Boxing Pound for Pound Rankings: Canelo Alvarez lays claim to top spot; Naoya Inoue rises

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Critics of Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez are running out of legs to stand on. The could be said about Naoya Inoue, the unbeaten Japanese "Monster," if he had actually had any entering this week. 

Alvarez, the unified middleweight champion who also owns a secondary title at 168 pounds, made his light heavyweight debut last Saturday by violently stopping Sergey Kovalev to capture the WBO title. Inoue, meanwhile, unified bantamweight titles by outpointing a determined Nonito Donaire on Thursday morning in an instant classic worthy of fight-of-the-year status.  

You can say what you want about the "history" Alvarez made in becoming the fourth Mexican fighter to hold titles in four divisions by rightfully questioning the legitimacy of his super middleweight belt. But Alvarez proved be very much the real deal as a light heavyweight and surprisingly established himself to be the bigger puncher early before leaving no doubt with the knockout. 

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What helped Alvarez's argument in regards to his P4P standing was that Kovalev didn't fail because of his vulnerabilities in this fight. Was Alvarez forced to face the prime version of the "Krusher?" No. But he broke open a close fight by beating the very best version of what the 36-year-old had left as an intelligent boxer who relied on the reach of his jab to control distance and largely avoid costly mistakes. 

Considering how the top five of the P4P list is crowded at an almost historic level, it wouldn't be wrong to maintain that anyone from Vasiliy Lomachenko to Terence Crawford might have a claim to defeat Alvarez in some kind of mythical super fight if everyone were competing in the same division. But Alvarez's accomplishments have become so staggering that leaning too heavily on the eye test to make such a case isn't fair. 

Simply put: What else would Alvarez have to do to not be named the P4P king after a 14-month stretch that includes middleweight unification wins over Gennadiy Golovkin and Daniel Jacobs, a dismantling of Rocky Fielding at super middleweight and a smashing debut at 175 pounds?

The ease in which Alvarez has navigated weight divisions is almost impressive as his willingness to constantly seek fights with equal levels of danger and reward. 

The case of the 26-year-old Inoue was different because of the ease in which he blew away opponents over three divisions in his short and explosive career. Yet he also benefited from the stern test of a great, aging champion to help boost his overall rating. 

For the first time in his career on the elite level, Inoue was forced to make adjustments and showcase everything from his ring I.Q. to his backbone against the hard-punching Donaire in their World Boxing Super Series 118-pound final. 

When a fighter has as much sustained success as Inoue has had, it can be hard for anyone -- let alone himself -- to know how great he truly is until he meets his match. Inoue found that in Donaire, who moved down two weight classes from featherweight in recent years and relied on his size and experience to remarkably turn Inoue into the boxer for long stretches of their pitched battle. 

Dropped out: None
Honorable mention: Josh Taylor, Mikey Garcia, Regis Prograis, Leo Santa Cruz, Tyson Fury, Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, Donnie Nietes

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Brian Campbell covers MMA, boxing and WWE. The Connecticut native joined CBS Sports in 2017 and has covered combat sports since 2010. He has written and hosted various podcasts and digital shows for ESPN... Full Bio

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