With comebacks, retirements and long awaited fights, the last 12 months of boxing have seen significant changes in the pound-for-pound rankings. Just as significantly, some things have not changed at all.
Most notably, Floyd Mayweather Jr. did the only thing he could do to further enhance his reputation as the best boxer in the world today by beating long touted rival Manny Pacquaio. What this means for Mayweather is clear but where this leaves Pacquaio is disputable.
Other reigning champs have fared indifferently. Whilst Wladimir Klitschko has notched up a couple of good wins, how he has done it has left questions about his pound-for-pound status. Andre Ward finally fought after over a year of inactivity but was it enough to show he is still better than the fast rising champions around him?
The highly ranked Guillermo Rigondeaux has found it difficult to get a meaningful opponent to take him on in the last 12 months, unlike Roman Gonzales, who is now having big fights consistently having found favor with major TV companies. Where has this left two of the best little -men in boxing? How has a year of action and a lack of action for Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez gone respectively?
Two fighters that can no longer be considered in the rankings at all are the now retired Carl Froch, along with former super-featherweight champion Mikey Garcia, who has not fought for 20 months and won’t for the rest of this year either due to a contract dispute being dragged out through the courts.
With spaces in the top 10 pound-for-pound list opening up, the achievements of fringe fighters that have been on the verge of breaking in must be compared to those of the veterans that are still showing their class. Which fighters deserve the label of one of the pound-for-pound best in the world today? Read on to find out, based on my own analysis.
10) Miguel Cott: 34 years old, Middleweight/Light-middleweight, 40-4 (33 knockout wins)
After years certified in the current boxing pound-for-pound top 10, there was a while where it seemed Cotto’s time as one of the very best in the world was done.
However, under new trainer Freddie Roach the Puerto-Rican has been completely rejuvenated. Fighting more viciously than he has in years, Cotto has been simply burying opponents, and what makes it even more significant is he has done it as a middleweight.
Sergio Martinez and Daniel Geale were great wins for a fighter who has no reason to be fighting middleweights. Yet Cotto is not only fighting middleweight champions, he is stopping them.
After being ousted out of the welterweight division by Manny Pacquaio and Floyd Mayweather, Cotto was out-boxed by Austin Trout at light-middleweight in 2013. At this point Cotto looked like he would struggle to beat any of the plethora of up-and-comers in the division. So instead he moved up a division, and he has looked as good as ever after doing it.
Sensibly, Cotto has opted to avoid facing the true current middleweight king, Gennady Golovkin. Instead he faces a career defining battle against someone that is near a carbon-copy of him in Saul Alvarez in November. The result of that fight could see Cotto rocket up this list or possibly drop out of it altogether.
For now though, after taking out two of the middleweight division’s top names in just over 12 months, Cotto has proven he is once again one of boxing’s best of today.
9) Saul Alvarez: 25 years old, Light-middleweight, 45-1-1 (32 knockout wins)
Only 25 years old but with 47 fights under his belt, “Canelo” the ginger Mexican is vastly more proven than others in his division.
A slick, powerful combination puncher, Alvarez is a fantastic fighter to watch for his offensive prowess. Thus far only Floyd Mayweather has shown the capability of getting within his range without being touched by the southpaw’s thunderous hands. Top opposition such as Cuban Erislandy Lara and Austin Trout have been unable to out-box Alvarez.
More emphatic than his wins against these classic boxers have been Alvarez’s wins against brawlers such as Alfredo Angulo and James Kirkland. Both were brutally knocked out in back-and-fourth battles, proving Alvarez can take it nearly as good as he can dish it out.
A super-fight against Cotto looms and a win for either will be a historic, legacy enhancing victory. Whilst it will be interesting to see who wins out of fighters with such similar styles and abilities, Alvarez has many potential match-ups – Golovkin, Mayweather, Julian Williams, Demetrious Andrade – that have styles more likely to push him and really test his pound-for-pound credentials in the future.
8) Manny Pacquaio: 36 years old, Welterweight, 57-6-2 (38 knockout wins)
Now 36 years old, it is clear that ‘Pacman’ is not the fighter he once was, something made utterly evident by a certain Floyd Mayweather this year. The 2015 version of Pacquaio is not as relentless or as vicious in comparison to the Pacquaio of 2009, when he was in his prime.
Yet even with that slippage, this Pacquaio is still one of the best in the world.
For all he has lost, Pacquaio still has the ability to throw combinations at blistering speed and from all angles, coupled with amazing footwork and hugely understated toughness. The proof that Manny is one of the best in the world is that there is probably still only one fighter around his weight class that would be favourite to beat him, and that is Floyd Mayweather.
