January top fighters by division
What changes were made in the weight class rankings for January? Dan Rafael reveals his new world standings.
Check out my rankings within each boxing division by clicking on the links below. The rankings will be updated on the second Thursday of each month.
Who is the world's best fighter, regardless of weight class? See my pound-for-pound rankings.
Note: Results through Jan. 12:
1. Chris Byrd (39-2-1)
He's probably headed for Germany to defend his title in a rematch against Wladimir Klitschko in April. But he has just as big a fight beforehand, when he is expected to seek an injunction against promoter Don King in early February.
2. James Toney (69-4-2)
Set to face Hasim Rahman in a second crack at a heavyweight title. Let's just hope this time Toney isn't on steroids like he was when he faced John Ruiz in April.
Next: March 18 vs. Rahman
3. Lamon Brewster (33-2)
One of the most unfair things we saw in boxing in 2005 was the absurdly long count Luan Krasniqi got from the referee when Brewster decked him in the eighth round of their September fight in Germany. So what did Brewster do? He drilled Krasniqi for good in the ninth.
4. Hasim Rahman (41-5-1)
Brawled with Toney at a Mexican resort as the deal for their in-the-ring fight was being consummated. Hopefully, the aggression carries over into the real fight because we all need a stirring heavyweight championship fight to lift the division from its doldrums.
Next:March 18 vs. Toney
5. Wladimir Klitschko (45-3)
He destroyed Byrd when they first met in 2000, dropping him twice and winning a lopsided decision. That should give him much confidence should their anticipated rematch come off this spring.
6. Nicolay Valuev (43-0)
The 7-foot, 330-pound Russian giant became the biggest heavyweight champ ever when he outpointed John Ruiz on Dec. 17 in Germany. Many have called it a robbery. We've seen the tape and to us it was simply a very close (and pretty bad) fight that could have gone either way.
Next:April 1 vs. TBA
7. John Ruiz (41-6-1)
It's hard to feel bad for him losing his title to Valuev because nothing has caused us more aggravation and depression over the past several years than being forced to cover his crappy fights. Besides, now he can lay claim to losing to the biggest heavyweight titlist and one of the smallest (Roy Jones).
8. Calvin Brock (27-0)
Will continue to stay busy until he can land a major fight. That means facing journeyman Zuri Lawrence in an HBO PPV bout on the Fernando Vargas-Shane Mosley undercard.
Next: Feb. 25 vs. Lawrence
9. Samuel Peter (24-1)
Returned from disappointing September loss to Wladimir Klitschko to score a knockdown and outpoint Robert Hawkins on Dec. 15. But even though Peter won, where was his intensity? Where was his hunger for a knockout? All in all, a disappointing performance.
10. David Tua (44-3-1)
"Tuaman" returned in 2005 after a two-year layoff to win both of his fights and set himself up for a meaningful match in 2006, although he will begin the year with a stay-busy match on a Warriors Boxing pay-per-view card.
Next: Feb. 24 vs. Javier Mora
1. O'Neil Bell (26-1-1)
Congrats to the only man besides Evander Holyfield to become undisputed cruiserweight champ. That's darn good company to keep. Bell joined Holyfield by pulling off the upset and knocking out Jean-Marc Mormeck in the 10th round in a rousing fight to get the 20th anniversary season of "Showtime Championship Boxing" off to a great start.
2. Guillermo Jones (33-3-2)
Looms as one of Bell's mandatory challengers. However, if Bell decides to move up to heavyweight, which is a distinct possibility, Jones would wind up fighting for a vacant belt.
3. Steve Cunningham (19-0)
Like Jones, Cunningham is also one of Bell's mandatory challengers. He stayed busy on the Bell-Mormeck undercard by stopping Lloyd Bryan in the fifth round.
4. Johnny Nelson (45-12-2)
Much-discussed defense against rising contender and British countryman Enzo Maccarinelli is finally set for the Joe Calzaghe-Jeff Lacy undercard. Will it be the 38-year-old's guile and experience that carries the day or Maccarinelli's youth and power?
Next: March 4 vs. Maccarinelli
5. Jean-Marc Mormeck (31-3)
Perhaps he was more concerned with what the results would be of a Showtime on-line poll being conducted to determine his ring nickname -- fans selected "The Marksman" -- than he was with the power-hitting Bell, who knocked him out in the 10th round to take two of his title belts.
6. Dale Brown (34-4-1)
Easily outpointed journeyman Dennis McKinney in a six-rounder on Dec. 15 to prepare for a strong matchup against Felix Cora Jr. that will headline an ESPN2 "Friday Night Fights" card. Deserves a rematch with Bell immediately.
