Boxing is going through a renaissance period where legitimate superstars are developing in the ring through spectacular knockouts and masterful showcases. There was a point in time when fans only wanted to watch heavyweights, while the casual fans would only tune in for the mega fights on pay-per-view. There will always be casual fans who tune into the sport to watch the biggest names compete in the ring, but the recent success of the stars in boxing have turned casual fans into regular supporters.
The lightweight division is the most recent division to see an explosion of young stars win belts in that division. Other divisions like the welterweight division, middleweight division, and heavyweight division have champions and contenders who will be around for a long time like the lightweight division has. Several of these fighters are on many pound-for-pound rankings, and they have a chance to climb the list as they continue to take fights.
Pound-for-pound rankings like this one are meant to see where the best boxers in the world stack up against one another based on the level of competition and their individual performances in the squared circle. Boxers who move around several weight classes and have shown an ability to move up in weight to claim a title will be rewarded, and there are several fighters on this list who hold championships in multiple divisions.
- Canelo Alvarez (54-1-2 Record, 36 KOs)
For quite some time Canelo Alvarez has not been given enough credit for his willingness to take on bigger opponents, in order to add to his legacy as a dominant champion. People have been willing to overlook him because he narrowly defeated Gennadiy Golovkin twice in 2017 and 2018 respectively. Let it not be mistaken that no other active fighter has jumped up in weight by more than 20 pounds to win a championship, and Alvarez did that against Sergey Kovalev in 2019 to capture the WBO world light heavyweight strap.
In December, Alvarez claimed the WBA super middleweight title and the vacant WBC super middleweight title with a unanimous decision victory over them super middleweight titlist Callum Smith. There was nearly a seven-inch height difference between Alvarez and Smith, but Alvarez did not shy away from the bigger man and blasted Smith on the inside with body shots and power punches.
Alvarez’s home seems to be at middleweight because there is still unfinished business for him to take care of with unification bouts, but he has proven time and time again that he can take on any challenge and overcome it, regardless of the weight division. That is why he is the pound-for-pound best boxer in the world because he is not afraid to challenge himself against larger opponents.
- Terence Crawford (37-0 Record, 28 KOs)
Having only fought one time in 2020, Terence Crawford looked impressive in his lone outing against former welterweight champion Kell Brook back in November. Crawford won the bout via TKO and he proved that he still had the magic touch despite an 11-month layoff between his last fight.
In 2018, Crawford made the jump up from the super lightweight division to the welterweight division, and that choice has paid dividends for Crawford. In the process of moving up in weight, Crawford became the WBO world welterweight champion, and he defended his WBO title four times. Unification bouts in the welterweight division have eluded Crawford due to the political landscape of the sport with different promoters having their hands in the pot.
The fight every boxing fan wants to see is Crawford vs. the IBF and WBC welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. These two have been on a collision for course over the past two years, and the time is running out for that fight to happen.
- Errol Spence Jr. (27-0 Record, 21 KOs)
Ever since Spence Jr. claimed his welterweight title in 2017 against Brook, he has only risen as one of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world. He has not backed down from taking on the toughest tests in the weight class and his legacy in the welterweight division will be remembered long after he retires from the sport of boxing.
The most amazing part of his journey as a champion is that he still fights at a high level, despite nearly losing his life in an October 2019 car accident. The road to recovery for Spence Jr. took several months, but when he returned to the ring for the first time against Danny Garcia in December, he looked just as sharp as he did prior to the accident.
Boxing politics have been a roadblock for a fight between Spence Jr. and Crawford, and time will only tell if or when that will ever happen. Spence Jr. fights under the Premier Boxing Champions promotion, while Crawford fights for Top Rank and Bob Arum. The two promotions rarely work with one another due to the lack of respect that Arum and PBC have for each other. Regardless of a potential super fight with Crawford, Spence Jr. is a dominant champion, and he has always answered the call when the bell rings against every single opponent.
- Naoya Inoue (20-0 Record, 17 KOs)
Naoya Inoue is one of the most feared bantamweight fighters in recent history because of his lethal knockout power and blinding speed. In the United States, his name is not well known to many boxing fans, unless they closely follow the sport. Inoue, 27, has been a world champion since he was 2014 when he captured the world light flyweight belt at just 20-years-old.
Inoue is a three-weight world champion, and his punching power has elevated as he moved up in weight throughout his eight years as a professional boxer. Through 20 bouts, only three of them have gone the distance, which is an incredible feat to achieve. His name is not talked about nearly enough in the boxing world, but things changed when he made his United States boxing debut on Halloween. In this bout, Inoue retained his IBF bantamweight title and his WBA super bantamweight title with a remarkable knockout in the seventh round against Jason Moloney.
- Tyson Fury (30-0-1 Record, 21 KOs)
The heavyweight division is as interesting now as it has ever been, and Tyson Fury is a major reason why this division is compelling to watch. He surprised many boxing fans when he stopped former WBC world heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder in round seven in February.
