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Rating Boxing’s Best Pound for Pound for 2021 – Does Usyk Make the Cut?

| November 12, 2021 1:20 pm PDT

What a year it has been for boxing.

We have seen some incredible fights such as Fury vs. Wilder 3, and boxers like Canelo Alvarez make history by becoming the first undisputed super-middleweight champion of all time.

With the new year approaching, I thought it was about time to rate the best fighters in the world. The best way of doing that, of course, was to put together a list of the ten best pound-for-pound boxers in 2021.

You might agree with some and disagree with the rest. But give it a read, nonetheless.

10. Vasyl Lomachenko

  • Nationality: Ukraine
  • Weight Class: Lightweight
  • Record: 15-2 (11 KOs)

Starting our list of the best pound-for-pound boxers at number 10 is the former unified lightweight champion, Vasyl Lomachenko.

In June, the Ukrainian legend responded to his upset loss to Teofimo Lopez in 2020 by knocking out the talented Masayoshi Nakatani. It was the first fight the WBO Inter-Continental lightweight titlist had lost since being beaten by Lopez by way of decision in 2019.

With that win, Lomachenko proved he was not a spent force. He was more aggressive than we have seen him in quite some time, making his intention to go out and hurt his rival clear from the first bell.

Sharp and innovative in offense while displaying no holes in his defense, it was a masterful performance by one of the greatest Olympic boxers of all time. Even the way Lomachenko responded to a cut from an accidental headbutt early in the fight showed relentless determination.

Although his loss to Lopez has seen his stock crumble, Loma can find himself on the top of the list of pound-for-pound best boxers in 2022 if he can reclaim his titles.

Lopez, who currently holds the WBA (Super), WBO, IBF, and The Ring lightweight titles, has previously expressed no interest in a rematch with the former king of the division.

But following his win over Nakatani, the champ’s father, Teofimo Lopez, admitted that running it back is a strong possibility.

“After this performance, I think the public wants to see this fight. And I could convince my son to fight him again.”

Before a second fight between Lopez and Lomachenko can be signed off, the former needs to get past George Kambosos Jr. on November 27.

A win for Lopez could see the biggest rematch in the lightweight division go down as early as the first quarter of 2022.

It’s certainly an exciting prospect for fans, with some sharing as much doubt about Lopez’s ability to win a second fight as they do over how long Lomachenko has left at the top of the sport of boxing.

9. Juan Francisco Estrada

  • Nationality: Mexican
  • Weight Class: Super Flyweight
  • Record: 42-3 (28 KOs)

Estrada more than deserves to make my list of the best pound-for-pound boxers in 2021.

The WBC, WBA (Super), and The Ring super flyweight champion racked up his sixth successive win since losing to Thai great Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in 2018. His last fight, against “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, was an absolute epic and a surefire contender for the best fight of 2021.

Estrada will run it back for the third time against Gonzalez in 2022. That is a fight you do not want to miss.

Until the Mexican gets past his rival, there’s not a lot to be said for what’s next on the agenda. Kazuto Ioka and Jerwin Ancajas, who hold the WBO and IBF straps respectively, are potential opponents. But all eyes are on Chocolatito for now.

One of the best fighters on the planet today, Estrada is not as well-known as others on this list. That’s a shame, really, but kind of par for the course when it comes to boxers in the lower weight classes.

Real fans know that some of the best fights you will get to watch in modern-day boxing are contested at 115-pounds and below.

Estrada is one of the best there is in the game.

8. Teofimo Lopez

  • Nationality: USA
  • Weight Class: Lightweight
  • Record: 16-0 (12 KOs)

Lopez is the reigning lightweight king following that historic win over Lomachenko.

But since that win, fans have grown frustrated with the 24-year-old.

Lopez is set to fight George Kambosos Jr. on November 27, with the fight being pushed back countless times. This means that “The Takeover” has done absolutely nothing since dethroning Loma in October 2020.

All good things come to those who wait, I guess. It will certainly be intriguing to see how he looks in that fight, given the Aussie is no pushover.

