- Who are the world’s best male boxers?
- In boxing, pound-for-pound lists are made to provide clarity on who the best fighters are using criteria consisting of quality of victories, achievements, and ability, regardless of weight class.
- In pound-for-pound lists, a flyweight can rank higher than a heavyweight even though the bigger man would swat the smaller man with ease in reality.
- The coronavirus-enforced lockdown this year saw boxing’s major organisations shutter for months, however, if an athlete has not competed in the last 15 months, they will be removed from this list.
- Manny Pacquiao, for example, can longer be regarded as an active fighter in boxing today as he has not been seen in a ring since July, 2019.
- These lists always create arguments, and Insider’s will be no different.
- Read on to see our 15 best fighters in the game right now, and feel free to disagree.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
15: Kosei Tanaka — 15 wins (nine knockouts), unbeaten.
Weight class: Flyweight.
Why he’s ranked: Tanaka is already a three-weight world champion, yet still only 25 years old. That is not normal.
He won a world title in only his fifth fight in 2015, a feat rarely accomplished and similar to Vasyl Lomachenko’s rise to the top. That is not normal, either.
Super fights could be in Tanaka’s future.
He could take on his countryman Kenshiro Teraji, the consensus ruler at junior flyweight, or a champion like Juan Francisco Estrada, the consensus ruler at junior bantamweight.
Junior bantamweight is a division he said he has his eyes on after his most recent win, a knockout over Chinese opponent Wulan Tuolehazi on December 31.
Championships won: WBO minimumweight champion (2015), WBO light flyweight champion (2016 to 2017), and WBO flyweight champion (2018 to present).
14: Artur Beterbiev — 15 wins (15 knockouts), unbeaten.
Weight class: Light heavyweight.
Why he’s ranked: Beterbiev wallops opponents so powerfully it is as if he’s got mitts made of bricks. You may outbox him for a round or two, but the 34-year-old Russian will remain unfazed and just pierce your rib cage or dent your temple with his ramrod right hand.
This man does not mess about. Everyone he’s fought as a pro, he’s finished.
Even when he competed in a wildly anticipated champion-versus-champion bout against Oleksandr Gvozdyk in October, last year, he forced the Ukrainian to taste defeat for the first time, taking his title for good measure, in a destructive 10th-round stoppage.
One nasty fighter, Beterbiev was supposed to defend his belts against Fanlong Meng on March 28, but that match was nixed and he’s yet to compete during the coronavirus pandemic.
Championships won: IBF light heavyweight world title (2017 to present) and WBC champion (2019 to present).
13: Gervonta Davis — 24 wins (23 knockouts), unbeaten.
Weight class: Lightweight.
Why he’s ranked: Want to annoy a lot of boxing fans? Put Davis in your pound-for-pound lists because, boy, does this dude have his haters.
Davis is backed by Mayweather Promotions and its CEO Leonard Ellerbe has built remarkable interest in the 25-year-old after taking him to sell-out arenas in Baltimore and Atlanta.
As an athlete who finished his amateur career with a 206-15 record, Davis has extraordinary finishing ability to complement his technical base – something he has shown for years.
Davis recently added another knockout to his highlight-reel when he finished Leo Santa Cruz in the sixth-round in October. He is a bonafide star in this sport,winning the praise of Conor McGregor.
He is now expected to move on to bigger and better bouts, and a mega match against Gen-Z superstar Ryan Garcia could be on the horizon.
Championships won: World titles at super featherweight (2017 to 2019) and the WBA lightweight title (2019 to present).
12: Jermall Charlo — 31 wins (22 knockouts), unbeaten.
Weight class: Middleweight.
Why he’s ranked: Jermall Charlo is becoming increasingly known around the world because he keeps doing one critical thing – winning.
After beating super welterweight opponents like Cornelius Bundrage, Austin Trout, and Julian Williams in championship fights, Charlo moved up to middleweight. At the time, he told Insider that the division, which has seen Mexican and European fighters vie for supremacy, is now an American weight class again, and it’s all because of him.
