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Boxing Rankings (March 27, 2023): David Benavidez, Jose Ramirez, Caleb Plant, much more

David Benavidez firmly established himself as No. 2 at 168 with his win over Caleb Plant, plus more in this week’s update!

David Benavidez firmly established himself as No. 2 at 168 with his win over Caleb Plant
David Benavidez firmly established himself as No. 2 at 168 with his win over Caleb Plant
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:

  • Heavyweight: (4) Anthony Joshua vs Jermaine Franklin, Apr. 1
  • Junior Lightweight: (7) Kenichi Ogawa vs Krai Setthaphon, Apr. 1
  • Featherweight: (7) Isaac Dogboe vs (8) Robeisy Ramirez, Apr. 1
  • Bantamweight: (7) Ryosuke Nishida vs Songsaeng Phoyaem, Apr. 1

Upcoming Fights: (4) Anthony Joshua vs Jermaine Franklin, Apr. 1 ... (5) Joe Joyce vs Zhilei Zhang, Apr. 15

Notes: Lawrence Okolie is BACK! Okolie’s win over David Light showed what a great move Boxxer and Sky made in getting him from Matchrooooooooppppp[[‘.’;mkl;///’

Upcoming Fights: TBA

Notes: We’ve got a new man in at No. 10. Dan Azeez may be 33 and at a career ceiling, more likely than not, but he’s the European champion and, well, this division isn’t great right now.

Jean Pascal falls out. Even if the judges had robbed Michael Eifert — which they thankfully didn’t — last Thursday, Pascal was going out. He’s got very little left. I thought his win over Meng Fanlong last year was, you know, questionable, and honestly, it’s been a while (years!) since Pascal actually looked good in a fight.

But I don’t think Eifert is the guy for the top 10 right now, either. I wouldn’t pick Eifert over Azeez, though maybe I’m just wrong about that. They could fight and figure it out — it would actually be a really good European title fight — but Eifert is now in line for a fight with Artur Beterbiev, because the Pascal fight was, ridiculously, an IBF eliminator.

Lyndon Arthur won on Friday, beating late notice opponent Boris Crighton over 10 rounds in Bolton. It’s as exciting as I’m making it sound.

Upcoming Fights: (3) Joshua Buatsi vs Pawel Stepien, May 6

Notes: We had some notable results this past week, obviously. David Benavidez firmly and clearly established himself as the No. 2 man in the division by beating Caleb Plant, and he’ll now hope to get Canelo Alvarez in September. It seems unlikely, but it’s not impossible or anything.

Plant drops from No. 3 to No. 4, behind David Morrell Jr. I think Plant is a damn good fighter, skilled and tough as hell, and I debated what to do here. He’s been competitive against both Canelo and Benavidez, at least until he wasn’t. Canelo got him out; a different referee last night, and Benavidez probably gets him out, too, either because that referee just stops it, or they do something about Plant’s blatant holding, allowing Benavidez to force that himself.

I think Morrell’s a really good fighter, and when you break down who they’ve beaten, not just who they have fought and lost to, are the resumes of Plant and Morrell so dissimilar, even with Morrell only having eight fights? I don’t share some peoples’ belief that Jose Uzcategui was ever a true top fighter, more a “time and place and circumstances” guy. What I’m saying is I don’t mean to “penalize” Caleb Plant for taking high-end fights and coming up valiantly short, I just think Morrell is good enough to, for the time being, take that No. 3 slot just ahead of Caleb, but it is debatable.

Nobody else has earned being above Plant, though, even with the two losses in his last three. Again, we’re talking very high level; Canelo was proven and Benavidez proved out. There is potential down the list, though.

Christian Mbilli jumps up to the No. 5 slot after a good win over Carlos Gongora, who drops down to No. 8. I know Gongora came back and beat Ali Akhmedov, now ranked a spot ahead of him, but that was over two years ago, and I think Gongora has lost a little something. Gongora is 33 and toiled away in obscurity during what should have been the bulk of his true prime years. I feel like he missed the boat to a degree, but he is still tricky and crafty and could be a great opponent to test fighters on that cusp the way Mbilli was, someone who needs a legit test.

Lerrone Richards, by the way, should be back in in about a month, as he has a fight tentatively scheduled for April 22, so he’ll be back in the mix if he wins there. Right now, it’s slated to be a six-rounder just to get him back in the ring. Hopefully, he finds a decent fight after that, but promoters really aren’t keen on him, either. If only he had been an Olympian for Team Great Britain, he could get that Okolie treatment, but he wasn’t.

