Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez reveals his pound-for-pound top three

By Elliot Worsell

PERHAPS the only thing more pointless than drawing up a pound-for-pound top 10 list is arguing about a pound-for-pound top 10 list. Doing so, after all, will crown no winner, bring no reward, and in the end serve only to highlight an inability to comprehend what exactly a pound-for-pound list represents.

As for what it supposedly represents, it does, like most things, mean different things to different people. Yet, ultimately, a pound-for-pound list is good only for wasting time and generating debate. It has no greater purpose than that and it certainly has no bearing on any particular fighter’s legacy or indeed their status in the sport.

That said, for those interested in such things, here is the pound-for-pound top three according to Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez: “For me, (Oleksandr) Usyk is number one, (Naoya) Inoue is two, and (Terence) Crawford is three. Usyk is the heavyweight undisputed champion; there’s no topping that.” As for the overall value of a pound-for-pound list, Rodriguez, 19-0 (12), said to Boxing News: “At first, I never really cared (about the list), to be honest. But once I was actually put on the pound-for-pound rankings it was more of a shock than anything. Ever since then I have wanted to stay on that list and be mentioned among the great fighters in that top 10. To be on the list is something I want and this fight will move me up even higher if I win.”

Already, without beating Juan Francisco Estrada, his opponent on Saturday (June 29), Jesse Rodriguez is considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport. Win on Saturday, though, and the Texan knows that he will not only have joined the very elite – that is, moved higher up on the pound-for-pound list – but will have achieved at the age of 24 more than most fighters can ever imagine. Indeed, to even just be included on such a list at that age, whether sitting at 10 or in top spot, is a testament to both his talent and the rate at which he has progressed.

Rodriguez taunts and defeats Sunny Edwards in December (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Still, what really counts in the end are victories, not the opinions of fans. Which is what made it somewhat amusing to see the impassioned reaction of Turki Alalshikh, one of the most powerful men in the sport, after coming across a specific pound-for-pound list last month. Taken from of all places, Alalshikh, new to the game, posted this top 10 list on social media and wrote beneath it: “(Naoya) Inoue is a great boxer, but (Terence) Crawford is the pound-for-pound number one. I don’t know how the rankings work or if there’s a clear criteria, but it seems like there are some personal opinions and inaccuracies involved. I believe that boxing needs one entity to evaluate with transparency and credibility. Soon, I will support a project for that matter.”

A post too good to ignore, it is hard to know exactly where to start. Firstly, if there’s one place where personal opinions have absolutely no sway on a pound-for-pound list – or for that matter any of their rankings – it is, where of course everything is computer-generated and done on a points system. That is not to say their rankings are perfect, far from it, but any accusation of bias is essentially a moot point when it comes to that website.

Secondly, the idea of a pound-for-pound list on being the impetus for change in an unruly sport like boxing is bizarre in the extreme. Moreover, the idea that the sport needs one “entity to evaluate with transparency and credibility” becomes just as absurd when one considers the types of people involved in providing the so-called evaluations, transparency and credibility. Ideally, yes, things would be better regulated and more streamlined in the sport, but to think anything close to that is in boxing’s future is somewhat quixotic to say the least.

What is more, despite the talk of “personal opinions and inaccuracies”, Alalshikh’s response to’s pound-for-pound list comes from exactly the same place, inspired no doubt by the fact that he is now working with Terence Crawford, this man of whom he speaks so highly. Which is perfectly fine, too, by the way, for Alalshikh’s view that Crawford is the number one pound-for-pound is neither ridiculous nor a view exclusively his. It is in fact a view shared by many, pushed even harder in the aftermath of Crawford’s terrific 2023 win over welterweight rival, and fellow pound-for-pound contender, Errol Spence.

Terence Crawford stops Errol Spence in July (Getty Images)

Maybe Alalshikh is just excited, that’s all. Maybe as the new mover and shaker in the sport he is testing the extent of his power and seeing just how far he can take this thing. Maybe, with Naoya Inoue recently adding to his legacy with a fine performance against Luis Nery, and Oleksandr Usyk also doing the same with a win over Tyson Fury, the pound-for-pound debate is becoming a worthy talking point; or at least as worthy as it can ever get. Maybe next month, when Crawford fights Israil Madrimov, we will have an even clearer picture of where those three (Crawford, Inoue and Usyk) sit on a list that really means very little in the grand scheme of things.

Indeed, the best you can say for it is this: the sport, in terms of the talent at the top level, is in a healthy place. That is to say, in Crawford, Inoue and Usyk we have three men whose abilities would likely have allowed them to flourish during any previous era in boxing history. These are not just three men who happen to be world champions in their respective weights classes and are now enjoying protracted unbeaten runs. They are instead three of the best talents we have ever seen in the sport, and it just so happens that they have reached their respective peaks at roughly the same time.

Usyk beats Fury (Richard Pelham/Getty Images)

So good is this trio, in fact, it is hard to guess which one of them will be the first to slip up; that is, give ground in a race in which they don’t even realise they are competing. Up to now there have hardly even been signs. Inoue, it’s true, was knocked down for the first time in his pro career against Nery, but the manner in which he then turned that fight around only added credence to his claim to be number one. Similarly, Usyk, despite being somewhat handicapped as a relatively small heavyweight, is now achieving feats the likes of Inoue and Crawford are unable to achieve by virtue of them fighting opponents who weigh the same as them. That, in the fight for pound-for-pound number one, must surely count for something.

Which it does, of course. Like the list itself, for Usyk, being a heavyweight means both everything and nothing. It means the Ukrainian’s achievements will always contain an x-factor the achievements of Crawford and Inoue lack and it also means the pound-for-pound list becomes even more pointless than it is when we are ranking only fighters whose legacy is being built against opponents weighing the same as them.

Already you could argue that the three of them – Usyk, Crawford and Inoue – are pushing it. Usyk, in chasing the big dogs of the heavyweight division, is pushing it every time he competes, while Crawford and Inoue, whether for money or pound-for-pound supremacy, are forever being linked to fights realistic to only a certain type of fan. That means, in this case, Canelo Alvarez for Crawford and Gervonta Davis for Inoue, the thought of which on the one hand excites, yet, on the other hand, makes you question not only the sanity of the people involved in the sport but, now and again, the health of the sport itself.

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