At 30, Charlo has entered his prime as an athlete and a fighter. He applies pressure, has respectable punching power, and has aspirations to take out the big names at middleweight and super middleweight.
He’s already scalped Sergey Derevyanchenko during the pandemic, and should he continue tallying wins like that he’ll climb higher in lists like this.
Championships won: WBC middleweight title (2019 to present) and the IBF super welterweight title (2015 to 2016).
11: Vasiliy Lomachenko — 14 wins (10 knockouts) against two losses.
Weight class: Lightweight.
Why he’s ranked: If you don’t like boxing after watching a Vasyl Lomachenko fight, then you never will.
Lomachenko is hailed as one of the best amateur boxers in history.
He fought 397 times, lost once, but twice beat the guy who beat him just for good measure. He finished his amateur career as a two-time World Amateur Champion and a two-time Olympic champion.
He turned pro in 2013, fought for a world title in his second fight, and though he lost, won a world title in his third. He has fought in championship bouts ever since.
A human-highlight reel compared to Neo from The Matrix, Lomachenko is as athletic and technically-adept as they come – reminiscent of the awesome Roy Jones Jr. in the 1990s.
He has already beaten Gary Russell Jr., Guillermo Rigondeaux, and Jorge Linares.
He recently fell from his No.2 pound-for-pound rank after he came unstuck to the young and fearless Teofimo Lopez, who leapfrogged him in this list with a majestic performance in October.
Championships won: A former three-belt lightweight titleholder, former junior lightweight champion, and former featherweight titleholder.
10: Juan Estrada — 41 wins (28 knockouts) against three losses.
Weight class: Super flyweight.
Why he’s ranked: Estrada has been a pro fighter for 11 years and, in that time, has won world titles in three weight classes – just like previous Mexican greats Julio Cesar Chavez, Erik Morales, and Fernando Montiel.
Estrada has signature wins over Brian Viloria in China, Giovani Segura in Mexico, and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in California.
He naturally has a good left hook to the body, a solid right hand over the top, and good finishing instincts, characteristics often found in Mexican fighters.
At 30, Estrada is, in theory, in his prime years as an athlete and as a fighter, and with the backing of Matchroom Boxing and DAZN, could secure more legacy wins in the near future.
A trilogy bout against the former pound-for-pound fighter Sor Rungvisai – the rivalry is currently tied at one win each – has been mooted.
Championships won: WBC world super fly title (2018 to present), and world titles at fly (2013 to 2015), and light fly (2012).
9: Josh Taylor — 17 wins (13 knockouts), unbeaten.
Weight class: Super lightweight.
Why he’s ranked: The 29-year-old southpaw is one of three fighters on this list to have benefitted from participating – and winning – the prestigious World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) competition.
The WBSS has one mission whenever it organizes an eight-man competition – bring the best fighters in one weight class into one tournament, and make them box each other in a knockout format until there’s only one man left standing.
That man in the 2018-2019 super lightweight edition was Josh Taylor, who knocked out the American athlete Ryan Martin in the quarterfinal before defeating Ivan Baranchyk and Regis Prograis to claim the Muhammad Ali trophy.
Taylor beat Apinun Khongsong in September to notch his first pandemic-era victory, and is currently awaiting his next assignment.
Championships won: Two super lightweight world titles (2019 to present).
8: Teofimo Lopez — 16 wins (12 knockouts), unbeaten.
Weight class: Lightweight.
Why he’s ranked: Teofimo Lopez shook up the boxing world when he became a mainstream sports sensation in October by scoring one of the sport’s biggest wins in the modern era.
Heading into the bout, his opponent Vasiliy Lomachenko, 32, was Insider’s No.2-ranked boxer in the world pound-for-pound.
Lopez, 23, proved to be even better with a convincing victory over 12 rounds.
