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THE RING Top 100: 26-50

31
Dec

Edwin Valero has lived up to the hype but needs to make a statement on a big stage. Photo / Chris Cozzone-FightWireImages.com

For 14 years we’ve ranked the best 100 fighters in the world. The latest rankings appeared in the January 2010 issue of THE RING magazine. In this special feature at RingTV.com, we’re posting an updated version of those rankings that take into account anything that occurred between the last week of October and the third week of December.

The analysis has been broken into four parts. This is the third installment, with the fighters ranked 26-100. The final part will take you all the way to No. 1.

In the main, the rankings are unchanged from those that appeared in the magazine. Most of those in the top half at the end of October are there again now, and likewise for the lower half. But there has been movement based on recent fights and, in a few cases, inactivity.

Read on for the most comprehensive ranking of the top 100 fighters in the world. By the time all the dust has settled, it will be time to do it again.

26. EDWIN VALERO
WBC Lightweight Titleholder 26-0 (26)
Last Year’s Ranking: 48
Status Report: For those of us whose curiosity about Valero was stoked by all those grainy YouTube.com videos, his blazing win over the competent Antonio Pitalua (KO 2) in Texas was a resounding payoff. This guy is a born puncher. The bad news is he sat on his hands until beating Hector Velazquez in December (KO 6). We want this guy on HBO. Twice a month.
Future: Scheduled to face hot prospect Antonio DeMarco on Feb. 6 in Mexico.

27. RICKY HATTON
Junior Welterweight 45-2 (32)
Last Year’s Ranking: 13
Status Report: The former 140-pound world champion hasn’t made a peep since impersonating a lawn dart against Manny Pacquiao (KO by 2) and who can blame him? Never mind that his two career losses have come against the best fighters on the planet. When you go to sleep the way he did against Pacquiao, it takes a while to get your gumption back. There’s also the possibility that, even at just 31 years old, he is finished.
Future: Rumors abound that he will face Juan Manuel Marquez in 2010.

28. JUAN CARLOS SALGADO
WBA Junior Lightweight 21-0-1 (15)
Last Year’s Raking: Unranked
Status Report: If you’d never heard of Salgado before his shocking first-round kayo of star-in-the-making Jorge Linares, don’t feel bad; you’re not alone. Salgado cracks the Top 30 based entirely on the left hook he planted on Linares’ chin in October in Tokyo. Sure it represented his first win over anyone who is a household name outside his own household. But it’s huge.
Future: Scheduled to defend against Takashi Uchiyama on Jan. 11 in Tokyo.

29. JUAN MANUEL LOPEZ
Junior Featherweight 27-0 (24)
Last Year’s Ranking: 34
Status Report: Lopez won some new friends and lost some old ones with his more-difficult-than-expected victory in October over hard-headed Rogers Mtagwa (W 12). But it proved he can hang in there when hurt. Triumphs earlier in the year over Sergio Manuel Medina (KO 1), Gerry Penalosa (KO 10), and Olivier Lontchi (KO 9) were far less taxing and therefore proved not nearly as much.
Future: Will meet Steven Lueveno on Jan. 23 in New York. Long range plan is a showdown with Yuriorkis Gamboa.

30. TOMASZ ADAMEK
Cruiserweight World Champion 39-1 (27)
Last year’s Ranking: 70
Status Report: Drubbing of 41-year-old remains of Andrew Golota in Poland (KO 5) didn’t prove much, but Adamek is the goods anyway. His victories at cruiser over Steve Cunningham (W 12), Johnathan Banks (KO 8) and Bobby Gunn (KO 4) proved he’s the best 200-pounder in the world. (OK, not so much Gunn, but the others.) Since his only career loss, which came against Chad Dawson, Adamek has developed into a sound technical fighter and a real puncher.
Future: Jason Estrada on Feb. 6 in Newark, Adamek’s adopted hometown. Looks like heavyweight is where he’ll be permanently before long.

