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The Bad Left Hook Top 10: December 14, 2006

Bad Left Hook proudly presents to you its first official top ten pound-for-pound list. We'll do this every couple of months or so, whenever enough in the game has changed to call for a re-evaluation. Feel free to argue with us, take a stand for your favorite fighter that got left off, or wonder why MORE people don't have the man crush on Israel Vazquez that I personally do.

1. Floyd Mayweather, Jr. (4 first place votes, 40 points, 37-0)

Kevin: "Finally beat the legit welterweight champion in Carlos Baldomir. Now I'm looking forward to his May 6th showdown with Oscar de la Hoya, which will undoubtedly be next year's biggest fight. Win or lose, it would be ridiculous for the Pretty Boy to retire (as he said he would do), since he's just started to carry his own weight in PPV events and is finally getting big paydays. There are so many big showdowns down the road that his retirement could only be percieved as a way to avoid them."

Brent: "He didn't take any risks in beating Baldomir, but another win...against a guy who everyone was starting to get excited about...he is undefeated, and I can't argue with that."

Matt: "His punching accuracy is unparalleled. His speed is rivaled only by Mosley at his best. As a result of his family background, he has the ring intelligence of a much older boxer. He's strong enough to maintain some authority at 147. And he's unbeaten. The opposition he has faced is underrated, his only recent lackluster opponent being Sharmba Mitchell. Retirement bullshit aside, he has signed the biggest fight of his career and his toughest challenge yet in De la Hoya. Mayweather is lucky that character is not a criteria in P4P lists. But it isn't."

Scott: "His dismantling of Baldomir was impressive, though predictable. Pretty Boy Floyd is annoying and I'm not a fan of his, but I am a fan of him as a boxer, and I think a lot of the flak he gets (and most of the flak I give him) comes from the fact that Floyd sees boxing as a business to an extreme degree, and he just wants to be paid what he feels he's worth. Margarito wasn't a money fight for him. He wanted Oscar. He'll get Oscar next year. There is no doubting Floyd's skill, but if he gets into a war with De La Hoya, I'm putting my chips on the Golden Boy to not make the first big mistake."

2. Manny Pacquiao (36 points, 43-3-2)

Matt: "Pacquiao is the most exciting fighter in the sport, coming off the most impressive win of his career. His trilogy with Morales has already been enshrined as one of the greatest rivalries of all time. Incredible speed, even more incredible power, and ever-improving ring savvy. Roach has done his job. Pacquiao has done his. It's a great thing for the sport when its most beloved figure in the world is also one of the top three pound-for-pound best."

Scott: "There is no one I would rather pay to see fight."

Kevin: "Like Mr. Miller said, he is the most exciting guy in boxing right now. Not only that, he won't shy away from anybody. He all but sent Erik Morales into retirement, scoring a very impressive early TKO. I would love to see him fight Juan Manuel Marquez next, in a somewhat belated rematch of their 2004 draw."

3. Winky Wright (32 points, 51-3-1)

Brent: "I had to really struggle to decide between Wright or Taylor for the 3 spot, they both fight tough fights every time out and they fought each other to a draw. Wright is the more complete fighter right now, so I'll go ahead and give the nod to Winky."

Kevin: "He did his job against Ike Quartey (who, in addition to being well past-his-prime, was fighting a couple of divisions above his natural weight). Not to take anything away from Winky: Over the last four years, no one--except perhaps Pacquiao--has faced such a high level of opposition. After the Quartey fight, Winky said he wanted Oscar, but he'll obviously have to wait a while for that. I'd like to see him fight Taylor again. For the record: I had no problem with that fight being declared a draw (though I did think Winky handled himself poorly after the decision was announced). The reason Winky is above Taylor in my P4P rankings is because of his level of opposition and his career achievements at both 154 and 160."

Matt: "Like Mayweather and Pac-man, Wright has sealed his status as one of the top pound-for-pound boxers in the world with a recent dominating win. Winky Wright has the most effective defense in the sport. He also has the best chin of any boxer in my P4P list, and may be second only to James Toney in this regard among elite fighters. He is also one of the sport's hardest trainers and has incredible endurance. Of all of my top ten P4P fighters, I believe he has had the best career opposition. I will never bet money against Winky Wright."

Scott: "Another year goes by and Winky Wright remains one of the three best fighters in the game."

