Jones falls out of top 20
What a drag it is getting old -- for some, but not all, fighters. While it would appear that Roy Jones is finished at age 35, Mark Johnson is over the hill at age 33 and Oscar De La Hoya is slowing down at age 31, Bernard Hopkins, who turns 40 in January, has reached his apex as a fighter. James Toney, who is 36, hasn't lost a step in his "old age" (or his over weight).
Jones conquerors Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson are both 35 years old; however, it should be noted that the Magic Man turned pro in '97, while the Road Warrior started punching for pay in '93.
Jones, an '88 Olympian who turned pro in '89, won his first world title (the vacant IBF middleweight belt vs. Hopkins) two months after Johnson turned pro. By the time Tarver, a '96 Olympian, turned pro, Jones was already a three-division champ, having won the IBF super middleweight title from Toney (of which he made five defenses) and the WBC "interim" light heavyweight title from Mike McCallum. Two weeks after Johnson was handed his first loss (by Hopkins) in late July of '97, Jones avenged his only pro loss, a disqualification to Montell Griffin, by first-round knockout. It was the last time Jones fought with real passion.
After winning his 175-pound belt back from Griffin, then making 11 consecutive light heavyweight title defenses (following a one-punch body shot KO of Virgil Hill in a non-title bout), unifying the 175-pound titles along the way, and a history-making excursion to the heavyweight division, Jones had pretty much reached all of his professional goals. He was no longer fighting for his legacy or to feed his children. Jones was only fighting for pride and ego. And that's not going to get it done against hungry world-class fighters who have yet to taste glory or the good life.
I mention all of this to point out that I appreciate the body of work Jones has put together over the past 11 years. But now that the hunger is gone and age has taken his legs and slowed his reflexes. The man is done as a prize fighter.
Despite being called a "Roy Hater" by Jones' most ardent fans, I gave the former four-division champ the benefit of the doubt following his first fight with Tarver, which he won by a majority decision, and after the rematch, which ended with him being stretched in the second round. I kept Jones at the No. 1 spot on this list after the first fight (even though I thought it was a draw). There was no shame in struggling with a good fighter like Tarver, especially after dropping 20 pounds of muscle. After his second-round KO, I dropped him to No. 5 on the list. Hey, everyone gets caught eventually, right?
Well, after his chilling ninth-round KO to Johnson, I'm dropping Jones from the top 20 altogether. It's not that I don't think he's an awesome boxer. I just don't think Jones should be fighting anymore. And more importantly, I don't think he can beat the best fighters between 160 and 175 pounds.
Johnson, who I don't rank in the top 20, would beat Jones again, in my opinion, maybe quicker the second time around. Tarver would likely cut it down to the opening round. Toney would give Jones the beatdown of his life before turning the lights out late in the bout. And as light and narrow as Hopkins is, I think he would not only out-work Jones over 12, but out-box him, too (whether the fight took place at 168 pounds, 175, 190 or over 200 -- I don't think it matters anymore).
I can't believe I'm about to write this, but I think Joe Calzaghe would beat Jones now. I can see Calzaghe winning by knockout or by one-sided decision, but I can't see him losing to the guy who let Johnson beat on him for eight and half rounds. Hell, I wouldn't count Griffin out of out-boxing Jones in a rubber match. I'd give Rico Hoye a puncher's chance. As shopworn as Julio Gonzalez is, I can see him out-working Jones in a rematch. Danny Green might take Jones now.
I'll stop here. I don't want to incur the wrath of the Roy Jones faithful. I just want to explain why you won't see their hero on this list.
And now, onto the top 20:
1. BERNARD HOPKINS -- 44-2-1 (32 KOs) 1 NC
Just a few months shy of his 40th birthday, Hopkins is coming off the biggest (and richest) victory of his long career. Like George Foreman, and Archie Moore before him, The Executioner is showing us that age is just a number. Here are some of Nard's other numbers: Oscar De La Hoya was the eighth current or former world champ Hopkins has executed, the ninth-round body shot KO was his 19th world middleweight title defense, and it gave him his fourth 160-pound title belt. Hopkins has now gone unbeaten over his last 25 fights during a span of 11 and half years. Since his last loss (to you know who), Hopkins has gone from being a solid boxer-puncher to a complete fighter to a crafty veteran master of ring generalship and psychological warfare who specializes in counter-punching and dissecting his opponents inside out. Even if you don't like his often ugly and unspectacular ring style, you have to appreciate his professionalism, his dedication to staying in shape 365 days a year and his single-mindedness in pursuing his goals. What's next? Probably his 20th title defense against one of his mandatory challengers.
