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The Ring Magazine Ratings Reviewed: Junior Featherweight

WBC junior featherweight titleholder Rey Vargas. Photo by Lawrence Lustig
01
May

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 featherweight. As always, please enjoy the debate and respect other people’s opinions.

No. 1 REY VARGAS
RECORD: (34-0, 22 KOs)

THE PAST: Vargas won the WBC 122-pound title when he outboxed Gavin McDonnell (MD 12). The tall Mexican boxer has made five defenses in a three-year reign. Injuries have slowed his activity, but Vargas does hold wins over Ronnie Rios (UD 12), Azat Hovhannisyan (UD 12) and Tomoki Kameda (UD 12).

THE FUTURE: The 29-year-old recently aligned himself with Al Haymon’s PBC. How about a fight with the winner of Luis Nery and Aaron Alameda?

Emanuel Navarrete (left) opens up on Jeo Santisima. Photo by Rosa Gutierrez

No. 2 EMANUEL NAVARRETE
RECORD: (31-1, 27 KOs)

THE PAST: Navarrete burst onto the scene to claim the WBO title at the expense of Isaac Dogboe (UD 12) in December 2018. The 25-year-old stopped Dogboe (TKO 12) in the first of five defenses and he’s the most active world titleholder in boxing today.

THE FUTURE: Navarrete fought just before the lockdown and injured his hand. He will return in the coming months and has talked about 122-pound unification bouts and a move up to featherweight.

No. 3 MURODJON AKHMADALIEV
RECORD: (8-0, 6 KOs)

THE PAST: The former amateur standout won bronze at the 2016 Olympics before seamlessly transitioning into the pros. The dynamic Uzbekistan southpaw edged the more experienced Daniel Roman (SD 12) in late February to become the IBF and WBA 122-pound titleholder.

THE FUTURE: Not talked about anyone in particular, but a rematch with Roman could take place down the road. The 25-year-old may opt for a voluntary defense first, potentially at home where he’s a star.

Daniel Roman catches Ryo Matsumoto with an uppercut on his way to a unanimous decision in Tokyo. Photo by Naoki Fukuda

No. 4 DANIEL ROMAN
RECORD: (27-3-1, 10 KOs)

THE PAST: Roman came good after learning on the job. After stopping Adam Lopez (TKO 9) on ShoBox, he went to Japan and upset Shun Kubo (TKO 9) to become the WBA 122-pound titleholder. He made four defenses, including a unification win over IBF counterpart TJ Doheny (MD 12), before losing his titles to Akhmadaliev (SD 12).

THE FUTURE: Roman wants a rematch with Akhmadaliev but he may need to stay busy and wait for that to happen.

No. 5 RYOSUKE IWASA

RECORD: (27-3, 17 KOs)

THE PAST: After losing to Shinsuke Yamanaka (TKO 10) and Lee Haskins (TKO 6) at bantamweight, he successfully moved up to junior featherweight and won the IBF title, stopping compatriot Yukinori Oguni (TKO 6). Made one defense before losing to TJ Doheny (UD 12). Has scored impressive wins over Cesar Juarez (TD 10) and Marlon Tapales (TKO 11) to reposition himself as a top contender.

THE FUTURE: Won an IBF interim title against Tapales, so he will look to challenge Akhmadaliev. However, he may find himself taking a stay-busy fight in Japan before he returns to fight in America.

Brandon Figueroa (right) was pushed hard by Julio Ceja in a draw. Photo by Stephanie Trapp

No. 6 BRANDON FIGUEROA
RECORD: (20-0-1, 15 KOs)

THE PAST: The younger brother of former lightweight titleholder Omar Figueroa has a fan-friendly style and came of age by stopping world rated Oscar Escandon (TKO 10) in 2018. “The Heartbreaker” continued to improve and has scored stoppage wins over Moises Flores (KO 3), Yonfrez Perez (TKO 8) and Javier Chacon (KO 4). Closed the year in an all-action fight with overweight Julio Ceja (D 12).

THE FUTURE: The WBA have ordered the 23-year-old Texan to face Ronnie Rios when normal service resumes.

No. 7 TOMOKI KAMEDA
RECORD: (36-3, 20 KOs)

THE PAST: A good Japanese amateur who decided to base himself in Mexico. Kameda won the WBO 118-pound title from Paulus Ambundu (UD 12) and made three defenses before losing twice to Jamie McDonnell (UD 12 and UD 12). Wins over Diego Morales (UD 10) and Abigail Medina (UD 12) saw him face Vargas for the WBC 122-pound title. He gave a good account of himself but lost a decision.

THE FUTURE: Will have to get back in line and earn a second world title fight.

No. 8 HIROAKI TESHIGAWARA
RECORD: (22-2-2, 14 KOs)

THE PAST: A fringe contender at 118 pounds in Japan but has raised his game after moving up to 122. Won the OPBF crown in June 2018 and made three defenses, notably stopping Shohei Omari (TKO 12) and Shohei Kawashima (TKO 5).

THE FUTURE: Looks capable of challenging for a world title, but can he go one step further and win one?

Azat Hovhannisyan lands a right uppercut on Ronny Rios. Photo by Tom Hogan-Hogan Photos / Golden Boy Promotions

No. 9 AZAT HOVHANNISYAN
RECORD: (18-3, 15 KOs)

THE PAST: Lost his debut and looked like a middle of the road fighter, but training under Freddie Roach has improved him immeasurably. The 31-year-old puncher stopped Ronnie Rios (TKO 6) to earn himself a shot at WBC beltholder Rey Vargas (L UD 12). Has since rebounded with four inside the distance wins.

THE FUTURE: “Crazy A” had been due to face Jose Sanmartin on March 28. That will now be rescheduled.

No. 10 STEPHEN FULTON
RECORD: (18-0, 8 KOs)

THE PAST: A good amateur who worked his way up and was ready when the big opportunity came against former titleholder Ambunda (UD 12). Followed that win by knocking out previously unbeaten Mexican Isaac Avelar and used his skills to tame another unbeaten opponent in Arnold Khegai (UD 12).

THE FUTURE: Ready for a world title fight. A meeting with fellow PBC fighter Figueroa would be an interesting style match up, but he appears to be positioning himself for a WBO title shot.

ON THE CUSP: Carlos Castro, Isaac Dogboe, Jonathan Guzman, Luis Nery and Ronnie Rios.

 

Previous instalments:

THE RING RATINGS – Pound-for-Pound
THE RING RATINGS – Strawweight
THE RING RATINGS – Junior Flyweight
THE RING RATINGS – Flyweight
THE RING RATINGS – Junior Bantamweight
THE RING RATINGS – Bantamweight

 

Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter @AnsonWainwright

 

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