Ask any boxer or trainer about the mythical pound-for-pound rankings and you’ll usually get one of two responses: a smirk or a massive eye-roll.
Because nothing elicits more laughs or scorn from those actively participating in the sport than talk about a worthless list. Pound-for-pound rankings are an arbitrary and subjective creation with no set criteria. They have absolutely no bearing whatsoever in how matchups are made, or champions are determined. And they don’t (at least tangibly) make boxers more money.
“Pound-for-pound rankings is by opinions only,” says trainer Johnathon Banks who has worked with future Hall of Famer Gennadiy Golovkin. “You don’t get [a] championship with opinions. What are the criteria? That is a question that’s never really been answered.”
Trying to determine the 10 best boxers in the world, regardless of weight class, isn’t an easy task considering how wildly bodies, styles, and skillsets (like power and defense) vary as you scan the spectrum of today’s best boxers. Anyone looking to weigh in on the pound-for-pound debate—or create their own list—could easily value one characteristic more heavily than another boxing aficionado.
“In a way that ya’ll justify it, ya’ll don’t look into everything that surrounds a fighter being pound-for-pound,” Terence Crawford, who can make a legitimate case to be No. 1, has previously told us.
To some, a fighter’s resume matters most—who have you fought, who have you beat, and who have your opponent’s beat? Others base their rankings on the eye test—when they see greatness, they know it. Others might value whether you can put an opponent down and how fast. Have you racked up titles? Are you chasing them? Are you a one-trick pony? Do you fight more than once a year?
“It’s good for the media, social media, it keeps people talking. That’s why I like it,” says Banks. “Anything that gets people talking about the sport is good for the sport.”
Just don’t get the boxers themselves involved. They usually want no part of the debate. A notable exception is Crawford, who will readily tell you he’s the pound-for-pound best. Meanwhile, Vasiliy Lomachenko, a living legend in the sport, told us he would never say he’s the best “because I’m too shy to say.” Golovkin, on the other hand, doesn’t know how you can reasonably compare a lightweight with a light heavyweight or a welterweight with a heavyweight, a fair criticism of the pound-for-pound rankings.
“It’s so crazy to me. Everybody’s different,” says Golovkin.
While it’s ridiculous to those putting themselves at risk that anyone could definitively rank boxing’s best across its different weight classes, Complex Sports can’t help weighing in.
On the cusp (and in no particular order): Kazuto Ioka, Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, Artur Beterbiev, Gervonta Davis, Shakur Stevenson, Jermell Charlo, Oscar Valdez