Who is the best fighter in the world today?

Matt Christie the top 10 active male fighters, according to Transnational Boxing Rankings Board

10. JERMELL CHARLO

JERMELL comes in at at 10th at the expense of Gennadiy Golovkin. Charlo was supreme while proving his supremacy over Brian Castano and, in turn, the super-welterweight division. And it’s that rare achievement of clearing out a weight class that should be encouraged, and rewarded.

Charlo has often hinted at being a special fighter and he looks set to have secured a money-spinning trip to the middleweight division and beyond after this. Should he decide to stay at 154, there are up-and-comers like Sebastian Fundora and Tim Tszyu, but it’s fair to say he’s beaten all established rivals.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT?
Charlo’s stock is rising without question. Though he’s drawn to middleweight and beyond, one wonders if he could tempt some welterweight stars up to his own first division. Suddenly options aplenty for Charlo.

Stephanie Trapp

9. DMITRY BIVOL

Some may feel that Bivol only being ninth is tough on someone who is fresh off a convincing triumph over the long-time leader. But pound-for-pound rankings don’t work like that. Strip the Álvarez victory down to its bare bones and the Russian, a belt-holder at light-heavyweight, beat the super-middleweight king who was far from established in the 175lbs class. Canelo – not a natural light-heavy – is the one and only truly élite-level fighter Bivol has faced. That he won so handsomely is why he’s here but there’s work to be done, like proving he’s the best at 175, before we get too carried away.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT?
Absolutely. Beating Canelo again might see him edge up a place or two but victory over Artur Beterbiev to gain inarguable supremacy of his division would see him rise substantially higher.

Dmitry Bivol
Elsa/Getty Images

8. ROMÁN GONZÁLEZ

They’d have been calling for the straightjacket if you’d have suggested that “Chocolatito”, after being knocked out in four rounds by Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in 2017, would be among the leaders in five years’ time. But González has put together a fine run of form that merits his place in the Top 10. Wins over Khalid Yafai, Israel González and Julio Cesar Martinez were all top drawer yet it was his showing against Juan Francisco Estrada last year, when he was unfortunate to lose a split decision, that highlighted what a truly exceptional fighter he remains. One of the absolute best of his own time, González’ place in history is secure.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT?
If he were to beat Estrada in a rubber match and claim the divisional world championship, he would find himself challenging for a place in the top five. If that bout doesn’t happen, González is not short of quality opponents in the fly/super-flyweight divisions.

Roman Gonzalez vs Juan Francisco Estrada
Ed Mulholland/Matchroom

7. JUAN FRANCISCO ESTRADA

The Mexican had hoped to fight Roman González again, but it looks like he’ll have to settle for a clash with No. 5-ranked Joshua Franco as the WBA attempts to solve a mess of their own making (recognising more than one champion per division). Estrada has seen his reputation soar in recent years as he avenged losses to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and “Chocolatito” in technically brilliant crowd-pleasing affairs. Throw in his thrilling win over Carlos Cuadras (another sequel) and Estrada has beaten pretty much everyone there is to beat from a wonderful super-flyweight era.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT?
A win over Franco may not be enough to edge him higher on its own, but winning a rubber match with González would certainly help his standing. If he can turn back the challenge of other leading contenders, like Kazuto Ioka and Fernando Martínez, Estrada’s dominance of the weight class would further build his case for promotion.

Roman Gonzalez vs Juan Francisco Estrada
Melina Pizano/Matchroom

6. TYSON FURY

Fury’s recent form is hard to fault. Two wins over Deontay Wilder and a thrashing of leading contender Dillian Whyte make him the consensus choice for the best heavyweight on the planet. Tyson is a lot of fun to converse with, even better to watch fight, and he has talent to burn. If you go with that whole ‘linear’ championship thing that gets announced like it actually exists, he’s been the king for seven years (and notched defenses over people like Sefer Seferi and Tom Schwarz). More impressive, however, is the absolute truth that he rebounded so magnificently after two-and-a-half years out of the ring.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT?
The sky’s the limit for Fury, which is why everyone is waiting for him to go back on his promise of retirement. A convincing victory over the winner of Oleksandr Usyk-Anthony Joshua II – the only two fighters who can dispute Tyson’s place atop the heavyweights – could make a case for him to be numero uno in the entire sport difficult to ignore.

Tyson Fury
Julian Finney/Getty Images

5. CANELO ÁLVAREZ

The former world middleweight champion and current super-middleweight king saw his all-conquering march suddenly stall when he lost to Dmitry Bivol. That points defeat doesn’t wipe all of his previous good work from his record, however. Álvarez remains one of the sport’s best fighters and is still likely its biggest attraction. His form, from 2018 to 2021, remains exceptional as he took away the 0 from the records of Golovkin, Callum Smith, Billy Joe Saunders and Caleb Plant while also beating Daniel Jacobs and knocking out Sergey Kovalev to claim defending his 160lbs title, claim dominance at 168 and even pick up a strap at 175.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT?
Absolutely. Beating Bivol in a return (a big ask but not impossible) would see his reputation soar to new heights. Even if he opts to stay in and around the middleweight and super-middleweight divisions, there are plenty of options to enhance his standing.

Canelo Alvarez fighter of the year
Al Bello/Getty Images

4. ERROL SPENCE JNR

Unbeaten and inside the top five, there is still a feeling that Spence could and should have done more since he topped Kell Brook so impressively in May 2017. The southpaw is 32 years old and only has so much time left to fulfil what back then appeared to be gargantuan, history-making potential. But he’s a terrific fighter who has since walloped the brilliant Mikey Garcia, edged Shawn Porter, outpointed Danny Garcia and outclassed Yordenis Ugás. But his failure to share a ring with Terence Crawford currently hurts his standing more than “Bud’s”.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT?
No prizes for guessing the answer to this one. If he beats Crawford, Spence’s reputation goes into orbit. There might then be clamor for him to go to another weight class but sticking around and repelling the challenges of up-and-comers like Vergil Ortiz, Jaron Ennis and Conor Benn – in other words, doing what world champions should do – might do more for his legacy than chasing belts for the sake of it.