Upcoming Fights: (1) Canelo Alvarez vs (6) John Ryder, May 6

Upcoming Fights: (4) Carlos Adames vs Julian Williams, June 24

Notes: Joey Spencer wanted a challenge and a chance to prove himself against a guy more highly-regarded in Jesus Ramos. He got it, and Ramos demolished him.

Spencer didn’t look like a guy who fully lacks potential or ability or anything, but he’s just not developed enough a fighter for someone like Ramos. The mistakes he made wouldn’t have been punished against someone closer to a normal step-up from where he’d been to date, or at least not all of the mistakes, and maybe none of them so harshly. As many of us suspected would be the case, Ramos was just the drastically better fighter. Ramos had already beaten people better than Spencer, and it showed in the ring.

I still admire Spencer’s determination to go out and get it, and a loss does not have to signal the end of his aspirations in the sport. Get back on the ladder where you were and go back to it. He definitely has real heart and grit; he never gave up on that fight, his corner did the right thing calling it when they did.

As for Ramos, he’s got such a big body that at 22 he’s already grown out of 147 and may grow out of 154 before he gets a chance to get into the title mix, but with the Charlo situation any or all belts could go vacant by the end of this year, so he might have time, too. He’s still a very promising fighter; I don’t know that he has elite future ahead of him, but he looks to me like a guy who will be a contender for quite a while. And it’s worth remembering how young he is, too.

Upcoming Fights: (3) Sebastian Fundora vs Brian Mendoza, Apr. 8 ... (7) Israil Madrimov vs Raphael Igbokwe, Apr. 8 ... (9) Magomed Kurbanov vs Michel Soro, May 6 ... (6) Erickson Lubin vs Luis Arias, June 24

Notes: First off: Yes, there are once again Spence vs Crawford rumblings. There’s a reason Spence vs Thurman hasn’t been signed (or explicitly not signed). Don’t get your hopes up or hold your breath, really, but yes the chatter is out there again.

Cody Crowley won again on Saturday, beating Abel Ramos in what shouldn’t have been but was a WBC eliminator. That puts Crowley, in theory, in line for one of the three belts held by Spence. My gut feeling is that Crowley may wind up fighting for an interim title, something the WBC just love these days, and if Spence fights Crawford, that order could be Thurman vs Crowley.

Crowley is a good, all-engine fighter, sort of a “blue collar” type, which is meant as a compliment; a high-end “blue collar” type of fighter. He throws and throws and throws, he says what he’s going to do and then he goes out and does it. That leaves him open to getting hit, yes, and Ramos rocked him good in that fight. But at a certain level, you really do have to be ready to throw with him. Ramos was, and it was a good fight. Higher level opponents likely aren’t going to try to do that, instead relying on, you know, their skills, and no, I don’t personally see him as a serious threat to a Spence or Crawford, more a Canadian David Avanesyan sort of guy, but he’s going out and winning fights and making his case to get the chance.

Upcoming Fights: (6) Vergil Ortiz Jr vs (7) Eimantas Stanionis, Apr. 29

Notes: I wasn’t terribly enthused by what I saw from Jose Ramirez against Richard Commey, but it’s still a decent win, and Jose did it in fashion in the end. The proof will be in the pudding with Ramirez going forward, but my suspicion is he’s not going to silence “the haters” by taking the Prograis fight now, but instead wait to see what happens with the Josh Taylor vs Teofimo Lopez situation.

Part of that is out of his hands, Top Rank are going to be willing to pay what they’re willing to pay for Prograis vs Ramirez, a fight that is not “big box office” — Ramirez can sell a lot of tickets in Fresno, yes, but they are not Vegas-priced tickets by any stretch of the imagination, and he and Prograis are not major draws anywhere else. Plus, with Prograis not being a Top Rank fighter, the truth is Top Rank do not naturally have the inclination to make that fight that they would if Prograis were an in-house guy.

Ramirez against Lopez (Top Rank will undoubtedly truly hope it’s Lopez, though no one there will just say that) is not just all-Top Rank, it is simply a bigger fight. Lopez vs Ramirez in New York is a much bigger fight than Prograis vs Ramirez anywhere, and they’ll make a lot more money from it. That’s just a reality.

I do think you could argue that Subriel Matias looks better than Ramirez right now, and I thought about a switcheroo there. I pulled the trigger on putting Gary Antuanne Russell a spot ahead of Jose Zepeda. I think, right now, as we speak, Russell is a better fighter than Zepeda, who beat an annoying mediocrity on Saturday in Mexico to get back in the win column. Listen, Russell’s fighting Kent Cruz next, and that’s not great, but he’s put together solid wins, and truthfully, Zepeda is 33 and has probably had his best shots to win a world title come and go. He’s about to slide into the back stretch of his career. That doesn’t mean he’s not still good and not still dangerous, mind you. This is a terrific division and there are seriously good fighters beyond just this top 10, which is not the case for every weight class. Or many of them.

