Ring Ratings Update: Chocolatito, Josh Taylor, Jack Catterall, Leigh Wood, Michael Conlan
The past three weeks have delivered an early Fight of the Year candidate, a vintage performance from a future hall of famer, a bunch of upsets and one very controversial near-upset that had pound-for-pound ranking repercussions.
Let’s start with the dramatic featherweight battle between The Ring’s No. 7-rated featherweight Leigh Wood and Irish Olympic star Michael Conlan that took place in Wood’s native Nottingham, England on March 12.
If you haven’t watched it yet, do yourself a favor and check it out on the DAZN platform (at least watch the fight highlights on YouTube). It was wild.
Wood (26-2, 15 KOs), behind by one and three points on the official scorecards (and MUCH farther behind on the unofficial scorecards of most observers), scored a chilling knockout midway into the 12th round, which sent Conlan’s listless body through the ropes and out of the ring. It was a shocking scenario that caused immediate elation followed by at least 20-minutes of panic and dread when it wasn’t clear if Conlan had been seriously hurt by the fall.
Conlan (16-1, 8 KOs), who scored an opening-round knockdown and rocked Wood in the second, was thankfully OK. He had put on the best performance of his professional career despite suffering his first pro loss.
The Ring Ratings Panel wanted to reward both fighters for the mettle they displayed, although some members weren’t sure how far to advance Wood or if Conlan deserved to enter the top 10 off of a KO loss.
“What a fight Leigh Wood and Michael Conlan gave us!” exclaimed panelist Anson Wainwright. “Wood showed a huge heart to get up from a heavy first-round knockdown and ate a ton of shots throughout the remainder of the fight but he’s nothing if not resilient. Slowly but surely, he got himself back into the fight and somehow found it within himself to score a highlight reel come-from-behind knockout in the final round. Doesn’t get much more dramatic than that.
“I’m not sure what we do with Wood’s ranking. I don’t think he beats (Gary) Russell head-to-head but that’s who’s directly above him. I could see him over (Kiko) Martinez and (Josh) Warrington. He’ll get a bump over whoever loses when they fight later this month.”
Managing Editor Tom Gray was admittedly “frosty” in his response to Wainwright’s opinion that Wood couldn’t be rated ahead of Gary Russell.
“Russell shouldn’t have been re-rated in the first place. He went 12 rounds with a gimpy shoulder against a kid that was 4-1 against in a two-horse race, then benefitted from a charitable majority decision loss. Speaking of horses, I won’t flog a dead one by going on about Russell’s inactivity.
“Since losing to Jazza Dickens in February 2020, Wood has won the British championship; battered Xu Can, who was Ring Magazine rated; and now he’s got off the floor to stop a two-time Olympian who was being groomed for stardom. Wood wasn’t even a lock to pick up the British championship from Reece Mould and was an underdog against both Xu and Conlan.
“If we don’t reward Wood in the ratings, then I don’t know what business we’re in. Who we think wins Wood-Russell head-to-head is irrelevant, and if past is prologue (with Russell), we’re not liable to find out until 2049.
“I think a realistic jump is No. 4 and, as Anson said, there could be another switch up following Kiko-Warrington. Regardless, Wood deserves his jump now.”
Panelist Tris Dixon agreed with Gray and suggested that Conlan was worthy of entering the featherweight rankings at No. 10.
Gray was all for it.
“Conlan looked world-class (on Saturday) against a top-10 rated fighter and was operating at a level Xu could only dream of,” said the managing editor.
“I know Russell was Ring-rated before, but as brave as he was, his re-entry was essentially a reward for a losing effort.
“Now, who showed more, Russell backing away and pot shooting, or Conlan in a Fight of the Year contender?”
Panelist Adam Abramowitz stuck up for Russell but also co-signed on Conlan’s entry.
“Russell fighting with one arm and almost nicking it if we are being honest,” said Abramowitz. “But I agree that Conlan should come in the rankings.”
Added panelist Diego Morilla: “It is not every day that you see a fight after which we are so eager to move BOTH combatants to higher places. A testament to the unbelievable courage that they displayed in that fight, indeed. I’d go with Wood at No. 4 and Conlan at No. 10 right now.”
Panelist Daisuke Sugiura agreed with Morilla’s placement. Panelist Martin Mulcahey agreed with Wood supplanting Russell but not with Conlan being ranked.
“I am for Wood moving up (I’m pretty sure we will have to take Russell out for activity later, given his history and injury, anyway). Now, he did not look great for long stretches either, and Conlan showed he is on the cusp of the top 10 but am against him entering top 10 off a knockout loss. At least Xu Can has a top 10 win, so I think he deserves top 10 retention over Conlan’s entry. Luis Lopez or Lerato Dlamini have more merit for that No. 10.”