Next: March 24 vs. Cora
7. Wayne Braithwaite (21-2)
With as much business as there has been lately in this division, the all-action "Big Truck" should get an opportunity to regain a title before too long.
8. Carl Thompson (34-6)
Exciting British slugger returned from 14-month layoff to outpoint Frederic Serrat in an entertaining fight on the Ricky Hatton-Carlos Maussa undercard in November. Now we'd love to see Thompson give a rematch to David Haye, the young contender he upset in September 2004.
9. Virgil Hill (49-5)
Mandatory bout with Valery Brudov of Russia for a bogus vacant belt has been on and then off several times. But now it looks like it actually will happen on a pay-per-view card (are you kidding me?) from Atlantic City. Don't shoot the messenger.
Next: Jan. 27 vs. Brudov
10. Sebastian Rothmann (18-4-2)
Former title challenger has cut ties with South African promoter Rodney Berman and trainer Harold Volbrecht in the wake of his 11th-round knockout loss to Bell.
1. Antonio Tarver (24-3)
He's No. 1 because last year he avenged a loss to Glen Johnson and won the rubber match with Roy Jones. But we don't expect to ever see Tarver at 175 pounds again, not with his weight gain to play heavyweight champ Mason "The Line" Dixon in the sixth Rocky movie and the lure of the money that goes with fighting at heavyweight.
2. Glen Johnson (43-10-2)
Former champ is now working with promoter Warriors Boxing and will headline a pay-per-view card against former Roy Jones victim Richard Hall.
Next: Feb. 24 vs. Hall
3. Zsolt Erdei (23-0)
In line for a voluntary defense next time out so don't expect him to fight anyone of note. For those who follow champions from Europe, that revelation shouldn't come as much of a surprise.
Next: March 11 vs. TBA
4. Fabrice Tiozzo (47-2)
The latest word from Europe is that Tiozzo supposedly will go through with a rematch against Silvio Branco in February or March. Try to contain yourself.
5. Roy Jones Jr. (49-4)
Yes, it's about three years too late, but a rematch with Bernard Hopkins still intrigues us and is the perfect way for the future Hall of Famers to close out terrific careers, although it will be pushed back from the original target date of March 11.
Next: TBA vs. Hopkins
6. Tomasz Adamek (30-0)
In addition to his light heavyweight belt, Adamek holds another title, too: "Best boxer you've probably never seen or barely heard of." He's exciting and has a huge heart, and we hope someone from HBO or Showtime steps up and gives him a chance to be seen.
7. Clinton Woods (38-3-1)
Mandatory title defense against Johnson looms, a fight Woods probably wants no part of. Can you blame him? He's already got a loss and a gift draw against him.
8. Julio Gonzalez (38-3)
Coming off a unanimous decision victory against Jason DeLisle in November. Nothing in the works for Gonzalez at the moment, but the one fight we'd be interested in is a rematch of his controversial decision win against Johnson.
9. Paul Briggs (24-2)
Might return home to Australia for a quick tune-up fight as a prelude to a mandatory rematch against Adamek. If it's half as good as their first bloody brawl, it will still be a fight of the year candidate.
10. Montell Griffin (47-6)
In an effort to rejuvenate his sagging career, the former champ has signed with promoter Joe DeGaurdia's Star Boxing and hopes to fight soon.
1. Joe Calzaghe (39-0)
Long-awaited unification fight with Jeff Lacy is still two months away. That means there is still plenty of time for the unreliable Calzaghe to come up with an excuse to get out of it or to injure himself in training.
Next: March 4 vs. Lacy
2. Jeff Lacy (21-0)
We admire Lacy for doing what so few other champions seem willing to do -- travel to enemy turf to fight a serious opponent. Lacy is doing exactly that by going to Great Britain for his unification showdown with Calzaghe, a fight that could be one of the year's best.
Next: March 4 vs. Calzaghe
3. Mikkel Kessler (36-0)
Like Lacy, Kessler was also willing to travel when he left the comfy confines of Denmark to defend against Anthony Mundine in Australia last summer. Now, it's back home to host former titlist Eric Lucas.
Next:Saturday vs. Lucas
4. Markus Beyer (33-2)
Titlist from Germany continues to take the path of least resistance, this time planning to face untested and unknown Italian Alberto Colajanni (18-0, 2 KOs), whose resume is devoid of a single notable opponent.
Next: Jan. 28 vs. Colajanni
5. Danny Green (21-2)
Scored shutout decision Dec. 11 against rugged spoiler Kirino Garcia on the same card as an Anthony Mundine victory. That set the stage for their spring showdown, one of the most anticipated fights in Australian history.
