Women's boxing top 30 - Ranking the best fighters in the sport, including Claressa Shields, Amanda Serrano, Katie Taylor and more

From left, unified featherweight champion Amanda Serrano, undisputed lightweight champion Katie Taylor and undisputed middleweight champion Claressa Shields. Illustration by ESPN

They'll move up and down weight classes, searching for the best possible opponent who can give them the most cachet in terms of financial gains, prestige and overall challenge.

Welcome to the world of women's boxing, where the best fight the best, where title fights are a weekly occurrence and unification bouts are the norm and not the exception.

What follows is not a strict pound-for-pound list. We have our ESPN pound-for-pound rankings for that, although the two lists may look somewhat similar. This takes more into consideration when assessing the best women boxers worldwide.

In addition to their in-ring accomplishments, I considered global reach and the breadth of their careers and where they are now -- although the past year-plus of their careers has taken on more weight than, say, accomplishments of a decade ago.

It speaks well of the sport and is indicative of the growth of women's boxing that it wasn't an obvious decision how to fill all 30 spots.

The totality of the factors mentioned above gave Katie Taylor the slight edge over Claressa Shields for No. 1. What Taylor has done for the sport in Europe has been extremely impactful, as that's an area where women's boxing has become incredibly popular, more so than in the U.S. While it's not Shields' fault, because of the divisions she has fought in, the overall quality of opponents Taylor has faced throughout her career has been higher.

It is a toss-up conversation between the two of them, though, and there's no real wrong answer between Taylor and Shields. They are the two best fighters in the sport and have both had a significant impact on where women's boxing is today.

And that debate can go throughout the list -- even toward the bottom of the top 30, where there are worthy fighters who have been left off. In a sport whose depth has long been an issue in some divisions, that there are continually up-and-coming fighters can only help growth in the future.

But for right now, here's the list of ESPN's top 30 fighters in women's boxing.

1. Katie Taylor, 36, undisputed lightweight champion (20-0, 6 KOs)
Next fight: TBA

Taylor remains one of the faces of women's boxing and one of the top two fighters in the sport. This year she won the biggest fight in the history of women's boxing, defeating Amanda Serrano by split decision at a sold-out Madison Square Garden in New York -- the first women's bout to headline at MSG. Taylor has routinely sought out the biggest fights and should do so again in 2023, along with a potential homecoming fight in Ireland -- the first time she would fight in her home country in her professional career.

Her global reach -- and her influence that has helped push the sport to bigger levels in Europe than in the U.S. -- gave her the very small nod over Shields for No. 1.

2. Claressa Shields, 27, undisputed middleweight champion (13-0, 2 KOs)
Next fight: TBA

Shields pours on the punches early en route to victory

On her way to becoming the undisputed champ, Claressa Shields unleashes a flurry of punches in Round 1.

Shields, ESPN's current women's pound-for-pound No. 1 boxer, has carried the sport in the U.S. and continues her dominance as she enters the prime of her career. A two-time Olympic gold medalist and currently the undisputed middleweight champion for the second time, Shields also has been the junior middleweight undisputed champion and has held multiple belts at super middleweight.

In the past two years, she has also embarked on an MMA career and plans to fight in that sport and boxing in 2023.

3. Amanda Serrano, 34, WBC/WBO/IBF featherweight champion (43-2-1, 30 KOs)
Next fight: TBA

Serrano's stardom has risen over the past 18 months as she has fought on bigger stages and linked with promoter Jake Paul to create larger platforms for her work. Even though she lost to Katie Taylor by split decision in April, that bout raised her profile and solidified her standing as one of the best in the sport as she moved up multiple weight classes to take the fight. Serrano has held titles in seven weight classes -- she's currently the IBF, WBC and WBO featherweight champion and the WBA has made her the mandatory challenger for that belt, held by Erika Cruz, to create an undisputed title fight. Serrano is one of the most powerful punchers in the sport, too, with 30 knockouts in 46 fights. Before her loss to Taylor, she hadn't been defeated in a decade.

4. Seniesa Estrada, 30, WBA strawweight champion (23-0, 9 KOs)
Next fight: TBA

The top fighter in the lower weight classes of the sport, Estrada has been one of the most dominant competitors in all of boxing, regardless of weight and gender. She has power and a technical style that is adaptable and made to frustrate opponents. She has also held titles at junior flyweight and flyweight. Estrada, ESPN's top-ranked fighter at strawweight and junior flyweight, fought only once this year, largely due to switching promoters from Golden Boy to Top Rank. She's in a position where she could once again be a multi-division champion in 2023 and become a clear star and representative of the sport throughout North America.