On March 5, Roman Gonzalez outclassed game-but-outgunned Julio Cesar Martinez, The Ring’s No. 1-rated flyweight who filled in for Chocolatito’s rival and original opponent Juan Francisco Estrada. Gonzalez (51-3, 41 KOs) was as brilliant as he was relentless against a younger, fresher world titleholder known for unyielding confidence and mayhem in the ring. The 34-year-old veteran looked so good the Panel advocated for his return to the pound-for-pound rankings where he once sat as king.
Gray got the conversation started.
“I think there’s a strong case for Chocolatito to re-enter the P4P top 10,” he said. “Since the Sor Rungvisai rematch, he’s handed Kal Yafai his first ‘L’ and won a title, dropped a controversial decision to Estrada (he won that fight), and he just humiliated Martinez. More than that, it’s his performance level. He’s looked sensational, and (March 5) was an absolute masterclass.”
Added panelist Michael Montero: “I agree that it’s time for Chocolatito to re-enter the P4P list. For one thing, most (including myself) feel that he beat Estrada last year. Secondly, he’s been more active than half the fighters in our current top 10.
“I say we drop (Tyson) Fury, who never belonged there in the first place, in my opinion, and add Gonzalez at No. 10.”
Retorted Mulcahey: “I agree Roman has a case for being in top 10 P4P, but how can we have him in there and not Sor Rungvisai who beat Chocolatito twice and only has a debatable setback to Estrada (whom he also owns a win over) in the last seven years? I know it is kind of like the Iran Barkley owning wins over superior Thomas Hearns analysis (ha ha).”
Interjected your Editor-In-Chief: “I have a lot of respect for Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, but there was nothing debatable about his rematch loss to Francisco Estrada. He fought a stupid fight and clearly got outboxed. Since that loss, he’s scored a 10-round decision over an old and faded Amnat Ruenroeng at 120 pounds and knockouts over a journeyman and an old and faded former 105-pound beltholder.
“Chocolatito’s form has been world-class to elite since the stoppage of Kal Yafai, and his opposition has been far superior to his 2017 nemesis.
“I think he’s worthy of the P4P (even if it’s just No. 10) and even of moving ahead of Sor Rungvisai to No. 1 in our junior bantamweight rankings.”
Added Wainwright: “I’d not be against Chocolatito re-entering the P4P rankings. I thought he’d win but wondered what he had left. Well, turns out more than enough to look terrific against Martinez.
“Fury out and Chocolatito in. I’d probably have Chocolatito over (Kazuto) Ioka. So, I’ll go with Chocolatito to re-enter at No. 9.”
Continued Gray: “I’ll have a second pop at this and kind of echo what Doug said:
“Sor Rungvisai iced Gonzalez over four years ago. Since that time, the Thai power-puncher has turned in one solid performance (Estrada 1), lost the rematch big, and toyed around with subpar opposition. There’s no comparison between that and what Chocolatito has accomplished in the same timeframe. If the decision in the rematch with Estrada had gone the way we all thought it should have, I don’t think we’d even be debating this.
“I’d probably let Sor Rungvisai retain his (No. 1) spot at junior bantam because of the Gonzalez/ Estrada wins, but pound for pound, Chocolatito has been operating at a crazy-high level over the last couple of years. This is different from when there was a nostalgia meltdown after Pacquiao pipped Thurman. Gonzalez has had two terrific wins, over Yafai and Martinez, and been robbed blind against Estrada.”
Added Morilla: “On Chocolatito, we have to remember that Gonzalez-Rungvisai I was one of the dirtiest fights at that weight in many years, and in my humble opinion Gonzalez was robbed. Rungvisai should have lost at least two points in that fight. The rematch was inexcusable, although everyone has a bad night. But in every fight before and after that stoppage loss, Roman Gonzalez has given every indication that he is one of the best fighters out there, in every department, in any era. To me, he still represents everything that I love about boxing: superb condition, massive balls, insane combinations and boxing skills, and more. I definitely believe he should be in the Top 10.”
Last thoughts from Montero: “Chocolatito’s body of work from 2020-present is levels beyond Rungvisai’s. For that reason, I feel he’s earned our No. 10 spot on the P4P list.
“I’ve never been on board with Fury’s entry to our list. The last P4P heavyweight we had was Wladimir Klitschko, who cleaned out the division over a decade. Let’s see the Fury vs. Whyte and Usyk vs. AJ (rematch) winners face each other, then we can talk P4P.
“Fury out and Gonzalez in – that’s my vote.”
February 26 was a day of upsets and one monumental near-upset.
