BoxingScene Pound for Pound Top Ten
By Cliff Rold
1) Terence Crawford (33-0, 24 KO)
Current Alphabet Titles: WBO Welterweight (2018-Present, 0 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: 11-0, 8 KO
Last Five Opponents: Jeff Horn (TKO9), Julius Indongo (KO3), Felix Diaz (RTD10), John Molina (TKO8), Viktor Postol (UD12)
Next Opponent: October 13, 2018 vs. Jose Benavidez Jr. (27-0, 18 KO)
The Take: Crawford rose to the top spot as one of the most complete active fighter in boxing right now. 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. In 2017, the orthodox Crawford battled the former Olympian Diaz largely from a southpaw stance and dominated before an even more devastating blowout of Indongo to put the 140 lb. class in an iron grip, unifying all four major belts. Rey Beltran at lightweight, and Postol and Indongo at Jr. welterweight, were rated the consensus best available opponents in his class when Crawford defeated them. He’s fought whoever was there. Now he’s got a welterweight belt after a thrashing of Jeff Horn and it’s hard to find more than a round or two he’s lost in the last four years. Will the politics and business structure of boxing keep Crawford from defining fights in his third weight class?
2) Vasyl Lomachenko (11-1, 9 KO; 17-1, 9 KO incl. World Series of Boxing contests)
Current Alphabet Titles: WBA Lightweight (2018-present, 0 defenses)
Previous Titles: WBO Featherweight (2014-16, 3 Defenses); WBO Super Featherweight (2016-18, 5 Defenses)
Record in Title Fights: 10-1, 8 KO
Last Five Opponents: Jorge Linares (TKO10), Guillermo Rigondeaux (RTD6), Miguel Marriaga (RTD7), Jason Sosa (RTD9), Nicholas Walters (RTD7)
Next Opponent: December 8, 2018 vs. Jose Pedraza (25-1, 12 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. Now recovering from surgery for a torn labrum in that fight, Lomachenko in a perfect world would return with a chance to unify the talented 135 lb. class. Lomachenko versus the winner of July’s Mikey Garcia-Robert Easter unification match is as good as it gets in lightweight or any class. For those who would rate the Ukrainian ahead of Crawford, feel free. It’s a genuine coin toss at the moment. Lomachenko returns from an injury later this year in a lightweight unification tilt with newly crowned Joe Pedraza but the real showdown at lightweight would be with unified titlist Mikey Garcia.
3) Mikey Garcia (39-0, 30 KO)
Current Alphabet Titles: WBC Lightweight (2017-Present, 1 Defense); IBF Lightweight (2018-Present, 0 Defenses)
Lineal Titles: World/TBRB Jr. Welterweight (2018-Present, 0 Defenses)
Additional Titles: WBO Featherweight (2013); WBO Super Featherweight (2013-15, 1 Defense); IBF Jr. Welterweight (2018)
Record in Title Fights: 6-0, 3 KO
Last Five Opponents: 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’ve seen since Garcia’s return in 2016, 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 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. In defeating a game Lipinets at Jr. welterweight, he gained a claim to the historical title left vacant by Terence Crawford (Garcia and Lipinets were the top two rated contenders by the TBRB). His stay at Jr. welterweight is likely aborted for now following a lopsided unification win over Easter. Garcia has talked about making a jump to welterweight but as yet his next step remains to be resolved.
4) Saul Alvarez (50-1-2, 34 KO)
Current Alphabet Titles: WBA/WBC Middleweight (2018-Present, 0 Defense)
Lineal Titles: World/Ring Middleweight (2015-Present, 3 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: 11-1-1, 6 KO
Last Five Opponents: Gennady Golovkin (MD12, D12), Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (UD12), Liam Smith (KO9), Amir Khan (KO6), Miguel Cotto (UD12)
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 only the great Floyd Mayweather walked away a winner.
5) Oleksandr Usyk (15-0, 11 KO)
Current Alphabet Titles: WBO Cruiserweight (2016-Present, 4 Defenses), WBC Cruiserweight (2018-Present, 1 Defense); WBO/WBA Cruiserweight (2018-Present, 0 Defenses)
Lineal Titles: World/TBRB Cruiserweight (2018-Present, 0 Defenses)
Additional Titles: None
Record in Title Fights: 6-0, 2 KO
Last Five Opponents: Murat Gassiev (UD12), Mairis Briedis (MD12), Marco Huck (TKO10), Michael Hunter (UD12), Thabiso Mchunu (KO9)
Next Opponent: November 10, 2018 vs. TonyBellew (30-2-1, 21 KO)
The Take: As expected, the 2012 Olympic Gold medalist at heavyweight from Ukraine reached the final of the excellent World Boxing Super Series atCruiserweight. 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. This is as good and talented a class as there is in all of boxing andUsyk has separated from the pack. Where he’s done it is as commendable as how.Usyk has fought six straight away from his native Ukraine, five of them in the home country of his opponent. The trend continues against the UK’sBellew and givesUsyk a chance to truly close out the class.Bellew was theWBC titlist before abandoning the belt to compete at heavyweight. IfUsyk wins, does he move into the unlimited class and aim his sights onDeontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua? He might be the most viableCruiserweight threat to the heavyweight throne sinceEvanderHolyfield.
