Ask any boxer or trainer about the mythical pound-for-pound rankings and you’ll usually get one of two responses: a smirk or a massive eye-roll.
Because nothing elicits more laughs or scorn from those actively participating in the sport than talk about pound-for-pound rankings. They’re an arbitrary and subjective creation with no set criteria. They have absolutely no bearing whatsoever in how matchups are made or champions are determined. And they don’t (at least tangibly) make boxers more money.
“Pound-for-pound rankings is by opinions only,” says Johnathon Banks, Gennadiy Golovkin’s trainer. “You don’t get championship with opinions. What is the criteria? That is a question that’s never really been answered.”
Trying to determine the 10 best boxers in the world, regardless of weight class, isn’t an easy task considering how wildly bodies, styles, and skillsets (like power and defense) vary as you scan the spectrum of today’s best boxers. Anyone looking to weigh-in on the pound-for-pound debate—or create their own list—could easily value one characteristic way more heavily than another boxing aficionado.
To some, a fighter’s resume matters most—who have you fought and who have you beat—as opposed to others who might base their rankings on the eye test—when they see greatness they know it. To others, it might be about whether you can put an opponent down and how fast. Have you racked up titles? Are you chasing them? Are you a one-trick pony? Do you fight more than once a year?
“It’s good for the media, social media, it keeps people talking. That’s why I like it,” says Banks. “Anything that gets people talking about the sport is good for the sport.”
Just don’t get the boxers themselves involved. They usually want no part of the debate. One exceptions is Terence Crawford who told us earlier this year he’s the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world. Meanwhile, Vasiliy Lomachenko, another worthy candidate, told us he would never say he’s the best “because I’m too shy to say.” Golovkin, on the other hand, doesn’t know how you can reasonably compare a lightweight with a light heavyweight or a welterweight with a heavyweight, a fair criticism of the pound-for-pound rankings.
“It’s so crazy to me. Everybody’s different,” says the future Hall of Famer, widely considered one of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world.
While it’s crazy to those putting themselves at risk in the ring, it’s time for Complex Sports to weigh-in on the mythical pound-for-pound list. We’ll look to update these quarterly or after we get an especially big fight that pits two of the top 10 squaring off, but for now, here are the 10 best pound-for-pound boxers in the world.
As of Oct. 1, 2019:
1. Vasiliy Lomachenko
Record: 14-1, 10 KOs
Titles: WBC, WBA, WBO Lightweight
The supremely skilled Ukrainian doesn’t have a ton of professional fights under his belt, but he deserves top billing thanks to his incredible amateur career and because he became the fastest to win a belt in three different divisions in boxing history.
Lomachenko is so talented, so fast, and so devastating that he looks like he’s toying with his opponents. Some interesting fights could be coming down the pipeline for Lomachenko (like the Richard Commey-Teofimo Lopez winner in 2020). But the real one we all want to see, and Lomachenko has told us he really wants, is a showdown with Mikey Garcia.
2. Canelo Alvarez
Record: 52-1-2, 35 KOs
Titles: WBA Super Middleweight
Canelo has become the ultimate heel in boxing, calling out everybody (including his promoter, Oscar De La Hoya) as he enters the prime of his career. He’ll always have the stain of testing positive for PEDs in 2018, but Alvarez is getting better inside the ring and bolder outside of it now that he’s the highest-paid athlete in the world.
He’s willing to fluctuate between divisions to chase the fights he wants and he deserves a ton of credit for that. We have him classified as a middleweight for our purposes here, but he’s moving up to light heavyweight for an enticing showdown with Sergey Kovalev Nov. 2 in Las Vegas. Canelo deserves No. 2 in our book thanks to the quality opponents he’s beat, his ability to take on anyone no matter the division, and the tricks he’s added to his repertoire at age 29. We just need him to fight GGG again.
3. Errol Spence Jr.
Record: 25-0, 21 KOs
Titles: WBC, IBF Welterweight
Spence vs. Terence Crawford and who deserves to be above the other in these mythical rankings will be one of the dominant debates among boxing fans for the foreseeable future since they probably won’t face off thanks to the bullshit of boxing.
