For as great as unified light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev has been throughout his 11-year pro boxing career, like a fine wine, the native of Russia continues to get even better with age.
The perfect showcase of that belief came in January when he defended his trio of 175-pound world titles against former super middleweight champion Callum Smith in Quebec. Beterbiev (20-0, 20 KOs), whose all-action brawl with Anthony Yarde last year had some questioning whether he was slowing with age, was thoroughly dominant in just about every category en route to a seventh-round TKO win.
On the verge of turning 39, Beterbiev has come an exceedingly long way from the early days of his pro career, which began late due to a long and successful amateur reign. For as dominant as Beterbiev has always been — he has finished all 20 professional opponents — the commitment he has shown to his craft has only become more pronounced as he gets older in age.
Beterbiev in 2024 has quicker feet and hands than he once did. And along with his frightening power, which has been there since the beginning, everything from his IQ to his timing has only increased as he has ramped up his level of competition.
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Now, as Beterbiev closes in on a long-awaited undisputed clash with unbeaten WBA titleholder Dmitry Bivol, which will likely take place this spring in Saudi Arabia, it’s time to start questioning how we might look at the Montreal resident should he pass what’s expected to be the most difficult test of his career in the same manner in which he ran through Oleksandr Gvozdyk and Joe Smith Jr. in unification fights over the past four years.
Beterbiev likely doesn’t have enough remaining time left in his career to get anywhere close to the lofty unbeaten records turned in by retired former greats like Floyd Mayweather (50-0), Rocky Marciano (49-0) or Joe Calzaghe (46-0). Heck, Beterbiev is barely just over half the amount of wins recorded by former pound-for-pound king Andre Ward, who walked away in 2017 at 32-0.
What separates Beterbiev is the path of destruction he has left behind him in that he has knocked out every single opponent to step into the ring with him. And should he retire for good over the next two years with a perfect record and a perfect knockout streak intact as the first four-belt champion in the division’s history, it will be difficult to know where that puts him historically.
If it was only about his power, that would be one thing. But Beterbiev is also among the most technical boxers in the sport, too. He’s also incredibly humble when talking about his own skills and the parts of his game he feels he has still yet to master (yet doesn’t plan on stepping away until he’s done).
Although Beterbiev has ruled out an eventual move up to heavyweight, where a star-studded rematch could be in play with unified champion Oleksandr Usyk, who defeated Beterbiev twice in the amateurs, including at the 2012 Olympics, he did say a move up to cruiserweight wasn’t completely out of the question.
Either way, Beterbiev will need to get through the slick Bivol first. But it’s worth taking a moment to stop and gaze at just how perfect his run has been up to this point and just how far away the Smith fight made it feel in terms of anyone sitting around and hoping Beterbiev gets old overnight.
Using a criteria that takes into account everything from accomplishments to current form, let’s take a closer look at the top fighters inside the ring. Below is the latest Pound for Pound rankings update after Beterbiev’s win in January.
1. Naoya Inoue
Undisputed junior featherweight champion (23-0, 21 KOs) | Previous ranking: No. 1
Even though he briefly lost the top spot in the rankings following Terence Crawford’s spellbinding domination of Errol Spence Jr., the Japanese “Monster” reclaimed his spot by equaling Crawford’s claim as the only boxers in the four-belt era to be undisputed champion in two divisions. Inoue, a four-division champion and future Hall of Famer, did so by blasting a determined Marlon Tapales in December.
2. Terence Crawford
Undisputed welterweight champion (39-0, 29 KOs) | Previous ranking: No. 2
If you wondered how great Crawford really was, his dismantling of the unbeaten Spence in their long-awaited undisputed title bout provided the answers we so desperately coveted. Crawford wasn’t just better than Spence, he proved he would be a handful for any welterweight in history. A contractually obligated rematch with Spence should kick off 2024, likely at 154 pounds.
3. Canelo Alvarez
Undisputed super middleweight champion (60-2-2, 38 KOs) | Previous ranking: No. 3
The former P4P king is still the undisputed champion of one of the sport’s hottest divisions and he proved against Jermell Charlo in their September PPV that he’s not done yet at 33. Now fully healthy, Alvarez redeemed himself from a trio of ho-hum performances over the past two years with a dominant decision win.
4. Oleksandr Usyk
Unified heavyweight champion (19-0, 13 KOs | Previous ranking: No. 4
Usyk’s professional run has been as decorated as it has been perfect. The former undisputed cruiserweight champ scored a pair of resounding victories over Anthony Joshua to unify a trio of heavyweight titles. Following a stoppage of mandatory foe Daniel Dubois, Usyk now finally gets his undisputed, four-belt clash against WBC champion Tyson Fury in February.
5. Devin Haney
WBC junior welterweight champion (31-0, 15 KOs) | Previous ranking: No. 5
The 25-year-old Haney has made a heck of a case for boxer of the year in 2023 after outpointing former P4P king Vasiliy Lomachenko in May at lightweight before moving up to 140 pounds and dominating Regis Prograis in a shutout to capture a second world title in as many divisions. Simply put: Haney can do it all.
6. Artur Beterbiev
Unified light heavyweight champion (20-0, 20 KOs) | Previous ranking: NR
Whatever whispers regarding Beterbiev getting old as he approaches year 39 were violently whisked away by his dismantling of former 168-pound champion Callum Smith in January. With his mandatories out of the way, an undisputed showdown against WBA champion Dmitry Bivol is likely in the cards later this spring in Saudi Arabia.
7. Dmitry Bivol
WBA light heavyweight champion (21-0, 11 KOs) | Previous ranking: No. 6
Following an incredible 2022, which included a victory over Canelo Alvarez and almost universal acclaim as the fighter of the year, Bivol has sat out most of this calendar year in hopes of facing unified champion Artur Beterbiev in a long-awaited undisputed fight. To stay busy, Bivol outpointed (yet failed to finish) an overmatched Lyndon Arthur in December.
8. Tyson Fury
WBC heavyweight champion (34-0-1, 25 KOs) | Previous ranking: No. 7
This has been nothing short of a weird 2023 for the “Gypsy King.” Fury was criticized heavily for delaying his undisputed fight against unified king Oleksandr Usyk, which will now take place in February. And he was lucky to hang on to his unbeaten record in his disputed decision win over former UFC champion Francis Ngannou in October, which saw Fury hit the canvas against the novice pugilist.
9. Gervonta Davis
Secondary lightweight titleholder (29-0, 27 KOs) | Previous ranking: 9
It’s about time “Tank” is finally getting his due as one of the most dangerous and well-rounded boxers on the planet. The efficient sniper finished unbeaten Ryan Garcia with a body shot in Round 7 of their April superfight. Recently free from prison, Davis is expecting an early 2024 return.
10. Shakur Stevenson
WBC lightweight champion (21-0, 10 KOs) | Previous ranking: No. 10
Although Stevenson limited the hard-punching Edwin De Los Santos to a CompuBox-record over 12 rounds of just 40 punches landed, he was widely criticized for how boring his November victory was in their vacant 135-pound title bout. Stevenson, who appeared to have an injured left hand, won a title in a third weight division at just age 26 yet was criticized in full for not capitalizing offensively on openings.
Dropped out: Errol Spence Jr.
Honorable mention: Spence, Vasiliy Lomachenko, Teofimo Lopez Jr., Juan Francisco Estrada, David Benavidez