|No. 1: It's still a toss-up between Winky and Jermain.|
Too good of a record, too many great wins. He fought tooth-and-nail with the younger, stronger Taylor last year. If only we could get a rematch. Wright says his fight with Hopkins will be his only appearance at 175, after which he will return to 160. Wright is probably even a weight class high at middleweight, but he's so tremendously intelligent and defensively superior that he should be able to handle just about anything he takes on. He's my pick, but I don't really think you can go wrong picking either of the top two.
2. Jermain Taylor (27-0-1)
I've given him the same guff as everyone else about fighting Ouma and Spinks, but to be fair, those are two good fighters, even if I personally hate watching Spinks ply his trade. Just considering those two fights, it's easy to write off the fact that he fought and beat Bernard Hopkins twice and went to a draw with Winky after that, and was willing to fight Wright again. He's going to fight Pavlik and then move up to 168. I do find the timing of the announcement to be interesting, to say the least, but he's going to do what's right and give Pavlik the shot he earned. Pavlik is a true middleweight that will someday re-join Taylor a division up. It should be a good fight, if Taylor making weight isn't too much of an issue.
3. Kelly Pavlik (31-0)
Some might believe Pavlik still has a little something to prove, but Edison Miranda getting stomped by "The Ghost" didn't make Miranda a worse fighter. It just proved that Kelly Pavlik was a lot better. He's beaten a few other fairly tough guys on his way up; he wasn't totally coddled. He's got power, boxing skill, and seems to have a gameplan. His straight right is among the best in the business. He will push Taylor to his limits in September.
4. Arthur Abraham (23-0)
He's good, and he's got balls for days. Plus, he came back from the brutal win over Edison Miranda to knock out previously unbeaten Sebastien Demers in the third round. King Arthur has several very good wins, and no one has beaten him. A rematch with Miranda might not make the most conventional sense, but it would be damn fun to see. He will fight Khoren Gevor (27-2) in August.
5. Felix Sturm (28-2)
Sturm is the WBA world champion, and his only career losses are a TKO to Javier Castillejo and the highly questionable decision against Oscar. He avenged the Castillejo loss, and hasn't taken an utterly awful opponent in a long time. The guy can box. I wish he'd get a chance to fight some of the top Americans, but it's not likely. He's a big fish in a decent-sized pond, and his lone trip to the States probably didn't leave him with a favorable impression of what foreigners get credit for from the judges over here.
6. Edison Miranda (28-2)
So he lost to Pavlik. It happens. He had a bad gameplan, got caught off guard, and his defensive lapses were even more dramatic than usual. It was just an out-and-out bad night for Miranda. But he's still got lethal power and a lot of heart, proven as he kept trying to stay in the fight against Pavlik. Really, there are referees that would have called it after the first knockdown. He just needs to work on the defensive side of things, because he's already got the offensive abilities of a world champion.
7. Roman Karmazin (35-2-1)
Good fighter. Probably already peaked with his win over Ouma at 154.
8. Kassim Ouma (25-3-1)
Ouma is one of the easiest guys in boxing to root for, and his only fight at 160 can be considered a pretty fair success despite losing to Taylor. He was undersized against Taylor and had almost no chance of hurting him. But he also never appeared to be seriously rocked by Taylor, despite the champ getting in some good shots. He is better suited for 154, but should do just fine at middleweight. Here's hoping that he beats the pampered Sergio Mora out of pretend contention in September.
9. Javier Castillejo (61-7)
Has fought Sturm twice, Vargas, Karmazin, de la Hoya, and a lot of other good fighters. Castillejo is a tough opponent for anyone just because of his ring savvy. But at 39, it's tough to figure on him having a lot more left in the tank.
10. Sebastien Sylvester (26-2)
Has a loss to Amin Asikainen and one in his pro debut in 2002. Other than that, solid gold. Still, I wouldn't favor him over any of the other nine.
John Duddy (20-0) is a rising star, but he's been heavily protected, and his undefeated mark is more a reflection of that than anything. His Irish homecoming is another case in point, as he fights Alessio Furlan.
English-born Irishman Andy Lee could someday be a factor in the division. Rafael noted the same thing I was thinking about: Someday, a Lee/Duddy matchup could be huge. Give it a few years.
38-year old Raymond Joval can still go at a respectable level, but he's past his chance to ever be a real contender. Sergio Mora avoiding him to fight Kassim Ouma was a good choice for Mora, though.
26-year old Dominican Giovanni Lorenzo (24-0, 16 KO) has still fought mostly bums, but he has some real skills.
Amin Asikainen's only loss was to Sylvester in a rematch, but other than his win over Sylvester, there's not a whole lot to get excited about on his record.