Next: TBA vs. Mundine
6. Anthony Mundine (24-3)
Like Green, Mundine took care of business Dec. 11, knocking out ridiculously overmatched Rico Chong Nee in three rounds. Now it's on to the real fight, Green vs. Mundine, which will probably be in April and might be sanctioned as an eliminator to determine a mandatory for the Lacy-Calzaghe winner.
Next: TBA vs. Green
7. Otis Grant (38-2-1)
Canadian contender's handlers won a purse bid for his elimination fight against Librado Andrade, so Grant will have the home-turf advantage in Montreal when they meet this spring.
Next: April 8 vs. Andrade
8. Librado Andrade (22-0)
He'll end a 14-month layoff by heading to Canada for an eliminator with Grant. The winner earns the right to go to Germany to challenge Beyer.
Next: April 8 vs. Grant
9. Robin Reid (38-5-1)
In his first 43 pro fights, the former titlist was as durable as anyone, never getting knocked down. In his last bout, Lacy pounded him to the canvas four times. That should tell you how hard Lacy hits. It should also be a sign that maybe Reid needs to think about a new line of work.
10. Eric Lucas (38-6-3)
Former titlist from Canada has had many ups and downs in his 16-year pro career. Now, he's getting what appears to be one more shot at glory when he goes to Denmark to challenge Kessler as a huge underdog.
Next: Saturday vs. Kessler
1. Jermain Taylor (25-0)
The champ was willing to bypass a hometown fight and go directly to a spring mandatory defense against Winky Wright, but that looks like it won't happen because Wright demanded 50 percent of the money, which he doesn't deserve.
2. Winky Wright (50-3)
Followed big victory over Felix Trinidad with tougher-than-expected decision against frisky Sam Soliman last month. It certainly wasn't the sort of performance that helped build up a fight with Taylor. Why should Wright get 50 percent of the dough when he is not the champ or the draw?
3. Bernard Hopkins (46-4-1)
Before becoming undisputed middleweight champ and making a division-record 20 title defenses, Hopkins turned pro as a light heavyweight in 1988 and lost. Seventeen years later, he is planning a return to the division for a rematch with longtime rival Roy Jones in a farewell fight that we still find compelling, despite a combined 0-5 recent record.
Next: TBA vs. Jones
4. Felix Sturm (24-1)
A left elbow injury scuttled a Nov. 26 fight for Maselino Masoe's bogus title, so they will meet as soon as Sturm is healthy. We'd rather see Sturm face Taylor, but Sturm rejected that bout.
Next: TBA vs. Masoe
5. Arthur Abraham (19-0)
The big puncher claimed a vacant belt with a surprisingly one-sided fifth-round knockout of Kingsley Ikeke on Dec. 10 in Germany. Abraham is a breath of fresh air in a division that needs an infusion of new faces.
Next:March 4 vs. Raymond Joval
6. Sam Soliman (31-8)
Australian contender's stock actually rose, despite losing to Wright on Dec. 10, because he put up a much better fight than expected and never stopped throwing punches. Could land a spring shot at Taylor, but imagine Soliman facing junior middleweight Kassim Ouma? The CompuBox buttons would break because there would be so many blows thrown.
7. Howard Eastman (40-3)
In need of a victory after consecutive decision losses to Hopkins and Abraham, he'll face rising contender Edison Miranda (25-0, 22 KOs) this spring in an elimination bout.
Next: TBA vs. Miranda
8. Kingsley Ikeke (23-2)
Losing to Abraham is one thing, but what made the defeat such a tremendous disappointment was that Ikeke was never even in the fight. We expected so much more.
9. Raymond Joval (35-4)
He's a road warrior. In November, Joval traveled to Australia and knocked out hometown favorite Shannan Taylor in the 10th round. Now, he's headed to Germany to challenge Abraham.
Next: March 4 vs. Abraham
10. Kelly Pavlik (27-0)
Was supposed to fight dangerous puncher Jose Luis Zertuche on the Jan. 21 Erik Morales-Manny Pacquiao II HBO PPV undercard until another in a long line of hand injuries forced him out of the bout.
1. Roman Karmazin (34-1-1)
He's been idle since winning the title from Kassim Ouma last summer, but has emerged as a top candidate to get a crack at middleweight champ Jermain Taylor this spring if the Taylor-Wright fight fails to happen.
