Thu. Sep 21st, 2023

The crazy thing about boxing is that a seemingly perfect in-ring performance is always one punch away from falling apart and being erased. 

Unified heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk (21-0, 14 KOs) knows that experience all too well after nearly seeing his mandatory title defense against Daniel Dubois last weekend in Poland end in disaster when a fifth-round body shot delivered to the belt line floored and badly hurt Usyk before quickly being ruled a low blow by referee Luis Pabon. 

Usyk, 36, who was writhing in pain and looked unable to continue following the punch, which created endless debate online as to whether it should’ve been legal, was able to quickly rebound after his lengthy recovery period to begin breaking Dubois (19-2, 18 KOs) down en route to an impressive ninth-round TKO defeat. 

The 25-year-old Dubois appeared physically able to beat the count following a stiff jab that dropped him for the second time but he chose to stand up after Pabon had counted him out. Although the body shot from the heavy-handed Dubois created quite a stir (and a scare for Usyk), the gap in terms of both skill and heart between them was too much for the native of London to overcome.

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In many ways, Usyk’s outcome against the larger Dubois was a microcosm of his heavyweight experience. Typically far more skilled than his opponents as a former Olympic gold medalist, the 6-foot-3 Usyk still operates within punching range against his more dangerous opponents yet is willing to deal with the physical toll of doing so in order to surgically dismantle them. 

Because of his style and his smaller frame as a former undisputed cruiserweight champion, Usyk can be vulnerable at times against his more physical opponents, which is why the old adage of “styles make fights” became true when Usyk was forced to dig deep in a 2020 win over Derek Chisora that ultimately welcomed Usyk to the division. 

Usyk remains a unicorn for the division thanks to his quick feet, extremely high IQ and willingness to dare for greatness by taking chances in big fights. And the only fighter with the combination of size and skill to match him is likely WBC titleholder and defending lineal king Tyson Fury, who chose instead to fight former UFC champion Francis Ngannou in an October spectacle despite the fact that Fury-Usyk remains the most important fight the sport could make. 

Until Fury is ready or the WBC forces him to vacate his belt for avoiding Usyk, all the Ukrainian champion can do is stay busy, fulfill his mandatory obligations and continue showcase his skills as one of the most technically brilliant heavyweights the division has ever seen. 

Using a criteria that takes into account everything from accomplishments to current form, let’s take a closer look at the top fighters inside the ring. Below is the latest Pound for Pound rankings update after Usyk’s win in August.

Pound-for-Pound Rankings

1. Terence Crawford

Undisputed welterweight champion (39-0, 29 KOs) | Previous ranking: No. 1

If you ever wondered how great Crawford really was, his dismantling of unbeaten Errol Spence Jr. in their long-awaited undisputed title bout provided the answers we so desperately coveted. Crawford wasn’t just better than Spence, he proved he would be a handful for any welterweight in history.

2. Naoya Inoue

Unified junior featherweight champion (22-0, 20 KOs) | Previous ranking: No. 2

How is it possible that the Japanese “Monster” could capture a title in a fourth weight division while dominating the unified champion Stephen Fulton Jr. and somehow lose his spot in the rankings? The answer is Terence Crawford. That doesn’t mean Inoue hasn’t succeeded in showing us he’s a future all-time great in the making. 

3. Oleksandr Usyk

Unified heavyweight champion (19-0, 13 KOs | Previous ranking: No. 3

Usyk’s professional run has been as decorated as it has been perfect. The former undisputed cruiserweight champ scored a pair of resounding victories over Anthony Joshua to unify a trio of heavyweight titles. With Tyson Fury avoiding him, Usyk stopped mandatory opponent Daniel Dubois in August.

4. Dmitry Bivol

WBA light heavyweight champion (21-0, 11 KOs) | Previous ranking: No. 4

Criticized at times for playing it safe in the past, Bivol was anything but in 2022 as he overpowered Canelo Alvarez before convincingly shutting down unbeaten Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez. While the sport waits for an undisputed title bout against unified champion Artur Beterbiev, Bivol appears headed toward an Anthony Yarde meeting this fall. 

5. Devin Haney

Undisputed lightweight champion (30-0, 15 KOs) | Previous ranking: No. 5

Although debate still lingers regarding the scoring, Haney raised his all-around game to a higher level in edging former P4P king Vasiliy Lomachenko in May. Haney’s resume is coming together nicely at 24 and he will head north to 140 pounds in October to challenge WBC titleholder Regis Prograis. 

6. Canelo Alvarez

Undisputed super middleweight champion (59-2-2, 38 KOs) | Previous ranking: No. 6

The former P4P king is still the undisputed champion of one of the sport’s hottest divisions and among the best boxers in the game. But it’s clear at 32 that Alvarez is slowing down just a bit, some 18 years into his pro career. The Mexican superstar returns on Sept. 30 to defend his titles against undisputed 154-pound king Jermell Charlo. 

7. Errol Spence Jr. 

Welterweight (28-1, 22 KOs) | Previous ranking: No. 7

The former unified welterweight king endured tremendous punishment in a disastrous undisputed title loss to long-time rival Terence Crawford. A full-time move up to 154 pounds is expected for the 33-year-old Spence, who can still activate an immediate rematch clause. 

8. Tyson Fury

WBC heavyweight champion (33-0-1, 25 KOs) | Previous ranking: No. 8

Despite an undisputed championship fight on the table to open 2023 against Oleksandr Usyk, the 34-year-old “Gypsy King” continues to make questionable matchmaking decisions. Fury dominated Dereck Chisora in their largely unnecessary trilogy bout in December and will next welcome former UFC champion Francis Ngannou to his own boxing debut in October. 

9. Gervonta Davis

Secondary lightweight titleholder (29-0, 27 KOs) | Previous ranking: 9

It’s about time “Tank” is finally getting his due as one of the most dangerous and well-rounded boxers on the planet. The efficient sniper finished unbeaten Ryan Garcia with a body shot in Round 7 of their April superfight and continues to make a case for being the next breakout star in the sport.

10. Shakur Stevenson

Lightweight (20-0, 10 KOs) | Previous ranking: No. 10

Fresh off of blanking Robson Conceicao last fall, Stevenson moved up to lightweight and finished unbeaten Shuichiro Yoshino in April. Even though a fight with undisputed king Devin Haney continues to elude him, Stevenson remains a legit threat to one day summit the top of the P4P rankings.

Dropped out: None
Honorable mention: Vasiliy Lomachenko, Artur Beterbiev, Jermell Charlo, Teofimo Lopez Jr., Juan Francisco Estrada

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