Monday, June 17, 2024

Boxing Pound-for-Pound Rankings: Oleksandr Usyk overtakes Naoya Inoue, Terence Crawford for top spot

Considering how difficult it is to even make the top 10 of boxing’s pound-for-pound list as a heavyweight, it makes everything that Oleksandr Usyk has accomplished all the more incredible. 

Usyk (22-0, 14 KOs), a 2012 Olympic gold medalist for Ukraine and the first four-belt, undisputed cruiserweight champion in history, concluded his incredible march to the top of the heavyweight division last weekend by rallying to drop and edge lineal and WBC champion Tyson Fury in their instant classic of an undisputed clash in Saudi Arabia. 

Not only has Usyk, who joins Naoya Inoue and Terence Crawford as the only male boxers to become undisputed champion in two divisions during the four-belt era, carved out his own unique place in the sport’s rich history given how perfect his boxing journey has been up to this point, the crafty southpaw deserves one more sizable piece of recognition. 

By overcoming a 40-pound deficit, including huge disadvantages in reach (seven inches) and height (six inches) against the 6-foot-9 Fury, the 37-year-old Usyk now rightfully takes his claim as the top P4P fighter in the entire sport.  

Had Usyk’s victory merely been a triumph of his sublime skill, that would be one thing. But the mid-fight adjustments that he made amid getting repeatedly rocked by Fury’s best punches, including a right uppercut from distance that simply couldn’t miss, were also a major part of what he showed to the world. 

Not known as a big puncher as a heavyweight, Usyk continued to pour on the pressure by walking his bigger opponent down before landing a stream of power shots that led to an almost unthinkable Round 9 knockdown, in which referee Mark Nelson appeared to come very close to stopping the fight as Usyk knocked the typically durable Fury from pillar to post. 

Like Inoue, who was forced to get up off the deck against Luis Nery in Round 1 of their recent 122-pound undisputed clash, only to rally for the dominant finish, Usyk was forced to produce just about every single characteristic that goes into being considered the best in the world. 

Usyk is both skillful and thoughtful but he’s also a warrior who, by giving up so much height and weight to his opponents in this super heavyweight era, is becoming the living embodiment of what the term P4P should mean. 

Should Usyk get past Fury in their contractually mandated October rematch and then walk away undefeated, we are talking about one of the most decorated and impressive careers that professional boxing has ever seen.

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 Usyk’s win in May.

Pound-for-Pound Rankings

1. Oleksandr Usyk

Undisputed heavyweight champion (22-0, 14 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 before finally getting his undisputed clash against WBC champion Tyson Fury in May. An exciting, split-decision victory made Usyk just the third male boxer to become undisputed champion in two divisions during the four-belt era. 

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

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 replacement Malik Zinad.

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. Shakur Stevenson

WBC lightweight champion (21-0, 10 KOs) | Previous ranking: No. 9

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 will defend it in July at home in Newark, New Jersey, against Artem Harutyunyan. 

9. David Benavidez

Super middleweight (28-0, 24 KOs) | Previous ranking: No. 10

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.

10. Tyson Fury

Heavyweight (34-1-1, 25 KOs) | Previous ranking: No. 8

Although he looked on his way to overtaking Oleksandr Usyk in their historic, undisputed heavyweight title clash in May, Fury was dropped and nearly stopped in Round 9. The “Gypsy King” went on to lose a split decision in an instant classic and will now heal up before an expected October rematch. 

Dropped out: None
Honorable mention: Vasiliy Lomachenko, Teofimo Lopez Jr., Juan Francisco Estrada, Devin Haney, Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez

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