Boxing & MMA

The Sporting News: Boxing top 12 pound-for-pound list

Nothing elicits more debate among fight fans than a pound-for-pound list. The sport of boxing is replete with great champions, everyone has their favourites, and if you don’t give a certain fighter respect, that oversight can be the proverbial rock that started a landslide on social media.

Over the past four months, many of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world have been in action. Some have accomplished more than others, but we’ve witnessed some great action. And even though the sport is far from perfect, the future remains bright.

The Sporting News recently gathered opinions from a half dozen members of its combat team to produce its own Top-12 pound-for-pound list. Will you endorse everything on here? Not a chance in hell, but we gave it our best shot, and life would be boring if everyone agreed.

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Buckle up!

1. Oleksandr Usyk

  • Record: 20-0 (13 KOs)
  • Current Titles: IBF, WBA, WBO, and Ring Magazine Heavyweight

A former Olympic champion, an undisputed cruiserweight champion, and the reigning unified heavyweight champion of the world. Usyk, 35, is arguably the finest technician in boxing today, and he’s the complete package. Blessed with rapier hand speed, quick feet, incredible athleticism, and unmatched ring IQ, the Ukrainian wizard holds career-defining wins over Mairis Briedis (MD 12), Murat Gassiev (UD 12), and Anthony Joshua (UD 12, SD 12).

Next fight: Possible undisputed title clash against Tyson Fury in 2023.

2. Naoya Inoue

  • Record: 24-0 (21 KOs)
  • Current Titles: Undisputed bantamweight

Is there a more apt nickname in boxing than “The Monster?” From the moment he turned professional, Inoue, 29, possessed crushing punch power, blazing hand speed, and exemplary technique. Now a three-weight world champion, the Japanese star holds signature wins over Emmanuel Rodriguez (TKO 2) and Nonito Donaire (UD 12/ TKO 2).

On December 13, Inoue outclassed Paul Butler (TKO 11) to claim the undisputed bantamweight championship.

Next fight: Moving up to 122 pounds. A matchup with unified champion Stephen Fulton is one of the most attractive in the sport.

MORE: Is Naoya Inoue ready to become pound-for-pound king?

3. Terence Crawford

  • Record: 39-0 (30 KOs)
  • Current Titles: WBO welterweight

Omaha’s Crawford is one of the most decorated and gifted world champions in boxing today. “Bud” followed world title success at lightweight by becoming the undisputed champion at 140 pounds. Since 2018, the 35-year-old boxer-puncher has been campaigning at welterweight and his performance level remains elite.

Notable triumphs have come against Ricky Burns (UD 12), Yuriorkis Gamboa (TKO 9), Viktor Postol (UD 12), and Shawn Porter (TKO 10).

Next fight: Cross your fingers for an undisputed title fight against unified champion Errol Spence, but don’t hold your breath.

4. Canelo Alvarez

  • Record: 58-2-2 (39 KOs)
  • Current Titles: Undisputed super-middleweight

Canelo is the biggest star in boxing.

A former champion at junior-middleweight, middleweight, and light-heavyweight, the Mexican star currently holds all the marbles at 168 pounds. With next to no amateur foundation, Canelo learned on the job as a pro and developed into a well-rounded and skilled competitor. Dmitry Bivol got the best of him in May, but Canelo’s resume is the envy of his peers: Erislandy Lara (SD 12), Miguel Cotto (UD 12), Gennadiy Golovkin (MD 12, UD 12), Daniel Jacobs (UD 12), and Sergey Kovalev (KO 11), to name a few.

Next fight: Recovering from wrist surgery but planning a Cinco de Mayo appearance in May.

MORE: Canelo Alvarez’s addiction to greatness is a threat to his legacy

5. Errol Spence Jr.

  • Record: 28-0 (22 KOs)
  • Current Titles: IBF, WBA, and WBC welterweight

A technically brilliant lefty with an overflowing toolbox, there’s nothing that Spence can’t do in a boxing ring. The 32-year-old Texan is as good on the inside as he is on the outside, and his punch variety is exceptional. Ownership of three-quarters of the governing body belts at 147 pounds have many convinced that “The Truth” is the best welterweight in the world.

Among his top wins are Kell Brook (KO 11), Shawn Porter (SD 12), Danny Garcia (UD 12), and Yordenis Ugas (TKO 10)

Next fight: Has been ordered to face WBC No. 1 contender Keith Thurman.

6. Dmitry Bivol

  • Record: 21-0 (11 KOs)
  • Current Titles: WBA light-heavyweight

He came from out of nowhere and he’s here to stay.

Bivol, 31, was a long-reigning light-heavyweight titleholder when he was drafted in as a sacrificial lamb for boxing superstar Canelo Alvarez. Things didn’t go to plan. The talented and rangy Bivol outclassed the Mexican star over 12 rounds to crash the pound-for-pound list and break free of the pack. In November, the Russian technician impressively outboxed the previously unbeaten Gilberto Ramirez. Bivol also holds victories over Jean Pascal (UD 12) and Joe Smith Jr. (UD 12).

