By the time Terence Crawford steps into the ring to face Israil Madrimov in a Los Angeles soccer stadium on Aug. 3, he will have been inactive for 371 days. That’s one year, plus a leap day, plus five ordinary days. That’s 53 weeks.

And it’s a lot to ask of people to keep you in the No. 1 spot on their pound-for-pound lists when you’re off that long. Especially when, on top of that, the last time you had multiple fights in any calendar year was 2019.

Nevertheless, keeping Crawford in the No. 1 spot is exactly what I’m doing for now.

And he has one Luis Nery left hand to thank for making it possible to even consider doing so.

As it happens, getting shockingly dropped by a Nery counter left in the opening round on Monday in Tokyo led to some of the finest work of Naoya Inoue’s career. The brief opening he left Nery in turn left him with an opening to show exactly what he’s made of — how he responds to adversity, how he adjusts to a dangerous challenge. Hitting the deck did not diminish Inoue’s reputation; in the end, it may have enhanced it.

Buuuuuut … Bud Crawford has never made a mistake that big or paid a price that significant. So, depending on what exact criteria in what exact proportions you like to feed into the little pound-for-pound calculator that exists in your mind, your heart, your gut, or all three interior locations, there is at least one very clear line of reasoning you can follow to say that Crawford still belongs atop the list.

But it’s one hell of a two-man debate right now. And there’s about a 50/50 chance that it’s going to turn into one hell of a three-man debate in a couple of weeks.

I know, I know. Pound-for-pound lists are stupid. They’re meaningless. They’re just marketing tools. Ranking fighters who for the most part can never and will never face each other is arbitrary and reductive.

But it’s a heck of a lot more interesting than discussing purse bids, or the difference between “super” titles and “regular” titles, or what your definition of ring generalship is.

Debates and comparisons and questions that can never truly be answered are essential to the experience of being passionate about sports. And Crawford vs. Inoue remains on Tuesday, just as it was on Sunday, one fantastically unanswerable question.

It’s worth noting that there was one man who declared in the last few days, “I’m the best fighter right now, for sure,” and it was neither Crawford nor Inoue. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez uttered those words to Jim Gray on Saturday night after outpointing Jaime Munguia.

With nothing but respect for Alvarez — an all-time great fighter, a future first-ballot Hall of Famer, a former pound-for-pound champ, and a man who has every reason to think highly and speak highly of himself — his part of the unanswerable question is eminently answerable: Canelo ain’t it.

After May 18, if Oleksandr Usyk becomes the unified, lineal heavyweight champion by defeating Tyson Fury, a man who presumably will weigh in some 50 pounds heavier than him (more than the number of pounds separating Canelo from Inoue, for what it’s worth), then Crawford vs. Inoue will turn into Crawford vs. Inoue vs. Usyk.

But for now, for at least the next 11 days, it’s just Crawford vs. Inoue. The debate that appeared to peak last July when they each turned in career-best performances four days apart rages on.

At the time, Inoue was so spectacularly dominant and destructive in knocking out the well-regarded Stephen Fulton in eight rounds that the impatient among us declared him the pound-for-pound king no matter what Crawford or Errol Spence could possibly do against each other a few days later. Then Crawford went out there and looked as least dominant and destructive if not more so splattering Spence in nine rounds, and most — but not all — reversed their lean of four days prior and bestowed the crown upon Bud.

Since then, however, Inoue has done as expected against Marlon Tapales (KO 10) and, aside from one very scary moment, done as expected against Nery (KO 6). And Crawford hasn’t fought.

One of my least favorite cliches in sports is “the best ability is availability.” It’s something people say, in part I suppose because it sounds good, but it’s plainly wrong. Availability is by no means the best ability. You do need to start with availability, sure. If you don’t have that, you have nothing. But, hey, I have availability to box. It won’t get me very far if you glove me up and put me in the ring.

All of which is a long way of saying that Crawford’s inactivity counts against him, certainly, but, because he at least has a fight scheduled, it doesn’t disqualify him.

Just as there is no singular, correct formula for deciding who gets your MVP vote in a team sport or who gets your Best Director vote at the Oscars, there is no unanimously agreed upon approach to pound-for-pound.

