Sunday, February 05, 2023  |



Pound-for-Pound debate: Canelo is gone. Who is the new No. 1 in the world?

Photo by Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.

When pound-for-pound king Canelo Alvarez lost to WBA light heavyweight titleholder Dmitry Bivol earlier this month, a long back-and-forth debate began in order to determine who is the best fighter in the world pound-for-pound.

It’s been quite a debate, with many differing opinions, but all that is certain is that there really is no clear No. 1.

At The Ring we had a long back and forth conversation reflected in our regular Ring Ratings Update (Dmitry Bivol knocks Canelo from the P4P peak, enters mythical rankings) – The Ring ( as to how things breakdown and came up with our collective ratings.

However, the importance of the debate led us to take it one step further, and here is how 20 media members and various boxing insiders see things.

Remember, there is no right or wrong, it’s merely one man or woman’s opinion. As always, please enjoy the debate and respect other people’s opinions.

Here’s how the experts see it:



“I think Usyk is worthy of the top spot. He was No. 2 behind Canelo. It makes sense that he would advance to No. 1 following Canelo’s clear loss to Bivol.”


“At present, Oleksandr Usyk is absolutely the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet. His current run is quite unprecedented: cruiserweight Ring/ IBF/WBA/WBC/WBO champion, heavyweight IBF/ WBA/WBO champ, 2018 FOTY – all in less than 20 pro bouts. Usyk is a natural cruiserweight who currently holds three of the five titles in the heavyweight division. He accomplished this in just his third bout above 200 pounds. His win against Anthony Joshua last September made Usyk 11-0 as a pro on foreign territory, with six of those wins coming against former/current world title holders. Consider the magnitude and meaning of his win over Murat Gassiev in Russia a few years ago, given the current situation in Ukraine. Throw in the fact that before even turning pro Usyk had over 300 wins as an amateur, including two trips to the Olympics, culminating in a 2011 Gold at the World Championships and 2012 Gold at the London Games. No other fighter in the world can boast accomplishments on that level over the last decade, period.”


“The very fact that the pound-for-pound lineup is so deep – I’d say 15-18 fighters have a case of being included on this list – is an indicator that boxing is, quite literally, in good hands. For me, Terence Crawford is the current occupant of Mount Olympus because (1) I had him ranked second going into the Bivol-Canelo match and Canelo’s loss moves “Bud” up to the top slot; (2) Crawford is coming off an impressive TKO win over the respected Shawn Porter; (3) Crawford is an undefeated three-division world champion who has defeated nine championship-level fighters (six by KO) and who is riding a career-high nine-fight KO streak; and (4) He is perhaps the most versatile fighter in the game; he can box and slug with equal effectiveness from both sides and has high-end boxing IQ. Usyk is very deserving of consideration due to being a former undisputed cruiserweight champion, a current three-belt heavyweight king and arguably the greatest road fighter of the 21st Century thus far, but I have him second because he hasn’t been on the P4P scene as long as Crawford, and there’s something to be said for longer-term success when it comes to this particular list.”


“Usyk my number No. 1, and checks all the boxes for me. Undefeated, great amateur capped with Olympic gold, unified a division, moved up and won titles against bigger guys, literally went out of his way (traveling to other champions home country) to beat other guy in their backyard, can win by outboxing or outmuscling his opponent, never hear him bitch about not getting enough money, could care less about being B-side of fight. Seems like legit good-guy on top of it all.”


“He was No. 1 before Dmitry Bivol’s stunner over Canelo Alvarez. He still is. His spot atop this pound-for-pound debate will encounter significant challenges throughout the rest of this year. Hopefully, the biggest will come from Errol Spence Jr. in a long-awaited welterweight showdown that will allow Crawford — still the game’s most dynamic finisher — to settle the argument, once-and-for-all. Before then, however, expect a challenge from Naoya Inoue in a June 7 rematch with Nonito Donaire. Then, another one from Oleksandr Usyk in a July rematch with Anthony Joshua. Don’t forget Canelo, either. If he exercises a clause for an immediate rematch against Bivol, he can quickly put himself back into the pound-for-pound hunt.”

Oleksandr Usyk



“Errol Spence Jr. is my pound-for-pound No. 1. He has beaten all the best 147-pounders he faced and will cement his pound-for-pound status by next beating Terence Crawford. He has beaten quality opposition, Kell Brook, Mikey Garcia, Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia and Yordenis Ugas.”