Yet, Pacquaio still falls down this list in comparison to where he was last year. A guaranteed Hall-of-Famer, the Filipino’s time is coming to an end. But for now, he is still legitimately one of the best 10 boxers in the world.
7) Sergey Kovalev: 29 years old, Light-heavyweight, 28-0-1 (25 knockout wins)
Fast becoming one of the most destructive fighters in history, it seems that no one can stand up to the devastating power of the Russian.
Kovalev has the kind of punches that breaks through guards and can concuss with even glancing blows. Although he can be somewhat robotic, his tactics are a damn site effective. What is makes him really scary is that he seems to enjoy destroying people.
“Krusher” was the first person to finally make Bernard Hopkins seem old last year and has since followed that up by beating up Jean Pascal and Nadjib Mohammedi until the referee was forced to step in.
He is fighting regularly and winning impressively at world championship level. At 29 years old, this could be just the first chapter of an era of domination. Kovalev has near already cleared out most of his division. Fellow light-heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson has looked vulnerable in comparison and isn’t likely to take on Kovalev to prove otherwise.
At a stage where there are only a few boxers (Andre Ward, possibly Stevenson) given any chance to beat him, Kovalev is now deservedly a top 10 pound-for-pound boxer.
6) Gennady Golovkin: 33 years old, Middleweight, 33-0 (30 knockout wins)
A man that goes about destroying boxers in the manner of someone reluctantly doing the hoover – trying to finish an annoying job as quickly and effortlessly as possible – “The Great” is truly something special.
Granted, Golovkin does not have an A class or even a B+ fighter on his record right now, although that is no fault of his own. Nevertheless, Golovkin has proven he is pound-for-pound quality through the manner of his victories. He is going through world title challenges like sparring sessions, man against boy. Some of his knockouts have been frightening and he is doing it with every type of punch; lead left-hook, straight right, body punches. Tough fighters are folding up in the face of his onslaughts.
Not only is he the best in his division, he is likely one of the best two or three in the division above too. And fighters below his division? Only Floyd Mayweather would be given any realistic chance against him.
However, soon enough the likes of Saul Alvarez, Miguel Cotto or Peter Quillin will have to take him on or he will to go up a division to super-middleweight and take on Andre Ward. With his unavoidable stalking style, how any of the aforementioned will handle his power will determine just how high up this list the Kazakhstani will go.
5) Wladimir Klitschko: 39 years old Heavyweight, 64-3 (53 knockout wins)
With 11 years as world heavyweight champion, it is easy to make the argument that a fighter with the credentials and skill set of the younger Klitschko brother makes him one of the top three boxers on earth.
However, Wladimir has simply not had enough real tests for him to be considered one of today’s very best. The likes of Francesco Pianeta, Alex Leapai and Jean Marc Mormeck are not viable wins for the highest level of pound-for-pound status. Not that the giant Ukrainian has avoided anyone, but the fact that his opposition has not always been great – and sometimes barely even good – cannot be denied.
It is also a damning fact of his legacy that in his bigger name wins against the likes of David Haye and Alexander Povetkin, Klitschko looked tentative and timid. Even his emphatic wins have been more systematic than spectacular.
Yet, Klitschko is still a very, very good fighter. With an unstoppable jab, stupendously powerful hands and a measured style, Wladimir Klitschko will rightly go down as the best heavyweight of his generation. However, there is still a lot to prove. Luckily for Klitschko, he will get the chance to prove it.
Klitschko takes on 6ft 9in undefeated contender Tyson Fury this coming October and will have to put up a real fight to handle the volatile “King of the Gypsies”. Even if he succeeds, knockout artist Deontay Wilder and a host of up-and-comers will follow, allowing him the opportunity to prove he has not just benefited from a lack of quality opponents.
Until he does so, Wladimir Klitschko will still remain outside of the best boxers on the planet.
4) Guillermo Rigondeaux: 34 years old, Super-bantamweight, 15-0 (10 knockout wins)
Most fair-weather boxing fans will probably not have seen “The Jackal” fight, while many may not have heard of him at all.
Nevertheless, the lack of hype around the Cuban should not disguise the fact that this may be one of the most talented boxers ever, something Freddie Roach himself stated.
A two time Olympic gold medal winner and a two time world amateur champion, Rigondeaux has taken to the pro game like a duck to water. Winning a super-bantamweight world title in just his 7th bout in 2010, Rigondeaux has defended it eight times since, including against former pound-for-pound top 10 fighter Nonito Donaire in 2013.
