With the new year underway and the first big fights of the year already on the horizon, it’s time for an updated pound-for-pound list.
1. Roman Gonzalez The little dynamo is an offensive machine. His precision footwork and cat-like balance allow him to cut off a ring quickly and his rapid-fire combinations batter opponents senseless. A three-division world champion and 44-0 with 38 KOs.
2. Manny Pacquiao I’ve hesitated to rank him this highly at this point in his career. But ultimately, I couldn’t see anything else as fair. He’s defeated a laundry list of future Hall of Famers and beat a very good fighter in Timothy Bradley in one-sided fashion as recently as April 2014.
3. Sergey Kovalev You can make a fair argument for a number of fighters taking the third spot on this list. But this light heavyweight destroyer has three of the four major belts in one of the sport’s most competitive division. His manner of winning has been utterly dominant.
4. Gennady Golovkin The undefeated IBF and WBA middleweight champion has knocked out 20 straight and 31 of 34 for his career. He’s yet to face another truly great opponent, but anybody who dismisses his resume as “full of bums” is betraying a lack of knowledge about the sport. GGG’s march of destruction has been a remarkable chapter in the sport’s history.
5. Takashi Uchiyama I find the lack of respect accorded Uchiyama by some corners of the western boxing media flat out bizarre. The WBA super featherweight champion has been nearly as dominant at his weight as Kovalev and Golovkin have been in theirs. Undefeated, with 20 of his 24 wins coming by way of KO, he’s held his belt since 2010. He’s knocked out champions like Juan Carlos Salgado, Takashi Miura, Jorge Solis and top-contender Bryan Vasquez.
6. Andre Ward I was very tempted to place him at No. 3 here. I believe he might be the most talented pound-for-pound fighter in the sport and the murderer’s row he beat with ease between 2009 and 2011 was astonishing. However, he’s been woefully inactive in recent years. I’d pick him to beat Golovkin and probably would pick him to beat Kovalev.
7. Guillermo Rigondeaux His refusal to engage more offensively has made him a box office bomb. But his talent cannot be argued with. The two-time Olympic gold medalist completely neutered one of the best offensive fighters of the past 10 years when he trounced Nonito Donaire in just his 12th professional fight. He is a boxing wizard.
8. Saul Alvarez He has consistently gone after challenging, high-risk fights against tricky southpaws like Austin Trout and Erislandy Lara, while also winning exciting slugfests with brutes like Alfredo Angulo and James Kirkland. His defeat of the legendary Miguel Cotto last year made him the lineal champion at middleweight and proved, if nothing else, that he’s clearly the best junior middleweight in the world right now.
9. Juan Francisco Estrada The IBF and WBO flyweight champion actually has a much better resume at 112 pounds than Gonzalez, who defeated him by decision at 108 pounds in 2012. The seven-fight winning streak Estrada has put together since then is as good as any current winning streak in the sport.
10. Timothy Bradley I was tempted to put younger, rising stars like Terence Crawford or Shinsuke Yamanaka in this sport. But Bradley has the resume, even if you don’t give him credit for his highly controversial win over Manny Pacquiao (which I don’t). I’m not convinced that stopping an out-of-shape Brandon Rios in December signifies Bradley is as good as he’s ever been. And I’m not excited to see him face Pacquiao for a third time. But he remains a very talented and determined boxer and deserves this spot until he is definitively knocked off from it.