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The Ring 100: the Top 25

09
Jan

This is the 13th year of THE RING 100, and this time, something’s missing. It’s something that’s never been missing before, not by a long shot: the previous year’s number-one fighter.

The retirement of Floyd Mayweather, following three consecutive years that saw “Money’s” name atop these annual rankings, has drastically altered the complexion of the pound-for-pound list. It’s given us a new number one, naturally, but it’s had a trickle-down effect also. The fighter who would be number 11 if Mayweather was still active is now in the top 10; the fighter who would be number 21 is now in the top 20; and so forth down to the fighter who would be number 101 and left out of THE RING 100 and is instead included in this collection of the best boxers in the world.

However, there have been more recent changes to THE RING 100.

Since this is the first time these rankings, compiled last October for the January 2009 edition of the magazine, have appeared on TheRing-online.com there have been numerous updates made to the list based on fights that occurred in November and December of ’08.

For example, junior bantamweight standout Vic Darchinyan, who unified three 115-pound titles when he stopped highly regarded Cristian Mijares in November, was ranked No. 53 in THE RING 100 that appeared in the magazine. Now the dynamic puncher ranks in the top 25 after his tremendous performance, one of the biggest upsets of last year.

Where did Darchinyan land? Where do the other standouts from ’08 like talented light heavyweight Chad Dawson, junior featherweight bomber Juan Manuel Lopez, and unified lightweight titleholder Nate Campbell rank? Read on and find out.

25
HOZUMI HASEGAWA
WBC Bantamweight Titleholder 25-2 (9)
Last Year’s Ranking: 29
Status Report: Skillful Japanese southpaw more or less marked time this year, turning back decent Italian Simone Maludrottu (W 12) in January, Uruguayan clubfighter Cristian Faccio (KO 2) in June, and solid Mexican Alejandro Valdez (TKO 2) in October. Only losses came in third and fifth pro fights, both by four-round decision.
Future: Has never fought outside Japan, which may have to change for him to secure a truly meaningful bantamweight fight. Fellow titlists Anselmo Moreno, Joseph Agbeko, and Gerry Penalosa are all dangerous. Golden Boy Promotions is interested in luring him to the U.S. to fight young guns Abner Mares and Nestor Rocha.

24
JUAN MANUEL LOPEZ
WBO Junior Featherweight Titleholder 24-0 (22)
Last Year’s Ranking: not rated
Status Report: Since failing to make last year’s rankings because he was still a highly unproven prospect, Puerto Rican southpaw has won five times in a total of eight rounds. The win that assured him of a spot in THE RING 100 came against the dangerous Daniel Ponce DeLeon (KO 1), but almost as impressive were wipeouts of Omar Adorno (KO 2), Jonathan Oquendo (KO 3), Cesar Figueroa (KO 1), and Sergio Martinez (TKO 1). And you wouldn’t know it from all the knockouts, but 2004 Olympian is just as slick as he is powerful.
Future: There’s talk of a possible defense against 118-pound titlist Gerry Penalosa in April. By the end of ’09, should be ready for Israel Vazquez, Rafael MarquezÔÇöanyone at 122.

23
CELESTINO CABALLERO
WBA/IBF Super Bantamweight Titleholder 31-2 (22)
Last Year’s Ranking: 53
Status Report: Frighteningly skinny PanamanianÔÇöhe’s 5’11”, 122 poundsÔÇöproved to be frighteningly good with his four-round drubbing of fellow beltholder Steve Molitor on the Canadian’s home turf last November. The undefeated southpaw was supposed to give Caballero a stern challenge but was never in the fight. The elongated boxer-puncher had three other wins in the past year, stoppage wins over former titlists Mauricio Pastrana (KO 8) and Lorenzo Parra (KO 12) as well as ordinary Elvis Mejia (KO 1). Might just be the best junior feather in the world, but can’t crash the Israel Vazquez-Rafael Marquez party to prove it.
Future: Desperately wants to take on the top 122 pounders but will probably have to kill time defending against IBF mandatory Jeffery Mathebula.

