1. Terence Crawford 32-0 (23 KOs) USA ‘Bud’ continued his perfect run in the paid ranks in 2016 with two highly impressive wins to add to an already stellar resume. In July he scored the biggest victory of his career with a surprisingly easy unanimous points win over the previously unbeaten Viktor Postol in Las Vegas. In December, Crawford put on a show for his hometown fans in Omaha, Nebraska by taking apart the tough but limited John Molina in eight brutally one-sided rounds. In his first outing of 2017, Crawford produced another sublime performance, battering Olympic gold medallist Felix Diaz 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 one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world on 19 August with an historic 3rd-round KO of Julius Indongo to become the undisputed light-welterweight champion.
2. 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 in 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. On 16 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. A rematch seems inevitable on Cinco de Mayo weekend next year.
3. Mikey Garcia 37-0 (30 KOs) USA The unbeaten Californian is surely one of the leading contenders for the prestigious Ring Magazine’s ‘Fighter of the Year’ award after 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.
4. Vasyl Lomachenko 9-1 (7 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. The 28-year-old has since 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. In his first fight of 2017, Lomachenko dominated the battle-tested Jason Sosa over nine one-sided rounds in Maryland to retain his title. On 5 August, ‘Hi-Tech’ maintained his winning run by battering Colombian puncher Miguel Marriaga on his way to a seventh-round stoppage in Los Angeles. Next up for the Ukrainian is an intriguing clash with junior featherweight titlist and fellow two-time Olympic gold medallist Guillermo Rigondeaux. The Cuban is moving up two weight classes for the opportunity.
5. Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez 49-2-1 (34 KOs) Mexico Since his solitary defeat to all-time great Floyd Mayweather Jr in September 2013, ‘Canelo’ has reeled off seven straight wins against quality opposition to cement his reputation as the new face of the sport. After claiming the lineal middleweight title by defeating Miguel Cotto in November 2015, Mexico’s Alvarez retained his belt the following year by brutally knocking out Britain’s undersized Amir Khan in the sixth round of their megafight on Cinco de Mayo weekend. He then blotted his copy book by seemingly ducking middleweight king Gennady Golovkin and returning to junior middleweight to stop another British foe, Liam Smith, inside nine rounds. In his first fight of 2017, Canelo gave compatriot Julio Cesar Chavez Jr a severe beating over 12 one-sided rounds on 6 May, after which his team announced he had finally signed to meet ‘GGG’ on 16 September. In a close fight 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.
6. Guillermo Rigondeaux 17-0 (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. In his only outing of 2017 thus far, the WBA and IBO junior featherweight champion knocked out mandatory challenger Moises Flores of Mexico at the end of the first round of their fight in Las Vegas on 17 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 36-year-old has decided to jump two weight classes to take on the feared Vasyl Lomachenko in a battle of the two-time Olympic champions.
7. Anthony Joshua (19-0, 19 KOs) Great Britain Joshua has barely put a foot wrong since turning pro about four years ago, racking up 19 wins from 19 contests, with none of his opponents hearing the final bell. The 27-year-old faced the first stern test of his professional career on 29 April when he took on former lineal heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley Stadium in the most anticipated fight of the year. And the bout more than lived up to the hype, with IBF champion Joshua rallying from a hard knockdown in the sixth round to stop the 41-year-old Klitschko in the 11th in front of 90,000 screaming fans. It will go down as one of the great heavyweight battles of the last 20 years, but more importantly for Joshua it establishes him as the king of boxing’s glamour division as both a unified titleholder and a global attraction. Next up for Joshua is a mandatory defence against Bulgarian hardman Kubrat Pulev (25-1, 13 KOs) at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on 28 October.
8. Oleksandr Usyk (13-0, 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 last September. Since then, the Ukrainian has defended his WBO belt three times, most recently against faded longtime champion Marco Huck on 9 September, in the quarterfinal of World Boxing Super Series tournament. Usyk was too slick and powerful for German veteran Huck, stopping him the 10th-round to set up a semifinal clash in early 2018 against the winner of the fight between Mairis Briedis and Mike Perez on 30 September.
9. 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 will not return to the ring until next year due to elbow surgery. Hopefully a match-up with IBF beltholder Errol Spence Jr to find the true champion at 147 pounds can be arranged in the not-too-distant future.
10. Errol Spence Jr (22-0, 19 KOs) USA Former US amateur standout Spence Jr made his mark in the pro ranks on 27 May, travelling to Sheffield, England to dethrone IBF titleholder Kell Brook. In front a raucous crowd at Brook’s beloved Bramall Lane, the 27-year-old overcame a slow start to stop the Briton in the 11th round of a close fight and capture his first world title. ‘The Truth’ is expected to return to the ring in January for his first defence, with Lamont Peterson and Luis Collazo touted as potential opponents.
Honourable mentions: Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Adonis Stevenson, Miguel Cotto, Deontay Wilder, Jermall Charlo, Jorge Linares