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

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

London, December 26: 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.

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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Story first published: Thursday, December 26, 2019, 13:30 [IST]
Other articles published on Dec 26, 2019
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