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Boxing Rankings (February 28, 2022): Jack Catterall, Josh Taylor, Lawrence Okolie, Hector Garcia, more

Jack Catterall’s case isn’t easy to figure with rankings. That and more in this week’s update.

Jack Catterall’s case is a tough one to consider with rankings
Jack Catterall’s case is a tough one to consider with rankings
Photo by Paul Devlin/SNS Group via Getty Images
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.

Ranked fights this week:

  • Junior Welterweight: (4) Jose Ramirez vs (6) Jose Pedraza, Mar. 4
  • Featherweight: (9) Joet Gonzalez vs Jeo Santisima, Mar. 4
  • Featherweight: (3) Mauricio Lara vs Emilio Sanchez, Mar. 5
  • Junior Bantamweight: (4) Chocolatito Gonzalez vs Julio Cesar Martinez, Mar. 5
  • Flyweight: (1) Julio Cesar Martinez vs Chocolatito Gonzalez, Mar. 5 [junior bantamweight]

Upcoming Fights: (1) Tyson Fury vs (6) Dillian Whyte, Apr. 23 ... (2) Oleksandr Usyk vs (4) Anthony Joshua, TBA

Notes: Lawrence Okolie won again on Sunday, beating Michal Cieslak clearly but without much by way of excitement. Okolie can be exciting, but the other party kinda has to cooperate, and they can’t make Okolie too tentative, either. It’s a delicate balancing act. More than being some outstanding boxer or anything, Okolie is difficult to fight with his height and reach. He telegraphs right hands, but they’re big right hands, and he lands a fair amount of them. It’s never going to be pretty with him, and there’s real concern how he’ll fare at heavyweight against bigger dudes and heavier punches, but he has the dimensions to do fine if he carries 225 lbs or whatever well.

Cieslak is out because he’s not that great and he put in a performance that, in all reality, was barely trying to win. Noel Mikaelyan is back in; he fought again on Feb. 12, breaking a long inactive streak, and while it’s easy to forget because it was a while ago, he arguably should have beaten Mairis Briedis in 2018, which in cruiserweight time is not that long ago, really. He has the WBC silver belt so could get in line for a fight with Ilunga Junior Makabu.

On the Briedis front, he does still plan to face Jai Opetaia, after which everyone hopes he’ll fight Okolie instead of continuing his asinine and useless pursuit of Jake Paul, who is never going near a ring with Brieidis in it.

Upcoming Fights: (1) Mairis Briedis vs Jai Opetaia, TBA

Upcoming Fights: (2) Dmitry Bivol vs Canelo Alvarez, May 7

Upcoming Fights: (1) Canelo Alvarez vs Dmitry Bivol [light heavyweight], May 7 ... (9) Zach Parker vs Demetrius Andrade, TBA

Upcoming Fights: (1) Gennadiy Golovkin vs (4) Ryota Murata, TBA ... (3) Demetrius Andrade vs Zach Parker [super middleweight], TBA

Upcoming Fights: (10) Magomed Kurbanov vs Patrick Teixeira, Mar. 26 ... (5) Liam Smith vs Jessie Vargas, Apr. 30 ... (3) Erickson Lubin vs (7) Sebastian Fundora, TBA

Upcoming Fights: (4) Vergil Ortiz Jr vs Michael McKinson, Mar. 19 ... (7) David Avanesyan vs Oskari Metz, Mar. 19 ... (1) Errol Spence Jr vs (3) Yordenis Ugas, Apr. 16 ... (8) Radzhab Butaev vs Eimantas Stanionis, Apr. 16

Notes: I don’t know that Josh Taylor’s split decision win over Josh Catterall was the greatest injustice ever seen, which is how some framed it in the immediate aftermath. But responding to “worst robbery I’ve ever seen” with “LOL, you haven’t seen much boxing then,” does not exactly speak well for the sport.

I believe Jack Catterall won that fight. I believe Josh Taylor dug himself a hole over the first eight rounds that he simply did not do enough to crawl out of in the end. I agree with people who say Catterall didn’t do as much as he could have late, and that Taylor left it in the ring, which is admirable.

