P4P Fighters 6 through 10, A Closer Look

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Last week, I published the first pound for pound list of 2018. In the article, I gave a short summary outlining some significant moments from the careers of the fighters ranked in the top 5. However, for fighter’s 6 through 10, I only glanced over their accomplishments and stated their record.

In this article, I will go deeper into why fighters 6 through 10 are ranked where they are. Before the breakdown of 6 through 10, here are the 5 fighter’s ranked ahead of them:

  1. Terrence Crawford (Record: 32-0, 23 KO)
  2. Vasyl Lomachenko (Record: 10-1, 8 KO Victories, 0 KO defeats)
  3. Gennady Golovkin (Record: 37-0-1, 33 KO)
  4. Canelo Alvarez (Record: 49-1-2, 34 KO Victories, 0 KO defeats)
  5. Wisaksil Wangek (Srisaket Sor Rungvisai) (44-4-1, 40 KO Victories, 2 KO defeats)

 

For the article with a more in-depth look at these fighters, click here.

Now, for fighters 6 through 10:

 

6) Sergey Kovalev (Record: 31-2-1, 27 KO Victories, 1 KO defeat)

There was a time not too long ago where Kovalev was the most feared man in boxing. His record stood at 30-0-1 with 26 of those wins coming by knockout, and was the unified WBA, IBF and WBO Light heavyweight champion. He was seen by most as a boogeyman, laying waste to all his challengers, and doing it in intimidating fashion.

However, after suffering two losses (one of which was controversial, and the other a knockout) to Andre Ward, Kovalev’s intimidation seemed to no longer be a factor, and he was now seen as vulnerable to many. While Kovalev may not be as feared as he once was, he is still a fantastic fighter.

Following the losses to Ward, Kovalev returned in a tune up fight against Vyacheslav Shabranskyy, which was signed merely to help regain confidence. Kovalev blasted Shabranskyy, earning a 2nd round TKO in a fight that was not competitive at all.

It’s always hard to know what to expect of a fighter coming back from a knockout loss, especially one where the referee was forced to stop the contest due to you being defenseless on the ropes. It appeared he did not take too much physical damage, but he was defeated mentally, and you could see it on his face after the second Ward fight. However, two losses to one of the best fighters alive is nothing to be ashamed of, especially when you are competitive in both.

Against Shabranskyy, Kovalev looked to be in form physically, and I for one hope he is back to his old form mentally as well. There is an abundance of talent in the light heavyweight division, and fights with the likes of Bivol and Beterbiev (the latter of which beat Kovalev in the amateurs) would be awesome.

 

7) Naoya Inoue (Record: 15-0, 13 KO)

Hailing from Japan, and known to many as ‘The Monster’, this is one fighter who certainly lives up to his nickname. Inoue is a phenomenon, and is on a career path very similar to that of Vasyl Lomachenko, as they both began fighting elite opponents very early in their careers.

Inoue became the WBC light-flyweight champion in his 6th fight, when he earned a TKO victory over champion Adrian Hernandez. After defending his title once, he moved up two weight classes to the junior-bantamweight (aka super-flyweight) division in his 8th fight. In that fight, he became a 2 division champion when he won the WBO junior-bantamweight title via 2nd round KO over champion Omar Narváez.

Inoue was gaining popularity with boxing fans who followed him on the internet (or who live in Japan), destroying top level opponents and making it look easy. However, he had not had a fight on US TV yet, something that surely would help his popularity. He got his chance to be seen by a larger audience stateside when he fought Antonio Nieves on HBO’s ‘Super-Fly’ card (featuring the top 5 fighters in the super-flyweight division, a card that also included my pick for knockout of the year).

Inoue absolutely dismantled Nieves, leaving boxing fans with a great first impression and wanting to see more of this great fighter. There were plans to have him on ‘Super-Fly 2’ after his fight against Yoan Boyeaux in December. However, after his demolition of Boyeaux, it came out that Inoue was planning on moving up to bantamweight (118 lbs.), seeking a title in what would be his third weight class.

At just 24 years old, Inoue is not even in his physical prime yet, and looks to be on the path of a legendary career, and will likely be in the top 5 of all pound for pound lists sooner rather than later.

 

8) Keith Thurman (Record: 28-0, 22 KO)

Keith Thurman is a bit polarizing. Many feel he is not the best welterweight in the world, however, he is the most accomplished. He is the only unified champion at welterweight currently, but those who say he is not that great point to him being unable to impress in his biggest fights.

In 2013, Thurman became the interim WBA champion after a victory of Diego Chavez, and was later elevated to the regular champion (which is the equivalent of just being the straight up champion for any other sanctioning body) in 2015. Following the Chavez fight, Thurman had a string of not particularly interesting fights against sub-par fighters who certainly weren’t on Thurman’s level. He was finally in a fight that all fans viewed as competitive when he faced off against Shawn Porter.