22
CHAD DAWSON
IBF Light Heavyweight Titleholder 27-0 (17) with 1 no-contest
Last Year’s Ranking: 40
Status Report: Floyd Mayweather’s pick for pound-for-pound king isn’t quite there yet in our opinion, but it isn’t impossible a year or two down the road. Speedy, skillful southpaw took on the best of the division’s old guard this year, decisioning both Glen Johnson and Antonio Tarver over 12 rounds. Johnson fight was close and grueling, whereas “Bad Chad” was dominant against Tarver. Prior to those high-profile wins, obliterated Epifanio Mendoza (KO 4).
Future: Has a pointless rematch with Tarver scheduled for March 14th.

21
JUAN DIAZ
Lightweight 34-1 (17)
Last Year’s Ranking: 21
Status Report: “The Baby Bull” may have suffered his first loss this year, but when you keep fighting nothing but quality opponents, you’re bound to lose eventually. Diaz’ nonstop schedule of world-class foes included Julio Diaz (KO 9), Nate Campbell (L 12), and Michael Katsidis (W 12), and if you saw how good he looked in the two fights he won, then you know why his RING 100 position remained stable in spite of a loss.
Future: The tough schedule continues as an HBO-televised showdown with RING champ Juan Manuel Marquez has been finalized for Feb. 28th.

20
MIKKEL KESSLER
WBA Super Middleweight Titleholder 41-1 (31)
Last Year’s Ranking: 14
Status Report: Losing for the first time, against future Hall of Famer Joe Calzaghe in a competitive fight, caused only minimal harm to the Dane’s P-4-P standing. But his rep took a bigger hit when he mismanaged his career in the aftermath, pulling out of a perfect Showtime match against Edison Miranda and instead fighting unknown Dimitri Sartison (KO 12) for a vacant strap and following that bout up with a beating of Danilo Haussler (KO 3) in October. The tattooed “Viking Warrior” has ability and potential, but at the moment, he’s going nowhere.
Future: When he’s ready again for a fight that fans care about, we wouldn’t mind seeing him against Jermain Taylor.

19
CHRIS JOHN
WBA Featherweight Titleholder 42-0-1 (22)
Last Year’s Ranking: 16
Status Report: On the one hand, he gains pound-for-pound ground every time Juan Manuel Marquez climbs higher among the elite, because the Indonesian “Dragon” holds a disputed 2006 points win over Marquez. On the other hand, what has he done since then? Fought only twice in the last 12 months, defeating Roinet Caballero (KO 7) and Hiroyuki Enoki (W 12) to score his fifth straight title defense.
Future: Will finally leave the safe confines of home to battle Rocky Juarez in 2000 Olympian’s hometown of Houston Feb. 28th.

18
VIC DARCHINYAN
IBF/WBA/WBC Junior Bantamweight Titleholder 31-1-1 (25)
Last Year’s Ranking: 60
Status Report: When your persona is built around cockiness, the first loss can be a devastating one (see Naseem Hamed), but Armenian-Australian “Raging Bull” coped with defeat well. He moved up from flyweight to junior bantam, eased back in against journeyman Federico Catubay (KO 12), didn’t look so sharp against solid Z Gorres (D 12), performed as sensationally as ever in taking the IBF 115-pound belt from Dimitri Kirilov (KO 5) and then shocked the boxing world by dominating highly regarded dual titleholder Cristian Mijares (KO 9) to unify three belts.
Future: Will continue to entertain hardcore fans with a Showtime-televised Feb. 7th showdown with the always-exciting Jorge Arce in Anaheim, Calif.

