|1||Juan Manuel Marquez||50-5-1 (37)
Right now, boxing is sort of hard to focus on. The murder of Edwin Valero's wife by the troubled fighter, followed by Valero's suicide, is a very heavy thing to discuss. It's beyond me, honestly -- I'm not a crime reporter, I'm a guy who likes to talk about boxing. So I'm going to talk about boxing, and since we've got an update to our rankings stemming from this weekend's action and, unfortunately, the Valero case, I thought doing a rankings spotlight would be a good way to go.
I chose lightweight, which is the division Valero last fought in. He was planning a move to 140 pounds, with the ultimate goal being a fight at welterweight against Manny Pacquiao. Putting aside the terrible news from the last two days, I can say that in the ring, Valero had become more and more impressive. I don't know how his career would have gone with the move to 140 or then 147, but it doesn't matter now. The lightweight division was soon to be without his presence anyway, and I looked at my rankings while updating and realized I wanted a fairly serious shake-up, since my feelings on a lot of fighters have changed.
We'll start at the top, where reigning Ring Magazine world champion Juan Manuel Marquez still resides. Marquez lost his last fight pretty embarrassingly against Floyd Mayweather Jr. at welterweight, but had put on two very entertaining wins in his first two fights at 135 before that, and is coming close to his return to the ring and to this division. This summer, he'll face Juan Diaz again, in a rematch of last year's Fight of the Year.
Speaking of Diaz, I've bumped him up to No. 2. I know he's not the hottest property right now, but I look down this list and I see a lot of guys that could beat him, sure, but none that I'm sure would, and when you stack up the resumes, Diaz's is still better than everyone else here. The two fights with Paul Malignaggi were at catchweights between 135 and 140, and Malignaggi was a terrible style matchup for him. But in the first fight, Diaz did fight quite well. The second time around, Malignaggi very clearly won the fight.
This is a deep division, but also a division with, I feel, only one great fighter. Past Marquez, I think you've got 10 to 15 guys who are fairly close. A dominant win over Michael Katsidis, who I rank third now, plays a big role in my ranking of Diaz at No. 2.
As for Katsidis, the gutsy, blood-soaked Aussie will face No. 7-ranked Kevin Mitchell on May 15. Mitchell will have home field advantage for that fight, but I don't think that'll affect things much at all. If Katsidis comes out to bully Mitchell, I think he'll wear him out. If he tries to box Mitchell, I think he very well might lose, which would put Mitchell up near the head of the class. And it's not like we've never seen Katsidis waste his time trying to box before.
Humberto Soto comes in at No. 4. Soto's two lightweight wins are over a shot Jesus Chavez and the tremendously limited David Diaz, and Diaz actually gave him some trouble. But Soto also did have his power at 135 against Diaz, and despite my questioning of his resume (the win over Rocky Juarez in 2005 is still the best of his entire career), he's got enough going for him in a crowded field that I have him ranked highly. There are a LOT of guys I do think could beat Soto in this division. He fights Ricardo Dominguez in another highly questionable matchup on May 15.
Rolando Reyes checks in at No. 5. This is debatable as well, and if he doesn't at least get a fight scheduled sometime soon, he'll drop out. He's been inactive for just over a year, since he beat Julio Diaz on the Lightweight Lightning PPV in April 2009. I think he's a good fighter, good enough to beat any of the three guys ranked ahead of him here. But he's not fighting, and if you don't fight, what's it matter?
Ali Funeka drops down to No. 6, not so much because he lost to Joan Guzman in that sham of a fight, but because Funeka contributed to the fight's sham factor by failing a drug test afterward. Funeka's awkwardness has made him effective against name fighters (Guzman, Nate Campbell and Zahir Raheem), and like the rest of the guys after Marquez, I can say this: sure, he could beat Juan Diaz, Michael Katsidis, Humberto Soto and Rolando Reyes. Those are all, in my view, 50-50 fights, or very close to it.
After Kevin Mitchell at No. 7 is eighth-ranked Paulus Moses, the Namibian who holds a WBA title. At 31, Moses (25-0, 17 KO) is no spring chicken, but back-to-back wins over Yusuke Kobori and Takehiro Shimada are as solid as what most of these guys are doing. The ninth spot belongs to the big-talking Jorge Barrios, who has gone 2-0 since returning to the ring last August. Barrios is one of those guys I think gets extremely overlooked. I'm not saying he's a world-beater, but he's no easy task and never has been. Rocky Juarez was having a really tough time with him before Juarez Joker'd Barrios' lip, and he gave both Joan Guzman and Popo Freitas hard fights, too. He was the guy who took Mike Anchondo's "0" and has plenty of decent wins, though nothing particularly great. Barrios is just a guy I don't think anyone in the division has an easy night against, and he's that sort of fighter that can pull the upset over a more talented foe if things break his way some. Obviously it'd be nice to see him get more active, and it'd be great if any of these other guys would fight him, or if he'd fight them, or whatever.
Coming it at No. 10 is Manchester's John Murray, a guy I probably like more than most would. He could easily be switched out with any of the following fighters: Miguel Acosta (who has not fought since his upset knockout of Urbano Antillon last year), Brandon Rios (who faces Urbano Antillon soon), Antonio DeMarco, Vicente Escobedo, Ji Hoon Kim (who I really like), Akihiro Kondo, Miguel Vazquez and Anthony Peterson. There are a ton of quality fighters in this division, more than I've even mentioned in this top 10 or that "honorable mention" list there. It's not in league with 168, 147, 140 or 126, but for depth and competition, this division is really good.