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BoxingScene Pound for Pound Top Ten
By Cliff Rold

1) Roman Gonzalez (44-0, 38 KO)
Age:
28
Current Titles: Lineal/TBRB/Ring/WBC World Flyweight (2014-Present, 3 Defenses)
Additional Titles: WBA Minimumweight (2008-10, 3 Defenses); WBA Light Flyweight (2010-14, 5 Defenses)
Record in Title Fights: 13-0, 9 KO (14-0, 10 KO including interim title fights); 4-0, 4 KO (Lineal only)
Last Five Opponents: Brian Viloria (TKO9), Edgar Sosa (TKO2), Valentin Leon (TKO3), Rocky Fuentes (TKO6), Akira Yaegashi (TKO9)

Next Opponent: TBA

The Take: Brian Viloria found out what everyone else has as he suffered the first knockdown, and second stoppage, of his career. Gonzalez outboxes people while he breaks them. This appears to be the best fighter in the lower weights since the era of Mark Johnson, Ricardo Lopez, and Michael Carbajal. He might be more than that. We might be watching the best Flyweight since Miguel Canto or even Pascual Perez (at least). His combination power punching has a Louis-esque quality. His subtle defense off the front foot hints at the terror of Duran. Since 2008, he’s defeated the man regarded then as tops at 105 lbs. (Yutaka Niida), three fighters who went on to unify parts of their divisions (Juan Francisco Estrada, Francisco Rodriguez, and Katsunari Takayama), and in the last 13 months has shredded three quality veterans in one of boxing’s most talented current classes. Gonzalez seems to know when the lights are brightest, coming up big under the spotlight again against Viloria. He’s at ten stoppages in a row and fifteen in his last sixteen starts. The only foe to last the distance in that stretch, Estrada, did it in a classic.  It’s the rematch every fan that follows the lower classes should want to see; the antithesis of the awful idea of a Giovani Segura defense that floated for a moment. A brewing showdown with 115 lb. ingénue Naoya Inoue can wait while Gonzalez completes his run against one of the more stacked Flyweight fields in recent memory.  

2) Sergey Kovalev (28-0-1, 25 KO)
Age:
32
Current Titles: WBO Light Heavyweight (2013-Present, 6 Defenses); WBA Super/IBF Light Heavyweight (2014-Present, 1 Defense)
Record in Title Fights: 7-0, 6 KO
Last Five Opponents: Nadjib Mohammedi (KO3), Jean Pascal (TKO 8), Bernard Hopkins (UD12), Blake Capparello (TKO2), Cedric Agnew (KO7)

 Next Opponent: January 30, 2016 vs. Jean Pascal (30-3-1, 17 KO)

The Take: Russia’s Kovalev continues to explode through the ratings much the way he explodes on foes. He passed the eye test in walking through the skilled and tricky Gabriel Campillo. The eyes weren’t lying. His win over Pascal was both exciting and potent, stopping a man who had never been stopped before and taking some fire along the way. A looming rematch appears unnecessary but it should be entertaining. Kovalev dominated and beat up the aged Hopkins, scoring a knockdown and nearly forcing a stoppage in the final round. While he may not be the lineal king at 175 lbs., Kovalev is the people’s champ now and he’s getting the fights to merit his place here. History’s king, Adonis Stevenson, seems ready to make it happen finally but will politics and networks keep them apart? Kovalev and Andre Ward share an HBO home and signs point to a possible showdown whether Kovalev-Stevenson happens or not. Either would be the best Light Heavyweight match on paper in quite some time.

