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Must-see fighters

Pound-for-pound rankings are supposed to somehow try to put an order to the best fighters in the world, regardless of their weight class. It's a mythical thing, all in fun -- even though some folks take it way too seriously.

I compile ESPN.com's divisional rankings, which are updated each Tuesday. These are a bit more straightforward, based largely on actual accomplishment within a given weight class, with far less emphasis placed on potential, or what I think might happen in a particular match.

What I have for you here today, though, is not about ranking the most talented fighters. No, this is simply about who, in my view, are the most must-see fighters. In other words, these are the guys you should make sure to be home in front of the television (or computer screen) to watch fight no matter who or when they are fighting or how hot of a date you have that night.

These are guys who provide great entertainment fight in and fight out, win or lose, and keep us coming back for more.

Let's call this Dan's Dozen Must-See Fighters:

1. Gennady Golovkin (29-0, 26 KOs) I keep hearing about how Golovkin isn't facing elite opponents and how he needs to step up, blah, blah, blah. But the elite fighters are not interested in fighting him, so GGG goes about his business anyway, defending his middleweight title regularly. Sure, I'd love to see him fight Sergio Martinez, Andre Ward, Peter Quillin or Carl Froch, but even if he keeps fighting solid contenders like he has been, so be it. All I know is that every time Golovkin steps into the ring, it's something not to be missed. He comes to destroy his opponents, with a smile on his face. He's aggressive and a tremendous puncher, having scored 16 consecutive knockouts. His 89.66 KO percentage is the best among active titleholders. But he is also very skilled and underrated defensively. He is a multidimensional fighter. I sort of feel about Golovkin as I did when I was a teenager in the 1980s watching a young Mike Tyson. It didn't matter who Tyson faced. Like millions of others, I had to watch because I knew I'd probably see something memorable. Same thing with Golovkin these days. Dream fight: Andre Ward.

2. Marcos Maidana (35-3, 31 KOs) Back in about 2007, I kept hearing about this huge puncher from Argentina who was destroying everybody, so I watched some of his fights on YouTube. What a great puncher. I thought, wouldn't it be great if he came to America? Sure enough, he arrived in 2009 and has given us many thrills since. He has been in no fewer than five fight of the year contenders, including his mesmerizing American debut, when he engaged in a crazy slugfest with Victor Ortiz. Maidana got knocked down three times, but also dropped Ortiz twice and made him quit in the sixth round. Then came more great fights and plenty of drama: a close decision loss in a drama-filled fight with Amir Khan and wins in terrific fights with Erik Morales, Jesus Soto Karass, Josesito Lopez and Adrien Broner. The Broner fight in December was particularly dramatic and such an impressive performance that it put Maidana squarely in the hunt for a date with Floyd Mayweather Jr. on May 3. Dream fight: Lucas Matthysse.

3. Adonis Stevenson (23-1, 20 KOs) I love punchers. I love punchers. I love punchers. And I love Adonis Stevenson. He's a capable boxer, but he has as pure power as anyone in the business. And that makes me want to watch. His 2012 knockout of Jesus Gonzalez had me concerned for Gonzalez's health. His destructions of Noe Gonzalez Alcoba and Donovan George were ruthless. Then he bashed his way into the consciousness of fans everywhere, crushing Chad Dawson in 76 seconds with a one-punch knockout to win the legit light heavyweight world title in June. His two defenses since, knockouts of Tavoris Cloud and Tony Bellew, were also both highly entertaining. Dream fight: Sergey Kovalev.

4. Sergey Kovalev (23-0-1, 21 KOs) Pretty much unknown until late 2012, Kovalev -- nicknamed "Krusher," and who doesn't love a fighter with that kind of nickname? -- brutalized five consecutive solid opponents to become a guy you can't take your eyes off of. By the way, none of those five fights -- against Lionell Thompson, former titleholder Gabriel Campillo, Cornelius White, Nathan Cleverly (to win a light heavyweight world title) and Ismayl Sillakh -- went past the fourth round.

Kovalev is a scary dude, too. After he dropped Sillakh for the first time in the second round, Kovalev taunted him while Sillakh was bleeding on the mat. I'm not saying that's the right thing for a fighter to do, but I know it was hard to take my eyes off of in that same way that it's hard not to check out a car wreck on the side of the road. When Kovalev and Stevenson eventually meet -- it's in the works for later this year -- my head just might explode. Dream fight: Adonis Stevenson.

5. Ruslan Provodnikov (23-2, 16 KOs) For years, the Russian brawler was a regular on "Friday Night Fights" and rarely disappointed. There was a reason he was invited back time and again -- because he always made good fights. Now that he has graduated to HBO, nothing has changed. Although he lost a decision, Provodnikov's epic brawl with welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr. last March was the consensus 2013 fight of the year. Provodnikov's encore netted him a junior welterweight title when he stopped Mike Alvarado in the 10th round of another outstanding fight. Be honest: You know you can't wait until the "Siberian Rocky" fights again. Dream fight: Timothy Bradley Jr. rematch.