In the last 12 months “Rigo” has knocked out Thailand’s 66 fight veteran Sod Kokietgym in one round and most impressively, survived a horrific round seven against Japan’s Hisashi Amagasa (hitting the deck twice and barely surviving) to come back and savagely stop him in round 11.
At times Rigondeaux can become nonchalant in the ring, proven by the fact the 7th round catastrophe against Amagasa came after winning all previous six rounds. This is only because he can become complacent in his superiority. His promoter Bob Arum has bemoaned a style which has made Rigondeaux difficult to sell but that is only because he makes it look just too easy.
With allegedly over 400 fights, Rigondeaux’s extended amateur career may have eaten into the prime years of his professional career, meaning the other big name super-bantamweight champions – Carl Frampton, Scott Quigg and Leo Santa Cruz – may get to face a diminished version of him, if they ever do face him at all.
However, right now Rigondeaux is still one of the very best boxers on the planet and someone that could be at number one on this list if he gets the right fights, should Mayweather actually retire.
3) Andre Ward: 31 years old, Super-middleweight, 28-0 (15 knockout wins)
Although he didn’t fight in the whole of 2014 and even though his only fight this year has been against a middle tier contender, there is not a doubt that Andre Ward is one of the best boxers in the world today.
The only fighter that would likely be favourite to beat both the aforementioned Golovkin and Kovalev, Ward is held in such high regard because he can both effectively exploit an opponent’s weaknesses and neutralize their weapons.
A real technician, Ward has a great inside-game, enough speed and accuracy to fight on the outside, great footwork and amazing reflexes. An old-school fighter, “Son of God” has not lost a fight since he was 13 and it is hard to even think of a single round of boxing has clearly lost since. Beating the likes of Carl Froch, Mikkel Kessler, Chad Dawson and Arthur Abraham has seen him easily claim a place as one of the top three boxers in the world today.
Yet Ward drops to number three from two on this list from last year simply due to not having had a serious test in over 20 months.
Now his contract issues are sorted hopefully Ward will be more active, which can only lead to some huge tests against any of the aforementioned Eastern European killers, both of which will be worthy wins to see him at number one once Floyd Mayweather retires.
2) Roman Gonzalez: Flyweight, 28 years old, 43-0 (37 knockouts)
Granted, having spent much of his career fighting in the minimum and light-flyweight divisions the opposition for Gonzalez has been limited. Yet becoming a three weight world champion at 28 years old with an 85% knockout ratio is a formidable achievement any way it can be looked at.
It is not just what he has done though, but how he has done it. Gonzalez has been near flawless for most of his career and has not had it easy either, going away to Mexico and Japan to fight the best little-men of the world to take his titles.
The Nicaraguan is a smooth power puncher that can finish a fight as soon as he hurts an opponent. Despite the lack of recognition and fanfare the lower divisions get, Roman Gonzalez’s ability cannot be understated and his achievements cannot be denied. In the last 12 months he has knocked out four top boxers in three different countries, with two of them being former world champions.
With time on his side and big fights against the likes of Giovanni Segura and Brian Viloria beckoning, Gonzalez is a name that could be on this list for a long time, giving him the chance to perhaps even supersede the record of the only man in the world that is currently a better boxer than him.
1) Floyd Mayweather: 38 years old, Welterweight/light-middleweight, 48-0 (26 knockout wins)
Realistically, only one boxer has been able to challenge “Money” for the number one spot in this list for he has been top of for approximately a decade. And this year Mayweather comprehensively beat that challenger in a one sided fight.
The fight with Manny Pacquaio should have happened about four years ago, when “Pacman” was in his prime. Nevertheless, the manner in which Mayweather beat him last May only adds to the argument that he would have beaten him anyway, at any time. Therefore, there is not even a doubt from any fair fan that Floyd Mayweather is by far the best boxer on the planet today.
Mayweather deserves to be top of this list and will be mentioned in the list for the best of all time. A master of controlling the tempo of a fight, Floyd is a boxer supreme with skills comparable to anyone of any generation. He is so good that fans ask themselves if there is anyone that can even test Mayweather, let alone beat him.
Floyd has the chance to go 49-0 this September and if that goes as it should, the world will push for Mayweather to go for 50-0, something no fighter has done at his level. For that fight, fans will demand a super test, with the likes of Gennady Golovkin mentioned as a possible opponent.
Yet whatever he does at this point will not change the fact that Floyd is the best of his generation, the best of today and one of the best we will ever see in the future.
SPECIAL MENTION FOR FIGHTERS CLOSE TO MAKING THE TOP 10 – Terence Crawford, Shinsuke Yamanaka, Nicholas Walters, Grigory Drozd.