3) Andre Ward (28-0, 15 KO)
Age:
31
Current Titles: Lineal/TBRB/WBA “Super” Super Middleweight (2011-Present, 2 Defenses)
Additional Titles:
WBC Super Middleweight (2011-13, 1 Defense); Ring Magazine (2011-15, 2 Defenses)
Record in Title Fights: 7-0, 1 KO
Last Five Opponents: Paul Smith (TKO9), Edwin Rodriguez (UD12), Chad Dawson (TKO10), Carl Froch (UD12), Arthur Abraham (UD12)

Next Opponent: TBA

The Take: Ward had the look of next in line to Mayweather and may well have been the obvious choice were it not for outside the ring issues. They crippled his career in the last three years. It’s been that long since he faced an opponent anyone was really interested in and two years since he faced a fringe top ten contender in Rodriguez. Since then, Ward has had shoulder surgery, struggled in court against his former promoter, and dominated an unmotivated and overweight Smith. Those are the negatives. Here are the positives. Ward doesn’t appear to be any less a fighter than he was a few years ago and that fighter so thoroughly cleaned out 168 lbs. that at one point every belt Ward didn’t have in the division was worn by someone he had defeated. While he still holds a belt there, Super Middleweight is probably in his rearview mirror. Gennady Golovkin is staying at Middleweight and Ward is looking at Light Heavyweight going forward. A showdown with Kovalev would go a long way to restoring the shine on Ward’s career…if he could beat the devastating Russian.       

4) Gennady Golovkin (34-0, 31 KO)
Age:
33
Current Title: WBA Middleweight (2010-Present, 15 Defenses), IBF Middleweight (2015-Present, 0 Defenses)
Additional Titles
: None
Record in Title Fights: 15-0, 15 KO (16-0, 16 KO including interim title fights)
Last Five Opponents: David Lemieux (TKO8), Willie Monroe Jr. (TKO6), Martin Murray (TKO11), Marco Antonio Rubio (KO2), Daniel Geale (TKO3)

Next Opponent: TBA

The Take: Golovkin has made clear he’s sticking at Middleweight to unify the division. He’s not fighting to be compared to the great scale crossers but to Marvin Hagler and Carlos Monzon, middleweight rulers who stayed put and cleaned out the field. After the Lemieux knockout, he’s halfway there. Will he get the fights he needs to complete his unification desires? Depending on how one counts his early WBA ‘regular’ title defenses, that’s not all Golovkin is fighting for. His 15 consecutive knockout title defenses is three shy of the mark Wilfredo Gomez made at 122 lbs. Bernard Hopkins’ 20 title defenses is also within reach. There are still questions about Golovkin. However avoided he’s been, he still doesn’t have the sort of upper echelon competition, relative to their divisions, some others on the list on the list do. What he lacked in middleweight top ten foes he’s now banking with authority. While he waits for Saul Alvarez and a crack at history’s crown, will he get a chance at more unification with WBO titlist Billy Joe Saunders or face a mandatory in Tureano Johnson?

5) Guillermo Rigondeaux (16-0, 10 KO)
Age:
35
Current Titles: Lineal/TBRB/Ring/World Jr. Featherweight (2013-15, 3 Defenses)
Previous Titles:
WBA “Super” Super Bantamweight (2012-15, 6 Defenses); Lineal/TBRB/Ring/WBO World Jr. Featherweight (2013-15, 3 Defenses)
Record in Title Fights: 7-0, 4 KO (8-0, 5 KO including interim title fights); 3-0, 1 KO (Lineal Only)
Last Five Opponents: Drian Francisco (UD10), Hisashi Amagasa (RTD11), Sod Kokietgym (KO1), Joseph Agbeko (UD12), Nonito Donaire (UD12)

Next Opponent: TBA

The Take: Rigondeuax defused the talented Nonito Donaire for most of twelve rounds to make clear his place at Jr. Featherweight. Now, the real champion of the division finds himself with plenty of challengers who don’t want to challenge him and management issues that made it a non-issue for most of two years. Even after a gutsy Amagassa, in an otherwise lopsided loss, dropped Rigondeaux twice in the seventh the suitors weren’t knocking. Rigondeaux was on the shelf for most of 2015 and did nothing to enhance his market value with a forgettable win on the undercard of Saul Alvarez-Miguel Cotto. Even if forgettable, he’s lost few rounds in his career and remains the man everyone hopes gets old or goes away. The WBA has mandated he get first crack at the winner of Carl Frampton-Scott Quigg. In a sporting sense, that’s exactly the fight that should happen. As a unification match, will the winner just dump the belt and avoid the Cuban? 

