Commentary

Top pound-for-pound fighters

Dan Rafael ranks the best boxers in the world.

Originally Published: March 12, 2009
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

Rafael's top 5 pound-for-pound fighters

6
Ivan "Iron Boy" Calderon

Junior flyweight champion
Age: 34 | Record: 32-0, 6 KOs
Hits: Although the best little guy in the business has been out of action since last summer because of a serious cut in his technical decision victory against Hugo Cazares in their rematch, Calderon is supposed to return to action May 23 (but his opponent has not been signed). Whomever, the little guy fights, it will be nice to see the sport's most technically perfect fighter back in action.

Misses: Calderon is a 34-year-old 108-pounder coming off a long layoff. That probably does not bode well for the future.

7
Miguel Cotto

Welterweight titlist
Age: 28 | Record: 33-1, 27 KOs
Hits: Throughout his career, Cotto has never dodged a challenge. At welterweight alone, he's faced top opponents Antonio Margarito, Shane Mosley, Zab Judah and Carlos Quintana since moving up to the division at the end of 2006. Now, Cotto is adding yet another outstanding opponent to his résumé by agreeing to fight fellow titleholder Joshua Clottey in a June 13 unification fight. Assignments get no tougher, but Cotto wouldn't have it any other way.

Misses: The violent clash and subsequent breakup with his trainer and uncle, Evangelista Cotto, was an unfortunate incident. Cotto, however, is a pretty focused guy, and it probably will have no impact on the fight ultimately.

10
Rafael Marquez

Junior featherweight
Age: 33 | Record: 37-5, 33 KOs
Hits: Although he hasn't fought since losing a split decision to Vazquez in the March 2008 rubber match of their epic trilogy, the ESPN.com Fight of the Year, Marquez is finally due back in the ring in May, when he'll face former bantamweight titleholder Mauricio Martinez in Mexico. Welcome back.

Misses: After such a long layoff and three brutal fights with Vazquez in a row, how much will Marquez have left when he gets back into the ring?

5
Paul Williams

Interim junior middleweight titlist
Age: 27 | Record: 36-1, 27 KOs
Hits: What Williams did to well-respected former undisputed junior middleweight champion Winky Wright on April 11 -- which was to pitch a virtual shutout in a sublime performance -- was very, very impressive. From 147 pounds to 160 pounds, Williams would be a formidable foe for anyone in the world. Frankly, he just might beat them all, and that includes Kelly Pavlik and Arthur Abraham. Williams is a freak of nature.

Misses: How the hell did he lose to Carlos Quintana at welterweight in their first fight?

9
Kelly Pavlik

Middleweight champion
Age: 27 | Record: 35-1, 31 KOs
Hits: Assuming Pavlik retains the title against Sergio Mora on June 27 in Atlantic City, N.J., and titleholder Arthur Abraham keeps his belt in Germany the same day when he meets mandatory challenger Giovanni Lorenzo, it seems as though the stage is set for Pavlik and Abraham to finally meet in November. It's one of the fights the boxing world wants to see very badly. Hopefully, we'll get it.

Misses: With a pair of tuneup fights standing between the Pavlik-Abraham summit meeting, you just never know what could happen to screw it up.

The next 10:

11. Jermain Taylor
12. Ricky Hatton
13. Chad Dawson
14. Vic Darchinyan
15. Nate Campbell
16. Arthur Abraham
17. Chris John
18. Fernando Montiel
19. Celestino Caballero
20. Tomasz Adamek

Rafael's top 5 pound-for-pound fighters