mean to say he is. He's got a ton of natural talent, and he seems to take a great deal of pride in being the new star fighter in St. Louis. As the Spinks family has faded, Alexander has risen to take the throne in the Gateway City. He's probably seen as the distant third in the great youth movement at 140 pounds, behind Timothy Bradley (his January 2011 opponent) and now Amir Khan. But that's a good race to even be in.
34. Andre Dirrell
Andre Dirrell has turned into one of those guys who can't have a fight without it eliciting some sort of strong reaction. Against Curtis Stevens in 2007, he ran to the degree that the only person in the world impressed by the display was Lennox Lewis, who compared the performance to Muhammad Ali in what may have been the dumbest thing Lennox ever said on HBO. But then Andre went on a run of fights against mediocre opponents that sort of rebuilt his image. He started taking guys apart with his talent, which Andre has the ability to do, and then earned some points with fans for entering the Super Six. But then there was the ugly fight last year with Carl Froch, where many felt Dirrell deserved to win even though he was back to his non-engaging ways. And this year he fought only once, outboxing Arthur Abraham before getting cracked in the head while on his knees after a slip, a foul that disqualified Abraham and put Dirrell on the shelf the rest of the year, which saw him drop out of the Super Six and bail on a fight with friend Andre Ward.
Listen, I'm not saying Dirrell or anyone is lying about his health. But I don't think the reaction with a lot of people who do think he's full of it is really all that far-fetched. The "Dr. Shaw High" bit on Fight Camp 360 was just a little off in basically all respects. Boxing is hardly the most honest line of work out there, so would I be surprised if a fighter exaggerated injuries in order to avoid fights he doesn't want to take? Of course not. I'd hate to accuse him of lying without evidence of it, and I'm not doing that. I'm just saying it wouldn't cause me to shake my head or anything. It'd just be boxing business as usual, really.
Now that's a breakout year. Mares went from prospect to full-fledged bantamweight star in 2010, as the former Mexican Olympian battled to a hard-fought draw with Yonnhy Perez in May and then defeated Vic Darchinyan in December. Mares-Darchinyan was a Fight of the Year contender, and while his bout with Perez wasn't quite that level, it wasn't shabby, either. At 25, Mares (21-0-1, 13 KO) is the sort of boxer-puncher who should have plenty of great fights in his future. He's shown he can take punishment, dish out plenty of it, and box guys who have difficult styles. I might be off here, but Mares reminds me a lot of Marco Antonio Barrera. Maybe it's just me.
32. Ivan Calderon
As great as Calderon has been, and as good as he still is, he's well past his prime and I don't think there's much other than losses left in his future. I hope nothing he does (other than potential wins) at this point in his brilliant career has any bearing on future Hall of Fame voters, at least. It'd be a real shame if "Iron Boy" wasn't a first-ballot Hall of Famer, as he's one of the very elite little guys in the history of boxing. At his best, he had slickness that made Floyd Mayweather look slow and was the best pure boxer of his time. But he foolishly tried to brawl with Giovani Segura, who is the best puncher in the division, and it got him knocked out. The signs of decline have been there a while, of course, as he had hell with Hugo Cazares (another terrific fighter) and Rodel Mayol (not so much), but actually seeing an L on his record was still kind of crazy. Word is that he wants a rematch with Segura, and I think that sums up Calderon perfectly. If that's his final fight, which is entirely possible, it'd be kind of fitting. Unlike a lot of top fighters who aren't based in the States, Calderon often went after the best challenges he could find, and his jump up to 108 was incredibly admirable in the way he went about it. By the way, I think if I'd been doing these every year, this would be the first time Calderon wasn't in my top 20 since about 2003.
31. Humberto Soto
Finally, Humberto Soto took a real challenger, and finally, he produced the sort of dramatics he's always been capable of. Faced with single-minded bull-rusher Urbano Antillon on December 4, Soto did his best Juan Manuel Marquez impersonation and used his skills to overcome a guy who was there to win at all costs. Antillon gave Soto a damn good run for his money in an outstanding fight, but it was Soto who proved to be the better man. And all anyone's ever asked is that Soto's opponents be considered anything close to an equal to him. We got that, and it was spectacular. Prior to his war with Antillon, Soto had already gone 3-0 on the year. He started in March at Cowboys Stadium by beating David Diaz for the vacant WBC lightweight belt, giving Soto a title in his second division (or third if you count the interim WBC belt at 126). He then beat Ricardo Dominguez in May and Fidel Monterossa Munoz in September, the latter fight a lot closer than it probably should have been, though judge Nicolas Hidalgo scored it a semi-absurd 118-109 for Soto. All I ask of Soto in 2011 is more good matchups. He's great fun to watch when he's in there with the right guys.
