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Is Inoue or Crawford the pound-for-pound boxing king?


As Japanese powerhouse Naoya Inoue gears up to face hard-hitting southpaw Luis Nery at the Tokyo Dome on May 6, fight fans the world over will once again debate the undisputed super bantamweight champ’s pound-for-pound standing.

Oftentimes choosing your best pound-for-pound fighter is the same as choosing your favorite color or restaurant. It’s down to preference. For the best part of a decade, Floyd Mayweather was regarded as the best boxer in the world regardless of weight class. However, if you offered that opinion to a Manny Pacquiao fan, they’d be sure to disagree – strongly.

WATCH: Naoya Inoue vs. Luis Nery, exclusively on ESPN+

In today’s pound-for-pound debate, fans and experts are split between Inoue and welterweight champ Terence Crawford.

Simply put, they don’t come much better than Inoue and Crawford. The Sporting News takes a look at Team Inoue’s case for “The Monster” being the best fighter in the world today:

Inoue’s brilliance can’t be understated after moving up in weight in 2023 to dominate a fourth weight class.

And yet at this moment, according to both The Sporting News and The Ring, Terence Crawford is recognized as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

In July 2023, “Bud” scored a dominant ninth-round stoppage win over Errol Spence Jr. to emerge as the undisputed welterweight champion. The American turned in a sensational performance in a superfight that was years in the making and improved his record to 40-0 (31 KOs).

Inoue (26-0, 23 KOs) also had a banner year, stopping both Stephen Fulton and Marlon Tapales to become undisputed super bantamweight champ. However, the magnitude of Crawford’s win gave him the edge over the Japanese superstar.

At this moment, Inoue campaigns at super bantamweight (122 pounds), which is his fourth weight class. Right now, Crawford is positioning himself to move north to super welterweight (154 pounds), which will also be his fourth weight class.

Bottom line: Crawford is the much bigger man and a fight between the pair is completely unrealistic.

MORE: SN’s Top-12 best pound-for-pound boxers

There’s every chance that Inoue could become pound-for-pound No. 1 if he defeats Nery. The Mexican southpaw is a world-class operator and arguably the biggest threat in the division.

If Crawford has a flaw it’s inactivity, which is the reason why a lot of fans view Inoue as the pound-for-pound king. Should “The Monster” win on May 6, that would be his third victory in 18 months. Meanwhile, Crawford will only have fought Spence in that space of time.

The other threat to pound-for-pound supremacy is Oleksandr Usyk. The Ukrainian technician takes on Tyson Fury in Saudi Arabia on May 18. If Usyk wins, he’ll become the first former undisputed cruiserweight champion to become undisputed heavyweight champion since Evander Holyfield accomplished the feat in 1990.

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