1. Gilberto Ramirez (35-0, 24 KO)
There’s no clear-cut No. 1 man at 168 pounds right now, so I’m going with the questionable pick of Ramirez, 25, the youngest of the top contenders, undefeated, and with a win — over Arthur Abraham — that perhaps outshines anything that the other two boast. Ramirez holds the WBO title, winning that from Abraham in a 2016 rout, a complete 12-round shutout, which is how Ramirez has been getting the job done. He’s not a particularly big puncher (he doesn’t have a stoppage win since 2014), but his length makes him a tough style matchup for anyone in the division, and he knows how to use it.
2. James DeGale (23-1-1, 14 KO)
DeGale, 31, is also a worthy candidate for the top spot. The IBF titleholder is currently recovering from a January draw against Badou Jack (unranked here because of his stated intention to move to 175, otherwise Jack would be No. 2), a physical and rousing display from both men. Once he’s back, he may have to fight Andre Dirrell again, but the IBF still hasn’t made a ruling on the entire Dirrell-Uzcategui situation. There’s also a lingering potential rematch with the next man on the list, which could make good money in the United Kingdom.
3. George Groves (26-3, 19 KO)
Groves, 29, finally got over the hump, winning a world title in his fourth try this past weekend, stopping Fedor Chudinov in the sixth round. It’s the culmination of what has been a steady comeback run for Groves following his 2015 loss to Badou Jack, starting with fairly easy targets in Andrea Di Luisa and David Brophy, stepping up to face Martin Murray, and Eduard Gutknecht, and then claiming the WBA belt with the win over Chudinov. There was a proper plan in place to rehabilitate and reinvigorate Groves off of what could have been a mentally draining loss to Jack, and it all came together. The rematch with DeGale is the biggest possible fight for him, but may not happen this year.
4. Arthur Abraham (46-5, 30 KO)
Abraham, 37, is past his prime but still clearly superior to the likes of Tim Robin Lihaug and Robin Krasniqi, his last two opponents. A rematch with Ramirez has been his goal, but it’s hard to see him doing much better. It’s just a nightmare style matchup for the veteran German, who is too short, for one thing, and simply doesn’t throw enough punches to make much of a dent against Ramirez, whose busy nature looks great against the economical (that’s a word for it) Abraham. Still, he remains a top contender in the division after all these years.
5. Anthony Dirrell (30-1-1, 24 KO)
Dirrell, 32, is the younger of the Dirrell brothers, was always seen as the lesser prospect, and yet one of them has won a world title, and it’s Anthony. I’ve said this many times over the years, but Anthony for a long time now has struck me as far more of a “true fighter” than Andre, who may have better skills and physical gifts, but just lacks the mentality that can carry Anthony through tough fights more predictably. He’s got a fight coming with Callum Smith in September for the vacant WBC title.
6. Callum Smith (22-0, 17 KO)
Speaking of Smith, 27, here’s Smith! Like Ramirez, Smith is a tall (6’3”) super middleweight who has dominated his opposition thus far, but unlike Ramirez, he doesn’t have that one really notable win over a true standout opponent. That could come on September 9 in Los Angeles, but I definitely don’t count Anthony Dirrell out in that fight. He’s a big step up from Luke Blackledge and Norbert Nemesapati, or Rocky Fielding and Hadillah Mohmoumadi. But this is the last level for Smith. He’s won the title at the British and European levels. There’s no more to prove there.
7. Andre Dirrell (26-2, 16 KO)
Dirrell, 33, is one of the most fascinating fighters of his era, a clear talent who’s just never fully put it together. As a fat armchair psychologist who doesn’t get punched in the face for a living, I think it’s just a mental thing with him and always has been. Talent didn’t let him down against Carl Froch (a “fight” that I thought, in all reality, nobody deserved to win) or James DeGale, and even against DeGale he showed a determination that has been questioned at other times. There’s no use in going back over the seven-year-old mess against Abraham with Dr. Shaw High, or even much sense in trying to figure out the most recent mess against Jose Uzcategui. He’s a good fighter and officially won both of those fights. But there’s always been something holding him back, and at this stage of his career, it seems unlikely he’ll ever be more than he’s been.
8. Chris Eubank Jr (24-1, 19 KO)
Eubank, 27, has moved his talk show act to the super middleweight division as of his last fight, a win over Renold Quinlan that some in the press tried to make out to be a huge deal, as it, in some minds, put a “world title” on Eubank’s résumé, and his dad was a world champion, so yada yada, you see where the “story” gets started. But it’s the IBO title, lightly regarded at best, and came against an opponent whose only really notable win was against a washed-up Daniel Geale. Eubank’s talent is there, and he’s got the charisma to be a star. If I were ranking purely on talent, he might be a couple slots higher on this list, but then so would Andre Dirrell. Eubank is here, but he’s got plenty to prove still, as his most impressive pro performance is the second half of his loss to Billy Joe Saunders.
9. Fedor Chudinov (14-2, 10 KO)
Chudinov, 29, has officially lost two straight, but was flat robbed against Felix Sturm in the first of those fights, so whatever. He’s still a contender in the division, but this was kind of always his career path. He’s not an exceptional fighter, by any means. He’s a good pressure fighter with defensive problems and his power has never shown up against a decent opponent, even Frank Buglioni.
10. David Benavidez (18-0, 17 KO)
Benavidez, 20, is a promising young brawler whose win over Rogelio “Porky” Medina on May 20 showcased an electric and powerful fighter who just might be the real deal. That, for me, earns him the No. 10 slot, because I remember watching James DeGale have his struggles with Medina, and Benavidez just overpowered him. Styles make fights, of course