- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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We have an expert panel that votes on ESPN.com's pound-for-pound top 10, of which I am one member. It's a way for us to reach some sort of consensus on the best fighters in the world, regardless of weight class.
But since we began using this method, rarely does a day go by where a #FightFreak doesn't hit me up on Twitter or Facebook asking for my specific top 10. I appreciate the interest in my opinion so since we're at the halfway point of the year -- and it's a slow boxing weekend -- I am here to serve. Here is my top 20 pound-for-pound list. Agree or disagree, it's all good.
1. Floyd Mayweather Jr. (46-0, 26 KOs): Not a complicated pick. The junior middleweight and welterweight champ is universally regarded as the best fighter in the world. He tops the ESPN.com poll and my personal list, even as he heads into the twilight of his career. If only he would stop disappointing fans around the world by finding ways to avoid Manny Pacquiao. Even when Mayweather had a bit of a tough time with Marcos Maidana in May, he still was the clear winner. Mayweather is so good that it is a shock when an opponent wins even a few rounds.
2. Manny Pacquiao (56-5-2, 38 KOs): Boxing's only eight-division titleholder had a rough 2012, getting ripped off in a horrible split decision loss to Timothy Bradley Jr. and then getting drilled by Juan Manuel Marquez in a fight he was on the verge of scoring a knockout victory of his own. But he rebounded strongly, pitching a virtual shutout against Brandon Rios, and then avenging his loss to Bradley in April to regain his welterweight title in an outstanding decision win. Pacquiao looked great.
3. Andre Ward (27-0, 14 KOs): The super middleweight champion is an awesome talent, which he displayed by tearing through the Super Six World Boxing Classic, easily beating top opponents in Carl Froch, Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham and Allan Green, not to mention a non-tournament win against Sakio Bika. Then he brutalized then-light heavyweight champ Chad Dawson, who moved down in weight to challenge him, followed by a rout of contender Edwin Rodriguez. Ward has had injuries sideline him for long stretches, but the main reason he's had only two fights since December 2011 is by continuing to battle promoter Dan Goossen over seemingly small issues. He is losing valuable years of his prime.
4. Wladimir Klitschko (62-3, 53 KOs): The heavyweight champion isn't blessed with a deep division of contenders, but he has skills, a brutal jab, an awesome right hand (best in boxing), underrated defense and has mowed down everyone put in front of him. He has never ducked anyone, beaten the best out there and unified three major belts during his historic career. Since his second title reign began in 2006, he's defended the title 16 times (12 KOs), third most in heavyweight history behind Joe Louis (25) and Larry Holmes (20). His eight-year-plus reign is second all-time to Louis' record 11 years, 8 months, 8 days. The 1996 Olympic gold medalist is 23-2 overall in world title fights. He deserves a lot more respect that some people give him.
5. Timothy Bradley Jr. (31-1, 12 KOs): The former junior welterweight and welterweight titlist is coming off a decision loss to Manny Pacquiao in their rematch, but before that fight he clearly outboxed Juan Manuel Marquez in a great performance. Bradley also showed he could win an all-out war, displaying immense heart to outpoint Ruslan Provodnikov in a wickedly violent battle that was the 2013 fight of the year. Versatile, talented and fearless -- not to mention having a tremendous resume. That's Bradley.
6. Juan Manuel Marquez (56-7-1, 40 KOs): One of Mexico's all-time greats, Marquez has won titles in four weight classes from featherweight to junior welterweight and has a Hall of Fame resume that includes his legendary four-fight series with Pacquiao (and the brutal KO win in 2012). Although he lost a decision to Bradley in October, Marquez rebounded for an excellent decision win against Mike Alvarado in May.
7. Miguel Cotto (39-4, 32 KOs): If anyone doubted Cotto's Hall of Fame credentials, he locked it up June 7 with his tour de force 10th-round knockout of Sergio Martinez to win the middleweight championship, making him the first Puerto Rican to win world titles in four weight classes. Cotto has been written off at various times in recent years, but he's looked great in his past two fights since hooking up with trainer Freddie Roach.
8. Gennady Golovkin (29-0, 26 KOs): The critics make a fair point when they say that Golovkin hasn't ever beaten a truly top fighter, even though he has defended his middleweight belt 10 times. But sometimes you have to go by what your eyes see, and these eyes see a really outstanding fighter who hasn't been able to get elite fighters to face him. He can box or bang and has scored some massive knockouts. He also has the amateur pedigree (Olympic silver) that suggests he's the real deal.