Next fight: Has been linked to a Canelo rematch, but his preference is a unification fight at 175 pounds.

7. Tyson Fury

  • Record: 33-0-1 (24 KOs)
  • Current Titles: WBC heavyweight

Many felt “The Gypsy King” was gone for good when he disappeared from the scene between November 2015 and June 2018. Fury’s first miracle was to lose 140 pounds in weight, which he did before regaining the heavyweight championship of the world.

The Englishman’s height, weight, and dimensions are frequently referenced as the main reason for his success, but that’s blind ignorance – Fury’s ring IQ and fighting heart are beyond reproach. Career-defining wins have come against Wladimir Klitschko (UD 12) and Deontay Wilder (TKO 7, KO 11).

MORE: Will boxing fans get to see Tyson Fury vs. Oleksandr Usyk?

Next fight: Hopefully, we see an undisputed championship fight between Fury and Usyk. And it would be tragic if the long-awaited showdown with Anthony Joshua failed to transpire.

8. Devin Haney

  • Record: 29-0 (15 KOs)
  • Current Titles: Undisputed lightweight

As of right now, “The Dream” is living the dream.

After struggling to secure the biggest and best fights, Haney found himself venturing to Australia for an undisputed title clash with George Kambosos Jr., who had unseated unified champ Teofimo Lopez. Haney, 24, outclassed Kambosos (UD 12) to emerge as the first undisputed lightweight champion since Pernell Whitaker in the late 1980s. Haney’s speed, skill, judgement of distance, and technical know-how are of the highest calibre.

Other impressive wins include Jorge Linares (UD 12), Joseph Diaz Jr. (UD 12), and a rematch win over Kambosos (UD 12).

Next fight: An unmissable matchup with Vasiliy Lomachenko looks good for the first quarter of next year.

MORE: Boxing’s top 25 under 25

9. Josh Taylor

  • Record: 19-0 (13 KOs)
  • Current Titles: WBO and Ring Magazine super-lightweight

This quick-fisted and gutsy Scotsman rocketed to stardom courtesy of the World Boxing Super Series tournament. During and afterward, the 31-year-old Taylor took on a trio of dangerous and previously unbeaten world titleholders to emerge as the undisputed super-lightweight champion in only his 18th pro fight.

He lost a bit of luster following a poor showing against Jack Catterall, which he pulled out via controversial split decision, but Taylor is now super-motivated to re-establish his credentials. Defining wins include Ivan Baranchyk (UD 12), Regis Prograis (MD 12), and Jose Ramirez (UD 12)

Next fight: A rematch with Catterall in early 2023.

10. Shakur Stevenson

  • Record: 19-0 (9 KOs)
  • Current Titles: N/A

Stevenson, 25, doesn’t hold a world title at present, but don’t let that fool you. The former featherweight and super-featherweight champion is extraordinarily talented and has now set his sights on the talent-laden lightweight division. An Olympic silver medallist, Stevenson has adapted brilliantly to the professional ranks and he’s the very definition of a complete fighter.

His best years are likely ahead of him, but the New Jersey-born star already holds impressive victories over Jamel Herring (TKO 10), Oscar Valdez (UD 12), and Robson Conceicao (UD 12).

Next fight: Stevenson will be making his official lightweight debut in early 2023.

11. Juan Francisco Estrada

  • Record: 44-3 (28 KOs)
  • Current Titles: WBC and Ring Magazine super-flyweight

Mexican star Estrada successfully marries the blood and guts tenacity of his home country with a cerebral approach to the fight game. A former unified champion at flyweight, “El Gallo” moved up to 115 pounds and has enjoyed considerable success.

He may be closer to the end than the beginning, but the 32-year-old Estrada has already punched his ticket to the Hall of Fame with a plethora of career-defining wins: Brian Viloria (SD 12), Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (UD 12), and Roman Gonzalez (MD 12, SD 12) to name a few.

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Next fight: There’s been talk of a fourth fight with friendly rival Roman Gonzalez. Estrada leads 2-1 in the series.

12. Jermell Charlo

  • Record: 35-1-1 (19 KOs)
  • Current Titles: Undisputed super-welterweight

Like all fighters, Charlo can blow hot and cold, but when “Iron Man” is switched on he is red-hot. The 32-year-old Texas star is an excellent boxer-puncher with state-of-the-art weaponry and ample fighting guts. Charlo’s ability to adapt cannot be understated, as he bounced back from a controversial loss and a draw to Tony Harrison and Brian Castano, respectively, to score convincing knockout victories in rematches.

His career-best wins include Erickson Lubin (KO 1), Harrison (KO 11), Jeison Rosario (KO 8), and Castano (KO 10).

Next Fight: A high-quality clash against unbeaten Australian star Tim Tszyu on January 28.

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