Top pound-for-pound fighters

Dan Rafael ranks the best boxers in the world.

Updated: June 17, 2009, 4:23 PM ET
By Dan Rafael |

Rafael's top 5 pound-for-pound fighters

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.

Nonito Donaire

Flyweight titlist
Age: 26 | Record: 21-1, 14 KOs

Hits: Pacquiao may be the No. 1 fighter from the Philippines, but Donaire is clearly No. 2 and has emerged as a force to be reckoned with in the smaller weight divisions. Donaire can box and punch and has an outgoing personality. Combine that with intelligent management from Cameron Dunkin and the backing of powerhouse promoter Top Rank, and he has all the requisite ingredients to be a star, despite his small stature.

Misses: There is a dearth of notable opponents at flyweight and even junior bantamweight, meaning Donaire may have to go all the way up to bantamweight to find a serious money fight.

Ivan "Iron Boy" Calderon

Junior flyweight champion
Age: 34 | Record: 32-0-1, 6 KOs

Hits: After a 10-month layoff, most of which was due to a serious cut in a technical-decision victory against Hugo Cazares in last summer's rematch, Calderon returned to retain his title via bloody technical draw against Rodel Mayol on June 13. Calderon suffered another bad cut from an accidental butt, but he showed that even though he's 34 and may have lost a step, he is still a highly skilled boxer.

Misses: Calderon is a short southpaw and Mayol is a taller right-handed fighter, so the fight was a bit ugly from the outset. They're talking rematch when Calderon heals, but it's hard to imagine their styles meshing very well in a second fight.

Kelly Pavlik

Middleweight champion
Age: 27 | Record: 35-1, 31 KOs

Hits: Now that Pavlik has a new multiyear contract in place, the problems between the champ and promoter Top Rank apparently have been worked out.

Misses: Pavlik's title reign has been a terrible disappointment, especially when you consider how dramatically he won the title from Jermain Taylor and had Top Rank's Bob Arum comparing him to Marvelous Marvin Hagler after the win. But since then, Pavlik has made just two defenses against inconsequential opposition and gone 1-1 in nontitle fights. He just needs to fight Arthur Abraham already. Enough of this Sergio Mora and Felix Sturm talk. We're all sick of it.

Israel Vazquez

Junior featherweight champion
Age: 31 | Record: 43-4, 32 KOs

Hits: An eye injury has kept Vazquez on the shelf since March 2008, when his epic trilogy with Rafael Marquez ended. But Vazquez has finally been medically cleared and is anticipating a fall return, possibly for a fourth fight with Marquez at featherweight. Whomever Vazquez fights, it will be nice to see the little warrior with the big heart back in action.

Misses: If for some reason a fourth match with Marquez isn't made, where else can Vazquez make the sort of substantial purse he deserves?

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. Joshua Clottey

Rafael's top 5 pound-for-pound fighters