4. Jermain Taylor (27 points, 26-0-1)

Scott: "It seems strange to me that Taylor hasn't grown much as a fighter, since he fought Bernard Hopkins twice and followed that up with Winky Wright. You'd think he wouldn't be the same backing up-and-swinging puncher that he came into the spotlight as. But then you think about it, and you know what? That's his style. It might never change. And with his r?sum? employing that style, who can blame him for not trying to change?"

Matt: "With his dominating win over Kassim Ouma, Jermain Taylor replaces Joe Calzaghe at my number five spot. Nevertheless, if and when Taylor moves up in weight and they meet, I pick Calzaghe to win in a tremendously competitive match. Indeed, Taylor vs. Calzaghe is the fight I most want to see right now. Taylor's athleticism is the equal of any boxer in the sport and will allow him to dominate all but the very best. He has the strength, speed, and counter-punching ability to be an all time great. But early mistakes against Ouma suggest Taylor still has some maturing to do in terms of ring savvy."

Kevin: "He unanimously outpointed Kassim Ouma, who turned out to be a pretty game opponent. With his 'homecoming' fight out of the way, I expect his next fight to be a big one. He too has never been one to shy away from anyone. If the Winky rematch can't be made, then I would love to see him fight Joe Calzaghe or Edison Miranda."

Brent: "How scary is it that he is a top 5 fighter and nowhere near as good as he could be? When he finishes maturing he could very well be #1 P4P for a loooong time."

5. Marco Antonio Barrera (21 points, 63-4)

Matt: "Eight time world champion Barrera ought to be on everyone's P4P list. I agree that he may be rounding the bend as a fighter, but his last fight was a clinic against Juarez--not much more exciting, but also no less overwhelming than Mayweather's win against Baldomir. Another ring general of the highest order with a star-studded list of elite opponents, Barrera has the P4P distinction of giving his fans not one but two of boxing's great recent trilogies."

Kevin: "He was very impressive in his win against Juarez. Like Matt said, it was a clinic, much like the one he put on against Prince Naseem Hamed. After all the great wars Barrera has given us, I have no problem with him resolving to be a boxer-first from here on out. He hasn't been reserved in saying he wants a rematch with Manny Pacquiao, and I would love to see it (if Top Rank and Golden Boy can work it out, that is). And I wouldn't be surprised to see Barrera take a similar boxing-first approach against Pacquiao and beat him."

Scott: "I have Barrera lower than everyone else, but he is a first-ballot Hall of Famer and can still fight. Barrera's style shift is good to prolong his career, but a fight against Pacquiao may get the legendary champion to revert back to his warrior days and attempt to duke it out with the southpaw slugger. I'd like to see it, but I don't think Barrera could last the distance against Pacquiao's lethal power at this stage in his career."

6. Joe Calzaghe (17 points, 42-0)

Brent: "I don't totally 'buy' into Joe yet. Lacy is proving to not be everything we all thought he might be, which takes some shine off of his 'biggest' win. I honestly want to rank him lower, he has NEVER fought outside of England or Wales which is unusual for someone in a top-10 spot. Even Hatton has fought once in Boston and has a fight coming up with Juan Urango in Vegas. In the end though, if I am going to put Mayweather at #1 for being undefeated I have to give Calzaghe props for doing the same."

Scott: "I like Calzaghe, but he still has something to prove in my mind. A willingness to fight in the States -- which I'm almost sure he'd have to do to fight Taylor -- would be a start. A long history of allegations that he ducked opponents doesn't help him since the Lacy win looks less impressive the further away from it we get. Fighting Manfredo is a joke for a guy who is considered the absolute class of his division. That said, he is a crafty fighter that I really enjoy watching ply his trade, similar to (but different than) Winky Wright."

Kevin: "Calzaghe is the only guy to slip on my list, and here's why: After years and years of relative anonymity, facing mandatory challengers and often pulling out of fights with injuries, Calzaghe finally had his coming out party against Jeff Lacy. It was one of the most dominant performances of last year, without a doubt. But what has he followed that up with? An okay performance against a less-than-worthy opponent in Sakio Bika (who he couldn't KO). And now he's slated to face Peter Manfredo Jr. in April. Does anyone actually think Manfredo has a chance? Personally, I don't even think he deserves the title shot. Whereas I don't see anyone calling out Rafael Marquez, I've seen several guys call out Calzaghe. But he hasn't seemed willing to come to the US and take the big fight just yet. In my eyes, he's still lacking that career-defining fight. Let's face it, Lacy--as highly regarded as he was--was a relatively inexperienced one-dimensional fighter. Next year, I would like to see Calzaghe fight any of these guys: Mikkel Kessler (which makes the most sense), Jermain Taylor, Bernard Hopkins, Winky Wright or Tomasz Adamek. I think may have enough talent to beat any of them, but until he does, he's at #8."

