The Ring Magazine Ratings Reviewed: Junior Bantamweight
The Ring Magazine first introduced its divisional ratings in 1925 and 95 years later they’re still going strong. It is no exaggeration to claim that these independent rankings are the most respected and accurate in world boxing today.
The ratings panel is made up of a dozen experts from around the world. Opinions are shared, debate takes place, and the final decision on who should be ranked where is decided democratically. It sounds easy but it can be an arduous and time-consuming process.
During the past few weeks, the sport of boxing, like the rest of us, has been on lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It therefore makes sense for The Ring to use this time to revisit each and every division, analyze the fighters who are ranked and predict what they’re likely to do in the future.
Up next is junior bantamweight. As always, please enjoy the debate and respect other people’s opinions.
CHAMPION: JUAN FRANCISCO ESTRADA
RECORD: (40-3, 27 KOs)
THE PAST: Came of age in a losing effort to former pound-for-pound king Roman Gonzalez (UD 12) in November 2012 but rebounded to win WBA and WBO 112-pound titles from Brian Viloria (SD 12). After making five defenses, Estrada abdicated his throne for a move up to junior bantamweight. After losing to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (MD 12), he outboxed the big-punching Thai to claim Ring and WBC junior bantamweight titles in the rematch.
THE FUTURE: The 29-year-old has long been plagued by a persistent hand injury. Looks likely to return versus old rival Carlos Cuadras, or he could cross swords with old foe Gonzalez in a unification bout.
No. 1 SRISAKET SOR RUNGVISAI
RECORD: (47-5-1, 41 KOs)
THE PAST: Unseated WBC junior bantamweight titleholder Yota Sato (TKO 8) in May 2013 but lost it to Carlos Cuadras (TD 8) after one defense. Reeled off 15 consecutive wins to earn a shot at his old title against then-pound-for-pound No. 1 Roman Gonzalez. Srisaket upset huge odds to win a controversial majority decision but left no doubt in the rematch, which he won via brutal fourth-round knockout. Went 1-1 with the aforementioned Estrada.
THE FUTURE: Was scheduled to return against former IBF 112-pound titleholder, and countryman, Amnat Ruenroeng. Expect the May date to be rescheduled.
No. 2 ROMAN GONZALEZ
RECORD: (49-2, 41 KOs)
THE PAST: The legendary Gonzalez had annexed titles at strawweight, junior flyweight and flyweight before moving north once more. In 2016 “Chocolatito” dared to be great when he stepped up to junior bantamweight in a bid to surpass his idol and mentor, the late great Alexis Arguello, by becoming a four-weight world champion. Gonzalez edged the bigger Carlos Cuadras (UD 12) to claim the WBC title. He then put losses to Srisaket behind him when he rolled back the years to claim the WBA title via a ninth-round stoppage of Ka Yafai.
THE FUTURE: In typical Gonzalez fashion, he is chasing down an Estrada rematch or a third bout with Srisaket.
No. 3 KAZUTO IOKA
RECORD: (25-2, 14 KOs)
THE PAST: After claiming titles at strawweight and junior flyweight, Ioka lost for the first time to IBF flyweight titleholder Amnat Ruenroeng. Unperturbed, the Japanese star rebounded to best Juan Carlos Raveco (MD 12) to win the WBA belt in that division. Made five defenses, including a rematch victory over Raveco (TKO 11) and then shockingly retired from the sport in 2017. However, following a 17-month layoff, Ioka returned at junior bantamweight in search of more glory. Lost a WBO title bout to Donnie Nietes (SD 12) but stopped Aston Palicte (TKO 10) for the very same belt after Nietes vacated. Now a four-weight world titleholder, Ioka outpointed Jeyvier Cintron (UD 12) in his first defense.
THE FUTURE: Ioka has spoken about facing one of his fellow 115-pound titleholders, but it appears a fight with ambitious compatriot Kosei Tanaka is more likely.
No. 4 JERWIN ANCAJAS
RECORD: (31-1-2, 22 KOs)
THE PAST: Ancajas won the IBF title against McJoe Arroyo (UD 12) in September 2016. He has made eight successful defenses against the likes of Teiru Kinoshita (TKO 7), Jamie Conlan (TKO 6) and Israel Gonzalez (TKO 10). A road warrior, Ancajas has competed in Macau, Australia, Ireland, the U.S. and Mexico as a defending titleholder.
