“Who is the best fighter in the world for weight – pound for pound?” sportswriter Grantland Rice wrote in 1925.
“Our vote goes to Jimmy Slattery – with Mickey Walker possibly in second place.”
For nearly a century, fans, journalists and boxers have wondered who the best fighters were regardless of their division. As time has gone on, all parties involved have routinely formed the often polarizing “Pound-For-Pound List.” Hypothetical in nature, but very real in its ability to stir conversation, these lists harken back to the days of Rice. Who really is the best fighter? Some used to say Sugar Ray Robinson. Then, others went on to say it was Benny Lynch, Henry Armstrong or even the great Sugar Ray Robinson. Year after year, these lists are updated, reshaped and re-released in an effort to share opinions and stir conversation. To this day, it is somewhat unclear who created the first pound-for-pound list, but it is certainly a surefire way to initiate a debate. So, without delay, here is the latest Def Pen Men’s Boxing Pound-For-Pound list.
Performance: Some fighters reach the mountaintop and fall off immediately thereafter. However, pound-for-pound fighters are able to reach the top of the sport and maintain their spot thanks to consistently high-level performances. Past performances are great to reference, but the ability to have high-quality performances within the last 12-24 months will help solidify a fighter’s spot in the top ten.
Resumé: A fighter’s ability to move through multiple divisions and win world titles are among the first things mentioned on their Wikipedia page or in their Hall of Fame induction introduction.
Skill: Power, speed, agility and intelligence are just a few of the attributes used to define a fighter’s overall ability. A good fighter possesses expertise in one facet while a great fighter possesses expertise in multiple areas of the sweet science.
Strength of Schedule: Unlike college football in the U.S., there is no catch-all metric to determine how tough a fighter’s opposition has been throughout their career. However, it is possible for fans, journalists, trainers and fighters to look at a boxer’s list of opponents and make an honest assessment in regards to the opponents they have fought.
1. Oleksandr Usyk
Record: 20-0 (13 KOs)
Last Fight: Def. Anthony Joshua (SD, 12)
Next Fight: TBA
“I’m sure that Tyson Fury is not retired yet,” Oleksandr Usyk said moments after beating former heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua for the second time.
“I’m sure. I’m convinced he wants to fight me. I want to fight him.”
Oleksandr Usyk has made a career of chasing the biggest challenges available to him. As a cruiserweight, he participated in the World Boxing Super Series and knocked off the likes of Marco Huck and Mairis Breidis. Right after winning the World Boxing Super Series, he beat Murat Gassiev and Tony Bellew to become the division’s undisputed champion. At heavyweight, his drive lives on as he has beaten the likes of Joshua and Derek Chisora. Now, he’s in a race for history. Within men’s boxing, he has the chance to do something that no fighter has ever done in the four-belt era — win an undisputed title in two weight classes. Despite being shorter and lighter than the division’s other champion, Fury, Usyk has all of the tools to pull it off when the two decide to meet.
2. Naoya “The Monster” Inoue
Record: 24-0 (21 KOs)
Division: Super Bantamweight
Last Fight: Def. Paul Butler (TKO, 11)
Next Fight: Stephen Fulton Jr. (July 25, 2023)
“I would probably say that was the hardest punch I’ve been hit with,” four-division world champion Nonito Donaire said after Naoya Inoue stopped him in the second round last year.
“It was fortunate the referee stopped the fight.”
Many call him Naoya Inoue while others call him The Monster, but all refer to him as one of boxing’s greatest talents. Raised in Kanagawa, Japan, Inoue is a boxing phenom who began racking up amateur titles at 16 years old before turning pro at 19 years old. Within 24 fights, he’s managed to pick up titles in three different weight classes. Not to mention, he stopped Paul Butler in the 11th round of his last fight in order to win the undisputed bantamweight title. Now, he’s looking to do the same at super bantamweight. However, it will be much harder to do so as he faces off against pound-for-pound talent Stephen Fulton Jr. in his bantamweight debut. Still, his precision, power and calm nature make him a nightmare for anyone in the ring.
