(Andre Ward pops Chad Dawson)
It's been three months since we updated the pound-for-pound list of the best fighters in the world, but one of those months, July, featured literally nothing happening for anyone who could be considered one of the 20 best, so we waited for a more reasonable two-month interval to pass. Those other two months had a few things going for them.
For instance: No longer is Manny Pacquiao the first or second best boxer alive, at least not according to us and some of the other people who find lists like this a worthwhile endeavor. Featherweight Yuriorkis Gamboa hit one year of inactivity, leading to his removal from the list altogether. And a lot is about to go down over the remainder of 2012, starting next weekend, so expect a couple more updates before the year ends -- along with a preview of some of that action here.
As usual, the most important standard for p4p placement is quality wins, with an emphasis on wins of recent vintage. The last update is here.
1. Floyd Mayweather, junior middleweight
Talk of Mayweather fighting again in 2012 was, after all, just talk. Aside from the occasional run-in with the law or gossipy items about his relationship with rapper 50 Cent, all is quiet for the pound-for-pound king as fresh blood nips at his heels.
2. Andre Ward, super middleweight
It's come to this. Ward is so exceptional, and has beaten so many good fighters, that he has finally supplanted long-time pound-for-pound top-2er Pacquiao. The win over Chad Dawson may get docked a bit for the potential that Dawson was weight-drained, but he still beat another borderline top-10 fighter.
3. Manny Pacquiao, welterweight
Pacquiao, though, has made himself more vulnerable with an official loss against Timothy Bradley that wasn't much his fault and a consensus loss to Juan Manuel Marquez and just generally not looking like the killer of old. He'll get a chance to prove his doubters wrong with another Marquez showdown in December.
4. Juan Manuel Marquez, junior welterweight
See Pacquiao, above. I was tempted to move Sergio Martinez above him, but it's hard for me to shake my belief that Marquez has beaten Pacquiao twice at a time when Pacquiao was the #1 man, no matter what the judges said. That's not the only thing he has done, of course, but it's a heck of a start.
5. Sergio Martinez, middleweight
Martinez was excellent for 11 rounds in September against Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., arguably the top middleweight challenger to the champ, but the magnificence of that performance suffered in the 12th when he got dropped. He might be off for a while recovering from various injuries, and that will leave him vulnerable to getting overtaken by a man fighting next weekend...
6. Nonito Donaire, junior featherweight
Donaire is taking on the top man at junior featherweight, Toshiaki Nishioka, who's in the ESPN pound-for-pound top 20. A spectacular, top-of-his-game Donaire performance could bump him over Martinez.
7. Carl Froch, super middleweight
For once, Froch isn't taking on as good an opponent as he possibly can: In November, he'll face Yusaf Mack in something of a breather. If anyone's earned it, he has.
8. Wladimir Klitschko, heavyweight
This is why, as deep as his resume is, Wlad has trouble staying in the top five of my p4p list: His November opponent is Mariusz Wach, an honest pug to be sure but the kind of fighter who, if he was shrunken to proportional sizes in any other division, wouldn't be a top 20 contender. David Haye is about the only opponent on Wlad's resume with any real pound-for-pound quality, and even then he was near the bottom of the top 20 at the time.
9. Timothy Bradley, welterweight
Bradley will fight Dec. 15 against Lamont Peterson or Robert Guerrero or Ruslan Provodnikov or somebody. None of those names are bound to get him climbing this list.
10. Vitali Klitschko, heavyweight
Is the big man finally going to retire for good? Or will he try to take on Haye? We might not know for a long time, so Vitali's return to the top 10 could be short-lived, based on what happens between #11 and #12.
11. Abner Mares, junior featherweight
One of the fall's underrated fights is Nov. 10, when Mares squares off against Anselmo Moreno. Absent a draw, it's going to be hard for the winner not to be in the top 10 thereafter.
12. Anselmo Moreno, junior featherweight
See Mares, above.
13. Miguel Cotto, junior middleweight
Also, Cotto could be angling for a top 10 spot again if he beats Austin Trout Dec. 1. Cotto has been in the news more for denying things his former promoter Bob Arum is saying about a rematch with Paquiao, but Cotto-Trout is a typical high-risk fight for Cotto, one of boxing's most fearless fighters.
14. Brian Viloria, flyweight
Viloria feels high here, but he can prove he belongs by beating Hernan Tyson Marquez Nov. 17, in a fight that is arguably between the two best men in the division.
15. Chad Dawson, light heavyweight
How much do you dock a guy for taking on the champ in a division south who proved that he is in the discussion for "best fighter alive?" This much, it turns out.
16. Bernard Hopkins, light heavyweight
B-Hop's plans are unknown at this point, although every now and then he surfaces to bark at some other fighter, like, recently, Nathan Cleverly, to explain how much better he is than them.
17. Brandon Rios, junior welterweight
He's making his official junior welterweight new home debut next weekend, and he's taking on an opponent who will be no daisy: Mike Alvarado, a big, unrelenting 140-pounder who very well could knock him off if Rios isn't as good at the new weight.
18. Roman Gonzalez, junior flyweight
"Chocolatito" fight this weekend, but he beat an overmatched opponent in a stoppage that has been questioned. I'd love it if he could fight Ulises Solis but Solis has been recovering from injuries for a long, long time.
19. Mikkel Kessler, super middleweight
Kessler can't decide if he's a super middle or light heavy these days, but he continues to take on good, not great, competition -- his next opponent is Brian Magee on Dec. 8.
20. Orlando Salido, featherweight
Too bad about Salido having to pull out of that Mikey Garcia fight Nov. 10. That one, too, would've been a doozy. But he squeaks in here thanks to the departure of Gamboa.
Honorable mentions: Yuriorkis Gamboa; Lucian Bute; Danny Garcia; Lamont Peterson; Chris John; Giovani Segura; Andre Dirrell; Erislandy Lara; Robert Guerrero; Juan Manuel Lopez; Toshiaki Nishioka; Devon Alexander; Pongsaklek Wonjongkam; Adrien Broner
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