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BoxingScene Pound for Pound Top Ten

By Cliff Rold

1) Terence Crawford (35-0, 26 KO)

Age: 31

Current Alphabet Titles: WBO Welterweight (2018-Present, 2 Defenses)

Lineal Titles: World/TBRB/Ring Lightweight (2014-15); World/TBRB/Ring Jr. Welterweight (2016-17, 3 Defenses)

Additional Titles: WBO Lightweight (2014-15, 2 Defenses); WBO Light Welterweight (2015-17, 6 Defenses); WBC Super Lightweight (2016-17, 3 Defenses); WBA Super Lightweight (2017); IBF Jr. Welterweight (2017)

Record in Title Fights: 13-0, 10 KO

Last Five Opponents: Amir Khan (TKO6), Jose Benavidez Jr. (TKO12), Jeff Horn (TKO9), Julius Indongo (KO3), Felix Diaz (RTD10)

Next Opponent: TBA

The Take: Crawford rose to the top spot as one of the most complete active fighters in the game. Crawford can box from both sides effortlessly, he can punch, and he’s got an old school chip on his shoulder. He had one of the strongest years of any fighter in 2017, a Fighter of the Year-worthy run in 2014, and a sensational move to 140 lbs. in 2015. Now he’s stuck in wait mode while dominating what is available to be made for him by Top Rank at welterweight. To many eyes, the best fight is the division is Crawford versus Errol Spence. Spence is part of a stacked roster of welterweights and has dangerous options without crossing the street. Will the politics and business structure of boxing keep Crawford from defining fights in his third weight class? Crawford’s hold on the top spot remains but there are men below him with more compelling opponents available so it won’t be easy to remain.

2) Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16 KO)

Age: 26

Current Alphabet Titles: WBA “regular” Bantamweight (2018-Present, 2 Defenses); IBF Bantamweight

Additional Titles: WBC Light Flyweight (2014, 1 Defense); WBO Super Flyweight (2014-18, 7 Defenses); Ring Magazine Bantamweight (2019-Present, 0 Defenses)

Record in Title Fights: 11-0, 10 KO (12-0, 12 KO including WBA secondary title fights)

Last Five Opponents: Emanuel Rodroguez (KO2), Juan Carlos Payano (KO1), Jamie McDonnell (TKO1), Yoan Boyeaux (TKO3), Antonio Nieves (RTD6)

Next Opponent: TBA vs. Nonito Donaire (40-5, 26 KO)

The Take: Inoue has been sensational from the professional cradle. This is a fighter who defeated then-future unified 108 lb. titlist Ryoichi Taguchi in only his fourth pro fight and won his first pro title in his sixth. Now competing at bantamweight, the scary thing for future foes is Inoue may only be hitting his prime. The man called “Monster” debuted at 118 lbs. with a first round knockout of McDonnell that impressed despite Inoue being a heavy favorite. McDonnell had never been stopped before. Neither had Payano. Inoue did it both less than two minutes. Overall for those who love statistics: Inoue’s last seven opponents, a combined 174-20-4, took their first stoppage losses at his hands. Four of them were current or former major titlists. Omar Narvaez, who he ran over in two rounds in 2014, still has only a single stoppage loss in a career that features fights against the dangerous Nonito Donaire and Zolani Tete. Possessing blazing speed, offensive variety, and killer instinct, Inoue moves to the WBSS finals after destroying what looked like the toughest test of his career. Veteran Nonito Donaire gives him a chance to unify his newly won IBF strap with the full WBA honors.

3) Vasyl Lomachenko (13-1, 10 KO; 19-1, 10 KO incl. World Series of Boxing contests)

Age: 31

Current Alphabet Titles: WBA Lightweight (2018-present, 2 defenses); WBO Lightweight (2018-Present, 1 Defense)

Previous Titles: WBO Featherweight (2014-16, 3 Defenses); WBO Super Featherweight (2016-18, 5 Defenses)

Record in Title Fights: 12-1, 9 KO

Last Five Opponents: Anthony Crolla (KO4), Jose Pedraza (UD12), Jorge Linares (TKO10), Guillermo Rigondeaux (RTD6), Miguel Marriaga (RTD7)

Next Opponent: August 31, 2019 vs. Luke Campbell (20-2, 16 KO)

The Take: He was starting to make it look easy. Since moving up to Jr. lightweight, Lomachenko had been lapping the field. He forced early retirements from four straight opponents after a devastating one-punch knockout of durable Roman Martinez. In his lightweight debut, he showed off his grit under fire. In an excellent clash between skilled men at the top of their games, Lomachenko came off the floor to knock out Linares with a devastating body shot. Recovered from surgery for a torn labrum in that fight, Lomachenko added a second belt in the class to close 2018 with a decision over Jose Pedraza before getting back to making it look easy with a walk over former titlist Anthony Crolla. He’s got slightly more interesting options than Crawford does two weight classes higher but ultimately it’s the same story: the fight the most people want to see at lightweight, against Mikey Garcia, requires some difficult political navigation. For now, he will try to add the vacant WBC strap to his trophy case in his next outing with young lions Devin Haney and Teofimo Lopez waiting in the wings as future threats.

