BoxingScene Pound for Pound Top Ten
By Cliff Rold
1) Andre Ward (32-0, 15 KO)
Current Titles: WBA/IBF/WBO light heavyweight (2016-Present, 1 Defense)
Lineal Titles: World Super Middleweight (2011-15, 2 Defenses)
Additional Titles: WBC Super Middleweight (2011-13, 1 Defense); Ring Magazine (2011-15, 2 Defenses); TBRB/WBA “Super” Super Middleweight (2011-15, 2 Defenses)
Record in Title Fights: 9-0, 2 KO
Last Five Opponents: Sergey Kovalev (UD12, TKO8), Sullivan Barrera (UD12), Paul Smith (TKO9), Edwin Rodriguez (UD12), Chad Dawson (TKO10)
Next Opponent: TBA
The Take: There is an old adage in boxing that the better fighter often wins a rematch earlier the second time around. For at least one night, it was true in Las Vegas in June. As was the case the first time, Andre Ward had his issues with the jab and overall skill of Sergey Kovalev but he started to find the target earlier this time. It was arguably the biggest win of Ward’s professional career and, outside of the closely contested first bout with Kovalev, he’s never really come close to losing. His win over Sullivan Barrera looks better all the time too, of recent vintage, along with everything he got done earlier in his career. He’s not universally loved and there are plenty who see a fighter too easily excused for fouls but the results are there. Ward is a winner, and has been going back to the Olympics. He showed it again in the Kovalev rematch.
2) Roman Gonzalez (46-1, 38 KO)
Current Titles: None
Lineal Titles: World Flyweight (2014-16, 4 Defenses)
Additional Titles: WBA Minimumweight (2008-10, 3 Defenses); WBA Light Flyweight (2010-14, 5 Defenses); TBRB/Ring/WBC World Flyweight (2014-16, 4 Defenses); WBC super flyweight (2016-Present, 0 Defenses)
Record in Title Fights: 15-1, 9 KO (16-1, 10 KO including interim title fights); 5-0, 4 KO (Lineal only)
Last Five Opponents: Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (L12), Carlos Cuadras (UD12), McWilliams Arroyo (UD12), Brian Viloria (TKO9), Edgar Sosa (TKO2)
Next Opponent: September 9, 2017 vs. Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (43-4-1, 39 KO)
The Take: Things are a little tougher for Roman Gonzalez at 115 lbs. After running through three weight classes, dominating almost everyone not named Juan Francisco Estrada, Gonzalez has been in back-to-back fight of the year quality classics at Jr. bantamweight. Despite the official defeat in his last outing, Gonzalez slips only a little for a simple reason: almost no one thought he lost that fight. Gonzalez appeared to suffer from judges swayed more by blood stemming from head butts than the volume of blows Gonzalez was landing clean. The bout featured perhaps the finest single round of his career, a three-minute assault in the final round that had his Thai foe nearly fleeing in spots. Sor Rungvisai was expected to be a sturdy challenge and was; he should be again in the rematch. This corner has still never seen Gonzalez lose a fight and he gets the benefit of the doubt for now.
3) Terence Crawford (31-0, 22 KO)
Current Titles: WBO Light Welterweight (2015-Present, 5 Defenses); WBC Super Lightweight (2016-Present, 2 Defenses)
Lineal Titles: World/TBRB/Ring Lightweight (2014-15); World/TBRB/Ring Jr. Welterweight (2016-Present, 2 Defenses)
Additional Titles: WBO Lightweight (2014-15, 2 Defenses)
Record in Title Fights: 8-0, 5 KO; 4-0, 2 KO (Lineal only)
Last Five Opponents: Felix Diaz (RTD10), John Molina (TKO8), Viktor Postol (UD12), Hank Lundy (TKO5), Dierry Jean (TKO10)
Next Opponent: August 19, 2017 vs. Julius Indongo (22-0, 11 KO)
The Take: Crawford had a Fighter of the Year-worthy run in 2014 and made a sensational move to 140 lbs. in 2015. The opponents were just okay and 2016 started off with the same problem. That was solved with a dominant win over Postol to declare a new king at Jr. welterweight. Crawford followed it with a one-sided thrashing of John Molina to stretch his mark to 3-0 on the year. A quality boxer with a mean streak, the orthodox Crawford battled the former Olympian Diaz largely from a southpaw stance in his last outing and beat the hell out of him just to show he could. He’s that good. Now he’ll face Indongo in a rare four-belt unification. It’s another real fight while he chases the big fights down the road.
