Friday, December 30, 2011

Grading the Top Fighters of 2011

Here is how I evaluated the 2011 performances of the major fighters in boxing.  Letter grades were assigned, with "A" the best and "F" the worst ("E" was skipped).  "INC" denotes an incomplete record for a final grade.  I have also listed the best and worst grades for specific fighters in every division.  Divisions in which no top fighter had a grade of "C" or worse did not have a "Worst Performance" of 2011.  In addition, in the flyweight and strawweight divisions, I did not list or grade most of the top fighters individually. Quite frankly, many of them are obscure champions and/or completely unfamiliar to me.     


Best performance of 2011: Wladimir Klitschko and Vitali Klitschko
Worst performance of 2011: David Haye

Wladimir Klitschko A+  Dominated David Haye, proving that he is an elite boxing talent. 

Vitali Klitschko A+  Strong showing against Tomasz Adamek, his best opponent since Corrie Sanders in 2004.

Alexander Povetkin A  Dug deep to pull out a victory against Ruslan Chagaev, winning his first title.  Showed power and poise against Cedric Boswell.

Tomasz Adamek C+  Fought ably against Vitali, just didn't have the size or power to disrupt him. 

David Haye F  Laid an egg in all senses against Wladimir.  Embarrassing showing.

Robert Helenius C  Showed his power and potential in his knockout against Siarhei Liakhovich.  Showed his flaws and limitations against Dereck Chisora.

Dereck Chisora B  Ends the year on a high note by dominating Robert Helenius.  Did get outworked by Tyson Fury earlier in the year. 


Best performance of 2011: Marco Huck
Worst performance of 2011: Danny Green

Marco Huck A  Cruised to three relatively easy victories.  Moving up to heavyweight to face Povetkin next.

Yoan Pablo Hernandez INC  Rematch with Steve Cunningham will provide more perspective on this year.

Steve Cunningham  INC  Rematch with Yoan Pablo Hernandez will provide more perspective on this year.

Denis Lebedev B  Spent the year beating up on old legends (Roy Jones and James Toney).  Didn't prove much in the process.

Krzysztof Wlodarczyk B+  Has re-emerged on the world-class scene and stopped Danny Green with a knockout in a fight in which he was behind.

Danny Green F  With knockout losses to Antonio Tarver and Wlodarczyk, he is now just a name at this point. 

Light Heavyweight

Best performance of 2011: Bernard Hopkins
Worst performance of 2011: None

Bernard Hopkins A  Captured a belt at 46 against Jean Pascal earlier in the year.  Fight with Chad Dawson called a no-contest because of an injury.

Chad Dawson INC  Without the completed Hopkins fight, he just marked time with a victory over Adrian Diaconu.

Tavoris Cloud B  Fought only once in 2011 and looked good against Yusaf Mack.  A scheduled fight with Zsolt Erdei fell through. 

Jean Pascal C  Lost to Bernard Hopkins but did close well down the stretch of that fight.  Took the second half of 2011 off for no particular reason.

Nathan Cleverly B+  Won a world title but has a bad habit of making every fight much harder than it needs to be. 

Beibut Shumenov B  Wasted the year fighting bad competition and his old promoter.

Super Middleweight

Best performance of 2011: Andre Ward
Worst performance of 2011: Arthur Abraham

Andre Ward A+  Demonstrated that he was the class of the Super Six tournament with wins over Carl Froch and Arthur Abraham.

Carl Froch B  Had a nice win over Glen Johnson but was clearly a few notches below Andre Ward.

Lucian Bute B+  Looked good against weak competition.  Did I write this same comment last year?

Arthur Abraham D-  Not sure where he goes from here.  Not active enough on offense to beat top fighters in the division.

Glen Johnson C-  It was a great run but he hit the end against Carl Froch and Lucian Bute.


