1) Andre “SOG” Ward (31-0, 15 KO’s)
Ward doesn’t get as much credit as he should here. He emerged victorious against a high level of opposition for a good portion of his career and is now widely thought to be the best fighter on the planet. The former amateur standout didn’t get this far on offense alone, though we all know that is nuanced too. Ward has shown time and time again that he is a thinker, adaptable. He adjusts his defense accordingly and he has been able to overcome foes in a multitude of ways, all while avoiding the vast majority of shots thrown his way.
2) Vasyl “Hi-Tech” Lomachenko (7-1, 5 KO’s)
The Ukrainian is one of the finest specimens the sport has seen for quite a while. Lomachenko can do just about everything inside of the ring—slip, parry, dip, strafe around the ring and use incredible angles that have baffled his toughest of foes. His ability to maintain an aggressive posture while remaining nearly unhittable is a defining feature of his game.
3) Guillermo “El Chacal” Rigondeaux (17-0, 11 KO’s)
What a fighter the Cuban is, but what a tragedy his career is becoming. After a win over the highly-rated Nonito Donaire, it was thought that the sky was the limit. Unfortunately, it’s been stagnation and near-indifference from the fans. But that doesn’t take away from his skill, which is tremendous. His footwork is lightning-quick and his many amateur and professional bouts highlight how comfortable he is in the ring slipping punches.
4) Erislandy “The American Dream” Lara (24-2-2, 14 KO’s)
Aside from the poor showing against the plodding Alfredo Angulo, Lara has been one of the hardest men to catch cleanly for years. He made it look easy against the also slick, Austin Trout, and received little damage—at least to the head—in bouts against pound-for-pounder Saul Alvarez, Ishe Smith and every fight after that.
5) Tevin “American Idol” Farmer (24-4-1, 5 KO’s)
Maybe it’s in his blood, seeing as he is a distant relative of one of the greatest lightweights to ever do it in Joe Gans, but Farmer has the stuff you can’t teach a guy. The southpaw exhibits a feel for distance that is lovely to watch as a purist. At times, he will let his hands down and let his ability do the talking.
6) Terence “Bud” Crawford (30-0, 21 KO’s)
Crawford’s game is mostly predicated on his fantastic offense but he wouldn’t have made it this far without defensive know-how. His range is something that stands out above all, as he almost always knows where to be and when to be there. It’s proven effective against some high-quality fighters and I don’t expect it will fail him anytime soon.
7) Oleksandr Usyk (12-0, 10 KO’s)
A craftsman since his amateur days, just like his teammate above, Usyk has developed quickly. He has shown a high aptitude for not only the offensive side of things, which is markedly different from the touch-and-score system he was used to, but the defensive game. He employs many of the tactics you see from his friend Lomachenko and big things are to be expected.
8) Rances “Kid Blast” Barthelemy (25-0, 13 KO’s)
The lanky Cuban has performed at a high level as of late, winning clearly against some dogged foes. Like Crawford, a good portion of his effectiveness comes from his fundamental understanding of the jab, but it’s been no doubt supplemented by his tricky defense. Word is that he was too much for Gamboa in the amateurs.
9) Demetrius “Boo Boo” Andrade (24-0, 16 KO’s)
Andrade has a lot of natural ability that, unfortunately, isn’t showcased as much as it should be. His recent bout with Culcay highlighted what he can do, though at times he was flustered with Culcay’s work rate and was even hurt by a left hand in the final round. Hopefully he steps up the competition and gives us better visual cues as to what he can really do.
10) Anselmo “Chemito” Moreno (36-5-1, 12 KO’s)
Yes, he was stopped in his last outing but I don’t hold it against him. He figured he would be more offensive and ended up on the seat of his pants a few times against one of the best fighters in the world in Shinsuke Yamanaka. It should be noted that he arguably defeated Yamanaka in their first fight, largely because he is so slick. Moreno is on the decline but should still have enough to compete around the top.
Rau’shee Warren, Donnie Nietes, Lee Selby.
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