Boxing


Michael Montero’s 2008 year-end rankings and notes

Miguel CottoBy Michael Montero: All in all, 2008 was a positive year for boxing. We finally got some partial unification in the heavyweight division (although Klitschko’s win over Ibragimov in February was painful to watch), anointed a new undisputed pound for pound king (Manny Pacquiao, who continues to amaze us), saw great action fights at the championship level (Cotto-Margarito, Mijares-Darchinyan, Cunningham-Adamek, etc) and watched the rise of exciting new stars (Juan Manuel Lopez, James Kirkland, Alfredo Angulo and Yuriorkis Gamboa, just to name a few). Below are my rankings to wrap up the year – here’s hoping for great things in ’09!

Heavyweight

C VACANT

1 Wladimir Klitschko (IBF, WBO)

2 Vitali Klitschko (WBC)

3 Nicolai Valuev (WBA)

4 Ruslan Chagaev (WBA "Champion in Recess" )

5 Alexander Povetkin

6 Juan Carlos Gomez

7 David Haye

8 Chris Arreola

9 Tony Thompson

10 Sultan Ibragimov/Samuel Peter

DIVISION NOTES: Wladimir Klitschko is a dominating 10-0 since his last loss but he desperately needs a nemesis (somebody that will force him to fight outside of his comfort zone) to find the true greatness he seeks… Big brother Vitali should face David Haye in June; will there be a tune up bout before then? Nicolai Valuev’s “victory” over old man Holyfield was a disgrace; he’s become another in a long line of German-based fighters to hold paper titles hostage while feasting upon weak opposition... Ruslan Chagaev had one bout in '07 and one in ’08, now he’s slated to face the undeserving Carl Davis Drumond this coming February – it’s sad that this guy is still a top five heavyweight… I hope Alexander Povetkin's people do the right thing and get him in there against a few quality contenders before his eventual mandatory shot at Wladimir... Haye needs a tune up bout around February/March against a tall but limited opponent (Jameel McCline anyone?) to properly prepare him for Vitali … Chris Arreola is what American heavyweight boxing desperately needs in regards to personality and marketability; I'd love to see what he could do in better shape and with a new trainer. All that being said Chris has no business taking a fight with Wladimir next year (which is currently being discussed).

Cruiser - 200 (created in 1979 by WBC)

C Tomasz Adamek (RING, IBF)

1 Steve Cunningham

2 Krzysztof Wlodarczyk

3 Guillermo Jones (WBA)

4 Enzo Maccarinelli

5 Marco Huck/Vadim Tokarev

DIVISION NOTES: Congrats to Tomasz Adamek and Steve Cunningham for putting on a great fight! It's a shame that HBO continues to neglect the cruiserweight division because there is some real talent there. Don't be surprised if they suddenly become interested if an Adamek-Cunningham rematch is proposed… Let's hope that the other (paper) champs face off against each other in '09 to establish a clear, legitimate contender for the newly crowned champion.

Light Heavy - 175

C Joe Calzaghe (RING)

1 Bernard Hopkins

2 Chad Dawson (IBF)

3 Glen Johnson

4 Zsolt Erdei (WBO)

5 Adrian Diaconu (WBC)

DIVISION NOTES: Although everybody wants to see Joe Calzaghe face Chad Dawson, don't count on it. If the Welshman carries on (and that's a big "if"), it will be against Glen Johnson in the UK... Maybe Dawson and Don King should start calling out Bernard Hopkins? That could be a pretty good seller if held in Philadelphia... The other titlists in this division are a joke - not due to lack of talent, but rather lack of opposition. None other is worse than Zsolt Erdei, yet another German-based titlist having fought a long line of nobodies.

Supper Middle - 168 (created in 1984 by IBF)

C VACANT

1 Mikkel Kessler (WBA)

2 Jermain Taylor

3 Lucian Bute (IBF)

4 Carl Froch (WBC)

5 Sakio Bika/Dennis Inkin (WBO)

DIVISION NOTES: Mikkel Kessler fought two nobodies this year to rebound from the Calzaghe loss - which is fine, but it's time to step it up in '09. Jermain Taylor or Lucian Bute would both make for great fights and crown a new Ring Magazine champion at super middleweight… In the mean time, Carl Froch needs to stop calling out the top fighters in the division and go after a proven contender (like Sakio Bika) because he's not quite ready for the elite.