Errol Spence
Amanda Westcott/Showtime

3. TERENCE CRAWFORD

What a fighter this man is. It’s a crime that he remains a stranger to the wider sporting public. For boxing skills alone, Crawford should probably be at the top of the pack. However, despite a string of impressive wins, he’s not fought enough top-level opposition in recent years to be any higher than three. No offence to fighters like Amir Khan and Kell Brook – well past their best when becoming two of Crawford’s last four rivals – but these are guys that Floyd Mayweather didn’t deem worthy of his time many years ago. That kind of says it all.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT?
Crawford needs to beat Spence for him to have any chance of being the pound-for-pound number one. Instead, their failure to fight each other remains Exhibit A in the case against multiple championships, rival promoters and networks all pulling in different directions. If the sport had a structure, rather than making it up as it goes along, this would all have been resolved years ago.

Terence Crawford
Al Bello/Getty Images

2. NAOYA INOUE

If the “Monster” had not simply been treading water since his titanic victory over Nonito Donaire in November 2019, he might well be heading this list today. But worldwide pandemics can have that effect. His body of work is excellent, regardless. He’s picked up belts at light-flyweight, super-flyweight and bantamweight, demolishing all-comers with frightful authority. There is an argument to be made that he left the super-flyweight class too soon – just as it was heating up – instead to compete in the 118lbs WBSS. The Donaire slugfest made that decision the right one and victory in the rematch will see him crowned the world champion.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT?
Yes. Though a win over Donaire will certainly help, one senses that he will either need to drop down a division or move up (to super-bantamweight and even beyond) to find the challenges required to bring out the absolute be(a)st of him .

Naoya Inoue
Mikey Williams/Top Rank

1. OLEKSANDR USYK

It’s hard to recall a division being cleaned out more completely than the cruiserweight class Usyk left behind in 2018. When he signaled he was going up to heavyweight there was not a single 200-pounder remaining who was worthy of a shot at the Ukrainian. That is the difference between a champion and a belt-holder, folks. At heavyweight, Usyk looked a bit rickety against Chazz Witherspoon and Derek Chisora ​​before he turned in the performance of 2021 to befuddle Anthony Joshua in front of 60,000+ fans. That was the eighth consecutive time he had won in his opponent’s backyard. Throw in his astonishing grasp of the art of boxing, that effortless charisma and his desire to test himself against the very best and Usyk is well and truly top of the bops.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT?
Odd that the second best heavyweight in the world is the best fighter in the sport, huh. That’s pound-for-pound for ya… Should he beat Tyson Fury, and don’t bet against it, then he becomes only the second fighter after Evander Holyfield to truly rule at both heavy and cruiser.

Oleksandr Usyk
Dave Thompson

ON THE FRINGES…
Just a few who can count themselves unlucky not to make it

GENNADIY GOLOVKIN was actually on these pages until Jermell Charlo won at the weekend. The Kazak veteran proved against Ryota Murata that he remains a top drawer fighter… JOSH TAYLOR saw his reputation hurt by his contentious victory over Jack Catterall but, at least in BN’s eyes, he can still make a case for the Top 10 given the exceptional form that came before… SHAKUR STEVENSON is another who is arguably worthy of a place after one-sided and highly impressive wins over Jamel Herring and Oscar Valdez comfirmed his status as world champion at super-featherweight. We expect him to figure highly in the not too distant future… ARTUR BETERBIEV is close. Though world champ at 175lbs, he suddenly needs to prove he’s the best in the weight class by beating Dmitry Bivol…KAZUTO IOKA looks like a special and improving talent, one who is one of several elite fighters at super-fly. As yet, though, he’s lacking that defining victory… GEORGE KAMBOSOS JNR is rarely mentioned as a pound-for-pound contender but he should be lightweight after his 2021 championship-winning victory over the high flying Teofimo Lopez… VASILIY LOMACHENKO cannot be forgotten, either.

WOMEN’S LEADERS
Naming the very best from the burgeoning female code

  1. KATIE TAYLOR is a no-brainer for the top spot after her recent victory over Amanda Serrano. She has wowed at every stage of her career.
  2. CLARESSA SHIELDS’ place at No.2 is not a knock on her substantial achievements, more a nod to the shallow talent pool in some of the divisions she’s presided over. Victory over Savannah Marshall could change that.
  3. AMANDA SERRANO came mighty close to beating Taylor, and claiming the top spot. Don’t bet against her doing so in a rematch.
  4. JESSICA McCASKILL continues to inspire. She rebounded brilliantly from a 2017 loss to Taylor to become the first to beat Cecilia Braekhus.
  5. MIKAELA MAYER turned in one of the showings of 2021 to beat Maiva Hamadouche in a slugfest.
  6. SAVANNAH MARSHALL lacks a ‘big’ win but the talent, and punch-power, is obvious.
  7. DELFINE PERSOON proved in her two thrillers against Taylor how very hard to beat she is.
  8. CHANTELLE CAMERON is a joy to watch who, one senses, is only going to get better.
  9. SENIESA ESTRADA’S standing is hurt by the lack of big names in the lower weight divisions.
  10. CHRISTINA HAMMER is working her way back following a disappointing 2019 loss to Shields.

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