For many the best Cruiserweight on the planet, isn't one of the names mentioned above but is in fact Russian hard hitter Denis Lebedev (25-1, 19) who makes the second defense of his WBA title this Friday when he faces Panamanian Guillermo Jones (38-3-2, 30).
Lebedev, pictured above with Enzo Maccarinelli, is a short Cruiserweight (as seen quite evidently in the picture), though he's also a stocky, powerful fighter who can often negate his size disadvantages. Aggressive he's strong and hurtful, though also has very solid over-all skills, good patience (a little too good at times) and a fantastic finishers instinct.
Having faced a relative who's who in recent years, including James Toney, Roy Jones Junior, Maccarinelli, Huck and Alexander Alekseev it's fair to say that Lebedev is a proving quality. Sure he's managed to get a reputation of scalping big names who past it (Jones and Toney) but fights with Huck, Alekseev and Maccarinello were all against solid contemporaries.
The fight with Huck has been the most "interesting" of Lebedev's career so far. Although he "lost" a decision (a highly controversial one) to Huck, Lebedev showed not only his powerful punching (which apparently broke a rib of Huck) but also his solid boxing as he forced Huck to box almost entirely off the ropes. Out-manning Huck is never an easy task but Lebedev made it look genuinely simple.
Aged 33 Lebedev isn't a spring chicken but for a Cruiserweight he's still got a few years at the top and despite his face looking "weathered" he hasn't really been in many wars.
In Jones we have a very interesting challenger who has a career full of ups and downs.
Aged 41 Jones has been a professional since 1993 and has seen his body change from that of a lanky Welterweight kid to full grown Cruiserweight man. Although still very tall for the weight it was always amazing that he could ever have made Welterweight like he did in the early 1990's.
When fighters move up in weight we tend to see them scoring few stoppages but for Jones the move up hasn't really been shown to effect his power. At Welterweight, Light Middleweight and Cruiserweight he has been shown to hit hard enough to keep fighters honest with out necessarily being concussive (at least at world level).
At his best Jones was a very talented fighter who had exceptional skills and lived up to his name of "El Felino" (The Cat). He was quick, elusive, tough when he needed to be and hit with very clean but yet sneaky shots. His victories over Wayne Braithwaite, Firat Arslan and Valery Brudov were all solid victories and in fact he could well have also had notable victories over Steve Cunningham and Johnny Nelson had the judges favoured him like many fans did.
It was however, a long time ago that Jones was in his prime and what he has left is a really a big question. At his best he could certainly have held his own with the top Cruiserweights from throughout history though with just 2 fights in the last 4 years it's fair to say that he is not still at his best.
Prime for prime it'd be hard to go against Jones who will take a 5" height advantage and a notable reach advantage in to the ring, now however the logical view is Lebedev to win.
With his power, strength, explosiveness and excellent inside game it wouldn't be the biggest shock if Lebedev managed to stop Jones late in bout. The aging former champion, who actually enters on the back of 7 straight victories (6 by stoppages), is probably going to be made to look his age here.