Commentary

Top pound-for-pound fighters

Dan Rafael ranks the best boxers in the world.

Updated: May 13, 2009, 1:54 PM ET
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: After sitting out since August because of a serious cut he suffered in a technical-decision victory against Hugo Cazares in their rematch, Calderon finally is coming back. He'll face tough Filipino puncher Rodel Mayol on June 13 at Madison Square Garden, his first opportunity to fight at the hallowed arena, which figures to be filled with his Puerto Rican fans on the eve of New York's annual Puerto Rican Day parade.

Misses: Although Calderon is 16-0 in world-title fights, it just doesn't look like there's a truly big fight out there for boxing's best technician.

6
Miguel Cotto

Welterweight titlist
Age: 28 | Record: 34-1, 27 KOs

Hits: It wasn't easy, but Cotto again came through like a champ, and thrilled a hugely partisan crowd of 17,734 at Madison Square Garden on the eve of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade. He showed his warrior spirit by fighting the final nine-plus rounds with a gruesome, bloody cut over his left eye caused by a nasty accidental head butt to win a well-deserved, but highly competitive, split decision against rock-solid Joshua Clottey. There is nobody Cotto won't fight, and he may be rewarded with a giant match in the fall against Manny Pacquiao. How great will that be if it happens?

Misses: Cotto wound up with two distinct cuts -- one above his eye and one below -- which required about 20 stitches in total to close the wounds. The big cut appeared extremely bad, so you have to wonder if he will be ready by Nov. 14, the proposed date for a fight with Pacquiao.


8
Nonito Donaire

Flyweight titlist
Age: 26 | Record: 21-1, 14 KOs
Hits: Pacquiao is the best fighter from the Philippines, but Donaire is the next-best -- and a force to be reckoned with in the smaller weight divisions. He is an excellent boxer with good power and is coming off April's dominant fourth-round knockout of Raul Martinez, a strong contender who was undefeated before faltering under Donaire's pressure. Donaire's string of five consecutive knockouts includes a memorable one-punch shot against Vic Darchinyan.

Misses: The only thing that can hold Donaire back is trouble making the flyweight limit of 112 pounds, which is why he probably will move up to the 115-pound junior bantamweight division at some point.

9
Kelly Pavlik

Middleweight champion
Age: 27 | Record: 35-1, 31 KOs
Hits: In an about-face, Pavlik, promoter Top Rank and co-managers Cameron Dunkin and Mike Pavlik recently had begun to talk seriously about a huge fall fight with German middleweight titlist Arthur Abraham, the one meaningful fight the world wants to see at 160 pounds. The idea was for Pavlik to beat Sergio Mora on June 27 and for Abraham to take care of his mandatory challenger, Giovanni Lorenzo, on the same date before they hooked up in November.

Misses: Pavlik pulled out of the fight with Mora because, according to Top Rank, he has a staph infection on his hand. Top Rank says it will try to reschedule the Mora fight, which obviously is going to push back the Abraham fight, an unfortunate development.

10
Israel Vazquez

Junior featherweight champion
Age: 31 | Record: 43-4, 32 KOs
Hits: Although Vazquez has been out of commission because of eye injuries suffered during his blazing trilogy with Rafael Marquez, there is talk he could finally be ready to return to action this summer. It will be great to see him back in action after a long layoff.

Misses: As much as we all love Vazquez and admire his heart and ability, he hasn't fought for 14 months, meaning he is precariously close to being dropped from these rankings.

The next 10:

11. Chad Dawson
12. Vic Darchinyan
13. Rafael Marquez
14. Arthur Abraham
15. Nate Campbell
16. Chris John
17. Fernando Montiel
18. Celestino Caballero
19. Tomasz Adamek
20. Hozumi Hasegawa

Rafael's top 5 pound-for-pound fighters