9. Bernard Hopkins (55-6-2, 32 KOs): Even at 49 -- yes, 49! -- "The Alien" is still getting the job done against worthy opponents. He claimed a light heavyweight belt by easy decision against Tavoris Cloud, rolled past top-10 contender Karo Murat and then dominated Beibut Shumenov to unify belts in April.
10. Carl Froch (33-2, 24 KOs): Since losing to Andre Ward in the Super Six finals in 2011, Froch has won all five of his fights, mostly against good opponents. He ended Lucian Bute's undefeated run by knockout to win another super middleweight belt and has also beaten Mikkel Kessler in a rematch. He also scored a huge knockout against George Groves in their May rematch of Froch's controversial knockout in their first fight.
11. Mikey Garcia (34-0, 28 KOs): Garcia has won titles at featherweight and junior lightweight and is so good that Top Rank promoter Bob Arum has suggested that he would be a possible Manny Pacquiao opponent in the future as Garcia moves up in weight. He has scored lopsided wins against Orlando Salido, Juan Manuel Lopez, Roman Martinez and Juan Carlos Burgos in his last four fights but might be idle for a while because of his contract dispute with Top Rank.
12. Guillermo Rigondeaux (13-0, 8 KOs): The two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist was a legendary amateur and has superb skills, speed and defense. His signature victory was a decision against 2012 fighter of the year Nonito Donaire to unify junior featherweight titles in April 2013, but Rigo made the fight so boring that he turned many off. His return in December for a shutout of Joseph Agbeko was even worse. But nobody questions his talent.
13. Nonito Donaire (33-2, 21 KOs): The 2012 fighter of the year has won world titles in four divisions (and an interim belt in a fifth) and has shown excellent boxing ability and great power. Since dropping Guillermo Rigondeaux but losing a decision last year, he has bounced back with a come-from-behind knockout of Vic Darchinyan and a technical decision win against tough Simpiwe Vetyeka to win a featherweight belt.
14. Canelo Alvarez (43-1-1, 31 KOs): The Mexican star won a junior middleweight belt in 2011, but made a lot of true believers with his decision win against Austin Trout in their 2013 unification fight. A loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. followed (no harm there), but Alvarez rebounded with a one-sided 10th-round knockout of Alfredo Angulo in March. He has a real test coming against Erislandy Lara on July 12.
15. Danny Garcia (28-0, 16 KOs): The junior welterweight champ has put together a strong resume with wins against boogeyman Lucas Matthysse, Zab Judah, Amir Khan, Erik Morales (twice) and Kendall Holt. Garcia didn't look good in a majority decision win against Mauricio Herrera in March, but he fought like a true champion and eked it out.
16. Roman Gonzalez (39-0, 33 KOs): A former strawweight and junior flyweight titlist, Nicaragua's Gonzalez isn't well-known in the United States but make no mistake -- he can fight. And punch. Hard. He doesn't have a ton of top wins, but he's been impressive fight in and fight out against several solid opponents. A protégée of the late, great Alexis Arguello, Gonzalez is now at flyweight and challenges titlist Akira Yaegashi in September.
17. Adonis Stevenson (24-1, 20 KOs): The light heavyweight champ is a brutal puncher who made his name with a first-round one-punch knockout of Chad Dawson to win the title 13 months ago. He's made three defenses against solid opposition in former titlist Tavoris Cloud, Toney Bellew and Andrzej Fonfara, even though that was a struggle. Points off for a blatant duck of titleholder Sergey Kovalev.
18. Leo Santa Cruz (27-0-1, 15 KOs): The two-division titlist and reigning junior featherweight titlist gets the job done by throwing seemingly millions of punches in generally one-sided wins, including against notable opponents like Cristian Mijares and Victor Terrazas.
19. Erislandy Lara (19-1-2, 12 KOs): The former Cuban amateur standout got ripped off in his one loss to Paul Williams in 2011, in a decision so bad the judges were all suspended for their woeful cards. In his last two fights, he has survived a brutal battle to stop Alfredo Angulo and then beat down former titlist Austin Trout in a lopsided decision win. We'll learn more about where the junior middleweight titleholder really belongs after his July 12 fight with Canelo Alvarez.
20. Marcos Maidana (35-4, 31 KOs): The former two-division titleholder (and terrific puncher) lost his welterweight belt in a May unification fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. via majority decision, but he gave the king perhaps the toughest fight of his brilliant career. A rematch is seemingly on tap for September.
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