Tyson Fury to bring it home for England, Canelo Alvarez for Mexico and Terence Crawford leading USA charge

A total of 32 football teams entered the Qatar World Cup – but who would win if those nations were judged on their elite boxers instead, from England’s heavyweight giant to Mexico’s multi-weight champion?

No place for squads of 26 here. The rules are simple: the best active boxer from every country, rated on their pound-for-pound ability, creating an undeniable ranking from No 32 to No 1: boxing’s undisputed World Cup winners.

Canelo Alvarez would no doubt represent Mexico, with Tyson Fury fighting England’s corner

Canelo Alvarez would no doubt represent Mexico, with Tyson Fury fighting England’s corner

Like football, boxing is a global sport found in almost every nation. However, as in the World Cup, there unfortunately has to be first-round failures: 16 of them in fact.

So let’s go through the group-stage exits first, which features a few countries with just one registered pro boxer (Saudi Arabia, Qatar), and a few shock upsets. Nations which have produced great world champions in the past but are going through a lean spell right now (Germany, Denmark, Poland). Goodbye to these 16 nations before we countdown the knockout contenders.

32: Tunisia: Akrem Ben Haj Aouina (4-1)
31. Iran: Pouriya Rokhneh (8-1)
30. Qatar: Fahad Al-Thani (13-0)
29. Saudi Arabia: Zuhayr Al-Qahtani (9-0)
28. Portugal: Celso Neves (9-2-2)
27. Serbia: Marko Nikolic (30-2)
26. South Korea: Jong Seon Kang (15-1-2)
25. Switzerland: Faton Vukshinaj (14-0-2)
24. Denmark: Enock Poulsen (12-0)
23. Belgium: Francesco Patera (26-3)
22. Morocco: Moussa Gholam (19-0)
21. Netherlands: Nieky Holzken (14-1)
20. Senegal: Boubacar Sylla (12-0)
19. Germany: Jack Culcay (32-4)
18. Poland: Krzysztof Glowacki (32-3)
17. Ecuador: Carlos Gongora (21-1).

The knockout stage

16. Ghana: Richard Commey (30-4-1)

Former lightweight world champion Commey is a bit past his prime and has lost recently against elite competition in Teofimo Lopez and Vasyl Lomachenko (whom he bravely took the 12-round distance). But Accra-born Commey is still tough, game and heavy-handed at age 35.

15. Uruguay: Amilcar Vidal (16-0)

Uruguay’s World Cup squad may contain old stagers like Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, but middleweight Vidal is some fresh blood on the boxing scene. The 26-year-old prospect has 12 KOs in 16 fights. Can he become Uruguay’s first ever men’s boxing world champion?

14. Brazil: Robson Conceicao (17-2)

Not quite ‘joga bonito’ but the gritty Brazilian proved himself on the world scene when losing a close, controversial decision to Oscar Valdez in 2021. Has since lost to one of the sport’s very best – Shakur Stevenson – but Olympic gold medallist Conceicao is a surefire top 10 at 130lbs.

Despite the defeats, Martinez has shown his warrior spirit to keep coming back

Getty

Despite the defeats, Martinez has shown his warrior spirit to keep coming back

13. Spain: Kiko Martinez (44-11-2)

The ageless, endless, hairless warrior who just keeps coming. A two-weight world champion, a five-time European champion, Kiko has 11 defeats on his record but the 36-year-old always rebounds, most recently stopping Jordan Gill in four rounds. A true boxing cult hero.

12. France: Arsen Goulamirian (27-0)

A perfect record and a shiny cruiserweight world title, but – unlike the star-packed France squad in Qatar – Goulamirian’s quality is unproven. The 35-year-old pressure fighter has feasted on domestic foes but how will he fare against, say, Lawrence Okolie or Jai Opetaia?

Hrgovic is IBF mandatory and so will likely fight for a heavyweight world title in 2023

Matchroom Boxing

Hrgovic is IBF mandatory and so will likely fight for a heavyweight world title in 2023

11. Croatia: Filip Hrgovic (15-0)

Unbeaten heavyweight Hrgovic’s stock has dipped with his odd, listless display in beating China’s Zhang Zhilei. However the 6ft 6in ‘El Animal’ was struggling after a family bereavement and remains one of the division’s rising stars, certainly above his fellow Croat Alen Babic.

