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Bad Left Hook Boxing Rankings Update: Spotlight on Light Heavyweight

Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.
Rank Fighter Record Last Rank
1 Chad Dawson 29-0 (17) 2
2 Bernard Hopkins 50-5-1 (32) 1
3 Jean Pascal 25-1 (16) 3
4 Tavoris Cloud 20-0 (18) 4
5 Glen Johnson 50-13-2 (34) 5
6 Zsolt Erdei 31-0 (17) 6
7 Antonio Tarver 27-6 (19) 8
8 Gabriel Campillo 19-3 (6) 9
9 Adrian Diaconu 26-2 (15) 7
10 Nathan Cleverly 19-0 (9) NR

One of the most interesting divisions in boxing right now, in my opinion, is the light heavyweight weight class. At 175 pounds you have a mix of P4P contenders, established veterans/ageless wonders, and some really exciting up-and-coming talent.

My rankings at 175 have changed a bit since the last time I did them, because the division itself is changing rapidly, at least in some areas.

New No. 1

Unbeaten titlist Chad Dawson takes the No. 1 spot away from 45-year-old Bernard Hopkins, and though Hopkins is still a great fighter and hasn't done anything to lose the spot necessarily, let me explain why I've flipped on these two.

The short explanation is that I think Dawson is better. And I do think Dawson is, at this point, better than Hopkins. If the two of them were fighting on April 3 instead of Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr., I'd pick Dawson without a second thought. I know I've said in the past I'd never pick against Hopkins again, but Bernard's (deserved) aura is such that I think people are almost afraid to pick against him in fear of being wrong. I have no problem being wrong about fight predictions, so whatever.

If you watched Hopkins in December against Enrique Ornelas, you saw Hopkins against a fringe contender at middleweight who came all the way up to light heavyweight. Did Bernard dominate? Yes. And he should have. It wasn't very impressive, he didn't show anything we didn't already know he had, and after 14 months off, fighting a month shy of his 45th birthday, the fact is he looked a little old. A prime Hopkins would have demolished Ornelas. Even a past-prime Hopkins in 2006-07 would have demolished Ornelas. I don't mean to disrespect Enrique, but he's not on Bernard's level. Period.

Then there's Chad Dawson's fight from last November. Yeah, it wasn't the most exciting thing in the world, but he routed Glen Johnson. He beat Glen Johnson with ease. Only Hopkins has ever done that before -- way back in 1997. It was a statement win for Dawson, who had struggled with Johnson in April 2008.

Making that look even more impressive was Johnson's calm, cool and calculated knockout of Yusaf Mack this month. Dawson made Johnson look really old in November, to the point where you'd be forgiven for thinking that Johnson was just done. While there's no shame in losing to Dawson for sure, Johnson looked like he was at least two steps behind the entire fight. But against Mack, he was just the same old Glen Johnson, and he took care of business. He's not done.

I can't justify ranking Hopkins over Dawson any longer. I don't think he'd beat him, I know he doesn't want to fight him (he's all but said so), and for icing on the cake, Dawson has done more at 175 than Hopkins has. At 175, Hopkins has beaten Antonio Tarver very impressively, lost to Joe Calzaghe, and beaten Ornelas. He also has two wins in that stretch that were at 170-pound catchweights, against middleweights Kelly Pavlik and Winky Wright, and really Wright is a junior middleweight.

Dawson, meanwhile, has two wins over Glen Johnson, two over Tarver, one over Tomasz Adamek, and really his wins over Epi Mendoza, Jesus Ruiz and Eric Harding are as good as Hopkins' win over Ornelas.

The Veterans

Glen Johnson's win over fringe top ten guy Yusaf Mack doesn't move him up in my rankings, but solidifies him at No. 5. In some ways after his November loss to Dawson, I think I was keeping Johnson ranked so highly out of respect for his accomplishments, and being careful not to jump the gun on the idea that he was a finished, old fighter. Good call, it appears. Johnson is very clearly still in the game.

