Mayweather, Ward, Lomachenko - Boxing's pound-for-pound top 10 of the decade

By Sports Desk December 26, 2019

Choosing boxing's pound-for-pound king is no easy feat at the best of times. Trying to do so over a decade is trickier still.

It is a debate that, due to its subjectivity, does not really have a true answer, but try stopping fans and pundits from arguing the toss anyway.

The 2010s have been a truly golden era for the sport with legacies cemented and legends born.

But just who has been the best of the best over the last 10 years? Here, we rank our top 10 pound-for-pound kings of the decade.

1) FLOYD MAYWEATHER JR

'Money' has not fought in a meaningful bout since 2015 (forget about that contest with Conor McGregor – we all should), but still merits a place at the top of these rankings. The American's list of scalps since 2010 is impressive, to say the least. It includes: Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto, Marcos Maidana (twice), Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez and, of course, Manny Pacquiao.

Timing was key for Mayweather – and not just in terms of his fighting style. He took on Canelo when he was still to hit his peak, while he kept Pacquiao – and boxing fans for that matter – waiting. Still, you should not overlook his achievements. Floyd was a genius in the ring, with his brilliant defensive technique nullifying opponents. This was the decade when he sealed his status as one of the all-time greats.

The Sweet Science pic.twitter.com/OFRssPx1Wi

— Floyd Mayweather (@FloydMayweather) October 3, 2019

2) ANDRE WARD

If not for a period of promotional paralysis in the middle of the decade, Ward would probably be top of this list. However, after an infuriating four-year spell of his prime that took in relatively inconsequential bouts against Edwin Rodriguez, Paul Smith and Sullivan Barrera, the 'Son of God' brought things home in style.

Having reigned supreme during a golden era for the super-middleweight division, beating the likes of Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham, Carl Froch and a stepping-down Chad Dawson to establish himself as the undisputed number one, Ward went north to light-heavyweight. Never the biggest puncher in his natural weight class, he pulled himself up off the canvas to outfox the ferocious Sergey Kovalev and become a two-weight world champion. In their rematch – via some legal body shots and some not-so-legal – Ward bullied the bully to an eighth-round stoppage, walking away with an unblemished 32-fight record and nothing left to prove.

3) VASYL LOMACHENKO

Arguably the finest amateur of all-time, Lomachenko has lived up to and probably surpassed such a billing in the paid ranks. He boxed for a world title in only his second fight, dropping a split decision to the Orlando Salido. The roughhousing Mexican unleashed a monster in his moment of triumph, persuading Lomachenko to embellish his unparalleled skills with a vengeful streak.

Victory over Gary Russell Jr. next time out secured the WBO featherweight title and the 31-year-old has since blazed an irresistible trail through three divisions, racking up 10 knockouts in 14 wins. Fellow former amateur standout Guillermo Rigondeaux, Nicholas Walters, Jorge Linares, Jose Pedraza and Luke Campbell are included on an impressive list of scalps Lomachenko holds three of the four main lightweight belts and will aim to become undisputed king of division a man of his dimensions has little business competing in, never mind cleaning out, against Teofimo Lopez in 2020.

4) SAUL 'CANELO' ALVAREZ

Boxing's biggest draw remains a divisive figure. A six-month ban following two failed drugs test for clenbuterol in 2018 – Alvarez protested his innocence, citing contaminated meat – compounded his standings with fans who point towards a carefully managed career and some arguable generous scorecards in his favour.

Nevertheless, the four-weight world champion's body of work is undeniably impressive and now places him towards the upper-reaches of Mexico's proud boxing tradition. Canelo iced Kovalev to become only the fourth fighter to win titles at both light-middleweight and light-heavyweight, following in the footsteps of 'Sugar' Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns and Mike McCallum. Since his schooling beneath Mayweather's educated fists in 2013, Alvarez has blossomed. Whether or not his gripping rivalry with Gennadiy Golovkin gets a third act, further defining nights lie ahead.

5) TERENCE CRAWFORD

A phenomenally skilled southpaw, Crawford is possibly the most complete fighter competing in any weight class today. He headed into the lion's den to win a first world title in 2014, outboxing Ricky Burns with a quicksilver display before the champion's fiercely loyal supporters in Glasgow.

Content with the WBO belt at 135lbs, Crawford stepped up to light-welterweight and won the lot, becoming undisputed champion with a three-round demolition of the previously undefeated Julius Indongo. Welterweight beckoned and the American unseated Jeff Horn in his first outing in the division. Operating outside of the PBC stable has made legacy enhancing fights at 147lbs hard to come by and we must hope for a final act worthy of the 36-0 32-year-old's glittering career.

