1a. Anthony Joshua (18-0, 18 KO)
1b. Deontay Wilder (37-0, 36 KO)
Tyson Fury and Wladimir Klitschko are both ineligible, having sat out all of 2016. They were 1-2 last year. If Klitschko had fought even a garbage tune-up in 2016, I’d have him No. 1 right now, even with the loss to Fury. But that’s not the case.
Joshua and Wilder have proven about the same amount, really. Wilder has 19 more fights, but you can scratch 19 of his wins quite easily without missing anything remotely important to where he is now. Joshua will fight Klitschko in April, which is huge, and a win could vastly separate he and Wilder, who will be facing Andrzej Wawrzyk as Wilder returns from injury.
3. Luis Ortiz (27-0, 23 KO)
The big Cuban is a favorite of some, but wins over Tony Thompson, Malik Scott, and David Allen taught us nothing new this year, other than Malik Scott could successfully avoid most of Ortiz’s lumber power for 12 rounds. He’s dangerous against anyone, but he’s limited, too.
4. Alexander Povetkin (31-1, 23 KO)
Hey, if boxing isn’t going to actually penalize Povetkin for failing drug tests, why should we? So here he is at No. 4! He could be No. 3. He should probably be suspended, but that’s life and boxing.
5. Joseph Parker (22-0, 18 KO)
Won a world title in a close and debatable decision over Andy Ruiz Jr. The New Zealander has talent and power, and he’s still got some improvements he can make, with time to make them.
6. Kubrat Pulev (24-1, 13 KO)
Past his very peak, but still good enough to be a contender in a weak division. With slightly different circumstances, he could easily have won a world title by now.
7. Andy Ruiz Jr (29-1, 19 KO)
8. David Haye (28-2, 26 KO)
9. Dillian Whyte (20-1, 15 KO)
10. Lucas Browne (24-0, 21 KO)
These are also people in this division. I keep Browne ranked because even though the WBA stripped him of his title, nobody actually overturned his win over Chagaev or anything crazy like that. Ruiz proved he can fight on a bigger stage. Haye is still talented enough to be a factor, but he is purely a prizefighter now — that’s his prerogative, but it’s 100% business for him. Whyte’s only loss was to Joshua, and he’s looked solid otherwise.
For all the talk of how much the heavyweight division has improved, that’s really an end-of-2015 argument. As we enter 2017, it’s a division with potential intrigue in spots, but little by way of true elite talent. Same story, a few different names.