I think it's fair to criticize Andre Berto the businessman, or at least the Berto/Lou DiBella combination as businessmen. Yes, they reportedly offered a very fair figure to fight Manny Pacquiao in May 2011, but that was probably never really an option for Pacquiao at the moment. But I really do think Berto is a fine talent, and a really good fighter. At 27, he's in what should be his prime, and sadly has very few legitimate opponents to fight. I guess my real reaction is to say, hey, at least keep fighting. Keep fighting and keep winning. Run guys over if that's the only type of fight you can get. Nobody through Freddy Hernandez should have been in with Berto, and Berto proved everyone right when he stamped Hernandez out at 2:07 of the first round. Berto's only other 2010 fight came in April against Carlos Quintana, and he stopped the former titlist in eight, fighting through a shoulder injury he suffered early in the bout. I think Berto has the goods physically, and he obviously keeps himself in immaculate condition and isn't lazy between fights about staying in shape. Berto really should be part of the immediate future of boxing, but in addition to the fact that he hasn't proven to be able to draw a house (though he's an HBO darling and has been for years), what's happening around him at welterweight is really not going to foster him becoming a bigger star. The only thing he can do is fight Pacquiao or Mayweather. Other than that, his options are the likes of Selcuk Aydin, his WBC mandatory. He might not be ready for a Manny or a Floyd, but then again, he might be. You never know until the final bell rings.
29. Tomasz Adamek
I like Tomasz Adamek a lot, but I hesitate to get all up-in-arms about his standing in the sport. He's a good fighter, but what has he really done at heavyweight? His best win is Cristobal Arreola, and other than that he's beaten two oldsters (Michael Grant and a disinterested, out of shape Andrew Golota), plus club fighter Vinny Maddalone and Jason Estrada, who is decent but hardly a big scalp. But I also think the only win he had at cruiserweight that was much to get excited about was Steve Cunningham. Adamek's resume doesn't match his sometimes lofty ratings placements, but what isn't overstated about Adamek is that he's the type of guy we could use a hell of a lot more of in boxing.
28. Paul Williams
TIMBEEEER! The nastiest knockout since Pacquiao iced Hatton came when Sergio Martinez laid Paul Williams out -- scary enough that my initial reaction of bloodthirsty enthusiasm was quickly tempered by fear that Williams might have really been hurt. But he seemed alright after, so that was good, and I can enjoy the knockout for what it is, poetic viciousness. Williams is another guy I'm just not sure about going forward. He really doesn't fight with his head at all, and has never learned how to use his freaky frame to the advantage it should be, unlike Celestino Caballero. The way Paul leans in, he might as well be 5'10", and even with his crazy reach, he's a better inside fighter than he is fighting from a distance. And his jab has never developed the way you'd expect it would have. Whether that's a training issue or just a thing Paul can't or won't do, I have no idea, but there is some need for fixin' to be done on "The Punisher." Any fighter can be figured out, and it just seemed like Sergio Martinez had Paul's number in their rematch. He could stand more activity, too. His only other fight in 2010 was the bizarre mess with Cintron, so he got in a total of about five rounds this year.
27. Jean Pascal
(Photo by Luc Grenier/Showtime)
As much as it shouldn't, it sure seems like Jean Pascal had a half-and-half year that has him rated lower than it feels like he should be. This feels like a dropoff of some sort after Pascal's December 18 draw with Bernard Hopkins, which it seems most everyone feels Pascal deserved to have lost. After his August upset of Chad Dawson, I tried to keep a level head about Pascal. Still flawed, still fought dumb, still gassed himself out. Sometimes fun to watch, sometimes a bit of a chore to watch. I like Jean Pascal fine, but that Dawson fight might have been his absolute peak, and a lot of it came from the fact that Dawson fought the worst fight of his career. This could really be the highest Pascal ever gets on one of these, if I ever do one again. And I get the feeling if he gets higher, it's because a lot of people got worse.
