The Chosen Ten
As 2006 draws to a close, Andy "TKO" Houghton ranks the prime movers in the pound for pound stakes for the new pugilistic year
By Andy "TKO" Houghton
Ok guys. First the disclaimer. This is only one man's opinion. It is not a matter of life and death, nor is it intended to be taken as a personal affront to anyone reading. In other words, the death threats and the anthrax through the mailbox can go to somebody else, ok? Down to business, the top ten fighters in the game at the moment (in my not so humble opinion) are...
1. Floyd Mayweather Junior
Status: WBC welterweight champ.
Strengths: Superb technical ability, foot and hand speed, movement, reflexes, solid chin
Weaknesses: Lack of genuine knockout power
Quite simply one of the most gifted technical fighters of recent generations, "Pretty Boy" has a list of victims reading like a who's who of boxing's lighter-to-middle weight classes. Apart from the first meeting with Jose Luis Castillo and moments early in the Judah bout, he's never really looked in trouble in a fight. Outclassed people's 147lb champ Carlos Baldomir earlier this month to win the WBC world crown.
Prognosis: Has announced that May matchup with DeLaHoya will be his last before retiring. We've heard that one before. If his retirement is as short-lived as most, Hatton, Cotto, Wright or Margarito would all make intriguing bouts. If not, expect a first ballot trip to Canastota.
2. Ronald "Winky" Wright
Status: Middleweight contender
Strengths: Ramrod jab, defence, strong chin, movement
Weaknesses: Lack of power, tendency to coast/fade late in fights.
An unbeaten run stretching back to 1999 and dominant wins over former top spot contenders "Tito" Trinidad and Shane Mosley cement the Florida southpaw's spot on the list. Featuring a watertight defence and one of the best jabs in boxing, this man is any opponent's nightmare. Came close to annexing middleweight title to add to status as the former WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO 154lb champ when he drew with Jermain Taylor. Comfortably outpointed former welter champ Ike Quartey last time out.
Prognosis: A rematch with Taylor would be a natural, but is apparently a no-no as Winky feels he clearly won the last one. Has spoken about moving to 168 to avenge stablemate Jeff Lacy's drubbing against Calzaghe. Realistically, not much else out there.
3. Manny Pacquiao
Status: People's Junior lightweight champ
Strengths: Incredible power, great left hand, hand speed, aggression, physical strength, stamina
Weaknesses: Can look flat-footed against stick and move opposition, struggles to fight inside
Phillipino whirling dervish came to the world's attention with an eleventh round tonking of Marco Antonio Barrera. A former flyweight and super bantam champ, has also become the first man to stop Erik Morales (twice) and soundly outpointed Oscar Larios lately. Juan Manual Marquez, who escaped with a 12 round draw, is the only Mexican fighter to come out of the ring semi unscathed against the Manila threshing machine.
Prognosis: Rubber match with Morales later this month. After that,a rematch is Barrera's for the taking... if the Mexican legend wants it!
4. Jermain Taylor
Status: WBO/WBC middleweight champ
Strengths: Power, size, great jab, chin, physical strength
Weaknesses: Sometimes open to the counter, struggles on the inside
He may have not looked brilliant in any encounter, but respect has to be given to a man who steps into the ring with Bernard Hopkins (twice) and Winky Wright and escapes with his 0 intact. Taylor is not the best fighter to watch but incredibly strong and until he stepped up often dominated his opponents without appearing to make any great effort.
Prognosis: In the absence of a Wright rematch its hard to see any other contender taking Taylor's belts.
5. Marco Antonio Barrera
Status: WBC super featherweight champ
Strengths: Vast experience, technical skills, bodypunching, left hook, adaptability
Weaknesses: Unable to keep up as high a tempo as in his younger days, has lost a bit of speed
Dominant second win over Rocky Juarez showed that the no longer so baby-faced assassain is not ready to fade away from the limelight just yet. Now much more a patient counterpuncher than the wrecking ball of his younger days, Mexico City legend is surely a certainty for Canastota when he finally hangs up the gloves.
Prognosis: Rematch with Pacquiao would be a natural for 2007.