6) Srisaket Sor Rungivisai (46-4-1, 41 KO)
Current Alphabet Titles: WBC Super Flyweight (2017-Present, 2 Defenses)
Lineal Titles: World/TBRB/Ring Jr. Bantamweight (2018-Present, 0 Defenses)
Additional Titles: WBC Super Flyweight (2013-14, 1 Defense)
Record in Title Fights: 5-1, 2 KO
Last Five Opponents: Young Gil Bae (TKO1), Juan Francisco Estrada (MD12), Roman Gonzalez (MD12, KO4), Oley Taladklangladsawai (TKO4), Suriya Maneephan (TKO4)
Next Opponent: October 6, 2018 vs. Iran Diaz (14-2-3, 6 KO)
The Take: If one rates the best fighters in the world across weight divisions by what they’ve done lately, no one has two better wins in their last year and chance than the pride of Thailand. It could be argued no Thai fighter has 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 Roman Gonzalez. After waiting more almost three years for the title he lost in a cut shortened contest against Carlos Cuadras in 2014, Sor Rungvisai is a two-time titlist in a red hot 115 lb. class and isn’t playing the shrinking violet. He followed Gonzalez with the former unified flyweight titlist Estrada and earned the decision in a fantastic fight. After that string of hard fights, he’s victory lapping back home but options like a rematch with Estrada or unification match with Jerwin Ancajas in 2018 would thrust him immediately back into the global mix.
7) Gennady Golovkin (38-1-1, 34 KO)
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: Saul Alvarez (L12, D12), Vanes Martirosyan (KO2), Daniel Jacobs (UD12), Kell Brook (TKO5), Dominic Wade (KO2)
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. 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 36, how much time is left on his side? Is there enough for a happier ending?
8) Naoya Inoue (16-0, 14 KO)
Current Alphabet Titles: WBA “regular” Bantamweight (2018-Present, 0 Defenses)
Additional Titles: WBC Light Flyweight (2014, 1 Defense); WBO Super Flyweight (2014-18, 7 Defenses)
Record in Title Fights: 11-0, 10 KO
Last Five Opponents: Jamie McDonnell (TKO1), Yoan Boyeaux (TKO3), Antonio Nieves (RTD6), Ricardo Rodriguez (KO3), Kohei Kono (TKO6)
Next Opponent: October 7, 2018 vs. Juan Carlos Payano (20-1, 9 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. Inoue did it in less than two minutes. Here’s one for those who love statistics: all of Inoue’s last five foes, with a combined record of 135-19-3 when they fought him, took their first stoppage losses at his hands. 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 is set to enter an impressive bantamweight field in the World Boxing Super Series. If he’s the last man standing, he may well have made a case for the top spot in the sport. It will surely answer lingering arguments about his overall quality of opposition in the last few years. For now, there’s no denying what he looks like in the ring.
9) Errol Spence Jr. (24-0, 21 KO)
Current Alphabet Titles: IBF Welterweight (2017-Present, 2 Defenses)
Previous Titles: None
Record in Title Fights: 3-0, 3 KO
Last Five Opponents: Carlos Ocampo (KO1), Lamont Peterson (RTD7), Kell Brook (KO11), Leonard Bundu (KO6), Chris Algieri (TKO5)
Next Opponent: TBA
The Take: This one might be jumping the gun but 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 has, 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. 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’s time needs to be now. He’s in his physical prime and every moment lost to unnecessary inactivity, a plague for too many, or lesser foes is a lost opportunity to see him when his skill and youth seem best married.
10) Leo Santa Cruz (35-1-1, 19 KO)
Current Alphabet Titles: WBA Featherweight (2017-Present, 2 Defenses)
Additional Titles: IBF Bantamweight (2012-13, 3 Defenses), WBC Super Bantamweight (2013-15, 4 Defenses), WBA Featherweight (2015-16, 1 Defense)
Record in Title Fights: 14-1, 7 KO
Last Five Opponents: Abner Mares (UD12, MD12), Chris Avalos (KO8), Carl Frampton (L12, MD12), Kiko Martinez (TKO5), Jose Cayetano (UD10)
Next Opponent: TBA
The Take: Already a titlist in three weight classes, Santa Cruz’s two fights with Carl Frampton saw his esteem further elevated. Santa Cruz is a high volume offensive fighter who still manages to think his way through the action. He showed maturity, and the critical ability to adjust, in defeating Frampton the second time around. While a rubber match seemed logical, it may not come off. Santa Cruz won a rematch with Mares and Frampton is now chasing Josh Warrington. The best fight available for Santa Cruz would be a unification match with Gary Russell Jr. and the two stand as the top of the featherweight division. Both under the PBC umbrella, politics and networks should be no obstacle. Will we see it?
Five More Who Could Easily Be Here: Jermall Charlo, Juan Francisco Estrada, Roman Gonzalez, Jarrett Hurd, Kosei Tanaka
Five for the Future: Jermell Charlo, Anthony Joshua, Regis Prograis, Gary Russell Jr., Deontay Wilder
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]