BLH P4P Top 10 (Sept. 2022): Inoue and Usyk battle for top spot


In our last rankings update on Aug. 22 (next one on Sept. 5!), I ditched the men’s pound-for-pound rankings. Longtime readers know it’s not my favorite thing in the world, to put it lightly, and something that happened on the prior weekend’s DAZN broadcast just hit me as a breaking point. I no longer wanted to contribute to this media madness.

But people do like the P4P lists, and I am a man of the people, kind of, when it suits me. One suggestion was getting the entire staff together for P4P. I thought this was a decent idea, floated it to the others, and now here we are.

We will do this monthly, at the top of the month. And all I’ll say is, for those of you who used to soil your trousers at some of my rankings, buckle up.

Here we go. — Scott

The voters: Scott Christ, Wil Esco, John Hansen, Patrick Stumberg, and Lewis Watson.

The total results for Sept. 2021:

And now, some thoughts from your esteemed panel.

Scott Christ

  • (1) Oleksandr Usyk, (2) Naoya Inoue, (3) Terence Crawford, (4) Dmitry Bivol, (5) Errol Spence Jr, (6) Canelo Alvarez, (7) Artur Beterbiev, (8) Shakur Stevenson, (9) Jermell Charlo, (10) Vasiliy Lomachenko

Again, I’ve made my own thoughts on this stuff clear enough for long enough now. So I’m gonna mostly cede my time at the virtual podium to the other fellas to intro you to their thoughts and ideas. In future months, I’ll have more to say on various things.

In short, if you’ve missed my thoughts before: P4P is a marketing tool that morphed into a plague of fan and media obsession. It was a way to sell fighters who weren’t heavyweights, and it is now little more the average marketing tool, like a WBA secondary belt Showtime will tell you is “the world championship” to get you to buy a Tank Davis PPV. I take it seriously enough if I’m bothering at all, but all it means to me is the best fighters in the sport, regardless of their weight.

Just remember, everyone, as Tony Soprano said to Christopher Moltisanti out on that remote rural road: You pushed me to this. You fuckin’ pushed me to this!

Wil Esco

  • (1) Jaron Ennis, (2) Naoya Inoue, (3) Errol Spence Jr, (4) Terence Crawford, (5) Oleksandr Usyk, (6) Vasiliy Lomachenko, (7) Canelo Alvarez, (8) Artur Beterbiev, (9) Shakur Stevenson, (10) Dmitry Bivol

When Scott first pitched this idea for a revamped P4P list to gauge my interest, I more or less told him I couldn’t give two shits about P4P rankings and have never once compiled a list myself, and never once felt guilty about it.

That said, I didn’t want to be the reason why we no longer have the ranking system with which the boxing world is enamored. So I sort of punted by saying while I had no particular interest, I would be willing to participate if everyone else really wanted to do it. I did this in the hopes the rest of the staff would express a similar apathetic response, never to hear of it again.

A few days later I got the word to compile my first list, so I can only infer that the likes of Hansen and Stumberg failed to come through for your boy. The one saving grace for me is that Scott was explicit that there was only one rule in making our P4P lists: No rules!

So here we are. Generally speaking, I like to consider P4P pretty simplistically in the sense of who would be the 10 best fighters in the sport if they were all the same size. To get to that answer it obviously takes a mixture of the eye test and resume. Weighing both of those things can be tricky, especially because this is boxing, and just because you haven’t received the opportunity, doesn’t mean you aren’t really the best anyway. So I’m putting together my list simply based on a hodgepodge of my impressions, and I fully intend to maintain a high-enough level of cognitive dissonance to consider completely different criteria next month. Ultimately, I shall break the wheel.

For now, though, I think Jaron Ennis is the best fighter in the world and I don’t care to hear from all the naysayers who claim he hasn’t fought anybody to be held in such high regard. Tell Errol Spence and Terence Crawford to come get the smoke if they want it! I assure you, Ennis would take a world title shot against either right now. I’ve watched enough boxing from enough vantage points to trust my gut and I know what I see.