Some people do the “if everyone was the same size, who would win?” routine, and that’s part of it, but that can’t be all of it, both because styles make fights and because that removes accomplishment from the equation entirely. I’ve always viewed pound-for-pound as a combination of ability (what my eyes tell me) and accomplishment (what the resume tells me), with an emphasis on what you’ve done for me lately, but without ignoring what you did for me several years ago.

But to each their own, within reason.

It feels like Crawford has been in the upper echelons of the sport a little longer, but in actuality, they won their respective first alphabet titles just a month apart in 2014. Neither has many sure-fire Hall of Famers on his record — Inoue has Nonito Donaire and that’s probably all, while Crawford has a “maybe” in Spence and a bunch of “not quites” like Shawn Porter, Kell Brook, and Yuriorkis Gamboa. Inoue has held titles in four weight classes and achieved undisputed status in two of them, while Crawford is at three and two in those respective tallies.

So maybe a slight edge to Inoue in all of that resume-building stuff?

But Crawford’s KO of Spence, a top-five pound-for-pounder coming in, is just on another level — I view it as the single most complete, dominant performance by an elite fighter over a fellow elite fighter since Bernard Hopkins beat Felix Trinidad. That fight alone goes a long way toward swinging the debate to Bud.

And then there was that momentary lapse Inoue had against Nery. It was a good thing for “The Monster” that he crashed directly to the canvas after the single shot and didn’t absorb multiples.

He showed tremendous poise in the wake of his first career knockdown, calmly waiting on a knee until the count of eight to get up, as if he’d been there before. And then he got back to doing Inoue things. As early as the second round, he’d made the adjustment to Nery’s dangerous left hand, keeping his right glove to pinned to his jaw and picking off the punch with it. As he got more comfortable, he saw the left coming and repeatedly ducked clean under it.

In the fourth round, Inoue was finished concerning himself with Nery’s fists and focused fully on figuring out how to stop “Pantera.” And that meant punching to the head to open up the body, then banging to the body to open up the head. He was, by this point, in complete control — and showboating, even.

It was reminiscent of another pound-for-pound great, Floyd Mayweather, when he was hurt worse than at any other point in his pro career, against Shane Mosley. He got out of the woods, and before you knew it, he was walking his man down.

There were four knockdowns in the Inoue-Nery fight; Inoue scored the final three, each more vicious than the last.

And you could interpret Inoue’s victory in whichever way you wanted, or bend it to fit whatever narrative you’d already decided on. The comments under Tris Dixon’s initial report from ringside here on BoxingScene spanned the spectrum.

One reader wrote that Inoue “cemented himself as 2nd best pound for pound after crawford...bud dont get sloppy and get planted on the seat of his pants not even when he faces this hard hitting madrimov at 154 just to skillful in the gym every day never out of shape why hes the best on the planet......”

Another reader opined, “Crawford is irrelevant, has an awful resume, and his best win is against a shot recovering alcoholic. INOUE is CLEARLY #1 p4p”

(Stay classy, comments section.)

Tim Bradley said on ESPN after the fight, referring to both Crawford and Inoue, “Their athleticism is godly.” He was separating the two of them from the rest of the current pack.

But then there’s Usyk. Here he comes, sneaking into the frame, as he likes to do. He doesn’t dazzle in quite the same way as Inoue and Crawford. His athleticism is certainly impressive, but I wouldn’t call it “godly.” On the eye test, it feels like there’s a bit of distance between the Crawford/Inoue tier and the Usyk/Dmitrii Bivol/Canelo tier.

But good lord, if this former undisputed cruiserweight champ who moved up and defeated Anthony Joshua twice adds to that a win over Fury to claim the undisputed heavyweight title? It won’t matter whether he looks particularly athletic. It can be as ugly as Fury’s win over Wladimir Klitschko, and we’ll have to insert Usyk into the P4P king conversation.

And if it is sensational and Usyk does show something “godly” in Riyadh on May 18, then perhaps that will make this whole pound-for-pound thing easy — aside from the complicated debate over whether it’s Crawford or Inoue who gets the No. 2 spot.