Monday, March 20, 2023  |


Ring Ratings: a brief update and a flashback (to when the Real Deal and Finito ruled)

One monster overhand left from Luis "King Kong" Ortiz (left) turned around a difficult fight with Charles Martin and kept the veteran in Ring's heavyweight rankings. Photo from PBC

The New Year began with heavyweight action that didn’t result in any changes in The Ring’s glamor division rankings, and a close (maybe controversial) matchup in the lightest weight class resulting in a new edition to the stawweight top 10.

Former two-time heavyweight title challenger Luis Ortiz was able to hang on to his No. 7 ranking with an up-from-the-canvas stoppage of former IBF beltholder Charles Martin. Ortiz (33-2, 28 KOs), who was dropped in Rounds 1 and 4 (the second knockdown the result of a stiff jab), appeared to be on unsteady legs for five rounds but the veteran clipped his fellow southpaw in Round 6, separating Martin from his senses, then dropping the 35-year-old St. Louis native and finally forcing referee Frank Santore Jr. to wave the bout off midway through the round. (Truth be told, the fight was over – and should have been stopped – the moment Ortiz connected with an overhand left that caused Martin to stumble and stare off into the audience with glazed eyes.)

Ortiz-Martin was an IBF title elimination bout that headlined a FOX/PBC PPV show from Hollywood, Florida on January 1. In the co-featured bout of the card, The Ring’s No. 10-rated heavyweight Frank Sanchez (20-0, 13 KOs) scored a shutout 10-round decision over Christian Hammer, dropping the Germany-based Romanian veteran in the final round.

Ortiz’s come-from-behind victory wasn’t enough to advance the 42-year-old Cuban from his No. 7 spot and Sanchez’s uneventful decision did not inspire the Ring Ratings Panel to move the younger (29) Cuba expatriate from last place in the rankings.

Erick Rosa (left) squared off against Vic Saludar (right) – Photo courtesy of Shuan Boxing

On the opposite end of the weight classes, The Ring’s No. 5-rated strawweight Victorio Saludar suffered an upset split-decision loss to unrated and inexperienced (4-0 entering the bout) Dominican prospect Erick Rosa, who took on the former WBO beltholder in his native Santo Domingo. Rosa (5-0, 1 KO), a former member of the Dominican Republic’s national amateur team, scored knockdowns in Rounds 3 and 9 but suffered a knockdown of his own in Round 10. The 21-year-old converted southpaw known as “Mini Pacman” won by scores of 116-109 and 113-112. The third judge scored the bout 113-112 for Saludar (21-5, 11 KOs), a 31-year-old contender from the Philippines.

Ratings panelist Adam Abramowitz heard that the Saludar-Rosa result may have been controversial and suggested a discussion. Managing Editor Tom Gray asked panelists who had seen the fight to share their thoughts.

Panelist Daisuke Sugiura watched the bout live and thought the wrong fighter’s hand was raised but also admitted that the bout seemed legitimately close.

“I didn’t score the fight but I thought Saludar probably won it, even with the two knockdowns he suffered – and one of the knockdowns Rosa was credited for might not have been caused by a clean punch. I’m not sure if it was bad enough to be classified as a ‘robbery,’ though. Maybe I need to watch it one more time.”

Panelist Anson Wainwright, who suggested that Rosa enter the 105-pound rankings at No. 8 and Saludar to drop to No. 9, said the fight could have gone either way.

“As Daisuke says, it was a close fight,” Wainwright said. “I went with Saludar dropping and Rosa just in front of him (in the new rankings) but due to some of the things we touched on to have them just inside the top 10 instead of Rosa being any higher. Shame to see Yudai (Shigeoka, previously ranked No. 10) drop out, especially after a really good recent win, but I’m sure he’ll be back soon enough.”



Heavyweight – Ortiz remains at No. 7. Sanchez remains at No. 10.