“I had Canelo at No. 1 but when you lose a fight you should also lose the No. 1 spot. [Dmitry] Bivol should be in the top 10 now but I think Errol Spence and Terence Crawford are the top two guys right now, since both won their first world titles the hard way, on the road. But in my personal opinion, I have Spence slightly ahead at No. 1 and if he fights Crawford then the true No. 1 will be the winner.”


“Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis is my No. 1. He’s a southpaw, can box, can fight, adapts well, great timing, can knock you out with either hand. Most importantly still prepared to listen and learn. [I know] he hasn’t beaten anyone yet he looks the part and you know what a classy southpaw can do and can’t wait for his next fight that won’t go the distance.”


“I truly believe it is Canelo, yes, that is correct. Let’s not forget that his last bout was not at his natural weight and was in fact way above what we would have imagined for him years ago. It is like and of the top 147lbs world champions testing the water at 160 or 168 tomorrow and not being successful. Canelo should not drop because of the Bivol fight. No. 1 should be based on level of opposition that the fighter has beaten and there is no better resume in boxing today than Canelo Alvarez.”


“Based on quality of opposition, especially RECENT quality of opposition, I’d go with Usyk, with Inoue a close second. And should Spence fight Crawford, the winner would jump into my number one slot. What makes a fighter pound for pound is a combination of his overall resume, his recent form, and his excellence (regardless of division) vs. the other candidates.”


“My understanding of a pound-for-pound rating is that all fighters are considered to be the same size, and P4P is a measure of their skill sets.  In other words, Tyson Fury is the biggest and most skilled heavyweight, so hypothetically he beats anyone else in the world, but if he and everyone else were at the same weight (let’s say 160 pounds), then that might not be the case. If he’s out there, you’ll know it. Feel it. Give him respect. He’ll be great, not just very good.  It’s usually someone who transcends several weight classes in his career, but currently there is no Henry Armstrong, Sugar Ray Robinson, Emile Griffith, Alexis Arguello, Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard, Evander Holyfield, Roy Jones, Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather, or any other such claimant fighting. Since there’s no dominant superstar, so I don’t see a clear No. 1 P4P these days.  There are, however, several very good active fighters. My short list of candidates today would include (in alphabetical order) Bivol, Crawford, Inoue, Spence, Stevenson, and Usyk. Let’s revisit this again next year and see if any of them inspires awe and emerges as a true best-of-the-best.”


“I still have Canelo as pound-for-pound king. He moved up in weight once again and dared to be great against a young talented champion. He fell short to a bigger, younger man, with great skills and a difficult style. Guess what? Size matters. The pound-for-pound listing is based on the fact that Sugar Ray Robinson was so good that in a theoretical realm where weight didn’t matter- he’d whip everyone. And even he moved up to fight Joey Maxim for the light heavyweight title and failed. He moved back down to his natural weight to regain the middleweight championship and wage some of his most iconic fights. Pound-for-pound is a thought experiment – not a reality. Granted, this opens the door for a new king but in my eyes, you can’t “win” pound-for-pound without fighting. If Spence-Crawford happens before Canelo were to fight again, the winner will likely be pound-for-pound No. 1 (and rightfully so). But in the meantime, my number one spot doesn’t change.”


“Crawford moves to No. 1 in pound-for-pound. There was a debate about who was No. 1 Canelo or Crawford, and before his convincing loss to Bivol, I had Canelo No. 1. Skill. Ability. Resume. That makes up pound-for-pound. No. 1. Crawford cleaned out 140 and chasing the best at 147-pounds. His incredible abilities make him No. 1 because how he’s beaten down everyone, they put in front of him in dominate and entertaining fashion. Crawford looks unbeatable, no matter what weight division.”


“This one is easy for me and I know a lot will not agree, but hands down it is right now Oleksandr Usyk. He cleaned out the cruiserweight division, and not only did he clean out the division, but he fought almost every cruiser in their home country, he didn’t fight guys on comfortable grounds, he never turned down a challenge. Then he moves to heavyweight, goes to Joshua’s home turf and beats him easy. The definition of pound-for-pound for me is the guy who can beat everyone (if they were in the same weight) on the list, and I believe that Usyk beats them all right now. Let’s face it, Usyk is an excellent boxer and a hard guy to beat. People may feel that way about Fury and I do as well, but I believe Usyk beats Fury along with other guys on the list.”

