B/R Pound-for-Pound Boxing Rankings for December

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured Columnist IIIDecember 21, 2022

B/R Pound-for-Pound Boxing Rankings for December

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    JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - AUGUST 20: Fans gather at Super Dome Hall ahead of rematch between world heavyweight boxing champion Oleksandr Usyk of Ukraine and Anthony Joshua of Great Britain under the name of "Rage in the Red Sea" at King Abdullah Sports Complex in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on August 20, 2022. (Photo by Ayman Yaqoob/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
    Ayman Yaqoob/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

    It's the most wonderful time of the year.

    Families are gathering. Presents are waiting.

    Fight fans and watchers of all stripes and affiliations are scrolling back through 2022 and thinking about the best of the best as the calendar nears its end.

    And what would the B/R combat team be if it didn't join in?

    Though many fighters from November's pound-for-pound boxing list have hung on for a place in December, there's been a fair bit of change.

    It's all part of the perpetual debate over the best of the best regardless of weight, and our rubric for the rankings includes recent fight results, past performances and input from other respected sources, including The Ring and Boxing Scene, among others.

    Scroll through to see what we came up with, and drop a line with your own thoughts in the comments.

10. Shakur Stevenson

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    NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - SEPTEMBER 23: Robson Conceição (L) and Shakur Stevenson (R) exchange punches during their WBC and WBO junior lightweight championship fight at Prudential Center on September 23, 2023 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)
    Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

    Weight Class: 135 pounds

    Titles Held: None

    Shakur Stevenson is one of the world's best fighters.

    But he's also a man, for the moment at least, without a weight class.

    Now a former champion at both 126 and 130 pounds, the New Jersey native missed weight for his most recent title defense and surrendered his WBC/WBO straps while declaring his intention to climb to lightweight and pursue a third set of jewelry.

    And whaddya know?

    The roster of talent affiliated with Stevenson's promoter, Top Rank, just happens to be chock-full of important players at 135 pounds, most notably former three-belt champion Vasiliy Lomachenko and current undisputed kingpin Devin Haney.

    Stevenson made specific mention of Lomachenko, who defeated Jamaine Ortiz at Madison Square Garden in October, and seems eager to make a match in 2023.

    "Lomachenko, I think me and Loma could be a big fight," he told The DAZN Boxing Show. "Make it happen in the next one or two fights. I'm ready."

9. Juan Francisco Estrada

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    GLENDALE, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 03: Juan Francisco Estrada (R) of Mexico throws a right on Roman Gonzalez of Nicaragua during their WBC super flyweight title bout at Desert Diamond Arena on December 03, 2022 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Weight Class: 115 pounds

    Titles Held: WBC

    There's no trilogy like a boxing trilogy.

    And when it comes to boxing trilogies involving fighters at the light end of the weight scale, there's no trilogy like Juan Francisco Estrada and Román González.

    The decade-long rivals met for the first time for González's WBA title at 108 pounds in 2012—a fight won by the then-unbeaten Nicaraguan—and got together again in 2021 for a 12-round classic at 115 pounds that Estrada took by split decision.

    That set up the rubber match that took place on December 3 in suburban Phoenix, where Estrada took a 2-1 lead in the series with a majority verdict that saw two judges go in his favor while a third called it dead even.

    The good news: They might not be done yet.

    Both fighters came out of the trilogy match expressing an interest in a fourth fight, and perhaps more importantly, promoter Eddie Hearn said it's a possibility as well.

    "Another sensational fight. Who knows what's next," he told DAZN's Chris Mannix after fight No. 3. "I have too much respect for both of them. I think there's a possibility in No. 4."

8. Jermell Charlo

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    CARSON, CA - MAY 14: Jermell Charlo (gold/red shorts) exchanges punches in the ring with Brian Castano (white/pink shorts) during their super middleweight title fight at Dignity Health Sports Park on May 14, 2022 in Carson, California. Charlo won by knockout in the 10th round. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
    Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

    Weight Class: 154 pounds

    Titles Held: IBF/WBA/WBC/WBO

    Jermell Charlo is a fighter on the rise.

    He's been a pro for 15 years and a champion of one organization or another for most of the last six, including a stint as the undisputed king of the 154-pounders that began when he stopped Brian Carlos Castaño in 10 rounds in Carson, California, last May.

