Welcome to our first pound-for-pound list of 2016. If it seems overdue, it’s because the first couple months offered little prospect for movement. The two most recent? That’s been more productive for the best fighters in the world regardless of weight.
Manny Pacquiao’s departure shakes thing up a little, and Takashi Uchiyama’s loss leaves another vacancy. There are two new entrants, then, including the man above, Kell Brook.
As always, this is partially an exercise in catching up with what some of the top boxers are up to these days. And the standard remains the same: quality wins, especially of recent vintage, along with a secondary consideration for the “eyeball test.” The most recent list, for comparison’s sake, is here.
1. Roman Gonzalez, flyweight
“Chocolatito” finally caught some static his last fight out, encountering a surprising McWilliams Arroyo last weekend, but left the ring with the landslide decision. That said, we’re getting extremely impatient over here for a Juan Francisco Estrada rematch, or Naoya Inoue.
2. Sergey Kovalev, light heavyweight
It’s not that Kovalev’s rematch victory over Jean Pascal to start 2016 was particularly impressive, so much as it was the cherry on a pretty impressive sundae of a run. That, combined with Pacquiao’s exit and Timothy Bradley’s loss, led to an ascent that feels pretty natural. Isaac Chilemba in July, followed by Andre Ward…?
3. Andre Ward, light heavyweight
As with Kovalev, his prospective November foe, Ward’s 2016 win wasn’t great or anything. He didn’t even look so hot against Sullivan Barrera; he may or may not have the size to compete at 175 the way he did at 168, and might be showing signs of his age. Candidly, he’s here based on stuff he did earlier in his career, and ye olde eyeball test.
4. Gennady Golovkin, middleweight
One more in the pattern: Golovkin didn’t beat anyone terribly impressive last weekend, because Dominic Wade was an atrocious underdog. But wow does he pass the eyeball test. Whereas the winner of Kovalev-Ward could compete for the P4P crown, Golovkin needs Canelo Alvarez to make any movement, really.
5. Timothy Bradley, welterweight
As losses go, you could do worse than Bradley’s defeat in his rubber match with Pacquiao. He looked pretty good, even, for most of the bout, before getting discouraged. It looks like he’ll continue his career, and could be back in just a couple months, even.
6. Juan Francisco Estrada, flyweight
Estrada has been out of the ring since September, and he doesn’t really have anything in the works. HBO might finally be on board with a Gonzalez rematch, so that’s good. And he’s eyeing Luis Concepcion next if he can’t get that, which is fine as far as it goes.
7. Guillermo Rigondeaux, junior featherweight
Hey, somebody actually wants to fight Rigondeaux! Nonito Donaire, whose scalp Rigo took to get into the top 10 here then do almost nothing, wants a rematch with his conqueror. We’ll see when or if it happens. Carl Frampton passed, but Scott Quigg said he’d be game, too, besides Donaire.
8. Canelo Alvarez, middleweight
Amir Khan. Yawn. The middleweight champ is facing a blown up lightweight in what feels kind of like an in-between bout this weekend. Soon, he must fight the best middleweight out there, GGG, or he’s going to be a paper champ; a lot of people see him that way already. Still, beating Khan could bump him over an even lesser Rigo.
9. Terence Crawford, junior welterweight
After another “meh” in-between fight in February against Hank Lundy, Crawford is stepping up the competition big time against Viktor Postol in July. It’s one of the best fights that can be made in boxing, and should crown a new junior welterweight king.
10. Naoya Inoue, flyweight
After a blistering 2014 campaign, Inoue took just one fight in 2015 and is about to have his first fight of 2016 next week, against David Carmona, for some reason. Oh, because a belt organization ordered it. Inoue is young so he’s not pissing away too much potential, but it’s time to get going.
11. Tyson Fury, heavyweight
The heavyweight king’s rematch with Wladimir Klitschko is finally booked for July, and he’s talking retirement after. Assuming he wins, he’s primed for the top 10, but how long he stays there is subject to his mood swings.
12. Danny Garcia, welterweight
It sounds like Garcia is trying to preserve his record for a potential showdown against Floyd Mayweather, whose un-retirement chatter is getting louder. Otherwise, why call out Andre Berto?
13. Shinsuke Yamanaka, bantamweight
He beat Liborio Solis in March and stars have aligned for a rematch with Anselmo Moreno, who at least arguably beat him the first time. This is good news for us, and for Moreno, and for Yamanaka’s vindication.
14. Adonis Stevenson, light heavyweight
The light heavyweight king — who hasn’t behaved at all like one — is being targeted by Thomas Williams, Jr. and James DeGale. Both fall short of what the otherwise exciting Stevenson should be doing at 175.
15. Nicholas Walters, junior lightweight
Walters had been chasing Vasyl Lomachenko, but turned down a career-high payday to face him for reasons that make no sense. This guy can go fuck himself.
16. Kell Brook, welterweight
Brook spun his wheels yet again in March against Kevin Bizier, and he’s been wasting time since his big 2014 win over Shawn Porter. A Jessie Vargas bout in discussions is much more worthwhile.
17. Amnat Ruenroeng, flyweight
But Brook just jumped into the top 20 over a bunch of other guys because the others are doing even less. Like this man, who at least is faciing a solid foe in John Riehl Casimero this month.
18. Wladimir Klitschko, heavyweight
It feels like it’s taken forever for the Fury rematch to come together, and it’s not like much of anybody is salivating to watch that again. Insult to injury.
19. Vasyl Lomachenko, featherweight
Hey, he tried. Lomachenko hasn’t done much in the ring of note lately but the Walters fight was bold, and would’ve been awesome to watch. Roman Martinez next at 130 is a totally viable substitute.
20. Carl Frampton, junior featherweight
He beat rival Quigg, however shakily, and enters the top 20 based on that. Now he’s facing Leo Santa Cruz in July in a mighty fine match-up. It feels like the year is finally starting to heat up.
Honorable mentions: Floyd Mayweather; Manny Pacquiao; Bernard Hopkins; Juan Manuel Marquez; Miguel Cotto; Erislandy Lara; Anselmo Moreno; Keith Thurman; Leo Santa Cruz
(SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND – MARCH 26: Kell Brook prepares to enter the arena prior to meeting Kevin Bizier at Sheffield Arena; Photo: Alex Livesey/Getty Images)