There is something absurd about a pound-for-pound ranking. When you argue that “Fighter A would beat Fighter B if they were both the same size” you are ignoring the fact that changing the size of either Fighter A or Fighter B would mean changing who they are as fighters.
Yet, pound-for-pound lists have an irresistible appeal. They are an imprecise way of talking about and debating greatness, but in a weight class sport, there isn’t a more precise way to talk about it. Floyd Mayweather can’t reasonably fight Wladimir Klitschko. Roman Gonzalez is certainly not going to get in the ring with Gennady Golovkin.
To determine my own list, I tried to balance three primary areas: quality of opponents faced, length of tenure and how good the fighter is right now.
1. Floyd Mayweather: I’m not pleased that Mayweather is facing the irrelevant Andre Berto is September and urge fans to boycott the fight. However, Mayweather’s easy work against Manny Pacquiao established he is clearly the best pound-for-pound fighter of this generation.
2. Roman Gonzalez: Finally, the Nicaraguan phenom is beginning to get the kind of recognition he deserves. 43-0 with 37 KOs and a three-division world champion, Gonzalez is still well shy of 30. He’s got a legitimate chance to become the greatest sub-bantamweight fighter of all time.
3. Wladimir Klitschko: As he nears age 40 and the end of his storied career, Klitschko has looked as dominant as ever. His fighting style is ugly and over-cautious at times, but it’s nearly impossible for me to visualize any active heavyweight giving him a competitive bout.
4. Andre Ward: Ward is not currently ranked in the pound-for-pound top 10 by either the Trans-National Boxing Rankings or Ring Magazine, but he was universally regarded as the No. 2 behind Floyd Mayweather, before inactivity dropped him from the lists. His return opponent, Paul Smith, is a non-entity in the super middleweight or light heavyweight division, but Ward’s stoppage of him demonstrated that he’s still the same old Ward. That’s good enough for p4p top five for me.
5. Guillermo Rigondeaux: Perhaps no fighter alive better symbolizes the famous George Foreman line about boxing being like Jazz music because “the better it is, the few people appreciate it.” A former Cuban amateur standout and perhaps the greatest Olympic boxer in history, Rigo will likely need to move up to full featherweight (he’s not even big at 122 pounds) before he’ll be able to find an opponent worthy of him.
6. Manny Pacquiao: Pacquiao looked out of his depth against Floyd Mayweather last May, and I’m not buying the injury excuse for a second. Pacquiao had no trouble letting his punches go on the rare occasions when he was in range to do it. Still, Pacquiao’s previous fight against Timothy Bradley was an impressive night of work. Even in decline, he still rates in the P4P top 10 for now.
7. Saul Alvarez: Canelo has consistently gone after the highest rated names in his division, even when they were tough style match ups for him, as was the case with Erislandy Lara and Austin Trout. He’s also continued to improve his ability to handle fighters who use a lot of movement. Against a come-forward fighter, the red-headed assassin has been deadly.
8. Sergey Kovalev: The Russian Krusher holds three of the four belts at light heavyweight. After knocking down Bernard Hopkins and shutting him out on the cards last year, he came back this year to turn in an exciting stoppage of former champion Jean Pascal. Perhaps the most dangerous fighter on the planet.
9. Gennady Golovkin: Golovkin’s resume is lacking of truly big names, due to the fact that so many big names have ducked him. But it’s hardly as bad as his detractors want to claim. GGG has pole-axed former champions and ranked contenders. He’s battered guys who just don’t get battered. He’s an incredibly dangerous offensive fighter, with the amateur pedigree to back it up.
10. Juan Francisco Estrada: Estrada provides a classic example of little fighters just not getting enough credit. The WBA and WBO champion has been a wrecking ball at flyweight, beating top fighters in the division such as Brian Viloria, Milan Melindo, Richie Mepranum and Giovani Segura. Few champions can claim to have beaten a better lineup over the past two years. Estrada’s last loss came against Roman Gonzalez in 2012, fighting at 108 pounds. I’d love to see them rematch at 112.
11. Terence Crawford: Crawford has the potential to become boxing’s next major superstar, Crawford has only looked more impressive as he’s stepped up in competitive. His TKO of Yuriorkis Gamboa last year was one of 2014’s best performances. His stoppage of Thomas Dulorme in April made Crawford a two-division world champion.
12. Takashi Uchiyama: The undefeated WBA super featherweight champion has been a wrecking ball in his career. Aside from one technical draw, his record is perfect and his KO percentage one of the best among titlists. That he’s only ranked 12 here is probably a western bias on my part.
13. Naoya Inoe: I hesitate to place a fighter on this kind of list who has only eight professional fights and lacks an extensive amateur background. But Inoue is a phenom. In 2014 he captured world titles at 108 and 115 pounds. To win the WBO belt at super flyweight, he knocked out long-time champion Omar Narvaez, who had previously lost just once, when he moved up to bantamweight to face Nonito Donaire.
14. Miguel Cotto: Just as a I hesitated to include Inoue due to his youth, I’m wary of placing Cotto here, due to his advanced age. Still, he’s the lineal middleweight champion and looked outstanding in stopping Daniel Geale earlier this year. I’m very much looking forward to Cotto vs. Alvarez.
15. Adonis Stevenson: The lineal and WBC light heavyweight champion, Stevenson has become a bit lost in Sergey Kovalev’s shadow at 175 pounds. Still, he’s an explosive and athletic puncher with some boxing skill. I’d favor Kovalev to win if these two ever face off, but it would be a highly anticipated fight.