Boxing Pound for Pound Rankings: Canelo Alvarez lays claim to top spot; Naoya Inoue rises
In arguably the hottest pound-for-pound debate in recent memory, Canelo looks like the best of the bunch
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 byto capture the WBO title. Inoue, meanwhile, unified bantamweight titles by 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.
| 1. Canelo Alvarez||52-1-2, 31 KOs||Middleweight (unified), light heavyweight champion|
| Winning a title in his fourth division by stopping 175-pound titleholder Sergey Kovalev in November has Alvarez approaching the status of all-time great. Already the biggest star in boxing, he has made a compelling case as its best fighter overall thanks to his willingness to seek the toughest challenges available. |
| 2. Vasiliy Lomachenko|| 14-1, 10 KOs|| Unified lightweight champion|
| Despite fighting in a division far above his optimal weight, Lomachenko continues to dazzle. He secured a third 135-pound title in August by outpointing Luke Campbell in a sensational duel. Lomachenko's future plans likely include a chance at becoming an undisputed champion against the Dec. 14 winner of Richard Commey-Teofimo Lopez Jr. |
|3. Naoya Inoue|| 18-0, 16 KOs||Unified bantamweight champion|
| Each time the Japanese "Monster" moves up in weight, he seems to carry his power in even scarier ways. Yet it was a hard-fought decision win over Hall-of-Famer Nonito Donaire in the World Boxing Super Series final that finally forced him to show his chin, speed and boxing ability was just as elite. |
|4. Terence Crawford|| 35-0, 25 KOs||Welterweight champion|
|The only thing that appears to be stopping the sublime Crawford's ascension of the P4P throne is a lack of access to the best welterweights in the world. The network and promotional divide continues to keep Crawford on an island. He will face mandatory opponent Egidijus "Mean Machine" Kavaliauskas in December.|
|5. Errol Spence Jr.|| 26-0, 21 KOs|| Unified welterweight champion|
|Fresh off a split-decision win over Shawn Porter to unify titles, Spence survived a high-speed car crash in which he was ejected from his vehicle. Although he miraculously emerged without any broken bones, it's still too soon to know when -- or even if -- Spence plans on returning.|
| 6. Oleksandr Usyk|| 17-0, 13 KOs||Heavyweight/undisputed cruiserweight champion||--|
| After injury delayed his debut, Usyk finally showcased his craft on the heavyweight level when he stopped late replacement Chazz Witherspoon in October. While it was far from a specular performance, it was a typically strong, technical effort from the southpaw who still needs to prove his chin is heavyweight material. |
|7. Manny Pacquiao|| 62-7-2, 39 KOs||Welterweight champion||--|
| At the age of 40, Pacquiao produced one of his most impressive wins by dropping and outpointing Keith Thurman in their July PPV bout to win a world title. With his speed and power incredibly still existing at an elite level, Pacquiao has countless options including rumored interest in Mikey Garcia. |
| 8. Juan Francisco Estrada|| 40-3, 27 KOs||Junior bantamweight champion||--|
| At 29, "El Gallo" remains one of the most unsung elite competitors in the sport. His hard-fought decision win over 115-pound king Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in their April rematch was a reminder of just how great Estrada is. |
| 9. Artur Beterbiev || 15-0, 15 KOs||Unified light heavyweight champion||--|
| Welcome to the Beterbiev era at 175 pounds. The Russian slugger unified a pair of titles and captured the lineal crown with an October dismantling of fellow unbeaten Oleksandr Gvodzyk, and did so with the perfect mix of power and craft. |
| 10. Gennadiy Golovkin|| 40-1-1, 35 KOs||Middleweight champion||--|
| Although he was able to bite down and eke out a debated decision against Sergiy Derevyanchenko in their October thriller, it's clear that GGG has lost a step. At 37, Golovkin still has the power and chin to be in any fight he signs up for, but can he still beat the true elites? Only time will tell.|
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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