Aside from that, I’ve got Canelo ranked over Bivol because while I think Bivol is a better light heavyweight, I think I’d still take Canelo all things being equal. Also, Tyson Fury doesn’t make my list because while he is certainly a good fighter, I think he greatly benefits from just being a much bigger man than just about everyone else and I doubt he has the same sort of success if we were to negate size.

John Hansen

  • (1) Naoya Inoue, (2) Oleksandr Usyk, (3) Artur Beterbiev, (4) Jesse Rodriguez, (5) Errol Spence Jr, (6) Terence Crawford, (7) Dmitry Bivol, (8) Vasiliy Lomachenko, (9) Regis Prograis, (10) Tyson Fury

Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez has already collected two major pelts in a weight class his own promoter thinks could and maybe should have waited until after his 23rd birthday, at least. P4P is theoretically graded on a sliding scale based on size, and I’m estimating Rodriguez is at least 30-40 percent gigantic fucking balls just for attempting to do what he’s done at such a young age.

Regis Prograis came up just a tiny bit short against Josh Taylor, who went on to unify all titles at 140 pounds. Since then, Prograis has mostly lost fights for public awareness and effective matchmaking. But, I don’t think his talent or ability have diminished along the way. I expect the ongoing reshuffling at his weight class will end up with Prograis atop the division in relatively short order. For once, mandatory orders are something to celebrate.

Tyson Fury — I’ll treat him as really retired when he surrenders or gets stripped of his belt, or when Usyk books a different fight. Until then, I’ll slot him in at No. 10 to keep a seat warm. If you’re upset about me ranking a self-declared retiree, feel free to pencil Salt Papi in here instead this month. Scott couldn’t stop raving about how he looked last weekend, and I trust his judgment.


Pound-for-pound lists are primarily about generating conversation and promoting fighters who are presumably in a class above their single-weight titles. As Scott says, it’s mainly a marketing tool. And I don’t plan on promoting or hyping someone that I find boring to watch. Call it the Guillermo Rigondeaux Rule, after an unfortunate incident that scared someone off from boxing fandom after they blindly followed my suggestion to “just keep an eye out for fights with guys on the pound-for-pound lists.”

That’s why Shakur Stevenson isn’t present here. He probably is one of the ten best boxers in the sport right now, and he is getting better to watch. But, I need to actually enjoy another fight or two before I start work on his unpaid marketing team.

I think Canelo Alvarez needs a little more time to acclimate to fighting above 155 lbs. He’s scheduled to fight in a few weeks, so we’ll see how he does. Maybe next month!

Patrick Stumberg

  • (1) Naoya Inoue, (2) Oleksandr Usyk, (3) Errol Spence Jr, (4) Terence Crawford, (5) Canelo Alvarez, (6) Dmitry Bivol, (7) Shakur Stevenson, (8) Vasiliy Lomachenko, (9) Artur Beterbiev, (10) Chocolatito Gonzalez

When Scott sent out the alert to get our lists ready, he explicitly said that the only criteria we had to follow was our own personal definition of pound-for-pound. In trying to put this together, I came to the realization that I didn’t really have one.

Ordinarily, that’d be a good thing; trying to make hard-and-fast rules for a purely subjective flight of fancy is a good way to get sucked into the most aggravating arguments imaginable. Alas, here I am, holding up my glue-and-toothpick sculpture in the great elementary school arts and crafts fair of life.

Aside from just sliding names up and down like refrigerator magnets until they felt “right,” I think the closest thing to a core thesis I found was to try and balance strength of schedule and dominance, which is why I’ve got Inoue at the top.

Nobody in boxing is doing what “The Monster” does; his worst performance to date was beating a generational talent with one functional eye, and he took that same generational talent to the cleaners in their rematch. He’s not just beating his peers, he’s destroying them; he’s so far above the others that it’s legitimately difficult to imagine him losing to anyone under 126. While Usyk campaigning at heavyweight might satisfy the “if everyone were the same size” hypothetical a bit better than Inoue naturally moving up in weight as he got older, he’s not threshing people like Inoue.

