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The Bad Left Hook Top 20: August 14, 2007

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So, we switched things up. Pound-for-pound top ten lists exclude too many good (and even great) fighters, I decided. This time, we decided to do 20.

The staff makeup here at Bad Left Hook is truly something to behold. Matt and Kevin are friends in the non-internet world, as are Brent and I. Someday, I imagine, we'll probably convene on a fight in Chicago, if one that suits everyone's tastes comes around. I do know one thing: We're all Miguel Cotto fans.

With the top 20 format, we wound up with some interesting dilemmas. Matt and I made the most comments, Kevin made none because he doesn't feel the need to justify his rankings to any of our puny minds, and Brent unleashed total anarchy by steadfastly refusing to rank more than 16 fighters.

At the end of the day, I figure, who the hell cares? Without further adieu, the Bad Left Hook top 20!

1. Floyd Mayweather, Jr. (38-0, 24 KO)
-- 4 first-place votes, 80 points --

SC: There's no argument. Think what you will of his style, his attitude, his demeanor, or some of the things he says. But until someone is able to beat him and shut him up, he'll keep talking. Because he wins every fight. Really, he's had two serious challenges in his entire career: Castillo and Oscar, and he was fighting Oscar at a weight that was no good for him. I'm not the biggest Floyd fan in the world, but he is the best fighter in boxing, and, for the time being, it's not close.

MM: Another win -- and this time a big win -- for Mayweather. The bout with Oscar demonstrated several things. For one, a cool defense will almost always beat a hot offense over twelve. Two, Mayweather is undeniably the number one PFP in the world, but should not continue his career at 154 and certainly shouldn't try anything bigger. And finally, Oscar is still a formidable fighter and could have perhaps beaten Floyd if his jab hadn't abandoned him down the stretch.

BB: Likely not going to change until he either 1) Loses, 2) Retires, or 3) goes through a very long (20 month or longer) bout of inactivity.

2. Manny Pacquiao (44-3-2, 35 KO)
-- 75 points --

SC: Pacquiao-Soto would have been a much better fight than Pacquiao-Barrera II will be, but Manny will match up next with Soto, Joan Guzman, or Marquez, and it's not like Barrera hasn't earned one more huge fight, so I can't really complain. Pacquiao would fight an honest to God bull if his handlers lined it up for him, and he'd come out swinging, too. Pacquiao-Marquez II has got to happen, because nothing was settled in their first, excellent fight.

MM: Pac-man has rivals for the title of "most exciting elite boxer" (Cotto and Vasquez come to mind), but with Winky's loss he no longer has a serious rival for number two PFP boxer.

3. Bernard Hopkins (48-4-1, 32 KO)
-- 69 points --

SC: Boxers his age aren't supposed to be very good at all, let alone this good. He's an ageless fighter, apparently, in a sport where we're watching Erik Morales retire at 31. He outboxed and outsmarted one of the best, smartest boxers in the game. He beat a master craftsman. And he's 42 years old. You bet against Hopkins, because I won't.

MM: B-Hop makes the biggest leap up in my list with his impressive victory over Winky Wright. The fight was razor close, closer than the scores indicate, but when you beat a technician like Winky, you deserve props. Hopkins is as crafty and slick as ever. I still don't much like his style, but it's hard to fault this living legend for fighting his fight and winning.

4. Jermain Taylor (27-0-1, 17 KO)
-- 66 points --

BB: I've never made any bones about the fact that I like Taylor more than most. And I have no problem ranking him above Wright and Hopkins considering the he and Wright battled to a draw and Taylor holds two wins over Hopkins.

MM: Taylor's wins over B-Hop look that much more impressive now, don't they? His fight with Spinks was a stinker. But he won. And now we get to see him fight Pavlik with Berto vs. Estrada on the undercard.

SC: I've got him lower than everyone else. Where the hell did his power go? The Pavlik fight could serve as a career landmark -- it'll be his last at 160 pounds, and it's going to be a tough one. I'm torn, though -- I want to give props to Taylor for taking the fight, but at the same time, isn't that what the champion is supposed to do?

5. Winky Wright (51-4-1, 25 KO)
-- 60 points --

SC: Another P4P list, another top five for Winky Wright. He was neutralized by Hopkins as far as his jab went, but he still fought a hell of a fight, well out of his natural weight class. Winky clawed his way onto boxing's biggest stages, and has become an unlikely star. To me, losing to Bernard Hopkins doesn't make him any worse. And I'd still pick him in a rematch against Jermain Taylor.

