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The Independent’s pound-for-pound boxing rankings

Here are our top 10 men’s boxers in the world

Sport Staff
Saturday 20 April 2024 18:03
Johnny Fisher on his history degree, ‘Bosh’, and sparring Joe Joyce in Vegas

The boxing landscape is arguably as intriguing as it has ever been.

The past several years have seen heavyweight epics for the ages between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder, they have seen Saul “Canelo” Alvarez establish himself as the face of the sport in the eyes of many fans, and they have seen frequent displays of technical brilliance from champions in lighter weight classes.

There have been upsets, title unifications, and there has been no shortage of drama – Anthony Joshua’s post-fight rant after a second loss to Oleksandr Usyk stands out as a prime example.

All of these fights and results have factored into The Independent’s own top 10, pound-for-pound rankings for men’s boxers, to be updated monthly. While there is no exact science to putting together lists such as this, a number of factors have been considered in making the rankings, including each fighter’s overall record, recent record, level of activity and calibre of opposition.

Here is our list as of 14 January 2024...

The Independent’s pound-for-pound rankings

10. Vasiliy Lomachenko (17-3, 11 knockouts) ➖1️⃣

Vasiliy Lomachenko, left, during his fight with Devin Haney in May (AP)

The Ukrainian southpaw (one of two on this list...) saw off Jorge Linares in 2018 to become a three-weight title holder, before adding further belts with notable wins against the likes of Luke Campbell and Jose Pedraza. “Loma” was somewhat surprisingly beaten by Teofimo Lopez in 2020, but the 35-year-old bounced back with three straight wins to maintain his status as one of the best boxers in the world. The two-time Olympic champion is in the twilight of his career now, which only made his terrific showing against No 7 on this list even more impressive. Lomachenko came up narrowly short, but many observers felt that he had won.

9. Artur Beterbiev (20-0, 20 KOs) 🆕

Artur Beterbev (left) finished Callum Smith emphatically in January (Getty Images)

The Russian, who fights out of Canada, has been dominant as the unified light-heavyweight champion. Some talked up Callum Smith’s chances in January, when the Liverpudlian travelled to Quebec City to fight Beterbiev, but the champion dismantled his challenger with ease. Even at 38, Beterbiev looked as powerful as ever, dropping Smith twice in round seven to force a stoppage. With that, Beterbiev retained the WBC, WBO and IBF titles and improved his record to a perfect 20-0 with 20 KOs. He also set up a clash with compatriot and WBA champion Dmitry Bivol – one of the most-desired bouts in all of boxing. Ahead of his defence versus Smith, Beterbiev returned an ‘atypical’ drug-test result but was cleared to fight.

8. Tyson Fury (34-0-1, 24 KOs) ↔️

Tyson Fury, left, struggled to a controversial win over MMA star Francis Ngannou last time out (Getty Images)

Has eclipsed Anthony Joshua as the household name in British boxing. Fury, 35, returned to the sport in 2018 after three years off due to a struggle with his mental health. Since then, he has established himself as one of his generation’s best heavyweights, dethroning Deontay Wilder to become WBC champion in the pair’s 2020 rematch, having controversially drawn with the American in their first clash, in 2018.

In October 2021, Fury stopped Wilder for the second fight in a row to retain the belt, which he did again in April 2022 by knocking out Dillian Whyte with ease and once more in December with a late stoppage of Derek Chisora. A creative fighter who has demonstrated resilience and heart in the ring, Fury previously held the WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO titles and will look to regain them in a fight with Oleksandr Usyk in 2024.

However, that bout – to crown the first undisputed heavyweight champion in 24 years – was almost derailed when Fury was knocked down by Francis Ngannou in October, before the “Gypsy King” scraped his way to a controversial decision over the MMA star. The image of Fury on the canvas in that fight will be attached to his career forever, having damaged his reputation and seen him drop a number of spots in this list.

7. Errol Spence Jr (28-1, 22 KOs) ↔️

Errol Spence Jr is a former unified welterweight champion (Getty Images)

The American has not been the most active fighter in recent years, but he slowly built a fine resume as one of the top welterweights of this generation. Spence Jr holds impressive wins against the likes of Shawn Porter, Mikey Garcia, Danny Garcia and Carlos Ocampo. The southpaw stopped the latter, as well as notably finishing Kell Brook on the Briton’s home turf earlier in his career, and a cancelled clash with Manny Pacquiao would surely have built up Spence even further had it come to fruition.

In July, the 33-year-old finally faced Terence Crawford in a clash five years in the making, where he put his unified titles on the line against the WBO champion. Crawford left Las Vegas with all the belts after stopping Spence in Round 9, in a fight that was nowhere near as close as fans expected. As a result, Crawford climbed this list, while Spence dropped from No 5.

6. Dmitry Bivol (22-0, 11 KOs) ↔️

Dmitry Bivol outpointed Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez for a stunning win in 2022 (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Entered our list in May 2022, following his stunning victory over Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. The Russian remained unbeaten and retained the WBA light-heavyweight title with that result, which he achieved by fighting on the front foot, picking his shots wisely, and almost doubling the output of his opponent. Bivol, 32, won by two points on all three judges’ scorecards, though the margins should have been much wider. A clinical showing that raised the Russian’s profile immensely and could set up a rematch with Canelo down the line. In the meantime, though, Bivol has been tasked with getting past the unbeaten Gilberto Ramirez in 2022 and Lyndon Arthur in late 2023. Bivol won both bouts on points with aggressive and sharp performances. Next up? A unification fight with compatriot Beterbiev.

