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Who, Really, is Boxing’s Pound-for-Pound Best?

Let’s face it. Boxing is a muddled mess. And the absolutely awful events of 2020 have only added to that mess. But the one constant mess in the sport is centered around the mythical pound-for-pound rankings.

For those unfamiliar with the term and/or its history, a pound-for-pound ranking is basically a way to declare the sport’s all-around best fighter regardless of weight class. It came to be during the days of welterweight/middleweight Sugar Ray Robinson. It was supposed to be a way to fairly classify lower-weight fighters stacked up against the more widely-covered heavyweights.

All these years later, pound-for-pound has become a serious debate point among boxing fans. And now, in the present tense, the question of who is no. 1 is more contentious than ever.

There’s no clear consensus on who is the pound-for-pound best right now, but many are leaning towards Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in that spot. In terms of resume, the Mexican star sure seems to have greater depth than other candidates. He’s beaten the likes of Sergey Kovalev, Daniel Jacobs, Gennadiy Golovkin, Miguel Cotto, Erislandy Lara, James Kirkland, and Austin Trout.

Vasiliy Lomachenko is also a high-ranking favorite on the pound-for-pound list. His talent and skill are undeniable. His level of opposition is also solid with names such as Jorge Linares, Guillermo Rigondeaux, and Gary Russell Jr. on his “won” list.

Terence Crawford has been a clear top 3 fighter on this list for awhile now. Some have had him no. 1 at various points. The Omaha, Nebraska native certainly passes the eye test when it comes to skill and talent and he’s a former 4-belt unified champion at 140 lbs. At the 147 lb. limit, though, Crawford’s resume has been decent, but not top shelf.

Then there’s Japan’s Naoya Inoue, who’s a favorite in the lower-weight divisions. In his short, 19-fight career, he’s absolutely blown away some very good opposition such as Omar Narvaez, Jamie McDonnell, and Juan Carlos Payano. He also holds a decisive victory over Nonito Donaire.

Any one of these fighters could be a respectable no. 1 placement. The problem with pound-for-pound lists, though, is demonstrated in this current wide-scale disagreement. These lists are so widely subjective. Who qualifies for the top spot depends on criteria that varies from person to person. And some feel that bias, of all kinds, plays a role in who gets the mythical title of “best boxer in the world.” Former pound-for-pound top dog Floyd Mayweather certainly feels that way, at least when it comes to Terence Crawford.

“I look at guys like Terence Crawford. Terence Crawford can be a lot bigger than he is,” said Mayweather during a recent interview on Shannon Sharpe’s video podcast, Club Shay Shay. “This shows that racism still exists. How can you say that Lomachenko is better than Terence Crawford? Not at all. Not in a million years.”

So, what’s the definitive answer when it comes to the pound-for-pound question?

Given that fans and experts can’t even agree on the criteria with which to make the no. 1 determination, a more objective approach has to be taken. Judge purely on weight of resume and level of opposition. Simply put– who’s faced more top fighters and who has battled the better overall level of opponent.

In that case, at least in this writer’s opinion, Saul Alvarez deserves the nod for now.

Paul Magno
Paul Magno has over forty years of experience in and around the sport of boxing and has had his hand in everything, from officiating to training. As a writer, his work has appeared in several online publications, including Yahoo Sports, Fox Sports, FightHype, Max Boxing, Boxing.com, Inside Fights, The Boxing Tribune, The Queensberry Rules, and Premier Boxing Champions. You can reach him at: [email protected]
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