Zsolt Erdei is still there at No. 6, but likely won't fight anyone, and if the guys below him start doing something, he'll drop. Antonio Tarver moves up to No. 7 from No. 8 last time more because I'm dropping Adrian Diaconu. I think Tarver would probably beat Diaconu, and Antonio still has skill. He was just beaten twice by a younger, better fighter when he fought Dawson.

The Young Blood

Jean Pascal (3), Tavoris Cloud (4) and Nathan Cleverly (10) are all part of the restructuring of the division. Pascal's two wins over Diaconu and his win over Silvio Branco have made it clear he's for real at the weight, though I probably have him ranked a bit higher than most do. I also used to have him higher at 168 than most did, and he finally gained a little acceptance when he warred with Carl Froch and showed a lot of toughness in December '08. Cloud's pressure style could overwhelm Johnson, or he might not be ready for a tough veteran with Johnson's offensive mind. We're going to find out sooner than later unless Cloud refuses to fight him.

As for Nathan Cleverly, I know his accomplishments are fairly minute on the world stage, but his talent is obvious, and he's got a spark that a lot of guys don't have.

The Other Two

Gabriel Campillo (8) beat Beibut Shumenov in January, and I don't care what the official cards say. Adrian Diaconu is a good, workmanlike fighter who gave Pascal a couple of battles but would have problems against most of these guys. Pascal's cowboy attitude and willingness to war might have made Diaconu look a lot better than, say, Antonio Tarver would. Tarver would probably just win a wide, boring decision against the Romanian.

Capt An Aside

When you start thinking about the division this way, it makes the Hopkins-Jones rematch all the more absurd. Roy is not top ten in this division, and if you still think he is, I don't know what to tell you. While Dawson is looking at a June fight with Pascal, Cloud and Johnson are set to face off, and Campillo has twice faced young contender Shumenov and done well both times, Hopkins is closer to Zsolt Erdei territory right now than a lot of people might like to admit. Ornelas was acceptable only as a tune-up. When Jones was knocked silly by Danny Green, that should've put the rematch in the toilet.

I had a sneaking suspicion it wouldn't, and here we are going through with it. The two men will be a combined 86 years of age when they face off on April 3, but that's not what bothers me. If Hopkins were rematching 41-year-old Glen Johnson (not that he should), I'd be intrigued.

It's the fact that Roy Jones isn't any good anymore, hasn't been in years, and yet like a moth to the flame he keeps on coming back to the ring. We had a discussion in the comments of another post recently where we discussed Jones' old habit of saying he'd never stick around too long, that he knew the dangers of continuing past your prime, that he didn't want to be a sad boxing case.

Well how close is he to that, or has he already blown past that line? Jones is 41 and doesn't have a credible win since 2003. That's seven years where he's gone 5-5, and his five wins have come over Prince Badi Ajamu, Anthony Hanshaw, a ridiculously blown-up Tito Trinidad, Omar Sheika, and shot Jeff Lacy.

Who is Bernard actually fighting? He's fighting an old guy whose skills are so eroded that he's barely been competitive at all against the decent opponents he's faced for the last seven years. Antonio Tarver knocked him out and then won a clear decision. Glen Johnson knocked him stiff. Joe Calzaghe beat on him for 12 rounds. Danny Green put him out to pasture in two minutes.

Yet here we are with this fight. It's another reason I can no longer rank Hopkins above Dawson. Hopkins is only fighting for money now. This rematch feels almost like an exhibition fight. A Hopkins win does nothing but soothe his ego and get him even with Roy, at least in his mind. No matter if or how he beats Jones in April, it won't mean a quarter as much as Jones beating him in 1993 does. Never will, either. And if he loses...

The Rest of the Rankings

The P4P top 20 got a big update, but these days I find discussing P4P lists about as fun as a root canal, so I wanted to focus on an actual weight class. Also updated: Junior Middleweight, Lightweight, Junior Lightweight, Featherweight, Bantamweight, Junior Bantamweight, and Flyweight.

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