1. Terence Crawford 32-0 (23 KOs) USA ‘Bud’ continued his perfect run in the paid ranks in 2017 with two highly impressive wins. In May, the Nebraska native gave Olympic gold medallist Felix Diaz a beating at New York’s Madison Square Garden until the Dominican’s corner mercifully pulled him out at the conclusion of the 10th round. Crawford then underlined his status as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world in August with an historic 3rd-round KO of Julius Indongo to become the undisputed light-welterweight champion. He has since decided to seek new challenges at welterweight, moving up to the 147-pound division to challenge Australian Jeff Horn for his WBO crown on April 14 in Las Vegas.
2. Vasyl Lomachenko 10-1 (8 KOs) Ukraine A two-time Olympic gold medallist, Ukraine’s Lomachenko has been moved very fast in the professional ranks owing to his stellar amateur career. In 2014, he won a vacant featherweight strap in just his third pro bout – tying the record for the fewest number of fights to clinch a world title. He soon moved up to junior lightweight and established himself as the best fighter in the 130-pound class in 2016 with dominant wins over Roman ‘Rocky’ Martinez (a fifth-round KO to claim another world title) in June and Nicholas Walters in December, in which the feared ‘Axeman’ quit on his stool after seven rounds of punishment. Last year, Lomachenko scored three more dominant victories, battering the battle-tested Jason Sosa over nine one-sided rounds in April, outclassing Colombian puncher Miguel Marriaga on his way to a seventh-round stoppage in August, and then forcing fellow two-time Olympic gold medallist Guillermo Rigondeaux to quit in their heavily-hyped December showdown.
3. Gennady Golovkin 37-0-1 (33 KOs) Kazakhstan Arguably the most fearsome puncher in the sport, unified middleweight king Golovkin made the 18th consecutive defence of his titles last March, but saw his 23-fight knockout streak end when fellow titleholder Daniel Jacobs took him to the final bell in their thrilling unification clash in New York. Jacobs certainly gave Golovkin all he could handle, and some felt the Brooklyn native did enough to deserve the nod over ‘GGG’ on the scorecards, despite suffering a hard knockdown in the fourth round. In September, Golovkin made defence No 19 against WBC beltholder Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in what was considered by many as the best matchup in boxing. While the fight lived up to its billing and featured numerous thrilling exchanges, it ended in a somewhat controversial split draw, allowing Golovkin to retain his belts. Even though most ringside observers felt Golovkin had done enough to win a closely-contested bout, it was not the draw per se that drew such opprobrium, but rather judge Adalaide Byrd’s indefensible 118-110 scorecard in favour of Canelo. Golovkin will get the chance to set the record straight on Cinco de Mayo weekend when they two champions meet in a rematch.
4. Mikey Garcia 38-0 (30 KOs) USA The unbeaten Californian scored two hugely impressive victories in 2017. In January, Garcia wiped out the previously undefeated Dejan Zlaticanin via a highlight reel knockout to capture the WBC world lightweight title. The Montenegrin remained unconscious for several minutes after feeling the full force of one of the American’s powerful right hooks. In July, Garcia moved up in weight once again to take on Adrien Broner for the vacant WBC Diamond light welterweight title in Brooklyn, New York. In a surprisingly one-sided contest, Garcia gave Broner a beating over 12 rounds to earn a deserved unanimous points win. The 30-year-old kicked off his 2018 campaign in fine style on March 10, winning a belt in a fourth weight class after defeating Russian Sergey Lipinents on points to capture his IBF light welterweight title.
5. Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez 49-2-1 (34 KOs) Mexico After his solitary defeat to all-time great Floyd Mayweather Jr in September 2013, ‘Canelo’ reeled off seven straight wins against quality opposition to cement his reputation as the new face of the sport. The Mexican superstar fought twice in 2017, giving compatriot Julio Cesar Chavez Jr a severe beating over 12 one-sided rounds in May before finally agreeing to face fellow middleweight champion Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin in September in the biggest fight of the year. In a close bout before a raucous crowd in Las Vegas, ‘Canelo’ held his own against Golovkin but was mightily fortunate to escape with a split-draw courtesy of Adalaide Byrd’s unforgivable 118-110 scorecard in his favour. They will do it all again on May 5, despite Alvarez failing a test in early March for the banned drug clenbuterol, which he subsequently blamed on meat contamination.
