The Sportsman Boxing Power Rankings: January

Our monthly series chronicling the movers and shakers in the squared circle.
06:55, 05 Jan 2022

The Sportsman Boxing Power Rankings is a monthly series ranking boxers on a number of factors to determine the most pivotal names in the fight game. Rather than a pound-for-pound list, the Power Rankings will collate performance, reputation, influence and momentum. Here is our pick for the ten male boxers who sit atop the sport as of right now.

10. Shakur Stevenson 

The 24-year-old WBO super featherweight champion enters 2022 with the world at his feet. The Olympic silver medalist is coming off a career-best win over Jamel Herring, and a world title in a second weight class.

Vasiliy Lomachenko has mentioned his name, but will only fight the American up at lightweight. Before moving up, Stevenson should consider mouth-watering clashes with fellow 130-pound champions Oscar Valdez, Kenicho Ogawa or Roger Gutierrez. The Valdez fight in particular has added spice, considering the Mexican moved up from featherweight when Stevenson was mandatory challenger to his WBO belt. 

9. Vasiliy Lomachenko 

In a year where Keanu Reeves put the black trenchcoat back on to play Neo, boxing’s own ‘The Matrix’ made a comeback of his own. Lomachenko came roaring back from his 2020 loss to Teofimo Lopez with a pair of big wins over Masayoshi Nakatani and Richard Commey.

The Ukrainian’s bumper 2021 has put him close to the top of the food chain at lightweight, and Lomachenko is now targeting the division’s champions. He is the mandatory contender to the WBO title, and thus a clash with unified king George Kambosos Jr could be on the cards

lomachenko wants his belts back in 2022
lomachenko wants his belts back in 2022

8. Artur Beterbiev 

The IBF and WBC light heavyweight champion overcame one of the year’s worst cuts to knock out Marcus Browne last month, a timely reminder of the destructive powers of the Russian. Beterbiev is now 17-0 with 17 stoppages, and is the consensus number one in his division.

A match-up with unbeaten WBA champion Dmitry Bivol would be a must-see attraction, despite Bob Arum claiming such a fight isn’t marketable. Popular WBO boss Joe Smith Jr fights this month, and should he win he would also be in the frame for a big unification battle with Beterbiev. There’s also the small matter of a certain flame-haired Mexican we’ll come onto later…

7. George Kambosos Jr. 

When compiling our last list, it looked like the WBA, WBO, IBF and The Ring lightweight champion could write his own ticket. Fresh off a career-defining upset win over Teofimo Lopez, the Australian was expected to have the freedom to pick the most lucrative first defence of his new belts.

The WBO have other plans though, and have ordered a bout with Vasiliy Lomachenko for their version of the crown. Kambosos Jr has been trying to negotiate an undisputed title showdown with WBC champion Devin Haney, but could find himself forced into the ring with the dangerous Ukrainian instead. Kambosos Jr would once again be the underdog, but that didn’t stop him last time.

6. Josh Taylor 

The superb Scotsman has been able to spend his New Year reflecting on becoming undisputed 140-pound champion, as well as collecting multiple Fighter of the Year gongs. ‘The Tartan Tornado’ is not resting on his laurels though, and will defend his titles against Jack Catterall in a February homecoming.

The name Josh Taylor has reached the lips of some pretty big names recently, with Terence Crawford addressing a bout with the Prestponans southpaw. If Taylor is successful against Catterall, the sky's the limit for one of boxing’s two male undisputed champions.

the tartan tornado rides again in february
the tartan tornado rides again in february

5. Naoya Inoue 

‘The Monster’ needed just eleven rounds to beat his two 2021 opponents. Aran Dipaen is the latest to fall, with Inoue taking him out in eight sessions last month. The Japanese sensation is now 22-0, with a staggering sixteen of those being world title fights.

A rematch with WBC champion Nonito Donaire is an exciting option for 2022, with ‘The Filipino Flash’ being one of only three men to take Inoue the distance. Inoue guarantees excitement whenever he steps into the ring, and whatever he does this year will be worth watching. 

4. Oleksandr Usyk 

The quiet man of the heavyweight division, while the rest of the big boys go through arbitrations, bitter negotiations and posturing, Usyk is waiting with steely-eyed focus. The Ukrainian will meet Anthony Joshua this spring in a rematch for the WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight titles. The pantomime of the rest of the division can wait.

Usyk is not emotionless though, and he’ll know that people will not take him seriously as the real heavyweight champion of the world until he fights the WBC and lineal champion. Those two honours currently sit with Tyson Fury, and if ‘The Gypsy King’ can win a March title defence, a superfight with Usyk would be the biggest event of the year.

3. Terence Crawford 

‘Bud’ is single-minded about what he wants from this new year. The WBO welterweight champion has targeted a unification fight with WBC and IBF king Errol Spence Jr. Yordenis Ugas has thrown a spanner in the works though, as he looks set to defend the WBA belt he won from Manny Pacquiao against Spence instead.

Crawford would do well to play the long game, and meet the winner in a four-belt bonanza later in the year. An impressive showing against Shawn Porter has put plenty of credit in the bank for now, so a quiet start to 2022 might be to Crawford’s advantage.

2. Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez

Another month, another flurry of rampant speculation over Alvarez’s potential opponents. ‘Canelo’ is still expected to meet WBC cruiserweight champion Ilunga Makabu next, as he bids to win a world title in a fifth weight division.

However, there have been rumours linking him with an attempt at four-belt unification in the light heavyweight division. Such a feat would see him have to go through Artur Beterbiev, Dmitry Bivol and the winner of Joe Smith Jr vs Callum Johnson. Should he do so, it would be an even more impressive achievement than the super middleweight unification that netted him The Sportsman Boxer of the Year.

is another undisputed title on the cards for canelo?
is another undisputed title on the cards for canelo?

1. Tyson Fury

‘The Gypsy King’ goes top of our rankings for engineering this month’s ultimate boxing power play. Bob Arum and Frank Warren have both said Fury is likely to forgo a meeting with mandatory challenger Dillian Whyte if ‘The Body Snatcher’ won’t agree to the offered purse split. The move would see Fury defend his lineal and The Ring titles against either Andy Ruiz Jr or Robert Helenius instead.

Whether you agree or not, the idea of the true heavyweight title mattering more than the WBC sanctioning body belt is a powerful one, and shows the influence and importance Fury has as the top dog of the division. Nothing is certain yet, and we may still get Fury vs Whyte, but the idea that the lineal champion could secede from the WBC and defend the title we all know is truly his remains compelling.

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