    He's been on the pound-for-pound list produced by The Ring for most of 2022 and has heard his name on the lips of the likes of Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr. as a fallback in case they can't work out a battle of their own at 147.

    In the meantime, he's the next man up on the agenda of second-generation contender Tim Tszyu—son of Hall of Famer Kostya Tszyu—who'll challenge him in late January in Las Vegas.

    It's not the fight Charlo wanted, but it'll have to do until something bigger comes along.

    "I knew that once I got to this point in my life, that I'd face nothing but top-tier guys. That's all I want," Charlo said. "I don't underestimate anyone, but Tim Tszyu is not the same caliber as I am. His father has done things in boxing, but my pedigree is strong. My pedigree is proven and has been destined for many years."

7. Tyson Fury

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 03: Derek Chisora (L) and Tyson Fury (R) exchange punches during their WBC heavyweight championship fight, at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on December 03, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)
    Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

    Weight Class: Heavyweight

    Titles Held: WBC

    All of a sudden, the heavyweight division is warming up.

    With three-belt champion Oleksandr Usyk fresh off two straight defeats of British giant Anthony Joshua, the division's other significant title claimant—WBC incumbent Tyson Fury—had some work to tend to before he could make a unification match.

    Consider that work handled.

    Fury not only bludgeoned third-time rival Derek Chisora into a 10th-round stoppage at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, he also cranked up the anticipation for a would-be undisputed showdown with a chatty post-fight tirade as Usyk stood at ringside.

    Top Rank's Bob Arum co-promotes Fury and told Sky Sports that the two champions have agreed to meet one another without any interim bouts in between. If so, it'd create the most anticipated heavyweight bout in a generation.

    "Now the question is what's the date and what's the site," Arum said (via BoxingScene). "But that fight is definitely going to happen, and it will happen in the first four months of next year.

    "We are balancing a couple of significant offers from the Mid East and also there's the possibility of doing the fight in the UK at Wembley with a massive 95,000 crowd in attendance."

6. Errol Spence Jr.

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    ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 16:  Errol Spence Jr. connects with a punch against Yordenis Ugas at AT&T Stadium on April 16, 2022 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
    Cooper Neill/Getty Images

    Weight Class: 147 pounds

    Titles Held: IBF/WBA/WBC

    It's getting to the point where the welterweights aren't even fun anymore.

    There's been so much back and forth nonsense about a fight between Errol Spence Jr. and Terence Crawford that it's better not to even ponder the possibility until they're in the ring.

    Nevertheless, Spence was on Showtime last weekend talking it up and suggesting, in spite of all the fits and starts, that it's something he'd still like to do in 2023.

    Meantime, Spence will continue to recover from a recent car crash and focus on a would-be fight against former champion Keith Thurman.

    "I can spin that block again and, you know, we go to negotiations and try to fight because it's a fight I really want," he said (via BoxingScene). "So, you know, hopefully we can make it happen next year."

5. Dmitry Bivol

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    ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 05: Dmitrill Bivol punches Gilberto Ramirez during the WBA Super World Light Heavyweight Title fight between Dmitrii Bivol and Gilberto Ramirez at Etihad Arena on November 05, 2022 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)
    Francois Nel/Getty Images

    Weight Class: 175 pounds

    Titles Held: WBA

    No fighter had a more transformative 2022 than Dmitry Bivol.

    He'd already been a reigning champion at 175 pounds and a favorite of the boxing intelligentsia, but two fights later, he's officially crossed over into the superstar class.

    Defeating a pound-for-pound elite like Canelo Álvarez will do that for a guy.

    Bivol not only took the cinnamon-haired Mexican to school over 12 rounds in May while defending his WBA strap, he added to the resume with another one-sided defeat of another rising 168-pounder, whipping Gilberto Ramírez by an even wider decision in November.

    He's got a menu of tasty options on his plate for 2023, including a possible rematch with Álvarez or a unification bout at 175 with fellow unbeaten champ Artur Beterbiev.

    And if Bob Arum, who promotes Beterbiev, has his way, it'll get done.

    "This is way down the road," he told iD Boxing (via BoxingScene). "We'll figure that out.

    "No reason it can't be figured out. I'm not going to let any network problems stop a fight that should be made."