Mike Tyson was impressed and said on Twitter that Lopez is now the man to beat in boxing.
Lopez could continue campaigning in the lightweight division, or move north and take on a 140-pounder like Regis Prograis.
Championships won: Currently holds three of the four major championships at 135-pounds.
7: Jermell Charlo — 34 wins (18 knockouts) against one loss.
Weight class: Super welterweight.
Why he’s ranked: If the WBSS had put together a tournament in the super welterweight division, Jermell Charlo would have dominated it.
The American, Jermall’s twin brother, is the undeniable man at 154-pounds, recently annihilating Jeison Rosario in September.
Charlo’s punching power was evident throughout the bout as he kept putting Rosario on his back, before knocking him down and out for good in the eighth round with a double jab to the body which left the Dominican in agony on the floor, gasping for air.
Jermell also has wins over Vanes Martirosyan, Erickson Lubin, and Austin Trout. In 2018 he suffered his only loss, a disputed decision to Tony Harrison, but he avenged the defeat one year later, stopping Harrison in the 11th round.
Jermell is one of America’s finest boxers, has his peak years as a competitor ahead of him, and can chase down the No.1 spot by returning more statement wins.
Championships won: Currently holds three of the four major championships at 154-pounds, and held the WBC super welterweight strap from 2016 to 2018.
6: Oleksandr Usyk — 18 wins (13 knockouts), unbeaten.
Weight class: Heavyweight.
Why he’s ranked: A 2012 gold medalist at the Olympic Games in London, Usyk turned professional the following year and won his first world title in his 10th bout – a decision win over Krzysztof Glowacki in Poland.
Usyk is a true world champion; he’s won world titles on the road, defended them in another foreign territory, and has never lost. He takes on all-comers, and wins.
In 2018, he unified all the major world titles when he won the cruiserweight edition of the 2017-2018 WBSS season, collecting wins that look even better with time.
He’s beaten Murat Gassiev, Mairis Briedis, Marco Huck, Michael Hunter, and Tony Bellew.
Wladimir Klitschko has regularly sparred Usyk and told Insider in 2019 that he is a big fan of his countryman’s technical abilities, believing he can go far in boxing’s glamour division.
But his heavyweight run so far has been lacklustre. He easily beat the overmatched Chazz Witherspoon before laboring to a decision win over Dereck Chisora, in his first bout of the pandemic-era in October.
Championships won: Former undisputed cruiserweight world champion.
5: Tyson Fury — 30 wins (21 knockouts) against one draw.
Weight class: Heavyweight.
Nationality: English, with Irish traveller heritage.
Why he’s ranked: A clip of Fury uppercutting himself in the face during a 2009 win over the journeyman fighter Lee Swaby haunted the heavyweight for years.
Detractors would use the footage to claim Fury would amount to little, but his victory over Wladimir Klitschko changed everything. Fury out-thought, out-boxed, and out-pointed the Ukrainian, a long-reigning champion at the time, in a 2015 bamboozling for the ages.
He did not fight for three years, suffering depression and saying he wanted to crash his Ferrari at 190mph so he could crush it like a Coke can.
Still, he returned to the ring in form, winning twice, before being one of only two athletes to take Deontay Wilder the 12-round distance in 2018.
That Wilder draw is the only minor blemish on Fury’s record, a blemish his promoter Frank Warren told Insider was unjust as Fury had done enough to win.
Fury then adopted a bold and risky strategy in the February 22 rematch, one that ultimately paid off, as he dominated Wilder in every minute of every round, floored him twice, and forced a corner and referee stoppage in the seventh round.
Fury returns to the ring, and the UK, on December 5.
Championships won: Won the WBC heavyweight championship in 2020 after claiming three heavyweight world titles in 2015.
4: Terence Crawford — 36 wins (27 knockouts), unbeaten.
Weight class: Welterweight.
Why he’s ranked: To watch, the switch-hitting Crawford appears to be the most beautiful boxer on the planet.
