In consecutive weeks, boxing’s top two pound-for-pound fighters are stepping in the ring to make their case for supremacy in the mythical debate, and many of the other contenders are poised to follow in the coming months.
Last week at Staples Center, three-division champion Vasiliy Lomachenko affirmed his talent by dominating mandatory foe Anthony Crolla of England in a fourth-round knockout.
That was enough for the Ukrainian to stand as No. 1 in some of the other rankings, while he finds himself only the slimmest margin behind The Los Angeles Times’ No. 1, who fights at Madison Square Garden Saturday night.
The field is crowding behind both, after unbeaten welterweight Errol Spence Jr. overwhelmed four-division champion Mikey Garcia of Oxnard while unified cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk was crowned Boxing Writers Assn. of America fighter of the year and Canelo Alvarez won a third belt at super-middleweight in December.
As Alvarez, Usyk and three-belt heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua prepare for fights by June 1, Times boxing writer Lance Pugmire provides his thoughts on who stands where now:
1. Terence Crawford
Omaha, Neb. | Junior-welterweight (34-0, 25 KOs): The former unified 140-pound champion wasn’t as scintillating as usual in his October technical knockout of Jose Benavidez Jr. in middle America, but he has a Saturday night platform — an ESPN pay-per-view at Madison Square Garden — to show off his skills and provide separation over those behind him.
2. Vasiliy Lomachenko
Ukraine/Ventura County | Lightweight (12-1, 9 KOs): In an awe-inspiring display April 12 at Staples Center, the three-division champion and former two-time OIympic gold medalist penetrated Crolla’s defense with vicious power punches and finished him with a masterfully placed blow to the head that shattered the challenger’s equilibrium.
Next fight: Lomachenko broke a finger on the final Crolla punch, but he plans to fight again in September. While hoping for a unification against Mikey Garcia, he’ll likely venture to England to meet Luke Campbell.
3. Canelo Alvarez
Mexico | Middleweight (51-1-2, 35 KOs): The sport’s richest active athlete and two-belt 160-pound champion heads to a Cinco de Mayo title defense as part of an ongoing mission to meet the world’s best middleweights, who have been properly assembled by his broadcast partner, the new streaming service DAZN.
Next fight: Alvarez seeks to add a third middleweight belt May 4 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas when he meets International Boxing Federation champion Daniel Jacobs.
4. Errol Spence Jr.
Dallas | Welterweight (25-0, 21 KOs): His full confidence in meeting four-division champion Garcia last month in a Fox pay-per-view showcase at Texas’ AT&T Stadium was justified, and he’s taken on a few too many dismissals for dominating a lighter foe. The talent is there, and it’s clearly superior to Spence’s Premier Boxing Champions stablemate champions Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter and Manny Pacquiao. A super-fight with Crawford later this year is begging to be made.
Next fight: Pacquiao greeted him in the ring last month and Porter has lobbied for a unification, but the best move now is to test greatness in a match against Crawford despite promotional adversary.
5. Oleksandr Usyk
Ukraine | Heavyweight (16-0, 12 KOs): Usyk shot up the rankings by participating in the World Boxing Super Series tournament of cruiserweights, winning it by dominating unbeaten, Abel Sanchez-trained Murat Gassiev. He later crushed veteran Tony Bellew and now takes his fighter-of-the-year award to the heavyweight division, where a possible showdown with Joshua could loom.
Next fight: The left-hander will meet a heavyweight that Joshua has already defeated, Carlos Takam (36-5-1), May 25 at MGM National Harbor near Baltimore on DAZN.
6. Gennady Golovkin
Los Angeles/Kazakhstan | Middleweight (38-1-1, 34 KOs): He took his sweet time negotiating with broadcast suitors before rightly aligning with DAZN and its packed stable of middleweights, and he’s biding his time for a trilogy fight that Alvarez indicates he will give him in September should both win their next fight. While Alvarez found the next-best 160-pounder, Golovkin took no such chances.
Next fight: The former long-reigning middleweight champion who lost his belts by the narrowest of margins on scorecards will return to Madison Square Garden for a June 8 tune-up against obscure Canadian Steve Rolls.
7. Naoya Inoue
Japan | Bantamweight (17-0, 15 KOs): The “Monster” has only fought once in the U.S., but his dominance deserves universal acclaim and the 26-year-old three-division champion is seeking to expand his recognition in the World Boxing Super Series tournament after winning his World Boxing Assn. belt in a first-round knockout.
Next fight: Inoue is assigned to meet Puerto Rico’s unbeaten, two-belt bantamweight champion Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-0, 12 KOs) May 18 in a WBSS semifinal at Glasgow, Scotland, as Nonito Donaire looms.
8. Mikey Garcia
Oxnard | Lightweight (39-1, 30 KOs): OK, the four-division champion bit off more than he could chew by pursuing a fifth weight-class strap and taking on Spence, but it landed him in his first pay-per-view main event and proved to his ardent fan base the kind of fortitude he has by never touching the canvas despite being outclassed.
Next fight: Garcia is currently mulling whether to vacate his WBC lightweight belt, which would further delay (and perhaps forever scrap) a showdown with Lomachenko. He might be tempted to remain at 147 and get that fifth belt against someone like Porter or secondary champion Pacquiao.
9. Anthony Joshua
England | Heavyweight (22-0, 21 KOs): Perhaps karma is in play for his move to not fight WBC champion Deontay Wilder when the bout has been an obvious one to pursue. Now, his planned opponent, Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller has submitted a positive test for a banned performance-enhancing substance and Joshua will have to settle for a backup option to wgat was already a secondary selection.
Next fight: The WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight champion will make his anticipated U.S. debut June 1 at Madison Square Garden. Joshua promoter Eddie Hearn expects to finalize the opponent by next week.
10. Srisaket Sor Rungvisai
Thailand | Super-flyweight (47-4-1, 41 KOs): Personal heartbreak took the WBC champion away from the momentum he was building in this country by twice defeating former pound-for-pound No. 1 Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, but he’s returning for a rematch against Mexico’s Juan Francisco Estrada.
Next fight: The rematch with former flyweight champion Estrada will headline an April 25 DAZN card at the Forum.
Others: 11. Jarrett Hurd, light-middleweight; 12. Leo Santa Cruz, featherweight; 13. Deontay Wilder, heavyweight; 14. Tyson Fury, heavyweight; 15. Oscar Valdez, featherweight.