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Thursday, October 30, 2003
Updated: November 3, 9:22 AM ET
Kellerman: Roy leads pound-for-pound race

By Max Kellerman
Special to ESPN.com

Several weeks ago in my chatroom someone asked for my new pound-for-pound list in light of James Toney's domination of Evander Holyfield. I deftly avoided answering the question. I think I said I would post my updated pound-for-pound list in my next column, and then I never did.

So here it is:

1. Roy Jones
2. Bernard Hopkins
3. Floyd Mayweather Jr.
4. Marco Antonio Barrera
5. Erik Morales
6. Kostya Tszyu
7. James Toney
8. Shane Mosley
9. Oscar De La Hoya
10. Rafael Marquez

  • 1. Roy Jones still has yet to participate in a fight he was truly in danger of losing. This, despite the fact that he has fought James Toney, Bernard Hopkins, a top five heavyweight, and every significant 175-pound contender (except Dariusz Michalczewski, who just lost, and Antonio Tarver, who Jones will fight next Saturday night). A Roy Jones comes on the scene every 50 years or so. The last time he was called Sugar Ray Robinson.

  • 2. Bernard Hopkins has had only one fight against a world-class fighter -- a destruction of Carl Daniels -- since destroying Felix Trinidad late in 2001. The middleweight champ has a title defense coming up against William Joppy (his Ring Magazine No. 1 contender) on Don King's Dec. 13th card in Atlantic City. The Joppy match should give us a better idea of whether "The Executioner" is still at least an approximation of the fighter who beat up Trinidad.

  • 3. Floyd Mayweather is taking on Phillip Ndou this upcoming Saturday night. Ndou is a very busy fighter who hits with power. As stay-busy fights go, this one is dangerous for Floyd. Against lightweights, Mayweather has simply not been as dominant as he was against junior lightweights. While Ndou is rising from junior lightweight for this fight, he is a volume puncher who hits with power. Should Mayweather dominate, or even win decisively, my ranking him third here will make sense. Should he squeak by, he will likely drop several slots.

  • 4. Marco Antonio Barrera has not beaten a top notch world class fighter in a hot minute now, but, like Hopkins, retains his ranking until there is some evidence that he does not deserve it.

  • 5. Kostya Tszyu has never risen above his natural junior welterweight division and beaten bigger game. Tszyu has a knockout loss on his record against a very good but not great fighter in Vince Phillps. Tszyu has struggled against Shambra Mitchell and even Jesse James Leija. But over the last half decade, King Kostya has emerged from every fight with a win, and he has fought the very best of boxing's deepest division. With Shane Mosley and Oscar De La Hoya both looking like fighters in decline while losing (and even winning) recent fights, Tszyu's wins over Zab Judah, Mitchell, Oktay Urkal, Ben Tackie and company land him in the top five. However, Kostya too looks like a fighter in decline.

  • 6. Erik Morales should never be separated from Marco Antonio Barrera by much on any list. The two have proven against each other in two fights that they are essentially equals. Barrera ranks a little higher based on Morales' greater struggles against other world class opponents and based on Barrera's domination of Naseem Hamed.

  • 7. James Toney just beat the No. 1 cruiserweight in the world in the fight of the year, and followed that up with the most thorough destruction of Evander Holyfield imaginable. While Oscar De La Hoya and Shane Mosley seem less effective than they were several years ago, Toney looks sharper and stronger than ever. His skill has reached an absurd level.

  • 8. Shane Mosley won a close fight against De La Hoya and his two losses to Vernon Forrest probably speak to how marginal the difference is between top fighters in most weight divisions. Shane does not look quite as fast as he did a couple of years ago, and certainly did not beat Oscar as decisively at 154 pounds as he did at 147. But the point is, he beat Oscar De La Hoya at 154 pounds and at 147! And other than Forrest, Shane has beaten every professional fighter he has ever fought.

  • 9. Oscar De La Hoya probably deserves to rate higher, but where? Ahead of the guy who just beat him for the second time? Maybe. Ahead of someone like Kostya, who has never taken on and beaten the best of bigger weight classes? Maybe. There is a good argument for rating Oscar significantly higher. He began his career as a junior lightweight, and competed on a world class level from there up to junior welter and on the very highest world class level at welter and junior middle. But Oscar never firmly established himself as the very best in any one weight class for any significant length of time. At 147 and 154 (and maybe at 140, too, had he stuck around to find out), there have always been one or more fighters who were as good as him. He has never been the Roy Jones or Bernard Hopkins of any weight division.

  • 10. Rafael Marquez should be getting Manny Pacquiao's press. Paquiao has looked frightening destroying some good fighters. Marquez has looked special knocking out some great ones. Mark Johnson will go down as the best sub- bantamweight fighter since Miguel Canto, who dominated the flyweights in the 1970's. Tim Austin will go down as the best American bantamweight since Jeff Chandler, who dominated the 118-pounders in the early 1980's. Both Johnson and Austin went down against Marquez. Another big win and Shane and Oscar get leapfrogged.

    Next Sixteen (in order of weight division):

    Lennox Lewis
    Antonio Tarver
    Joe Calzaghe
    Winky Wright
    Ricardo Mayorga
    Vernon Forrest
    Shambra Mitchell
    Zab Judah
    Juan Lazcano
    Joel Cassmayor
    Acelino Freitas
    Juan Manuel Marquez
    Manny Pacquiao
    Mark Johnson
    Eric Morel
    Rosendo Alvarez

    Max Kellerman is a studio analyst for ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" and the host of the show "Around The Horn."