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Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
Chris Mannix

Pound-for-Pound Boxing Rankings for December

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Minutes after the main event ended on Saturday, with the New York crowd still buzzing and the official result unknown, Teofimo Lopez evinced a crisis of confidence. “Do I still got it?” Lopez asked his father and trainer, Teofimo Sr. A fight against Sandor Martin was supposed to catapult Lopez, the former unified champion at 135 pounds, into a world title shot at 140. Instead, it left many, Lopez included, it seems, wondering about his future.

Lopez squeezed out a split decision at Madison Square Garden. A mix of boos and cheers greeted the verdict from the 8,029 fans who just an hour earlier were decidedly in Lopez’s corner. Martin, who burst onto the U.S. boxing scene last year with an upset win over Mikey Garcia, boxed well, moving, counterpunching, even dropping Lopez with a check hook in the second round. Lopez was more assertive, pressing the action, racking up a 31-punch edge in power punches (76-45), per CompuBox and a 20-punch edge (97-77) overall.

“He didn’t look great,” said Andre Ward, the ESPN broadcaster.

Said Lopez’s promoter, Bob Arum, “It’s tough to fight a guy that won’t fight you.”

Regardless of the outcome, it’s clear Lopez needs work. Arum suggested he was still not comfortable fighting at 140 pounds. “Five pounds sounds like nothing,” said Arum, “but it’s a lot of weight.” Chatter that Lopez should make a change—or at least add a voice—to his corner which began after the loss to George Kambosos last year will only get louder. In a post-fight interview, Tim Bradley suggested Lopez was still battling mental demons. At the ESPN fighter meetings, Bradley said Lopez was “a completely different person” than the one he had come to know over the last four years. “The battle wasn’t with Martin,” Bradley said. “The battle was with himself."

Before the fight, Top Rank was eager to match Lopez up with Josh Taylor, the former undisputed 140-pound champion. Taylor will attempt to score a more definitive win over Jack Catterall in February or March, and if he’s successful, Top Rank had eyed a Taylor-Lopez fight in the UK later in the year. That plan may need to be reconsidered. Lopez is still one of the bigger names at 140 pounds. But he needs more work if he hopes to compete with the top fighters.

On to Sports Illustrated’s latest pound-for-pound rankings.

Crawford scored a knockout victory over Avanesyan Saturday in Omaha, Nebraska.

Rebecca S. Gratz/AP

1. Terence Crawford

Record: 39-0

Last Month: 1

Last Fight: KO win David Avanesyan

Next Fight: TBD

Crawford ended a 13-month layoff Saturday, successfully defending his 147-pound title with a spectacular sixth-round knockout of Avanesyan. It was the 10th straight stoppage win for Crawford and reestablished the three-division champion—at least in these rankings—as boxing’s pound-for-pound king. The question now is if Crawford can rekindle negotiations for a showdown with Errol Spence. Talks between the two sides publicly—very publicly—fell apart in October, but a Crawford-Spence matchup remains among the biggest that can be made in boxing.

2. Oleksandr Usyk

Record: 20-0

Last Month: 2

Last Fight: SD win Anthony Joshua

Next Fight: TBD

Only Canelo Alvarez can claim a better resume than Usyk, whose accomplishments include wins over Marco Huck, Mairis Briedis and Tony Bellew at cruiserweight and now a pair of wins over Anthony Joshua at heavyweight. Usyk has settled nicely into boxing’s glamour division, finding a comfortable weight (around 221 pounds) and fighting style that has made him tough to beat. Usyk will sit out the rest of 2022 before gearing up for the big one: Tyson Fury, the WBC titleholder, who will likely face Usyk in the first half of 2023.

3. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez

Record: 58-2-2

Last Month: 3

Last Fight: UD win Gennadiy Golovkin

Next Fight: TBD

The third fight between Alvarez and Gennadiy Golovkin in September didn’t match the intensity of the first two, but it did establish the first clear winner in one of boxing’s better rivalries and it did put Alvarez, 32, back in the win column after last May’s upset loss to Dmitry Bivol. Alvarez recently underwent surgery on his injured left wrist, putting a return off until next May, at the earliest. While Alvarez has publicly declared an interest in a rematch with Bivol, Eddie Hearn, Alvarez’s promoter, says it’s likely Alvarez faces John Ryder, an interim 168-pound titleholder, possibly in the United Kingdom.

