Commentary

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

Dan Rafael ranks the best boxers in the world.

Originally Published: December 17, 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


Become an Insider to get Dan Rafael's complete pound-for-pound list.

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.

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Note: Results through Dec. 17.

1
Manny Pacquiao

Lightweight titlist
AGE: 29 | Record: 48-3-2, 36 KOs
Hits: Where to even begin? Pacquiao completed a historic year by laying waste to Oscar De La Hoya at welterweight in an upset. The eighth-round TKO victory sealed the deal for the PacMan as 2008 Fighter of the Year and gave him three wins in three weight divisions this year. He had previously won the world junior lightweight championship against Juan Manuel Marquez and claimed a lightweight belt from David Diaz. He's the closest thing we have in modern boxing to the great Henry Armstrong. And there are still massive fights out there for him, be it a showdown with junior welterweight champ Ricky Hatton, a third fight with Marquez or the battle we all want to see with Floyd Mayweather Jr. (if he elects to unretire).

Misses: He can't fly like Superman, nor can he leap tall buildings in a single bound. But give him time.

2
Joe Calzaghe

Light heavyweight champion
AGE: 36 | Record: 46-0, 32 KOs
Hits: The greatest fighter in Welsh history is contemplating retirement, and if he walks away, he'll do so as an undefeated two-division world champion coming off a dominant victory against Roy Jones Jr., with the Hall of Fame beckoning in five years. If that's not a sweet way to ride off into the sunset, what is?

Misses: Calzaghe might be a great fighter, but apparently he's as good at putting his foot in his mouth as he is at putting his fist in somebody else's mouth. Just days after De La Hoya-Pacquiao -- one of the biggest fights in history -- he said that boxing, the sport that made him rich and famous, is dying.

3
Bernard Hopkins

Light heavyweight
AGE: 43 | Record: 49-5-1, 32 KOs
Hits: Even at 43, Hopkins is still a master, with the fitness of a man half his age. He showed it in impressive fashion when he destroyed prime, 26-year-old middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik in one of the best performances of his career. Is there any question that Hopkins is the greatest 40-plus fighter in history?

Misses: Uninterested in facing young stud Chad Dawson and unable to secure a rematch with Calzaghe, the one opponent who could have made for an interesting fight and promotion -- a challenge of cruiserweight titlist and fellow Philadelphia native Steve Cunningham in their hometown -- went down the drain when Cunningham lost to Tomasz Adamek on Dec. 11. If Hopkins really wants to fight on, the choices are few and far between.

4
Juan Manuel Marquez

Lightweight champion
AGE: 35 | Record: 49-4-1, 36 KOs
Hits: After seeing how dominant Pacquiao was against De La Hoya, what does that say about Marquez, who many believe won both of his fights with Pacquiao? It says that whomever you think won those two terrific fights, Marquez is one hell of a fighter.

Misses: Although Golden Boy Promotions and HBO are trying to finalize a match between Marquez and Juan Diaz (a great fight), a third match between Marquez and Pacquiao is off the radar for the time being.

5
Antonio Margarito

Welterweight titlist
AGE: 30 | Record: 37-5, 27 KOs
Hits: It took Margarito a little while (and more money) to come around, but he did, and that means we'll kick off 2009 with one of the best fights that can be made -- Margarito will defend his title against Shane Mosley. And get this: It will be live on HBO instead of an overpriced HBO PPV show.

Misses: With a knockout victory against Miguel Cotto in the bank, followed by a showdown with Mosley, and then a proposed rematch with Cotto slated to follow in June, we're happy as a clam.

Click here for Nos. 6-20 Insider