The upsets resulted in two fighters dropping from The Ring’s rankings. First Guillermo Rigondeaux dropped a razor-thin 10-round unanimous decision to Vicente Astrolabio in Dubai, then Chris Colbert was dominated over 12 rounds by Hector Luis Garcia in Las Vegas. Both favorites suffered knockdowns en route to their unexpected losses. (Long-reigning IBF junior bantamweight titleholder Jerwin Ancajas was also upset, by Fernando Martinez, on this Saturday, but he wasn’t dropped from The Ring’s 115-pound rankings.)
Rigondeaux exited the bantamweight rankings, and will likely never be world-rated again given his age (41) and tragic news of a freak pressure cooker accident, which reportedly inflicted serious damage to his eyes and face. (Our thoughts and prayers are with Rigondeaux as he hopefully recovers.) Colbert exited the junior lightweight rankings, but given his age (25) and talent, we expect to see him re-enter in the near future.
The near-upset overshadowed everything else that happened on that Saturday. Jack Catterall appeared to outpoint undisputed junior welterweight champ Josh Taylor – most observers thought the Englishman did so clearly – but he only did so by one point on one of the official judges’ scorecards (113-112 from Howard Foster), the other two judges (along with a small contingent of fans and boxing insiders) scored the bout for Taylor (114-111 from Ian-John Lewis and 113-112 from Victor Loughlin).
Like many UK fans, the British members of the Panel – Gray, Wainwright and Dixon – were appalled by the official decision.
“For my money, and pretty much everyone else’s, Catterall won that fight,” he said. “Horrible job by the judges. We’ve seen it happen several times in the UK in the not too distant past (Ryder-Jacobs, Barrett-Kiko and Ritson-Vazquez spring to mind). That left a very bad taste in my mouth. The win Catterall deserved was taken away from him by the sheer incompetence of two people, that would have been life changing for Catterall. Highly doubt we get a rematch, I’d be surprised if Taylor didn’t vacate and jump to 147. Boxing is its own worst enemy. Taylor is our champion so that stays the same. I do think Catterall deserves to re-enter, we ranked him a few years ago and he showed he should be ranked. How about No. 4? Doesn’t sit with me right coming in and so high off a loss but looking at the rankings that’s not out of line.”
Added Gray: “I had Catterall winning (115-111) and he turned in the performance of a top-five rated fighter in this weight class.
Dixon shared his thoughts in this commentary article.
Other members of the Panel weren’t so down on the official decision, viewing the ugly style clash as a legitimately close fight.
“Was the Taylor-Catterall fight close? Yes, I think so, and not as controversial as many are making it out to be,” said Mulcahey. “I have been higher on Catterall than some (I think I recently suggested he was on cusp or re-entry to the top 10) and I think he gives anyone in top 10 trouble with his compact punches, terrific timing, and southpaw awkwardness. I still think he lost this fight closely, so I would have Catterall in at No. 5 or No. 7 – preferably No. 7.”
Added Sugiura: “I’m in the ‘I thought Catterall won but it’s too close to call it a robbery’ group.”
The Panel also debated what to do with Taylor’s pound-for-pound ranking.
“Josh Taylor didn’t look pound-for-pound,” said Wainwright. “To me, he should drop a couple of places, maybe to No. 8 behind (Vasiliy) Lomachenko. Tough to know how to do this but I do think he should drop on this performance.”
Added Morilla: “It’s hard to assess Taylor’s place in this category after his performance, but I guess we’ll have to go with the benefit of the doubt linked to alleged weight problems. Dropping someone after a ‘win’ is always hard to explain, but it is even harder to keep him so high in a category as subjective as P4P. No. 8 or 9 is fine for him.”
Added Mulcahey: “Add me to the list of people in favor of dropping Josh Taylor on that performance, time will tell if Catterall is better than we all thought, but for now a drop seems appropriate. No. 8 range is fine by me.”
Concurred Montero: “Taylor drops to No. 8 or No. 9 off this performance. Can’t judge a fighter based off one night, but it’s clear to me that The Tartan Tornado 1) needs to move up to 147 pounds, and 2) needs to get more active.”
Not everyone on the Panel was in favor of dropping Taylor so low.
“I expected Taylor to take a hit pound-for-pound, BUT there are a few factors,” said Gray. “One, this is the first below-par performance Josh has turned in as a pro. Two, despite his body looking in fabulous condition on the scales, he looked awful around the face and was terribly drawn. Three, there are people (not many) who saw this fight differently from me. Jack Catterall turned in a brilliant performance and I had him winning clearly. With that said, I’m not of the opinion that we saw the best of Josh Taylor and his accomplishments and resume are elite level. I’ll go with the consensus, but I’d be eager to know what we did with (Juan Francisco) Estrada in a similar situation. I don’t know one person who thought he beat Chocolatito in the rematch. Did he take a hit pound-for-pound? If so, then so should Taylor. If not, then we should be consistent.”
[Editor’s Note: Estrada actually moved up one spot! Where was the justice for Chocolatito!?]
