Commentary

Ranking the top pound-for-pound fighters (Nos. 1-5)

Dan Rafael ranks the best boxers in the world.

Originally Published: November 19, 2008
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

Who is the world's best fighter, regardless of weight class? See my top 20 below.

Rafael's P4P rankings


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Insider 6-20

And don't forget to check out the divisional rankings, now updated weekly.

For a list of the current champions in all weight classes, click here.

Note: Results through Nov. 20.

1
Manny Pacquiao

Lightweight titlist
AGE: 29 | Record: 47-3-2, 35 KOs
Hits: From all reports out of Pacquiao's training camp, Pacquiao is training like a man possessed for the Dec. 6 showdown with Oscar De La Hoya. A motivated and in-shape Pacquiao is a dangerous, dangerous fighter and a recipe for what could be a memorable and dramatic fight, which is something boxing could really use right about now. That Pacquiao would have the audacity to jump up so far in weight for a crack at De La Hoya is one of the elements that makes this matchup so utterly fascinating.

Misses: There's always the chance that an aggressive Pacquiao could walk right into one of De La Hoya's electric left hooks and go to sleep.

2
Joe Calzaghe

Light heavyweight champion
AGE: 36 | Record: 46-0, 32 KOs
Hits: If Calzaghe is really going to retire like he says he is strongly considering, there is no better way than to walk away on top as an undefeated champion coming off a massively dominant decision victory against Roy Jones. Other than that first-round knockdown, Calzaghe was near-flawless in taking apart the former pound-for-pound king. If this is indeed the end, Calzaghe will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer in five years and he will deserve every vote he receives.

Misses: Although it is understandable for Calzaghe to think about retirement -- and nobody should blame him if he does call it a career -- there are still some notable matches out there for him that wouldn't happen. There is Chad Dawson, a rematch with Bernard Hopkins, Jermain Taylor and Glen Johnson, all of whom deserve the shot for one reason or another.

3
Bernard Hopkins

Light heavyweight
AGE: 43 | Record: 49-5-1, 32 KOs
Hits: Hopkins deserves all the credit in the world for fighting like a 23-year-old instead of the 43-year-old that he is when he annihilated 26-year-old Kelly Pavlik for one of the great performances of his career and one of the most remarkable performances in boxing history. Hopkins is simply a freak of nature.

Misses: Because of the disrespect Hopkins showed toward Calzaghe before and after Calzaghe's split decision win against him in April, Hopkins almost assuredly will not get the rematch he craves.

4
Juan Manuel Marquez

Lightweight champion
AGE: 35 | Record: 49-4-1, 36 KOs
Hits: Marquez has all sorts of interesting options in the wake of his terrific knockout victory against Joel Casamayor in September to claim the lineal lightweight world championship in his first bout at 135 pounds. Among the attractive fights are matches with unified titleholder Nate Campbell, former titlist Juan Diaz and all-action fighters Michael Katsidis or Edwin Valero. And, of course, there is always the possibility of a third fight with Pacquiao. It's nice to be a great fighter with options.

Misses: Marquez's drawing power when he's not fighting somebody with a big name such as Pacquiao or Marco Antonio Barrera has to be questioned after the Casamayor bout did less than 100,000 buys on pay-per-view.

5
Antonio Margarito

Welterweight titlist
AGE: 30 | Record: 37-5, 27 KOs
Hits: The "Tijuana Tornado" is as exciting as they come, as illustrated by his sensational July knockout victory against Miguel Cotto. You could match him with just about anyone and it would probably be an entertaining fight.

Misses: Everything was in motion for Margarito to face Shane Mosley on Jan. 24. Promoter Golden Boy reached its deal with Mosley. Golden Boy reached agreement with Margarito promoter Top Rank. And both promoters have a deal with HBO. But Margarito, after yapping about how Mosley would et his pants if he fought him, instead was the one who turned the fight and a $2 million payday without anything else lined up.

Click here for Nos. 6-20 Insider