In the golden days of boxing there was just one champion per weight class. In our era of alphabet-soup absurdity, I fear we will never get to that clarity again. I do my best to uphold veracity of language. I refer only to a select group of fighters as “world champions.” The rest I call belt holders.
Half weight classes are a fairly recent invention, as well. I am less troubled by them than I am by alphabet-soup trinkets. Still, it is interesting to look at the sport of the lens through the traditional eight divisions: flyweight, bantamweight, featherweight, lightweight, welterweight, middleweight, light heavyweight and Heavyweight.
Sub-bantamweight Following Roman Gonzalez’s loss earlier this month, I feel the mantle below 118 pounds must pass to the Japanese phenom Naoya Inoue. When you fight at 115 pounds and your nickname is “Monster,” you must be a special kind of fighter.
Bantamweight and Super Bantamweight Guillermo Rigondeaux’s style might not make him a favorite of promoters and casual fans, but the super bantamweight champion is one of the greatest fighters alive.
Featherweight and Super Featherweight There are plenty of outstanding exciting fighters at 126 and 130 pounds but Vasyl Lomachenko stand out well above the rest right now. “The Matrix” will need to move to at least lightweight to find a truly challenging bout.
Lightweight and Super Lightweight There are two fighters here who stand out above the rest: Mikey Garcia, the WBC lightweight belt holder, and Terence Crawford, the true champion at 140 pounds. If the world is just, they will fight each other someday and Lomachenko as well.
Welterweight and Superwelterweight The 147 and 154 pound divisions are always filled with talent. Keith Thurman unified belts by defeating Danny Garcia earlier this month. Errol Spence and Kell Brook will meet in May. Canelo Alvarez is the lineal middleweight champion and scheduled to fight Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at a 165-pound catchweight in May, so I am setting him aside. I thought Erislandy Lara deserved to beat Canelo when they fought. Demetrius Andrade deserves a major fight. Despite all this talent, the best fighter in these two divisions is still Manny Pacquiao, based on both resume and recent wins.
Middleweight and Super Middleweight I thought Daniel Jacobs deserved the nod over Gennady Golovkin earlier this month. But I will respect the judges’ decision and for now GGG has to reign as the top overall fighter at 160 and 168, even if I question how effective he would be at super middleweight.
Light Heavyweight and Cruiserweight The two best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport right now are Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev. But cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk looks like a potential heavyweight champion and superstar.
Heavyweight My own hunch is that Luis Ortiz is the top fighter in this division, but nobody is in a hurry to give the Cuban star a big fight. Tyson Fury is the lineal champion but has not fought in a decade. The winner of Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko will deserve top billing in the heavyweight division.