Until now, I had never put together a P4P list. It was much easier to criticize the lists that other writers put together than to actually do it myself. With boxing in a bit of a holding period, however, I challenged myself to finally buckle down and do it.
Since the P4P list is the most subjective of the common fighter rankings, I have included the criteria on which I judge fighters and a brief explanation for my rankings.
1. Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao (50-3-2, 38 KO)
(For once, I won’t even try to force a joke. Just savor the awesomeness of Manny.)
Last five fights: Miguel Cotto (TKO.12), Ricky Hatton (KO.2), Oscar De La Hoya (TKO.8), David Diaz (TKO.9), Juan Manuel Marquez II (SD)
Accomplishments: World titles in seven weight classes; linear titles in four weight classes, current welterweight titlist
Strengths: Pacquiao is an offensive juggernaut. The way he has carried his hand speed, foot speed, and power up to welterweight is unprecedented for a fighter who spent so much of his career in the smaller weight classes. His KO% in his last 5 fights (80%) is better than his career KO% (69%), which is astounding for an elite, veteran fighter moving up in weight. He boasts an unorthodox, thrilling style, limitless stamina, and an iron will, to boot. He is the most electrifying boxer fighting today.
Weaknesses: As an aggressive, offensive fighter, Pacquiao is most likely to struggle with strong defensive fighters and counterpunchers, evidenced most in his two exceptionally close fights with Marquez. While he has arguably challenged himself more than anyone in the last few years, fighting excellent fighters at higher and higher weights, his last four opponents have all been come-forward fighters noted more for their offense than defense. However, when you need to nitpick like this for a weakness, it means you are looking at a special fighter.
Trending: Sky high. His recent run catapulted him to the stratosphere of all-time great fighters. Where he absolutely ranks historically will be determined after his career is over but he is clearly among the greats in the history of the sport. The failure to make the Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight was the first blemish on Pacquiao in many years and he still escaped relatively unscathed. He is a hero to his people, a genuine worldwide draw in a fringe sport, and one of the worst singers I have ever heard in my life (I would pay good money to hear him duet with Kirk Van Houten on “Can I Borrow a Feeling”).
Next up: Joshua Clottey (3/13). Anything can happen in a boxing ring but I give Clottey very little hope against Manny. Clottey wasn’t active enough to win against Cotto and Pacquiao is an even worse matchup for Clottey. Good for him getting the big payday after an entertaining loss to Cotto, though.
2. Floyd “Money” Mayweather, Jr. (40-0, 25 KO)
Last five fights: Juan Manuel Marquez (UD), Ricky Hatton (TKO.10), Oscar De La Hoya (SD), Carlos Baldomir (UD), Zab Judah (UD)
Accomplishments: World titles in five weight classes; linear championships in two weight classes
Strengths: Floyd is a defensive mastermind. His speed, technique, timing, and focus allow him to make excellent boxers look like wild club fighters. His offense often stems from his defense, as his defense forces opponents to take bigger risks to try to touch him and he capitalizes with fast, accurate counterpunching. He is clearly a natural welterweight, evidenced both by his inability to, if not disinterest in, making the 144-pound catchweight against Marquez and his coming in four pounds under the weight limit (and even lighter on fight night, according to HBO scales) in his junior middleweight bout with De La Hoya. He is exceptionally experienced fighting on the highest levels and is incredibly confident as a result. He is also a mainstream star in the U.S., something only the top two P4P guys can say these days.
Weaknesses: Where to start? Even talking about his strengths hinted at his weaknesses but let’s keep it in the ring first. He fights very cautiously and usually takes several rounds to adjust to his opponents, often giving those rounds away because he is extremely economical with his punches. His style often leads to fights that lack drama or excitement. High-volume punchers arguably can outwork him, especially if said punchers work the body well as Jose Luis Castillo did in their first fight. He has brittle hands and lacks knockout power at welterweight. Then there’s the out-of-the-ring stuff – the blood test demands, the protection of his undefeated record and delusional proclamations of greatness, the rabid monkey he let loose during the Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall. OK, I made the last one up, but you were about to Google “Floyd Mayweather rabid monkey Christmas,” weren’t you? Floyd is the most divisive figure in boxing today, with ardent supporters and vehement critics that tend to drown out the rest of us, who often just don’t know exactly what to make of the boxer formerly known as “Pretty Boy.”
Trending: Up? People generally seemed to blame Floyd more than Manny for the failure to make their fight but Mayweather made the next-best fight in boxing with Shane Mosley instead, somewhat quelling the anger of many over Floyd’s choice in opponents over the last few years. If he beats Mosley he adds a significant name to his resume and he has the chance to continue to do so in the strong welterweight division.
