Saturday, May 25, 2024

Boxing Pound-for-Pound Rankings: Naoya Inoue holds on to top spot despite strong showing from Canelo Alvarez

As if the current three-horse race atop boxing’s pound-for-pound rankings wasn’t competitive enough, the past three days saw two of those names in important fights, which had the potential to shake up the rankings. 

The same thing happened last July, when Naoya Inoue’s dismantling of Stephen Fulton Jr. allowed him to briefly hold the P4P top spot until Terence Crawford took out Errol Spence Jr. just four days later in their undisputed welterweight blockbuster. The only difference this time around was that the king stayed the king. 

Despite Canelo Alvarez’s impressive takedown of unbeaten Jaime Munguia in Saturday’s PBC on Prime Video pay-per-view in Las Vegas, which showcased how much the 33-year-old Mexican icon still belongs atop the sport, what the boxing world saw out of Inoue just two days later proved too difficult to avoid. 

Inoue, the 31-year-old Japanese “Monster,” made the first defense of the undisputed 122-pound title that he unified in December by surviving an early knockdown against former two-division champion Luis Nery before rallying for three of his own en route to a dominant win via sixth-round knockout. 

The craziest thing about Inoue’s rise is that, like Alvarez, he has carried his power up with him in impressive ways. Unlike what Alvarez experienced against Dmitry Bivol at 175 pounds two years ago, however, Inoue has yet to meet his ceiling in terms of which weight division has proved to be a bridge too far where his power doesn’t have the same impact. 

Even though Inoue made an uncharacteristic misstep against Nery by backing out of a clinch with his hands down, which led to the knockdown via a flush counter left hook, he showcased just about every quality that makes a P4P king so great by how he responded immediately afterwards. 

Just like when Inoue had his orbital bone broken early by Nonito Donaire in their 2019 fight of the year, he was forced to lean upon all of the championship qualities already within him in order to right the ship and still come away with the victory. 

That’s what the great ones do. And with respect to both Crawford and Alvarez, each of whom still have a seat at the table of the current P4P argument, Inoue remains in a class of his own as he continues taking one step at a time closer to boxing immortality.

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 Inoue and Alvarez’s wins in May.

Pound-for-Pound Rankings

1. Naoya Inoue

Undisputed junior featherweight champion (24-0, 22 KOs) | Previous ranking: No. 1

The four-division champion who has reached undisputed status in at two different weight classes only continued his legendary takeover of the sport by rising from the canvas to finish Luis Nery in their May title bout at the Tokyo Dome. “The Monster” may have endured a brief misstep but he made up for the error by scoring three thrilling knockdowns en route to a sixth-round knockout. Unbeaten mandatory challenger Sam Goodman looks to be next.

2. Terence Crawford

Undisputed welterweight champion (39-0, 29 KOs) | Previous ranking: No. 2

If you wondered how great Crawford truly was, his dismantling of Spence in their undisputed title bout provided those answers. Crawford, who proved he would be a handful for any welterweight in history will move up to 154 pounds in August when he challenges WBA champion Israil Madrimov.

3. Canelo Alvarez

Undisputed super middleweight champion (61-2-2, 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 just that by brilliantly outdueling unbeaten Jaime Munguia in May. That doesn’t mean the Mexican icon stands alone without criticism, however, as the boxing world continues to push for a superfight against two-time champion David Benavidez.

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 clash against WBC champion Tyson Fury in May.

5. Artur Beterbiev

Unified light heavyweight champion (20-0, 20 KOs) | Previous ranking: 5

Beterbiev turned away any whispers that he was getting old by dismantling former 168-pound champion Callum Smith in January. With his mandatories out of the way, an undisputed showdown against WBA champion Dmitry Bivol was scheduled for June 1. But the 39-year-old Beterbiev pulled out in May with a ruptured meniscus.

6. 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 sat out most of 2023 in hopes of facing unified champion Artur Beterbiev. Their undisputed title clash was set for June 1 until Beterbiev suffered a major injury, forcing Bivol to face a replacement opponent.

7. Gervonta Davis

WBA lightweight titleholder (29-0, 27 KOs) | Previous ranking: 7

Davis’ body-shot knockout of Ryan Garcia in their superfight last April looks even better now that “King Ryan” became the first boxer to drop and defeat former undisputed lightweight king Devin Haney. With a 2023 jail sentence behind him, “Tank” returns on June 15 against unbeaten Frank Martin in Las Vegas.

8. Tyson Fury

WBC heavyweight champion (34-0-1, 25 KOs) | Previous ranking: No. 8

This last year has been nothing short of weird for the “Gypsy King.” Fury was criticized heavily for delaying his undisputed fight against unified king Oleksandr Usyk, which will now take place in May. 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. 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 turns 27 in June, won a title in a third weight division and is expected to defend it in July against Artem Harutyunyan. 

10. David Benavidez

Super middleweight (28-0, 24 KOs) | Previous ranking: No. NR

Frustrated with waiting around for his shot at undisputed king Canelo Alvarez, “The Monster” will move up to light heavyweight when he challenges former champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk for an interim title on June 15. The former two-time titleholder at 168 pounds has proven to be just as skilled as he is dangerous.

Dropped out: None
Honorable mention: Devin Haney, Vasiliy Lomachenko, Teofimo Lopez Jr., Juan Francisco Estrada,  Errol Spence Jr.

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