There is nothing different about this list than the last update in December. So what’s the point, you ask?
For one, it’s a good excuse to look at what’s been going on, what’s not been going on or will be going on with the best fighters in the world, regardless of division. There is sometimes news to be found, as the saying goes, in the “dog that didn’t bark.”
For another, I committed to doing an update every two months and I’m a man of my word. Even if it’s pointless. Which it’s not. At least, not entirely.
The criteria, as usual: The strong preference is for fighters who beat top competition, especially of recent vintage, although the eyeball test — a subjective evaluation of how a fighter looks — is a secondary factor, among others.
[UPDATED UPDATE: There was a surprise loss Friday -- hours after publication -- for one of the fighters on this list, Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, in what is the early frontrunner for Upset of the Year. As such, the list will be updated immediately.]
1. Manny Pacquiao (welterweight)
It’s a good thing for Pacquiao’s standing as the pound-for-pound king that he’s taking on an opponent in June that is viewed as a real threat coming in. A win over #11 Timothy Bradley could help him retain his status, with Floyd Mayweather, Jr.’s competition and performances being a notch over Pacquiao’s of late. The bad thing is that we have to wait until June.
2. Floyd Mayweather, Jr. (welterweight)
Depending on how he looks against #15 Miguel Cotto in May, it’s very possible we could have a changing of the guard even before Pacquiao even gets to Bradley. Don’t get me wrong, I’d give Pacquiao more credit for beating Bradley than Mayweather for beating Cotto, but things are so neck-and-neck in my mind that it might come down to performance.
3. Juan Manuel Marquez (lightweight)
Ya know, it’s not clear to me why Marquez isn’t fighting Pacquiao in June. Apparently he asked for too much money, but then there was going to be this whole Marquez-Lamont Peterson showdown for the right to fight Pacquiao next, so was the assumption that Marquez wouldn’t ask for too much money in November? Anyway, Marquez is currently without a dance partner and it’s too bad, cuz I miss JMM.
4. Andre Ward (super middleweight)
Ward is burning up any momentum he had coming off winning the Super Six with his recovery from a hand injury (no fault of his own) and his reluctance to face #14 Lucian Bute (sorta understandable, but ultimately a bad career move). It could be enough to get him passed next month by the next man on the list.
5. Sergio Martinez (middleweight)
Martinez is going to perpetually struggle to fight opponents in a shallow middleweight division who can do much for his pound-for-pound resume. Matthew Macklin is a solid 160-pounder, and because Ward just above him is vulnerable, a dominant performance by Martinez against Macklin could be enough to vault him up one spot. But to stay put long-term, he needs win volume, and he ain’t doing it.
6. Nonito Donaire (bantamweight)
Ah, someone who’s actually fought in the last two months! Donaire didn’t look terrific against Wilfredo Vazquez, Jr., some of which had to do with a solid performance by Vazquez. But it’s also getting easier to see Donaire as a gifted fighter who has peaked somewhat in his skillset. And plans to face Cristian Mijares next, maybe? That just looks bad. Guillermo Rigondeaux is too boring, but not Mijares…?
7. Wladimir Klitschko (heavyweight)
This Saturday, Wlad takes on his worst opponent in years in Jean Marc Mormeck. It will do absolutely nothing for his pound-for-pound status. But he’s not really threatened by much of anybody below him anytime soon, so I don’t suppose it matters. Someday, someone will pass him with a quality win, though, because the options for quality wins for Wlad at heavyweight are thin.
8. Vitali Klitschko (heavyweight)
I suppose you could dock Vitali for struggling with Dereck Chisora, or maybe you could boost him a little for overcoming a shoulder injury against a solid heavyweight. I kept him where he was. Whatever Donaire’s weaknesses of late, neither Klitschko is going to have the same kind of opportunities Nonito will in his weight class(es).
