It was a busy few months for those who would be the elite boxers in the world, regardless of weight. Of the 20 people on this list, 11 of them fought since the last update in October, including two making their debuts. Exiting is junior middleweight Miguel Cotto, alas, coming off his loss to Austin Trout, and bantamweight Anselmo Moreno, coming off his loss to Abner Mares. There's one big name moving down (Manny Pacquiao — I'm prepared for your boos, Pinoy readers of TQBR), but plenty of folk moving up, including two new members of the top 10 (one is from the Philippines, so temper your boos, all right?).
This exercise of compiling pound-for-pound lists has its uses, even if people ought not get too fired up about it one way or another, and one of them is comparing the passage of time in boxing over a year, to examine how much has changed for the men who once comprised or who now comprise one list of the best active boxers. As always, the dominant standard this list relies upon is success against quality competition, particularly of recent vintage, although the "eyeball test" (a rough evaluation of talent) and career-long resume count for something, too.
1. Floyd Mayweather, junior middleweight
The danger of being a once-a-year fighter is that you'll fall in esteem as other fighters build their resumes. Mayweather is a narrow #1 for me, but slowly, opinions have begun to shift, with some placing Andre Ward or others above him. Don't expect Mayweather back before May, either.
2. Juan Manuel Marquez, welterweight
Maybe Ward deserves to be here based on the "eyeball test," but Marquez this month conclusively beat Manny Pacquiao for the best win either of them have; I briefly considered Marquez for the #1 spot, even, for similar reasons, but the fact that Mayweather once beat Marquez held me back.
3. Andre Ward, super middleweight
It is becoming increasingly clear that the only threat to Ward is his own body. He suffered an injury that requires shoulder surgery, which led to his bout in early 2013 with Kelly Pavlik falling apart. He only fought once in 2012 himself due to injury, and it will be hard for him to fight very many times in 2013 if he has to recover from yet another major injury.
4. Sergio Martinez, middleweight
Here's another fellow recovering from an injury. He had a great year in 2012, a borderline Fighter of the Year campaign with wins over Matthew Macklin and Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., and it looks like he'll be back in action following knee surgery in the spring of 2013. His position could possibly be threatened in the interim by…
5. Nonito Donaire, junior featherweight
Maybe Donaire deserved to move up by knocking out another top-10 122-pounder in Jorge Arce this month to close out his Fighter of the Year campaign, but as much as I respect Arce, he isn't the kind of guy who boosts P4P resumes. However, if he fought or beat Abner Mares or Guillermo Rigondeaux in March, as discussed, it would be hard to keep him from climbing.
6. Manny Pacquiao, welterweight
Will Pacquiao ever be the same after that knockout from Marquez? I fear not, because he was already somewhat "not the same" in recent fights, and that loss felt like an exclamation point. Unless his family talks him into retiring, we'll probably see a rematch in the spring or summer of 2013.
7. Carl Froch, super middleweight
Froch beat Yusaf Mack in November with ease, basically doing exactly what he ought to have done. I still think he's underrated on most P4P lists. Wins over Jean Pascal, Andre Dirrell, Arthur Abraham, Glen Johnson, Lucian Bute and definsible losses to Mikkel Kessler and Ward — is that worse than the next man's sustained dominance over mediocrity?
8. Wladimir Klitschko, heavyweight
It all depends on what matters most to you, I guess. It's not that Klitschko doesn't have a good resume, but it's a resume built on volume more than on quality. His best win is over David Haye; most of his competition has been closer to hapless (albeit sturdy) Mariusz Wach, November's victim.
9. Abner Mares, junior featherweight
Mares is building up a Frochian resume, as he has faced the top men in and around his division all virtually in a row, most recently beating the very talented (albeit small for the weight class) Moreno in November. Add his name to a list including Yonnhy Perez, Vic Darchinyan, Joseph Agbeko and Eric Morel. Mares-Donaire would be for a lot of marbles.
10. Brian Viloria, flyweight
The talent has always been there for Viloria; the question has only ever been focus and consistency. He's got it now, with his November win over Hernan "Tyson" Marquez capping a two-year run of quality wins and quality performances. The loss to Carlos Tamara in 2010 now seems very long ago.
11. Timothy Bradley, welterweight
Bradley's exit from the top 10 is a casualty of the moves of others beneath him. Had he fought in December as planned, he might've held on to his ranking. He's due to fight in February, but probably not against anyone who would restore his spot.
12. Vitali Klitschko, heavyweight
Klitscko also fell out of the top 10 due to a certain level of inactivity, as he contemplates whether he wants to box anymore. I'd still watch Vitali-Haye any day.
13. Adrien Broner, lightweight
Broner lacks a marquee win, but he passes the "eyeball test" with flying colors, most visibly against top lightweight Antonio DeMarco in November. Now it's only about performing. He's up against Gavin Rees in February, an OK fight.
14. Robert Guerrero, welterweight
It's not that Andre Berto, his conquest in November, was a killer. But he was one of a slew of top-10 contenders Guerrero has beaten from featherweight to welterweight, and that adds up.
15. Brandon Rios, junior welterweight
Coming off a lackluster showing against Richard Abril in April, Rios didn't look like a P4P top-20 fighter. Defeating a top contender in a new division in October, Mike Alvarado, he was closer to the mark.
16. Chad Dawson, light heavyweight
If Dawson or anyone on the remainder of this list had really distinguished themselves in late 2012, maybe Broner, Guerrero and Rios don't jump over them. But Dawson didn't fight in late 2012, and his next fight is up in the air.
17. Bernard Hopkins, light heavyweight
B-Hop will finally return to the ring in March, against Tavoris Cloud. It was the best choice of the opponents he was considering.
18. Roman Gonzalez, junior flyweight
Juan Francisco Estrada took Gonzalez into the deep waters in November, but was it because Estrada was better than we thought, or Gonzalez isn't the same at this weight, or both? He stays put until we know.
19. Mikkel Kessler, super middleweight
Nothing against Brian Magee, but Kessler's December win over him only confirmed my shaky notion that Kessler belongs on a list like this still. If he faces Froch in early 2013, as is being discussed, we'll find out just how much he has left.
20. Orlando Salido, featherweight
Salido has stood pat on the list despite some inactivity, but only because others haven't forced their way into the rankings. Trout was worth a look, but Salido's got a slight edge. If Salido beats Mikey Garcia next month, he'll be safer.
Honorable mentions: Trout, Cotto, Moreno, Haye, Yuriokis Gamboa, Saul Alvarez, Chris John, Danny Garcia, Devon Alexander, Erislandy Lara