Spence gets the nod over Crawford in our eyes because the competition Spence has faced is superior—he owns a win over another member of our pound-for-pound list—and the Texas native has looked like an incredible force at welterweight where he probably won’t fight for that much longer. He just earned a split decision victory over Shawn Porter in the toughest fight of his life, further cementing his status as the top dog in boxing’s best and deepest division.
4. Terence Crawford
Record: 35-0, 26 KOs
Titles: WBO Welterwight
Many have Crawford rated over Spence based on the 32-year-old’s skill level, but Crawford’s hit list isn’t as impressive. He’s a victim of his success and his promotion since Top Rank doesn’t have the caliber of welterweight fighters in its stable the way PBC, who reps Spence, does.
Crawford thinks he’s the No. 1 pound-for-pound boxer in the world and in terms of sheer boxing skill he’s arguably neck-and-neck with Lomachenko. He can absolutely dazzle in the ring. But the names don’t jump out at you when you scan Crawford’s resume.
5. Gennadiy Golovkin
Record: 39-1-1, 35 KOs
GGG’s belongs in the top 10 because he’s still getting it done at age 37 and it’s wholly unfair that he’s 0-1-1 against Canelo after their two fights while Alverez refuses to give him a third. We saw GGG take punishment like never before in his loss to Canelo in 2018, but he still possesses incredible punching power for a middleweight and his fighting style remains a crowd pleaser.
With a new trainer under his belt, we’ll see if he has any new tricks up his sleeve, but GGG hasn’t shown us any reason why he still shouldn’t be considered one of the best.
6. Oleksandr Usyk
Record: 16-0, 12 KOs
Here’s a name that won’t be familiar to many, but soon enough sports fans will probably hear about. After unifying and dominating the cruiserweight division, Usyk is taking his talents to heavyweight—just like Evander Holyfield did back in the day—where he hopes to get cracks at Deontay Wilder, Tyson Fury, Andy Ruiz Jr. and others.
The 32-year-old native of Ukraine and 2012 Olympic heavyweight gold medalist is a real threat to shake up boxing’s premier division.
7. Manny Pacquiao
Record: 62-7-2, 39 KOs
Titles: WBA World, WBA Super Welterweight
Pacquiao turned back the clock this summer when he earned a close, but decisive victory over the highly regarded Keith Thurman. Pac Man looked a hell of a lot younger than the 40-year-old he actually is, bouncing around in the ring and delivering punishment from funny angles to earn one of Thurman’s belts.
As long as the money is right, Pacquiao appears ready, willing, and able to fight whomever he wants in the welterweight division, including a rematch with Floyd Mayweather that he wants (because $$$$) but boxing doesn’t really need.
8. Naoya Inoue
Record: 18-0, 16 KOs
Titles: WBA, IBF Bantamweight
Even legit boxing fans haven’t seen much, if any, of Inoue. But the Japanese sensation is explosive and constantly pressures his opponents—that’s why he’s nicknamed “The Monster.”
It only took him six fights to earn his first world title and he’s just 26. He’ll earn more attention when he fights regularly in the U.S. after making his debut stateside in 2017.
9. Mikey Garcia
Record: 39-1, 30 KOs
Garcia took a risk moving up to welterweight to face Spence this past March and he got pummeled. But give him credit for taking punishment through all 12 rounds and never going down against the bigger, stronger Spence.
Just because he got beat up by a bigger boxer doesn’t mean you should discredit Garcia’s considerable skills—because only a fool would clown a four-division champ who can be surgical in the ring. Garcia would be better served returning to his more natural weight at 135, but he seems content to stay at 147 where bigger names and bigger paydays are available.
10. Juan Francisco Estrada
Division: Super Flyweight
Record: 40-3, 27 KOs
Titles: WBC Super Flyweight
Another boxer many fans haven’t seen much of, if they’ve seen him at all. Estrada gets the nod because he has twice beat Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, a former mainstay on the pound-for-pound rankings who once upon time twice beat the man who was widely considered the pound-for-pound best just a few years ago, Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez.
Source: Adam Caparell