6. Bernard Hopkins
Status: Light heavyweight contender & generally recognised #1
Strengths: Experience, technical brilliance, infighting, chin, movement, bodypunching
Weaknesses: Like Barrera has slowed down just a little, average power compared to younger days
Man you gotta love that Hopkins. The guy's capacity to amaze just never seems to cease. Just six months after losing a second, close decision to Jermain Taylor, with the whole boxing world wondering if he was finished, X steps up two weight classes after over a decade and proceeds to pound the possible top dog at 175 in one-sided fashion. Then, after announcing that the victory would be his last bout, at going on 42 he apparently backtracks and wants to emulate old rival Roy Jones Jnr and James Toney by becoming a heavyweight champ. Expect to see a 50-year-old Hopkins in the UFC by 2015.
Prognosis: Has thrown out the gauntlet to WBC heavyweight titlist Oleg Maskaev. If not, maybe time to look again at going out on top.
7. Joe Calzaghe
Status: WBO/IBF Super middleweight champ
Strengths: Handspeed, variety, adaptability, high workrate, left hand power
Weaknesses: Brittle hands, tendancy to fight to the level of his opposition
The Newbridge fighter's one-sided pasting of undefeated Jeff Lacy in March showed the rest of the world what the Brits have known for years, this man is an awesome talent. With six world champions among his 20 world title victims and the WBO belt round his waist for over nine years, Calzaghe's talents are obvious to all but the most blinkered of observers.
Prognosis: Has indicated a desire to mix it up with middleweight champ Taylor, but an all-the-belts bout with Mikkel Kessler is the one we all want to see.
8. Rafael Marquez
Status: IBF Bantamweight champ
Strengths: Awesome punch power, aggression, variety, heart
Weaknesses: Questionable chin
IBF bantamweight champ since 2003 when he shocked the then undefeated Tim Austin by seventh round KO, the younger brother of Juan Manuel is one fearsome fighter (only 4 of his 36 wins have gone the distance). Stopped previously undefeated Silence Mabuza twice in last two bouts.
Prognosis: Suffers unfairly from his size (or lack thereof). Barring a show-stopping meeting with either Israel Vazquez or Jhonny Gonzalez, this excellent brawler will probably continue to rack up defences off the mainstream radar.
9. Mikkel Kessler
Status: WBA/WBC Super middleweight champ
Strengths: Right hand power, size, physical strength, chin, patience
Weaknesses: Slightly methodical, weak opposition to date
A slightly controversial choice, but Dane Kessler has lit up the division over the past couple of years, stopping world champs Manny Siaca, Eric Lucas and Markus Beyer and comfortably outpointing highly ranked Aussie Anthony Mundine. A huge super middle, he brings power and a walk-you-down style to the table.
Prognosis: Hopefully a potential barnstormer with Calzaghe for undisputed top dog status.
10. Ricky Hatton
Status: Junior welterweight contender
Strengths: Physical strength, aggression, variety, bodypunching, incredible workrate
Weaknesses: Footwork, slightly one-dimensional style, weaknesses against southpaws
Forget his close call with Luis Collazo for the welterweight title in March, at 140lbs Hatton is a threshing machine. With solid chin, incredible fitness and workrate and debilitating bodyblows, few this side of Floyd Mayweather could hope to hold him off. Takes on his fourth world champ in consecutive fights when he meets Juan Urange in January for his old IBF belt.
Prognosis: If he gets past Urango, midsummer megafight with former lightweight champ Jose Luis Castillo looks likely.
The Next 10:
11. Oscar DeLaHoya (Early summer megafight with Mayweather looks likely to be his last hurrah- win or lose)
12. Jose Luis Castillo (Set for a big 2007 with possible war against Hatton lined up- if he can make weight!)
13. Miguel Cotto (Early signs are that the Boricua superstar may be even more destructive at his new weight class)
14. Shane Mosley (Unwise to write him off yet, big wins over Vargas breathed new life into "Sugar"'s career)
15. Chris John (Let's see how he fares against a big name outside of home turf)
16. Juan Manuel Marquez (With most big names at 130, interim champ may have to move up or become Mr Who Needs Him)
17. Antonio Margarito (Somebody at 147 is gonna have to deal with him)
18. Joel Casamayor (Still has the skills, getting slightly long in the tooth at 35)
19. Diego Corrales (Did a Castillo for his last bout, missing the weight by miles. May have to follow JLC up to 140lbs)
20. Israel Vazquez (Almost unchallengeable right now, though a meeting with Daniel Ponce DeLeon would promise fireworks)
Any comments please email Andy "TKO" Houghton