5. Chantelle Cameron, 31, undisputed junior welterweight champion (17-0, 8 KOs)
Next fight: TBA

The undisputed junior welterweight champion has fought high-level opponents for years and solidified herself as a top-five fighter with a strong performance in her last fight, a unanimous decision over undisputed welterweight champion Jessica McCaskill. The 31-year-old medaled twice as an amateur in the European Championships before taking on a professional career. A smart fighter who has shown power, Cameron is putting herself in a position to have big opportunities in 2023.

6. Alycia Baumgardner, 28, WBC/WBO/IBF junior lightweight champion (13-1, 7 KOs)
Next fight: TBA

Alycia Baumgardner beats Mikaela Mayer by split decision

Alycia Baumgardner unifies the junior lightweight belts with a split-decision victory over Mikaela Mayer.

The past year has been life-changing for Baumgardner. She knocked out Terri Harper in late 2021 to win the WBC junior lightweight title, then in October picked up the biggest victory of her career, beating Mikaela Mayer by split decision to add the IBF and WBO titles. She has plenty of power and has emerged as one of the better personalities in the sport. She could be in line for a massive 2023, including an ordered undisputed title fight with WBA champion Hyun-Mi Choi. Baumgardner is on a highly positive trajectory entering the new year.

7. Jessica McCaskill, 38, undisputed welterweight champion (12-3, 5 KOs)
Next fight: TBA

McCaskill lost to Cameron in the biggest challenge she'd taken in a while, dropping down in weight to junior welterweight to try to become an undisputed champion in two divisions. It didn't work out, but her nonstop pace can wear even the best fighters down. Before Cameron, she'd handled each opponent she faced since a loss to Taylor in 2017. McCaskill was the WBC and WBA champion at junior welterweight before beating Cecilia Braekhus in back-to-back fights in 2020 and 2021 to become the undisputed welterweight champion. Those wins solidified McCaskill as one of the best women fighters in the world.

8. Mikaela Mayer, 32, junior lightweight (17-1, 5 KOs)
Next fight: TBA

Mayer is a technically gifted and sound fighter who has become one of the top pro-style fighters in the game. She held the IBF and WBO junior lightweight titles until dropping a unification bout to Baumgardner in October. Mayer has shown the ability to be a counter-fighter and to get into high-level slugfests, as she did against Maiva Hamadouche in 2021.

9. Natasha Jonas, 38, WBC/WBO/IBF junior middleweight champion (13-2-1, 8 KOs)
Next fight: TBA

What Jonas did in 2022 was remarkable -- jumping multiple weight divisions and then fighting three times and winning three titles. Jonas, a 2012 British Olympian, lost to Taylor in the London Games but has found comfort in the heavier weight divisions, revitalizing her career path. Her latest performances have earned her a spot in the top 10, showing how strong a fighter she can be. She could be in position for a big 2023, with an undisputed fight with Harper, the WBA champion, or maybe even against Shields, the undisputed middleweight champion.

10. Delfine Persoon, 37, junior lightweight (47-3, 19 KOs)
Next fight: TBA

Before the fight against Serrano in April, no one had given Taylor a tougher test than Persoon -- and she did it twice, in a majority-decision loss in 2019 and a unanimous-decision loss in 2020. Besides those losses and an early-career defeat to Zelda Tekin, Persoon has beaten every opponent she has faced. That includes wins over Maiva Hamadouche and Diana Prazak.

11. Yokasta Valle, 30, WBO/IBF strawweight and junior flyweight champion (27-2, 9 KOs)
Next fight: TBA

Valle is a unified champion in two divisions. She is powerful and has the potential to move throughout weight classes as Serrano has done. Valle has been willing to travel for challenges, too, including her two losses -- in Germany to Tina Rupprecht and in Japan to Naoko Fujioka. Since 2018, Valle has been one of the most difficult fighters in the world to face.

12. Savannah Marshall, 31, middleweight (12-1, 10 KOs)
Next fight: TBA

With 10 knockouts in 12 career wins, including against Hannah Rankin in 2020 and former WBO super middleweight champion Femke Hermans this year, it's clear that Marshall has real power. Against Shields, in what was by far her toughest fight, she struggled to connect solidly, but Marshall is a strong fighter and it's a fair conversation for who is second-best in the upper weight classes between her, Jonas and Franchon Crews-Dezurn.