31. GLEN JOHNSON
Light Heavyweight 49-13-2 (33)
Last Year’s Ranking: 36
Status Report: Though a well-preserved 40, finally looked his age in his rematch against Chad Dawson (L 12). He can still hold his own against lesser guys, as he did beating Aaron Norwood (KO 4) and Daniel Judah (W 10) Forty years old or not, he’s probably an easy night for no 175-pounder alive — except Dawson.
Future: It’s not going to get any easier. It’s hard to start over again when you’re middle-aged. Expect a slow descent.

32. HUMBERTO SOTO
Lightweight 50-7-2 (32)
Last Year’s Ranking: 30
Status Report: Looked good enough in debut at lightweight against veteran Jesus Chavez in December (W 10). Prior to that he had a productive year, beating Francisco Lorenzo in a rematch (W 12), Antonio Davis (KO 4), Benoit Gaudet (KO 9) and Aristides Perez (KO 2). Was hoping for bigger-money fights against Robert Guerrero or Jorge Linares, but they never happened.
Future: Has interesting options at 135 that include Juan Manuel Marquez, Michael Katsidis and Edwin Valero.

33. STEVE CUNNINGHAM
Cruiserweight 22-2 (11)
Last Year’s Ranking: 58
Status Report: Year of mixed blessings for Cunningham, who lost his alphabet title to Tomasz Adamek in one of the best fights of the year (L 12), but rebounded seven months later to decision former beltholder Wayne Braithwaite in Florida (W 12). Did better against Adamek than anyone save for Chad Dawson, but suffered several knockdowns that gave Adamek the victory. Lack of serious punching power does him no favors.
Future: Has been lobbying hard for a rematch with Adamek but apparently won’t get it. He needs to get active against someone. Soon.

34. ROMAN GONZALEZ
WBA Strawweight Titleholder 24-0 (20)
Last Year’s Ranking: 37
Status Report: THE RING’s top-rated strawweight proved his highly improbable upset of Yutaka Nida in ’08 was no fluke, beating Miguel Tellez (KO 3), Francisco Rosas (W 12) and former WBC titleholder Katsunari Takayama (W 12) in ’09. Rosas gave him more trouble than anyone expected and that two of his last three have gone the distance have some questioning his credentials as a power puncher. But this 22-year-old from Nicaragua is all upside.
Future: Scheduled to face hard-hitting mandatory WBA challenger “TBA” on Jan. 30.

35. POONSAWAT KRATINGAENGGYM
WBA Junior Featherweight Titleholder 39-1 (28)
Last Year’s Ranking: Unranked
Status Report: Kratingaenggym’s appearance comes on the strength of his back-to-back clubbings of Rafael Hernandez (KO 9) and Ireland’s Bernard Dunne (KO 3). Outside of those two, believe us, you haven’t heard of anyone on his recent record, with the possible exception of Somsak Sithchatchawal, whom Kratingaenggym stopped in 11 rounds in ’08. Other victims of note include Leo Gamez and Ricardo Cordoba, who fell to Kratingaenggym in ’05.
Future: Junior featherweight is a pretty strong division and the ideal fight would be a showdown between Kratingaenggym and division leader Celestino Caballero to name THE RING champion. We are not getting our hopes up. In the meantime, he’s slated to meet Satoshi Hosono on Jan. 11 in Tokyo.

36. ANDRE BERTO
WBC Welterweight Titleholder 25-0 (19)
Last Year’s Ranking: 78
Status Report: Berto makes big leap on the strength of his wins over Luis Collazo (W 12) and tough Juan Urango (W 12). Was criticized in both fights, for taking too many risks against Collazo and not enough against Urango. Still, both wins answered questions about him, namely that he can recover from being hurt, as he did against Collazo, and that he can stay disciplined for all 12 rounds, as he did against Urango.
Future: Will face Shane Mosley on Jan. 30 in Las Vegas in a fascinating match. If we wins in good form, he becomes a star.

