At times in this column, I have borrowed a thought experiment I first read about in The Ring and have presented my choice for the top fighter in the “Original Eight” weight classes. This is a useful exercise for boxing writers because it reminds us as fans that traditionally, there were far fewer paper titles, half weight classes and catchweights and far more clarity.
With the year coming to the end, here are my final choices for 2016:
Flyweight: 112 Pounds and Below With Roman Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada moving up, Donnie Nietes is left as the top man in the division. He is the WBO champ and has not lost a fight in over a decade.
Bantamweight: 113-118 Pounds It is tough to pass on undefeated Shinsuke Yamanaka, the WBC champ. But I have to go with WBO super flyweight champion Roman Gonzalez, an elite pound-for-pound star.
Featherweight: 119-126 Pounds Carl Frampton unified two titles at 122 pounds and claimed another at 126. He will win a lot of Fighter of the Year nods from various boxing media. I’ll give him the nod here over super bantamweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux, the sport’s most avoided fighter.
Lightweight: 127-135 Pounds The best fighter in the world between 126 and 135 pounds is WBO super featherweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko. I would love to see him move to full lightweight and face Mikey Garcia in 2017.
Welterweight: 136-147 Pounds Just as I am giving the edge to Lomachenko over the fighters in the division directly above him, I also feel lineal, WBO and WBC super lightweight champion Terence Crawford needs to rank above anybody at the full 147-pound limit.
Middleweight: 148-160 Pounds Gennady Golovkin is head and shoulders above anybody at 154 or 160 pounds, except Canelo Alvarez, who has avoided him in 2016.
Light Heavyweight: 161-175 Pounds I thought Sergey Kovalev earned a one-point decision, by virtue of his knockdown of Andre Ward in their November clash. But I have to accept the judges’ verdict in such a close fight. Ward is the light heavyweight champion.
Heavyweight: 175 pounds and up In a division that is now split four ways, Alexander Povetkin has the best resume of any heavyweight who has fought within the past year.