13. Franchon Crews-Dezurn, 35, undisputed super middleweight champion (8-1, 2 KOs)
Next fight: TBA

Crews-Dezurn became the undisputed super middleweight champion in 2022 on the undercard of Taylor-Serrano, and aside from a loss to Shields in both fighters' pro debuts and a no-decision against Alejandra Jimenez in 2020, she has beaten everyone she has faced. A fighter with a multitude of interests -- including fashion and singing -- Crews-Dezurn has shown a high level of power and speed.

14. Dina Thorslund, 29, WBO bantamweight champion (18-0, 7 KOs)
Next fight: Feb. 25 vs. Debora Anahi Lopez

Thorslund has held the WBO belt in two divisions (also junior featherweight) in her career. She's fast, quick in her punches, and unafraid to attack when necessary. One of the biggest questions about her is how she would fare outside of Denmark, as she has left the country to fight professionally only twice in her career -- in Germany.

15. Marlen Esparza, 33, WBA/WBC flyweight champion (13-1, 1 KO)
Next fight: TBA

Esparza's only defeat was to Estrada in one of the few three-minute-round women's fights in history. Other than that loss, Esparza has been perfect, taking on high-level challengers in her past four fights and winning convincingly in all of them, which includes her dominant victory over then-WBA champion Naoko Fujioka in April.

16. Terri Harper, 26, WBA junior middleweight champion (13-1-1, 6 KOs)
Next fight: TBA

What Harper might best be known for, unfortunately, is being knocked out by Baumgardner -- sending Baumgardner's career trajectory skyrocketing and perhaps giving Harper's new life, too. Like Jonas, Harper jumped up multiple weight classes and looked her best at 154 pounds, beating Rankin to win the WBA junior middleweight title. Harper's power was legitimate at the lower weights, and against Rankin she showed it carried over to junior middleweight as well.

17. Cecilia Braekhus, 41, welterweight (37-2, 9 KOs)
Next fight: TBA

This might seem low for the former pound-for-pound No. 1 and longtime undisputed welterweight champion, but Braekhus is no longer in her prime and ended an almost two-year layoff on Dec. 17 to beat Marisa Joana Portillo by unanimous decision in a six-round fight. It was her first bout since losing a rematch against McCaskill for all four major welterweight belts. Braekhus wants to fight at junior middleweight now, which would offer intriguing possibilities. But between the layoff and looking not quite as sharp in her latest fight, we'll see how she fares going forward. Even still, she's one of the best in the world.

18. Kim Clavel, 32, WBC junior flyweight champion (16-0, 3 KOs)
Next fight: Jan. 13 vs. Jessica Nery Plata

Clavel has limited power, but she has proved herself able to rack up convincing wins. Her two best wins came against Tamara Elisabet DeMarco and in a dominant title victory over Yesenia Gomez. Her biggest test? That'll be in January in a unification fight against Plata. If Clavel wins, she could be headed for a star-making year in 2023.

19. Jessica Nery Plata, 28, WBA junior flyweight champion (28-2, 3 KOs)
Next fight: Jan. 13 vs. Kim Clavel

Plata made her mark in a split-decision win over longtime titleholder Yesica Yolanda Bopp in March. Other than Bopp, Plata's biggest wins have come against Silvia Torres in 2018 -- a split decision -- and Sandra Robles. We'll learn a lot more about her in January when she goes for unification against Clavel in Canada.

20. Erika Cruz, 32, WBA featherweight champion (15-1, 3 KOs)
Next fight: TBA

Cruz's past three fights have pushed her onto the radar among the best in the world. She was dominating Jelena Mrdjenovich in what ended up being a technical decision win after Mrdjenovich could not continue because of a cut caused by an accident headbutt in Round 7 of their April 2021 bout. Cruz beat Mrdjenovich easily in a September rematch. In between, Cruz earned a split-decision victory over Melissa Esquivel. Cruz's fighting style isn't always pretty -- it's a lot of punches and a lot of moving forward, but she's proved extremely effective.

21. Christina Hammer, 32, middleweight (28-1, 13 KOs)
Next fight: TBA

Hammer isn't as active as she once was, but the former unified middleweight champion and WBO super middleweight champion is still dominant whenever she enters the ring. Besides Shields, who handed Hammer her lone defeat, fighters rarely win rounds against Hammer. And there's little question of her power -- 13 knockouts in 29 fights.