10. Cameroon: Christian M’billi (22-0)

Francis Ngannou would be the most famous Cameroonian boxer if the Mike Tyson-idolising UFC heavyweight champ ever switches from MMA. Until then, Yaounde-born M’billi does the Indomitable Lions proud: the 168lbs puncher is deservedly creeping into global top 10s.

9. Costa Rica: David Jimenez (12-0)

Costa Rica probably won’t win the World Cup (spoiler alert), but Los Ticos have a fine boxer in Jimenez. The southpaw flyweight burst on to the scene with his US debut in July, upsetting Ricardo Sandoval. World titlists at 112lbs will rightly be looking over their shoulders.

Cordina, left, was stripped of the title he won earlier this year, but is still Wales’ star man in the ring

@matchroomboxing – instagram

Cordina, left, was stripped of the title he won earlier this year, but is still Wales’ star man in the ring

8. Wales: Joe Cordina (15-0)

A quarter-final spot for Wales thanks to a man who should be a 130lbs world champion. Joe Cordina produced a KO of the year contender when he blasted out Kenichi Ogawa – but the IBF ludicrously stripped him after an injury delayed his first defence. Still a champ in our eyes.

7. Australia: Jai Opetaia (22-0)

Plenty of contenders for Australia’s nomination – George Kambosos Jr thanks to that win over Teo Lopez, while Tim Tszyu will grab this spot if he can upset Jermell Charlo in 2023. But for now it’s Opetaia, the recognised cruiserweight No 1 after he stunned Mairis Briedis in July.

6. Argentina: Brian Castano (17-1-2)

No Lionel Messi-level talents in Argentine boxing right now, but Castano is a top, tough competitor. The high-octane fighter drew with the 154lbs division’s No 1, Jermell Charlo, in 2021 before suffering his first defeat in the rematch. Still among the very best at light-middle.

Beterbiev is WBC, IBF and WBO light-heavyweight world champion

Getty Images – Getty

Beterbiev is WBC, IBF and WBO light-heavyweight world champion

5. Canada: Artur Beterbiev (18-0)

Russia-born ‘King Artur’ has been Montreal based for a decade and is now a Canadian citizen – and we’re not arguing nationality with him. The fearsome light-heavyweight is 18-0 (18 KOs), owns three world titles and takes on Britain’s Anthony Yarde next. Good luck, Ant.

4. Mexico: Canelo Alvarez (58-2-2)

The semi-final spots and if this World Cup was a year ago, this flame-haired warrior might have taken Mexico all the way to No 1. Canelo’s upset defeat by Dmitry Bivol hurt his stock, but he remains one of the sport’s elite, a Mexican legend and the owner of an incredible array of silk pyjamas.

Fury is England’s top man

GETTY

Fury is England’s top man

3. England: Tyson Fury (32-0-1)

So close to bringing it home, but Tyson has to settle for third spot. The 6ft 9in heavyweight king is carving a legacy for himself in between his 400 retirements/unretirements. Beat Oleksandr Usyk next year and Fury cements his place among the all-time great big men.

2. Japan: Naoya Inoue (23-0)

A freakish KO puncher (much like Deontay Wilder) and a master-boxer (very unlike Deontay Wilder), the 118lbs ‘Monster’ is one of the sport’s best fighters. A three-weight world champ, Inoue has jaw-dropping power for his size. Aims to unify his division against Paul Butler next.

1. USA: Terence Crawford (38-0)

U-S-A! U-S-A! Plenty of contenders to represent the US, from Devin Haney to Shakur Stevenson, Errol Spence to Jake Paul (OK, maybe not). Still, even at age 35, Crawford remains a generational talent – a switch-hitting boxer-puncher who’s never come close to losing and is riding a nine-fight KO streak. Enough to win the USA boxing’s World Cup. But we really could do with a civil – or uncivil – war against fellow American Spence next year.

Crawford, having never looked like losing in the ring, wins it for the USA

Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Crawford, having never looked like losing in the ring, wins it for the USA


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