2. Kassim Ouma (22-2-1)
As he continues his comeback from the summer title loss to Karmazin, Ouma headlines ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" against experienced Francisco Mora of Argentina. The winner will be in line to get a crack at new titlist Sergei Dzindziruk.
Next: Jan. 27 vs. Mora
3. Ricardo Mayorga (27-5-1)
Paper titlist perhaps isn't what he was before being obliterated by Felix Trinidad, but one thing is for sure: Mayorga remains a huge puncher. That trait could be the difference when he faces an Oscar De La Hoya, who will be coming off a 20-month layoff and a knockout loss to Bernard Hopkins.
Next: May 6 vs. De La Hoya
4. Fernando Vargas (26-2)
Whatever happens when he faces Shane Mosley, let there be no excuses from either side for any reason. Both guys have had a ring full of them as they've tried to explain previous defeats. With that said, let's have the great fight many of us expect.
Next: Feb. 25 vs. Mosley
5. Sergej Dzindziruk (31-0)
We've now seen a DVD of his title-winning effort against Daniel Santos and we were impressed. The German-based Ukrainian knows how to fight, is technically sound and has some pop. He could be around for awhile, which means we should probably learn how to pronounce his name.
6. Daniel Santos (29-3-1)
He was off for 14 months, which certainly didn't help him in his title-losing decision loss -- in which he was knocked down -- to Dzindziruk.
7. Ike Quartey (37-2-1)
One fight being seriously discussed is a match with Vernon Forrest in what would be a very intriguing clash between two veteran former welterweight champs. The winner would probably advance to a major fight. The loser probably goes home.
8. Alex "Terra" Garcia (25-1)
A unification bout with Karmazin is being discussed if Karmazin doesn't land a fight with Taylor. Karmazin-Garcia would be snap to make because Don King promotes both fighters. Hopefully, HBO and Showtime would be interested in the fight.
9. Rodney Jones (36-3-1)
Rematch of October draw with Raul Frank will serve as an eliminator to determine Karmazin's mandatory. For those in attendance, it should also serve as a way to fall asleep without taking pills.
Next: Feb. 24 vs. Frank
10. Javier Castillejo (59-6)
Former champ, who was outclassed by Vargas and Oscar De La Hoya in his American appearances, is taking a stab at middleweight and will challenge Sebastian Sylvester for the European title.
Next: TBA vs. Sylvester
1. Carlos Baldomir (42-9-6)
Give him major props for pulling off a monumental upset of Zab Judah to win the title, but we don't expect his reign to last too long. His resume is one of the weakest in modern welterweight championship history.
2. Antonio Margarito (32-4)
The most ducked fighter in the sport defends against another guy few want to fight, the dangerous Manuel Gomez, on a Top Rank pay-per-view card.
Next: Feb. 18 vs. Gomez
3. Zab Judah (34-3)
It's one thing to lose to top-notch fighters Cory Spinks and Kostya Tszyu, like Judah previously has. But to blow a $3 million April payday against Floyd Mayweather and the undisputed title to Baldomir? Unacceptable. Judah's career and reputation have been irreversibly damaged by that horrific loss.
4. Cory Spinks (34-3)
Idle since losing the undisputed title via knockout to Judah in February. When he does return, it will be as a junior middleweight. When that will be is anyone's guess.
5. Shane Mosley (41-4)
Headed back to junior middleweight to face Fernando Vargas in a meeting that is a few years too late, but still has the potential to be a highly entertaining fight between two major stars.
Next: Feb. 25 vs. Vargas
6. Manuel Gomez (27-10-2)
"Shotgun" has a record that doesn't look all that impressive but he hasn't lost since a decision to Diosbelys Hurtado in 1998. Gomez deserves his shot at Margarito.
Next: Feb. 18 vs. Margarito
7. Thomas Damgaard (37-0)
Danish southpaw has never fought outside of his country, but for the big bucks he will make from a fight with Arturo Gatti, the trip will be worth it. Not to mention that he is a very live underdog.
Next: Jan. 28 vs. Gatti
8. Luis Collazo (26-1)
Promoter Don King defaulted on a purse bid for mandatory defense against Oktay Urkal and has had problems making a deal with Urkal's promoter, meaning it could wind up back in another purse bid. To put it another, less complicated way, Collazo sits and waits for the mess to be resolved.
Next: TBA vs. Urkal
9. Kermit Cintron (25-1)
There was talk of a Showtime bout against former champ Vernon Forrest at 154 pounds, but that is not happening. Nor is anything else in the stagnant career of Cintron.
10. Oktay Urkal (36-3)
Hopefully, for his sake and for Collazo's, King and Urkal promoter Wilfried Sauerland will make a deal for the mandatory fight and the fighters can get on with their careers.
