Last week, welterweight titleholder Errol Spence picked up his most significant win to date, a lopsided decision against lightweight champion Mikey Garcia.
Did Spence’s win improve his standing among the top fighters? That answer is subjective. To some, Spence-Garcia should have been considered a mismatch. Garcia—a natural 135-pounder who campaigned briefly at 140-pounds—was jumping up two weight classes. He was simply overmatched by Spence, a physically imposing 147-pound champion.
Others will point out that Spence didn’t overpower Garcia, rather Spence kept him at the end of a long jab, overwhelming him with sharp, impactful punches and displaying a level of skill previously unseen in Spence’s fights.
Regardless, Spence saw his profile skyrocket after the win over Garcia, and with most of the top welterweights aligned with Premier Boxing Champions (PBC), there will be opportunities for Spence to prove his mettle against the top welterweights in 2019.
Let's break down SI.com’s pound-for-pound rankings for March 2019.
1. Vasyl Lomachenko
Last fight: UD win vs. Jose Pedraza on 12/8
Next fight: April 12th, vs. Anthony Crolla (ESPN-Plus)
Lomachenko picked up another piece of the 135-pound crown with a masterful performance against Pedraza, dropping the ex-champ twice in the 11th round and showcasing the pinpoint accuracy that has made him the most dangerous fighter in the lighter weight classes. Lomachenko is flat-out brilliant. How he showcases that brilliance is the question. Lomachenko will be a heavy favorite in his mandatory defense against Anthony Crolla, while a title unification fight against Richard Commey looms later this year. Last ranking: 1.
2. Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez
Last fight: MD win vs. Gennady Golovkin on 9/15
Next fight: 5/4 against Daniel Jacobs (DAZN)
Alvarez’s secures the No. 2 spot through the strength of his résumé. He burnished it early with wins over Erislandy Lara and Austin Trout, ended Miguel Cotto’s brief reign as middleweight champion and humanized boxing’s boogeyman, Golovkin, in two tough fights, the last of which he squeaked out by taking the fight to GGG in September. After an easy win over Rocky Fielding in December, Alvarez will step right back in with a top middleweight in Daniel Jacobs, with a third fight against Golovkin penciled in for September. The biggest star in boxing continues to seek out the biggest fights. Last ranking: 2.
3. Terence Crawford
Last fight: TKO of Jose Benavidez Jr. on 10/13
Next fight: 4/20, vs. Amir Khan (ESPN PPV)
Crawford has No. 1 pound-for-pound talent; like Lomachenko, he needs opponents to showcase it. He will get a marketable one next month in Khan, who is attempting to rebuild his career at welterweight. Khan’s speed and skill could cause Crawford problems; his shaky chin could give Crawford an opportunity to score a spectacular knockout, too. Last ranking: 3.
4. Oleksandr Usyk
Last fight: TKO of Tony Bellew on 11/10
Next fight: 5/18, vs. TBD (DAZN)
Usyk—who completed a brilliant 2018 with a violent stoppage of Bellew in November—is a rising star. At 31, Usyk is the undisputed cruiserweight champion who will make the jump to heavyweight in May. Usyk told SI.com he would have liked to lure Andre Ward out of retirement for a cruiserweight defense, but believes he has the size and skill to beat the top heavyweights. Aligned with Eddie Hearn—the promoter of unified heavyweight titleholder Anthony Joshua—Usyk will get those opportunities. Expect a softer touch in May—Carlos Takam’s name has been floated—with a showdown against former titleholder Alexander Povetkin in the fall. Last ranking: 4.
5. Gennady Golovkin
Last fight: MD loss to Saul Alvarez on 9/15
Next fight: TBD
Advantage, Canelo Alvarez in the rivalry between Alvarez and Golovkin, after Alvarez topped Golovkin in September. A pair of razor-close fights between the two top middleweights has not diminished Golovkin’s standing, and his decision to align with DAZN opens the door for several significant middleweight fights over the next few years. Golovkin will get a shake off the rust fight in June—The Contender winner Brandon Adams is among the favorites—with a third fight with Alvarez slated for September, if Alvarez wins his fight against Daniel Jacobs in May. Last ranking: 5.
6. Errol Spence Jr.
Last fight: UD vs. Mikey Garcia
Next fight: TBD
A 2012 U.S. Olympian, Spence appears to be the total package, blending power—particularly to the body—with emerging skills. Those skills were on display against Garcia, who was outclassed. Spence wants a shot at Manny Pacquiao, but even if Pacquiao passes, matchups with Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia are appealing, meaningful fights. The big question: Will Spence ever test his skills against Terence Crawford? Last ranking: 7.
7. Srisaket Sor Rungvisai
Last fight: UD win vs. Iran Diaz on 10/6
Next fight: 4/26, vs. Juan Francisco Estrada (DAZN)
Rungvisai put his stamp on the super flyweight division in 2017, when he knocked off Roman Gonzalez, twice. He added three wins in 2018 but a unification fight—something fighters in the smaller weight classes badly need for recognition—eluded him. In April, Rungvisai will face Estrada in a rematch of Rungvisai’s narrow decision win last year. Last ranking: 8.
8. Mikey Garcia
Last fight: UD loss vs. Errol Spence Jr.
Next fight: TBD
Garcia dared to be great in moving up two weight classes to face Spence, and paid the price, taking significant punishment for 12 rounds en route to losing a lopsided decision. The question now is what weight class Garcia will campaign in moving forward? He has not committed to a return to lightweight, where he holds a version of the 135-pound title. A showdown with Vasyl Lomachenko is still among the best fights to be made in boxing—if promoters and networks can cross the political divide to make it. Last ranking: 6.
9. Naoya Inoue
Last fight: KO vs. Juan Carlos Payano on 10/7
Next fight: 5/18, vs. Emmanuel Rodriguez (DAZN)
Inoue—dubbed, simply, “Monster”—hits hard; his knockout percentage is 88%. Inoue is hoping the World Boxing Super Series will force the kind of fights he needs to become more mainstream. Inoue’s crushing power—he has finished his last six opponents inside six rounds has elevated him to a top spot in the bantamweight division. His next chance to showcase that power will come against Rodriguez, who will put his piece of the 118-pound title on the line in the WBSS semifinals. Last ranking: 9.
10. Leo Santa Cruz
Last fight: UD win vs. Rafael Rivera
Next fight: TBD
Santa Cruz picked up an easy win over Rafael Rivera in February, and has eyes on a unification fight against Gary Russell Jr. in the coming months. The volume-punching Santa Cruz threw a whopping 1,273 punches against Rivera, proving again he is both talented and fan friendly. A move to 130-pounds could offer more opportunity for Santa Cruz later this year. Last ranking: 10.
Chris Mannix is a senior writer for Sports Illustrated and an on-air boxing analyst and host for DAZN.