6) Manny Pacquiao (57-6-2, 38 KO)
Age: 37
Current Title: None
Lineal World Championships: World Flyweight (1998-99, 1 Defense); World Featherweight (2003-2005, 2 Defenses); World Jr. Lightweight (2008); World Junior Welterweight (2009-10)
Additional Titles: WBC Flyweight (1998-99, 1 Defense); IBF Jr. Featherweight (2001-03, 4 Defenses); WBC Super Featherweight (2008); WBC Lightweight (2008); Ring Jr. Welterweight (2009-10); WBO Welterweight (2009-12, 3 Defenses); WBC Super Welterweight lbs. (2010-11)
Record in Title Fights: 18-3-2, 11 KO, 1 KOBY (Overall); 6-2-1, 5 KO, 1 KOBY (Lineal Only)
Last Five Opponents: Floyd Mayweather Jr. (L12), Chris Algieri (UD12), Timothy Bradley (UD12, L12), Brandon Rios (UD12), Juan Manuel Marquez (MD12, KO by 6)

 

Next Opponent: April 9, 2016 vs. Timothy Bradley (33-1-1, 13 KO)

The Take: There is only so much ground to lose when defeat comes at the hands of the best fighter in the world. Pacquiao showed in spots why a Mayweather fight was craved for so long. He rocked Mayweather in the fourth and stung him a few other times. Winning three or four rounds was about the class most of Mayweather’s better foes have come up with before Mayweather solves them and shuts them down. Sometimes, the other guy is just better. Prior to Mayweather, rumors of Pacquiao’s demise were ill founded.  In the three fights after a knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez, Pacquiao shut out former titlist Brandon Rios, dominated Timothy Bradley, and then walked through then-Jr. Welterweight titlist Chris Algieri.  Pacquiao, now 37, is talking retirement and looking at a third fight few want with Bradley. In the absence of Mayweather though, it may be the two best welterweights in the game. Will 2016 be the swan song for the Filipino icon? Is he finally old enough for Bradley to beat him for real?

7) Saul Alvarez (46-1-1, 32 KO)

Age: 25

Current Titles: Lineal/TBRB/Ring/WBC World Middleweight (2015-Present, 0 Defenses)

Additional Titles: WBC Super Welterweight (2011-13, 6 Defenses); Ring/WBA Super Welterweight (2013)

Record in Title Fights: 8-1, 4 KO

Last Five Opponents: Miguel Cotto (UD12), James Kirkland (KO3), Erislandy Lara (SD12), Alfredo Angulo (TKO10), Floyd Mayweather (L12)

 

Next Opponent: TBA

 

The Take: He wasn’t good enough to beat Mayweather. No one else was either. Alvarez has been good enough to beat everyone else, eking by difficult talents like Trout and Lara and clearly defeating a game but outgunned Cotto. Lara and Trout point to one of the things fans like about Alvarez. He takes fights many assume he will be managed away from. He doesn’t always look elegant doing it but he has the results to mark him one of boxing’s best. A showdown with Golovkin beckons and it’s a matter of when, not if. A win would elevate Alvarez to another level of esteem. A loss would be something he could rebound from given his age. Will he show the world his willingness to test himself again in 2016? For now, the Cotto win was enough to move him past Estrada as Mexico’s best active fighter after a throwaway year for his smaller countryman. 

 

8) Juan Francisco Estrada (33-2, 24 KO)

Age: 25

Current Titles: WBA “Super”/WBO Flyweight (2013-Present, 5 Defenses)

Additional Titles: None

Record in Title Fights: 6-1, 5 KO

Last Five Opponents: Tyson Marquez (KO10), Rommel Asenjo (TKO3), Joebert Alvarez (UD10), Giovani Segura (TKO11), Richie Mepranum (TKO10)

 

Next Opponent: TBA

 

