Pound-For-Pound Criteria & Debate

It triggers the most outrageous and opinionated debates, but almost everyone has an opinion on them.

Even though the discussions about who are the best pound-for-pound fighters are ridiculous, based on mythical rankings and ones that can never but also not really false, they provoke feelings around the globe an irrational rage that causes those invested them to bristle and seethe.

At present, three men seem to vie for top spot, Oleksandr Usyk, Nayoa Inoue and Terence Crawford. 

Usyk cleaned up at cruiserweight and has four wins at heavyweight, including one over contender Derek Chisora and two over Anthony Joshua. He’s apparently wanted the Tyson Fury fight, and accepted for as little as 30 per cent, but that fight remains, like pound for pound rankings, a pipedream.

Inoue faces Philadelphia star Stephen Fulton later this month in one of the best bouts that can be made. Inoue is a knockout artist, and has stopped 21 of his 24 victims. He’s also given us a Fight of the Year, in his first bout with Nonito Donaire, but he soundly defeated the Filipino in the rematch, having won titles at light-flyweight, super-flyweight, bantamweight and now he meets Fulton up at super-bantamweight on July 25 for two belts.

Crawford is in the biggest fight of the year a few days later when, on July 29, he takes on Errol Spence in the hottest 147lbs fight in years in Las Vegas. Crawford won silverware at lightweight before unifying at 140lbs and now he bids to become a unified champion in a second weight class.

Crawford is 39-0 with 30 stoppages. Usyk is 20-0 (13), Inoue is 24-0 (21). Does Usyk get more points for winning so many fights on the road? Does Crawford get more for being at the top for longer? Is Inoue’s explosiveness and excitement enough to set him apart? Does it hurt Usyk that he’s only done it in two weight classes? Or that he’s had fewer bouts? Does the lack of star-power on Crawford’s resume count against him?

It's hard enough to rank the three and that is even before you get to the remaining seven spots in a top 10 list.

Some still contend heavyweights should be nowhere near the pound-for-pound lists given the literal sense of the rankings and that, because they are so physically big, they can’t compare to the skills of smaller fighters.

But there are many debates to be had. Canelo has fought some 20 world champions. His best weight is either 160 or 168 now, but he lost clearly to Dmitrii Bivol at 175. Does this mean Bivol should be rated above Canelo? Bivol also has wins over Jean Pascal, Joe Smith and Gilberto Ramirez, but they are not enough to get him ranked pound-for-pound, but does his win over a naturally smaller man fighting out of his own weight class – even though Canelo had already won at 175 and is the biggest name in the sport – mean he goes in above Canelo? Many think that is how it should be.

But Canelo’s incredible resume also counts. It is not just a case of what have you done for me lately, but it is also important not to just ‘grandfather’ fighters in based on fights that happened several years ago if they have not been fighting at top level since. 

And in terms of pound-for-pound should Bivol, by the way, go above Beterbiev, who arguably has a better resume at light-heavyweight?

Until recently, Devin Haney was not on many lists despite unifying the lightweight titles. That is because the belts are not an ultimate goal, beating the best to prove you’re the best is. But when he defeated Vasyl Lomachenko, many felt Loma won. In black and white, Haney got the W and so moved above Loma on many P4P lists. 

Loma is an interesting case. His best weight would probably be featherweight or junior-lightweight, but he fights at 135 because that’s where the money and the bigger names are. That degree of difficulty should perhaps afford him some kind of break in the P4P debate, and there are many who say that without a bad shoulder he would have beaten Teofimo Lopez and he deserved to beat Haney. If he’d won those, it would give the rankings at 135 and P4P a completely different look. And does Teofimo beating Taylor in his only fight at 140 basically means he ‘inherits’ his wins over the likes of Regis Prograis and Jose Ramirez?

And how do you settle at just 10 today? You have Usyk, Crawford, Inoue, Loma, Haney, Bivol and Canelo. So where does Tank go? How about Spence? Would you rank Tyson Fury? What about Shakur Stevenson? Roman Gonzalez? Beterbiev entered many P4P listings with his impressive win over Oleksandr Gvozdyk? Gennady Golovkin is still going and has only lost to Canelo? What about Juan Francisco Estrada? The smaller guys shouldn’t be penalised for being smaller. That’s about 15 guys to shoehorn into 10.

It's an unenviable task and wholly pointless but it’s also a lot of fun. It raises the ire of many, is debated over water coolers, in bars and barbershops around the world and, yet, not one person has the correct answer about who is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world… apart from you.