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Bad Left Hook Boxing Rankings (Jan. 4, 2021): Ryan Garcia makes the big statement at lightweight

Ryan Garcia has arrived as a no-question contender at 135 pounds as we get our first rankings update of 2021.

Tom Hogan-Hoganphotos/Golden Boy
Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

Rankings go up on Mondays at Noon ET.

This is our first rankings update since Dec. 21, because there was no update to make on the 28th, and there won’t be any update to make with the rankings until Monday, Jan. 25. So we’ll list the very limited schedule that’s coming between now and then for upcoming fights.

Upcoming Fights:

  • Junior Featherweight: (5) Stephen Fulton Jr vs (7) Angelo Leo, Jan. 23
  • Bantamweight: (9) Takuma Inoue vs Keita Kurihara, Jan. 14

Upcoming Fights: (8) Joseph Parker vs Junior Fa, Feb. 27

Upcoming Fights: (2) Krzysztof Glowacki vs (8) Lawrence Okolie, TBA

Notes: If you missed it, Artur Beterbiev’s fight with Adam Deines has once again been delayed. This has been a disaster overall. Beterbiev was supposed to face IBF mandatory Meng Fanlong pre-COVID, but Meng had visa issues after COVID, so Deines was inserted for September, then October, then Beterbiev broke a rib, then it was re-set for Jan. 30, now this. An incredible ordeal to get to a fight that has almost no appeal beyond seeing Beterbiev fight again.

Upcoming Fights: (3) Sergey Kovalev vs Bektemir Melikuziev, Jan. 30 ... (4) Joe Smith Jr vs Maxim Vlasov, Feb. 13 ... (1) Artur Beterbiev vs Adam Deines, TBA

Upcoming Fights: (2) Caleb Plant vs Caleb Truax, Jan. 30 ... (1) Canelo Alvarez vs Avni Yildirim, Feb. 27

Upcoming Fights: TBA

Upcoming Fights: (3) Brian Castano vs (9) Patrick Teixeira, Feb. 13

Upcoming Fights: TBA

Upcoming Fights: TBA

Notes: There’s no doubt that Ryan Garcia is a serious contender at 135 now following his KO win over Luke Campbell on Saturday. I’m sure some of you will continue to move the chains, and I will, too, in some respects, because that’s just the way we are as boxing fans most of the time. To one degree or another, almost nothing is ever enough to just say, “Yeah, that was great,” or, “Yeah, that guy was great,” at least until someone is retired or dead, and then we let everything we ever questioned slip away and romanticize everything someone ever did, and bemoan that the new fighters just aren’t cut from that cloth anymore. It’s not unique to boxing or to sports or to anything. This is just the way people are.

Garcia has flaws. Campbell dropped him in the second round, and he found some success with Garcia, whose foot-work is flat and can be a little clumsy, and he has a tendency to leave his chin up in the air and stay too upright. Those are things that can be fixed by a good trainer, and he has one of the accepted “good trainers” at the moment in Eddy Reynoso. But there is also going to be pressure on Garcia to keep going at the big fights, not take any time at 22 to get better. Teofimo Lopez set a tone at 135 and for young fighters across the sport by fighting and beating Vasiliy Lomachenko last year. Garcia will have fan, media, and call-outs urging him to do the same.

Now he could certainly brush that off his shoulder and fight Jorge Linares or someone next, and just ignore whatever backlash there would be. But some fighters are built to ignore that stuff and some aren’t. Even if they engage with it, it doesn’t really bother them, and they play the long game — if you keep winning, eventually people just kind of come around. I think Devin Haney might be doing a bit of that. I don’t know if Ryan Garcia has that same mind set.

The big fights are there and can be made if the fighters actually want them. Oscar De La Hoya, who has twice nearly lost Garcia as a promotee and really can’t afford to with Canelo gone from Golden Boy, has chosen the “everyone else needs Garcia, it’s all on his terms” approach now. Which makes some sense. But the ultimate word comes down to the fighters. If Garcia wants Teofimo and Teofimo wants Garcia badly enough, it can be done. Same with Tank. Same with Haney. And that goes for any combination there.

As for why Garcia’s No. 3 this week and jumps not only the guys you’d certainly expect him to leap over by beating Campbell, but also Haney and Tank, it’s because for me, Garcia’s win over Luke Campbell is clearly the best win any of those three have at 135, and Tank’s wins over Leo Santa Cruz and Jose Pedraza at 130 are the only ones in the mix on the resumes of the other two. Do I think Garcia beats Haney and/or Tank right now? Honestly, I think Haney might be able to out-box him pretty slickly, and I think Tank might blast him out. But don’t ignore Campbell being hugely impressed with Garcia’s power or how good he thinks the kid is going to be, either. Power and speed can overcome a lot. Garcia has both.

At any rate, the lightweight division just got even more interesting. And this is a division deeper in quality fighters than just its top 10, too. There are so many good fights that can be made here in 2021.