26. Roman Gonzalez
One thing I tend to forget about "Chocolatito" is how young he is. At 23, Gonzalez has already done damage at 105 and is now eyeballing the top of the heap at 108. I think he's more than good enough to be a top guy in the new weight class. But he'll surely find the competition tougher, since there are far more good fighters at 108 than at 105. That might actually be a bullshit statement, but I'm running with it. I do know there are more good fighters at 108 than at 105, but I'm not totally sure I'd class it as "far more." But like I said, I'm sticking to it. With that reservation.
David Haye's 2010 was nothing spectacular. The holder of the semi-hilarious WBA heavyweight title retired John Ruiz in April, then sat around making excuses all year for why he couldn't or wouldn't fight one of the Klitschko brothers, then wound up in a complete f***ing farce of a joke of a "fight" with Audley Harrison in November, attempting to legitimize that laughable matchup by citing emails he had received in favor of it. There was never any documented evidence of these emails existing, but hey (Haye!), he said he got some emails.
I think David Haye is a superb fighter. I really do. As a heavyweight, he's really one of the fastest and most explosive in recent memory, maybe even ever. He's a fantastic athlete and keeps himself in great shape. He's got real power, A+ speed for a big man, and at 6'3" with a 78" reach, he's got a heavyweight's body, even if he's not walking around at 240. There is really no reason a 210-pound heavyweight can't be tremendously successful. This isn't Eddie Chambers we're talking about. Haye is a different specimen.
But what's holding him back is the fact that it's past time to put up or shut up regarding Wladimir and Vitali. He really has to fight one of them now. That fight is the only thing in the rotten heavyweight division that matters. There's nobody in the sport that is going to hang with the Klitschkos except maybe Haye, and there's nobody that I see as a real threat to Haye except the Klitschkos. Everything else they do is just biding time and padding stats at this point. Nobody cares about Haye fighting Ruslan Chagaev. Nobody cares about the Klitschkos fighting Shannon Briggs or Albert Sosnowski or Dereck Chisora. Right now, it sounds like things are moving in a positive direction, but there have been press conferences for Haye-Klitschko fights, so don't consider anything done until they're actually in the ring.
24. Nobuo Nashiro
Nashiro is one of the more overlooked and underrated fighters in the sport, like his rival Hugo Cazares. Sure, Nashiro went 0-1-1 against Cazares, but that's a better 0-1-1 than a lot of 2-0s. He lost to Cazares in May in a great fight, including a barnburner 12th round, then got a comeback win against a bum in October. Nashiro isn't taking it easy, though. He'll face Tomas Rojas for the WBC super flyweight title on February 5, which is a very good fight on paper.
23. Mikkel Kessler
Since I don't really have much to say about Mikkel Kessler -- he's such a nice guy that he's kind of boring to talk about -- and if you're reading this, you know what the hell he did in 2010, here's the trailer for the 1975 film Mitchell.
22. Miguel Acosta
Acosta is now my No. 2 lightweight in the entire universe, just behind Juan Manuel Marquez. In July 2009, he knocked out Urbano Antillon, which was scary enough to the world around him that, like Miguel Vazquez (same first name, same weight class), it took him nearly a year to find another fight. That wound up being against Paulus Moses in May, on the road in Namibia, and since you never know how fights are going to be scored on foreign soil, Acosta decided to just knock out Moses, too, picking up the WBA lightweight belt. Or one of the WBA lightweight belts. I don't know. The WBA is hard to follow. He also fought in November against a guy with an incoming record of 24-41-3 for no real good reason at the WBA convention.
21. Yuriorkis Gamboa
Gamboa's a guy who has just about every tool one needs to be a great pro boxer, but I just haven't taken to him the way so many have. Still, I don't deny his talent. The only thing that bothered me about him this year was the fact that he seemed to go at about 80% speed against both Jonathan Victor Barros and Orlando Salido. That meant he comfortably beat both of them, but he could have put together some highlight reel material in those fights, and seemed to choose not to as much as their abilities prevented him from doing so.
Oh also bothering me was listening to Max Kellerman drool over him while Gamboa put on a fairly unimpressive performance against Saldio, as though Gamboa were doing things heretofore unseen in boxing.