9. Bernard Hopkins (light heavyweight)
It’s a bit of a surprise that B-Hop is rematching Chad Dawson, but at minimum, it speaks to both men’s competitive spirit and desire to make it right with a no-contest where we’d all have preferred a conclusive victor. Should we get one, expect a big P4P leap for the winner.
10. Chad Dawson (light heavyweight)
See B-Hop, above.
11. Timothy Bradley (junior lightweight)
It’s almost impossible to underestimate what a win over Pacquiao would do for Bradley’s career. He’d go from a relatively unknown but talented boxer to the biggest new name in boxing. He’s got a few months to figure out how to make it happen.
12. Abner Mares (bantamweight)
Mares’ model is a bit better one than Ward’s for what you should do coming off a Showtime tournament win if you’re not gonna go in world-class after. Eric Morel, Mares’ April opponent, is at least a somewhat capable bantam.
13. Lucian Bute (super middleweight)
Showtime’s new regime isn’t off to a glorious start, turning down Bute vs. Carl Froch in May. With word that Epix will probably pick it up, we’re getting a very nice super middleweight fight televised somewhere in the U.S. — and a real chance for Bute to enter the P4P top 10.
14. Yuriorkis Gamboa (featherweight)
I could hardly be more worried for my boy YURIORKIS GAMBOA! taking on #16 Brandon Rios in April, two divisions north of his best. But the winner could be looking at top 10 status, and it’s a hell of an intriguing match-up.
15. Miguel Cotto (junior middleweight)
As with Bradley-Pacquiao, it’s almost impossible to underestimate what a win over Mayweather would do for Cotto’s career. He’d go from a popular action hero who never won “the big one” to a huge career highlight. He’s got a while to figure out how to make it happen.
16. Brandon Rios (lightweight)
A win over Gamboa in April could get him P4P status, but it could also put to rest once and for all the doubts about whether Rios is too basic to deal with a quick, slick boxer. A loss could confirm those doubts.
17. Carl Froch (super middleweight)
The Ward loss was a bad one, but a win over Bute could get him right back in the top 10 where I was virtually alone in putting Froch. Jermain Taylor, Jean Pascal, Andre Dirrell, Arthur Abraham, Bute… what’s not top-10ish about that?
18. Anselmo Moreno (bantamweight)
You wish Moreno would get a big fight coming off that eye-opening win over Vic Darchinyan — looking at you, Mares — but an April fight against David De La Mora, who recently came very close to beating Koki Kameda, might actually help Moreno’s P4P status a touch.
19. Brian Viloria (flyweight)
Viloria can’t seem to win two big fights in a row, but if he got revenge in April in a third meeting with Omar Nino Romero, he’d finally be worth more than a peripheral mention on a pound-for-pound list and maybe, just maybe, become someone who belongs.
20. Lamont Peterson (junior welterweight)
Lamont narrowly missed the list last time, so he replaces Pongsaklek Wonjongkam by default. If he beats Amir Khan once more in a rematch in May, he will have dispelled any notion that the first win was a fluke. But inhabiting the final spot is always a risky place to be, in the interim.
Honorable mentions: Roman Gonzalez; Amir Khan; Giovani Segura; Andre Dirrell; Mikkel Kessler; Orlando Salido; Juan Manuel Lopez; Erislandy Lara; Paul Williams; Chris John; Robert Guerrero; Toshiaki Nishioka; Devon Alexander; Pongsaklek Wonjongkam
(Here's what I had written about Pong...)
9. Pongsaklek Wongjongkam (flyweight)
Here's another guy fighting this weekend who will do nothing, I repeat nothing, for his pound-for-pound status. Sonny Boy Jaro isn't a total novice like some of Pong's opponents when he's just staying busy, but he's well over the hill and his record is looking pretty shoddy these days. Pong is potentially vulnerable -- like a couple people ahead of him -- depending on what happens with the next two men.
(Obviously, Jaro pulled off the big upset in a knockout win. Turned out Pong was vulnerable for other reasons, too.)]