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Ranking the Light Heavyweights: Eleider Alvarez stakes his claim

Eleider Alvarez made his argument, and we’re buying it.

Sergey Kovalev v Eleider Alvarez Photo by Elsa/Getty Images
Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

It was just a few months ago that we last ranked the light heavyweights, but after last night’s HBO doubleheader, it’s a good time to take a new look. Most things haven’t changed, but some very important things have.

Back in May, I had Sergey Kovalev on top but was wondering exactly how long that could last. Turns out it was just until his next fight, Saturday’s KO loss to Eleider Alvarez. And we also saw Dmitry Bivol dominate a 12-round fight against Isaac Chilemba.

Here’s what I had in May:

  1. Sergey Kovalev
  2. Adonis Stevenson
  3. Badou Jack
  4. Dmitry Bivol
  5. Artur Beterbiev
  6. Eleider Alvarez
  7. Oleksandr Gvozdyk
  8. Sullivan Barrera
  9. Marcus Browne
  10. Joe Smith Jr

So let’s take a quick, fresh look at the division.

1) Eleider Alvarez (24-0, 12 KO)

He beat the guy I had on top, and I find it hard to argue Stevenson over him at this point. First of all, look, Stevenson avoided fighting this guy for years. That’s just a fact. And now Alvarez has knocked out another guy Stevenson didn’t fight. Fair play to you if you have Adonis at No. 1, I get it — he’s been on top with the WBC belt for a long time now and has beaten everyone that’s come his way save for a draw with Badou Jack. But I’m going with the 34-year-old Alvarez. I think his résumé now just edges out Stevenson’s, and he’s got the best win in recent memory between them. Next: TBA

2) Adonis Stevenson (29-1-1, 24 KO)

I’m not dogging Adonis here. Stevenson, 40, has his argument. It’s just not one I’m going to make for him. Next: TBA

3) Badou Jack (22-1-3, 13 KO)

I still see Badou, 34, as a very good fighter, short of great, but he fought Stevenson to a legitimate draw in May, and his other fight at 175 was a destructive win that retired Nathan Cleverly, a solid former titleholder. Next: TBA

4) Dmitry Bivol (14-0, 11 KO)

Bivol, 27, is by a good bit the youngest of the top fighters in this division. There will be complaints or criticisms that he didn’t exactly shine against Chilemba, but who does? Chilemba makes good fighters look struggle to shine all the time, it’s basically the story of his career. He never beats the top fighters, but he’s given all of them rounds. I still think Bivol looks like the long-term future of the division. If he had stopped Chilemba, I might have bumped him above Jack. But I’m not surprised at all that he didn’t, either, and it doesn’t dampen my expectations for Bivol going forward. Next: TBA

5) Artur Beterbiev (12-0, 12 KO)

Beterbiev, 33, is the IBF titleholder, which is easy to forget. He last fought in November 2017, knocking out Enrico Koelling in the 12th round. He’s never quite capitalized on his 2014 stomping of Tavoris Cloud or his 2015 waxing of Gabriel Campillo, but he picked up a world title pretty quietly and has been around. It’s past time to see him against the better fighters in the division. First, though, he has a date with Callum Johnson (17-0, 12 KO) on October 6. Now that he’s got a deal with the coming streaming service DAZN, we can hope to see Beterbiev more often. Next: vs Callum Johnson, October 6

6) Sergey Kovalev (32-3-1, 28 KO)

Sergey Kovalev v Eleider Alvarez Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Kovalev, 35, was winning his fight with Alvarez, leading on scores of 58-56, 59-55, and 59-55. He looked pretty much like Sergey Kovalev. Then he got dropped. Then dropped again. Then stopped. I don’t care so much about who was winning on the cards, the end result is what matters. But it does suggest, at least, that Kovalev wasn’t just wiped out, that maybe he has something left. Of course, that itself depends on how Kovalev handles this loss. He’s at an age where he’s left his prime in the past in the first place, and getting knocked out isn’t going to help anything. We’ve seen his best. Now we see what, if anything, is left. I don’t feel comfortable putting him any lower than this, but I never had a thought of ranking him above any of the top five, either. Next: TBA

7) Oleksandr Gvozdyk (15-0, 12 KO)

Gvozdyk, 31, last fought on March 17, beating Mehdi Amar in a decently tough fight, which nonetheless Gvozdyk won clean and clear. He’s technically the only man to stop Isaac Chilemba, though it came because Chilemba broke his hand. He thrashed Yunieski Gonzalez and wiped out Craig Baker. He’s done well so far, but there are levels to go still, and I can’t help but worry that Gvozdyk’s career is stalling somewhat. Top Rank, which often prefers to work in-house and even if not, now wants their fighters on ESPN networks only, is not the best promoter to be with in this division. Next: TBA

8) Sullivan Barrera (21-2, 14 KO)

Barrera, 36, was set to return on August 18, but suffered an injury and is out for the time being. He hasn’t fought since Bivol stopped him in March. He remains a contender, but he’s another guy we’ve probably seen the best of already. Next: TBA

9) Marcus Browne (22-0, 16 KO)

Browne, 27, also fought on Saturday, winning a wide decision over Lenin Castillo. That was pretty much expected, but Browne was also dropped in the fifth round. And it’s still hard to forget his gifted decision over Radivoje Kalajdzic back in 2016. Next: TBA

10) Joe Smith Jr (24-2, 20 KO)

Smith, 28, returned from loss and injury on June 30, for an off-TV win over club fighter Melvin Russell. Next: TBA

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