Next: TBA vs. Collazo
1. Ricky Hatton (40-0)
The ESPN.com fighter of the year says he plans to box in America in 2006. He is being wined and dined by promoters, including Golden Boy, which is said to have offered him a massive signing bonus. Whoever promotes Hatton, let's hope he indeed comes to our shores. If he does, his first assignment in the U.S. could be a summer match against Arturo Gatti, as long as Gatti wins a Jan. 28 bout.
2. Floyd Mayweather Jr. (35-0)
What goes around comes around, doesn't it? Made many millions of dollars by suckering HBO into dramatically overpaying for so many poor fights (anyone remember the Henry Bruseles joke last January?), and now, when he is poised to earn a $6 million minimum payday for a serious fight, an April 8 showdown against Zab Judah, Judah goes and loses the welterweight title to Carlos Baldomir. Poof. There goes the biggest purse of Mayweather's career. Hard to feel sorry for him.
3. Miguel Cotto (25-0)
Star titlist from Puerto Rico set to defend on HBO against Gianluca Branco of Italy, but only after promoter Top Rank and HBO haggled over the opponent, as usual. Top Rank preferred former lightweight titlist Raul Balbi. HBO suggested another former lightweight titlist, Julio Diaz. Branco was the compromise. The main thing is that if Cotto wins, then it probably will lead to a big-time fight with Jose Luis Castillo later in 2006, as long as Castillo beats Diego Corrales in their rubber match next month.
Next: March 4 vs. Branco
4. Kostya Tszyu (31-2)
There has been a lot of talk about the possibility of Tszyu moving up to welterweight for a rematch with Judah, but that match seems unlikely, especially in the wake of Judah's pathetic loss to Baldomir.
5. Arturo "Thunder" Gatti (39-7)
If Gatti can take care of undefeated southpaw Thomas Damgaard of Denmark in a welterweight fight, he could land a major fight with Hatton in June.
Next: Jan. 28 vs. Damgaard
6. Junior Witter (33-1-2)
With Mayweather likely to stay at welterweight and vacate his 140 title, Witter, the European champ who is also Mayweather's mandatory, will get a shot at the soon-to-be vacant belt.
7. DeMarcus "Chop Chop" Corley (31-4-1)
Although there is not great demand for him as an opponent right now, he's a wily old veteran and a former titlist, so that can change very quickly.
8. Carlos Maussa (19-3)
Which is the real Maussa: The one who dominated and knocked out Vivian Harris to win a world title in June or the one who got punished and drilled by Hatton in November? The truth is probably somewhere in between; he's expected back in March or April, probably on a Telemundo card.
9. Vivian Harris (25-2-1)
Left in limbo after upset loss to Maussa in June, Harris' first step to getting his career back on track was signing with promoter Gary Shaw. The second step will be a comeback fight against durable journeyman Marteze Logan, which will be on a "ShoBox" undercard but won't be televised.
10. Ricardo Torres (28-1)
After a sensational brawl with Cotto in September, we can't wait to see this Colombian slugger back in action. But it will have to wait a bit because he injured his hand, which forced him out of a December bout against Cotto pal Henry Bruseles.
1. Jose Luis Castillo (53-7-1)
Of all the people who made a New Year's resolution to lose weight, we certainly hope Castillo is one of the few who is taking it seriously.
Next: Feb. 4 vs. Corrales
2. Diego "Chico" Corrales (40-3)
One month before his third fight with Castillo, he was in New York celebrating New Year's at an ESPN party with his wife. Didn't think that was part of a fighter's training camp, but we could be wrong.
Next: Feb. 4 vs. Castillo
3. Acelino "Popo" Freitas (37-1)
"Popo" has won his past two fights in his native Brazil. There has been discussion that "Popo" would return to the United States to face fellow former titlist Julio Diaz this spring.
4. Juan Diaz (28-0)
The purse bid for his mandatory rematch with Lakva Sim is slated for Friday. Once that fight is finally scheduled, Diaz will have an idea of where his stagnant career is going.
Next: TBA vs. Sim
5. Joel Casamayor (31-3-1)
Former junior lightweight champ fought just once last year, a gift draw with Almazbek Raiymkulov in June, and he's 1-2-1 in his last four fights. However, he still has a big name in the division and we suspect there is at least one more meaningful fight out there for him.
6. Julio Diaz (32-3)
Former titlist can instantly re-establish himself if the fight with Freitas comes off and Diaz wins. It's a terrific matchup, so we hope to see it happen.