2. FLOYD MAYWEATHER JR. -- 32-0 (21)
The Pretty Boy is not only one of the most athletically gifted boxers to come around in the last 20 years, he is also one of the best technicians and perhaps the finest defensive specialist since a prime Pernell Whitaker. Add to these talents his willingness to fight anyone and you have the pound-for-pound Heir Apparent. Since dominating Genaro Hernandez to win his first world title in '98, Mayweather has only fought top-notch competition -- from title holders (Diego Corrales, Jose Luis Castillo, Carlos Hernandez and Jesus Chavez) to crafty tough guys (Angel Manfredy and Emanuel Augustus) to rangy punchers (Victoriano Sosa and Philip Ndou). Mayweather, a former champ at 130 and 135 pounds, recently made his debut at 140 pounds, surviving a few rough spots to dominate and almost stop top-10 contender DeMarcus Corley. A showdown with Arturo Gatti or welterweight champ Cory Spinks could be next.
3. ANTONIO TARVER -- 22-2 (18)
With Glen Johnson's brutal one-punch KO over Roy Jones, Tarver's two-round feat doesn't look so special now. But Tarver's on this list for more than his shocking one-shot stoppage of Jones this past May. Someone was bound to make Jones look human eventually, but Tarver was the man with the talent, the skill, the experience, the plan and the guts to make it happen, and he did so in his close points loss to Jones last November. Before that breakthrough fight, Tarver more than earned his shot at Jones with five consecutive wins over top-10 ranked contenders (Lincoln Carter, Chris Johnson, Reggie Johnson, Eric Harding and Montell Griffin) and he did so in dominating fashion. Now that a rubber match with Jones seems very unlikely, Tarver will have to get busy with a mandatory defense vs. Paul Briggs before he can look for other big fights.
4. ERIK MORALES -- 47-1 (34)
Nothing comes easy for this guy, but El Terrible is such a pure warrior, you get the sense that he wouldn't have it any other way. Morales solidified his claim as the 130-pound champ this year with a grueling 12-round win over Jesus Chavez in February and a dominant decision victory over Carlos Hernandez in July. With those wins, the former world titlist at 122 and 126 pounds became only the second three-division champ from Mexico (Julio Cesar Chavez was the first). Morales has a long way to go to emulate JC Superstar, but his accomplishments, boxing skill and warrior spirit make him one of the greatest fighters of this era. It's hard to believe that he is only 27. Morales made nine defenses of his 122-pound title, twice reigned as featherweight king, and recently added Hernandez's scalp to an impressive collection of champion victims that includes Marco Antonio Barrera, Daniel Zaragoza, Paulie Ayala, Junior Jones, Jesus Chavez and Wayne McCullough. His anticipated rubber match with Barrera is up next (Nov. 27). There are no easy fights for this guy.
5. MANNY PACQUIAO -- 38-2-2 (29)
PacMan's 126-pound showdown with Juan Manuel Marquez ended in a disappointing draw, but the Filipino bomber proved he is perhaps the most explosive fighter, pound-for-pound, in boxing with his near first-round blitz of the Mexican technician. The status of both featherweights was lifted in their fight-of-the-year candidate and only a rematch -- which is reportedly being worked on for early next year -- will decide who's really the better featherweight champ. But one thing is certain right now, Pacquiao, a former WBC flyweight titlist and IBF 122-pound title holder who destroyed Marco Antonio Barrera to win The Ring's recognition as the featherweight champ, belongs among the elite of this list.
6. WINKY WRIGHT -- 47-3 (25)
Wright made the quantum leap from an unknown veteran and two-time title holder to an undisputed champ with his career-best performance over Shane Mosley earlier this year. The Winkster stood his ground in the early rounds, getting the better of Mosley in the trenches with his tight guard and his wise choice of counter punches, and later in the fight, he established distance with his jab and dominated the three-division champ with his straight left. Wright showed the kind of poise, skill, resiliency and heart that will give any world-class fighter from 147 to 160 pounds hell (and that includes No. 11, No. 8 and even No. 1 on this list). Next up is a rematch with the Sugar Man (Nov. 20).
7. DIEGO CORRALES -- 39-2 (32)
Few believed that Corrales would ever make it back to this level after his one-sided loss to Floyd Mayweather and his subsequent jail time. In fact, many fans (and I have the e-mails to prove it) turned their backs on Corrales after his bloody technical stoppage to Joel Casamayor last November. But here Chico is, on top of the boxing world and better than ever. With just two fights this year (his boxing exhibition vs. Casamayor in their rematch and his gutsy hunt-down of Acelino Freitas), Corrales proved, in the eyes of many fans, to be the best fighter in both the 130- and 135-pound divisions. His track record is a darn good one. Aside from his implosion vs. No. 2 on this list, Corrales has done well vs. title holders (current, past or present) and he has defeated four of them -- Roberto Garcia, Derrick Gainer, Casamayor and Freitas -- whose combined records when they fought him total a mind-blowing 130-5. If Chico gets his wish, he will get the opportunity to unify all the major belts in the lightweight division, work his way up this list and maybe get a rematch with the Pretty Boy at 140 pounds. With Joe Goossen in his corner, don't count him out.