Best performance of 2011: Daniel Geale
Worst performance of 2011: Felix Sturm

Sergio Martinez B+  Looked excellent against Sergiy Dzinziruk.  Probably carried Darren Barker a little bit.  A marking-time year.

Daniel Geale A  Won a title in Germany (not easy to do for a foreign-promoted fighter) against Sebastian Sylvester and made a hometown defense.

Andy Lee: A-  Had a stirring knockout of Craig McEwan in a fight in which he was losing and avenged his loss to Bryan Vera.  He's back on the map.

Felix Sturm C-  Could have lost fights to Martin Murray and Matthew Macklin.  Only the comfy home environs (and scorecards) saved him. 

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. B+  Rallied to win a title against Sebastian Zbik.  Looked good against overmatched Peter Manfredo.

Gennady Golovkin  A-  Struggled against Kassim Ouma early before putting him away.  Dominated Lajuan Simon with a vicious first-round knockout.

Matthew Macklin A-  Tough-luck loss against Felix Sturm but he acquitted himself well and will face Martinez next year. 

Junior Middleweight

Best performance of 2011: Miguel Cotto
Worst performance of 2011: Paul Williams

Miguel Cotto: A  Dispatched two black-hats this year – Antonio Margarito and Ricardo Mayorga.  Switch to trainer Pedro Luis Diaz has been rejuvenating.

Saul Alvarez: A-  Strong performances against Cintron, Hatton and Rhodes.  The Gomez fight shows that there are still things to work on.
Paul Williams:  C-  It's unclear how much the "Punisher" has left at this point in his career.  His legs look terrible.

Erislandy Lara: B+  Underestimated Carlos Molina and was lucky to earn a draw.  Dominated Paul Williams but didn't get the decision. 

James Kirkland B  Lost in a shocking knockout to Nobuhiro Ishida.  Reunited with Ann Wolfe and scored a thrilling victory against Alfredo Angulo. 

Austin Trout A-  Won two fights and a belt this year in Mexico.  Finished the year on American TV and looked good against Frank LoPorto. 


Best performance in 2011: Floyd Mayweather
Worst performance in 2011: Shane Mosley

Floyd Mayweather A+  He fought once but scored an unforgettable knockout over an unprepared and immature Victor Ortiz.

Manny Pacquiao B+  Dominated Shane Mosley in a dull fight and then struggled with Juan Manuel Marquez. He was lucky to get the decision.

Shane Mosley F  His run is over after failing to compete against Pacquiao.

Juan Manuel Marquez A  Don't let the decision diminish the quality of his performance against Pacquiao.  Put on a master boxing clinic.

Victor Ortiz B  Had a tremendous victory against Andre Berto but then showed his immaturity against Mayweather and paid the price.

Andre Berto B  Looked sluggish against Ortiz and got his first lost.  Rebounded with a win against Jan Zaveck but still got hit a lot.

Mike Jones B+  Had a much stronger showing in his rematch against Jesus Soto Karass.  Dominated Sebastian Lujan but still hasn't looked spectacular.

Junior Welterweight

Best performance in 2011: Tim Bradley and Lamont Peterson 
Worst performance in 2011: Devon Alexander and Zab Judah

Tim Bradley A-  Dispatched Devon Alexander, although it didn't look pretty.  Got a rare knockout over a faded Joel Casamayor.

Amir Khan: B-  Unified titles against Zab Judah.  Looked pedestrian against Paul McCloskey.  Displayed bad amateur habits against Lamont Peterson.

Marcos Maidana B+  Fought an entertaining war against Erik Morales and made a hometown defense once the Robert Guerrero fight fell through.

Lamont Peterson A-  Had a stirring knockout of Victor Cayo and benefited from Amir Khan's fouling to win his first championship.

Erik Morales B+ Reminded people he wasn't finished in a good showing against Marcos Maidana and a vintage performance against Pablo Cesar Cano.

Devon Alexander D+  Quit against Tim Bradley and should have lost against Lucas Matthysse.  Fell very far in 2011. 