MM: Wright fought a fine fight and lost by the slimmest of margins against Bernard Hopkins. He drops two on my list.

6. Juan Manuel Marquez (47-3-1, 35 KO)
-- 58 points --

SC: Great fighter. The matchup with Juarez is very interesting, and very dangerous. Rocky is nobody's stepping stone, and he'll come at Marquez hard. But Marquez -- like his brother -- can box, and he's an underrated puncher.

MM: He beat Barrera and fought Pacquiao to a draw. What more do you want?

7. Israel Vazquez (42-4, 31 KO)
-- 57 points --

SC: It's never been any secret that I'm a very big Vazquez fan (he is my favorite fighter, to make it more clear). I'm glad that his last three fights have shown more people why. He's a keg of dynamite at every second of every fight. I wish he was just a little bit bigger, so that at some point, we could see Pacquiao-Vazquez.

MM: With his tremendous win over Marquez, Vazquez emerges as one of the top 10 PFP in the biz. Who is more exciting to watch than this guy? Who has more heart? Can't wait for the third chapter in this Gatti-Ward-like trilogy.

BB: (Rated third) Higher than a lot of people might have him (most lists I've seen have him around 5) but I kind of had it in the back of my mind that the #3 spot on my list was up for grabs in last weekend's war. Vazquez won and looked good doing so -- the spot is his.

8. Joe Calzaghe (43-0, 32 KO)
-- 52 points --

MM: Now that he's agreed to fight Kessler, will he silence his doubters? Probably not. Until he beats him, which he will. And then they will find another excuse to diss him, I predict. But Joe is the real deal, and there is a certain faddishness to the recent American celebration of Kessler. For some reason, normally clear thinking boxing fans are holding a victory against Librado Andrade as a greater achievement than Calzaghe's demolition of Lacy.

SC: I think I was guilty of being one of those guys Matt is talking about, but again, re-watching Calzaghe make Lacy look like a child has brought me back into Joe's camp. Like Taylor, he hasn't done much of note since his big, star-making performance. But, like Taylor, no one's beaten him. And, like Taylor, he's about to take on a very stiff challenge. I can't ask more from Calzaghe than to fight Kessler, so I won't.

BB: Eventually I'm going to make up my mind on Joe. I don't like him but can't help but realize that he is a hell of a fighter. I think a few big fights on US soil would help his cause.

9. Rafael Marquez (37-4, 33 KO)
-- 45 points --

SC: He's still in my top ten. Losing to Israel Vazquez in an intensely competitive fight is nothing to be ashamed of. He's phenomenal.

MM: Marquez vs. Vasquez, III? Bring. It. On.

10. Miguel Cotto (30-0, 25 KO)
-- 44 points --

MM: Cotto continues to impress and solidifies his place among the top 10 PFP boxers today. I thought Judah vs. Cotto was the most entertaining fight so far of 2007, but I missed Marquez vs. Vazquez, so I defer judgment.

SC: Cotto-Judah was a hell of a fight, and I thought Cotto mostly dominated and owned the ring. He's personable, well-spoken, and a gentleman outside of the ring. Plus, he'll fight anyone. There's nothing about Cotto that isn't good for boxing.

11. Shane Mosley (44-4, 37 KO)
-- 40 points --

MM: Riding a hot win streak, Mosley faces his toughest opponent since Winky Wright in his hotly anticipated bout with Miguel Cotto. In a stellar fall lineup, this is the fight I most look forward to. I favor Mosley slightly. Cotto will have a much harder time bullying Shane around than he did Zab Judah.

SC: I will say this once, and please note that I love watching Miguel Cotto fight and consider myself a huge fan of his: If Shane Mosley is on top of his game, Miguel Cotto cannot beat him. He absolutely cannot beat Shane Mosley.

12. Ricky Hatton (43-0, 31 KO)
-- 33 points --

MM: With his demolition of Castillo, Hatton passes Rafael Marquez on my PFP. My estimations here are based on the weight class each man last fought at. When Hatton moves up to 147 and is destroyed by Mayweather, he will drop off my list altogether until he moves back down to 140.

SC: He's a wonderful human being and probably the boxer I'd most like to hang out with. To argue Hatton over Mayweather, you better have some great Jim Braddock story lined up. Mayweather has made mincemeat out of guys like Hatton his entire career. Ask Arturo Gatti and Carlos Baldomir.