3. Terence “Bud” Crawford
Record: 39-0 (30 KOs)
Last Fight: Def. David Avanesyan (KO, 6)
Next Fight: Errol Spence Jr. (July 29, 2023)
Omaha, Nebraska is not necessarily known as a big city, but it has raised a few changemakers in various areas of life. Malcolm X rose out of the city and became one of the world’s foremost civil rights leaders. More recently, Gabrielle Union made her way out of the city and became one of the biggest names in Hollywood. Then, there’s a man named Terence “Bud” Crawford. Maybe, he’s not a major name in Hollywood, but he’s A-list celebrity in the squared circle.
Today, many fans may now him for his power and skill within the welterweight division. However, Crawford has been doing this long before he landed a fight with Errol Spence Jr. The Omaha native has won world titles in three different weight classes. Now, he’s in a race with Oleksandr Usyk and Naoya Inoue to become the first man to win undisputed titles in multiple weight divisions during the four-belt era.
4. Errol Spence Jr.
Record: 28-0 (22 KOs)
Last Fight: Def. Yordenis Ugas (TKO, 10)
Next Fight: Terence Crawford (July 29, 2023)
“Everybody knows who I want next; I want Terence Crawford next,” Spence Jr. said after stopping Yordenis Ugas in the 10th round of their title unification match last year.
“That’s the fight that I want; that’s the fight everybody else wants. Terence, I’m coming for that motherf*cking belt.”
Errol Spence Jr. is now one victory away from achieving his ultimate goal of becoming the undisputed welterweight champion. Despite staying in the same division for the entirety of his professional career, he has put the world of boxing on notice through his performances against the likes of Kell Brook, Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia and Ugas. His ability to punish his opponents with heavy shots to the torso and throw upwards of 50 punches per round are tough to deal with. Not to mention, his trainer, Derrick James, is constantly feeding him information that he’s able to digest and adjust to on the fly.
5. Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez
Record: 59-2-2 (39 KOs)
Division: Super Middleweight
Last Fight: Def. John Ryder (UD, 12)
Next Fight: TBA
One month ago, several fans and journalists questioned if Gervonta “Tank” Davis has earned the “Face of Boxing” title. While Davis is a notable box office attraction in the sport, there’s no star in the sport quite like Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez. Sure, it’s easy to point out his recent outings against Dmitry Bivol and Gennadiy Golovkin, but the Mexican fighter’s resumé is deeper than any other active boxer. Since his showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr., he’s knocked off the likes of Daniel Jacobs, Miguel Cotto and Sergey Kovalev. He also beat Caleb Plant, Callum Smith and Billy Joe Saunders within 12 months to become the first men’s undisputed super middleweight champion. It’s fair game to question if Alvarez is the fighter he once was, but even 80% of what Alvarez once was is a tough out for anybody in the sport.
6. Tyson Fury
Record: 33-0-1 (24 KOs)
Last Fight: Def. Derek Chisora (TKO, 10)
Next Fight: TBA
“I am the baddest man on the planet,” Tyson Fury said last week.
From his perspective, he has no reason to think otherwise. As a professional, he hasn’t lost a heavyweight contest. In an era of giant fighters, he’s emerged victorious against Deontay “Bronze Bomber” Wilder, Wladimir Klitschko and Dillian Whyte. En route to his path to heavyweight glory, he’s become the biggest box office draw in the United Kingdom and has the world of boxing in the palm of his hand. It is unfortunate that it doesn’t appear that he will fight Oleksandr Usyk this summer, but he’ll be back in the ring soon to show the world just how bad of a man he can be with those gloves on.
7. Dmitry Bivol
Record: 21-0 (11 KOs)
Division: Light Heavyweight
Last Fight: Def. Gilberto Ramírez (UD, 12)
Next Fight: TBA
He may not have been on many pound-for-pound lists before May 7, 2022, but he has been the talk of the town ever since. A man once known as a devastating power puncher has undeniably become one of the best boxers in the sport. Outpointing the likes of Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez and Canelo Alvarez, he earned “Fighter of the Year” honors in 2022 and has emerged as one of the sport’s most intriguing figures. Unfortunately, the politics of boxing may prevent him from fighting the other champion in the division, Artur Beterbiev, but there is no question as to just how talented he is.