6. Anthony Joshua 20-0 (20 KOs) Great Britain Joshua has barely put a foot wrong since turning pro about four years ago, racking up 20 wins from 20 contests, with none of his opponents hearing the final bell. After impressive wins over former lineal heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko and late replacement Carlos Takam last year, Joshua’s first outing of 2018 will see him face unbeaten New Zealander Joseph Parker in Cardiff on March 31. The Englishman is looking add Parker’s WBO belt to his collection as he attempts to unify the sport’s glamour division.
7. Oleksandr Usyk 14-0 (11 KOs) Ukraine An outstanding amateur who won gold for his country in the heavyweight division at the 2012 London Olympics, Usyk has been equally impressive in the pro ranks, setting a division record for the fewest fights needed to win a cruiserweight world title. He achieved that feat in just his 10th bout, pounding his way to a decision win over Poland’s Krzysztof Glowacki in September 2016. Since then, the Ukrainian has defended his WBO belt four times. He signed up to the six-man World Boxing Super Series tournament, defeating longtime champion Marco Huck via 10th round KO in the quarterfinal last September to set up a mouthwatering semifinal clash with Latvian hardman Mairis Briedis on January 27. In an early fight of the year candidate, Usyk was awarded a majority decision in Riga to book his spot in the final. On May 11 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the 31-year-old will face hard-punching Russian Murat Gassiev for the prestigious Muhammad Ali Trophy.
8. Keith Thurman 28-0 (22 KOs) USA In his only fight of 2017, ‘One Time’ took on the unbeaten Danny Garcia in March in a heavily-hyped unification clash. Unfortunately, the fight in New York failed to catch fire, with Thurman squeaking past in his compatriot in a largely tactical bout via a split-decision. And to add insult to injury, the WBA and WBC welterweight titlist required elbow surgery that has delayed his return to the ring. He is slated to make his comeback on May 19 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn against an opponent yet to be determined.
9. Errol Spence Jr 23-0 (20 KOs) USA Former US amateur standout Spence Jr made his mark in the pro ranks last May, travelling to Sheffield, England to dethrone IBF titleholder Kell Brook. In front a raucous crowd at Brook’s beloved Bramall Lane, the Texan overcame a slow start to stop the Briton in the 11th round of a close fight and capture his first world title. In his first defence in January, ‘The Truth’ gave Lamont Peterson a savage beating over seven one-sided rounds, forcing Peterson’s trainer Barry Hunter to pull his fighter out before the eighth round. Spence will be back in action in June against the unbeaten – but largely untested – Mexican challenger Carlos Ocampo.
10. Guillermo Rigondeaux 17-1 (12 KOs) Cuba Although his fighting style hardly gets the pulse racing, there’s no denying two-time Cuban Olympic gold medallist Rigondeaux’s pedigree inside the square circle. The WBA and IBO junior featherweight champion endured a difficult 2017, knocking out mandatory challenger Moises Flores of Mexico at the end of the first round of their fight in June. However, the bout was later ruled a no contest by the NSAC after ‘El Chacal’ was judged to have landed the telling blows after the bell. With seemingly no-one of note willing to challenge his supremacy at 122 pounds, the 37-year-old jumped two weight classes in December to take on the feared Vasyl Lomachenko in a battle of the two-time Olympic champions. It proved to be a bad move, with Rigondeaux suffering his first professional loss as Lomachenko dominated him for six rounds before forcing him to quit on his stool.
Honourable mentions: Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Naoya Inoue, Deontay Wilder, Jermall Charlo, Jorge Linares