4) Mikey Garcia (37-0, 30 KO)
Current Titles: WBC Lightweight (2017-Present, 0 Defenses)
Additional Titles: WBO Featherweight (2013); WBO Super Featherweight (2013-15, 1 Defense)
Record in Title Fights: 74-0, 2 KO
Last Five Opponents: Adrien Broner (UD12), Dejan Zlaticanin (KO3), Elio Rojas (TKO5), Juan Carlos Burgos (UD12), Roman Martinez (KO8)
Next Opponent: TBA
The Take: Based on the form we’ve seen in 2017, it’s not unfair to think Garcia might be flirting with the top spot had he not lost over two years to inactivity. His destruction of Zlaticanin, a fighter of some proven quality, was highly impressive. The dismantling of Broner, who he moved up to face, was as much a technical masterpiece as it was a physical whooping. The stoic Garcia hasn’t lost a step since and appears even better than when he was first garnering momentum doing things like dropping Orlando Salido four times on the way to his first title.
5) Vasyl Lomachenko (9-1, 7 KO; 15-1, 7 KO incl. World Series of Boxing contests)
Current Titles: WBO Super Featherweight (2016-Present, 3 Defenses)
Previous Titles: WBO Featherweight (2014-16, 3 Defenses)
Record in Title Fights: 8-1, 6 KO
Last Five Opponents: Miguel Marriaga (RTD7), Jason Sosa (RTD9), Nicholas Walters (RTD7), Roman Martinez (KO5), Romulo Koasicha (KO10)
Next Opponent: TBA
The Take: He’s looked technically superb from the start, even in losing his second (depending on who is counting) pro fight to Orlando Salido. Against Rocky Martinez, he looked like something more. Showing killer instinct and single shot power, he iced a man whose chin and durability had served him through many wars. Lomachenko could have done what many do, fighting a dozen or so no hopers to pad his record. He skipped that part and it’s paying dividends. His combination of speed, footwork, defensive fundamentals, and power is as good as anyone possesses in boxing. Just ask Nicholas Walters. The then-undefeated Jamaican was befuddled, dissected, and forced to surrender in as dominant a big fighter performance as the year produced. Sosa and Marriaga experienced more of the same with Lomachenko beginning to display more showmanship against the overmatched. The sooner he gets to lightweight the better.
6) Gennady Golovkin (37-0, 33 KO)
Current Titles: WBA Middleweight (2010-Present, 18 Defenses), WBC Middleweight (2014-Present, 6 Defenses), IBF Middleweight (2015-Present, 3 Defenses)
Additional Titles: None
Record in Title Fights: 18-0, 17 KO (19-0, 18 KO including interim title fights)
Last Five Opponents: Daniel Jacobs (UD12), Kell Brook (TKO5), Dominic Wade (KO2), David Lemieux (TKO8), Willie Monroe Jr. (TKO61)
Next Opponent: September 16, 2017 vs. Saul Alvarez (49-1-1, 33 KO)
The Take: Golovkin stuck around all these years at Middleweight to unify the division and get the big one. He got the latter before he could get his hands on the final belt he hasn’t snagged yet. It doesn’t get bigger for Golovkin than a showdown with Alvarez and it comes with more intrigue after his last outing. Daniel Jacobs made a solid case for the win against Golovkin in March and lost by only the narrowest margins on all three cards. Confronted with more movement than is the norm, Golovkin had to find new ways to win. Now his moment is here. Defeat Alvarez and this era at middleweight will firmly belong to him. Lose and a long track record of average divisional fare (the reason he’s never risen too far here) will matter far more than arguing about who didn’t face him when. September is fistic drama of the best kind.
7) Saul Alvarez (49-1-1, 33 KO)
Current Titles: WBO Super Welterweight (2016-Present, 0 Defenses); Ring Middleweight (2015-Present, 1 Defense)
Lineal: World Middleweight (2015-Present, 1 Defenses)
Additional Titles: WBC Super Welterweight (2011-13, 6 Defenses); Ring/WBA Super Welterweight (2013); WBC Middleweight (2015-16, 1 Defense)
Record in Title Fights: 10-1, 6 KO
Last Five Opponents: Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (UD12), Liam Smith (KO9), Amir Khan (KO6), Miguel Cotto (UD12), James Kirkland (KO3)
Next Opponent: September 16, 2017 vs. Gennady Golovkin (37-0, 33 KO)
The Take: He wasn’t good enough to beat Mayweather. No one else was either. Despite taking a fairly safe road since winning history’s middleweight crown from Cotto, it’s hard to argue against the career choices of Alvarez and here he is, again, fighting a guy too many said he never would. Alvarez has been good enough to beat everyone besides Mayweather, eking by difficult talents like Trout and Lara and clearly defeating the game but outgunned Cotto. Now he can shut up every critic once and for all. Win or lose, no one will ever be able to say Saul Alvarez ran from Golovkin ever again.