7. Juan Lazcano (35-3-1)
In talks to face Ben Tackie on Feb. 24 in what should be an exciting fight on Telefutura. If that bout comes off, the boxing world will be watching because it would be in Las Vegas in a Mandalay Bay ballroom the night before the resort is host to a huge fight, Fernando Vargas vs. Shane Mosley.
8. Zahir Raheem (27-1)
There had been talk that he would return from his upset victory against Erik Morales to fight on the Corrales-Castillo III undercard, but it was just talk.
9. Jesus Chavez (43-3)
According to Golden Boy, Chavez is on board to defend his belt against Marco Antonio Barrera but Barrera has not yet agreed. Let's hope it happens because it has a chance to be a sensational fight.
10. Lakva Sim (21-4-1)
Suffered a cut while training, which postponed Dec. 15 rematch with Juan Diaz. It will be rescheduled after an upcoming purse bid.
Next: TBA vs. Juan Diaz
1. Marco Antonio Barrera (61-4)
Unified champ still not 100 percent on board with making the much-discussed move to lightweight to challenge titlist Jesus Chavez. If he doesn't, Barrera could face Jorge Barrios in a 130-pound unification bout instead. Both fights are intriguing. Whomever Barrera faces, the fight will be live on HBO, and not pay-per-view.
Next: March 25 vs. TBA
2. Erik Morales (48-3)
If he beats Pacquiao again, as we expect, will Morales then do the right thing and pursue a rematch with Zahir Raheem, who upset him in a September lightweight fight?
Next: Jan. 21 vs. Pacquiao
3. Manny Pacquiao (40-3-2)
Says he would have knocked Morales out had he been allowed to wear the Reyes brand gloves he usually fights in. In the rematch, each fighter has his choice of gloves, so let's see whether Pacquiao can back up his boasts.
Next: Jan. 21 vs. Morales
4. Jorge Barrios (44-2-1)
Easily outpointed Nazareno Gaston Ruiz on Dec. 16 in native Argentina to set the stage for a title defense on Barrera's HBO undercard. Barrios might face mandatory Janos Nagy, but featherweight contender Rocky Juarez is also possible.
Next: March 25 vs. TBA
5. Carlos Hernandez (41-6-1)
It has been three months and we're still ticked off about how badly he was robbed of the decision against Bobby Pacquiao. How clear was the victory? Pacquiao's trainer, the honorable Freddie Roach, said Hernandez won.
6. Vicente Mosquera (21-1-1)
Scored two knockdowns and stopped Walter Estrada in the eighth round of a nontitle bout Dec. 10 in native Panama. It was Mosquera's first bout since exciting title-winning decision against Yodsanan Nanthachai in April. Could next defend against former featherweight title challenger Oscar Leon.
7. Yodsanan Nanthachai (45-3-1)
Former champ headed for an elimination bout with another recently deposed titlist, Robbie Peden, in what could be a terrific fight if it comes off.
8. Alex Arthur (21-1)
European champ saw showdown with Willie Limond fall apart after Limond withdrew from his mandatory position to go in another direction. That leaves Arthur to defend instead against Ricky Burns in an all-Scottish fight.
Next: Feb. 18 vs. Burns
9. Robbie Peden (25-3)
Potential eliminator against Nanthachai is just the sort of fight both guys need to re-establish themselves after losing their titles. Just nine months ago, it would have been a unification fight.
10. Manuel Medina (65-14)
Former five-time featherweight titlist is looking for one more title shot before retiring and could face Javier Alvarez in an eliminator to produce a mandatory for Barrera, although it is doubtful Barrera would fight the winner. More likely, the winner would vie for a vacant title.
1. Juan Manuel Marquez (44-2-1)
Manager/trainer Nacho Beristain has driven this elite fighter's career into the ground with his epic bumbling. Instead of major fights with Manny Pacquiao or Erik Morales, Marquez wound up being stripped of both his title belts and accepting a $31,250 purse to travel to Indonesia because of Beristain. Needless to say, Beristain is not a candidate for the Boxing Writers Association of America's manager of the year award.
Next: March 4 vs. John
2. Injin Chi (30-2-1)
Korean titlist is coming off a leg injury to face veteran southpaw Takashi Koshimoto (38-1-2) of Japan. Chi should be facing interim titlist Humberto Soto, but the WBC continues to perpetrate the fraud of having two fighters in the same division parading as champions.
Next: Jan. 29 vs. Koshimoto
3. Scott Harrison (25-2-2)
Much-anticipated mandatory against Joan Guzman has been bumped from February to March, but it should be worth the wait. We'd be tickled if an American network picked up the broadcast rights so we can all see it.