The fight was close, Thurman only won by one round on all three cards, and in the eyes of many he did not look very impressive in the win. Instead of capitalizing on the momentum of his best win, Thurman did not fight again for the rest of 2016, a poor decision that is unfortunately common of many Al Haymon fighters.

His return in 2017 was against WBC champion Danny Garcia, an anticipated fight to unify titles in the division. The fight had high expectations, and many thought it could be a potential fight of the year. The fight was nowhere near fight of the year, and while not boring, it was not particularly exciting.

Danny certainly had his moments, but Thurman appeared to be the better fighter, and earned a SD victory. Critics of Thurman again pointed out how he was unable to look impressive against a top level opponent. Following the big win, Thurman revealed an elbow injury that would end his 2017, another year with just one fight.

Style’s make fights, and it is often unfair to draw comparisons, but it is worth noting that Kell Brook was able to easily outpoint Shawn Porter. It was Brook’s big fight and he shined. Errol Spence also shined on his big stage, which will be covered a little later in this article.

Thurman is hard to judge, because while he may not impress in his big fights, he is winning, which is all that counts. His inactivity is also frustrating to say the least, but hopefully 2018 sees him more active and in the ring with Errol Spence Jr.

 

9) Mikey Garcia (Record: 37-0, 30 KO)

Son of former boxer (and current trainer) Robert Garcia, Mikey is one of the most talented fighter’s on this list. He was viewed by many as a top ten P4P fighter (or at least top 15) in 2014, possessing excellent skills and timing. On top of the skills, he was looking great against good opponents (Orlando Salido and Juan Manuel Lopez, among others).

However, from 2014 to 2016, he fought only twice, as he went through a legal battle with promoter Top Rank. In 2017, he aimed to return to the top level and make up for the time he lost, so he challenged WBC lightweight champion Dejan Zlatičanin.

He absolute dismantled the champion, and earned a KO of the year nomination in the process. Following the impressive win, he moved up to 140 lbs. to fight Adrien Broner, and pitched a near shutout, reminding everyone just how elite he is.

Mikey’s next fight is on February 10th against IBF junior-welterweight champion Sergey Lipinets, as Mikey aims to become a champion at junior-welterweight. A win would give him titles at 126, 130, 135 and 140 lbs., a feat done only by Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao. Very good company.

The fight every fan wants to see is back at lightweight against Vasyl Lomachenko (whenever he decides to move up). If Mikey decides he can move up yet again, a fight with Terrence Crawford (who just recently moved up from 140 lbs.) or Errol Spence would be excellent as well.

 

10) Errol Spence Jr. (Record: 22-0, 19 KO)

When discussing #8 fighter Keith Thurman, I noted how many feel Thurman is not the best welterweight. That is because most feel that Errol Spence Jr. Spence is the best in the division.

Spence, a former US Olympian, was viewed by many to have the skills and style to be a star in the professional ranks. So far, he certainly has lived up to those expectations.

Relatively untested early in his career, Spence quickly amassed a record of 21-0 with 18 KO’s, one of those coming against Chris Algieri. The Algieri win is worth mentioning because Spence knocked Algieri out, something even the great Manny Pacquiao was not able to do.

Despite being untested, Spence looked special, and dared to be great when he decided to go to IBF welterweight champion Kell Brook’s backyard. The fight was highly anticipated, as many felt Spence had the ‘it factor’, but feared he was not ready to fight the battle tested Brook (who was coming off a devastating KO loss to GGG which saw his orbital bone broken).

The fight was very competitive through 5 rounds, but Spence came on in the second half, breaking Brook’s other orbital bone (not the one GGG broke), and earning an 11th round KO. This is the kind of performance that resonates with boxing fans. He beat a top 3 welterweight champion, in the champ’s hometown, and did not wait until the most opportune time.

He took the fight sooner than ideal because he knew he was good enough, and he proved it. As previously stated, he got better as the fight progressed, something very impressive considering his inexperience and his opponent being a great champion.

Knocking out a fighter like Brook is the type of win that could help a fighter to gain popularity, however, Spence fell victim to the previously mentioned inactivity that plagues many Al Haymon fighters. It really is a shame, but he is starting out 2018 solid with a fight against the always tough Lamont Peterson next Saturday, in what is his first Defense of his IBF title.

Hopefully later in the year we get to see him fight Keith Thurman, as the fight would have 3 of the 4 major belts in the division on the line. However, whether the Thurman fight happens or not, Spence should fight at least 3 times in 2018. Anything less would be wasting the prime of his career, especially for a fighter who has superstar potential.

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