Question: How much should entertainment factor into pound-for-pound voting in the sport of boxing?
In many ways, it shouldn't at all. In a sport that largely doubles as an entertainment product, where elements like popularity and trash talk can get you ahead, the P4P list has always been a place where meritocracy and the appreciation of elite skill held the most credence.
So what should boxing's most elite critics do about unbeaten Shakur Stevenson and his sleep-inducing victory over knockout threat Edwin De Los Santos in their November clash for the vacant WBC lightweight title?
It's an interesting debate to ponder.
For many, Stevenson's defensive mastery didn't translate to acceptable entertainment, especially not after a fight week that saw the 2016 U.S. Olympic silver medalist expel nothing but aggressive smack talk at everyone from De Los Santos, who he promised to put to sleep. Stevenson also was critical of former undisputed lightweight king Devin Haney, whom he blamed for ducking him by choosing to give up his title in order to move up and challenge 140-pound titleholder Regis Prograis.
Can't get enough boxing and MMA? Get the latest in the world of combat sports from two of the best in the business. Subscribe to Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for the best analysis and in-depth news.
Although he hesitated to confirm if after the fight, likely to avoid making excuses, it's clear Stevenson's left hand was compromised coming in. He moved backward each time De Los Santos came forward with offense and largely controlled the bout with merely his jab as he limited his Dominican opponent to a CompuBox record of just 40 punches landed over 12 rounds.
So, from a P4P standpoint, what Stevenson was able to do despite his injury was masterful as he controlled and confused De Los Santos without taking any punishment in return. In this case, his ranking doesn't take a hit at all.
That doesn't mean, however, that Stevenson gets off scot free in the court of public opinion after his performance failed to translate in any way that wasn't objectively boring.
Stevenson is poised to become one of the biggest stars in the sport yet failed miserably amid a Thursday night showcase opportunity on ESPN to build upon his name while undertaking such an ambitious venture in securing a third world title in as many divisions at just 26.
Already among the most avoided fighters in the sport, Stevenson likely only made things worse for himself by surviving and advancing in such a calculated manner as it became obvious he had openings to counter De Los Santos yet chose not to. Considering Stevenson walked to the ring with Terence Crawford and Andre Ward, the current and former P4P king, and took a picture in the locker room beforehand with Floyd Mayweather, his subsequent performance felt too safe to truly be embraced or celebrated.
In the long run, this survive-and-advance performance amid injury likely won't be remembered as negatively as it is right now. But the short-term fallout will be very real for Stevenson in a sport where you are often only as good as your last performance.
Moving forward, it will be up to Stevenson to fight in a manner that justifies the large amount of hype he continues to receive as the rare active boxer who draws such vivid comparisons to a young Mayweather.
Using a criteria that takes into account everything from accomplishments to current form, let's take a closer look at the top fighters inside the ring. Below is the latest Pound for Pound rankings update after Stevenson's win in November.
1. Terence Crawford
Undisputed welterweight champion (39-0, 29 KOs) | Previous ranking: No. 1
If you wondered how great Crawford really was, his dismantling of unbeaten Errol Spence Jr. in their long-awaited undisputed title bout provided the answers we so desperately coveted. Crawford wasn't just better than Spence, he proved he would be a handful for any welterweight in history. He also hasn't backed down from his interest in facing Canelo Alvarez at 168 pounds.
2. Naoya Inoue
Unified junior featherweight champion (22-0, 20 KOs) | Previous ranking: No. 2
How is it possible that the Japanese "Monster" could capture a title in a fourth weight division while dominating the unified champion Stephen Fulton Jr. and somehow lose his spot in the rankings? The answer is Terence Crawford. That doesn't mean Inoue hasn't succeeded in showing us he's a future all-time great in the making.
3. Canelo Alvarez
Undisputed super middleweight champion (60-2-2, 38 KOs) | Previous ranking: No. 3
The former P4P king is still the undisputed champion of one of the sport's hottest divisions and he proved against Jermell Charlo in their September PPV that he's not done yet at 33. Now fully healthy, Alvarez redeemed himself from a trio of ho-hum performances over the past two years with a dominant decision win.
4. Oleksandr Usyk
Unified heavyweight champion (19-0, 13 KOs | Previous ranking: No. 4
Usyk's professional run has been as decorated as it has been perfect. The former undisputed cruiserweight champ scored a pair of resounding victories over Anthony Joshua to unify a trio of heavyweight titles. Following a stoppage of, Usyk now finally gets his undisputed, four-belt clash against WBC champion Tyson Fury in February.
5. Dmitry Bivol
WBA light heavyweight champion (21-0, 11 KOs) | Previous ranking: No. 5
Following an incredible 2022, which included a victory over Canelo Alvarez and almost universal acclaim as the fighter of the year, Bivol has sat out most of this calendar year in hopes of facing unified champion Artur Beterbiev in a long-awaited undisputed fight. To stay busy, Bivol will return in December in Saudi Arabia against Lyndon Arthur.
6. Devin Haney
Undisputed lightweight champion (30-0, 15 KOs) | Previous ranking: No. 6
Although debate still lingers regarding the scoring, Haney raised his all-around game to a higher level in edging former P4P king Vasiliy Lomachenko in May. Haney's resume is coming together nicely at 24 and he will head north to 140 pounds later this year to challenge WBC titleholder Regis Prograis.
7. Tyson Fury
WBC heavyweight champion (34-0-1, 25 KOs) | Previous ranking: No. 7
This has been nothing short of a weird 2023 for the "Gypsy King." Fury was criticized heavily for delaying his undisputed fight against unified king Oleksandr Usyk, which will now take place in February. And he was lucky to hang on to his unbeaten record in his disputed decision win over former UFC champion Francis Ngannou in October, which saw Fury hit the canvas against the novice pugilist.
8. Errol Spence Jr.
Welterweight (28-1, 22 KOs) | Previous ranking: No. 8
The former unified welterweight king endured tremendous punishment in a disastrous undisputed title loss to long-time rival Terence Crawford. A full-time move up to 154 pounds is expected for the 33-year-old Spence, who recently activated his immediate rematch clause with Crawford.
9. Gervonta Davis
Secondary lightweight titleholder (29-0, 27 KOs) | Previous ranking: 9
It's about time "Tank" is finally getting his due as one of the most dangerous and well-rounded boxers on the planet. The efficient sniper finished unbeaten Ryan Garcia with a body shot in Round 7 of their April superfight. Recently free from prison, Davis is expecting an early 2024 return.
10. Shakur Stevenson
WBC lightweight champion (21-0, 10 KOs) | Previous ranking: No. 10
Although Stevenson limited the hard-punching Edwin De Los Santos to a CompuBox-record over 12 rounds of just 40 punches landed, he was widely criticized for how boring his November victory was in their vacant 135-pound title bout. Stevenson, who appeared to have an injured left hand, won a title in a third weight division at just age 26 yet was criticized in full for not capitalizing offensively on openings.
Dropped out: None
Honorable mention: Vasiliy Lomachenko, Artur Beterbiev, Teofimo Lopez Jr., Juan Francisco Estrada, David Benavidez