Turki Alalshikh, Paulie Malignaggi Rank Terence Crawford Above Naoya Inoue

Talk to enough boxing lifers and they’ll say one of the most revealing elements of a champion’s mettle is how they perform once they’re knocked to the canvas.

Funny, how at the same Tokyo Dome where Mike Tyson thumbed for his mouthpiece and succumbed to James “Buster” Douglas a generation ago, Naoya Inoue absorbed a hard first-round left hand to the head from former champion Luis Nery and went crashing down, too.

Yet, Japan’s Inoue (27-0, 24 KOs) used the event as “motivation,” he said afterward.

By rising, the native son proceeded to deck Nery (35-2, 27 KOs) in the second round and then steadily batter the Mexican before finishing him with a cannon right hand that ended the bout in the sixth round – furthering his story and reputation.

“Flat out, he’s my favorite fighter,” ProBox TV analyst and former 140-pound champion Chris Algieri said of Inoue on Monday’s episode of “Deep Waters.”

Algieri marveled that there were 55,000 fans inside the Tokyo Dome “for a 122-pounder … that is out of this world. I’m going to argue he doesn’t need to (ever) come to the states. He’s got 55,000 in Tokyo, plus the rest of the world up in the morning to watch him. The star power of this guy is something else.”

And while Inoue holds the No. 1 position on many pundits’ pound-for-pound rankings, ProBox TV’s Paulie Malignaggi and the sport’s newest major power broker, Saudi Arabia’s Turki Alalshikh, take exception with that placement.

“He’s maybe the most exciting fighter in the world, but I don’t remember Terence Crawford getting dropped at any point,” said Malignaggi, crediting three-division champion Crawford (40-0, 31 KOs) for avoiding the knockdown that time in 2019 when Egidijus Kavaliauskas rocked him at Madison Square Garden. “That still matters.”

While both men have stood as multiple undisputed champions, Inoue is a four-division champion who again showed he’s insistent to knock out his opponent.

“He went out there and got dropped for the first time – Nery looked big, dangerous and focused. Early on, Nery looked scary.

“(However,) Inoue has said this before: Japanese fighters have this Japanese warrior spirit. They are not afraid to get hit like American fighters. They’re cautious first.

“Naoya Inoue has an incredible jab, he’s a great judge of distance, he’s very explosive.”

On X Monday, Alalshikh wrote, “Inoue is a great boxer, but Crawford is the pound-for-pound number one. I don’t know how the ranking works or if there’s a clear criteria, but it seems there are some personal opinions and inaccuracies involved. I believe that boxing needs one entity to evaluate with transparency and credibility. Soon, I will support a project for that matter …!”

Crawford is headlining the Alalshikh-funded Aug. 3 card in Los Angeles as he seeks a fourth division title against WBA junior middleweight champion Israil Madrimov, and Alalshikh told in a Monday story that he’d like to explore a Crawford-Canelo Alvarez fight later this year.

“Inoue … is right on the heels of Terence Crawford on the pound-for-pound list,” former welterweight champion Malignaggi said on “Deep Waters.” “Terence Crawford is getting older (36) and we’ll still see how he does against Madrimov, but I can’t see him shifting Crawford off that perch.

“But Inoue is in that position where you can see him getting into that top spot soon.”

Yet, Malignaggi said he could envision a scenario where Inoue is at No. 3 after May 18, when three-belt heavyweight champion and former cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk fights WBC champion Tyson Fury for the undisputed heavyweight crown on Alalshikh’s card in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

“If Usyk beats Fury, he’s No. 1 pound-for-pound, and you can’t even deny that at that point,” Malignaggi said.

In mythical rankings that include Inoue and Crawford, you better believe they’ll be a full list of deniers.