37. ANSELMO MORENO
WBA Bantamweight Titleholder 28-1-1 (10)
Last Year’s Ranking: 54
Status Report: Moreno isn’t the most exciting titleholder out there – look again at his KO percentage – but he is one of the busiest. He beat Frederic Patrac in France in December (KO 11), and since last year’s analysis he fought Rolly Matsushita (W 12), Wladimir Sidorenko in a rematch to their May, ’08 meeting (W 12), Mahyar Monshipour (W 12) and Jorge Ortero (KO 6). It’s not Henry Armstrong-busy, but by today’s standards it’s damn close.
Future: Why not a fight with Hozumi Hasegawa so we can crown a RING champion here already?

38. ROBERT GUERRERO
IBF Junior Lightweight Titleholder 25-1-1 (17)
Last Year’s Ranking: 49
Status Report: Last year was a mixed bag for Guerrero. He stopped Edel Ruiz with a body shot (KO 1), then, against tougher than expected Daud Cino Yordan, was cut and chose not to continue (No Dec. 2). The backlash was immediate and intense, but he returned to form against Efren Hinojosa (KO 8) and well regarded Malcolm Klassen (W 12). Guerrero can box a little and punch a little and together it works for him.
Future: Nothing signed at press time, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see Guerrero against Cassius Baloyi some time in 2010.

39. AMIR KHAN
WBA Junior Welterweight Titleholder 22-1 (16)
Last Year’s Ranking: Unranked
Status Report: Blew out challenger Dmitriy Salita (KO 1) on Dec. 5 in New Castle and recovered nicely from shocking loss to puncher Breidis Prescott (KO by 1) to beat Oisin Fagan (KO 2), Marco Antonio Barrera (Tech. Win 5) and Andriy Kotelnik (W 12). Shaky chin might always present problems, but not if he lands first.
Future: Rumors are he could face the excellent Timothy Bradley in a wonderful matchup. Keep your fingers crossed.

40. BRIAN VILORIA
IBF Junior Flyweight Titleholder 26-2 (15)
Last Year’s Ranking: Unranked
Status Report: Appears finally to have come into his own, winning seven straight after dropping a decision to Edgar Sosa in April 2007. He arrives here after a strong 2009, during which he stopped the entertaining but vulnerable titleholder Ulises Solis (KO 11) and defended the alphabet strap against Jesus Iribe (W 12). At 28, Viloria should be in his prime.
Future: Scheduled to face Carlos Tamara on Jan. 23 in the Philippines.

41. PAULIE MALIGNAGGI
Junior Welterweight 27-3 (5)
Last Year’s Ranking: 62
Status Report: It was ruin followed by a measure of redemption for Malignaggi. A disastrous showing against Ricky Hatton (KO by 11) was followed by the firing of Buddy McGirt, a comeback win over Christopher Fernandez (W 8), and then, in a full return to the style he rode to the top, a dubious decision loss to Juan Diaz (L 12) in Texas. His win over Diaz in the rematch in Chicago was nothing short of a masterpiece.
Future: It’s a packed division. There’s another big fight out there in 2010 for “The Magic Man.”

42. PONGSAKLEK WONJONGKAM
Flyweight 74-3-1 (39)
Last Year’s Ranking: 43
Status Report: A victory in December over under-qualified Rodel Tajares capped a typical year in which the workhouse of the division won four times, beating Shahram Toradied (KO 2), Julio Cesar Miranda (W 12), Takahisa Samuda (KO 6) and Tajares (W 6). Can still stay with the better guys in the division.
Future: Provided he keeps winning, another fight with rival Daisuke Naito is inevitable.

43. JOAN GUZMAN
Lightweight 29-0-1 (17)
Last Year’s Ranking: 29
Status Report: Barely survived bloody battle with Ali Funeka in November and escaped with disputed draw. Generously talented but apparently only moderately disciplined, Guzman fought just once in 2008, beating one Ameth Diaz (W 12) in the Dominican Republic. Looked mostly awful against Funeka and nothing like the future star we’d seen before.
Future: Needs a solid win over a top guy to restore his reputation. How about a rematch with Humberto Soto?

44. ALI FUNEKA
Lightweight 30-2-3 (25)
Last Year’s Ranking: Unranked
Status Report: Stock soared after his controversial draw against Guzman; the majority of observers thought he clearly deserved the decision. Funeka has now acquitted himself very well in three fights against top guys: a stoppage of Zahir Raheem in July ’08 (KO 4), a close loss to Nate Campbell in February ’09 in Florida (L 12) and the “draw” against Guzman. The guy can fight.
Future: Would love a rematch with Guzman, but he won’t get it.