20. Bernard Hopkins
Just when you think he's out...he pulls you back in. Bernard unquestionably didn't fight up to his standards either last December against Enrique Ornelas, or in this year's pathetic display against Roy Jones Jr., which might as well have been one of those Hulk Hogan-Roddy Piper matches from 1997. But he won both fights. Not pretty, but he won them. And when he lined up to take on newly-crowned lineal light heavyweight champ Jean Pascal for December, a lot of us kind of groaned.
I, however, did not. I mean, I kind of did, but I really never thought Pascal was going to beat Hopkins. As many fans as Pascal made beating Dawson (you know, like, a handful), I just couldn't get a scene in my head to play out that had Pascal beating Hopkins. Early in their fight, I thought Pascal was going to prove me wrong. But then Bernard became Bernard again, controlling the ring, controlling the tempo, controlling everything. He might as well have actually put a desk in the ring so Pascal could sit down and take notes. B-Hop didn't leave with the win, but once again his stock had risen. Is this guy ever going to retire?
19. Nkosinathi Joyi
Sadly only fought once this year, but he made it count. Fighting in his native South Africa, he scored a wide decision win over previously-unbeaten Raul Garcia. Other fights would pop up on schedules but never came about. Right now he's set to face Katsunari Takyama in late January, but I'd be lying if I said I was convinced it would happen. Joyi's another guy I wish would just move up to 108. There are really no challenges for him at 105. If you've never seen Joyi fight, his 2009 bout with Florante Condes is on YouTube.
18. Pongsaklek Wonjongkam
If Pong didn't come into 2010 having convinced you he should probably be a Hall of Famer, maybe he did it in March when he knocked off the younger, stronger Koki Kameda to regain the lineal flyweight championship of the world. The way Pong did it was pure class. He simply outboxed Kameda, frustrating his foe and coming out a clear victor in a fight he was supposed to be too old to win. 33 isn't that old, of course, but it was thought that for the weight class and considering the amount of fights he's had in his career -- many of them tough battles -- Pong was just done as a top guy. Not so. After beating Kameda, he retreated back to Thailand for a couple of fights against non-contenders, but he did get a bit of a scare against Suriyan Por Chokchai in October, escaping with a close decision that would have been a majority draw if not for a point taken from Suriyan in the eighth round.
Currently reigning as the top fighter in Japan, Nishioka followed an excellent 2009 with a damn good 2010. In April, he topped Balweg Bangoyan, which was very predictable, and then in October he was simply too good for the challenge from the UK's Rendall Munroe, who boxed his heart out but was just a step or two behind Nishioka at basically all points of the contest. Like a lot of guys, Nishioka isn't exactly young (he turned 34 in July), and he's a long time removed from the bantamweight who went 0-2-2 against Veeraphol Sahaprom. He's come into his own at 122 pounds the last couple of years, and now stands as the best in the world at the weight.
16. Juan Manuel Lopez
Lopez had kind of a weird year, really. He started in January, moving up to featherweight and pretty well manhandling Steven Luevano, a loss that sent Luevano into retirement (for now, at least). In July, he moved over to Showtime and beat Bernabe Concepcion in six minutes of wild punching. Then in November, after some delay, he topped Rafael Marquez. It seemed like nothing he did was really quite what it should have been, for some reason. I said earlier that the Marquez fight lived up to expectations, and I'd stand by that, but it doesn't seem as though Lopez gained any standing from the win, and I guess in some respects rightfully so, as Marquez isn't a true featherweight, even though I think he's good at the weight. Marquez is also old and damaged, even though I think he can still fight. Concepcion was just fodder to advertise the fight with Marquez, basically. And Luevano has never had a fanbase, so that win came off as kind of flat and predictable, too. I'd say 2011 should be kinder, but knowing Top Rank, it probably won't be. Word is that they're setting up a fight with Teon Kennedy for April. All the world wants is to see Lopez-Gamboa, and Top Rank is determined to never give us the fight, as if Lopez beating Teon Kennedy is going to make Lopez-Gamboa a bigger deal than it already is.