17
NONITO DONAIRE
IBF Flyweight Titleholder 20-1 (13)
Last Year’s Ranking: 32
Status Report: Much to our disappointment, only fought twice in the past 18 months, but looked sensational in dominating Luis Maldonado (KO 8) and solid in turning back Moruti Mthalane (TKO 6). Confidence has soared in the wake of career-defining win over Vic Darchinyan in ’07, and it’s turned 25-year-old Filipino into a flyweight force. Now he just needs to get busier, which he expects to now that he’s switched promoters from Gary Shaw to Top Rank.
Future: Intriguing 115-pound challenge to beltholder Fernando Montiel or a battle with tough veteran Jose Lopez for Montiel’s vacated WBO title in the Philippines this March has been discussed but nothing has been finalized.

16
FERNANDO MONTIEL
WBO Junior Bantamweight Titleholder 38-2-1 (28)
Last Year’s Ranking: 63
Status Report: Long considered a tantalizing talent, “El Cochulito” finally put it all together this year, particularly in blowing out highly regarded Martin Castillo (KO 4) last February in what was supposed to be a pick-’em fight. Followed that win up with dominant performances against Luis Maldonado (TKO 3) in a title defense last May and Juan Alberto Rojas (W 10) in a non-title bout last November.
Future: Either a 115-pound showdown with Nonito Donaire in the Philippines or a battle with resurgent former flyweight titlist Eric Morel for a vacant 118-pound title.

15
NATE CAMPBELL
IBF/WBA/WBO Lightweight Titleholder 32-5-1 (28)
Last Year’s Ranking: 78
Status Report: One of this year’s biggest climbers, “The Galaxxy Warrior” stunned the experts with his decision win (which was split, but certainly should have been unanimous) over the previously red-hot Juan Diaz. After a late start in the game, Campbell is a relatively fresh 36 years old with tremendous in-ring maturity, and he beat Diaz by having a better game plan and simply wanting it more. Got screwed out of a payday in September when Joan Guzman failed to make weight and backed out, but remains in line for major fights at 135.
Future: Dangerous IBF mandatory Ali Funeka on HBO-televised triple header on Feb. 14th.

14
ARTHUR ABRAHAM
IBF Middleweight Titleholder 28-0 (23)
Last Year’s Ranking: 24
Status Report: Rapidly gaining respect as one of the sport’s most destructive knockout punchers, “King Arthur” scored four kayos in the past year, taking care of ordinary Wayne Elcock (KO 5) and Elvin Ayala (KO 12) before scoring a career-best fourth-round knockout of Edison Miranda in an anticipated rematch with the Colombian that was also his U.S. debut. He ended the year with a stoppage of rugged former 154-pound titlist Raul Marquez (RTD 6).
Future: Hopefully, a Kelly Pavlik fight can happen next year, but we won’t hold our breath.

13
SHANE MOSLEY
Welterweight 45-5 (38) with 1 no-contest
Last Year’s Ranking: 13
Status Report: At a time when many older fighters are having surprising success, the 37-year-old Sugar Shane is aging as gracefully as any of them. Gave the decade-younger Miguel Cotto all he could handle en route to losing a flip-a-coin decision last November, took an unintended 10-month layoff, and closed the show in style at the end of a tougher-than-expected tussle with Ricardo Mayorga (KO 12) in September.
Future: Challenges relentless welterweight titleholder Antonio Margarito in an HBO-televised showdown in L.A. on Jan. 24th.

12
KELLY PAVLIK
World Middleweight Champion 34-2 (30)
Last Year’s Ranking: 23
Status Report: What an extraordinary breakthrough year ÔǪ and what a shocking momentum killer at the end of it. “The Ghost” was labeled the future of American boxing for his exciting style, passionate fan base, and impressive wins over Jermain Taylor (KO 7, W 12) and Gary Lockett (KO 3). But the undisputed 160-pound champ tried moving up to 170 to add Bernard Hopkins’ legendary name to his resume in October, and the move backfired as the veteran befuddled him at every turn.
Future: Back to middleweight and a comeback bout against mandatory challenger Marco Antonio Rubio on Feb. 21st. Reasonable to expect that Hopkins loss will make him better in the long run.