6) ROMAN 'CHOCOLATITO' GONZALEZ

Gonzalez lost his air of invincibility with back-to-back defeats to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in 2017, the second of them by stoppage as he was knocked out cold, yet the Nicaraguan made boxing history in the decade by winning world titles at all four of the lowest weight classes.

Small in stature but big in terms of power, Gonzalez has made a habit of stopping opponents inside the distance. However, he had no problem going the distance in a thrilling slugfest with Carlos Cuadras in September 2016, winning on the scorecards to dethrone the WBC super-flyweight champion. Inactivity in recent years has seen his career stall, but at 32 there is still plenty of time to rise back to the top.

7) GENNADIY GOLOVKIN

A not-insignificant number of observers feel Golovkin was hard done by in both his split-decision draw and majority-decision loss to bitter rival Alvarez, but his vice-like grip on the middleweight division is no more and an unexpected thriller again Sergiy Derevyanchenko gave another hint at growing vulnerabilities.

Even if Golovkin is on the slide – as would be expected at 37 – he is still a deeply unpleasant night's work for anybody. He spent the bulk of the decade amassing a record-equalling run of 20 consecutive middleweight world title defences, while a 24-fight knockout streak made good on his claims of always providing a "big drama show". There were few more visceral thrills in 2010s boxing than Golovkin.

8) MANNY PACQUIAO 

It would have been a brave punter who suggested placing Pacquiao on this list after Juan Manuel Marquez left him face down and motionless on a Las Vegas canvas in December 2012. The duo's undulating rivalry ended with an emphatic exclamation mark, but Pacquiao was far from done.

He avenged his farcically judged points loss to Timothy Bradley comprehensively, meaning the superfight with Floyd Mayweather belatedly arrived – too late for Pacquiao, as it happened. Nevertheless, bouts against relatively lesser mortals did not present so much of a problem, even after shoulder surgery. A 2017 loss to Jeff Horn was not the end, just a needless blot surrounded by wins over Jessie Vargas, Lucas Matthysse, Adrien Broner and Keith Thurman for this remarkable 41-year-old.

9) NAOYA INOUE

The old boxing adage that you don't get paid for overtime was certainly taken to heart by Inoue in the 2010s. If fans blinked, they could miss him; if opponents blinked they usually found themselves flat on their backs.

A three-weight world champion since picking up the WBA bantamweight crown, Inoue's outings at the weight featured one completed round – Emmanuel Rodriguez making it to the second session after Jamie McDonnell and Juan Carlos Payano were unable to see out the opener – before November's instant classic against the great Nonito Donaire, where the 26-year-old prevailed over the course of 12 action-packed and legacy-enhancing rounds. Las Vegas awaits in April for a superstar in the making.

10) OLEKSANDR USYK

As lavishly skilled, unorthodox and dangerous as his great friend and Ukrainian compatriot Lomachenko, Usyk wasted no time in bending the cruiserweight division to his will. Krzysztof Glowacki, Michael Hunter, Marco Huck, Mairis Briedis and Murat Gassiev were all systematically taken apart en route to undisputed status before Usyk left former champion Tony Bellew splayed out helplessly to leave no doubt over who was the man at 200lbs.

Weight limits are now a thig of the past for the 32-year-old as he moves up confidently to the land of the giants. As Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury all bicker over their claims for heavyweight supremacy, do not be surprised if the sensational Usyk manages to pickpocket them all on his way to glory and greatness.

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    Tyson Fury's sensational return to heavyweight champion glory is "the best story in boxing history", according to his former trainer Ben Davison.

    The 'Gypsy King' became a two-time heavyweight champion of the world with a devastating seventh-round TKO of Deontay Wilder in Las Vegas to prise away the American's WBC belt.

    It marks the culmination of a sensational climb back to the top for Fury, who has spoken openly about his battles with depression and cocaine use after dethroning Wladimir Klitschko to win the WBA, WBO and IBF belts in November 2015.

    "It's the best story in boxing history," Davison told The Athletic. "I'm over the moon. 

    "It couldn't happen to a better man. I wanted to see him do it. Not being able to be there and not working, I get very anxious. Tyson made it a lot easier on me by fighting the way he did."