Ring bantamweight champ Naoya Inoue. Photo by Naoki Fukuda


“Naoya Inoue is my No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Dare to be great. In order to be the very best fighter, a fighter must fight and beat the best in his division(s) and leave no doubt. He fights to win and win big. Not once has he been in a fight carrying an opponent. If he can get him out in the first round, he will. He’s moved up in weight and has won titles in the junior flyweight, junior bantamweight and bantamweight divisions. His skills help him adjust to any opponent put in front of him. His timing is phenomenal. He has carried his power up in weight. He could have stayed in Japan and made tons of money but he’s ventured out because he wanted to conquer the world. Dare to be great, he’s doing so.”


“A mythical “pound-for-pound” title, for me, is simply this: If, theoretically, each current pound-for-pound prospect fought in the same weight class, who’s your man (or woman)?. For me, that’s Naoya Inoue. For the following reasons: 1. Inoue, at age 29, is at his physical peak. He’s been a pro for 10 years and won a version of a world title in his sixth pro fight (in 2014). Hence, he’s fought at an elite level for nearly his entire pro career. 2. Inoue is also at a mental peak – he hasn’t yet had the “super fight” that each past “pound-for-pound” king has on his resume. He still fights like a hungry fighter, a hunter, rather than, say, like a Canelo Alvarez, who turned into the hunted. 3. He’s had superior competition and has destroyed them. In the last four years, his opponents have had a combined record of 171-13-2. With the exception of Nonito Donaire, Inoue knocked each of them out. 4. The Donaire fight answered the questions each great fighter must answer: what happens when you’re hurt? When you’re cut? What happened was Inoue kept his cool and technique. Unlike many punchers, he didn’t unravel down the stretch or lose his confidence. He was just as dangerous in the later rounds as he was in the beginning of the fight. 5. Great fighters are great competitors. Inoue craves competition. Hence, he’s meeting Donaire again (on June 7).”


“You could argue for a lot of other boxers but I think the heavyweights have been lit up by him following his victorious night in Dusseldorf a few years back but that really changed the scene, so you’ve got to give him credit for that. How I define pound-for-pound, it’s that how that boxer would be able to compete at other weights and I think if you saw Tyson at a lower weight, with his boxing brain, he’d cope at any weight class. A worthy mention, for a fighter who I don’t think has got the pound-for-pound credit he deserves is Mairis Briedis. A lot of people will be saying Usyk is pound-for-pound number one but this is a man who many saw him ahead against Usyk and gave him the fight of his life. He also, won the World Boxing Super Series beating all the best cruiserweights in the world and think that is another skilled boxer, who deserves a top 10 position.”


“For me pound-for-pound is more of a fantasy topic. It’s really not a question that has a definitive right answer. I look at level of opposition as well as possibly the amount of championships a fighter has. My top guy is Crawford for this reason.  Ironically I favor Spence to beat him head to head due to being bigger and stronger however in terms of overall resume its hard to top Crawford when looking at what he’s done through the weight classes and how he’s done it.”


“This is an easy answer for me. It is clearly Oleksandr Usyk. He is a highly decorated amateur and Olympic Gold medalist who moved into the pros and quickly won the cruiserweight title in just his tenth fight. Then he went on to unify all the cruiser titles in his 14th and 15th fights. After devastating virtually every name in the cruiserweight division, he moved up to heavyweight, took just two matches to get accustomed to the higher weight, and then took three of the heavyweight titles from Anthony Joshua, who was considered to be the class of the division at the time.  I really don’t know how a fighter can do more than that. But Usyk has plans to try. Once he gives his obligatory rematch to Joshua, Usyk aims to immediately unify all of the heavyweight titles in a match with Fury. He has the big amateur record and pro success in multiple weight classes. He unified all the cruiserweight titles in just his 15th fight and then went on to upset a well-established heavyweight champion in under 20 fights. His accomplishments are amazing.  And all without a single loss. On top of that, Usyk won his titles by beating Glowacki in Gdańsk, Briedis in Riga, Gassiev in Moscow and Joshua in London! Beat every guy in his home town. Who even tries that? (other than Sergey Kovalev of course!) He also faced Chisora and Bellew in London, Huck in Germany and Hunter and Witherspoon in the US. He hasn’t had the home advantage in a single fight since the end of 2015. That to me speaks volumes. He has won every fight since he began his title run without ever having the comfort of an adoring, vociferous crowd and friendly judges. No gifts on the cards. No controversial endings. Just solid wins every time in the most hostile conditions. That, to me, is what pound for pound is all about. Or at least it should be. Usyk has been my pound-for-pound No. 1 since he beat Joshua.”


“Canelo is No. 1 pound-for-pound for me. He has fought some of the best in so many different weight categories and also has won many world titles. He continues to be the biggest boxing attraction and highest paid boxer.”

Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him on [email protected]