Outside of Teofimo Lopez Jr.'s upset of Vasiliy Lomachenko to unify lightweight titles in October, the unprecedented turbulence caused by the COVID-19 outbreak seemed to prevent any kind of major shakeup to boxing's pound-for-pound rankings. Most big-name fighters appeared in the ring just one time in 2020 with some, including WBA welterweight champion Manny Pacquaio, not finding an opening at all to return.
Yet along with the rare occurrence of having no short of four fighters with a legitimate claim to the No. 1 spot on this list, the biggest debate regarding placement seemed to come among welterweight kings. Unbeaten 147-pound champions Errol Spence Jr. and Terence Crawford did nothing but compete against each other for higher placement on this list while frustrations from fans only continued to mount about them not being able to prove in the ring who is better.
Crawford spent most of the year ranked just slightly ahead of Spence, who entered his fall return against Danny Garcia with a large list of questions as to whether a car accident in 2019 had changed him. Luckily for Spence, he seemed to be the same fighter -- if not better -- after renewing his focus to the sport, and the thorough victory over Garcia might have given him more fuel to edge Crawford in the rankings.
The major issue for Crawford, the former undisputed champion at 140 pounds, is that he just doesn't have the same experience level at welterweight against elite foes that Spence has given their polar opposite positions within boxing's political landscape.
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Spence's welterweight resume of having beaten Kell Brook, Lamont Peterson, Mikey Garcia, Shawn Porter and now Garcia badly trumps Crawford's piecemeal assortment of faded former champions and stay-busy names. Spence also has shown a variety of performances that speak to how well-rounded and dangerous he can be adapting to different styles -- from outpointing Mikey Garcia at distance to outslugging Porter at close range. The Spence-Crawford debate, however, will hopefully be solved in 2021 by the two figuring out how to consummate this issue inside the ring.
The same can be said for a pair of heavyweight champions lingering in and around the top 10 in Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua.
Fury's demolition of Deontay Wilder in their rematch to open 2020 provided him with rare placement for a heavyweight in the top 10 (alongside Oleksandr Usyk, who moved up from cruiserweight). But it was Joshua who appeared close to one day rejoining them when he returned to stop Kubrat Pulev and showcase his newfound balance between safety boxing from distance and thunderous finishing ability when it mattered most.
A Fury-Joshua fight in 2021 is the biggest the sport could produce from the standpoint of importance, and might also play a big role, just like Spence-Crawford, in creating some finality to the debates about which fighter deserves to be king.
| 1. Canelo Alvarez||53-1-2, 31 KOs||Middleweight, super middleweight (unified) champion||--|
|For all of the debate as to who was the best in the game at the moment given the top heavy grouping among the top five, Alvarez solidified himself as P4P king by thoroughly out pointing Callum Smith in December. Whether he fights Gennadiy Golovkin again or not, Alvarez has no shortage of big options ahead of him as a free agent.|
|2. Naoya Inoue|| 19-0, 17 KOs|| Unified bantamweight champion||--|
|The Japanese "Monster" didn't disappoint in his Oct. 31 closeup in Las Vegas as he now operates under the Top Rank and ESPN banners. A brilliant knockout of Jason Moloney showcased Inoue's complete game as he went on to call out the other two belt-holders at 118 pounds. |
|3. Errol Spence Jr.||27-0, 21 KOs||Unified welterweight champion|
|Spence returned from a 14-month layoff and answered plenty of questions about his future following a scary car accident while decisively outpointing Danny Garcia in December. Spence, who wants a super fight with Manny Pacquiao, looked arguably even better than he had before the crash. |
|4. Terence Crawford||36-0, 26 KOs||Welterweight champion|
|Crawford defended his WBO title with ease by stopping former 147-pound champion Kell Brook in November. Out of viable opponents given boxing's political and network divide, "Bud" has publicly feuded with promoter Top Rank and is expected to seek free agency next fall.|
|5. Vasiliy Lomachenko|| 14-2, 10 KOs|| Lightweight ||--|
|The former P4P king suffered his first convincing defeat as a professional despite rallying late against Teofimo Lopez Jr. Lomachenko might be better suited returning to 130 pounds where his lack of size and power won't appear so prominent against the very elite. |
|6. Manny Pacquiao||62-7-2, 39 KOs||Welterweight champion||--|
|Closing in on his 42nd birthday, Pacquiao is also 18 months removed from the ring thanks to 2020 largely robbing big-name fighters of the potential for live gates. The Filipino icon will have his pick of top names to return against, whether it's Crawford, Spence, Shawn Porter or (maybe) UFC star Conor McGregor. |
|7. Tyson Fury||30-0-1, 21 KOs||Heavyweight champion||--|
|The WBC and lineal champion no longer appears obligated to face Deontay Wilder in a trilogy fight, which opens up the door for an undisputed championship bout with Anthony Joshua. Hurdles remain, however, including mandatory opponents for both, although all parties insist it will happen in 2021.|
|8. Teofimo Lopez Jr.||15-0, 12 KOs||Undisputed lightweight champion||--|
|At just 23, Lopez is closing in on possible fighter of the year honors after upsetting Vasiliy Lomachenko to unify the 135-pound titles. As long as his body allows, Lopez looks to continue fighting at lightweight where no shortage of big-name opponents await from Devin Haney and Ryan Garcia to Gervonta Davis.|
|9. Oleksandr Usyk|| 18-0, 18 KOs ||Heavyweight||--|
|Just how good can the former undisputed cruiserweight champion be against the big boys? If a gusty performance to outpoint Dereck Chisora in his first real test is any indication -- just fine. Usyk is owed a mandatory shot at Anthony Joshua's trio of world titles next.|
|10. Gervonta Davis||24-0, 23 KOs||Junior lightweight, (secondary) lightweight champion||--|
|Davis didn't merely destroy four-division champion Leo Santa Cruz with an uppercut which created viral online reactions from the likes of LeBron James and Conor McGregor, but he proved his ability to box and make adjustments was on par with his power. This was a coming-out party as to how dangerous the 25-year-old can be when he's focused and disciplined. Dropped out: Jermall Charlo|
Honorable Mentions: Artur Beterbiev, Jermall Charlo, Juan Francisco Estrada, Josh Taylor, Jermell Charlo, Gennadiy Golovkin, Anthony Joshua