8) Guillermo Rigondeaux (17-0, 11 KO)
Current Titles: WBA “Super” Super Bantamweight (2016-Present, 1 Defense)) Lineal Titles: World/TBRB Jr. Featherweight (2013-Present, 5 Defenses)
Additional Titles: WBA “Super” Super Bantamweight (2012-15, 6 Defenses); Ring/WBO World Jr. Featherweight (2013-15, 3 Defenses)
Record in Title Fights: 9-0, 5 KO* (11-0, 6 KO including interim title fights); 6-0, 3 KO (Lineal Only)
Last Five Opponents: Moises Flores (NC1), James Dickens (RTD2), Drian Francisco (UD10), Hisashi Amagasa (RTD11), Sod Kokietgym (KO1) *These numbers include fights under 122 that were not contested for any sanctioned titles based on Rigondeaux’s lineal claim.
Next Opponent: TBA
The Take: It’s now been over four years since the Cuban defensive whiz dazzled and handcuffed Nonito Donaire to show what he was capable of. Since, management issues and a lack of network interest has handcuffed Rigondeaux even worse. He fought only once in each of the last two years before 2017, neither time against an opponent of note. This year, he finally got his mandatory signed and then an errant knockout blow ended that before it started. Regardless, it’s hard to remove him altogether given what we know about what he’s capable of and we haven’t seen proof of decline yet. He’s calling for a showdown with Vasyl Lomachenko, even if it means going to 130 lbs. Is it publicity chatter or a real reach for more? That will be settled behind closed doors when the real asking prices are determined.
9) Keith Thurman (28-0, 22 KO)
Current Titles: WBA Welterweight (2013-Present, 7 Defenses), WBC Welterweight (2017-Present, 0 Defenses)
Additional Titles: None
Record in Title Fights: 4-0, 1 KO (8-0, 4 KO including interim title fights)
Last Five Opponents: Danny Garcia (SD12), Shawn Porter (UD12), Luis Collazo (RTD7), Robert Guerrero (UD12), Leonard Bundu (UD12)
Next Opponent: TBA
The Take: While he’ll be out of the ring recovering from injuries and subsequent surgery until 2018, Thurman stands as the leader in what is probably still the deepest and highest quality division in boxing. He’s also its lone unified titlist. Thurman accomplished the feat with a solid decision over the previously unbeaten Garcia and that followed a winning war against Porter. Thurman might not always appear as refined as some of his peers but he keeps finding the victory circle. A possible rematch with Porter, or further unification with Errol Spence, gives him plenty of room to grow here.
10) Shinsuke Yamanaka (27-0-2, 19 KO)
Current Titles: WBC Bantamweight (2011-Present, 12 Defenses)
Lineal: World/Ring Bantamweight (2016-Present, 1 Defenses)
Additional Titles: None
Record in Title Fights: 13-0, 9 KO
Last Five Opponents: Carlos Carlson (TKO7), Anselmo Moreno (TKO7, SD12), Liborio Solis (UD12), Diego Santillan (KO7), Suriyan Sor Rungvisai (UD12)
Next Opponent: August 15, 2017 vs. Luis Nery (23-0, 17 KO)
The Take: This could easily have been Kovalev, who still has a strong case for a split with rival Andre Ward. Instead, the nod goes to one of boxing’s finest reigning titlists. Yamanaka has been the bedrock at bantamweight for almost the entire decade and he’s done it facing real guys. Wins over Solis and Moreno in recent vintage, and Vic Darchinyan when it still counted, punctuate a model career. Yamanaka has shown speed, power, and consistency, all things he may need in abundance in the next few days. His fight with Nery could see him exit just as quickly as he arrived. Unless, or until that happens, this is where Yamanaka belongs.
Five More Who Could Easily Be Here: Juan Francisco Estrada, Naoya Inoue, Sergey Kovalev, Donnie Nietes, Leo Santa Cruz
Five for the Future: Jermall Charlo, Oleksandr Gvozdyk, Anthony Joshua, Errol Spence, Oleksandr Usyk
As always, feel free to agree…and disagree. This list is for entertainment purposes only and based purely on imagination, hypotheticals, and conjecture just like every other pound for pound list ever written. Neither it nor any other such list made up of such illusory ingredients should be used to forward corporate agendas of any kind.
That doesn’t make it any less fun to argue about.
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Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]