Lucas Matthysse B+  In a just world, he would have wins over Devon Alexander and Zab Judah.  Good fighter but has yet to look sensational. 

Zab Judah D+  Had a great knockout against Kaizer Mabuza and then quit in his fight against Amir Khan.  Always finds ways to lose big fights. 


Best performance in the division:  Brandon Rios
Worst performance in the division: Michael Katsidis

Brandon Rios A+  Had stirring victories over Miguel Acosta, Urbano Antillon and John Murray.  Perhaps no fighter's stock has gone up as much this year.

Robert Guerrero A-  Great performance over Michael Katsidis but sat out the rest of the year with an injury, cancelling a potetntial war with Maidana.

Ricky Burns A  Moved up to lightweight with a great showing over Katsidis.  Demonstrated that he could take a punch at 135.  

Michael Katsidis C-  He fights hard but is now clearly at gatekeeper status.  Hand speed is too slow for the best in the division. 

Miguel Vazquez B+  Slippery operator remained in low-profile fights this year. 

Jorge Linares B-  Dominated Antonio DeMarco but face literally didn't hold up.  Still has some chin issues.

Antonio DeMarco A Scored one of the best comebacks of the year against Jorge Linares.  Still, he was outboxed for almost the whole fight. 

Junior Lightweight

Best performance of 2011: Eloy Perez
Worst performance of 2011: None

Adrien Broner: B+  Perhaps overmatched against Daniel Ponce de Leon but rebounded in his final two fights, picking up a title in the process.

Juan Carlos Salgado: B  Had a rematch win over Guadalupe Rosales and a victory over Argenis Mendez, although dropped in that fight. 

Takashi Uchiyama: INC  Has a big fight New Year's Eve against Jorge Solis.

Daniel Ponce de Leon: B  Should have gotten the decision against Broner but too slow to defeat Yuriorkis Gamboa.

Eloy Perez: A  Finally showed some power this year with knockouts over Ira Terry and Daniel Jimenez.  Big test will come next against Broner. 


Best performance of 2011: Jhonny Gonzalez
Worst performance of 2011: Juan Manuel Lopez

Yuriorkis Gamboa: A  Put it all together in a great performance against Jorge Solis. Fought intelligently and more cautiously against Ponce de Leon.

Juan Manuel Lopez C-  His lifestyle out-of-the-ring finally caught up to him.  He was knocked out by Orlando Salido.  Should move up.

Celestino Caballero B+ Fought back from irrelevancy to stop Jonathan Barros in a rematch of a loss earlier in the year.  Also fights on New Year's Eve.

Orlando Salido A- Had the year of his life by winning the title against Lopez.  Survived some rocky moments against unknown Weng Haya – dropped twice.

Jhonny Gonzalez A+  Scored four impressive knockouts this year.  Perhaps finally found his ideal weight class. 

Chris John B+  Went 2-0 this year including a win over Daud Yordan, which was a huge fight in Indonesia.  Not overly motivated to face the best in the division.

Mikey Garcia A  Made the leap from prospect to contender this year.  He has excellent counterpunching ability and uncommon poise for a young fighter.

Junior Featherweight

Best performance in 2011: Jorge Arce
Worst performance in 2011 Rafael Marquez

Toshiaki Nishioki A  Won an excellent fight against Rafael Marquez in his American debut.  May be in line for some big fights in 2012.

Rico Ramos A-  Pulled a rabbit out of his hat and knocked out Akifumi Shimoda in a fight in which he was losing, but looked overmatched at times.

Akifumi Shimoda  B-  Dominated Ramos before walking into a shot.  Decided to move up in weight.  Power will be a question at featherweight.

Guillermo Rigondeaux INC  Blasted out Willie Casey in one round and sat around the rest of the year.  Fight against Ramos was pushed into 2012. 

Rafael Marquez  C+  Had a wonderful career but can't beat top guys anymore.  He no longer can pull the trigger when he has to.