He’s got fast hands, good counter-punching ability, and solid defensive skills.
His achievements as a three-weight world champion and the undisputed king of the light welterweight division also put him in good stead on this list. But he doesn’t rank higher because Crawford has no clear, career-defining victory.
Signed to the Top Rank promotional stable, Crawford’s main rivals – Manny Pacquiao and Errol Spence Jr. – are currently signed to the rival fight firm Premier Boxing Champions. Crawford needs to fight at least one of those PBC athletes, and win, if he wants to become boxing’s best fighter.
Championships won: Current WBO welterweight world titleholder as well as the former undisputed light welterweight champion and the WBO lightweight titlist.
3: Errol Spence Jr. — 26 wins (21 knockouts), unbeaten.
Weight class: Welterweight.
Why he’s ranked: Since Floyd Mayweather retired for the third time after beating UFC fighter Conor McGregor in 2017, boxing has looked for the next great welterweight who can fly the flag for America, and for the sport.
Spence Jr. is one of the American welterweights who could be that new dominant force, and few come cooler. He seems unfazed when standing face-to-face with whatever opponent, unflappable in the midst of leather-strewn battle, and has come up trumps in every bout.
He is an extraordinary in-fighter who possesses a good box of tricks, and will hope to show off that skillset on December 5 when he returns to the ring against Danny Garcia. The fight comes one year after being taken to hospital for flipping a Ferrari at high-speed.
Spence Jr. has big wins over many top fighters including Kell Brook, Mikey Garcia, and Shawn Porter, but there is a rival he needs to beat to elevate his standing as the No.1 pound-for-pound athlete – and that fighter is Crawford.
Championships won: IBF welterweight world title (2017 to present) and WBC welterweight world title (2019 to present).
2: Naoya Inoue — 20 wins (17 knockouts), unbeaten.
Weight class: Bantamweight.
Why he’s ranked: Inoue is a fighter who has benefitted from a popularity explosion after his participation in the 2018-2019 bantamweight edition of the WBSS.
He scored a stoppage over Juan Carlos Payano in the 2018 quarterfinal, beat Emmanuel Rodriguez in a May 2019 semifinal, and engaged Nonito Donaire in a Fight of the Year type bout in November 2019’s final.
Inoue, a Top Rank athlete, competed in his first pandemic-era bout in October 2020, demolishing Jason Maloney in the seventh round.
Having already established himself as the world’s best bantamweight, the future looks remarkably bright for the 27-year-old.
Boxing promoter Kalle Saulerland said Inoue could return to his groundbreaking WBSS tournaments, albeit in a different weight class.
“Maybe we’ll see him in another weight class at the WBSS,” Sauerland told Insider. “I’m sure he’ll go up and through the weights and win more world titles.”
Championships won: WBA bantamweight world title (2018 to present) and IBF bantamweight world title (2019 to present), ahead of world titles at junior bantamweight and light flyweight.
1: Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez — 53 wins (36 knockouts) against one loss and two draws.
Weight class: Super middleweight.
Why he’s ranked: If weight classes were a dartboard, you could drink a few beers, put on a blindfold, and throw a dart. Chances are you’d hit a weight class that “Canelo” has held a championship belt in.
Alvarez only has one official loss on his record, a 2013 defeat to Floyd Mayweather when he was a light middleweight champion at 23 years old.
In the years since, “Canelo” has beaten Miguel Cotto, Daniel Jacobs, and Sergey Kovalev, and holds a disputed two-fight rivalry win over Gennady Golovkin.
Alvarez is so good, he could fight pretty much anyone at middleweight, super middleweight, and light heavyweight, and win.
This is something he had been proving until away-from-the-ring litigation appeared to get in the way of his career. As a result, it is unclear when boxing’s best fighter will compete again.
Championships won: Simultaneous champion of two weight classes, as well as world titles at light heavyweight and junior middleweight.