Upcoming Fights: (8) Ryan Garcia vs Gervonta Davis, Apr. 22 ... (6) Gary Antuanne Russell vs Kent Cruz, May 13 ... (2) Josh Taylor vs (9) Teofimo Lopez, June 10

Notes: With due respect to the back five to seven here, Shakur Stevenson is about to gate-crash the April 10 update, provided he beats Shuichiro Yoshino in the fashion he’s been beating everyone else.

Upcoming Fights: (3) Gervonta Davis vs Ryan Garcia [junior welterweight, technically], Apr. 22 ... (1) Devin Haney vs (2) Vasiliy Lomachenko, May 20 ... (5) George Kambosos Jr vs (10) Maxi Hughes, TBA

Upcoming Fights: (7) Kenichi Ogawa vs Krai Setthaphon, Apr. 1 ... (2) Joe Cordina vs (3) Shavkat Rakhimov, Apr. 22 ... (9) Zelfa Barrett vs Alex Dilmaghani, Apr. 22

Upcoming Fights: (7) Isaac Dogboe vs (8) Robeisy Ramirez, Apr. 1 ... (5) Luis Alberto Lopez vs Michael Conlan, May 27

Upcoming Fights: (2) Murodjon Akhmadaliev vs (6) Marlon Tapales, Apr. 8 ... (9) Liam Davies vs Jason Cunningham, Apr. 29 ... (1) Stephen Fulton Jr vs Naoya Inoue, TBA

Notes: The first of the four title vacancies will be filled on April 8, when Takuma Inoue faces Liborio Solis for the WBA belt in Japan. The winner will wind up ranked, most likely. (You have to say most likely because it’s boxing and there’s always a chance the winner will be the winner because of some horrendous miscarriage of justice.)

Upcoming Fights: (7) Ryosuke Nishida vs Songsaeng Phoyaem, Apr. 1 ... (3) Vincent Astrolabio vs (4) Jason Moloney, May 13 ... (1) Nonito Donaire vs (9) Alexandro Santiago, TBA ... (2) Emmanuel Rodriguez vs Melvin Lopez, TBA

Notes: Wangek, aka Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, got a win on Saturday in Bangkok, beating Pipat Chaiporn via third round stoppage. That was a bantamweight fight, but Wangek has had stay-busy fights at 118 before and returned to 115 for more serious outings, so we’ll see what he’s going to do for a more serious fight next time he schedules one.

By the way, the change in the rankings to birth names for fighters from Thailand is part of what seems to be a general boxing media sweep of using the birth names from now on. I think most places are still going to call Wangek “Srisaket Sor Rungvisai,” and we’ll always make it clear in news stories and stuff that that’s the case with him, but being honest, that’s mainly because “Western” boxing media have seen him a bunch, unlike, well, most of his countrymen, no matter if they’re top fighters or not. But it seems like something that’s going to be done more and more, so I figured we might as well get on board now. It will also make it easier for people to search BoxRec and see who the heck we’re talking about if they’re not already familiar.

Upcoming Fights: (2) Fernando Martinez vs Jade Bornea, June 24

Notes: Either Jesse Rodriguez or Cristian Gonzalez — potentially both, I guess! — will be splashing down into the flyweight rankings in April 10 update.

Upcoming Fights: TBA

Upcoming Fights: (1) Kenshiro Teraji vs TBA, Apr. 8

Upcoming Fights: (1) Panya Padabsri vs (10) Yudai Shigeoka, Apr. 16 ... (4) Ginjiro Shigeoka vs Rene Mark Cuarto, Apr. 16

Notes: Seniesa Estrada unified a pair of 105 lb titles on Saturday, beating Tina Rupprecht in a one-sided decision on the Top Rank show. Yokasta Valle retained a pair of 105 lb titles on Saturday, beating Jessica Basulto in a one-sided decision in Costa Rica.

Estrada says she wants further unification, and the only further unification at 105 is Valle. It’s the fight to make. Hopefully they make it. I think there’s every chance Estrada deserves to be a slot or two higher, she’s that good and well-rounded, and a fight with Valle — if she wins — will give her an even stronger argument for that.

Upcoming Fights: (6) Mikaela Mayer vs Christina Linardatou, Apr. 15 ... (2) Katie Taylor vs (8) Chantelle Cameron, May 20

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