The Take: Sometimes, a loss can be a win. It was the case for Estrada when he gave Roman Gonzalez hell in a 2012 Fight of the Year contender. Raising his stock, he got a crack at unified Flyweight titlist Brian Viloria and hasn’t looked back. Tabbed by Juan Manuel Marquez as perhaps Mexico’s finest young champion, Estrada followed his win over Viloria with a knockdown and decision over the previously undefeated Melindo. Then he took the veteran Segura apart, stopping him for only the second time and shaking off the few power shots Segura got in. It was a thorough beating full of skill and precise punching and evidence that Estrada is at full stride. His only other defeat came in an eight-round loss in 2011 where he and then-future 115 lb. titlist Juan Carlos Sanchez exchanged knockdowns. It was avenged via knockout. Estrada had a pedestrian non-title showing versus Alvarez and the bottom-of-the-barrel choice of Asenjo for a title defense was uninspired. The win over Marquez showed off his offensive arsenal, but Marquez’s recent form suggested the outcome before it started. Let’s hope Estrada’s 2015 was a calm before the best storm one could ask for at 112 lbs: a 2016 rematch with Gonzalez.      

 

9) Terrence Crawford (26-0, 18 KO)

Age: 28

Current Titles: WBO Light Welterweight (2015-Present, 1 Defense)

Lineal Titles: World Lightweight (2014-15)

Additional Titles: WBO Lightweight (2014-15, 2 Defenses)

Record in Title Fights: 4-0, 2 KO; 1-0 (Lineal only)

Last Five Opponents: Dierry Jean (TKO10), Thomas Dulorme (TKO6), Raymundo Beltran (UD12), Yuriorkis Gamboa (TKO9), Ricky Burns (UD12)

 

Next Opponent: February 27, 2016 vs. Hank Lundy (26-5-1, 13 KO)

 

The Take: Crawford had a Fighter of the Year-worthy run in 2014 and made a sensational move to 140 lbs. 2015. The opponents were just okay and 2016 starts off with the same problem. A possible showdown with Viktor Postol might not be a thriller but the skill level would present an intriguing clash. It appears a pick ‘em fight. Crawford is an exceptional blend of speed, skill, and has power to go with it. Against Gamboa, he showed some whiskers and will to go with it. There is a feeling looking at Crawford that this is the total package and his stock should only rise in the next few years if and as he continues to win (and if he gets fights that matter).

 

10) James DeGale (22-1, 14 KO)

Age: 29

Current Titles: IBF Super Middleweight (2015-Present, 1 Defense)

Record in Title Fights: 2-0

Last Five Opponents: Lucian Bute (UD12), Andre Dirrell (UD12), Marco Periban (TKO3), Brandon Gonzalez (TKO4), Gevorg Khatchikian (TKO11)

Next Opponent: TBA

The Take: Perhaps its premature but the 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist from the UK lived up to his potential in 2015. Going on the road for both of his championship starts, DeGale showed he could handle the pressure of being away from home with style. In the States, he dropped 2004 US Bronze Medalist Andre Dirrell twice en route to a decision win, outboxing a who had won three straight in a 2014 comeback of sorts. Then DeGale headed to Canada and faced a Lucian Bute who showed up better than he had in years. Showing more aggression and combination punching than he had against Dirrell, DeGale left the determined Bute with only a moral victory. Speed, skill, size and a solid boxing IQ, DeGale has everything but consistent single shot power. A lone, debatable hiccup against domestic rival George Groves is well behind him. A unification bout with resurgent Badou Jack would go a long way to reigniting the 168 lb. class. 

Five More Who Could Easily Be Here: Timothy Bradley, Donnie Nietes, Adonis Stevenson, Takashi Uchiyama, Shinsuke Yamanaka

Five for the Future: Artur Beterbiev, Carl Frampton, Naoya Inoue, Vasyl Lomachenko, Nicholas Walters

As always, feel free to agree…and disagree.  This list is for entertainment purposes only and based purely on imagination, hypotheticals, and conjecture just like every other pound for pound list ever written.  Neither it nor any other such list made up of such illusory ingredients should be used to forward corporate agendas of any kind. 

That doesn’t make it any less fun to argue about.

For the latest BoxingScene Divisional Ratings: http://www.boxingscene.com/forums/view.php?pg=boxing-ratings

Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.  He can be reached at [email protected]


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