11
PAUL WILLIAMS
Welterweight 36-1 (26)
Last Year’s Ranking: 18
Status Report: How do you move up several spots in THE RING 100 after losing in one of the year’s biggest upsets? By bouncing back with a vengeance and making that loss look like nothing more than an off-night. Got outmaneuvered by Carlos Quintana last February and dropped a close decision, then proceeded to gain revenge four months later via one-round beatdown. Looked equally devastating in his next two fights, winning his middleweight debut over Andy Kolle in 97 seconds, then picking up an “interim” 154-pound title by bludgeoning veteran Verno Phillips (TKO 8).
Future: Open to big fights anywhere from 147 to 160 pounds. Southpaw showdown with former champ Winky Wright is very close to being finalized for April 11th.

10
RICKY HATTON
World Junior Welterweight Champion 45-1 (32)
Last Year’s Ranking: 9
Status Report: If you’re going to lose an undefeated record that you spent a decade compiling, you may as well do it against the best fighter in the world. In losing to Floyd Mayweather (KO by 10) in December of ’07, “The Hitman” suffered a loss that might have been emotionally crushing if not for the fact that it was totally expected. Got back in the win column against Juan Lazcano (W 12) last May, but looked vulnerable. However, appeared drastically improved under the tutelage of (how’s this for irony) Floyd Mayweather Sr., who trained him for his dominant drubbing of former beltholder Paul Malignaggi last November.
Future: A May 2nd junior welterweight showdown with Manny Pacquiao in the biggest boxing event of ’09.

9
IVAN CALDERON
World Junior Flyweight Champion 32-0 (6)
Last Year’s Ranking: 20
Status Report: Little guys are supposed to decelerate by age 33, but if anything, “Iron Boy” just keeps getting better. His first three 108-pound title defense all came against quality foes: Juan Esquer (W 12), Nelson Dieppa (W 12), and the man from whom he took the championship, Hugo Cazares (Tech. Win 7). Diminutive southpaw can’t punch and isn’t everyone’s favorite to watch, but he’s one skilled little boxer.
Future: Suffered a bad cut on his forehead against Cazares and will be out the remainder of ’08. Talking about moving up to flyweight, though he still makes junior fly without much trouble.

8
MIGUEL COTTO
Welterweight 32-1 (26)
Last Year’s Ranking: 10
Status Report: Puerto Rico’s most popular current fighter held steady in the pound-for-pound ranks by tallying both his most significant win and his first defeat within the last 14 months. Showed versatile boxing skills to eke out a close one over Sugar Shane Mosley (W 12) in November ’07, but caved under the relentless pressure of Antonio Margarito (KO by 11) in July ’08. In between, looked sharp winning a gimme over Alfonso Gomez (KO 5).
Future: Will return against Britain’s Michael Jennings on Feb. 21st in New York City, then probably face Margarito (if the Mexican mauler defeats Shane Mosley) again in June. It’ll be a tough loss to reverse, but more body punching would be a good place to start.

7
RAFAEL MARQUEZ
Junior Featherweight 37-5 (33)
Last Year’s Ranking: 7
Status Report: On paper, a year in which you fight only one time and win zero times should be a year in which you drop significantly in the pound-for-pound rankings. But if you saw Marquez’ rubber match defeat at the hands of Israel Vazquez, you know why he’s barely dipped. He outboxed his rival in many rounds, was as game and gutsy as they come, but faded late and lost by a single point. This was a special fight in which there really were no losers.
Future: Enjoying a well-deserved rest, and possibly headed for a fourth war with Vazquez.

6
ANTONIO MARGARITO
WBA Welterweight Titleholder 37-5 (27) with 1 no-contest
Last Year’s Ranking: 19
Status Report: How do you respond to a heartbreaking, momentum-halting loss like “Tony’s” July ’07 points defeat to Paul Williams? By knocking out three opponents in a row and enjoying a career year and an overdue defining victory. Mexican tuned up on unworthy Golden Johnson (KO 1), battered hard-hitting Kermit Cintron (KO 6), and then surprised many experts by wearing down pound-for-pounder Miguel Cotto (KO 11) in a grueling battle that lived up to the hype.
Future: Sugar Shane in January and a rematch with Cotto in June.

