The Independent’s pound-for-pound boxing rankings

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

Sport Staff
Sunday 16 June 2024 09:26
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, with Oleksandr Usyk’s epic victory over Tyson Fury one of the classic fights of the modern era.

The past several years have seen heavyweight epics for the ages between 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 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 19 May 2024...

The Independent’s pound-for-pound rankings

10. Tyson Fury (34-1-1, 24 knockouts)

Oleksandr Usyk lands a punch on Tyson Fury at the Kingdom Arena, Riyadh
Oleksandr Usyk lands a punch on Tyson Fury at the Kingdom Arena, Riyadh (PA Wire)

Fury suffered his first professional loss in a split decision to Usyk, despite eclipsing Anthony Joshua as the household name in British boxing in recent years. Fury, 35, returned to the sport in 2018 after two 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 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 and IBF titles.

The 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.

He attempted to cement his legacy with a win over Usyk, however, despite a promising start and a spell of beautiful boxing, Fury suffered a count in the ninth round and was unable to arrest the slide enough to convince the judges. A rematch is set for December, offering him the chance to bounce back to the top of the division.

9. Errol Spence Jr (28-1, 22 KOs)

Errol Spence Jr before his long-awaited fight with Terence Crawford
Errol Spence Jr before his long-awaited fight with Terence Crawford (AP)

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 34-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 nine, in a fight that was nowhere near as close as fans expected.

8. Shakur Stevenson (21-0, 10 KOs)

(Getty Images)

The American, 26, was already a two-weight world champion by the time he was 24. Now Stevenson is a rising force at lightweight, as he looks to build upon his significant success at featherweight – where he was WBO champion – and super-featherweight, where he was unified champion. In his most recent fight, in November, Stevenson won an admittedly dull contest with Edwin De Los Santos, but that kept him unbeaten and saw him win the WBC interim lightweight title, which has been upgraded since Devin Haney vacated his undisputed belts. Clashes with Gervonta Davis (who narrowly misses out on this list), Ryan Garcia and Haney are alluring prospects.

7. Devin Haney (31-1, 15 KOs)

Devin Haney after his narrow win against Vasiliy Lomachenko
Devin Haney after his narrow win against Vasiliy Lomachenko (Getty Images)

The American, 25, entered our list with two straight clinics against George Kambosos Jr in 2022, when he twice went to the Australian’s home country – becoming and remaining undisputed lightweight champion across those bouts. A narrow, disputed decision win over Vasiliy Lomachenko followed in May 2023, before Haney vacated his belts and eased past Regis Prograis to claim the WBC super-lightweight strap. The latter win brought Haney up to No 5 in our rankings, and he looked like a future No 1. But in a stunning turn of events, the “Dream” was dropped three times in a decision loss to Ryan Garcia in April – a truly shocking result. Yet due to Garcia’s failed weigh-in, Haney kept the WBC belt, and it was later revealed that the challenger had failed two pre-fight drug tests.

6. Artur Beterbiev (20-0, 20 KOs)

Artur Beterbev (left) finished Callum Smith emphatically in January
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. Ahead of his defence versus Smith, Beterbiev returned an ‘atypical’ drug-test result but was cleared to fight, and his win set up an undisputed clash with the next man on this list – though an injury to Beterbiev has delayed the long-awaited bout.

5. Dmitry Bivol (23-0, 12 KOs)

Dmitry Bivol outpointed Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez for a stunning win in 2022
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 was been tasked with getting past the unbeaten Gilberto Ramirez in 2022 and Lyndon Arthur in 2023. Bivol won both bouts on points with aggressive and sharp performances. Next up was set to be a unification fight with compatriot Beterbiev, but the latter’s recent injury saw him replaced by Malik Ziad, whom Bivol stopped for his first KO in six years.

4. Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez (61-2-2, 39 KOs)

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

In the 11 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 retained his super-middleweight belts against John Ryder, Charlo, and most recently Jaime Munguia.

3. Terence Crawford (40-0, 31 KOs)

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

The three-weight 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 36-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 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 nine 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 decided to move up to super-welterweight, where champion Israil Madrimov awaits in August.

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

2. Oleksandr Usyk (22-0, 14 KOs)

Oleksandr Usyk celebrates with the Undisputed Heavyweight title belt
Oleksandr Usyk celebrates with the Undisputed Heavyweight title belt (Nick Potts/PA Wire)

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.

His points win over Fury delivered after so much hype, with his dominant ninth round showing his power well and truly carried up to the heavyweight division – the definition of a pound-for-pound great. And he sits second now, given Crawford himself stated Usyk deserved consideration for the top spot in the rankings. Usyk followed Crawford and the next man on this list in becoming one of just three men to be undisputed at two weights in the four-belt era. Next up for Usyk is a December rematch with Fury, barring any complications.

1. Naoya Inoue (27-0, 24 KOs)

Naoya Inoue rallied from behind to stop Luis Nery in May
Naoya Inoue rallied from behind to stop Luis Nery in May (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 second-best stoppage percentage in our rankings, 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 31-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 (just the second man ever to do so) by stopping Marlon Tapales.

For the first time in his career, Inoue looked vulnerable when he was dropped in round one by Luis Nery in May, but the champion fought back in stunning fashion. Inoue dropped the former two-weight champion three times en route to a sixth-round win, suggesting that a wounded “Monster” is the most dangerous one yet.

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