But I also gave Taylor those last three rounds. I don’t argue that he won those. And I still don’t think it was enough. I think it’s pretty hard to get to a point where it was enough. To do that, you’ve got to give Taylor an amount of credit I don’t think he earned earlier in the fight. Ian John-Lewis’ 114-111 Taylor card — which is eight rounds of 12 to Taylor — was asinine, but it’s not the first time John-Lewis has been the subject of controversy. Few manage to be regarded as among the worst in the sport as both a referee and judge (at least on a major level that anyone notices), but he’s gotten there over his career.

Taylor stays at No. 1, though it’s most likely he’s going up to 147 anyway, and he’s about to scatter four belts to the wind. Catterall should really get an order to fight for the vacant WBO at the very least if that happens. And the very least I can do is put Catterall at No. 2 in our rankings. He should be No. 1, but I’ll respect the official outcome that much, anyway.

I don’t know that I’d pick Catterall to beat Prograis or Ramirez or Zepeda or Pedraza. What I do know is that in the three fights we saw in real life, Jack Catterall deserved to beat Josh Taylor, and Josh Taylor beat Ramirez and Prograis both without much controversy. Good fights, competitive fights, but no outrage.

We’ve got another big fight in the division this weekend, as Ramirez faces Pedraza in Top Rank’s Battle of the Joses.

Upcoming Fights: (4) Jose Ramirez vs (6) Jose Pedraza, Mar. 4 ... (3) Regis Prograis vs Tyrone McKenna, Mar. 19

Upcoming Fights: (6) Ryan Garcia vs Emmanuel Tagoe, Apr. 9 ... (10) Isaac Cruz vs Yuriorkis Gamboa, Apr. 16 ... (1) George Kambosos Jr vs TBA, June 5

Notes: Well, that was unexpected, huh? Hector Garcia didn’t just beat Chris Colbert, he dominated him. Colbert never quite got into the fight. This is a competitive division as far as a top 10 right now. Not sure what Berchelt and Herring will do next, but it’ll probably be a division up. But for now they’re still here.

Garcia comes in at No. 9, you could probably rank him higher. Robson Conceicao also comes in, at No. 8; he could also be higher. Conceicao also could have been ranked before, but I wanted to see what played out with the originally planned Colbert-Gutierrez fight and maybe get updates on Berchelt and/or Herring. We didn’t really get any of that, so we’ll just do the bit of housecleaning now, since we did get something notable.

Colbert is out. He could certainly come back, still young and had a great attitude about just flat, plain losing to Garcia. Of course he wants an immediate rematch, but he’s not going to get it. Garcia’s win was for a WBA title shot against Gutierrez, and that’s what he should be doing next.

Upcoming Fights: (1) Oscar Valdez vs (2) Shakur Stevenson, Apr. 30

Notes: Ruben Villa is out for inactivity. At the start of the year, I gave everyone who was long inactive basically a final chance for a few months to get a fight scheduled, at least. Villa has not. He hasn’t fought since Oct. 2020; that’s more than long enough. Arsen Goulamirian’s clock is ticking at cruiserweight, too.

In at No. 10 is Luis Alberto Lopez, who has really made a bit of a name for himself as a spoiler and exposer of opponents’ flaws and limitations. He lost a ShoBox fight to Villa in 2019 that was unremarkable unless you watched it live, in which case — at least for me — it has stuck in my mind. I hated Lopez’s style that night but was also fascinated by it, and he made it a lot tougher than anyone expected. More recently, he’s beaten Andy Vences, Gabriel Flores Jr, and Isaac Lowe, three solid wins, and two of them came at 130, which is really not his weight. He has a shot to be a contender at 126, and we know he can fight at 130, too.

Upcoming Fights: (9) Joet Gonzalez vs Jeo Santisima, Mar. 4 ... (3) Mauricio Lara vs Emilio Sanchez, Mar. 5 ... (6) Leigh Wood vs Michael Conlan, Mar. 12 ... (5) Kiko Martinez vs (7) Josh Warrington, Mar. 26

Upcoming Fights: (1) Murodjon Akhmadaliev vs (8) Ronny Rios, TBA

Notes: For a division with a great fighter at No. 1 and a legend at No. 2, this division stinks right now. Inoue basically doesn’t have an interesting fight to make besides Donaire or Casimero, and he’s not making fights with either. Donaire won’t fight Casimero because he doesn’t like him and doesn’t want him to make money off of him, which is at least an honest reason.