    Fury's decision to cease work with Davison, who had helped the Briton shed weight and return to elite boxing following the tumultuous times that followed his first title triumph, just two months prior to the fight caught many off guard.

    One of the most surprising aspects of the bout with Wilder – which took place 14 months on from a contentious Los Angeles draw in their first fight – was the aggressive approach taken by Fury, who delivered on his promise of a knockout having floored his opponent in the third and fifth rounds.

    Speaking afterwards, Fury praised the work done by Davison but felt he had proven a point with a different game plan executed under the tutelage of Javan 'SugarHill' Steward and Andy Lee.

    Davison himself felt Fury showed elements of all the trainers he has worked with throughout his career and that the unbeaten champion proved himself as one of the all-time greats.

    "From working with him, I obviously know Tyson's a versatile fighter," Davison added. 

    "But for him to be able to be that versatile really did surprise me. I didn't think it would end by stoppage, or be as emphatic as that. It shocked me in complete honesty, and I'm sure Tyson shocked himself.

    "A lot of people played their part in helping him get back to where he's got to. I've always said the credit always has to go to the fighter. Now, he will always be named as one of the all-time heavyweights.

    "What I saw was that he's worked with his uncle Hughie, then his uncle Peter, then with myself, and now 'SugarHill' and Andy. 

    "He's taken a little bit from everybody, with Andy and 'Sugar' putting together the final pieces of the puzzle for this fight. They've done a fantastic job.

    "That was the difference: That Tyson's collected that information, and had those experiences - seeing lots of different people and using all of what he's gained from everybody to put it into play tonight."

  • Wilder v Fury II: Chronicling the Gypsy King's sensational return to heavyweight glory Wilder v Fury II: Chronicling the Gypsy King's sensational return to heavyweight glory

    Tyson Fury delivered on a promise of fireworks in his defeat of Deontay Wilder as he completed one of the greatest turnarounds in the long and illustrious history of boxing.

    For the second time in his unbeaten career, Fury is the heavyweight champion of the world after earning a seventh-round stoppage over his long-time rival to win the WBC strap.

    It marks an incredible turnaround for Fury, who floored his opponent in the third and fifth rounds, given the turbulent times he endured following his first ascent to the top in November 2015.

    We chronicle Fury's journey between his first heavyweight title triumph and a glorious return to the summit in Las Vegas on Saturday.

     

    November 2015 – Fury shocks Klitschko and the world

    Fury was typically brash in the build-up to his heavyweight title showdown with Wladimir Klitschko over four years ago, but few were predicting the upset that was to come. The Briton brilliantly outpointed Klitschko – who along with brother Vitali had dominated the heavyweight scene for over a decade – in Dusseldorf to win the WBA, WBO and IBF belts. It was Klitschko's first defeat in 11 years.

    January 2016 – Wilder-Fury face-off in Brooklyn

    Fury, who had already been stripped of his IBF belt after agreeing to face Klitschko in a rematch instead of face mandatory challenger Vyacheslav Glazkov, was in attendance as WBC champ Wilder knocked out Artur Szpilka in Brooklyn. After the fight, Fury entered the ring and the two faced off in a heated exchange. Wilder would later say he wants to "really hurt" Fury.

    October 2016 – Fury vacates belts after troubled year

    It was a difficult 2016 for Fury, who faced accusations of homophobia and anti-Semitism following controversial remarks made earlier in the year. Fury twice pulled out of scheduled rematches with Klitschko – in June and September – and announced his retirement in October on Twitter before reversing that decision three hours later. UK Anti-Doping announced in August that Fury had been serving a provisional ban over the "presence of a prohibited substance" – he denied ever knowingly committing an anti-doping violation and would later receive a backdated two-year ban in December 2017. An emotional Fury then opened up on his battle against depression and use of cocaine, before voluntarily vacating his WBO and WBA straps.

    October 2017 – I'm coming back for you!