That’s the same reason I’ve got Shakur Stevenson so high up there. He’s not a knockout artist, but he’s been damn near untouchable since turning pro. There was a stretch from mid-2019 to the end of 2021 where every scorecard cumulatively tallied up to four lost rounds, and three of those came from his intentional breather round against Joet Gonzalez.

Things admittedly got a little shaky near the end; I couldn’t figure out what all to do with Lomachenko, Beterbiev, Chocolatito, Jermell Charlo, Josh Taylor, and Devin Haney. Taylor’s “win” over Jack Catterall knocked him out of contention for me, as did Charlo’s first fight with Brian Castano. As good as Haney’s credentials are, Lomachenko’s resume edges his out when taking “Hi-Tech’s” lack of size and the injury he brought into the Lopez fight into account, and Beterbiev’s destructiveness speaks for itself. It came down to Haney vs Gonzalez for the 10-spot, and seeing as two of Gonzalez’s three losses were robberies against the division’s best and he’s clearly fighting well above his ideal weight, Chocolatito got my nod.

Is my personal admiration of Gonzalez’s craft overriding the rational part of my brain? Is Inoue’s spot at the top the last remnants of the obsession with Japanese MMA that dominated my early years of following combat sports? I’ll delegate the psychoanalysis to the experts (the comments section).

Lewis Watson

  • (1) Oleksandr Usyk, (2) Naoya Inoue, (3) Canelo Alvarez, (4) Terence Crawford, (5) Dmitry Bivol, (6) Errol Spence Jr, (7) Chocolatito Gonzalez, (8) Devin Haney, (9) Jermell Charlo, (10) Artur Beterbiev

OK. How do I see P4P rankings? I guess similar to Scott in that it is nothing but fucking fantasy marketing; for instance, Eddie Hearn once referred to Canelo Alvarez, Oleksandr Usyk, and Chocolatito Gonzalez as the pound-for-pound No. 1 in a calendar month to fit the narrative of the fight(s) he was promoting. But opposed to Scott, I am a bit of a sucker, and love lists, and love ranking shit, so I’m more than happy to go balls deep into fantasy land with my BLH amigos.

I guess I’ll attempt to preempt any controversy in my list; trying to blinker myself from its obvious perfection. Canelo, for me, can’t fall out of the top three following his loss to Bivol. I could even be persuaded to bump him up to No. 2 spot, simply down to his list of wins across countless weight classes pre-Bivol, but we’ll settle for No. 3 due to my love for the Japanese “Monster.” Fighting, and winning, across a number of weight classes is, for me, the biggest criteria when it comes to P4P lists, so knocking Canelo off his perch down to No. 6 or below just doesn’t sit right after he had the gumption to march back up to 175 lbs and face a champion.

I guess the same goes for everyone’s favourite pint-sized Nicaraguan, Chocolatito. Gonzalez “lost” to Juan Francisco Estrada last March, but did he really? Asides from that loss, back-to-back defeats to a purple-patch Srisaket Sor Rungvisai are the only blots on a magnificent copybook, winning world titles across four weight classes. For me No. 7 is about right. I mean, you try and tell that cheeky grin that he is any lower.

Argh, I guess we have to talk about Devin Haney, too. Haney missed the cut on my first draft, but I decided to bump Josh Taylor and throw Haney in at No. 8. He’ll tell you before I do, but he’s the YoUnGeSt uNdIsPtEd cHaMpIoN In tHe FoUr-BeLt eRa! And I guess that does amount to something. I’m still not convinced how he stacks up against some of the other lightweights, but he showed guts heading to Australia to de-throne George Kambosos Jr, and he’ll more than likely double up on that result in October.

Anything else? Erm, Beterbiev’s record of 18 KOs in 18 fights is terrifying and probably quite underrated. He’s at No. 10 edging out the likes of Shakur Stevenson and possibly the aforementioned Estrada. But in terms of the numero uno, I’ll die on the hill backing Usyk for No. 1. He’s travelled to Poland, the United States, Germany, Latvia, Russia, the UK, and Saudi Arabia to topple champion after champion across cruiserweight and heavyweight, doing it all with dignity and weirdness in equal measure.

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