On Friday in Dubai, Vincent Astrolabio beat Guillermo Rigondeaux by decision, 95-94 across the board. I went back and watched it Sunday evening and thought the scoring was fair enough. Rigondeaux is 41, that’s two straight losses, and basically, nobody wants to pay him to fight on their cards anymore. His best bet might be trying to move his career to Japan; maybe fight someone like Daigo Higa or move back up to 122 to fight Takuma Inoue or Ryosuke Iwasa or Tomoki Kameda.

Rigondeaux could still beat, I dunno, everyone on this list except Inoue, probably. I mean I’d give him the half-decent chance to beat anyone except Inoue if he shows up and feels like throwing punches. But he really never does, and I think it’s ridiculous to think he’ll really change. At this point I assume he had some sort of minor injury that limited his mobility in that phone booth brawl with Julio Ceja in 2019.

But I’ve got Rigo gone from the top 10. He’s not even doing enough to win fights anymore. He’s had a Hall of Fame career when you take his amateur credentials into account, too, and that’s without question. He’s also had a damn good pro career, even if it never became what some expected it would be, for various reasons, and some of those are just on Rigo.

Astrolabio is in at No. 5 mostly because beating Rigondeaux is more than the other guys have been doing.

Upcoming Fights: (3) John Riel Casimero vs Paul Butler, Apr. 22

Notes: Another new titleholder at 115, as Fernando Martinez upset Jerwin Ancajas to take the IBF belt on Saturday. It was an outstanding fight, and if you missed it, go back and watch it. Martinez came through with flying colors. He’s going to be fun to watch going forward, and I wouldn’t object to an immediate rematch.

The Argentine comes in at No. 7 because this is a very good division, and it might add another really good name if Julio Cesar Martinez does the business against Chocolatito this weekend. Ancajas drops four spots to No. 9. He still showed a lot of grit and a lot of fire, and could well bounce back just fine.

Upcoming Fights: (4) Chocolatito Gonzalez vs Julio Cesar Martinez, Mar. 5

Upcoming Fights: (1) Julio Cesar Martinez vs Chocolatito Gonzalez, Mar. 5 [junior bantamweight] ... (2) Sunny Edwards vs Muhammad Waseem, Mar. 19

Upcoming Fights: (3) Masamichi Yabuki vs (5) Kenshiro Teraji, Mar. 19

Upcoming Fights: (5) Ginjiro Shigeoka vs Tatsuro Nakashima, Mar. 27 ... (2) Petchmanee CP Freshmart vs (3) Wanheng Menayothin, Mar. 29 ... (4) Masataka Taniguchi vs Kai Ishizawa, Apr. 22

Notes: Josh Taylor is out. If you’re going to bother with pound-for-pound — which in a sport with so few truly good matchups over the course of a year is kind of stupid, but people love it anyway — I think it should be pretty volatile. The differences between guys past the top five or so and those you might think of as being Nos. 11-20 or so are not really that different, so any fight any of them has can be a big change.

Taylor’s win over Catterall was simply not good enough. Fine, he “won,” and that keeps him No. 1 for the time being at 140, even with an asterisk. But it’s a knock on his pound-for-pound case. George Kambosos Jr is in at No. 10.

Upcoming Fights: (5) Errol Spence Jr vs Yordenis Ugas, Apr. 16 ... (8) Tyson Fury vs Dillian Whyte, Apr. 23 ... (1) Canelo Alvarez vs Dmitry Bivol, May 7 ... (10) George Kambosos Jr vs TBA, June 5 ... (2) Oleksandr Usyk vs Anthony Joshua, TBA

Upcoming Fights: (8) Savannah Marshall vs Femke Hermans, Apr. 2 ... (1) Katie Taylor vs (3) Amanda Serrano, Apr. 30 ... (10) Chantelle Cameron vs Kali Reis, TBA

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