4) Saul Alvarez (52-1-2, 35 KO)

Age: 28

Current Alphabet Titles: WBA/WBC Middleweight (2018-Present, 1 Defense); IBF middleweight (2019-present, 0 Defenses)

Lineal Titles: World/Ring Middleweight (2015-Present, 4 Defenses)

Additional Titles: WBC Super Welterweight (2011-13, 6 Defenses); Ring/WBA Super Welterweight (2013); WBC Middleweight (2015-17, 2 Defenses); WBO Super Welterweight (2016-17)

Record in Title Fights: 12-1-1, 6 KO (12-1-1, 7 KO including WBA secondary title fights)

Last Five Opponents: Daniel Jacobs (UD12), Rocky Fielding (TKO3), Gennady Golovkin (MD12, D12), Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (UD12), Liam Smith (KO9)

Next Opponent: TBA

The Take: There are plenty of folks who don’t think Alvarez won either fight against Gennady Golovkin but the debate was much louder the first time around. In a razor close rematch, both men fought their hearts out and the narrow advantage went to an Alvarez who wasn’t shy about taking the fight to the most dangerous finisher in the game. Alvarez’s failed test for Clenbuterol delayed the rematch and earned him a rightful punishment, but it would be intellectually dishonest to completely discount the issue of tainted beef in Mexico. That said, it would also be intellectually dishonest to pretend that athletes in Mexico aren’t aware of the issue. It’s an illegal substance or it’s not. We know he tested vigorously for the return, came up clean, and fought even better the second time. He rarely beats his best foes with room to spare, and that worked against him a little here, but Alvarez has faced the best Jr. middleweight and middleweight have to offer since his close win over Austin Trout and that continued with Jacobs. Only the great Floyd Mayweather walked away a winner.

5) Oleksandr Usyk (16-0, 12 KO)

Age: 32

Current Alphabet Titles: None

Lineal Titles: World/TBRB/Ring Cruiserweight (2018-Present, 1 Defense)

Additional Titles: WBA Cruiserweight (2018, 1 Defense); WBO Cruiserweight (2016-19, 6 Defenses), WBC Cruiserweight (2018-19, 2 Defenses); IBF Cruiserweight (2018-19, 1 Defense)

Record in Title Fights: 7-0, 3 KO

Last Five Opponents: Tony Bellew (TKO8), Murat Gassiev (UD12), Mairis Briedis (MD12), Marco Huck (TKO10), Michael Hunter (UD12)

Next Opponent: TBA

The Take: As expected, the 2012 Olympic Gold medalist at heavyweight from Ukraine reached the final of the excellent World Boxing Super Series at Cruiserweight. He closed it out in style, turning one of the most anticipated fights of 2018 into a showcase and picking up a rare four-belt unification. Cruiserweight is currently as good and talented a class as there is in all of boxing and Usyk separated from the pack. He extended that separation by stopping a Tony Bellew who had never lost the WBC belt in the ring. Where he’s done it is as commendable as how. Usyk has fought seven straight away from his native Ukraine, six of them in the home country of his opponent. Now he moves into the unlimited class, delayed for now by injury, with sights on Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder, and Andy Ruiz. He might be the most viable Cruiserweight threat to the whole heavyweight throne since Evander Holyfield.

6) Errol Spence Jr. (25-0, 21 KO)

Age: 29

Current Alphabet Titles: IBF Welterweight (2017-Present, 3 Defenses)

Previous Titles: None

Record in Title Fights: 4-0, 3 KO

Last Five Opponents: Mikey Garcia (UD12), Carlos Ocampo (KO1), Lamont Peterson (RTD7), Kell Brook (KO11), Leonard Bundu (KO6)

Next Opponent: TBA vs. Shawn Porter (30-2-1, 17 KO)

The Take: Spence showed real chops against Brook and Peterson. He went on the road to win his first title from a Brook who had never lost at welterweight and Spence got better as the fight moved along. Then he dominated a Peterson who had, outside of a blowout loss to Lucas Matthysse, never been an easy out. Spence in his previous two fights handed first career stoppage losses to a Leonard Bundu and Chris Algieri who had taken Keith Thurman and Manny Pacquiao, respectively, the distance. Mikey Garcia thought he saw something before the fight. Spence arguably didn’t let him see a single winning round. The southpaw can box, has size and speed, can punch, and he knows how to finish. Pegged as the best of the 2012 US Olympic class, Spence could reasonably unify three of the four major titles in the class over the next year fighting under the PBC banner. Seeing number one on this list will clear up whether he is the absolute best welterweight in the world.

