There is finally indication that the powers that be in boxing get it.
After a strong finish to 2007, when many of the game's best faced each other, more of the same is on tap for the first quarter of 2008. Four of the members of the Yahoo! Sports Top 10, voted upon by an elite panel of 24 boxing writers from around the world, will be in action against each other in the first quarter.
Two other top 10 fighters will be competing against those ranked among the top 22. And the man at the top of the charts, unbeaten WBC welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr., is closing in on a rematch with Oscar De La Hoya.
That means it's a great time to be a boxing fan. When fights such as No. 2 Manny Pacquiao vs. No. 5 Juan Manuel Marquez occur, everyone comes out on top. But in the space of less than a month, not only will Pacquiao and Marquez fight in a bout that will shake up the Yahoo! Sports top five, but so, too, will No. 3 Joe Calzaghe and No. 6 Bernard Hopkins.
Calzaghe and Hopkins have all but signed a deal for an April 12 clash in Las Vegas. When those two fights end, it's conceivable that any of them could be in the No. 2 spot behind Mayweather.
And if De La Hoya is able to knock off Mayweather in the first week of May, the whole list will be blown up.
To get an early start on the predictions, I'm going to go with Marquez by decision over Pacquiao and Calzaghe by decision over Hopkins.
I also see No. 8 Kelly Pavlik getting past No. 22 Jermain Taylor in their Feb. 16 bout in Las Vegas and Rafael Marquez, who is tied for 11th with Ricky Hatton, getting past No. 7 Israel Vazquez in their rubber match on March 1 in Carson, Calif.
Fights like these make you glad to be a boxing fan.
So let's take a look at the rankings and see how the voting turned out:
1. Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Points: 238 (22 of 24 first-place votes)
Record: 39-0 (25 KOs)
Title: WBC welterweight champion
Last outing: Stopped Ricky Hatton in the 10th on Dec. 8
Last month's ranking: 1
Up next: Negotiating for May rematch with Oscar De La Hoya
Analysis: Nearly undisputed top fighter in the world
2. Manny Pacquiao
Points: 200 (1 of 24 first-place votes)
Record: 45-3-2 (35 KOs)
Last outing: Won a unanimous decision over Marco Antonio Barrera on Oct. 6
Last month's ranking: 2
Up next: Fights No. 5 Juan Manuel Marquez on March 15 in Las Vegas
Analysis: Continues to face top opposition
3. Joe Calzaghe
Points: 191 (1 of 24 first-place votes)
Record: 44-0 (32 KOs)
Title: WBA, WBC, WBO super middleweight champion
Last outing: Won unanimous decision over Mikkel Kessler on Nov. 3
Last month's ranking: 3
Up next: April 12 in Las Vegas vs. No. 6 Bernard Hopkins
Analysis: Could move up to No. 2 with a win over Hopkins
4. Miguel Cotto
Record: 31-0 (25 KOs)
Title: WBA welterweight champion
Last outing: Won unanimous decision over Shane Mosley on Nov. 10
Last month's ranking: 4
Up next: Possible April bout with Alfonso S. Gomez
Analysis: Mega-fight in late 2008 with Mayweather would be huge
5. Juan Manuel Marquez
Record: 48-3-1 (35 KOs)
Title: WBC super featherweight champion
Last outing: Won unanimous decision over Rocky Juarez on Nov. 3
Last month's ranking: 5
Up next: Faces No. 2 Manny Pacquiao on March 15 in Las Vegas
Analysis: Vastly underrated boxer
6. Bernard Hopkins
Record: 48-4 (32 KOs)
Title: Light heavyweight champion
Last outing: Won unanimous decision over No. 10 Winky Wright on July 21
Last month's ranking: 6
Up next: April 12 in Las Vegas vs. Joe Calzaghe
Analysis: Oldest man on list continues to amaze
7. Israel Vazquez
Record: 42-4 (31 KOs)
Title: WBC super bantamweight champion
Last outing: Stopped Rafael Marquez in Y! Sports Fight of the Year on Aug. 5 in Hidalgo, Texas
Last month's ranking: 7
Up next: Fights rubber match with Marquez on March 1
Analysis: The best of the lower-weight fighters (under 126)
8. Kelly Pavlik
Record: 32-0 (29 KOs)
Title: WBC, WBO middleweight champion
Last outing: Won middleweight title with seventh-round TKO of Jermain Taylor on Sept. 29
Last month's ranking: 8
Up next: Rematch with Taylor on Feb. 16 in Las Vegas
Analysis: Always dangerous because of one-punch power
9. Juan Diaz
Record: 33-0 (17 KOs)
Title: IBF, WBA, WBO lightweight champion
Last outing: Unified belts with ninth-round TKO of Julio Diaz on Oct. 13
Last month's ranking: 9
Up next: Likely on March 8 in Cancun, Mexico, vs. Nate Campbell
Analysis: Established as top lightweight
10. Winky Wright
Record: 51-4-1 (25 KOs)
Last outing: Lost unanimous decision to No. 5 Bernard Hopkins on July 21
Last month's ranking: 10
Up next: Nothing scheduled
Analysis: Needs a big fight
Others receiving votes: Ricky Hatton, 18; Rafael Marquez, 18; Ivan Calderon, 14; Wladimir Klitschko, 12; Paul Williams, 11; Chad Dawson, 6; Chris John, 5; Cristian Mijares, 5; Shane Mosley, 3; Mikkel Kessler, 3; Jermain Taylor, 2; Arthur Abraham, 1.
- Bernard Hopkins
- Juan Manuel Marquez
- Manny Pacquiao
- Joe Calzaghe
- Jermain Taylor
- Oscar De La Hoya
- Rafael Marquez