13. Joel Casamayor (34-3-1, 21 KO)
-- 24 points --

SC: I talked about Casamayor recently when ranking the lightweights. He's very good, and he's one of the most ignored top-class fighters in boxing.

MM: He's not my favorite boxer on this list, but he does have the strangest nickname. "The Hairbrush"? I know that it's supposed to describe his punching style, but still...

14. Marco Antonio Barrera (63-5, 42 KO)
-- 22 points --

SC: I'm basically harping on it: He can't beat Pacquiao. He couldn't do it four years ago, he can't do it now. But we only have a couple more fights left in Marco Antonio Barrera's career, by all accounts. And the man is a no-doubt Hall of Famer. Enjoy him while you can.

MM: Does the old master still have it? His close loss to Juan Manuel Marquez is not enough to start treating Barrera lightly.

15. (tie) Ivan Calderon (28-0, 6 KO)
-- 17 points --

MM: It's hard to rank the little dudes. I put Puerto Rico's often overlooked but nevertheless undefeated minimum weight champ at sixteen.

SC: It's hard to rank them, yes. It's because the competition is for shit. Calderon stepping up to fight Cazares is nice, though. And should he win, a fight with Ulises Solis would have me very interested.

BB: With Calderon you know you are getting 2-3 fights a year and he is going to win. Domination over your weight class ain't nothin' to sneeze at, sister.

15. (tie) Oscar de la Hoya (38-5, 30 KO)
-- 17 points --

MM: It's bizarre that Oscar is at this point an underrated fighter, at least among hardcore fans. It's true that Oscar now only seems to want make fights that promise to be "events," but looking back, it's hard to question the quality of his competititon.

SC: Let's consider de la Hoya at 147. He cannot beat Mayweather or Mosley. But anyone else, I'd give Oscar his fair shot. Cotto is a great banger, but Oscar is more skilled, and he's faster, and he's been in tougher fights than Cotto. Margarito fits the same mold. Paul Williams is a matchup problem for anyone with his size, speed, and workrate. But it's not like I wouldn't favor Oscar over Cintron, Clottey, Collazo, Gomez, Chavez, Judah, or a lot of other guys. He can still fight, and fight really well. Actually, Oscar/Chavez could be something to consider in 2008.

17. (tie) Mikkel Kessler (39-0, 29 KO)
-- 12 points --

MM: Another undefeated champion still trying to prove himself, Kessler is aggressive and technically solid, but his signature wins are over Markus Beyer and Librado Andrade. It's hard to champion the record of a boxer whose best win is over a guy who couldn't beat Sakio Bika. If Kessler somehow beats Calzaghe, then we can talk.

SC: Very strong fighter with some good wins. I liked the Andrade win because it showed that Kessler can go 12 rounds of fighting fairly hard without tiring himself out. Andrade took a load of punishment that night, and most fighters would've been done after the first seven rounds if they were being hit like that. The matchup with Calzaghe is what he's been campaigning for. He's got it, now he has his chance to prove himself on a grand scale.

17. (tie) Wladimir Klitschko (49-3, 44 KO)
-- 12 points --

MM: Am I overestimating Wlad because of the lameness of the other heavies? Or is his recent streak indicative of Manny Steward's transformation of him into a legitimately great fighter?

SC: Heavyweights get the shaft in P4P rankings in the recent generation, mostly because there's rarely more than one at a time worth being considered. Klitschko deserves it. He's become a monster heavyweight fighter. He's quick, he's got great size, he has excellent power, and to go with all of that, Manny Steward has gotten him to box to his strengths. He does this far better than any other heavyweight. That's why he sorely outclasses the field.

19. Chris John (39-0-1, 20 KO)
-- 11 points --

MM: Noticing a theme here? Indonesia's undefeated featherweight needs to prove that his win over Marquez wasn't a fluke.

SC: I don't think he beat Marquez. I do think he's a good fighter.

20. (tie) Hugo Cazares (25-3-1, 19 KO)
-- 7 points --

BB: Yeah, I got love for the little guys! Hasn't lost since 1999. His bout later this month with Calderon is going to prove a lot about both men. A truly impressive performance by either could put them in my top 10.

20. (tie) Juan Diaz (32-0, 16 KO)
-- 7 points --

SC: Baby Cotto, but without the knockout record. I'd love to see him move up to 140 and fight Hatton there in the next year, but Ricky will probably be too busy getting embarrassed by Floyd and knocked out by Oscar to get around to it.

Honorable Mentions: Joan Guzman (6), Cristian Mijares (6), Paul Williams (4), Vernon Forrest (1)