“Not sure what was worse: Luis Ortiz’s punch resistance or slow feet,” quipped panelist Martin Mulcahey. “Having said that, he still got the job done. Agree though, it’s not a performance that elevates but actually casts doubt on Ortiz given his age. So, no movement for Ortiz and if anything maybe we should consider promoting Joe Joyce over him. Also, no movement for Frank Sanchez. Granted, Hammer is a very difficult last minute sub given his survivor tactics and experience.”

Light heavyweight – Maxim Vlasov remains at No. 4 following a stay-busy decision over Felix Valera.

Junior bantamweight – Kazuto Ioka remains at No. 3 following a decision (and WBO title defense) over unrated Ryoji Fukunaga. Andrew Moloney remains at No. 9 following a decision over unrated Froilan Saludar.

Strawweight – Rosa enters at No. 8. Saludar drops to No. 9.


KNOCKING ON THE DOOR (by Anson Wainwright):

Lightweight – Frank Martin scored an impressive fourth-round stoppage over Romero Duno. The southpaw is a great addition to a strong division. Another win or two and he could well crack the top 10.



Since this week’s RRU was rather uneventful (in terms of major changes to the heavyweight and strawweight divisions), I thought it might be fun to repost the rankings from a year when the glamour division was still glamorous and the 105-pound division was topped by its all-time greatest champion – 1997.

In January of 1997, 24 years ago, The Ring’s heavyweight top 10 looked like this:

1 – Evander Holyfield

Fairburn, GA 33-3 (WBA Champ)

2 – Lennox Lewis

England 30-1 (WBC Champ)

3 – Mike Tyson

Southington, OH 45-2

4 – Michael Moorer

Detroit, MI 37-1 (IBF Champ)

5 – Andrew Golota

Chicago, IL 28-2

6 – Ray Mercer

West Orange, NJ 24-4-1

7 – Henry Akinwande

England 31-0-1

8 – David Tua

Totowa, NJ 26-0

9 – Riddick Bowe

Fort Washington, MD 40-1

10 – Tim Witherspoon

Philadelphia, PA 45-5


There you have it, heavyweight rankings packed with star power, future hall of famers, respected veterans, dangerous up-and-comers, colorful characters and bright personalities. Holyfield was fresh off his monumental upset of Tyson (November 1996), which earned him Ring Magazine’s Fighter of the Year award. He would go on to repeat vs. Tyson (via the infamous “ear bite” third-round DQ) in June and then unify the WBA and IBF titles with a revenge eighth-round TKO of Moorer in their November rematch to nab The Ring’s 1997 Fighter of the Year award. No. 2-rated Lewis would patiently await his shot at glory, which finally arrived in 1999 when he got back-to-back shots at Holyfield.

While the sport’s spotlight was on the big men, one of the finest champions of the 1990s ruled the not-so glamorous strawweight division. How under-the-radar was the 105-pound division? Well, The Ring didn’t bother to include it among its monthly rankings. However, the publication did recognize a near-perfect power-punching technician from Mexico named Ricardo Lopez as the top man among strawweights.

Ricardo Lopez attacks the body of Ala Villamor en route to an eighth-round KO, the first of four title defenses (all by stoppage and all in the U.S.) in 1996. Photo by Al Bello /Allsport

You might ask how we know The Ring’s editors respected Lopez if the magazine didn’t include a 105-pound top 10? It’s simple, Lopez was recognized in The Ring’s popular Pound-for-Pound rankings. “El Finito” was rated No. 5 (behind Roy Jones Jr. , Oscar De La Hoya, Pernell Whitaker and Felix Trinidad) in 1997. As legendary as Holyfield was, the American heavyweight was No. 9 in the mythical rankings at the start of the year.

At the time, Lopez’s record was 45-0 (35 KOs) and he had made 18 defenses of his WBC title, fighting the top 105 pounders (including many former and future beltholders) in Mexico, Japan, Thailand, South Korea and the U.S.