Fury’s victory in 2020 was a result of his hard work and dedication with returning to the ring after being away from the sport from November 2015 to June 2018. Since his return in 2018, Fury has returned to old form as an outstanding champion who has a larger than life personality with supreme boxing skills to back up the talk. The two fights Fury had with Wilder seem to be in his rearview mirror and now there are talks of a potential fight with IBF, WBO, and WBA world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua. This fight would unify the heavyweight division and it would determine one heavyweight champion.
- Teofimo Lopez (16-0 Record, 12 KOs)
Boxing’s next biggest star was born in 2020, when Teofimo Lopez pulled off the upset of the year against Vasiliy Lomachenko in their lightweight unification bout in October. The fight was held without fans in an intimate environment in Las Vegas, and if fans were present, it would have been a raucous environment because of the palpable energy in the ring.
At the time of the fight, Lomachenko was regarded by many as the pound-for-pound best boxer in the world. This upset victory for Lopez completely shifted the dynamic of the lightweight division and the win catapulted him into stardom. It does not seem that a rematch will be in the immediate future for Lopez, which means that other large fights loom with other 135-pound champions and contenders.
Lopez and his father have taken the boxing world by storm and they do not plan on leaving the championship scene any time soon. There weren’t too many people who followed the sport of boxing that were willing to predict a victory in October for Lopez, but he was able to prove all of them wrong.
- Anthony Joshua (24-1 Record, 22 KOs)
Despite losing to Andy Ruiz Jr. in 2019, Anthony Joshua has bounced back completely with an avenged win against Ruiz Jr. in December 2019 and a knockout victory against Kubrat Pulev in December 2020. Joshua’s stock has only risen with his championship pedigree and one punch knockout power. He put himself in position to fight Fury for a massive unification bout that would finalize the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.
In his last fight against Pulev, Joshua was in control of the entire fight and he was measured in tense moments. He learned his lesson on rushing in for the kill when he tagged an opponent and had them hurt. The few times he hurt Pulev, he continued to lay on an attack, but he did not act reckless with his offense. He was able to counter shots that Pulev sent his way and it showed the work he put in to fix the holes in his game.
- Gervonta Davis (24-0 Record, 23 KOs)
When it comes to punching power, Gervonta Davis is second-to-none. He has the type of power that can put a championship caliber fighter away with just one punch. Davis put his power on full display in his last fight when he knocked out Leo Santa Cruz with one of the most vicious uppercuts boxing has ever seen. His timing on the shot was clean and Davis deserved credit for this because Santa Cruz had never been KO’d before then.
Davis’ power is scary and that may force other champions in the lightweight division to be reticent about getting in the ring with him. Only one of his fights have gone the distance and he has proven that he can hang in there with elite competition.
He has beaten the likes of Jose Pedraza, Yuriorkis Gamboa, and Santa Cruz, all of whom were current or former champions when Davis faced them. His resume is very impressive, and he has eyes on unification bouts in the future with Lopez, Ryan Garcia, and Devin Haney. Out of the three other young champions in the lightweight division, Davis easily has the most power and he poses the biggest threat.
- Vasiliy Lomachenko (14-2 Record, 10 KOs)
Vasiliy Lomachenko is coming off the second loss of his professional career to Lopez in October. The loss put Lomachenko in unfamiliar territory because he has not had a ton of experience with dealing with losses in boxing.
Many people forgot how technically sound Lomachenko was during his run as a champion, and he is still a viable threat to any of the champions in the 135-pound division. Lopez is not interested in a rematch with Lomachenko, so Lomachenko must figure out his next move in order to get back to a title opportunity. Lopez revealed a lot of weaknesses that Lomachenko had in his game, but he is still the same fighter who made boxers quit on the stool because he was too technically advanced for them to deal with.
Lomachenko lost his belts, but his skill level is still extremely high, and he is really just one convincing win away from being back on the road to recovery. He will go down as one of the greatest amateur fighters of all-time and his time as a champion should not be lost in boxing history.
- Oleksandr Usyk (18-0 Record, 13 KOs)
Cruiserweight champions are often dismissed because they are not big enough to be heavyweight champions and they typically fight in a smaller pool of challenging contenders. Oleksandr Usyk is an exception to this norm because he was able to transfer his power smoothly from cruiserweight to heavyweight.
His most recent appearance in the ring came against former heavyweight title contender Dereck Chisora on Halloween, and Usyk outclassed Chisora with a unanimous decision victory. It may not be as easy for Usyk to land knockout blows on experienced heavyweights as it was for him to do the same to experienced cruiserweights, but he is extremely crafty, and his championship experience makes him a veritable threat to any of the heavyweight belts.
Usyk is the WBO mandatory challenger to Joshua’s WBO title, but Joshua hopes to have Usyk step aside so that a fight between him and Fury could happen. It is unclear if Usyk will want to take a backseat to Fury because he feels that he can beat Joshua if the two fight in the future. Usyk has the skills to present a unique challenge to Joshua that could be dangerous to Joshua’s championship future.