7) Gennady Golovkin (39-1-1, 35 KO)

Age: 37

Current Alphabet Titles: None

Additional Titles: WBA Middleweight (2010-18, 19 Defenses), WBC Middleweight (2014-18, 8 Defenses), IBF Middleweight (2015-18, 4 Defenses)

Record in Title Fights: 19-1-1, 17 KO (20-1-1, 18 KO including interim title fights)

Last Five Opponents: Steve Rolls (KO4), Saul Alvarez (L12, D12), Vanes Martirosyan (KO2), Daniel Jacobs (UD12), Kell Brook (TKO5)

Next Opponent: TBA

The Take: Marvin Hagler needed Tommy Hearns to help cement him as one of the greatest middleweights of all time. Bernard Hopkins needed Felix Trinidad. Golovkin waited years for the defining showdowns with Saul Alvarez that could cap his long run at middleweight. For now, he walks away empty handed no matter the vocal folks who think he should still be undefeated. Will there be a third fight? One can make a strong case that Golovkin’s worst case scenario should be a 1-1 split right now and the abysmal Adelaide Byrd score in the first Alvarez fight still casts a shadow over the rivalry. If there is one place Golovkin can commiserate with Hagler, it is that his Alvarez outcomes might be the bitterest endings since Hagler-Leonard. He remains one of the best fighters in the world but, at 37, how much time is left on his side? Is there enough for a happier ending?

8) Juan Francisco Estrada (39-3, 26 KO)

Age: 29

Current Alphabet Titles: WBC Super Flyweight (2019-Present, 0 Defenses)

Lineal Titles: World/TBRB/Ring Jr. Bantamweight (2019-Present, 0 Defenses)

Additional Titles: WBA/WBO Flyweight (2013-16, 5 Defenses)

Record in Title Fights: 7-2, 4 KO

Last Five Opponents: Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (UD12, L12), Victor Mendez (RTD7), Felipe Orucuta (UD12), Carlos Cuadras (UD12), Anuar Salas (TKO5)

Next Opponent: TBA

The Take: One of Mexico’s most talented fighters over the last decade avenged his last defeat with a fantastic display of smart boxing in April to stake his place atop the Jr. bantamweight division. Since exploding to broader acclaim in a classic with Roman Gonzalez in 2012, Estrada has come up short again only once against several of the best in what has been one of the great eras near Estrada’s weights. Now he can say he has avenged two of his career defeats. After years apart, could the time finally be right for a rematch with Gonzalez? The Nicaraguan should be back soon from a knee injury and it’s a potentially lucrative option. If not, unification with another beltholder would be exciting as would a rubber match with Sor Rungvisai. Should be elect to move up another weight class, would anyone not be fascinated by a showdown with Inoue?  

9) Mikey Garcia (39-1, 30 KO)

Age: 31

Current Alphabet Titles: None

Additional Titles: WBO Featherweight (2013); WBO Super Featherweight (2013-15, 1 Defense); IBF Jr. Welterweight (2018); World/TBRB Jr. Welterweight (2018-Present, 0 Defenses); IBF Lightweight (2018); WBC Lightweight (2017-19, 1 Defense)

Record in Title Fights: 6-1, 3 KO

Last Five Opponents: Errol Spence (L12), Robert Easter (UD12), Sergey Lipinets (UD12), Adrien Broner (UD12), Dejan Zlaticanin (KO3), Elio Rojas (TKO5)

Next Opponent: TBA

The Take: Based on the form we’d seen since Garcia’s return in 2016, it’s not unfair to think Garcia might have been flirting with the top spot had he not lost over two years to inactivity. That was before he showed no answers against Errol Spence. There’s no shame in a fighter who won his first title at featherweight moving up for a loss to one of the best welterweights in the world. Only two men who won the featherweight crown even won a piece of the welterweight honors: Henry Armstrong and Manny Pacquiao. Garcia not being quite at that level doesn’t mean he might not remain the best lightweight in the world. Will we ever see the fight with Lomachenko to find out?

10) Srisaket Sor Rungivisai (47-5-1, 41 KO)

Age: 32

Current Alphabet Titles: None

Lineal Titles: World/TBRB/Ring Jr. Bantamweight (2018-19, 1 Defense)

Additional Titles: WBC Super Flyweight (2013-14, 1 Defense; 2017-19, 3 Defenses)

Record in Title Fights: 6-2, 2 KO

Last Five Opponents: Juan Francisco Estrada (L12, MD12), Iran Diaz (UD12), Young Gil Bae (TKO1), Roman Gonzalez (MD12, KO4), Oley Taladklangladsawai (TKO4)

Next Opponent: TBA

The Take: Before losing his title in April, arguably no one had two better wins in the last couple years and change than the pride of Thailand. It could be argued no Thai fighter had two superior names on their resume since Pone Kingpetch bested Pascual Perez and Fighting Harada. While there can still be ample debate about who deserved to win their first fight, Sor Rungvisai made a statement in the rematch after 16 logged rounds with modern great Roman Gonzalez. He followed Gonzalez with the former unified flyweight titlist Estrada and earned the decision in a fantastic fight and, after a slow start that included a puzzling decision not to fight southpaw, Sor Rungvisai roared back in the second half to keep it close. He slips in defeat but losses to elite professionals, especially when competitive, should only hurt so much.

Five More Who Could Easily Be Here: Tyson Fury, Roman Gonzalez, Donnie Nietes, Leo Santa Cruz, Kosei Tanaka

Five for the Future: Jermall Charlo, Regis Prograis, Josh Taylor, Deontay Wilder, Julian Williams

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.

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]


 

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