Jorge Arce  A+  Had a magical year at 122 and 118, winning two belts.  Best win was a rousing performance over Wilfredo Vazquez, Jr.

Wilfredo Vazquez, Jr. B  No shame in his performance against Arce.  He needs to improve his conditioning and rely on his technical skills more.


Best performance in 2011: Nonito Donaire and Anselmo Moreno
Worst performance in 2011: Yonnhy Perez

Nonito Donaire A  Electrified the boxing world with his knockout of Fernando Montiel.  His fight against Omar Narvaez was a snoozer, but wasn't his fault.

Abner Mares A-  Fouled Joseph Agbeko repeatedly in their first fight and got a disputed win.  The rematch was nominally cleaner.  Rough fighter. 

Anselmo Moreno A Toyed with Vic Darchinyan and scored another nice win over Lorenzo Parra.  He's not only a defensive wizard but also fun to watch.

Fernando Montiel D+  Got starched against Donaire and then moved up to 122, where he lost to Victor Terrazas.  His run as a top fighter is over.

Joseph Agbeko B-  Fought valiantly against Mares in their first meeting but threw all intelligence and ring generalship out the window in the rematch. 

Vic Darchinyan B-  Took out Yonnhy Perez in impressive fashion but looked absolutely helpless against Moreno. 

Yonnhy Perez F  Seemed completely washed up against Darchinyan.

Junior Bantamweight

I'll be honest: this is the most obscure division in boxing right now.  According to, their top-two fighters in the division, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai and Tepparith Kokietgym, have fought a combined one time outside of Thailand.  The number-three ranked fighter, Tomonobu Shimizu, has never had a professional match outside of Japan.  I'm not saying that these fighters aren't good, but I certainly am unfamiliar with them and do not feel comfortable commenting on them with any authority.

Omar Narvaez D+  Had a very nice win early in the year against Cesar Ceda but completely embarrassed himself in his performance against Donaire. 


Best performance in 2011: Brain Viloria
Worst performance in 2011: None

Pongsaklek Wonjongkam A-  Old warrior picked up five more wins, including another belt against Edgar Sosa.  The other opponents were patsies. 

Brian Viloria A+  Scored the best win of his career by KO'ing Giovani Segura.  He also had a nice victory over Julio Cesar Miranda. Right division.

Giovani Segura B-  Hoped to continue the momentum from his wins over Ivan Calderon.  He fought well early against Viloria but ran out of gas.

Hernan Marquez A  Won an epic slugfest against Luis Concepcion and destroyed him in the rematch.  Viloria fight would be huge in 2012.

Luis Concepcion  B  Came up short against Marquez in the first fight and was blown out in the second one.  

Moruti Mthalane A-  Has really rebounded from his loss to Donaire earlier in his career.  Made two defenses against decent opposition. 

Junior Flyweight

Best performance in 2011: Roman Gonzalez
Worst performance in 2011: Ivan Calderon

Roman Gonzalez A+  Had a great performance against Omar Soto.  Also had good wins against Omar Salado and Manuel Vargas.  His power is legit.

Ivan Calderon D+  This is the end for the Puerto Rican technical master.  He couldn't take Segura's shots and squeaked out a win against a journeyman.


This division is similar to flyweight in that the some of its top-ranked fighters are unfamiliar to me.  Nevertheless, I have a few comments here.  The best fighter in the division, Nkosinathi Joyi, spent most of the year on the sidelines, having injury and promotional problems.  Also, Akira Yaegashi and Pornsawan Porpramook engaged in one of the best battles of the year.

Fighters who received SNB's highest grade

Wladimir Klitschko
Vitali Klitschko
Andre Ward
Floyd Mayweather
Brandon Rios
Jhonny Gonzalez
Jorge Arce
Brian Viloria
Roman Gonzalez

Fighters who received SNB's lowest grade

David Haye
Danny Green
Shane Mosley
Yonnhy Perez

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