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 pound-for-pound rankings. They’re 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 Johnathon Banks, Gennadiy Golovkin’s trainer. “You don’t get championship with opinions. What is 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 way more heavily than another boxing aficionado.
To some, a fighter’s resume matters most—who have you fought and who have you beat—as opposed to others who might base their rankings on the eye test—when they see greatness they know it. To others, it might be about 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. One exception is Terence Crawford who told us earlier this year he’s the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world. Meanwhile, Vasiliy Lomachenko, another worthy candidate, 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 the future Hall of Famer, widely considered one of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world.
While it’s ridiculous to those putting themselves at risk in the ring that anyone could definitively rank the pound-for-pound best, it’s time for Complex Sports to weigh-in on the mythical list. We’ll look to update these quarterly or after we get an especially big fight that pits two of the top 10 squaring off. But for now, here are our 10 best pound-for-pound boxers in the world.