Ring Ratings Update: Leigh Wood crashes featherweight rankings, inactivity house cleaning
Leigh Wood went from unrated British domestic level featherweight to a Ring-ranked player in the 126-pound division by stopping odds favorite Xu Can in the 12th round of their Matchroom HQ “Fight Camp” headliner on July 30.
The 33-year-old Nottingham native’s brilliant performance of savvy boxing and accurate power punching resulted in the only fight-based change in The Ring’s divisional rankings this week. Wood (25-2, 15 KOs) entered the featherweight Top 10 at No. 7. Xu Can (18-3, 3 KOs), who had been inactive since November 2019, dropped from No. 3 to No. 9.
“Wood put on an impressive display to stop Xu Can in the final round,” said panelist Anson Wainwright. “I was really disappointed in Can. Not taking anything away from Wood. Can may well have been hurt by the inactivity, similar to Josh Warrington, he couldn’t get his usual punch output going. I think Can exits the ratings entirely, a big drop but he didn’t look at the races. If we do keep him, best I can see is No. 10. Wood should enter at No. 7.”
Panelist Adam Abramowitz suggested keeping Can in the rankings.
“I agree with Wood coming it at No. 7, but I’d drop Can Xu to No. 9,” he said. “Featherweight is a weak division at the moment and there’s no obvious guy to come in. Plus, Can had a good enough resume to remain in the top 10 for now.”
Added Managing Editor Tom Gray: “I thought Wood was fabulous and the No. 7 spot works for me, too. I’d give Xu Can the benefit of the doubt and keep him at No. 10 for now.”
Diego Morilla was in also favor of Can exiting the rankings, but fellow panelists Michael Montero and Martin Mulcahey suggested that the Chinese standout remain (at No. 10 and No. 9, respectively).
The lightweight rankings were updated in the wake of former two-time title challenger Luke Campbell’s retirement announcement. Wainwright suggested that the No. 5-rated lightweight be replaced in the rankings by Michel Rivera (21-0, 14 KOs) at No. 10. However, as talented as the 23-year-old Dominican looks, other Panel members pushed for 25-year-old southpaw William Zepeda (23-0, 21 KOs), the Mexican buzzsaw who overwhelmed previously unbeaten prospect Hector Tanajara on July 9, to replace Campbell.
“I’d bring in William Zepeda at No. 10 over Rivera,” said Abramowitz. “His performance against Tanajara was fantastic. Rivera got dropped in his last fight against a career 130-pound guy. Some concerning things in that fight.”
Gray, Montero and Mulchaey were in favor of Zepeda.
All of the other changes to the divisional rankings this week – from strawweight to cruiserweight – were due to a housekeeping sweep of inactive fighters who had not fought since 2019 and do not currently have fights scheduled – or in the works – for the second half of 2021.
Wainwright compiled the list of inactive fighters – which included high-profile and highly ranked fighters, such as Sergey Kovalev (No. 4 at light heavyweight) and Keith Thurman (No. 4 at welterweight) – and made the initial suggestions for replacements.
“I agree with the 2019 cutoff, as was originally proposed, with the caveat that we revisit the inactive in another three months,” said Abramowitz. “And those that still haven’t had a fight or one announced will be removed. Then we can return to our year of inactivity rule.”
One of the ranked fighters that Abramowitz was referring to is Ryota Murata, the No. 5-rated middleweight, who last fought in December 2019. Because it has been widely reported that the Japanese star will face No. 1-rated Gennadiy Golovkin in December, Wainwright suggested leaving him in the rankings for now.
Gray proposed shortening the window for inactivity that was originally proposed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was obviously agreed prior, but I think the ratings cut off should be March 2020,” he said. “There’s no reason now why any fighter shouldn’t have had a fight since the pandemic began. That was 17 months ago, and our rankings are way out of date. For example, Gary Russell Jr. has been inactive for 18 months and nothing is confirmed. There was talk of Rey Vargas back in March and it’s come to nothing. Russell has had six fights in a six-year and four-month period and he’s our No. 1-rated featherweight. That’s a calamity. (WBC president Mauricio) Sulaiman mentioned the Russell-(Rey) Vargas fight again last month, but where is it?”
Added Montero: “I agree with Tom though regarding the cutoff. It’s been a year and a half. If you don’t even have a fight scheduled, you get the boot. I mean we strip our champions at 18 months, no? It’s stated right there in our Ratings Policy.”
