There has been renewed interest this week in the debate over the top pound-for-pound fighters in the boxing world, following Johnny Nelson’s surprise inclusion of Gervonta Davis at number four
Nelson provided his list as part of the Lomachenko v Crolla build up, where he discussed whether Lomachenko is the current number one pound for pound boxer.
Opening himself up for perhaps similar criticism, yet nonetheless bravely ‘nailing his colours to the mast’, below is this writer’s definitive pound for pound list, highlighted against the current rankings of Johnny Nelson, Ring magazine and BoxRec.
1. OLEKSANDER USYK (Nelson: Usyk; Ring: Lomachenko; BoxRec: Canelo)
Embarrassingly, BoxRec rates neither Lomachenko nor Usyk in its top 5 current pound-for-pound rankings. I consider them interchangeable at the top. Both highly decorated and enjoying unprecedently rapid professional success, Usyk presently edges Lomachenko on the simple fact that he is remains currently undefeated.
FACTS AND STATS:
- First cruiserweight boxer in history to hold all four major world championships by defeating Murat Gassiev (26-0-0 at the time)
- Won the World Boxing Super Series Muhammad Ali Trophy, as well as the Ring magazine and Lineal cruiserweight titles
- As an amateur, he won gold medals at the 2011 World Championships and the 2012 Olympics, both in the heavyweight division.
2. Vasyl Lomachenko
(Nelson: Canelo; Ring: Crawford; BoxRec: Crawford)
Despite having only had 13 professional fights, one of which he lost, Lomachenko is already a three-weight world champion. His pre-eminent footwork is dazzling and unrivaled. His fluidity of movement defies expectations and the previous conventions of how fighters are supposed to manoeuvre; and his smooth, calculated high pressure style has already resulted in four successive fighters ‘retiring on their stools’, earning him the nickname ‘No-Mas-Chenko’, a reference, of course, to the classic 1980 fight (Leah link) between ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran, where the latter reportedly quit during the fight by shouting ‘No mas! No mas!’
FACTS AND STATS:
- Currently the unified lightweight champion (holding the WBA, WBO and Ring magazine belts)
- Won his first world title in his third fight, his second in his seventh fight and his third in his twelfth fight.
- His only loss was a contentious split decision to Orlando Salido in his second fight.
- He has an amateur record of 396-1 and won gold medals in the 2008 European Championships, the 2008 and 2012 Olympics and the 2009 and 2011 World Championships.
3. Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez*
(Nelson: Lomachenko; Ring: Canelo; BoxRec: Golovkin)
There is an asterisk next to Canelo as this writer had him losing the first fight versus Golovkin, with the second being an acceptable draw. Had the decision been awarded to Golovkin in the first fight, I would be in agreement with the Ring’s ranking and would be replacing Canelo with Golovkin. However, Canelo got the decision. He is also undeniably elite and certainly worthy of being in the conversation of current top pound for pound boxers. He is a multi-weight, multi-time world champion and he deserves respect and acknowledgment for searching for and making the biggest fights possible, in a time when few fellow fighters are taking similar risks. His CV boasts impressive wins over Golovkin* (I have to add the asterisk), Smith, Khan (who was lighter but brutally KO'ed), Cotto, Kirkland, Lara, Trout, Mosley, Ndou, Baldomir and Matthew Hatton; and may soon also include IBF middleweight champion, Daniel Jacobs, who he will face in a unification fight in Las Vegas on May 4th.
FACTS AND STATS:
- His only loss was a majority decision against Floyd Mayweather Jr.
- He started boxing at thirteen and turned professional at fifteen.
- He is one of eight children, seven of whom are boys, with all seven becoming professional boxers.
4. Errol Spence Jr
(Nelson: Davis; Ring: Usyk; BoxRec: Joshua)
What about Terence Crawford, you say? Well, what about him? This writer rates Spence above him. His cerebral, considered style may not be as recklessly entertaining as others, yet he has 21 KO's from 25 fights, and rarely looks flustered or troubled. Terence Crawford faces Amir Khan on April 20th, and whilst he may not be looking beyond this challenge, his promoter, Bob Arum, certainly is, already promising to line up Errol Spence Jr next. Spence’s promoters, PBC, may not assent to the match-up, but this writer certainly hopes they do, so his pick at number four can be wholly vindicated.
FACTS AND STATS:
- Became IBF welterweight champion in May 2017, defeating Kell Brook.
- Turned professional in 2012 and fought eight times in 2013.
- As an amateur, he won the US National Golden Gloves in 2009, as well as three consecutive National Amateur Welterweight Championships from 2009-2011.
5. Naoya Inoue
(Nelson: Crawford; Ring: Spence Jr; BoxRec: Spence Jr)
Naoya ‘The Monster’ Inoue is a three-weight world champion having had only seventeen professional fights. His nickname is in reference to his tremendous punching power. He has KO'ed fifteen of his seventeen opponents and most recently stopped Juan Carlo Payano seventy seconds into their World Boxing Super Series quarter final. He faces unbeaten IBF champion, Emmanual Rodriguez (19-0-0) in a unification fight on May 18th and is bookies favourite (currently hovering around 1/10) to prevail, before facing the winner of Nonito Donaire vs Zolani Tete in the WBSS final.
FACTS AND STATS:
- Held world titles in bantamweight (WBA), junior-bantamweight (WBO) and light-flyweight (WBC) weight classes.
- He won the 2009 Japanese Junior National Championships, as well as the Japanese Interscholastic Athletic Meeting. He turned professional in 2012, leaving behind a successful amateur career of seventy-five wins and only six loses.
The notable omission is for the fighter who I feel deserves to be in the top five, but who, due to the unignorable laws pf physics, I could simply not squeeze in. Unified female lightweight champion, Katie Taylor is undefeated in thirteen professional fights and possesses three of the major lightweight title belts. A unifying June clash with WBC champion Delfine Persoon is the only obstacle between Taylor and undisputed lightweight champion status.
Taylor facts and stats: she was flag bearer for Ireland at the 2012 London Olympics, where she won gold. She has also won five consecutive gold medals at the Women’s World Championships, six gold medals at the European Championships and gold five times at the European Union Championships. From 2006-2009, she was capped nine times by the Republic of Ireland women’s football team and scored two goals.
BILLY JOE SAUNDERS
The wildcard entry is for the desired heart ruling the head entry. Blind fandom alone couldn’t take me as far as ‘going full Nelson’ and including BJS in my top-five-pound-for-pound fighters, even though I consider him elite and potentially the best British fighter active, or given he’s only fought six times since 2015, inactive. He’s the former WBO middleweight champion and having recently repaired up with trainer, Ben Davison, makes his ring return in his hometown of Stevenage on May 18th.
Saunders facts and trivia: he won gold at both the 2007 Commonwealth Championships and the 2008 European Union Championships. He represented Great Britain at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and turned professional in 2009. His great grandfather, Absolom Beeney, was a famous bare-knuckle boxing champion.