45. JORGE LINARES
Junior Lightweight 27-1 (18)
Last Year’s Ranking: 26
Status Report: Linares suffered his first career loss against undefeated but unheralded Juan Carlos Salgado in Tokyo. A wide left hook dropped him, and though he was able to beat the count, the fight was stopped after a second knockdown. Not the stuff of the next Oscar De La Hoya, but one knockout loss doesn’t have to ruin a career, nor does it preclude future success. Look at Amir Khan.
Future: Linares’ people will want to go right after Salgado in a rematch and when you’re the star that Linares is (at least in Japan), you get what you want. Either way, he’s just 24 years old. He has time.

46. HUGO CAZARES
WBA Junior Bantamweight Titleholder 30-6-2 (22)
Last Year’s Ranking: 38
Status Report: Cazares had a busy year, jumping up in weight again and getting good business done, even if two of his victims, Jorge Romero (KO 3) and Margarito Lopez (KO 1), had sub-.500 records. The fights that counted came against Roberto Vasquez (W 11) and Nobuo Nashiro (D 12). Junior bantamweight might be Cazares’ weight class.
Future: Nothing has been signed, but a rematch with Nashiro would make the most sense.

47. KOKI KAMEDA
WBC Flyweight Titleholder 22-0 (14)
Last Year’s Ranking: Unranked
Status Report: Kameda breaks the Top 50 with his win over Daisuke Naito in Japan in late November (KO 2) for the strap. It was his third win of the year, the others coming against no-namers Humberto Pool (KO 5) and Dolores (!) Osorio (KO 2). The former junior flyweight titleholder is one of the most famous athletes in Japan but his flamboyance is a turn-off to many. Think of him as a Japanese Naseem Hamed and you’re in the right ballpark.
Future: The one all of Asia wants to see is Kameda against Brian Viloria. Don’t get your hopes up.

48. LUCIAN BUTE
IBF Super Middleweight Titleholder 25-0 (20)
Last Year’s Ranking: 61
Status Report: Bute’s surprising stoppage of thick-chinned Librado Andrade in their rematch (KO 4) redeemed Bute in the eyes of those who felt Andrade had gotten ripped off in their first match (W 12). Bute’s easy blowout of shopworn Fernando Zuniga (KO 4) didn’t help much, but the way he took out poor Andrade did.
Future: The Super Six tournament, to which Bute was not invited, ties up most of the other top 168-pounders for the foreseeable future. But when it’s done, watch Bute, if he’s still around, get the winner.

49. ANDRE WARD
Super Middleweight 21-0 (13)
Last Year’s Ranking: Unranked
Status Report: Ward breaks the Top 50 on the strength of his startling whitewashing of established Super Six tournament favorite Mikkel Kessler (W 12). Ward did everything he said he was going to do, outboxing Kessler from the outside and roughing him up inside. If you’re wondering why Ward isn’t rated higher, remember — Kessler is the first guy he’s beaten who could stand up for three rounds under his own power. Let’s not go crazy over him yet.
Future: Next for Ward is Jermain Taylor on April 17. Ugh.

50. NATE CAMPBELL
Junior Welterweight 33-5-1 (25) with 1 no-contest
Last Year’s Ranking: 17
Status Report: After a big jump in the ratings last year thanks to his win over Juan Diaz, Campbell drops back down to earth this year. He failed to make weight and struggled to beat Ali Funeka (W 12), then was getting his head handed to him by Timothy Bradley when a cut caused by a head butt resulted in a no-contest. Whether or not it was as it seemed, Campbell’s apparent enthusiasm for a stoppage implied a willingness to surrender that was unseemly.
Future: At 37, Campbell doesn’t have a lot of time. A rematch against Bradley appears unlikely and he’s still viewed as too dangerous to take for granted. It won’t be easy.

Bill Dettloff can be reached at [email protected]

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