The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / The Top 10 Fighters of the Year for 2019

The Top 10 Fighters of the Year for 2019

2019's best
Source: AP News

This list is based off performance through the year 2019, not a pound for pound list. It is strictly based off quality of opposition, results and legitimate accomplishments within the year. Keeping in mind that I will rarely mention titles as legitimate championships, unless they are the true champion. A WBA/WBC “silver”, “interim”, etc. belt is not one of those.

1) Saul Alvarez (53-1-2, 36 KOs)

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“Canelo” Alvarez has only disappointed in the sense that he let us all down by not making the third Golovkin fight happen. Regardless of the Golovkin match, he has still had the most impressive 2019. With a victory over the third best middleweight in the world at the time, Daniel Jacobs, and a brutal knockout over one of the best light heavyweights of this decade in Sergey Kovalev. Canelo’s resume is stacking up quickly. We still hope he comes to his senses and agrees on the third go-round with “GGG”, but it doesn’t sound likely. Hopefully he can at least keep signing contracts with great opposition like the two he fought last year.

2) Errol Spence Jr. (26-0, 21 KOs)

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Errol Spence is starting to make a big name for himself in the U.S. market. The boxing clinic he put on Mikey Garcia was a huge step in the right direction. Most were expecting him to win because of his brute strength and size, not by completely outboxing Garcia. Garcia is a pound for pound talent, just not at 147 pounds. So, give him credit, but with minor limitations. The hard-fought, close decision win over Shawn Porter is a more accomplished feat. Porter has been in the ring with nearly every notable welterweight and is respectfully acknowledged as top-5 in his division. So, this is a very good year for Spence. Hopefully he keeps it going in 2020, but we’ll see how it plays out after his accident.

3) Sergey Kovalev (34-4-1, 29 KOs)

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My fighters of the year are based off the level of competition and results of those bouts throughout the calendar year. Obviously wins are better than losses, but sometimes losses should be rewarded more than certain wins. This case is a prime example of why.

Say what you will about the loss to Canelo Alvarez, Kovalev was winning that bout for many before the knockout happened. So, in perspective, Kovalev was defeating a top-5 (now considered number one) pound for pound boxer in the entire world. No shame there, however, the loss clearly is held against him, which is why he is not voted number one. But the loss to Alvarez is more respectable than a win against a top-10ish guy in the division. We have to stop completely disregarding these guys with losses on their resumes and start understanding the entirety of the situation. Keeping in mind that Sergey Kovalev fought three times last year, which is more than most elite level fighters.

His comeback win over Eleider Alvarez, who was considered by some to be the number one light heavyweight at the time of the victory, was a great addition to his resume. His second bout of the year back in August against Anthony Yarde was not his best, but it was a solid victory nonetheless. Yarde was a top-10/15 light heavyweight at the time.

4) Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16 KOs)

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“The Monster” is a bantamweight beast right now. This year he knocked out a top-10 bantamweight in Emmanuel Rodriguez and eked out a hard-fought decision win over an older, yet still formidable 118-pounder in Nonito Donaire. Donaire and Rodriguez are solid wins, just not quite good enough to top the three-fight activity of Kovalev against elite level Canelo and Eleider Alvarez, with Anthony Yarde being the icing on the cake.

5) Manny Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KOs)

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“Pac Man” is still going strong in the year 2055. Just kidding, it’s 2019, but it feels like he might still be at it by 2055. Pacquiao’s competition level is still pretty darn good, given his age. Adrien Broner was his first match this year and what dominance he displayed. Broner is a guy who hangs around to get beat by more elite opposition, although he thinks he is the cream of the crop himself. The perceived outstanding reputation he gives himself is greater than his actual performances. Regardless, Broner was a top-15/20-ish welterweight at the time, which said a lot about where Pacquiao still stands in the boxing industry. Pacquiao was not finished though, as he decided to step up even more against a better, top-5 welterweight in Keith Thurman. Thurman is a premium welterweight. He has defeated Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia in the past. So, this was a great victory for Manny Pacquiao.

