A few thoughts after a busy boxing weekend:
- Jake Paul picked up the most legitimate win of his boxing career, decisioning ex-MMA star Anderson Silva, a fight where Paul knocked Silva down in the eighth round. Paul will probably never beat a legitimately ranked boxer, but he doesn’t have to. Paul will enter 2023 with plenty of lucrative options, including Nate Diaz, Tommy Fury and fellow YouTuber-turned-boxer KSI. If Paul fights all three, he will make more money than any boxers will next year.
- Vasyl Lomachenko didn’t look great Saturday in a win over Jamaine Ortiz. Lomachenko, fighting for the first time in 10 months, struggled with the athletic and jab-happy Ortiz early, needing a late surge to outpoint Ortiz at the end. With Lomachenko, 34, headed toward a showdown with Devin Haney next year, it’s fair to wonder if age is starting to catch up with the former pound-for-pound king.
- William Zepeda is a budding star. Zepeda, the undefeated lightweight, picked up his most impressive win last weekend, scoring a lopsided decision over Joseph Diaz Jr. Against Diaz, Zepeda set CompuBox records at lightweight for punches thrown (1,536), jabs attempted (787) and jabs attempted in a round (89, in the second). He averaged 128 punches per round and outlanded Diaz 398-176. Zepeda is an offensive machine and will be a problem for anyone in the 135-pound division.
- Diaz needs to find his way back to 130 pounds. At 29, Diaz can bounce back, but after back-to-back losses to Haney and Zepeda, it’s clear that Diaz doesn’t have the size or power to compete at lightweight. At 130, where Diaz won a title in 2020, he can still be a factor—if he is disciplined enough to get back down there.
- It won’t get much attention, but Max Ornelas, an undefeated super bantamweight prospect, got absolutely hosed by the judges in his fight against Hector Valdez. In the opening bout of the telecast of the Diaz-Zepeda show, Ornelas was sharp, controlling the ring with his movement, landing crisp combinations against Valdez, who appeared frustrated for most of the fight. One judge, George Cruz, scored the fight 97-93 for Ornelas, a reasonable reflection of how the fight went. Two others, Raul Caiz Sr. and Alejandro Rochin, scored it 97-93 for Valdez, scorecards that were, in a word, inexplicable.
- It’s disgraceful. Ornelas, 24, trained for this fight for months. When the opportunity to fight Valdez came up, Ornelas pushed for it. Hard. He told his team he wanted to show Golden Boy that he was the real prospect. He wanted to be signed by Golden Boy, to get a major promoter behind him as he made his way in the 122-pound division. He did everything right. And two judges robbed him of his moment, showing levels of ineptitude far too common in boxing. Here’s hoping Golden Boy gives him a rematch with Valdez, or at least brings him back in another fight. He earned it.
On to Sports Illustrated’s latest men’s pound-for-pound rankings.
1. Terence Crawford
Last month's ranking: 1
Last fight: TKO win vs. Shawn Porter
Next fight: vs. David Avanesyan on Dec. 10
A Crawford-Errol Spence fight is dead. Again. Crawford, 35 ended the latest round of negotiations by agreeing to a deal to face Avanesyan, a fringe 147-pound contender. It’s part of a one-fight deal Crawford signed with BLK Prime, a pay-per-view subscription service that is reportedly paying Crawford at least $10 million for the fight. While it’s hard to fault Crawford for accepting such a lucrative payday, it’s possible, perhaps likely, that his decision ended any chance of ever seeing Crawford and Spence share the ring.
2. Oleksandr Usyk
Last month's ranking: 2
Last fight: SD win vs. 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 plans to take the rest of 2022 off before gearing up for another heavyweight challenge: Tyson Fury, the WBC titleholder who, if he gets past Derek Chisora in December, will likely face Usyk in the first half of 2022.
3. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez
Last month's ranking: 3
Last fight: UD win vs. 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 said he intends to have surgery on an injured left wrist, putting a return off until next May, at the earliest. When he does he says he will target a rematch with Bivol, should Bivol defeat Alvarez’s countryman, Gilberto Ramirez, in November.
4. Naoya Inoue
Last month's ranking: 4
Last Fight: KO win vs. Nonito Donaire
Next Fight: vs. Paul Butler on Dec. 13
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—in December, when he takes on Butler in Japan.
5. Errol Spence Jr.
Last month's ranking: 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 a Crawford fight gone, Spence has hinted at moving up in weight, where he can attempt to become a two-division world champion.
6. Tyson Fury
Last month's ranking: 6
Last Fight: KO win vs. Dillian Whyte
Next Fight: vs. Derek Chisora on Dec. 3
April’s knockout win over Dillian Whyte burnished Fury’s credentials as the best heavyweight in boxing. Rarely do fighters in this weight class appear on pound-for-pound lists, but Fury, 34, blends impressive boxing skills with a strong resume. Early career wins over Chisora and Wladimir Klitschko have been eclipsed by back-to-back knockouts of Deontay Wilder and, most recently, Whyte, who was floored by a savage uppercut in front of north of 90,000 fans at Wembley Stadium. Fury will clash again with Chisora in December, a stay busy fight before Fury pursues a unification fight with Oleksandr Usyk next year.
7. Shakur Stevenson
Last month's ranking: 7
Last Fight: UD win vs. 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.
8. Jermell Charlo
Last month's ranking: 8
Last Fight: KO win vs. Brian Castano
Next Fight: TBD
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, with Charlo penciled in for a title defense against Tim Tszyu, the heavy handed Australian who is the mandatory challenger for one of Charlo’s belts.
9. Dmitry Bivol
Last month's ranking: 10
Last Fight: UD win vs. Saul Alvarez
Next Fight: vs. Gilberto Ramirez on Nov. 5
Bivol, 31, established himself as one of boxing’s elite with a convincing decision win over Alvarez last May. With Alvarez passing on an immediate rematch, Bivol will defend his title against unbeaten former super middleweight champion Gilberto Ramirez in November. A win would springboard Bivol into either a massive showdown with Alvarez or a title unification fight against Artur Beterbiev, a fight that would establish an undisputed champion at 175-pounds.
10. Devin Haney
Last month's ranking: NR
Last Fight: UD win vs. George Kambosos
Next Fight: TBD
Haney, 23, joins the rankings after a second straight decisive win over former titleholder George Kambosos. Traveling to Australia for the second straight fight, 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 Kambosos in a monster showdown in the lightweight division.