Upcoming Fights: (6) Richard Commey vs Jackson Marinez, Feb. 13

Upcoming Fights: (4) Joseph Diaz Jr vs Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov, Feb. 13 ... (1) Miguel Berchelt vs (6) Oscar Valdez, Feb. 20 ... (3) Jamel Herring vs (9) Carl Frampton, TBA

Upcoming Fights: TBA

Upcoming Fights: (5) Stephen Fulton Jr vs (7) Angelo Leo, Jan. 23 ... (6) Brandon Figueroa vs (8) Luis Nery, TBA

Upcoming Fights: (9) Takuma Inoue vs Keita Kurihara, Jan. 14

Notes: Kazuto Ioka’s New Year’s Eve win over previous No. 1-rated flyweight Kosei Tanaka was a terrific fight, a terrific performance from the veteran four-division titlist, and a reminder of just how good Ioka really is.

The rankings get a shuffle as a result, with Ioka jumping up from No. 4 to No. 2, trading places with Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. This is not an easy top four to order at this moment in time. Rankings are snapshots, there’s a lot of “what have you done lately” — not all the way, mind you, but that plays a strong part in things. Rungvisai has looked the weakest of the four recently, and while I know he has two wins over Roman Gonzalez, one of them conclusive, and one win over Estrada, right now I think he’s looking like maybe he’s hit his wall. Ioka is not. Estrada is not.

BoxRec’s system popped Ioka up to No. 1 with the win over Tanaka, and it’s a fairly strong No. 1 by their numbers, a solid lead over Estrada at No. 2 and Chocolatito at No. 3, with Rungvisai behind the pack in fourth. I’m not quite going there, but I think you can. Let’s say Ioka had gotten the win over Donnie Nietes a lot of people felt he deserved at the end of 2018, rather than taking a controversial split decision loss. Basically none of this would be questionable; he’d probably have already been a pretty strong No. 2.

But that’s how I have it for now. Estrada-Gonzalez 2 on March 13 is coming up and we could find ourselves having a discussion over No. 1 after that, which includes Ioka.

As for Kosei Tanaka, he’s out at flyweight below, and while I think I could probably argue him into a top 10 spot here based on a good fight against a good opponent, not yet. He’ll get there if he’s going to get there, and it’s not like the rest of this top 10 is filled out with scrubs, either. This is a really talented class. I mean, the No. 8 man Jeyvier Cintron was quite competitive over 12 with Ioka all of a year ago. I think there’s a chance that ability-wise, Tanaka is really maybe the No. 5 guy, but there’s not enough to go with there, even for something as silly and subjective as this.

Upcoming Fights: (1) Juan Francisco Estrada vs (3) Roman Gonzalez, Mar. 13

Notes: Tanaka’s out as mentioned, and Joselito Velazquez comes in at No. 10, which was no easy pick. I weighed out the pros and cons of six potential spot-fillers, actually. In all reality, once you get past No. 4 or No. 6 here, you’re kinda playing Calvinball with the spots. Jay Harris’ big argument is he didn’t get his head taken off by Julio Cesar Martinez. Acosta’s is that he used to hold a belt at 108. Rosales held a title for a bit, Waseem was competitive with Mthalane, Kimura was competitive with Tanaka and is a former titlist, etc.

If Tanaka were to announce in the coming days or weeks that he intends to go back to flyweight, I’d probably just pop him right back into the top spot, in all honesty. But I don’t think he’ll do that. He vacated a belt at 112, he wasn’t dipping a toe at 115. His goal is a world title in a fourth weight class, not to putter around where he’s already won a belt.

Upcoming Fights: TBA

Notes: There was a weird commentary angle taken on Saturday’s DAZN show by Chris Mannix, who said during Felix Alvarado’s win over DeeJay Kriel that the winner could face Elwin Soto to determine who the real No. 1 fighter is in the division. Teraji and Kyoguchi are a good bit ahead of the pack to most people, I’d say, a clear 1-2. Don’t get me wrong here; Alvarado-Soto is a terrific fight to make and I’d love to see it, but it would determine a clear No. 3 man in the division, probably. And it’s not like it’s a full on “these are guys on DAZN so we’ll talk about them as if nobody else exists” thing, because first of all Mannix doesn’t take that road ever, so it’d be unusual even for a commentator who can be a bit of a hypocrite at times, and whomst amongst us can’tst? But Matchroom just signed Kyoguchi, so he’ll be on DAZN at some point, too.

Alvarado-Kriel was a really good fight. It bumps Alvarado up to No. 3, passing Canizales, because it’s a good win. Kriel drops down to No. 10 but stays ranked; he gave a valiant, tremendous effort in what was a tough style matchup for him.

Upcoming Fights: TBA

Upcoming Fights: TBA

Upcoming Fights: (9) Miguel Berchelt vs Oscar Valdez, Feb. 20

Upcoming Fights: (5) Jessica McCaskill vs (6) Cecilia Braekhus, TBA

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