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Ranking the Lightweights: December 2007

Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

Previous Rankings (July 2007)

1. Juan Diaz (33-0, 17 KO)
Last time out, I ranked Casamayor first out of respect for what he'd done, and the fact that I thought his title situation was a disgrace. Now, though, there's no question: Casamayor may be the linear lightweight champion, but Juan Diaz is clearly the No. 1 lightweight in boxing. With his hard-nosed dispatching of Julio Diaz following his punishing win over Acelino Freitas, Diaz has no competition for the 135-pound division's top spot. He's an exciting fighter who would be hard-pressed to be in a bad fight. There are guys in the division I could see beating him, but everyone would be an underdog. He never stops punching, and that makes it hard for even the dangerous punchers to land anything that could knock him out, and it's very hard to win a round on a guy that presses endlessly.

2. David Diaz (33-1-1, 17 KO)
Well, who else? I didn't rank Diaz last time out, but he showed something by beating a very game Erik Morales in August. Morales isn't who he once was, but he still came with everything he had and was thwarted by the 31-year old veteran. Diaz's record doesn't have much in the way of big wins, and this may just be an "iron is hot" situation, but he's in line for a fight with either Juan Diaz to unify all the alphabet titles, or a bout with Australian slugger Michael Katsidis.

3. Nate Campbell (31-5-1, 25 KO)
At 35, time is running out. His recent legal issues also aren't going to help.

4. Michael Katsidis (23-0, 20 KO)
Katsidis is probably the division's most dangerous puncher, a guy that can end any fight in the blink of an eye. He's the guy I give the best chance against Juan Diaz, because he wouldn't be afraid to get into a slugfest with the busier, lighter-hitting three-body champion. And the heavier bombs would almost certainly be coming from Katsidis. Like many, he's yet to prove a ton, but I'd favor him over most of the veterans.

5. Julio Diaz (34-4-1, 25 KO)
He looked like a club fighter against Juan Diaz, who completely flustered him and took away all of his power. Julio never got into any sort of rhythm, constantly changing from fighting at a distance to trying to bang inside, mostly unsuccessful either way. He'll need to rebound -- if it can be made, that long-discussed bout with Nate Campbell might be the best possible thing for both of them.

6. Yuri Romanov (20-2, 13 KO)
At 25, he's beaten enough good fighters that he should be considered for a step up in notoriety. He's not going to take the division by storm, and he's likely interchangeable with any of 10 fighters, but he's a formidable boxer.

7. Zahir Raheem (28-2, 16 KO)
Again -- I never want to see Raheem fight, but he deserves to be ranked, and many could and would argue he deserves to be ranked even higher than this. His uninspiring win over Cristobal Cruz probably has him kicked off of even ESPN2 broadcasts, but I expect he'll turn up again in a title fight sometime next year.

8. Rolando Reyes (29-4-2, 19 KO)
Dominated Stevie Johnston in October, sending "Lil' but Bad" into retirement.

9. Jose Armando Santa Cruz (25-3, 14 KO)
Santa Cruz beat Casamayor. It's that simple. At the same time, it's not as if Santa Cruz looked good doing it. How much of that can be blamed on Casamayor's refusal to actually fight is debatable, but it can't be ignored. But, he definitely looked good enough to beat what used to be the best fighter in the division. Call it ring rust if you wish, but it doesn't change the result. Thank God the NYSAC is investigating that fight, which I'd call laughable if there was anything funny about it. It made boxing look bad, plain and simple.

10. Amir Khan (14-0, 11 KO)
Khan, 20, has all the tools to be the next great British champion. With a division as thinned out as this one is, Khan may as well be ranked. His next fight against Graham Earl will be his biggest test thus far.

Others:

I'm not ranking Casamayor. Credible as his record is, that fight was horrendous, and it was all his fault. He didn't look like a top 30 lightweight, let alone top 10.

Brit Jonathan Thaxton keeps winning. A fight with Khan may not be far off if Khan does the same.

Popo Freitas is still considering whether or not to retire, fight on, or fight a final farewell fight in Brazil. Whatever he chooses, he's not a real option for anyone right now.

Edner Cherry and Wes Ferguson had a good fight earlier this year, good enough to get them the opener spot for Mayweather-Hatton. If Cherry grabs another win, he'll be in real contention.

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