Responded Sugiura: “I get that consistency is important but, unlike Estrada against Choco, Taylor didn’t look like a P4P fighter on Saturday. But again, his resume is still strong and that’s important too. Either dropping one spot or staying put is OK to me. Don’t have a strong preference.”
Added Abramowtiz: “I had Taylor winning 113-112. I know I’m in the minority but there were others who felt similarly. No argument with Catterall winning close either. I would only drop Taylor one space pound for pound. Put Spence above him. Remember, most thought Estrada lost to Roman Gonzalez last year and Loma recently did lose.”
Your Editor-In-Chief seconded Abramowitz’s thoughts for the exact same reasons. However, those in favor of being lenient with Taylor’s pound-for-pound ranking were outvoted.
RING RATINGS UPDATE (as of March 12):
Pound for pound – Taylor drops to No. 8. Gonzalez re-enters at No. 9.
Cruiserweight – Lawrence Okolie advanced to No. 2 after scoring a unanimous decision over Michal Cieslak, who exits the rankings. Richard Riakporhe (13-0, 9 KOs) enters at No. 10.
“I think there’s a case for (Okolie) to move to the No. 1 spot,” said Gray. “Makabu was poor last time out, but Dorticos’ activity is the stuff of nightmares. He’s had three fights in three-and-a-half years. The MD loss to Briedis flatters to deceive because he lost clearly. In the same space of time, Okolie has had seven fights and won British, Commonwealth, European and world. He’s also faced and defeated two Ring-rated fighters. The only way you can justify Dorticos at No. 1 is by crediting him for accomplishments that happened years ago. We made the same mistake with Pacquiao on the pound-for-pound list. Activity and success should come first.”
Middleweight – Jaime Munguia remains at No. 4 after scoring a third-round stoppage of unrated D’Mitrius Ballard.
Junior welterweight – Taylor remains champion. Jose Ramirez remains at No. 2 after scoring a unanimous decision over Jose Pedraza, who drops out. Catterall enters at No. 4. Gary Antuanne Russell (15-0, 15 KOs) entered at No. 10 off of a 10th-round TKO of Viktor Postol, and was then pushed to No. 9 (when Pedraza exited, making room for Sandor Martin to re-enter at No. 10).
Lightweight – Jorge Linares exits the rankings after suffering a 12th-round TKO to Zaur Abdullaev. Javier Fortuna remains at No. 9 following a first-round KO of unrated Rafael Hernandez. William Zepeda re-enters at No. 10.
“I’d personally take Abdullaev over Zepeda, for now,” said Sugiura. “That was a good win for Abdullaev, better than any Zepeda win, considering Linares did OK against (Devin) Haney in his last fight. Abdullaev should be rewarded for beating a ranked and respected fighter in such a convincing fashion.
“I like Zepeda a lot too, no big issue for him coming back in if everyone else agrees, but his (,ost recent) fight (third-round KO of Luis Angel Viedas) was kinda sloppy and he was knocked down by a no-name opponent (might’ve been a slip, but anyway).”
Junior lightweight – Colbert exits after being outpointed by Hector Garcia (15-0, 10 KOs), who enters at No. 8.
“What the heck happened to Chris Colbert?” asked Montero. “Props to him for giving no excuses regarding the late-replacement opponent. Looks like Garcia was flying under the radar; he’s a welcome addition to a great division. I don’t know if Colbert should go all the way out – maybe No.10? I can see Garcia as high as No. 6 or No. 7, honestly. Perhaps we drop Ziani?”
Featherweight – Mauricio Lara remains at No. 3 after prevailing in a three-round shootout with unrated Emilio Sanchez. Wood advances to No. 4. Joet Gonzalez advances to No. 9 after scoring a ninth-round TKO of unrated Jeo Santisima. Conlan enters at No. 10.
Bantamweight – Rigondeaux exits after being outpointed by unrated Vincent Astrolabio (17-3, 12 KOs), who enters at No. 10.
Wainwright suggested OPBF champion Keita Kurihura enter at No. 10 instead of Astrolabio. Mulcahey tried to one-up Anson in terms of “Boxing Hipster” cred by suggesting Ryosuke Nishida (5-0, 1 KO). Well done, guys.
Junior bantamweight – Gonzalez remains at No. 2. Ancajas drops to No. 8 after being soundly outpoitned by unrated Fernando Martinez (14-0, 8 KOs), who enters at No. 4.
“Boxing is about what have you done for me lately,” said Abramowtiz. “And with that said, Roman is taking on top guys and beating (or should have beat) them. Rungvisai hasn’t. I like Roman over him at 115 right now, despite the face-to-face losses.”
Abramowitz’s suggestion was co-signed by Ye Ole Editor-In-Chief and Morilla.
Flyweight – Martinez remains at No. 1.