Boxing Pound-for-Pound Rankings: Errol Spence Jr. passes Terence Crawford as top welterweight fighter


Outside of Teofimo Lopez Jr.’s upset of Vasiliy Lomachenko to unify lightweight titles in October, the unprecedented turbulence caused by the COVID-19 outbreak seemed to prevent any kind of major shakeup to boxing’s pound-for-pound rankings. Most big-name fighters appeared in the ring just one time in 2020 with some, including WBA welterweight champion Manny Pacquaio, not finding an opening at all to return. 

Yet along with the rare occurrence of having no short of four fighters with a legitimate claim to the No. 1 spot on this list, the biggest debate regarding placement seemed to come among welterweight kings. Unbeaten 147-pound champions Errol Spence Jr. and Terence Crawford did nothing but compete against each other for higher placement on this list while frustrations from fans only continued to mount about them not being able to prove in the ring who is better. 

Crawford spent most of the year ranked just slightly ahead of Spence, who entered his fall return against Danny Garcia with a large list of questions as to whether a car accident in 2019 had changed him. Luckily for Spence, he seemed to be the same fighter — if not better — after renewing his focus to the sport, and the thorough victory over Garcia might have given him more fuel to edge Crawford in the rankings. 

The major issue for Crawford, the former undisputed champion at 140 pounds, is that he just doesn’t have the same experience level at welterweight against elite foes that Spence has given their polar opposite positions within boxing’s political landscape. 

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Spence’s welterweight resume of having beaten Kell Brook, Lamont Peterson, Mikey Garcia, Shawn Porter and now Garcia badly trumps Crawford’s piecemeal assortment of faded former champions and stay-busy names. Spence also has shown a variety of performances that speak to how well-rounded and dangerous he can be adapting to different styles — from outpointing Mikey Garcia at distance to outslugging Porter at close range.  The Spence-Crawford debate, however, will hopefully be solved in 2021 by the two figuring out how to consummate this issue inside the ring. 

The same can be said for a pair of heavyweight champions lingering in and around the top 10 in Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua. 

Fury’s demolition of Deontay Wilder in their rematch to open 2020 provided him with rare placement for a heavyweight in the top 10 (alongside Oleksandr Usyk, who moved up from cruiserweight). But it was Joshua who appeared close to one day rejoining them when he returned to stop Kubrat Pulev and showcase his newfound balance between safety boxing from distance and thunderous finishing ability when it mattered most. 

A Fury-Joshua fight in 2021 is the biggest the sport could produce from the standpoint of importance, and might also play a big role, just like Spence-Crawford, in creating some finality to the debates about which fighter deserves to be king. 

Pound-for-Pound Rankings

Honorable Mentions: Artur Beterbiev, Jermall Charlo, Juan Francisco Estrada, Josh Taylor, Jermell Charlo, Gennadiy Golovkin, Anthony Joshua





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