Now that 2009 is getting close to wrapping up, it means this decade is almost over. Before the end of the year, I hope to get through all the weight classes, presenting to you some choices for the best fighter in a given weight class in the decade. I'm not going in any particular order here, but we'll get through all 17 weight classes.
When voting, please only consider the time that the fighter was in the specified weight class during this decade. Also, I'm not going to count obvious ballot stuffing when I tally these up at the end of the year.
Featherweight was somewhat of an odd division, as most of the best fighters were only there for a short while as a stop between 122 and 130, and three of the most prominent names all did most of their damage elsewhere. Still, those three guys, in moving up, were able to beat most of the other top guys in the weight class.
Marco Antonio Barrera - The Baby Faced Assassin went 6-1 in the 126 pound weight class, all in title fights against top notch competition. The wins include a major upset over Naseem Hamed, Erik Morales, Johnny Tapia, Kevin Kelley and Paulie Ayala. The lone loss came to Manny Pacquiao. During his reign, he was both the lineal champ and the Ring Magazine champ.
Chris John - John has gone 29-0-2 in the weight class in the decade, including 12 defenses of his featherweight title. His best wins include Juan Manuel Marquez, Derrick Gainer, Rocky Juarez, Ratanchai Sor Vorapin, Tommy Browne, Oscar Leon, Hiroyuki Enoki and Osumo Sato. The two draws were each avenged, one of which was a consensus bad decision with Rocky Juarez, and the other of which was a 4-round technical draw with Jose Cheo Rojas due to a headbutt. The two primary criticisms of John are that he fought at home in Indonesia far too much, and that he went for long stretches where he was taking weak defenses and fighting mandatories. Still, he's beaten 7 future and former titlists, and is one of the very few to hold a win over Juan Manuel Marquez, who was one of the top pound for pound fighters in the world at the time.
Juan Manuel Marquez - Marquez went 15-1-1 in the weight class and unified two titles in the process. His best "win" was a draw with Manny Pacquiao that many feel Marquez actually won. His other best victories include Derrick Gainer, Manuel Medina, Robbie Peden, Orlando Salido, Jimrex Jaca and Terdsak Jendaeng. The lone loss came to Chris John in a fight in Indonesia that many felt Marquez also won. After moving up from featherweight, he went on to ascend as high as the #2 pound for pound fighter in the world, although his scheduling did get considerably stronger towards the end of his reign and after he moved up to 130.
Erik Morales - El Terrible went 6-1 in the weight, including key victories over Paulie Ayala, In Jin Chi, Kevin Kelley and Guty Espadas. He also lost to his bitter rival Marco Antonio Barrera in a shootout.
Manny Pacquiao - Pacquiao only spent four fights in the 126 weight class, but during that span he managed to fight two of the best and win the lineal featherweight title. He had a controversial draw with Juan Manuel Marquez that, while many thought Marquez won, would have been a Pacquiao victory had one of the judges scored the first round of their fight properly. He also dominated Marco Antonio Barrera to win the lineal title. His other wins came over Fahsan 3K Battery and Serikzhan Yeshmagambetov. While what he did at 126 was impressive, the current pound for pound king was able to do most of his damage elsewhere.
Others for consideration: Naseem Hamed (only 2-1 in the decade), Johnny Tapia, In Jin Chi, Oscar Larios, Derrick Gainer, Humberto Soto, Rocky Juarez