THE FUTURE: “Pretty Boy” has talked about unification bouts but, so far, has had to be content to defend his title. Really needs a signature victory.
No. 5 KHALID YAFAI
RECORD: (26-1, 15 KOs)
THE PAST: The amateur standout impressively won the vacant WBA title by outpointing Luis Concepcion in December 2016. However, the Englishman of Yemeni descent flattered to deceive at times during his championship tenure, impressing against David Carmona (RTD 7) but laboring in a lethargic win over Nolberto Jimenez (UD 12). Yafai craved a big fight and got his wish when he met Roman Gonzalez in February. It proved a bridge too far and Yafai was stopped.
THE FUTURE: Yafai is licking his wounds but will likely resurface at bantamweight. The question is, at 30, can he return from a bad loss to regain championship gold?
No. 6 ANDREW MOLONEY
RECORD: (21-0, 14 KOs)
THE PAST: Moloney was a seasoned amateur, winning gold at the 2014 Commonwealth games. Since turning professional he has moved seamlessly, winning a handful of sanctioning body trinkets. The 29-year-old twin of Jason Moloney, a world-rated bantamweight, had long called out Yafai, but that fight never came off. Has scored solid wins over Luis Concepcion (TKO 10), Miguel Gonzalez (TKO 8) and Elton Dharry (RTD 8).
THE FUTURE: Signed with Top Rank last year and was primed to face Israel Gonzalez on April 17 in his American debut. That will now take place at a later date.
No. 7 FRANCISCO RODRIGUEZ
RECORD: (33-4-1, 24 KOs)
THE PAST: Headed to Nicaragua and lost to national hero Roman Gonzalez (TKO 7) early in his career. Dropped to strawweight and, at 20 years old, knocked out Merlito Sabillo (TKO 10) to become WBO titleholder before adding the IBF belt in a unification with Katsunari Takayama (UD 12). In 2015 the young Mexican moved up to junior flyweight and lost back-to-back decisions to Donnie Nietes (UD 12) and Moises Fuentes (SD 12). Has moved up in weight again and is currently on a 14-fight win streak, that includes wins over former titleholders Hernan Marquez (KO 3) and Oswaldo Novoa (UD 10).
THE FUTURE: He is ranked in the top 10 by three of the four sanctioning bodies. The former titleholder appears deserving of another title opportunity.
No. 8 JEYVIER CINTRON
RECORD: (11-1, 5 KOs)
THE PAST: The only two-time Olympic boxer from Puerto Rico switched codes and progressed quickly. Fought a no-contest with Koki Eto before showing his sharpshooting skills in a rematch (UD 10). The latter earned him a mandatory title shot at Kazuto Ioka (L UD 12).
THE FUTURE: Gave a really good account of himself against Ioka and will have learned from the experience. He is only 25 and can come again.
No. 9 CARLOS CUADRAS
RECORD: (39-3-1, 27 KOs)
THE PAST: A regular on the Mexican amateur team, Cuadras lived up to his billing by beating Sor Rungvisai (TD 8) to win the WBC belt in May 2014. He made six defenses, which included wins over Luis Concepcion (UD 12), Koki Eto (UD 12) and Richie Mepranum (RTD 8) before losing his title and unbeaten record to Gonzalez (UD 12). He has since lost to Estrada (UD 12) and McWilliams Arroyo (MD 10) but rebounded with three wins to put himself in the title picture.
THE FUTURE: Ranked in the Top 5 of three sanctioning bodies. Coupled with his good name, that should see him secure a big fight soon enough.
No. 10 JOSHUA FRANCO
RECORD: (16-1-2, 8 KOs)
THE PAST: Franco was highly regarded before being upset by Lucas Emanuel Fernandez Leone (TKO 9). Has become more battle-hardened, sharing 30 grueling rounds with Oscar Negrete (D 10, SD 10 and D 10).
THE FUTURE: The 24-year-old is entering his prime and could be a dark horse in the division.
ON THE CUSP: McWilliams Arroyo, Gideon Buthelezi, Alexandru Marin, Israel Gonzalez and Jonathan Rodriguez.