Next: March 25 vs. Guzman
4. Humberto Soto (38-5-2)
Interim titlist headlines in his hometown of Los Mochis, Mexico. Perhaps someday, the slimy WBC will follow its rules and order him to face Chi, the full titlist.
Next: Feb. 3 vs. TBA
5. Chris John (36-0-1)
Perhaps he's a paper champion, but he is a true champion in the nickname department. There are few better monikers in boxing than "The Indonesian Thin Man." He has recovered from an ankle injury that forced the postponement of a mandatory defense against rightful champ Marquez, and it has been rescheduled.
Next: March 4 vs. Marquez
6. Rocky Juarez (24-1)
Stopped Reynaldo Hurtado in three rounds Dec. 9 in first action since upset loss to Humberto Soto in August. Juarez has another similar untelevised fight on tap while awaiting a more significant opportunity.
Next: Jan. 21 vs. Backlin Medrano
7. Joan Guzman (24-0)
You never know what will happen when the bell rings, but we expect mandatory title challenge against Harrison to be one of the year's most action-packed fights. Both guys can crack, and both are aggressive. This one should be fun for as long as it lasts.
Next: March 25 vs. Harrison
8. Victor Polo (34-5-3)
Idle since May, when he lost a decision to Marquez in fifth unsuccessful (0-4-1) try at a world title. But we suspect Polo will be back to give it another run.
9. Derrick Gainer (39-7-1)
Former titlist has had too many chances as far as we are concerned, but he's looking for one more. So he signed with promoter Joe DeGuardia's Star Boxing, and he is willing to fight at either 126 or 130 pounds.
10. Nicky Cook (25-0)
European champ from England injured his hand, forcing postponement of a Nov. 18 defense against Yuri Voronin. But the hand has healed and the fight has been rescheduled.
Next: Feb. 24 vs. Voronin
1. Israel Vazquez (39-3)
Unified titles with an early TKO of Oscar Larios last month and could follow it up with a chance to become undisputed champ. There's talk that he could travel to France to face titlist Mahyar Monshipour for what surely would be a fight of the year candidate.
2. Mahyar Monshipour (28-2-2)
Folks in America aren't too familiar with the titlist from France, but he is as aggressive and exciting as they come. Think Wayne McCullough with a big punch and a little more defense.
Next: TBA vs. Somsak Sithchatchawlan
3. Oscar Larios (56-4-1)
After TKO loss to Vazquez in their rubber match, Larios would like a fourth fight. But that probably is unrealistic, so we expect to see the deposed champ move up to featherweight and try his luck there.
4. Celestino Caballero (23-2)
Co-promoter Don King would like to match the talented interim titlist from Panama with former bantamweight champ Tim Austin, who is on the comeback trail after a 2½-year layoff.
Next: Feb. 4 vs. Roberto Bonilla
5. Daniel Ponce De Leon (27-1)
He won a title in October and has serious punching power, but his lack of speed and technique probably mean he is not destined to hold his title for long.
Other contenders: Yoddamrong Sithyodthong, Sergio Manuel Medina, Ricardo Cordoba
1. Rafael Marquez (35-3)
He can box. He can punch. He's beaten good opposition. He has so clearly established himself as the most dominant champion in this division, we're not sure what is left for him to prove, since the chances for unification bouts are so slim.
2. Hozumi Hasegawa (19-2)
Long-delayed mandatory against Diego Morales, the younger brother of Erik Morales, has been rescheduled. If Hasegawa gets through it, a rematch with Veeraphol Sahaprom is probable.
Next: March 25 vs. D. Morales
3. Veeraphol Sahaprom (51-2-2)
Former champ knocked out Rey Llagas (57-27-3) with a second-round body shot Dec. 6 in Thailand, his fourth straight win since losing title to Hasegawa in April.
4. Jhonny Gonzalez (31-4)
Ultra-exciting puncher will make first defense of the belt he won Oct. 29 on the HBO PPV undercard of the Vargas-Mosley fight. A deal is close for him to face former flyweight and junior bantamweight champ Mark Johnson.
Next: Feb. 25 vs. TBA
5. Genaro Garcia (34-4)
A bout with the flu forced him to pull out of a title eliminator against veteran contender Ricardo "Chapo" Vargas, which was supposed to have been on the Judah-Baldomir undercard. Next: TBA
Other contenders: Ratanachai Sor Vorapin, Silence Mabuza, Poonsawat Kratingdaengym, Wladimir Sidorenko, Cruz Carvajal, Ivan "Choko" Hernandez.
