Ring Ratings Update: Debating Caleb Plant over David Benavidez, recognizing the WBA
There was almost zero action involving Ring-rated fighters last week. But the two that were in action shared the ring in Los Angeles on January 30 – IBF 168-pound titleholder Caleb Plant (The Ring’s No. 2-rated super middleweight) took on former beltholder Caleb Truax (the No. 6 contender).
Plant (21-0, 12 KOs) defended his IBF belt for the third time with a shutout unanimous decision over Truax (31-5-2, 19 KOs), who had only previously lost to Daniel Jacobs, Anthony Dirrell and James DeGale (with whom he split IBF title bouts in 2017 and 2018).
Plant was fast, accurate, elusive and effective throughout the bout, but he wasn’t able to stop the tough veteran as Jacobs and Dirrell did, and as he wanted. The 28-year-old southpaw cited an injury to his left hand around the fourth or fifth round as the reason for not going for the knockout.
Still, his performance was sharp enough for Ring Ratings Panel member Adam Abramowitz to propose advancing Plant from No. 2 to No. 1, supplanting (no pun intended) David Benavidez.
“I would be in favor of moving Plant over Benavidez,” said Abramowitz. “Beating (Jose) Uzcategui and Truax is two top 10 wins (over Ring-rated fighters). Both he and Benavidez have fairly thin resumes in my opinion. But I think Plant deserves credit over Benavidez for his professionalism. He has always made weight. He hasn’t lost two belts outside the ring. With two pretty even fighters, I think Plant’s professionalism gets the nod for me.”
Abramowitz’s suggestion was seconded by panelist Daisuke Sugiura.
“I agree with Adam on Plant over Benavidez,” he said. “As talented as Benavidez is, his last win at 168 pounds was 15 months ago. He was almost three pounds overweight and lost the title (on the scale) in August.
“I’m still new here, still learning the ranking criteria but it’s kinda hard for me to see a guy who didn’t even come close to the weight limit keeping the top contender spot over a legit titleholder who had two solid defenses in 12 months. Some fighters don’t care about missing the weight (not talking about Benavidez here), and the penalty is not harsh enough.
“Everything being said, I also agree that Plant didn’t make a splash against lesser competition (Truax). Benavidez is fighting in March, so I should be OK with the wait-and-see approach.”
Associate Editor Tom Gray and panelists Anson Wainwright, Diego Morilla and Michael Montero were in favor of keeping Benavidez and Plant where they are, at least until Benavidez’s next fight.
“It’s a solid enough point, Adam,” said Gray. “I think Plant is class, but I’d rather he got the top spot off a more meaningful win. While Truax was Top 10, he’s 37 years old, his record is patchy and the 168-pound division, at least from 6-10 down, lacks depth.
“If Benavidez doesn’t do something significant after his next fight, or if he drops the ball again in terms of his professionalism, I’d be up for him being replaced at No. 1.”
Added Panelist Martin Mulcahey:
“I still like Benavidez over Caleb. Stylistically, the opponents have been made to measure for Caleb (Jose Uzcategui is still his best win) with a pure straight-ahead banger in Feigenbutz, slow and old Truax, and we all know Mike Lee was literally a commercial product.”
“I agree, Tom. I like Benavidez over Plant at the moment, but Benavidez needs to do something soon. He’s fighting mid-March. So, we’ll see.
“Beating Truax like that doesn’t move him up in my opinion. Had he been emphatic, I think there’s a conversation to be had.”
“Yeah, I agree with Tom. It’s hard for me to move the needle towards Plant after such an uninspiring performance. It was his moment to make a statement, and he did make it – just not the right one.”
“Plant just didn’t do enough to put him over Benavidez. Although I agree with Adam regarding professionalism, Truax was a statement type of opponent for Plant and he didn’t exactly set the world on fire.
“Truax, at this point, is not a top 10 super middleweight. The DeGale upset was three and half years ago and he’s done nothing of note since other than going the distance in the DeGale rematch and Plant last night.”
Montero brought up an additional agenda item to share with the panel – the World Boxing Association and whether or not The Ring should continue to recognize a sanctioning organization that insists on “crowning” two-to-four “champions” (“super,” “world,” “gold” and “interim”) in each division.
“I want to bring up the WBA,” Montero said. “Not to go down a huge boxing hipster rabbit hole but… at what point do we consider The Ring taking a stand to their lunacy, as some other publications have recently? Right now, the WBA has 52 world champions – FIFTY TWO! That’s not even including all of their ‘Continental/Regional’ belts, which brings the total to well over 100.
“Just curious, has Ring ever considered not recognizing one/all of the sanctioning organizations? Has it ever been discussed?”
“I did propose withdrawing recognition of the WBA a while ago. A loud choir of crickets saluted my initiative. I am glad to count you as an ally! I say we start a subreddit board and start convincing people to short the WBA stocks! Hold the line, bitches!”
“I noticed the WBA stuff kicking around on social media and offered a Tweet on it. I think The Ring, as a unit, deals with the WBA, and the other organizations, the correct way. We recognize the main champion and ignore the rest. It’s promoters/networks that need to take the offensive on ‘regular’ title bouts, etc. If the WBA can’t make money with multiple world titles, then they’ll stop throwing belts around.
“In terms of ranking decisions, all the governing bodies are guilty of craziness. And I mean ALL of them.
“I’d continue to recognize all ‘legitimate’ WBA champions because most of the titleholders won that organization’s belt the way a champion should.
I agreed with Gray’s take on this issue, which I’m sure will resurface, as did Abramowitz.
The way I see it (for now), I don’t want to penalize deserving titleholders, such as Roman Gonzalez (the WBA’s “super” champ at junior bantamweight), Dmitry Bivol (it’s “super” champ at light heavyweight) and Gervonta Davis (it’s “super” champ at junior lightweight), for the sins of the sanctioning organization. Same deal with elite standouts that have unified major titles, including the WBA strap, in hopes of one day becoming undisputed champions, such as Anthony Joshua, Canelo Alvarez, Jermell Charlo, Josh Taylor, Murodjon Akhmadaliev and Naoya Inoue.
RING RATINGS UPDATE
Super middleweight – Caleb Plant remains at No. 2. Caleb Truax exits the rankings. Edgar Berlanga enters at No. 10.
Panelist Wainwright suggested Vladimir Shishkin (11-0, 7 KOs) to enter the rankings at No. 10 to replace Truax. However, Berlanga (12-0, 12 KOs) received a little more support from the panel.
“Anson, what do you make of this kid Edgar Berlanga who’s knocked over all his opponents inside a round?” asked Gray. “There doesn’t seem to be too much of a difference between his opposition and that of Shishkin?”
“Berlanga is the real deal, no doubt. I would place him at 10 if Truax exits the rankings.”
“Give me Shishkin over Belaraga, his quality of opposition is a bit better and he has shown the ability to go 10 rounds, which I think counts for something as well. Yes, Belaraga got rid of Ulises Sierra where Shishkin did not, but I still see Shiskin as a bit more complete at this time. If Bektemir Melikuziev settles in at 168 he may just be better than both anyhow.”
“We can make a case for either Shishkin or Berlanga at No. 10. Shishkin has faced the better opposition, but Berlanga is the sexier choice.”
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