If Lopez underestimates him, he could find himself subject to involvement in another surprising result. But this time, one that goes against him.

With that said, anyone that could do did this to Lomachenko is surely a special fighter?

7. Tyson Fury

  • Nationality: England
  • Weight Class: Heavyweight
  • Record: 31-0-1 (22 KOs)

It might be conceived as controversial to add a heavyweight to my list of the best pound-for-pound boxers in 2021, but Fury deserves a mention.

Alongside being involved in arguably the best fight of the year, his performance against Deontay Wilder proved this guy does not know the meaning of the word quit.

With a proud Irish heritage, the Manchester-born Traveller has shown himself to be a true fighting man. Still yet to be defeated as a professional, the two-time heavyweight champion of the world is edging closer and closer to all-time great status.

Of course, there is a lot more he needs to do to be talked about as one of the best heavyweights of all time. But his dismantling of Deontay Wilder in the 2nd and 3rd fights of their trilogy should leave no one in any doubt of his claim to legitimacy.

Fury is an exceptional boxer for a man of his size.

Standing at 6’9″ and weighing in at 278 pounds, he has no right to move as he does. Great reactions and excellent footwork compliment pure power and aggression, with the 33-year-old capable of switching styles — as well as stances — at the drop of a hat.

Fury is currently under the tutelage of SugarHill Steward. In some ways, it seems like fate that the nephew of the all-time great trainer, Manny Steward, would help the “Gypsy King” in his quest for greatness.

After all, the Kronk Gym icon predicted that Fury would one day be a force in the division.

At the time of this interview, Fury was not the fighter we know today.

Still somewhat clunky and with questionable balance, he appeared more to be a potential European-level star than a potential all-time great.

Fury slots in at seventh on my list of the world’s top pound for pound boxers in 2021.

6. Errol Spence Jr.

  • Nationality: USA
  • Weight Class: Welterweight
  • Record: 27-0 (21 KOs)

In 2019, Spence miraculously escaped a car accident with just minor damage.

At the time, there were fears over the future of his career as well as any lasting neurological damage. Having been touted as one of the best American fighters in decades, the story caught major attention around the world.

The big test for Spence came against former world champion Danny Garcia in December 2020. Spence passed with flying colors, showing no indication that the crash had taken anything from him.

Although Spence has not, and will not compete in 2021, he still deserves his place on this list.

I’m looking forward to seeing him inside the ropes next year.

5. Josh Taylor

  • Nationality: Scotland
  • Weight Class: Light Welterweight
  • Record: 18-0 (13 KOs)

The most underrated fighter on my top pound-for-pound list of 2021.

Taylor’s rise to the top has been nothing short of phenomenal.

The undisputed champion at 140 — the first man to hold that prestigious title since Terence Crawford — the Scot receives little to no coverage in the British press for his achievements.

Now, some will tell you that has to do with the fact that he is not English. If he were, then the guy would be a household name among Brits instead of being just a familiar face to boxing fans.

There is an element of truth to that, I believe. But true fight heads, regardless of where they come from, can appreciate just how good “The Tartan Tornado” is.

I’ve been a big fan of Taylor’s for a few years now. I predicted he would beat former champion Viktor Postol in 2018 and was delighted to see him take that win.

But since then, he’s really gone from strength to strength inside the ropes, putting in some huge performances that have earned him a place on most knowledgeable writers’ best pound-for-pound boxers lists for 2021.

Here’s his reaction to being added to the P4P top-ten list of The Ring.

Will Taylor move up to welterweight and test himself against the best in the division?

It seems to be on the cards. Providing he can get past the unbeaten Jack Catterall in February, we might see Taylor’s first foray at 147 as early as the summer of 2022.

4. Terence Crawford

  • Nationality: USA
  • Weight Class: Welterweight
  • Record: 37-0 (28 KOs)

Crawford is, without question, one of the greatest fighters of his era.

He is blessed with a sublime skillset and appears to have no discernible weaknesses. In theory, he should be at least a couple of places higher up on this 2021 pound-for-pound best boxers list, but his lack of competition at 147-pounds has hampered his progress inside the ropes.