1. Martin Castillo (29-1)
Rematch with former champ Alexander Munoz figures to be an excellent fight on the Morales-Pacquiao II HBO PPV undercard. If Castillo wins, we would love to see him in a unification bout with either Luis Perez or Fernando Montiel.
Next: Jan. 21 vs. Munoz
2. Fernando Montiel (32-1-1)
Maybe, just maybe, Montiel promoter Golden Boy and Castillo promoter Top Rank will be able to put their distaste for each other aside and make a terrific unification fight. It would be perfect for the Mayorga-De La Hoya undercard in May and would be a gift to all boxing fans.
3. Luis Perez (23-1)
Don King should be ashamed of himself for so blatantly ignoring Perez, one of the most exciting champions in the sport. King has left him on the shelf for ridiculously long stretches, and Perez deserves better.
4. Masamori Tokuyama (31-3-1)
Tokuyama is only 31 but has told Japanese media that, win or lose, he will retire after a mandatory defense against American Jose Navarro.
Next: Feb.27 vs. Navarro
5. Jose Navarro (23-1)
2005 was a lost year for Navarro, who was robbed in his first title shot against Katsushige Kawashima in January. Now, Navarro has a chance to erase that memory when he goes back to Japan for a shot against Tokuyama, who defeated Kawashima.
Next: Feb. 27 vs. Tokuyama
Other contenders: Katsushige Kawashima, Mark Johnson, Alexander Munoz
1. Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (59-2)
Veteran Thai champion won a nontitle bout via a five-round technical decision against Isidro Balabat of the Philippines on Dec. 23. Balabat could not continue because of an accidental head butt.
Next: TBA vs. Rosendo Alvarez
2. Jorge Arce (42-3-1)
Interim titlist went 4-0 with four KOs in a sensational 2005, finishing with an exciting 10th-round TKO of former junior bantamweight titlist Adonis Rivas in December. But instead of the joke WBC enforcing the mandatory fight with Wonjongkam, Arce inexplicably will face Rivas again.
Next:Jan. 28 vs. Rivas
3. Lorenzo Parra (27-0)
Three defenses and three solid victories in 2005 for the Venezuela native, who did all of his work on the road, with two fights in Japan and one in France. In fact, he is 6-0 in world title fights overall, and all of them have come in foreign countries. And Winky Wright thought he had it tough when he was globe-trotting?
4. Vic Darchinyan (24-0)
Exciting puncher hopes to squeeze in an optional defense before being mandated to defend against the winner of an eliminator between Mexico's Victor Burgos and Diosdado Gabi of the Philippines.
5. Rosendo Alvarez (36-2-2)
Former 105 and 108 champ continued to stay busy while awaiting title shot against Wonjongkam by stopping Jorge Romero in six rounds in native Nicaragua on Dec. 10.
Next: Feb. 4 vs. Eduardo Rivas
Other contenders: Victor Burgos, Omar Narvaez, Irene Pacheco
1. Ivan "Iron Boy" Calderon (24-0)
Not only did he outpoint former champ Daniel Reyes in an impressive Dec. 10 title defense -- he also pitched a virtual shutout. Next up, Calderon faces yet another former champion on the Top Rank PPV card headlined by Antonio Margarito-Manuel Gomez.
Next:Feb. 18 vs. Isaac Bustos
2. Roberto "The Spider" Vasquez (21-1)
Exciting 22-year-old champion from Panama had a big 2005, emerging on the world scene by winning a title in exciting fashion against Beibis Mendoza and making two successful defenses.
3. Hugo Cazares (22-3-1)
108 titlist looked very good defending against Kaichon Sor Vorapin in October, and promoter Golden Boy hopes to bring unassuming titlist back for his third defense sometime in April.
4. Brian Viloria (18-0)
If 2000 U.S. Olympian is successful in first 108 defense against former 105 titlist Jose Antonio Aguirre, there are two fights we'd like to see Viloria in: either a showdown with 105 champ Calderon or a trip to flyweight to face Jorge Arce. Both fights are makeable, too, since, since all three are promoted by Top Rank.
Next: Feb. 18 vs. Aguirre
5. Ulises "Archie" Solis (20-1-1)
Overcame cuts over both eyes to outpoint Will Grigsby to win a 108-pound title in a minor upset on the Baldomir-Judah undercard. It was Solis' second crack at a title after losing a majority decision for a belt to then-titlist Nelson Dieppa in 2004.
Other contenders: Will Grigsby, Nelson Dieppa, Yutaka Niida, Beibis Mendoza, Muhammad Rachman
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