Middle - 160

C Kelly Pavlik (RING, WBC, WBO)

1 Arthur Abraham (IBF)

2 Winky Wright

3 Felix Sturm (WBA)

4 Anthony Mundine

5 Marco Antonio Rubio

DIVISION NOTES: Time for Kelly Pavlik to get back to the basics and stay focused on 160 pounds before thinking about moving up again... Arthur Abraham and his people are trying to do the right thing - first his America debut bout against Edison Miranda, then aggressively seeking a unification bout with Felix Sturm... Unfortunately Mr. Sturm continues to shamefully duck his countryman and the accompanying career high payday to face him... Maybe one day Winky Wright will quit bitching, whining and pricing himself out of meaningful matches and actually get in the ring... Marco Antonio Rubio has finally earned his well deserved first crack at a world title - his upcoming bout with "The Ghost" will be the fight of his life.

Super Welter - 154 (created in 1962 by WBA)

C VACANT

1 Vernon Forrest (WBC)

2 Paul Williams (WBO "Interim")

3 Sergio Martinez (WBC "Interim")

4 Daniel Santos

5 Sergeii Dzinziruk (WBO)

DIVISION NOTES: Paul Williams fits in beautifully at 154 and should target Vernon Forrest to earn top dog status. He's the mandatory for WBO titlist Sergeii Dzinziruk, but don't expect the German promoters to make that fight. Daniel Santos would make for a good action bout and there's also the popular Sergio Mora... Meanwhile there are a few exciting contenders on the way up like James Kirkland and Alfredo Angulo... What has been the sport’s worst division in recent years is quickly heating up.

Welter - 147

C Antonio Margarito (WBA)

1 Miguel Cotto

2 Joshua Clottey (IBF)

3 Shane Mosley

4 Kermit Cintron

5 Andre Berto (WBC)

DIVISION NOTES: With Margarito, Mosley and Cotto seemingly tied up for the first half of 2009, the other top welterweights are left with little options. Hopefully we’ll see the Joshua Clotteys, Andre Bertos and Kermit Cintrons of the world face one another this year… Meanwhile the WBA continues to prove it is the worst sanctioning organization in boxing, somehow naming Yuriy Nuzhnenko of the Ukraine their "Interim Champion. No disrespect to Nuzhnenko, but does anybody truly believe this guy is any more than a fraction of the fighter that the WBA’s “regular champion”, Antonio Margarito, is?

Super Light - 140 (created in 1926 by NBA)

C Ricky Hatton (RING)

1 Timothy Bradley (WBC)

2 Paulie Maglignaggi

3 Kendall Holt (WBO)

4 Andreas Kotelnik (WBA)

5 Victor Ortiz

DIVISION NOTES: If it happens, THE “super fight” of 2009 will likely be Ricky Hatton against Manny Pacquiao at 140. Does Floyd Mayweather dare come out of "retirement" to face the “Pacman”, should be defeat Hatton? Hmm... The laughable WBA strap will continue to be held hostage in Europe, but we may very well see a unification of the WBC and WBO titles as promoter Bob Arum has discussed a Bradley-Holt match in early '09. This bout would create a legitimate #1 contender for the Hatton-Pacquiao winner.

Light - 135

C Juan Manuel Marquez (RING)

1 Manny Pacquiao (WBC)

2 Nate Campbell (IBF, WBO, WBA "Super")

3 Juan Diaz

4 Edwin Valero

5 Joel Casamayor/Julio Diaz

DIVISION NOTES: If Pacman does indeed fight for the 140 pound crown, his WBC lightweight title will become vacant. Venezuelan Edwin Valero is currently ranked #1 by the WBC so he may be in the running. If Juan Manuel Marquez continues to handle his business we may eventually see a Marquez-Valero match and that my friends would have guaranteed fireworks! Sadly Nate Campbell may end up a case of yet another former Don King indentured servant left out to waste, unless he can get his promotional situation together soon.

