Commentary

The top three pound-for-pound fighters

Updated: January 20, 2010, 1:24 PM ET
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

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

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 Dec. 22.

1
Manny Pacquiao

Welterweight titlist
Age: 31 | Record: 50-3-2, 38 KOs

Hits: Pacquiao, who was the ESPN.com fighter of the year in 2006 and 2008, enjoyed another year worthy of being considered for the award in 2009. He blasted Ricky Hatton in two rounds to win the junior welterweight championship, then moved up to welterweight to stop Miguel Cotto in the 12th round of the year's biggest fight to win a title in a record seventh division. The PacMan now moves on to the biggest fight in boxing since the first Sugar Ray Leonard-Thomas Hearns fight: a battle with Floyd Mayweather Jr. Pacquiao is boxing's star of stars, and he makes the sport go 'round these days.

Misses: If Pacquiao would forget his political ambitions just temporarily, his fight with Mayweather could be May 1 instead of March 13, providing the time needed to make it an even bigger event. As big as it will be in March, it would be even more astronomical with a few more months to promote the once-in-a-generation fight.


2
Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Welterweight
Age: 32 | Record: 40-0, 25 KOs

Hits: With his brief retirement in the rearview mirror, Mayweather returned to dominate Juan Manuel Marquez in September and looked as though he hadn't taken any time off at all. Now, with Mayweather safely through the Marquez fight and Pacquiao safely through his November fight with Cotto, they are poised to shatter records when they meet in the March 13 fight that the world demands to see. Gotta give credit to Mayweather for not fooling around in negotiations and accepting the fight in short order.

Misses: For all of Mayweather's accomplishments -- and they are considerable -- he has yet to face, much less beat, a prime welterweight despite campaigning in the division since 2005. His welterweight résumé consists of a shot Sharmba Mitchell (a natural junior welterweight), Zab Judah (who was coming off a loss), Carlos Baldomir (the champ at the time, but a journeyman), Ricky Hatton (who was moving up in weight for the fight) and Juan Manuel Marquez (the lightweight champ Mayweather handpicked to move up two divisions). Mayweather did mix in a fight with Oscar De La Hoya at junior middleweight, but he didn't exactly have an easy time in the split-decision win.


3
Bernard Hopkins

Light heavyweight
Age: 44 | Record: 50-5-1, 32 KOs

Hits: Just a month shy of his 45th birthday, Hopkins ended a 14-month layoff on Dec. 2 and looked very good in disposing of a game Enrique Ornelas in a lopsided decision win. Although Hopkins won his fight, Roy Jones Jr. -- his expected opponent in March -- lost a tune-up fight on the same day. But it won't derail Hopkins, who has some decent potential fights in the absence of Jones. The most likely are super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute and cruiserweight Danny Green, who knocked out Jones.

Misses: Although Bute and Green are on Hopkins' short list, neither is as interesting as a showdown with cruiserweight champ Tomasz Adamek, whom Hopkins called out loudly in early 2009 but then suddenly went very, very quiet about. That's the right fight -- not Bute or Green -- and Hopkins, Golden Boy and HBO know it.


Click here for Nos. 4-20. Insider