4. Naoya Inoue

Record: 23-0

Last Month: 4

Last Fight: KO win vs. Nonito Donaire

Next Fight: Tuesday vs. Paul Butler

Inoue cemented his status as the top 118-pound fighter in boxing with a sensational second-round knockout of Nonito Donaire in June. In stopping Donaire, Inoue, 29, added a third bantamweight title to his collection. He will get a shot at the fourth—and a chance to be called an undisputed champion—when he takes on Butler Tuesday in Japan.

5. Errol Spence Jr.

Record: 28-0

Last Month: 5

Last Fight: TKO win vs. Yordenis Ugas

Next Fight: TBD

Spence, 32, continued his assault on the top names in the welterweight division last April, stopping Yordenis Ugas to pick up a third piece of the 147-pound title. Despite a series of career-threatening injuries—a car crash in 2019, an eye injury that forced him out of a scheduled fight with Manny Pacquiao in 2021—Spence continues to roll through the best fighters in his weight class. With Crawford off the table, Spence is reportedly targeting a grudge match with Keith Thurman, the ex-welterweight champion who is among the few top 147-pounders Spence has yet to face.

6. Tyson Fury

Record: 32-0-1

Last Month: 6

Last Fight: KO win Derek Chisora

Next Fight: TBD

Fury pummeled Chisora in their Dec. 3 bout, setting up must-see bout against Oleksandr Usyk.

Ian Walton/AP

A December matchup against British rival Chisora went as expected, with Fury battering Chisora for the better part of 10 rounds before the referee mercifully stopped the fight. Fury is unquestionably the class of the heavyweight division, with a deep resume that includes a win over Wladimir Klitschko and two wins over Deontay Wilder. Next up, a legacy fight against Oleksandr Usyk, which will crown the first undisputed champion in the division since Lennox Lewis.

7. Dmitry Bivol

Record: 20-0

Last Month: 9

Last Fight: UD win Gilberto Ramirez

Next Fight: TBD

Bivol, 31, locked up the 2022 Fighter of the Year with an impressive performance against the undefeated Ramirez. After outmuscling the smaller Canelo Alvarez last May, Bivol did the same to Ramirez, a physically bigger fighter, backing Ramirez up with the jab and battering him with combinations. Bivol will have several lucrative options in 2023, including a rematch with Alvarez and a light heavyweight title unification fight with Artur Beterbiev, both of which could be on the table in the second half of the year. Before then, Bivol’s co-promoter, Eddie Hearn, has suggested a UK fight against Callum Smith or Joshua Buatsi could take place in the spring.

8. Shakur Stevenson

Record: 18-0

Last Month: 7

Last Fight: UD win Robson Conceicao

Next Fight: TBD

Stevenson, 25, looked brilliant in a lopsided decision win over the once-beaten Conceicao, walking the ex-Olympic gold medalist down while continuing to be among boxing’s most difficult fighters to hit. Stevenson now heads to 135-pounds where star-making matchups with Devin Haney, Vasyl Lomachenko and Gervonta Davis await.

9. Jermell Charlo

Record: 35-1-1

Last month: 8

Last Fight: KO win Brian Castano

Next Fight: Jan. 28 vs. Tim Tszyu

Charlo earned a place on this list after picking up a spectacular knockout win over Brian Castano in May, avenging last year’s controversial draw and fully unifying the 154-pound division. Charlo’s resume at junior middleweight is impressive: He has wins over Erickson Lubin, Austin Trout, Tony Harrison and Jeison Rosario, with his only loss a questionable decision defeat to Harrison. Charlo has consistently taken on the best in the division, which will continue in his next fight, a title defense against Tim Tszyu, the heavy-handed Australian who is the mandatory challenger for one of Charlo’s belts.

10. Devin Haney

Record: 29-0

Last Month: 10

Last Fight: UD win George Kambosos

Haney, 23, joined the rankings last month after a second straight decisive win over former titleholder George Kambosos. Traveling to Australia (again), Haney, operating behind a smooth jab and stinging right hands, dominated Kambosos. The win caps a solid two-year run for Haney that includes wins over Jorge Linares, Joseph Diaz Jr. and Kambosos. Haney should get a chance to burnish his credentials next year: Top Rank intends to match Haney with Vasyl Lomachenko in a monster showdown in the lightweight division. 

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