4. Canelo Álvarez

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    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - SEPTEMBER 17: Canelo Alvarez (red trunks) and Gennadiy Golovkin (white trunks) exchange punches in the fight for the Super Middleweight Title at T-Mobile Arena on September 17, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
    Sarah Stier/Getty Images

    Weight Class: 168 pounds

    Titles Held: IBF/WBA/WBC/WBO

    Even when he's not fighting, Canelo Álvarez makes news.

    The four-division champion and undisputed 168-pound elitist has been on the shelf since defeating Gennady Golovkin in September, but he managed to get in the headlines during the World Cup by threatening Lionel Messi after he'd apparently trashed the Mexican flag.

    The beef was put to rest after Messi's Argentine team won the tournament last weekend and Álvarez's promoter, Eddie Hearn, suggested his man could get back to work in May with a tune-up fight against Englishman John Ryder before considering a return with Bivol.

    Ryder is the WBO's interim champ at 168 and a mandatory foe for Álvarez.

    "John's the mandatory challenger. He's the perfect fight for Saul to run out before Dmitry Bivol," Hearn told DAZN (via Boxing News 24). "Our plans for Canelo are John Ryder and then Dmitry Bivol."

3. Terence Crawford

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    OMAHA, NEBRASKA - DECEMBER 10:  WBO champion Terence Crawford (L) punches David Avanesyan during their welterweight title fight at CHI Health Center on December 10, 2022 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
    Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    Weight Class: 147 pounds

    Titles Held: WBO

    If it feels like you read this on the Spence slide, you're not entirely wrong.

    Terence Crawford is the other principal in the welterweight soap opera, but he's managed to keep himself busy in the meantime with another fight, this time a sixth-round KO of overmatched challenger David Avanesyan before an ebullient crowd in Omaha, Nebraska.

    Whether you side with Spence and big-fight architect Al Haymon or Crawford and his supposed aim at financial transparency, it's not a story with an end until they fight.

    Of course, Crawford is keeping his options in the meantime with intermittent suggestion that he'd climb to 154 pounds and engage the likes of champion Jermell Charlo.

    "Boxing is boxing. The fans can't always get what they want, just like the fighters can't always get what they want. Definitely, 100 percent [I'll fight Charlo]," Crawford told Fight Hub TV.

    "You know what's going to happen. I'm going to step on him."

2. Naoya Inoue

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    TOKYO, JAPAN - DECEMBER 14: Naoya Inoue (L) of Japan punches Aran Dipaen of Thailand during the WBA Super Bantamweight and IBO Bantamweight title bout at Ryogoku Kokugikan on December 14, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Toru Hanai/Getty Images)
    Toru Hanai/Getty Images

    Weight Class: 118 pounds

    Titles Held: IBF/WBA/WBC/WBO

    Ladies and gentlemen, the sport's newest undisputed champion.

    Already a past champion at 108 and 115 pounds, Japan-based "Monster" Naoya Inoue added a fourth belt to a three-belt stash at 118 with an 11th-round stoppage of WBO claimant Paul Butler on December 13.

    He'd already beaten future Hall of Famer Nonito Donaire to a two-round pulp in June, so if there's any fighter who within reason might challenge Bivol for Fighter of the Year honors, it's Inoue, who's now 24-0 with 21 KOs in a career that began a decade ago.

    Next up in the chase for greatness is a move to 122 pounds, where Inoue is likely to pursue two-belt champions Murodjon Akhmadaliev and Stephen Fulton in a bid to become just the second Japanese fighter to reign in four weight classes and the first male fighter to win four belts in two weight classes.

    "I believe I'm going to aim for it," Inoue said. "We'll need to develop a thorough plan."

1. Oleksandr Usyk

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 03: Oleksandr Usyk (L) and Tyson Fury (R) face-off after the wbc heavyweight championship fight at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on December 03, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)
    Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

    Weight Class: Heavyweight

    Titles Held: IBF/WBA/WBO

    OK, so let's go ahead and do this thing.

    The sooner Oleksandr Usyk and Tyson Fury are staring at each other across a ring and not across the ropes after one of them has fought, the better.

    And if social media indications are to be believed, Usyk feels the same.

    He posted a simple "I'm coming for you!" message on Twitter on Sunday, just a few weeks after he stood stone-faced on the ring apron as Fury let loose with a verbal barrage following a drama-free title defense against Derek Chisora.

    Usyk never took the bait to so much as respond to Fury's words, but his manager, Alex Krassyuk, turned to Instagram and suggested the fight should happen no later than March 4 at, he said, "any place in the universe."