BEST FIGHTERS NOW ON HBO

Boxers. And "best" combines in roughly equal proportions three definitive criteria: how hard is it for opponents to beat him? How dominant are his wins? Does he connect to the entertainment responsibility of an entrepreneurial sport?
  1. Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin: with his biggest-yet fight coming 10/17 in likely-to-be-sold out Madison Square Garden against French Canadian puncher David Lemieux, boxing's most prolific knockout machine keeps building audience. Both in terms of ring dominance and of public response, Khazakstan's GGG is boxing's Rhonda Rousey.
  2. Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez: will appear in co-feature under Golovkin in MSG 10/17 vs American former Olympic star Brian Viloria. Little drama show precedes big drama show. Nicaragua's Chocolatito is 43-0 with 37 knockouts en route to titles at 105, 108, and 112 lbs. So far.
  3. Sergei "Krusher" Kovalev: has done even more damage to the light heavyweight division than GGG has been able to do to the middleweights by simple virtue of having gotten the opportunity to snuff all-time great Bernard Hopkins. Brilliant decision win over BHop briefly interrupted long string of violent knockouts, which has since resumed.
  4. Andre Ward: unbeaten as both amateur and pro, the über-skilled super middleweight king is finally back in action after lengthy dispute with former promoter, and in return fight looked same as ever. Possible summit meeting with Kovalev at weight between 168 and 175 looms sometime next year.
  5. Wladimir Klitschko: unbeaten for more than ten years, this era's dominant heavyweight king is closing in on records for effective longevity established by Ali, Holmes, Joe Louis. Virtually every opponent has been a mandatory to satisfy his belt merchants, meaning an American champ would have fought all the same guys. Next defense 10/24.
  6. Miguel Cotto: number one Puerto Rican fighter of his era is first from island to claim the lineal middleweight crown, but by his own admission "not a full middleweight". In three fights with new trainer Freddie Roach has looked sensational, but vs compromised opponents. Pay per view pot of gold vs Canelo Alvarez arrives next.
  7. Canelo Alvarez: 154 lb king is coming off thrilling demolition of whirlwind puncher James Kirkland before 30,000 screaming worshippers in Houston. Premier Mexican attraction of his era is so far another "not a full middleweight", but is expected to become one if he can beat Cotto 11/21 in Las Vegas.
  8. Terence Crawford: has emerged from solid but unspectacular amateur career to become possible inheritor to great American welterweight tradition fostered by Robinson, Leonard, Hearns, Mayweather and others. Shared 2014 fighter of year honors with Kovalev, now set for 10/24 defense of 140 lb belt at home in Omaha.
  9. Nicholas Walters: Jamaican slugger has stormed to top of featherweight division with string of knockouts to rival those of GGG, Chocolatito and the Krusher. Hasn't yet proven his power and skills can overcome the sophistication of a great defender, but there may be one or two in his future.
  10. Vasyl Lomachenko: one of two great defenders who may at some point get to test Walters. Two-time Olympic gold medalist from Ukraine defends on a level reminiscent of Floyd Mayweather, with far more varied offensive game. Fewer than ten pro fights but nearly 400 amateur wins made him finished product.
  11. Manny Pacquaio: it was a given he couldn't get going in bad style matchup with Mayweather, but predictable loss doesn't erase his long heroic run vs larger opponents and his still-formidable quickness and skills. Just shouldn't fight Mayweather again, no matter the reward.
  12. Timothy Bradley: on the nights when he is exciting, he isn't always so great. On the nights when he is great at what he does, he isn't nearly as exciting. But either way he knows how to fight, can take a helluva shot, and brings it in every round.