15. Fernando Montiel
Montiel's banner campaign began in February, where he overpowered the sadly overmatched young Ciso Morales in a blatant mismatch that the matchmakers should be ashamed of ever making in the first place. But then he made amends, so to speak, by traveling to Japan to fight Hozumi Hasegawa in April. It wasn't going all that well for the first three rounds, and Montiel was down 29-28 on two cards and 30-27 on the third. But he stopped Hasegawa in four to claim the WBC bantamweight title to go with his WBO belt. Talk of a fight with Nonito Donaire popped up for the 800th time, but instead Montiel took easy fights with Rafael Concepcion in July and Jovany Soto in December. The Donaire talk is back, and everything is ready to go for February. I think that's an awful, awful matchup for Montiel, but he's got the type of power that can change things in a hurry, so who knows?
14. Miguel Cotto
I still have Miguel Cotto ranked this high because I still think he's an excellent fighter. Unfortunately he did fight just once this year, undergoing relatively minor surgery late in the year. His one fight was memorable, as he moved up to 154 pounds and main evented at Yankee Stadium against Yuri Foreman. Though Foreman could barely walk, Cotto showed no real restraint as he beat Foreman down and won the fight. I don't really think Cotto is a junior middleweight, and frankly think he'd be stupid to stay there if anything good came along at 147, but unless he fights Andre Berto (don't count on it), there's nothing good at 147. Expect that Margarito rematch as both guys peddle controversy to pad their wallets. I'm going to hate that fight.
As much as I respect Vitali Klitschko, 2010 was kind of a waste of time from a pure boxing standpoint of it all. Yeah, he beat Albert Sosnowski and Shannon Briggs. Well, no shit he beat Albert Sosnowski and Shannon Briggs. Of course he beat Albert Sosnowski and Shannon Briggs. The fact that Albert Sosnowski and Shannon Briggs -- game as they both were, don't get me wrong -- were the best challengers they could dig up is a travesty. Neither of them had any business fighting for a "world heavyweight title," even in this era of worthless paper title belts that mean absolutely nothing. The fights were complete nonsense.
And I blame Vitali for none of that. Against Briggs, he looked as good as he has since his comeback in 2008. Vitali was loose, limber, moved well, and his punches looked less like arm punches than usual because he seemed more able to get his legs and back into the equation. It's just that the fights were foregone conclusions the minute they were signed. There was zero drama to either bout. I mean, sure, they weren't Haye-Harrison, but Taco Bell tastes better than cat feces and I'm not keen on eating Taco Bell, either.
12. Amir Khan
Oh yeah! Real high ranking! I like Amir Khan! We've talked a lot about Amir Khan lately! I don't want to talk about Amir Khan any more right now! Sorry, Amir Khan! Maybe next year don't have a big dramatic fight in December! Oh yeah!
11. Timothy Bradley
Here's what I said about Robert Guerrero:
I know Robert Guerrero is talented and all, but the guy just does nothing for me. I don't know what it is. I'm sure everyone has these fighters, guys you know are good, and you don't actively dislike them or anything, but they just do zilch for you, you're never excited to watch them fight, and you never think much of anything they do even when it's impressive.
Replace "Robert Guerrero" with "Timothy Bradley." But I would also add this from the Tomasz Adamek listing:
but what isn't overstated about Adamek is that he's the type of guy we could use a hell of a lot more of in boxing.
Replace "Adamek" with "Bradley."
10. Hugo Cazares
Cazares had a great win over Nashiro in May, and after that fought three more times against guys you might kindly consider to be fringe contenders. The great thing about Cazares, as we've mentioned plenty recently, is that no matter who he's fighting these days, he seems to turn it into a war. He doesn't need to; he has plenty of skills. He just does it anyway. What a guy.
The first time I saw Segura fight was in 2008, I think, when he faced Cesar Canchila on the Cotto-Margarito undercard. It was a hell of a fight, rough back-and-forth action between a couple of guys who were there to go to war. The crowd had a pretty tepid response, I guess saving themselves for the next fight, which was the main event. That was unfortunate, because Segura and Canchila put in quite the war of attrition that night, with Canchila winning a close decision. In March 2009, Segura got revenge with a questionable stoppage of Canchila.
2010 started with wins over Walter Tello and Ronald Ramos in Mexico. The crude slugger then signed on to face lineal junior flyweight champion Ivan Calderon. Anyone familiar with both fighters had to be feeling like Segura could knock Calderon out. Between his cuts problems and the fact that he'd slowed down enough that the big power of Segura could be a real problem, Calderon was again facing someone who might snap his win streak. And Segura did, as Calderon shockingly tried to fight Segura, which was just about the stupidest thing he could have done, to be totally honest. Segura followed his excellent win over Calderon (which was a FOTY contender) with a late November defense against the always-exciting Manuel "Chango" Vargas.