22. Maiva Hamadouche, 33, junior lightweight (22-2, 18 KOs)
Next fight: TBA

The volume-punching Hamadouche has clear power -- 18 knockouts in 22 fights -- and her bout against Mayer, which was her first defeat in over a half-decade, was a classic. There's no doubting Hamadouche's talent, as the former IBF junior lightweight champion will wear down most fighters throughout 10 rounds. Her only losses are to Mayer and Persoon, who at the time was the WBC lightweight champion.

23. Yamileth Mercado, 24, WBC junior featherweight champion (20-3, 5 KOs)
Next fight: TBA

Mercado is one of the future stars of the sport. Even though she already has three losses, one came against Serrano in 2021 and another to Fatuma Zarika by split decision in 2018 when she traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, in an attempt to win Zarika's WBC junior featherweight title. It's a belt Mercado won in 2021 (against Julissa Alejandra Guzman) and has defended three times since. Any questions of her placement on the list were answered during a unanimous-decision win over former longtime WBC bantamweight champion Mariana Juarez in October.

24. Evelin Bermudez, 26, junior flyweight (17-1-1, 6 KOs)
Next fight: TBA

Bermudez saw her unified junior flyweight reign end in November in a majority-decision loss to Valle -- a fight that was much closer than one of the cards, a 99-91 in favor of Valle, suggests. It was Bermudez's second fight outside Argentina -- her other was a draw against Silvia Torres in Mexico in 2019. But she showed well against Valle and has demonstrated the ability to knock fighters out.

25. Yesica Yolanda Bopp, 38, junior flyweight (37-3, 17 KOs)
Next fight: TBA

After returning from an over two-year break in 2021, the former longtime unified junior flyweight champion has had a rough go of it. Before stepping away following a fight against Gabriela Saavedra in 2019, in which she defended the WBA junior flyweight title, Bopp was a top-10 pound-for-pound fighter. She has lost two of her past three fights, including to Plata in March by split decision. Bopp still has pop in her punches -- she knocked out Johana Zuniga in October 2021 -- but there are questions about where she currently sits in her career compared with her prime.

26. Montserrat Alarcon, 28, WBA atomweight champion (17-4-2)
Next fight: TBA

Alarcon is one of the best fighters in the world in the smallest of weight divisions and has held the belt since 2018. She has also been a world champion at flyweight. Alarcon won't beat you with devastating power, but she has been dominant in a division with a bunch of turnover in the past four years.

27. Yuliahn Avila, 28, WBC bantamweight champion (24-3-1, 4 KOs)
Next fight: TBA

Avila couldn't overwhelm the better fighters she has faced, but she has been able to win, including dominating Mariana Juarez in 2020 to take the belt. Then she beat Mayeli Flores and Jessica Gonzalez in title defenses that also caught more attention. A two-division champ -- she also held the IBF junior featherweight title in 2014.

28. Ebanie Bridges, 36, IBF bantamweight champion (9-1, 4 KOs)
Next fight: TBA

Few have had a more interesting rise than Bridges, one of the world's most well-known women fighters, because of her social media presence. The boxing world is starting to catch up. She thoroughly dominated Shannon O'Connell by stopping her in her first defense of the title. It was a performance that showed Bridges is still improving, as she turned pro in 2019 after a short amateur career. If Bridges could pick off any of the other champions in 2023 -- Thorslund, Avila or Nina Hughes -- it could bring a big jump for her by this time next year.

29. Kali Reis, 36, WBA junior welterweight champion (in recess) (19-7-1, 5 KOs)
Next fight: TBA

Reis is tricky. She's the WBA champion in recess, and before stepping away for both a burgeoning acting career and to handle personal issues, she was on a six-fight winning streak and seemed poised to face Cameron for the undisputed title. Since 2016, Reis has lost to only Hammer and then Braekhus -- in a fight in which Reis knocked Braekhus down. Reis was also the WBC middleweight champion that year. If she returns to fight next year, she could be higher on the list.

30. Arely Mucino, 33, IBF flyweight champion (32-3-2, 11 KOs)
Next fight: TBA

The last spot was challenging to figure, but Mucino is quite deserving. The champion has beaten Alarcon and has yet to lose since 2015. She showed grit in beating Leonela Paola Yudica for the title in October and is the former WBO and IBF flyweight champion at different periods of her career as well.