8. OSCAR DE LA HOYA -- 36-3 (29)
I can't really drop Goldie that much after his loss to Hopkins, after all he was stopped by a perfect liver shot delivered by the No. 1 guy on this list. There's no shame in that. And while in the opinion of this writer, De La Hoya was out-boxed by Hopkins in most of the rounds leading up to the ninth round, he was never physically dominated, beat up or out of the fight. It can be argued that De La Hoya has lost his last three fights, and thus, should not be inside the top 10 of this list, but even his harshest critics have to admit that he takes on very good-to-great opposition and that his last two fights took place in a division that is clearly too heavy for him. What's next? If he wants to keep doing this for a living, the winners of Trinidad-Mayorga and Wright-Mosley look like pretty good options.
9. JUAN MANUEL MARQUEZ -- 43-2-1 (33)
By getting up from three first-round knockdowns versus the PacMan, the WBA and IBF featherweight title holder showed that he had a warrior's heart to go along with his near-technical perfection and championship poise. The first fight proved that both featherweights deserve to be ranked among the top 10 P4P in the world; the winner of a rematch will crack the top 5. JMM stayed busy with a pedestrian title defense over the dangerous Orlando Salido, but the champ was so cautious in out-pointing the intimidated right-hand puncher that I had to rename him "Yawn" Manuel Marquez. What's next? Hopefully, the rematch with Pacquiao early next year.
10. JAMES TONEY -- 68-4-2 (43)
I had to drop "Lights Out" from the top 10 due to his inactivity because of a torn Achilles tendon suffered at the start of this year, but he got back in "the ten" by getting back into action in with a one-sided 12-round beatdown of undefeated cruiserweight Rydell Booker. Despite being inactive since his dismantling of Evander Holyfield last October, Toney showed his usual elusiveness and varied offense in close quarters, plus an evil body attack, but he also showed a lack of true heavyweight power (not that Toney needs great power to win a heavyweight title with his skills; Chris Byrd's done all right without much pop). However, it seems like his body is beginning to rebel on him. Toney hurt his left shoulder during the Booker bout, and if it's as bad as rumored, poor Lights Out could be put on ice once again.
THE NEXT 10:
Rafael Marquez (KOs of Tim Austin and "Too-Sharp", a decision win against iron-chinned Mauricio Pastrana and his recent blowout of Heriberto Ruiz not only make "Rafa" the best Bantie on the planet, but a boxer who is knocking on the top-10 P4P door)
Cory Spinks (the "Jinx" was pushed out of the top 10 by Corrales, Toney and by his tougher-than-expected bout vs. Zab Judah and unspectacular showing vs. the shot Miguel Angel Gonzalez)
Kostya Tszyu (if it wasn't for the fact that this guy has only fought twice since his signature win vs. Judah back in Nov. of 2001, he would still be among my top 5; he will be again if he can turn back Sharmba Mitchell on Nov. 6)
Shane Mosley (Sorry, Shane, you should be commended for giving tough and avoided vets like Vernon Forrest and Winky Wright a shot at glory, but going 1-3 with one "No-Decision" in your last five outings is not the stuff of the top 10; of course, if you score a rematch win over the Winkster on Nov. 20, you're right back in there)
Marco Antonio Barrera (his 10th-round KO of Paulie Ayala proved that the former 122-pound titlist and 'people's featherweight champ' still can get the job done after 10 years at the championship level; if Barrera can win his rubber match with Morales, he'll be back inside the top 5)
Joel Casamayor (the crafty Cuban lefty is at worst the second-best 130 pounder in the world; Chico showed him a new look in their rematch, but he still made it a tough fight down the stretch; maybe a rubber match at 135 pounds is the only way to find out who's really the better fighter)
Ricardo Mayorga (the wild man who beat the man who beat the man who beat the man at welterweight gets another shot at glory when he takes on Latino Legend Felix Trinidad this Saturday)
Sharmba Mitchell (one of the most experienced and complete boxers in the game, Mitchell has done the right thing by keeping busy -- fighting eight times -- in between his showdowns with Tszyu; a win over his rival puts him in the top 10)
Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (Who!? The WBC flyweight champ has made 10 defenses of the title he won with a one-round KO of Malcolm Tunaco, including a record 34-second blowout of then-undefeated Daisuke Naito and a decision over another undefeated contender, Hussein Hussein. The badass southpaw, 52-2, has not lost since '96)
Joe Calzaghe (this guy must be upset at himself, or his promoter, for fights vs. Glen Johnson or Roy Jones not coming off ... he's got talent, skill and he's tough, but he has yet to take on a true superstar despite a zillion defenses of his WBO super middleweight title ... somewhat recent victories over Byron Mitchell and Charles Brewer alow him to just make the cut on this list)
THE FURIOUS FIVE (knocking on the door):
Veerapol Sahaprom, Rosendo Alvarez, Glen Johnson, Oscar Larios, and Ivan Calderon
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