    Public appearances were limited for Fury in 2017, who had ballooned to 25 stone during his time out of the ring. But there were still plenty of vows to return and dethrone both Wilder and domestic rival Anthony Joshua. In October of that year, Fury released an Instagram post responding in typically charismatic fashion to Wilder's claim that he was "done". In a video that has resurfaced following his stunning Vegas victory, a smiling Fury said: "Big respect for giving me the motivation, for saying I can't do it and I'm finished, I'm coming back for you [Wilder], I'm going to fulfil that promise I made to you a few years ago. You know what I'm talking about. And I'm coming back for the big stiff man [Joshua], the man who struggled with a midget…"

    June 2018 – The 'Gypsy King' returns

    After almost three years out of the ring, Fury finally stepped back in the squared circle to score a facile victory over Sefer Seferi in Manchester. Two months later, after he had defeated Francesco Pianeta on points in Belfast, a date with Wilder was confirmed…

    December 2018 – Controversy reigns in Los Angeles

    Those who said Fury was past his best and had opted to fight Wilder too soon were made to eat their words as the long-time rivals finally squared off in a blockbuster Los Angeles bout. Wilder twice sent his opponent to the canvas – the second knockdown followed by a remarkable 12th-round recovery from Fury. Although he was spectacularly floored, most pundits agreed Fury controlled proceedings with a tricky and tactically astute showing and the announcement of a split-decision draw was contentious to say the least.

    October 2019 – Fury a 'Crown Jewel' for WWE

    Fury defeated Tom Schwarz in June 2019 and earned a unanimous decision victory over Otto Wallin despite sustaining a nasty cut to his right eye in the fight. In June, Fury announced a rematch with Wilder would take place in February 2020. That prospect was parked for the time being, though, as Fury swapped the boxing ring for the crazy world of WWE. After a couple of appearances on the company's flagship show Raw, Fury fought the "monster among men" Braun Strowman at the Crown Jewel pay per view in Saudi Arabia, where he won via count out.

    February 2020 – Fury reigns again with Vegas masterclass

    The decision to split with long-term trainer Ben Davison just two months prior to his long-awaited rematch with Wilder raised eyebrows and many concerns were expressed about the cut he sustained against Wallin. Talk of a second-round knockout also seemed like bluster, but Fury emphatically delivered on his promise to win in style. Fury was the aggressor from the off and put Wilder on the canvas in the third and fifth rounds, before the American's corner threw in the towel in the seventh to complete one of the greatest comebacks boxing, and indeed sport, has ever seen.

  • Emphatic win over Wilder justifies trainer switch, says Fury Emphatic win over Wilder justifies trainer switch, says Fury

    Tyson Fury believes he can still get better after his sensational triumph over Deontay Wilder and says the manner of the win shows he was right to change trainers.

    Fourteen months on from contesting a thrilling draw with Wilder in Los Angeles, Fury was an emphatic victor in Las Vegas on Saturday as he recorded a seventh-round TKO to claim the WBC heavyweight title.

    Prior to the rematch, many observers expressed surprise at Fury ending his partnership with Ben Davison, the trainer who played such a key role in helping him shed weight and return to the highest level after he had suffered from depression following his first heavyweight championship win over Wladimir Klitschko in 2015.

    However, while Fury (30-0-1) praised Davison following his success against Wilder, the 31-year-old felt he had proven a point by executing an entirely different gameplan under the tuition of Javan 'SugarHill' Steward and Andy Lee.

    "When I made the decision to move from Ben Davison, who'd done a fantastic job by the way, I did it for a reason," said Fury in a post-fight news conference. "Everybody was like this is a bad move, really bad move, but it worked out for the best.

    "I believe in SugarHill, I believe in the style that he teaches and I knew we'd get it right on the night. Everything that I did in the ring, we practiced in the gym, setting up on the jab and landing the detonation right-hander.

    "We didn't mind revealing the gameplan, we had nothing to hide. I said what I was going to do, run across the ring to him, put him on the back foot and unload big shots on him. 

    "Everybody knows I'm a master slick boxer and I can jab and move for 12 rounds, but that didn't work last time, I got a draw. A draw is a failure to me, because all I do is win, win, win. This time I wanted the knockout and I think the only way I could guarantee that I was going to get a win was the knockout.

    "When me and SugarHill spoke, he told me that I would knock him out and I believed in what he said.

    "I'm my own worst critic, even though it was a fantastic performance and I got a great win, I know I can do better. I've only just started, me and SugarHill with this style, I've had seven weeks to perfect a style that takes years, but I'm a quick learner and I aim to get back to work straight away.

    "We're going to be putting people to sleep left, right and centre."

    The 6ft 9in Fury weighed in at 19st 7lb for Saturday's bout, 42lbs heavier than his considerably shorter opponent.

    "With this weight alone and technique we can knock out anybody," he added.

    "When I jumped on the scales at 270 pounds, everyone thought he's not come for a fight, he's underestimated Wilder, he's turned up for a payday. But tonight when I was in there I felt like a beast, this is my weight for sure."

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