6) Josh Taylor (16-0, 12 KOs)

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Josh Taylor has been active in fighting some of the best there is to offer at the 140-pound limit. His first match against a top-5-ish Ivan Baranchyk was a great scrap and although the scorecards didn’t reflect it, Baranchyk did pretty well in that bout. Taylor did pull out the victory, but it was no landslide. Taylor’s next opponent was at least a top-3 rated Regis Prograis. This ended up being a close decision, but ultimately Taylor deserved the nod. This can be a close call when comparing him at number six on the list instead of five, but here’s a brief reason why. Keith Thurman is better than both Prograis and Baranchyk. Broner might be comparable to Baranchyk and lower than Prograis. Consider that Broner fights in a more competitive weight class and is typically fighting better opposition than Prograis and Baranchyk. So, overall Thurman and Broner are slightly better than Prograis and Baranchyk.

7) Andy Ruiz Jr. (33-2, 22 KOs)

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Ruiz is primarily on here because of his Rocky-type moment in his victory over Anthony Joshua. That was a phenomenal upset that was not expected and we must note that Joshua was considered to be the best heavyweight in the world at the time of the upset. His follow up performance was not nearly as Rocky-esque though. Joshua dominated Ruiz in the rematch by thoroughly outboxing him from distance. However, I will repeat that a loss is still credible when it’s against elite opposition. Joshua was considered the fourth best heavyweight in the rematch. So, one win and one loss against one of the best big men in the world. Then, to add to the yearly resume, Ruiz Jr. also fought Alexander Dimitrenko back in April, which is a good, but not great stoppage win. Dimitrenko was a top-20/30-ish heavyweight.

8) Vasyl Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs)

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This list is not a pound for pound list. It is a list of yearly accomplishments, not career accomplishments. If it were pound for pound talk, we would be singing a different tune. Lomachenko had a good year, but not a great year. People can discredit the Anthony Crolla match all they want, but Crolla is a solid contender. The Ring let him fight for their belt against Jorge Linares less than three years ago. He was a top-10 lightweight at the time of the scheduled bout and “The Matrix” didn’t just beat Crolla, he dominated him in every aspect of the game and then finished it with a brutal knockout.

Luke Campbell was a very good follow up win because Campbell is a very talented man. Campbell’s only losses are against real good competition. Two wins against top-10 opponents don’t quite add up better than a win and loss to a top-5 heavyweight like Ruiz has, but Ruiz edges Lomachenko due to the comparable, plus the additional third match with Dimitrenko.

9) Shawn Porter (30-3-1, 17 KOs)

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Shawn Porter could probably be on these lists every year, considering the competition he always faces. He is consistently in the ring with some of the best fighters in the division. I would like to just throw something out there. Porter has rarely taken a “tune up fight”. Most of his bouts have been against somebody rated in the top-10 in his division. He loses some and wins some, but he’s always competitive. Yordenis Ugas was his first of two scheduled bouts this year.

Ugas is a skilled boxer who showed why he is a top-10 welterweight. The results were close and disputed, yet Porter came out victorious. His next bout was against a pound for pound talent in Errol Spence Jr. It was another closely contested fight that ended up going in the loss column for Porter. The match was close throughout and Porter gave the fans what they came for and that was action.

10) Deontay Wilder (42-0-1, 41 KOs)

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Some people may want to crown Wilder the next great heavyweight, but we need to pump the brakes for a minute. His knockouts are epic and we can all be thrilled by them, but let’s think about the opposition he is facing. Both men that Wilder fought this year were good heavyweights, but not great heavyweights. None of us needed to see him destroy Dominic Breazeale (a top-15 to 20 Heavyweight) and Luis Ortiz (a top-10 heavyweight, that’s possibly overrated). They are both good wins, but the competition needs to be a little better before he gets mentioned as the best of this era and especially if you try to throw his name in with the greats of even better heavyweight eras.

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