Matt: "Inarguably, the greatest European boxer in the sport today, Joe Calzaghe's undefeated record hides a somewhat questionable roster of opponents. Nevertheless, what he did to Lacy may have been the single most impressive fight of 2006. A strong, smotheringly aggressive boxer at the peak of his game, Calzaghe needs to fight someone like Kessler, Taylor, or Hopkins very soon."

7. Shane Mosley (15 points, 43-4)

Scott: "Mosley and Vargas met at a crossroads, and Mosley left Vargas splayed out on the canvas. Mosley is now at a different crossroads, having proven himself again, with nobody thinking he's washed up anymore, but with the pressure that he knows it's seriously go time again. He's back into the good graces of the general public and the promoters, and being considered one of the best can be a trial unto itself. Personally, I love Mosley, and think he's the guy that can beat Floyd. Matt explains why."

Matt: "Of opponents that he might actually fight, Shane Mosley probably has the best chance of beating Floyd Mayweather Jr. His rival in speed and perhaps even his superior in terms of putting together combinations, Shane Mosley has the talent to beat anyone, if he can bring his A-game. It remains to be seen if his crushing victory against Vargas was due more to a return of the old Shane Mosley or Vargas' continuing downward spiral."

Brent: "Personal bias? Maybe, but I like Mosley and truly think he is in position to turn it around after dominating Vargas."

Kevin: "What a performance against Vargas. Take a look at Mosley's career record, and you'll see he's faced as good an opposition as any other guy on this list. He's only lost to two guys in his career: Forrest and Wright (unfortunately, he lost to both of them twice). Now he's going back down to welterweight, where he was pretty much unstoppable. I thought he looked as good as ever against Vargas. He still had a lethal combination of power and speed. Unless he ages overnight, I think he's still got enought to make some noise. Look for him on February 10th against either Luis Collazo or Kermit Cintron."

8. Rafael Marquez (13 points, 36-3)

Kevin: "Perhaps because he fights at a lesser weight class, he is the lesser known of the Marquez brothers. Nonetheless, this guy is a wrecking ball. I'd put him up there with Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto in terms of being the most exciting boxers to watch right now. I still think he needs a big fight in order to gain more recognition. No one seems to want to fight him, though. I would pay $44.95 to see him fight Israel Vasquez any day of the week."

Scott: "If only there were a little more room and a few less superb fighters, I could fit both of the Marquez brothers into my top 10. As it is, Rafael is the one that makes it. He hasn't lost since 2000. The man is a bulldozer at 118, and it might be time for him to step up to super bantamweight and take a crack at Vazquez."

9. Israel Vazquez (6 points, 41-3)

Scott: "Israel Vazquez is my main man. His comeback against Jhonny Gonzalez goes down as one of the more memorable moments of 2006, and I'm glad he got a chance to impress people with that fight, because he deserves it."

Kevin: "His performance against Jhonny Gonzalez might just be the comeback of the year. Like Rafael Marquez, I think Vasquez is still in need of a marquee fight: either a unification or a move to a different division. I'd love to see him fight either Daniel Ponce de Leon or Marquez himself."

10. Miguel Cotto (5 points, 28-0)

Matt: "With his 'liver punch of the year' award firmly in tow, Miguel Cotto enters my P4P list for the first time at number nine. Many of us here at Bad Left Hook expected Quintana to give Cotto trouble, but Cotto completely outclassed him with both skill and strength. Indeed, Cotto may be the most powerful top ten puncher in this P4P, in relation to his weight. I am adding Cotto to the list despite the fact that he just moved up to 147. He was just that impressive. Compare this to Hatton's attempt against Collazo to move up. The least experienced boxer on my list, Cotto is the hottest young fighter going right now."

Brent: "See everything that Matt said on his post for my reasoning. I was in a spot where it was either him or Hatton...but I truly in my heart think Hatton lost that fight with Collazo and like Matt, if Hatton is going to fight at 147 I'm going to rank him as such."

Honorable Mention: Bernard Hopkins (4), Jose Luis Castillo (2), Oscar De La Hoya (1), Jorge Arce (1)

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