Next up: Shane Mosley (5/1). This is an outstanding matchup, as Mosley is the biggest, strongest, best welterweight Mayweather has ever fought. Floyd is a slight favorite, I imagine, but it’s more or less a pick ‘em fight, one of the best-matched big-time fights in a long, long time.
3. Paul “The Punisher” Williams (38-1, 27 KO)
Last five fights: Sergio Martinez (MD), Winky Wright (UD), Verno Phillips (TKO.8), Andy Kolle (TKO.1), Carlos Quintana II (TKO.1)
Accomplishments: Former welterweight titlist
Strengths: Williams combines a freakish physique with a freakish work-rate to produce nightmare matchups for nearly any fighter between 147 and 160 pounds. Williams throws a tremendous number of punches and is very effective with combinations. He has also shown improvement, determination, and grit over the years.
Weaknesses: Southpaw counterpunchers are Williams’ kryptonite, as Carlos Quintana and Sergio Martinez proved. However, when you’re 2-1 with a stunning first-round knockout and a gritty Fight of the Year candidate against your most difficult style matchups, you’re doing okay. Williams does not feature a strong defense. He can also grow sloppy with his punches at times.
Trending: Steadily upward. His domination of Winky Wright and war with Sergio Martinez last year got him exposure, though not as much as his original opponent for December, Kelly Pavlik, would have.
Next up: TBD. There has been talk of Kermit Cintron, which would be a pretty good fight. After that, if he still can’t get Pavlik in the ring, either a rematch with Martinez (hopefully at 154) or the winner of Cotto-Foreman would be great matchups. Plus, he claims he can still make welterweight, so he has a number of options. Let’s see who will actually accept the challenge.
4. “Sugar” Shane Mosley (46-5, 39 KO)
Last five fights: Antonio Margarito (TKO.9), Ricardo Mayorga (KO.12), Miguel Cotto (L.UD), Luis Collazo (UD), Fernando Vargas II (TKO.6)
Accomplishments: Titlist in three divisions; former linear junior middleweight champion
Strengths: Mosley boasts tremendous hand and foot speed and is a thrilling offensive machine at welterweight. His eye-popping upset of Antonio Margarito was arguably his greatest performance ever and he has looked rejuvenated with Nazim Richardson in his corner. Mosley has been a pound-for-pound fixture for more than a decade and has endless big fight experience.
Weaknesses: Shane struggles most with slick boxers, preferring to exchange punches rather than wait and work for openings. He has been somewhat inconsistent in recent years, turning in lackluster performances against Mayorga (before the spectacular KO in the 12th) and Vargas (the first time) while looking great against Cotto (even in a loss) and Margarito. At 38, his age is a potential issue for the rest of his career but he stays in tremendous shape and looks sharp. His long layoff raises more questions about how prepared he will be for Mayweather.
Trending: Up. It took a long time but his stunning win over Margarito landed Shane his biggest fight since de la Hoya.
Next up: Mayweather (5/1).
5. “Bad” Chad Dawson (29-0, 17 KO)
Last five fights: Glen Johnson II (UD), Antonio Tarver II (UD), Antonio Tarver I (UD), Glen Johnson I (UD), Epifanio Mendoza (TKO.4)
Accomplishments: Light heavyweight titlist
Strengths: One of the best boxers in the game today, Dawson is strong, disciplined, and difficult to beat. He ushered in a new era in the light heavyweight division by defeating longtime stalwarts Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson. Bernard Hopkins has shown no interest in fighting him, so I consider him the man to beat at 175.
Weaknesses: He’s not exactly Arturo Gatti in terms of excitement in the ring. He also suffers, through no fault of his own, to a relative lack of interesting opposition in his division (although that shouldn’t last; eventually some guys from the loaded super middleweight division will inevitably move up).
Trending: Stagnant. He’s done about all he can with the old guard, since Hopkins won’t fight him. He has HBO backing, though, so if he can beat guys like Jean Pascal and Tavoris Cloud in entertaining fights than he will be on the road to success.
Next up: TBD. It looks like Pascal, who generally makes very good fights. He could make Dawson look good.
6. Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins (50-5-1, 32 KO)
Last five fights: Enrique Ornales (UD), Kelly Pavlik (UD), Joe Calzaghe (L.SD), Winky Wright (UD), Antonio Tarver (UD)
Accomplishments: Longest-running middleweight titlist in history; linear championships in two weight classes
Strengths: The ageless master, Hopkins has been fighting at an elite level for nearly 20 years and is still capable of beating anyone, evidenced in his destruction of Kelly Pavlik. One of the wisest, toughest fighters in history, Hopkins has secured his standing as one of the greatest over-40 fighters in history, along with George Foreman and Archie Moore.
