We’ve reached the halfway point of the 2018 boxing year, and it’s been a good one.
The brilliant Vasiliy Lomachenko hit the canvas but got back up to end Jorge Linares’ long lightweight reign. Deontay Wilder escaped a treacherous seventh round before knocking out Luis Ortiz to keep the dream heavyweight bout with Anthony Joshua alive.
It wasn’t all good in the first six months. The highly anticipated May 5 rematch between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin was canceled after Alvarez failed two drug tests. But they agreed this week to fight Sept. 15 at T-Mobile Arena.
With most of the elite boxers already fighting at least once this year, it’s time to update the Review-Journal’s pound-for-pound rankings.
I wasn’t the only voter this time. With the help of Bryan Salmond, the host of Premier Vegas Sports boxing, and Larry Mir, the RJ’s senior technical director of digital, we came up with the list below:
10. Jarrett Hurd (22-0, 15 KOs), junior middleweight, USA
Hurd quickly became a fan favorite with his relentless work rate in the clinch. The Maryland native proved he’s the real deal by defeating the division’s kingpin, Erislandy Lara, in April at the Hard Rock Hotel. There’s a debate of who’s the best junior middleweight between Hurd and Jermell Charlo. They might meet next to settle the debate.
9. Naoya Inoue (16-0, 14 KOs), bantamweight, Japan
Not many know about the Japanese monster, but if you watch one of his fights, you’ll quickly realize his skills match up with the best. Inoue recently moved up in weight, and it took him less than one round to become a bantamweight world champion after he knocked out Jamie McDonnell last month.
8. Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (45-4-1, 40 KOs), super flyweight, Thailand
Sor Rungvisai is finally getting the credit he deserves after twice defeating the previous pound-for-pound king, Roman Gonzalez. The rugged fighter from Thailand followed with an impressive win over Juan Francisco Estrada in February to retain his WBC super flyweight title.
7. Keith Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs), welterweight, USA
I didn’t have Thurman in my top 10 because he hasn’t fought in 15 months because of injuries. Who knows if he’s still the same fighter or if the desire to be great is still there after signature wins over Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia. Clearly my colleagues haven’t forgotten Thurman’s impressive resume.
6. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (49-1-2, 34 KOs), middleweight, Mexico
It’s tough to rate Alvarez after his two positive drug tests. We’ll never know if tainted meat is the real reason he had clenbuterol in his system. That said, he went toe-to-toe with Golovkin in September for a split draw. The Mexican’s counter attacks and fast combinations solidify why he’s on the list.
5. Errol Spence (23-0, 20 KOs), welterweight, USA
Spence has the entire package with his power, body work and defensive prowess. He opened the year with a dominant knockout over Lamont Peterson. The IBF 147-pound champion returns to the ring Saturday for a homecoming bout against Carlos Ocampo at the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium. Many regard Spence as the best champion in the loaded division, and he might be the most avoided.
4. Gennady Golovkin (38-0-1, 34 KOs), middleweight, Kazakhstan
It hasn’t been a year to remember for the middleweight champion. He lost a big payday after the Alvarez rematch was canceled and was recently stripped of his IBF belt. Golovkin might be leaving his prime, but he’s still dominant. He crushed Vanes Martirosyan in two rounds on Cinco de Mayo. Golovkin needs to face a quality opponent to see how much he has left. He’ll get that with Alvarez in the fall.
3. Mikey Garcia (38-0, 30 KOs), lightweight, USA
Garcia became a four-division champion after taking Sergey Lipinets’ junior welterweight belt in March. Garcia vacated the belt because there are bigger names in the lightweight division. The WBC lightweight titlist will meet Robert Easter next month for a unification bout. Hopefully Garcia faces Lomachenko after that.
2. Terence Crawford (33-0, 24 KOs), welterweight, USA
There was no doubt Crawford had the skills to keep up with the best welterweights. But did he have the size and power? The former undisputed junior welterweight champion answered those questions by punking Jeff Horn to take the WBO belt last week at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in his 147-pound debut. Now, many pundits think Crawford could defeat Spence.
1. Vasiliy Lomachenko (11-1, 9 KOs), lightweight, Ukraine
Some have a tough time ranking Lomachenko No. 1 because of his loss. But he has bounced back since losing to an overweight Orlando Salido by fighting world class champions and making some of them quit on their stools. The Ukrainian Wizard passed his toughest test last month by knocking out Linares with an injured shoulder. Lomachenko also showed he’s more than just talent. He displayed heart after recovering from a knockdown.
Contact Gilbert Manzano at email@example.com.Follow @GManzano24 on Twitter.