Super Feather - 130 (established in 1921)

C VACANT

1 Jorge Linares (WBA)

2 Humberto Soto (WBC "Interim")

3 Robert Guerrero

4 Rocky Juarez

5 Urbano Antillon/Nicky Cook (WBO)

DIVISION NOTES: All of the best stock at 130 pounds over the past few years has since moved up, leaving this division completely up for grabs… Robert Guerrero may be the dark horse here… Rocky Juarez has had his mind set on winning a belt for a while; he could certainly grab a paper title within the next year or so…

Feather - 126

C VACANT

1 Chris John (WBA)

2 Steven Luevano (WBO)

3 Oscar Larios (WBC)

4 Cristobal Cruz (IBF)

5 Jorge Solis

DIVISION NOTES: Another wide open weight class. Am I the only one that wishes Chris John would leave his backyard just once and step up his opposition?

Super Bantam - 122 (created in 1976 by WBC)

C Israel Vazquez (RING, WBC)

1 Rafael Marquez

2 Celestino Caballero (WBA, IBF)

3 Juan Manuel Lopez (WBO)

4 Ricardo Cordoba (WBA "Interim")

5 Jhonny Gonzalez

DIVISION NOTES: This division is loaded with talent and potentially great match ups. Problem is two of its biggest stars, champion Israel Vasquez and unified titlist Celestino Caballero, have recently mentioned that they may possibly move up to featherweight.

Bantam - 118

C VACANT

1 Hozumi Hasegawa (WBC)

2 Gerry Penalosa (WBO)

3 Anselmo Moreno (WBA)

4 Joseph Agbeko (IBF)

5 Wladimir Sidorenko

DIVISION NOTES: Attention alphabet boys, promoters, managers and networks – can we PLEASE get some unification here? This is one of the sport’s proudest, most historical divisions and we need to build a star here ASAP.

Super Fly - 115 (created in 1980 by WBC)

C Vic Darchinyan (RING, WBC, WBA "Super", IBF)

1 Fernando Montiel (WBO)

2 Cristian Mijares

3 Jorge Arce (WBA "Interim")

4 Alexander Munoz

5 Dimitri Kirillov /Raul Martinez

DIVISION NOTES: 115 pounds is red hot and set up to have an explosive 2009 with champion Vic Darchinyan facing trash talking rival Jorge Arce in February; while #1 contender Fernando Montiel faces former Darchinyan conqueror Nonito Donaire the following month. Should Darchinyan and Doniare both win their perspective bouts, it sets up a HUGE rematch between the two in what would be the biggest fight in the division’s 30 year history.

Fly - 112

C VACANT

1 Nonito Donaire (IBF)

2 Daisuke Naito (WBC)

3 Omar Narvaez (WBO)

4 Takefumi Sakata (WBA)

5 Pongsaklek Wonjongkam/Koki Kameda

DIVISION NOTES: If Doniare happens to lose to Montiel in March you gotta figure he’ll come back down to 112 pounds and if so, he’s still #1 here. However if he wins and stays at 115 to have a rematch with Darchinyan, flyweight will be in some serious need of star power.

Super Straw - 108 (created in 1975 by WBC)

C Ivan Calderon (RING, WBO)

1 Ulises Solis (IBF)

2 Hugo Cazares

3 Edgar Sosa (WBC)

4 Brahim Asloum (WBA)

5 Cesar Canchila (WBA "Interim")

DIVISION NOTES: There’s not too much to say about this weigh class at the present time. Basically it’s a lackluster division with a good champion.

Straw - 105

C VACANT

1 Roman Gonzalez (WBA)

2 Raul Garcia (IBF)

3 Oleydong Sithsamerchai (WBC)

4 Donnie Nietes (WBO)

5 Daniel Reyes (WBO "Interim")/Juan Palacios (WBC "Interim")

DIVISION NOTES: See my notes for 108 pounds, minus the words “with a good champion”.

Pound for Pound

**NOTE: I do not rank heavyweights on my list**

1 Manny Pacquiao

2 Juan Manuel Marquez

3 Joe Calzaghe

4 Antonio Margarito

5 Bernard Hopkins

6 Israel Vasquez

7 Rafael Marquez

8 Ricky Hatton

9 Miguel Cotto

10 Kelly Pavlik

11 Chad Dawson

12 Vic Darchinyan

13 Jermain Taylor

14 Paul Williams

15 Ivan Calderon

16 Shane Mosley

17 Juan Manuel Lopez

18 Chris John

19 Cristian Mijares

20 Edwin Valero/Nonito Doniare

Questions? Comments? Hate mail? You know what to do.

mjbdetroit@aol.com

Happy New Year boxing fans!

Ciao,

Michael Montero

Article posted on 30.12.2008



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