1. Terence Crawford (30-0, 21 KO)
Undisputed, clear number one man in the division, and one of the best in the sport, pound-for-pound. Crawford stopped Hank Lundy on February 27, dominated Viktor Postol on July 23, and ended the year with a wipeout win over John Molina Jr on December 10. He holds the WBC and WBO belts and says he wants to win the WBA and IBF to go with them, but that is, as we’ve all learned for years now, more difficult politically than anything. The money fight for him is still Manny Pacquiao, either at 140 or 147, but that’s not next.
2. Viktor Postol (28-1, 12 KO)
Postol lost to Crawford, and he lost big. But there’s zero evidence that anyone else would do any better, or that anyone else is really better in this division at the moment. So despite an 0-1 year, he remains the No. 2 man in the division. It’s just a long way behind No. 1.
3. Julius Indongo (21-0, 11 KO)
The Namibian southpaw burst onto the world stage on December, knocking out Eduard Troyanovsky in 40 seconds to win the IBF title in Moscow. Before that, he’d won a couple of fights at home in Windhoek over Allan Kamote and Fabian Lyimo. This is a fairly soft division right now, so that win over Troyanovsky is plenty enough to put him this high.
4. Ricky Burns (41-5, 14 KO)
A resurgent Burns, 33, beat Michele di Rocco and Kiryl Relikh this year, winning the vacant WBA “world” title in the first fight, and defending in the second. The fight with Relikh wasn’t easy, but Burns is working on a four-fight win streak and five of six with a hard loss to Omar Figueroa in 2015, after it looked like his career had hit a wall against Dejan Zlaticanin in 2014. How much longer the veteran Burns has at this level is anyone’s guess, but right now he’s got this spot.
5. Adrien Broner (32-2, 24 KO)
There is a belief that Broner has elite skills. He doesn’t, really. So how well he does in any given fight is hugely about mindset with him. He fought once this year, beating Ashley Theophane by ninth round TKO, but it was anything but a dominant showing. His dedication is questionable. When he’s at his best, he’s a very good fighter. When he’s not, he’s highly vulnerable. And it’s a crapshoot which Broner you’re getting.
6. Eduard Troyanovsky (25-1, 22 KO)
A good fighter, energetic and strong, but that highlight reel KO loss to Indongo could be the beginning of the end for him. Although he hasn’t been on the big stage for too long, he is 36 years old. But overall his 2016 was, you know, OK — despite the ugly loss, he did beat Cesar Cuenca in a rematch, and also took care of Keita Obara in September.
7. Adrian Granados (18-4-2, 12 KO)
Granados fought once in 2016, and it wasn’t anything worth discussing, really, a win over a club fighter. That’s not really his fault. Nobody wants anything to do with the Chicago scrapper after the way he took apart celebrated prospect Amir Imam in late 2015. But Broner is taking him on in February, and that is no easy fight for either of them. A focused Broner probably has too many weapons, but if he’s dull in the least bit, Granados is good enough to beat him.
8. John Molina Jr (29-7, 23 KO)
Molina, 34, upset Ruslan Provodnikov on June 11 with a measured, gritty performance, and then got a crack at Terence Crawford in December. He lost. Of course he did. Crawford is much better than him. But let’s say John Molina had instead fought and defeated someone like Anthony Peterson or Emmanuel Taylor to close the year instead. He’d be in the top 10, right? Losing to the top guy doesn’t knock him out. He took his shot.
9. Sergey Lipinets (11-0, 9 KO)
Lipinets is still more prospect than anything, but the 27-year-old Kazakh fighter is a powerhouse puncher and a good all around fighter, going 3-0 with solid wins over Levan Ghvamichava, Walter Castillo, and Lenny Zappavigna this year, two by knockout and one by TKO. The fight with Zappavigna was a tough one, but Lipinets simply proved too strong. If he keeps progressing, he’s a dangerous fighter in this division.
10. Thomas Dulorme (23-2, 15 KO)
A solid boxer and sneaks into the top ten at this point. There are some fighters coming along that should push he and Molina out by the end of 2017, quite frankly, but for the moment, Dulorme’s résumé, which isn’t that great, is enough to keep him in this spot. Again, this is not a strong division at the moment.
Note: Mikey Garcia would have ranked here, except he’s already moving down to lightweight.