A super fight with Errol Spence is the one pretty much every boxing fan alive wants to see. But with little chance of that happening any time soon, Crawford has turned his attention toward Shawn Porter.

Porter marks a tough test for Crawford. The former world champion is a lot better than he is often given credit for. I predicted he would test Spence in their fight back in September 2019, and he did just that.

If Crawford is to establish himself as the top man at welterweight, he needs the wins against quality opposition.

Since beating Jeff Horn to take the WBO strap in June 2018, Crawford has fought the following opponents.

  • José Benavidez Jr. – Crawford won by TKO (12)
  • Amir Khan – Crawford won by TKO (6)
  • Egidijus Kavaliauskas – Crawford won by TKO (9)
  • Kell Brook – Crawford won by TKO (4)

No disrespect to any of the fighters above, but Crawford hasn’t really been tested at 147.

Porter will ask questions of him, and we should see the best of “Bud” by way of his responses.

Should he win that fight, we’ll be treated to the same old carousel of “will they; won’t they?” regarding Spence vs. Crawford. But should he lose, that potential bout could become a lot easier to get done.

Modern-day boxing politics. Where would we be without it?

3. Oleksandr Usyk

  • Nationality: Ukraine
  • Weight Class: Heavyweight
  • Record: 19-0 (13 KOs)

Usyk, the former undisputed cruiserweight king, silenced his doubters by schooling Anthony Joshua to win the WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, and IBO heavyweight titles in September.

That leaves the exceptional Ukrainian with just one title left to become the first undisputed heavyweight champion of the world since Lennox Lewis in 2000.

Despite being an underdog with top boxing sportsbooks ahead of the fight, Usyk showed the world his class.

Like most of the fighters on this list, the talents of “The Cat” include impressive fundamentals as well as attributes that stand him apart from most in the sport.

What sets this man even further apart from the majority in this sport is his far-reaching fight IQ and consistent ability to execute a strategy.

The man is a serial winner. He knows how to win bouts, which might sound a little basic. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s a highly desirable skill in itself and one that makes the Crimean technician a truly special talent.

If Usyk is to establish himself as the top dog at heavyweight, he will be presented with much tougher questions to answer than he received in the first Joshua fight. Tyson Fury, the WBC champ, will undoubtedly be a gargantuan test.

The next step of Usyk, who comes third in my list of the greatest pound-for-pound boxers in 2021, is a rematch against Anthony Joshua in early 2022. I’ve put together a preview for betting on Usyk vs. Joshua rematch together, so feel free to check it out.

Betting Preview for Oleksandr Usyk vs. Anthony Joshua 2 - Will Joshua Get His Revenge?

The early odds for Oleksandr Usyk vs. Anthony Joshua 2 see the champion installed as the favorite to prevail in their second fight. I’ll be previewing the Usyk vs. Joshua rematch while talking you through a few of the points you need to know about this...

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2. Naoya Inoue

  • Nationality: Japanese
  • Weight Class: Bantamweight
  • Record: 21-0 (18 KOs)

One of my favorite boxers over the past few years, it’s great to see more and more fans praising “The Monster.”

A three-weight world champion, Inoue currently holds the WBA (Super), IBF, and The Ring bantamweight titles and will be putting them on the line against Thailand’s Aran Dipaen in December.

A ferocious attacking fighter with devastating stopping power, Inoue is also blessed with incredible speed, poise, and an enviable shot selection. The guy has it all.

In 2020, Inoue knocked out the solid Jason Moloney to mark a successful comeback from injury. He followed that up with another stoppage victory, this time over Michael Dasmarinas, in June.

With the world well and truly at his feet, the sky is the limit for the Japanese warrior. Especially with the full power of Bob Arum’s Top Rank behind him.

Although bantamweight is not regarded as a fashionable division, this man can go on to become a global superstar.

Any debates over whether he can compete at higher weight classes are certainly warranted, but I would not be surprised to see the 28-year-old phenom testing himself against bigger guys.