5. Devin Haney (31-0, 15 knockouts) ↔️

Devin Haney, left, eased past Regis Prograis to become a two-weight world champion (Getty Images)

The unbeaten American entered our list following his second straight clinic against George Kambosos Jr. Haney eased to a unanimous-decision win against the Australian on Kambosos’ home turf in June 2022 to become undisputed champion at lightweight, before retaining that status in the pair’s rematch in October – also in Melbourne. The 25-year-old then edged past Lomachenko with a close decision win in May, before vacating the undisputed belts in December. That move came ahead of his fight with Regis Prograis, in which Haney dropped his compatriot and won every round to take the WBC super-lightweight belt – making Haney a two-weight world champion.

4. Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez (60-2-2, 39 KOs) ↔️

Alvarez following his stoppage win against Caleb Plant in 2021 (AP)

In the 10 years since his loss to Floyd Mayweather, the Mexican has established himself as the face of boxing, with wins against Erislandy Lara, Miguel Cotto, Amir Khan, Gennadiy Golovkin, Daniel Jacobs, Billy Joe Saunders, Jermell Charlo and many more. The effectiveness of the 33-year-old’s counter-punching, slickness of his head movement and beauty of his body work make him a joy to watch.

Detractors will point to Alvarez’s clenbuterol controversy in 2018 and the fact that a few of his victories have come via controversial scorecards. Supporters will give more credence to Canelo’s admirable level of activity and the great number of formidable foes he has faced. His three victories in 2021 – all stoppages – saw him become boxing’s first ever undisputed super-middleweight champion. A title holder in four weight classes, the Mexican failed to add a second light-heavyweight belt to his collection when he was outpointed by unbeaten Russian Bivol in May 2022.

That result marked just the second defeat of Canelo’s professional career and saw him drop from No 1 in our list. He rebounded with a decisive points win against ageing rival Golovkin, though that result proved little at this point. The ambitious Mexican then defended his super-middleweight belts against John Ryder in Guadalajara, dropping the Briton en route to a decision win. Next up for Canelo was the younger Charlo twin in September, when Alvarez again scored a knockdown and won on points to retain his gold.

3. Oleksandr Usyk (21-0, 14 KOs) ↔️

Oleksandr Usyk, left, outpointed Anthony Joshua twice in a row between 2021 and 2022 (Getty Images)

An Olympic gold medalist who reigned as the only undisputed cruiserweight champion of the four-belt era before moving up to heavyweight, where he became WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO champion in 2021 by outpointing Anthony Joshua with relative ease. The Ukrainian, 37, then beat Joshua on points again to retain his titles and stay unbeaten. In August, the southpaw stopped Daniel Dubois after recovering from a controversial ‘low blow’, again demonstrating that he is as technical and awkward as they come in the heavier weight classes. That makes his upcoming clash with Fury an intriguing prospect.

2. Terence Crawford (40-0, 31 KOs) ↔️

Terence Crawford outclassed Spence Jr for eight rounds and stopped him in the ninth, in July (AP)

The unified welterweight champion has one of the most impressive resumes in the sport, and it just keeps getting better. Five of the American’s last 11 opponents were undefeated before facing him, and all 11 were stopped by Crawford – who has a tremendous knockout ratio. Wins against big-name boxers Brook and Porter in 2020 and 2021 further enhanced the 35-year-old’s profile, especially his victory over the latter, before Crawford stopped David Avanesyan in December 2022.

Then, in July, he schooled Errol Spence Jr in what was widely billed as the fight of the decade, delivering a masterclass to expose a bigger gap between the Americans than anyone had predicted. In beating Spence in Round 9 after scoring three knockdowns, Crawford took his rival’s three titles to become undisputed. The victory also made “Bud” the first man in boxing history to become undisputed champion in two weight classes, following his brief reign atop the super-lightweight division in 2017. He has since been stripped of his IBF welterweight title ahead of a planned rematch with Spence, so is technically not undisputed anymore, but that feels like a harsh mark against him.

It is also worth saying there is almost nothing between Crawford and the final name on this list...

1. Naoya Inoue (26-0, 23 KOs) ↔️

Naoya Inoue in action against Marlon Tapales (AP)

One of the lesser-known names on this list to the more casual fan, the Japanese does not lack in prowess what he may lack in profile. Inoue has the best stoppage percentage of any fighter on this list, part of what makes him such an exciting athlete to watch – along with his effortless evasiveness, brutal body attacks, and frightening level of output.

The 30-year-old stopped Paul Butler in December 2022 to become undisputed bantamweight champion – and the first Asian boxer to hold four world titles in a weight class at once – having previously held gold at light-flyweight and super-flyweight. However, he vacated his bantamweight belts in January 2023 to move up and challenge Stephen Fulton.

In July, Inoue took Fulton apart to hand the American his first pro loss and take his WBC and WBO super-bantamweight titles. That win saw the “Monster” become a four-weight world champion, further vindicating his No 1 spot, before a spectacular performance to become undisputed in two divisions after stopping Marlon Tapales in Tokyo. A special fighter, who is one of the all-time greats and only adding to his legacy with every fight.

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