8. Shakur Stevenson
Record: 20-0 (10 KOs)
Last Fight: Def. Shuichiro Yoshino (TKO, 6)
Next Fight: TBA
“For now,” Shakur Stevenson told Devin Haney when the undisputed lightweight champion declared himself the division’s top dog.
The Newark, New Jersey native may be new to the 135-pound division, but his resumé is anything, but thin. Stevenson beat Joet Gonzalez by unanimous decision to claim his first world title in October 2019 and has not looked back since. His speed, stinging precision and stellar defense have posed questions that Oscar Valdez, Jamel Herring and Jeremiah Nakathila. Along the way, he’s picked up world titles in two divisions. At lightweight, he’s on a mission to pick up a title in his third weight class and knock a few pound-for-pound fighters off in the process.
9. Gervonta “Tank” Davis
Record: 29-0 (27 KOs)
Last Fight: Def. Ryan Garcia (KO, 7)
Next Fight: TBA
No man has seen his stock rise higher through the first half of the year than Gervonta “Tank” Davis. Not only did he emerge as the next big Pay-Per-View star, but he also earned two decisive victories against Ryan Garcia and Hector Luis Garcia. Moving forward, the road to prosperity will not be easy for Davis as he is sidelined for the next few months. When he returns, he may push for another marquee matchup with fellow pound-for-pound stars Devin Haney or Shakur Stevenson. He could also look within the PBC stable and opt to fight fellow unbeaten lightweight Frank Martin.
10. Devin “The Dream” Haney
Record: 30-0 (15 KOs)
Last Fight: Def. Vasyl Lomachenko (UD, 12)
Next Fight: TBA
“I’m number one,” Devin Haney said after earning a close decision victory against Vasiliy Lomachenko earlier this month.
Before turning 25 years old, Haney has not only traveled to Australia twice to win and defend the undisputed lightweight title, but he’s also beat a generationally great lightweight in Vasiliy Lomachenko to maintain his champion status. Now, he finds himself in a position of power. He holds all major belts in the division and is a promotional free agent. If there’s anything Haney does better outside of the ring than he does in it, it is strategically managing his business affairs. Regardless of where he lands, Haney will be a world-class talent.
Honorable Mention(s): David Benavidez, Artur Beterbiev, Jermell Charlo, Stephen Fulton Jr., Josh Taylor
Frequently Asked Questions
How frequently will these rankings be updated?
These rankings will be updated once per month. Expect the next set of rankings to be released after the week of June 24-25.
If Devin Haney holds all four belts at lightweight, why are Shakur Stevenson and Gervonta “Tank” Davis ranked ahead of him?
The pound-for-pound rankings were developed as a way to imagine who would win a fight if all fighters were in the same division. In this case, all three fighters are in the same division. Personally, I believe that both Stevenson and Davis would beat Haney. If you feel differently, I’m not mad at it. At the end of the day, all three fighters are under 30, supremely talented and can beat anyone in the division on any given night. It’s boxing. This is what we do. Respectfully, we debate as fans and then see what happens come fight night. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all three men fight at some point in the future.
If Dmitry Bivol is included in this list, why isn’t Artur Beterbiev?
Similar to the question about Haney’s placement, I believe that Dmitry Bivol would beat Beterbiev if the two were to fight. I would not argue if you felt otherwise. It’s all about perspective.
Why is Jermell Charlo, an undisputed champion in the super welterweight division, not included in the top ten?
At his best, Jermell Charlo is one of the seven to ten best fighters in the world, regardless of weight class. Unfortunately, he has suffered a hand injury and it is unclear when he will return to the ring. If her returns to the ring and looks like he did in his most recent bout, he will re-enter my pound-for-pound ranking without a second thought. However, I will remain cautious about including him in these rankings until I see how he recovers from his hand injury.
Who has the best shot of breaking into the top ten within the next month?
Of those included in the “Honorable Mention” list, Josh Taylor is the only person fighting in June. By process of elimination, he is the only fighter that could break into the top ten by next month.