6. Keith Thurman (22-0, 20 KOs) Whether he knows where he is fighting or not -- San Diego? San Antonio? Who cares! -- Thurman, an interim welterweight titlist, is built for television. He has a wonderfully crowd-pleasing style and very appealing personality. Even when he was being fed soft touches to build up his record, he at least usually made it a fun one to watch. As he stepped up his opposition last year, with exciting fights and knockouts against Diego Chaves and Jesus Soto Karass, Thurman continued to win and do it in a thoroughly engaging manner. Dream fight: Canelo Alvarez.

7. Lucas Matthysse (34-3, 32 KOs) After "The Machine" walked through Lamont Peterson for a wicked, third-round knockout last April, Golden Boy promoter Richard Schaefer, generally a mild-mannered guy, couldn't contain himself. "We have a new Manny Pacquiao! He's from Argentina, and his name is Lucas Matthysse," Schaefer exclaimed. Schaefer is excused because that is the kind of emotional reaction Matthysse's explosive punching power and enthralling fighting style can generate. For his last several fights, the only thing I wanted to know afterward was when is he fighting again?

It was like that after he stopped Humberto Soto, Olusegun Ajose, Mike Dallas and then Peterson. Even when Matthysse lost a decision to junior welterweight champ Danny Garcia in September, it didn't diminish my desire to see his next fight one iota. Dream fight: Marcos Maidana.

8. Miguel Cotto (38-4, 31 KOs) Even 13 years into his storied career, the three-division titleholder and future Hall of Famer remains a fighter whom you just gotta watch. Period. End of story. He has a career filled with fantastic fights, including Ricardo Torres, Paulie Malignaggi, Zab Judah, Shane Mosley, Antonio Margarito (twice), Manny Pacquiao and, believe it or not, Floyd Mayweather. How exciting is Cotto? He is responsible for making Mayweather, a defensive genius, truly have to duke it out in the most exciting fight of his career. Dream fight: Sergio Martinez.

9. Marco Huck (37-2-1, 26 KOs) Germany's Huck has largely been hidden from U.S. television viewers, which is a shame. But that makes YouTube and internet streams a blessing when the cruiserweight titleholder is in action. And I do mean action. He's been in a slew of barn burners, including a trilogy with Ola Afolabi, two tear-ups with Firat Arslan, Denis Lebedev and an exciting fight when he stepped up in weight to challenge then-heavyweight titlist Alexander Povetkin in which Huck was robbed of the decision. Dream fight: Yoan Pablo Hernandez.

10. Leo Santa Cruz (26-0-1, 15 KOs) It's tiring just watching Santa Cruz but, oh, so much fun. The former bantamweight and reigning junior featherweight titleholder is not a big knockout puncher -- although he has scored some nice ones, such as the stoppages he had last year against Alexander Munoz and Victor Terrazas -- but he usually throws 100 punches a round and never stops moving forward. Every fight provides entertainment. There is a reason Santa Cruz has become a Showtime staple. Dream fight: Carl Frampton.

11. Hernan "Tyson" Marquez (36-4, 24 KOs) The former flyweight titleholder fights in a small weight class and has gotten very little American TV exposure, but he's worth watching no matter where you can find his fights. His 11th-round knockout of Luis Concepcion to win a flyweight title in 2011 was one of the best fights of that year. His 10th-round knockout loss to Brian Viloria in their 2012 unification fight was another fight of the year candidate. And his 12th-round knockout loss in an incredible slugfest with former junior flyweight champ Giovani Segura in November was probably the most underrated, underappreciated fight of 2013. Dream fight: Juan Francisco Estrada.

12. Giovani Segura (31-3-1, 27 KOs) The former junior flyweight champ is exactly the kind of fighter aficionados of action fighters should want to watch. He's super aggressive, throws rocks and is not afraid to take two punches to land one. He first staked his claim as a can't-miss-him-when-he-fights kind of guy in 2008 in a thrilling loss (later avenged) to Cesar Canchila on the Antonio Margarito-Miguel Cotto I undercard. In 2010, he forced consummate technical boxer Ivan Calderon into a war, knocked him out in the eighth round and unified titles in a legit fight of the year candidate. He's had several other excellent fights, including losses to Brian Viloria and Edgar Sosa and a 12th-round knockout of Hernan "Tyson" Marquez in an epic fight in November. Even when he's blowing out nobodies, the knockouts are something to behold. Dream fight: Akira Yaegashi.