Standing at just 5’5″ and possessing a reach of 67.5″, it’s unlikely that the native of Zama will go much further up the divisions. But as long as there is competitive action for him between 118 and possibly 126 pounds, we’ll get to enjoy the potential all-time great do his thing.

I rank Inoue at second place on my list of the world’s best pound-for-pound boxers.

1. Canelo Alvarez

  • Nationality: Mexico
  • Weight Class: Super Middleweight
  • Record: 57-1-2 (39 KOs)

There is no other fighter that can top any list of the best pound-for-pound boxers in 2021.

Regardless of what you think, I can assure you that you’re wrong.

Although I have been a critic of Canelo’s in the past, there is no denying that he is the fighter of his generation. His efforts in 2021 alone are enough to prove that he’s simply untouchable at 160 to 168.

I remember the first time I got to see Alvarez fight for the first time. It was May 1, 2010, and I was sitting on the terrace of a small southern-Portuguese bar with my father enjoying a cold beer.

Although already aware of the rising star, his fight with Jose Cotto on the undercard of Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Shane Mosley allowed me to see what all the fuss was about.

My first impressions were not great. The brother of Puerto Rican legend and future opponent Miguel, Cotto wobbled the 19-year-old in the first round and looked to have him in trouble.

The flame-haired Canelo fought his way out of danger and grew into the fight, stopping his opponent. It was his first true test at the high level and on a major card, and he passed.

Fast forward to 2021 and Alvarez is a four-weight world champion and the face of boxing.

A Legendary Year for Canelo

Having closed out 2019 by defeating an admittedly shot Sergey Kovalev to take the WBO light heavyweight title, Canelo picked up the WBA (Super), The Ring, and the vacant WBC super-middleweight titles in December 2020.

In 2021, he started the year off with a routine tune-up against Avni Yıldırım, stopping him in three. But the eyes of the pride of Mexico were set on the unbeaten Billy Joe Saunders. Or to be more precise, the WBO super middleweight title the Brit had around his waist.

Canelo struggled to catch the elusive Englishman and was down on the cards heading into the eighth round. It was just a matter of time before Saunders slipped, and once he did, the champion caught him with a sublime uppercut that broke his cheekbone.

The fight was all over, and Canelo was just one step away from becoming the first fighter in history to hold all belts at 168-pounds.

In November, Alvarez took to the ring to fight IBF champ, Caleb Plant. Also unbeaten, Plant managed to stick around until the penultimate round of the fight before being knocked out.

Canelo’s record over the last five fights is impressive. His history-making years between 2019 and 2022 will be major highlights in a career that is far from over.

Opponent Result Date Record
Caleb Plant Win by TKO (11) Nov 6, 2021 57–1–2
Billy Joe Saunders Win by RTD (8) May 8, 2021 56–1–2
Avni Yildirim Win by RTD (3) Feb 27, 2021 55–1–2
Callum Smith Win by UD (12) Dec 19, 2020 54–1–2
Sergey Kovalev Win by KO (11) Nov 2, 2019 53–1–2

The pound-for-pound best boxer in 2021 is, undoubtedly, Canelo Alvarez.

Wrap Up

That’s my list of the best pound-for-pound boxers in 2021.

You can let me know what you think of my selections in the comments section at the bottom of this page. That is, if you want to.

If not, why not check out my rankings for the top male UFC fighters of the year?

UFC Fighter Rankings for 2021 - Rating the Best Male Fighters in All Divisions

Who are the best fighters in the UFC in 2021? I’m sure ranking them might cause a few headaches. Of course, I can do one of two things before listing the top male fighters tearing things up in the world’s greatest mixed martial arts promotions. I...

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Adam Haynes

Adam is a sports writer and tipster with a strong background in MMA, boxing, and combat sports.

When Adam isn't writing about those, as well as politics, rugby, and Gaelic Games, he can be found working on methods and strategies to beat the bookies.

For his troubles, Adam is a fan of Leinster Rugby, Glasgow Celtic, and trusting the process.

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