Heading into 2011, Segura is entrenched as The Man in the division, something new to him. Calderon had been walking with a target on his back for years, but this is new to Segura. There's a lot of talk of a rematch between the two, and it would not shock me if a smarter Calderon came in and outboxed Segura the second time. Segura is a really good fighter and has really big power, so he's going to be dangerous to anybody he faces. He's sort of a rich man's Rodel Mayol without all the headbutts and stuff.
8. Nonito Donaire
I'll admit I've maintained lingering doubts about Donaire, but I actually think that upon closer inspection, his post-Vic resume really isn't that bad. Both Raul Martinez and Moruti Mthalane are good scalps, and what Nonito did in December of this year to the capable Wladimir Sidorenko was almost scary. Donaire looked big at bantamweight, even considering that Sidorenko is a small bantam, and his speed and combination punching were outstanding as he bloodied, battered and ultimately broke Sidorenko. With the Montiel fight apparently actually happening, now is the time for Nonito to either prove for good that he's earned this high ranking, which is right around where he is in most P4P lists. There are surely still doubters, but I'm not one of them.
Andre Ward is allegedly building a big fanbase in Oakland, but really the results aren't there to prove he's building much of a fanbase at all. The crowd was pretty sparse for his fight with Sakio Bika in November, and that was his third straight major fight in Oakland. It's probably time for him to hit the road, which I'm sure he'll do to face Arthur Abraham in the Super Six semifinals. Everyone is all about Andre Ward, and frankly I am, too. I still don't really like Andre Ward very much, but he's a kickass fighter -- so kickass that I'm going to describe him as kickass. He's mean, he's kind of smug, and he fights damn hard all the time. Ward has B+ talent and an A+ mentality, is how I would put it. There's really nothing tremendously special about his skills or abilities (he is very good, but not someone that makes you turn your head when you see him in action, like say Mayweather or young Roy Jones or something), but he fights in a way that reminds me of Bernard Hopkins or Evander Holyfield. Ward constantly fights like he's been wronged by the other man in the ring.
6. Lucian Bute
And here would be Ward's future nemesis, should Ward come out of the Super Six as the winner, as it seems everyone expects will be the case. Here's a fun thought, though: What if Andre Ward doesn't win the tournament? Then what? Realistically, it shouldn't be that big of a deal, but boxing people tend to freak out when an upset happens before their preciously incubated big fight can materialize, as if they never even imagined the possibility, and I guess a lot of the time with the sissified way promoters make their matches, they probably never did even imagine the possibility, since making fights is more of a board room meeting than it is a couple of guys wanting to sort out what's what in the rankings. Boxing is special like that. In no other sport is anything so meticulously planned out in order to follow the storylines that the promoters and TV people want. It's almost like pro wrestling in some regards, except the punches are the real deal, unless Paul Briggs is involved. Boy, I hate that I'm going to be making fun of Paul Briggs forever now. I would much rather have remembered the Briggs who savagely warred with Adamek.
Oh, and Lucian Bute is really goddamn good.
THE TOP FIVE
AKA GUYS I'M SICK OF TALKING ABOUT
5. Wladimir Klitschko
Take almost everything I've said about Vitali and apply it to Wladimir. It's a shame that such dedicated, serious professionals who have worked so hard to master their craft are forced to face guys like the Klitschkos have to face now.
4. Juan Manuel Marquez
Rumors of Marquez's demise were greatly exaggerated. The man is still an artist in there. A violent, violent artist.
3. Sergio Martinez
My personal 2010 Fighter of the Year, and he seems to be pretty well sweeping that award across the board, which is great to see. Sergio has developed into a well-rounded fighter who might have the best overall skill set in boxing, and I really mean that. I don't meant to say "maybe he's the best pound-for-pound," I just think he might be able to adapt to more styles than anyone in boxing. Mayweather and Pacquiao are better P4P fighters, I fully believe that. But I don't see any bugaboo styles for Martinez that I think would for sure give him serious trouble.
2. Floyd Mayweather Jr.
1. Manny Pacquiao