Commentary

New year, same order -- for now

Take a good look at this list because this time next year, many of the fighters in January's pound-for-pound rankings will have fought each other, writes Dan Rafael.

Originally Published: January 6, 2008
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

Who is the world's best fighter, regardless of weight class? See my top 20 below.

Make sure to check back in two weeks for my division-by-division rankings.

For a list of the current champions in all weight classes, click here.

Note: Results through Jan 10.

TOP 10
Floyd Mayweather Jr.
1. Floyd Mayweather Jr. (39-0, 25 KOs)


Welterweight champion
Hits: The 2007 ESPN.com Fighter of the Year (and Ring magazine's, for that matter) was well deserving of his recognition. He defeated two huge names in the year's two biggest fights, outpointing Oscar De La Hoya and impressively knocking out Ricky Hatton. Equally as important was that the fights were mainstream successes judging by the media attention, pay-per-view sales (combined 3.25 million homes) and two sellout crowds at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Years don't get much bigger for a fighter.
Misses: Instead of moving full steam ahead with a super fight against Miguel Cotto or any number of quality potential opponents, Mayweather is instead talking about taking a long break or exploring entrance into mixed martial arts. That is very disappointing, especially when he is at the peak of his career.

Joe Calzaghe
2. Joe Calzaghe (44-0, 32 KOs)


Super middleweight champion
Hits: In 2007, Calzaghe celebrated his 10th year as a champion, made his 20th and 21st title defenses and unified belts with a stunningly lopsided decision against formidable Mikkel Kessler in front of more than 50,000 fans. If there was any previous doubt, Calzaghe also punched his ticket to the International Boxing Hall of Fame no matter what happens in his proposed spring fight with light heavyweight champ Bernard Hopkins.
Misses: The only problem looming is if he and promoter Frank Warren blow the Hopkins deal. Other than that, it's all peachy keen.

Manny Pacquiao
3. Manny Pacquiao (45-3-2, 34 KOs)


Junior lightweight
Hits: Pacquiao's March 15 rematch with Juan Manuel Marquez is one of the fights we've all been dying to see again, so kudos to Pacquiao for taking it when he could have easily gone in a different direction and still make a ton of dough for an easier fight.
Misses: Let's see -- we've got the fight we want, his promotional situation has been sorted out and he's already busy training. What is there to complain about?

Bernard Hopkins
4. Bernard Hopkins (48-4-1, 32 KOs)


Light heavyweight champion
Hits: By all accounts, B-Hop has been quite reasonable during negotiations with Calzaghe, so if the fight doesn't happen, it appears as though we won't be able to blame Hopkins, which hasn't always been the case with other fights that fell through.
Misses: Hopefully, if the fight with Calzaghe gets finalized, Hopkins won't continue to resort to the gutter promotional tactics of turning the fight into a race war. It's unnecessary and won't be tolerated.

Juan Manuel Marquez
5. Juan Manuel Marquez (48-3-1, 35 KOs)


Junior lightweight champion
Hits: It took some trials and tribulations to make the long-awaited rematch between Marquez and Pacquiao, but Marquez, after initially turning down an immediate rematch in 2004 because he radically priced himself out of it, finally came around. He took the short side of the deal to get it done.
Misses: Marquez, now 34, might be slipping just a tad. It's possible he waited too long to make the rematch with Pacquiao, 29, who is better now than he was when they first met.

Miguel Cotto
6. Miguel Cotto (31-0, 25 KOs)


Welterweight titlist
Hits: Cotto and promoter Top Rank have not shied away from matching Cotto with anybody. He's a star, he's in his prime, he's exciting and he'll fight anybody. With Shane Mosley and Zab Judah vanquished in 2007, bring on Mayweather or De La Hoya, or even Paul Williams, Antonio Margarito or Kermit Cintron.
Misses: Because Cotto probably won't make his 2008 debut until April, it means the turnaround for him to return in early June will be too quick. That means he won't headline a big show at Madison Square Garden on the eve of New York's annual Puerto Rican Day parade this year.

Winky Wright
7. Winky Wright (51-4-1, 25 KOs)


Middleweight
Hits: Although he fought at 170 pounds, well over his usual 160, Wright was highly competitive in a loss to Bernard Hopkins in his last fight in July, a testament to how good of a boxer he is.
Misses: Since that loss, Wright hasn't fought and there is no obvious notable fight on the horizon for him. He is stuck in no-man's land. The name middleweights, Kelly Pavlik and Jermain Taylor, are occupied with each other. The top super middleweight, Calzaghe, is probably going to fight Hopkins. And a bout with the one notable junior middleweight who would make sense for him to fight, titleholder Vernon Forrest, is tough to make because there isn't that much money in the fight, relatively speaking.

Israel Vazquez
8. Israel Vazquez (42-4, 32 KOs)


Junior featherweight champion
Hits: Win or lose the rubber match with Rafael Marquez, they gave us two fantastic fights in 2007, which resulted in the rematch being named fight of the year by ESPN.com (and Ring magazine) and the third round from the rematch being selected as round of the year.
Misses: Is it possible for the third fight to live up to expectations after the first two sensational brawls?

Rafael Marquez
9. Rafael Marquez (37-4, 33 KOs)


Junior featherweight
Hits: Despite taking a lot of punishment and being stopped by Vazquez in the sixth round of the epic rematch in August, Marquez isn't taking a breather. He's going right back in with the guy who stopped him when few would have blamed him for taking another fight.
Misses: This isn't on the fighters, but the rubber match is supposed to be March 1. However, no site has been announced yet. After the dismal attendance and poor promotion of the first two bouts, you'd think the organizers, Gary Shaw, Sycuan Ringside Promotions and Golden Boy, would get to work already.

Kelly Pavlik
10. Kelly Pavlik (32-0, 29 KOs)


Middleweight champion
Hits: From solid contender to world champion and pound-for-pound entrant, Pavlik had a terrific 2007, going 3-0 with three knockouts against veteran tough guy Jose Luis Zertuche, top contender (and favorite) Edison Miranda and champion Jermain Taylor. Hell of a year with a big 2008 ahead, including the rematch with Taylor on Feb. 16 and a possible June defense against John Duddy.
Misses: Because Taylor insisted on it in his rematch clause, Pavlik-Taylor II will be at 166 pounds, meaning the middleweight championship won't be at stake. It takes just a little luster off the fight.

The next 10

11. Juan Diaz
12. Shane Mosley
13. Oscar De La Hoya
14. Ricky Hatton
15. Ivan "Iron Boy" Calderon
16. Jermain Taylor
17. Chris John
18. Cory Spinks
19. Paul Williams
20. Antonio Margarito