BoxingScene Pound for Pound Top Ten
By Cliff Rold
1) Terence Crawford (32-0, 23 KO)
Current Alphabet Titles: None
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: 10-0, 7 KO
Last Five Opponents: Julius Indongo (KO3), Felix Diaz (RTD10), John Molina (TKO8), Viktor Postol (UD12), Hank Lundy (TKO5)
Next Opponent: June 9, 2018 vs. Jeff Horn (18-0-1, 12 KO)
The Take: Previously just behind Andre Ward and Roman Gonzalez, Crawford rose to the top spot as arguably 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 after a Fighter of the Year-worthy run in 2014 and sensational move to 140 lbs. in 2015. Last year, 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. Next stop: welterweight and a chance for a title in his third weight class. Horn had a little luck in winning the WBO belt from Manny Pacquiao. He’ll need more against Crawford. Should Crawford win as expected, will he continue to face the best available opponents as he has in the two lower classes? The idea of Crawford against Errol Spence or Keith Thurman is thrilling.
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: TBA
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 with men like Garcia, Errol Spence, and Naoya Inoue exhibiting the talent to make this as deep a race for the top spot as we’ve seen in years.
3) Gennady Golovkin (38-0-1, 33 KO)
Current Alphabet Titles: WBA Middleweight (2010-Present, 19 Defenses), WBC Middleweight (2014-Present, 8 Defenses), IBF Middleweight (2015-Present, 4 Defenses)
Additional Titles: None
Record in Title Fights: 19-0-1, 17 KO (20-0-1, 18 KO including interim title fights)
Last Five Opponents: Vanes Martirosyan (KO2), Saul Alvarez (D12), Daniel Jacobs (UD12), Kell Brook (TKO5), Dominic Wade (KO2)
Next Opponent: TBA
The Take: How many defenses does Golovkin have now? He’s made 20 of some version of a middleweight title if we include the WBA’s sub-title from the beginning through “super” recognition, but if we count all the WBA belts, where does it stop?. It’s a worthy debate. The count for individual belts can be chaotic. The WBA did not sanction the Kell Brook win; the IBF did not sanction his last against Martirosyan. The latter was a reminder of what Golovkin can look like when he has an opponent who can’t resist his offense. 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 couldn’t get bigger for Golovkin than a showdown with Alvarez after getting by a tough challenge the fight before. Daniel Jacobs made a solid case for the duke against Golovkin in March 2017 and lost by only the narrowest margins on all three cards. While he had to settle for a draw against Alvarez, Golovkin had a strong case for deserving the win on the night and at the very least didn’t lose. Alvarez’s failed PED test killed the rematch in May. The rematch remains likely the richest fight in boxing if they can make it happen. Will Golovkin get a second chance to put the cherry of the lineal crown on his middleweight run in 2018?
4) Mikey Garcia (38-0, 30 KO)
Current Alphabet Titles: WBC Lightweight (2017-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: 5-0, 3 KO
Last Five Opponents: Sergey Lipinets (UD12), Adrien Broner (UD12), Dejan Zlaticanin (KO3), Elio Rojas (TKO5), Juan Carlos Burgos (UD12)
Next Opponent: July 28, 2018 vs. Robert Easter (21-0, 14 KO)
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, 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. 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 with a unification fight at lightweight looming against Easter this summer. 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. Easter has struggled in his last two fights. Can Garcia push him into the losing bracket?
5) Srisaket Sor Rungivisai (45-4-1, 40 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: Juan Francisco Estrada (MD12), Roman Gonzalez (MD12, KO4), Oley Taladklangladsawai (TKO4), Suriya Maneephan (TKO4)
Next Opponent: TBA
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 two fights 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 about the better man 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. Another immediate rematch may be in the offing and there is no reason to think Sor Rungvisai-Estrada II wouldn’t be every bit as good as their first battle.
6) 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: TBA
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.
7) Saul Alvarez (49-1-2, 34 KO)
Current Alphabet Titles: None
Lineal: World/Ring Middleweight (2015-Present, 2 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: 10-1-1, 6 KO
Last Five Opponents: Gennady Golovkin (D12), Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (UD12), Liam Smith (KO9), Amir Khan (KO6), Miguel Cotto (UD12)
Next Opponent: TBA
The Take: Alvarez’s failed test for Clenbuterol 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. Either way, the question remains: will we see the rematch? After much hand wringing, he took on Golovkin and while more thought he lost than won, a draw wasn’t unreasonable (even if the official scoring produced was). Alvarez showed real chops, opening and closing strong. In a rematch, he may be even better and that might be the richest fight of 2018 unless Anthony Joshua-Deontay Wilder emerges as a supernova. Alvarez is under a microscope with something to prove no matter who he fights next.
8) Errol Spence Jr. (23-0, 20 KO)
Current Alphabet Titles: IBF Welterweight (2017-Present, 1 Defense)
Previous Titles: None
Record in Title Fights: 2-0, 2 KO
Last Five Opponents: Lamont Peterson (RTD7), Kell Brook (KO11), Leonard Bundu (KO6), Chris Algieri (TKO5), Alejandro Barrera (TKO5)
Next Opponent: June 16, 2018 vs. Carlos Ocampo (22-0, 13 KO)
The Take: This one might be jumping the gun but Spence has shown real chops in his last two fights. He went on the road to win his first title from a Brook who had never lost at welterweight and 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. No one else in the division seems in any hurry to fight him and it’s not hard to understand why. 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 is only just hitting his stride in what is always one of the sport’s toughest divisions.
9) Leo Santa Cruz (34-1-1, 19 KO)
Current Alphabet Titles: WBA Featherweight (2017-Present, 1 Defense)
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: 13-1, 7 KO
Last Five Opponents: Chris Avalos (KO8), Carl Frampton (L12, MD12), Kiko Martinez (TKO5), Abner Mares (MD12), Jose Cayetano (UD10)
Next Opponent: June 9, 2018 vs. Abner Mares (31-2-1, 15 KO)
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 now stares at a rematch with Mares and further intrigue waits in a loaded featherweight class if he wins. Fans would be well served with a rubber match against Frampton or a certainly fascinating unification battles with Gary Russell Jr.
10) Oleksandr Usyk (14-0, 11 KO)
Current Alphabet Titles: WBO Cruiserweight (2016-Present, 4 Defenses), WBC Cruiserweight (2017-Present, 0 Defenses)
Additional Titles: None
Record in Title Fights: 5-0, 2 KO
Last Five Opponents: Mairis Briedis (MD12), Marco Huck (TKO10), Michael Hunter (UD12), Thabiso Mchunu (KO9), Krzystof Glowacki (UD12)
Next Opponent: TBA vs. Murat Gassiev (26-0, 19 KO)
The Take: As expected, the 2012 Olympic Gold medalist at heavyweight from Ukraine has reached the final of the excellent World Boxing Super Series at Cruiserweight. This is as good and talented a class as there is in all of boxing and the tournament pitted most of its best against each other. We are one fight away from a rare four-belt unification. Being fair, either of the men in the final could be in this spot after their semi-final wins in early 2018. Usyk-Gassiev is a tough fight to call but, so far, Usyk has shown the more rounded game of the two. Usyk gets big credit for going on the road to win the toughest fight of his career to date against a Breidis who showed he was as good as his undefeated record. The winner of the WBSS final is likely to move up in this top ten.
Five More Who Could Easily Be Here: Jermall Charlo, Juan Francisco Estrada, Roman Gonzalez, Sergey Kovalev, Donnie Nietes
Five for the Future: Jermell Charlo, Murat Gassiev, Jarrett Hurd, Anthony Joshua, 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]