Daisuke Sugiura and Wainwright reminded the Panel that boxing came to a near standstill in certain regions of the world during the pandemic, namely Japan, Thailand and Australia, and those countries still aren’t back on track. Sugiura also explained the inactivity of Ring-rated Japanese fighters Masayuki Kuroda, who was dropped from the flyweight rankings, and Murata.
“There’s actually legit excuses why both Kuroda and Murata haven’t fought,” said Sugiura. “Kuroda tore his left bicep tendon a few weeks before his comeback fight in October of last year. Murata was supposed to fight in May but, at the last moment, Carlos Monroe (the WBA’s No. 3 contender) refused to go to Japan because of the quarantine, and the fight was scrapped.
“Only one international title fight (Nakatani vs. Magramo) has taken place in Japan since the pandemic. And only one has taken place in Australia, too (Noynay vs. Wilson). Things are probably a little harder there than many of you think.
“That being said, at this point, I agree with the decision to take them out of the rankings. The fighters need to fight to be ranked. When they fight, we can simply consider them again. A March 2020 cutoff is good for me too.”
RING RATINGS UPDATE:
Cruiserweight – Andrew Tabiti and Arsen Goulamirian exit due to inactivity. Mateusz Masternak (44-5, 29 KOs) and Ryad Merhy (30-1, 25 KOs) enter at Nos. 9 and 10.
“The division is still one the most competitive and fully stocked in all boxing,” said Mulcahey. “Neither Chris Billam-Smith nor Tommy McCarthy (who fought for the European title on July 31) looked near top-10 quality.”
Light heavyweight – Sergey Kovalev exits due to inactivity. Joshua Buatsi (14-0, 12 KOs) enters at No. 10.
Junior middleweight – Michel Soro exits due to inactivity. Carlos Adames (20-1, 16 KOs) enters at No. 10.
“I always backed Michel Soro but can’t argue against his inactivity,” said Mulcahey. “I was ready to argue against Carlos Adames on first glance, but there’s not a lot in terms of young talent coming up so No. 10 is OK by me, and he has bounced back nicely. Charles Conwell is the only other young gun I could muster here.”
Welterweight – Keith Thurman exits due to inactivity. Eimantas Stanionis (13-0, 9 KOs) enters at No. 10.
“Man, I hate to remove bigish name like Keith Thurman but rules are rules,” said Mulcahey. “Yes, on Eimantas Stanionis at No. 10. Jamal James is also on a very good run and if Custio Clayton had gotten the win over Sergey Lipinets (that I think judges screwed him out of) he’d also be deserving of some consideration.”
Gray also brought up James, as well as David Avanesyan, for the No. 10 spot.
Lightweight – Luke Campbell exits due to retirement. William Zepeda enters at No. 10.
Featherweight – Leigh Wood enters No. 7. Xu Can drops to No. 9.
Bantamweight – Zolani Tete exits due to inactivity. Lee McGregor (10-0, 8 KOs) enters at No. 10.
Junior bantamweight – Jeyvier Cintron exits due to inactivity. Donnie Nietes (43-1-5, 23 KOs) enters at No. 10.
Flyweight – Masayuki Kuroda exits due to inactivity. Jackson Chauke (20-1-1, 14 KOs) enters at No. 10.
“A significant win in Russia (Mekhdi Abdurashedov) showed Jackson Chauke can compete anywhere,” said Mulcahey. “I agree he’s a good inclusion.”
Junior flyweight – Edward Heno exits due to inactivity. Sivenathi Nontshinga (10-0, 9 KOs) enters at No. 10.
Strawweight – Byron Rojas and Simpiwe Koncko exit due to inactivity. Ginjiro Shigeoka (6-0, 5 KOs) and Melvin Jerusalem (17-2, 10 KOs) enter at Nos. 9 and 10.
“I am all in on Ginjiro Shigeoka (suggested he enter weeks ago),” said Mulcahey. “I believe he can be another special Japanese fighter in this current golden age for them. Also, good with Melvin Jerusalem at No. 10, I keep thinking he is older than he is (ha ha).”
Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter and IG at @dougiefischer, and join him, Tom Loeffler, Coach Schwartz and friends via Tom’s or Doug’s IG Live every Sunday.