Weaknesses: Like Mayweather, Hopkins often gives up early rounds by being extremely economical. Busier fighters can also outwork him, as Joe Calzaghe and Jermain Taylor did in three extremely close fights.
Trending: Hopkins is almost beyond trending. It remains to be seen what he does after he fights Roy Jones but there will be plenty of interest regardless.
Next up: Roy Jones, Jr. (4/23). It’s not quite Azumah Nelson-Jeff Fenech III or Sugar Ray Leonard-Roberto Duran III but it will be equally unimportant historically.
Last five fights: Floyd Mayweather (L.UD), Juan Diaz (TKO.9), Joel Casamayor (TKO.11), Manny Pacquiao II (L.SD), Rocky Juarez (UD)
Accomplishments: Titlist in three divisions; reigning linear champion at lightweight
Strengths: The last man standing from the trio of legendary Mexican featherweights, Marquez is a master boxer and counterpuncher. He also makes excellent fights due to his tremendous will to win and fighting spirit, especially since he has slowed somewhat with age.
Weaknesses: Has become hittable at heavier weights and was clearly too small for welterweight in his lopsided loss to Mayweather. May be on the downside of his great career after taking tremendous punishment in his last four fights.
Trending: Down. Marquez had an outstanding run that saw him rise to number two in the world pound-for-pound and earn a Fight of the Year nod last year for his thrilling war with Diaz. Perhaps he can rebound at lightweight or junior welterweight but the memory of the Mayweather fight is still fresh.
Next up: TBD. I’m not convinced that Marquez can be effective above lightweight. I wouldn’t mind seeing a rematch with Juan Diaz but I’d be wary of putting him in with someone like Michael Katsidis coming off the Mayweather fight.
8. “King” Arthur Abraham (31-0, 25 KO)
Last five fights: Jermain Taylor (KO.12), Mahir Oral (TKO.10), LaJuan Simon (UD), Raul Marquez (TKO.6), Edison Miranda II (TKO.4)
Accomplishments: Former middleweight titlist
Strengths: Abraham is a strong, powerful puncher with excellent defense. He is very comfortable in his style and his style has proven extremely difficult to solve. He demonstrated incredible grit and determination fighting through a broken jaw in his first fight with Edison Miranda.
Weaknesses: Often gives away early rounds tucked away behind his defense. Generally could be more active and aggressive with his offense.
Trending: Up. He added another clip to his highlight reel against Jermain Taylor and the Super Six Tournament is giving him the exposure he needs.
Next up: Andre Dirrell (3/27). This is a very interesting matchup, as are most of the Super Six fights. Dirrell’s speed could give Abraham problems but Abraham will be looking to put a hurt on Andre and I think he will.
9. “The Iron Boy” Ivan Calderon (33-0-1, 6 KO)
Last five fights: Rodel Mayol II (TSD.7), Rodel Mayol I (TD.6), Hugo Cazares II (TUD.7), Nelson Dieppa (UD), Juan Esquer (UD)
Accomplishments: Titlist in two divisions; reigning lineal junior flyweight champion
Strengths: Calderon is a pure boxer who uses his jab, movement, defense, and combinations to frustrate his foes.
Weaknesses: Very little power. Calderon has also looked more vulnerable in his last few fights, as age and the accumulation of rounds may be catching up to him.
Trending: Down. It has been nearly two years since Calderon had a fight that was not stopped by an accidental headbutt. He has had a fantastic career but it looks to be on the downswing.
Next up: TBD. Here’s hoping he takes on Giovanni Segura in a fascinating boxer vs. puncher matchup.
10. Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley (25-0, 11 KO)
Last five fights: Lamont Peterson (UD), Nate Campbell (NC), Kendall Holt (UD), Edner Cherry (UD), Junior Witter (SD)
Accomplishments: Junior welterweight titlist
Weaknesses: Bradley does not possess real knockout power, having last scored a KO in 2007. He can also get wide with his punches sometimes and often takes the phrase “using his head” literally.
Trending: Up. Bradley keeps getting better and reigns atop the junior welterweight division (as long as Manny doesn’t drop back down), which is loaded at the moment.
Next up: TBD. With so many options in the division, why can’t Bradley get a fight?
The next ten:
11. Kelly Pavlik
12. Nonito Donaire
13. Chris John
14. Miguel Cotto
15. Tomasz Adamek
16. Sergio Martinez
17. Wladimir Klitschko
18. Vitali Klitschko
19. Andre Ward
20. Juan Manuel Lopez