5
ISRAEL VAZQUEZ
World Junior Featherweight Champion 43-4 (31)
Last Year’s Ranking: 5
Status Report: Somehow, his fights with Rafael Marquez just keep getting better. The rubber match was probably the best of the trilogy so far and will likely earn Vazquez and Marquez their second straight Fight of the Year award, with the champ rallying from an early knockdown and deficit to pull out the split decision with a dramatic final-round assault. That was Vazquez’ only fight in the last 12 months, but it provided enough action for three fights.
Future: Taking well-deserved rest (and recuperating from surgery to repair a detached retina suffered during Marquez rubber match) until the summer. Then looking at a possible fourth fight with Marquez or a move to featherweight later in the year.

4
BERNARD HOPKINS
Light Heavyweight 49-5-1 (32) with 1 no-contest
Last Year’s Ranking: 4
Status Report: With all due respect to George Foreman and Archie Moore, “The Executioner” has probably earned the right to call himself the greatest over-40 fighter ever. All he did in the past year was take on two undisputed champions, losing a decision to Joe Calzaghe that could have just as easily gone his way and then giving Kelly Pavlik a jaw-dropping 12-round boxing lesson. He’s 43, but didn’t look a day past his prime against Pavlik.
Future: Would still entertain the idea of a rematch with Roy Jones, despite his old rival’s loss to Calzaghe. But who knows, maybe B-Hop will defy expectations one last time and retire on top.

3
JOE CALZAGHE
World Light Heavyweight Champion 46-0 (32)
Last Year’s Ranking: 8
Status Report: Say what you want about how the Welshman spent his late-20s and early-30s; for the last couple of years, he’s been making his time in the prize ring count. Established total 168-pound supremacy last November by outsmarting and outfighting previously unbeaten Mikkel Kessler (W 12), then moved up to light heavyweight, took on RING champion Bernard Hopkins, and rose from a knockdown to prevail via split decision over the trickiest old man in the game. Got up from another first-round knockdown against Roy Jones to out-hustle and out-class the former pound-for-pound boss to a one-sided decision in his first defense of the RING title last November.
Future: Might mull over possible showdown with undefeated light heavyweight title holder and RING No. 1 contender Chad Dawson, but retirement is more likely.

2
JUAN MANUEL MARQUEZ
World Lightweight Champion 49-4-1 (36)
Last Year’s Ranking: 3
Status Report: With a one-round swing on one card, we might be talking about this long-underappreciated Mexican as the best fighter on the planet. In March, he fought Manny Pacquiao to a near standstill, but a key knockdown in round three made Pacquiao a split-decision winner. That loss was sandwiched by a pair of impressive wins, a dominant dissection of Rocky Juarez (W 12) and an explosive triumph over Joel Casamayor (KO 11) to claim the lineal lightweight title.
Future: A tough title defense against 25-year-old former titleholder and RING No. 3 lightweight contender Juan Diaz on Feb. 28th.

1
MANNY PACQUIAO
Lightweight/Welterweight 47-3-2 (35)
Last Year’s Ranking: 2
Status Report: Who else could it be? The fabulous Filipino icon’s breath-taking eighth-round stoppage of Oscar De La Hoya last December earned him legitimate comparisons to the great Henry Armstrong. Pacquiao, a former flyweight titleholder who had never fought above 135 pounds, was not only the faster man in his welterweight debut against De La Hoya, but the stronger man, the harder puncher and the SMARTER boxer! The version of the “PacMan” who dominated De La Hoya is far removed from the left-hand-happy puncher he used to be. Pacquiao now uses both hands to equal effect and can play cautious or aggressive depending on the situation. Used a mix of strategies to narrowly decision Juan Manuel Marquez last March, then blitzed overmatched David Diaz (KO 9) in lightweight debut last June before shocking the boxing world in December.
Future: Ricky Hatton, and THE RING junior welterweight world title, await the pound-for-pound king on May 2nd.

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