The best fighter in the world, according to some, has been beaten.
The best one in this corner barely survived.
And two pivotal rematches are either signed or mandated, with a super-fight between two others in boxing’s pound-for-pound rankings said to be on the horizon.
The shakeup, in which once-unbeaten four-division champion Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez suffered a disputed defeat by decision three weeks ago and unbeaten middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin eked out a victory by decision over Daniel Jacobs in that night’s main event, leaves a reshuffled field.
And by the way, while an active Floyd Mayweather Jr. would be No. 1, his statement that he would return to fight Conor McGregor doesn’t earn him a spot until the date becomes official.
Times boxing writer Lance Pugmire sizes up the talent:
1. Gennady Golovkin — Los Angeles | Middleweight (34-0, 30 KOs)
Whether he over-trained, showed the first signs of age at 34 or finally met his most complete foe yet, Golovkin retains his top spot after edging Jacobs, whose rally from an early knockdown nearly spoiled the pursuit of the Kazakh fighter’s September date against Canelo Alvarez.
Next fight: TBA; he could pursue a June date while awaiting Alvarez or strike a deal after Canelo’s May 6 bout against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. for the anticipated September showdown.
Instead of cowering from the second-round knockdown against power puncher Sergey Kovalev in November, former Olympic champion Ward found the resolve, creativity and boldness to win later rounds and take away three world-title belts and the unbeaten record from the Russian. And while Kovalev has used profane warnings to threaten Ward about the rematch, Ward asks Kovalev why he couldn’t finish him.
Next fight: June 17 rematch against former light-heavyweight champion Kovalev at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
3. Vasyl Lomachenko — Ukraine | Super-featherweight (7-1, 5 KOs)
The World Boxing Organization champion says he’s content to remain behind others in this argument until he engages in super-fights of his own, perhaps against lightweight champion Mikey Garcia by next year, but his talent and eagerness to fight routinely make him an obvious lofty choice.
Next fight: Defends his belt against challenger Jason Sosa at the new MGM resort in Maryland on HBO, with countrymen Oleksandr Usyk and Oleksandr Gvozdyk also on the card.
4. Terence Crawford — Omaha | junior-welterweight (30-0, 21 KOs)
Bypassed again by Manny Pacquiao, the World Boxing Council-WBO champion defends both of his belts May 20 against Felix Diaz in New York while he and Pacquiao’s promoter, Bob Arum, promises that Crawford is on the list with Adrien Broner and Amir Khan for a November date with Pacquiao that would move him from wheel-spinning bouts like the Diaz date.
Next fight: May 20 at Madison Square Garden Theater versus 33-year-old Diaz (19-1, nine KOs)
It was a loss for Gonzalez in the judges’ eyes and surprising that new WBC super-flyweight Srisaket Sor Rungvisai dropped the former champion to the deck in the first round of their March 18 fight at MSG, but by a 441-284 margin in punches landed (372-277 in power blows), it appeared “Chocolatito” should have retained his belt.
Next fight: The WBC moved quickly on the dubious scoring and this week ordered an immediate rematch between the pair.
6. Mikey Garcia — Riverside | Lightweight (36-0, 30 KOs)
His third-round knockout to take the WBC belt from Dejan Zlaticanin in January launches Garcia upward, as does his interest in unifying the division and pressing for a June-July date against World Boxing Assn. champion Jorge Linares. Garcia’s extended layoff due to a contract dispute raised some questions about his interest in fighting, but he was in his brother-trainer Robert’s Riverside gym this week.
Next fight: Garcia said he’s hopeful Linares soon commits to a match he had committed to take before repeating his triumph overseas last week against former champion Anthony Crolla of England.
7. Sergey Kovalev — Russia | Light-heavyweight (30-1-1, 26 KOs)
Kovalev falls not due to a drop in power, but thanks to a reduction in the instinct to finish. He badly wants to shed the frustration of failing to stop Ward when he had him down in their November bout, while perhaps believing (wrongly) that he could cruise to a victory in the judges’ eyes. He said the fight “is very important, [more so than any] other bout in my entire boxing career.”
Next fight: HBO pay-per-view will broadcast the June 17 sequel from Mandalay Bay.
8. Canelo Alvarez — Mexico | Middleweight (48-1-1, 34 KOs)
Next fight: At sold-out T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas against former middleweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in a 164-pound catch-weight, pay-per-view bout.
9. Keith Thurman — Clearwater, Fla. | Welterweight (28-0, 22 KOs)
Unified the WBA-WBC belts by handing Danny Garcia his first loss in a split-decision victory. The thoughtful Thurman should do more to capitalize on the amount of eyeballs he’s reached in main events on NBC and CBS – the March 4 date against Garcia had 5.1 million viewers – but unlike many whose athleticism is hailed in the spotlight, he doesn’t have a deep interest in being greedy with his time there.
Next fight: TBA, but he’s impressively said he’d love a shot at WBO champion Manny Pacquiao, who signed to fight anonymous Australian Jeff Horn on July 2, and Thurman’s also positioned to get either the winner of Andre Berto-Shawn Porter April 22 or Kell Brook-Errol Spence in May.
10. Leo Santa Cruz — La Habra | Featherweight (33-1-1, 18 KOs)
Impressively recovered from his first loss to recapture in January the WBA belt Carl Frampton took from him in July, outworking the Northern Ireland product who had never been beaten. Santa Cruz credited a full camp with his father-trainer, Jose, who was weakened by a cancer fight and chemotherapy treatments last year.
Next fight: While 2016 fighter of the year Frampton said last month he wants to exhaust all efforts to stage the trilogy fight, it makes more sense for Santa Cruz to repeat his Southland showdown against secondary WBA champion Abner Mares, a bout that could fill Staples Center.
Others: 11. Manny Pacquiao, welterweight; 12. Deontay Wilder, heavyweight; 13. Oscar Valdez, featherweight; 14. Errol Spence Jr., welterweight; 15. Danny Garcia, welterweight.