Ring Ratings Update & Flashback: Alimkhanuly and Buatsi advance, 1997 rankings
The past weekend was a relatively quiet one in terms of Ring-rated fighters, so I figured we could take another walk down memory lane – 25 years ago to the 1997 rankings – but first let’s go over the ratings updates for the week of May 15-21.
The only notable advances were small steps forward by California-based middleweight contender Zhanibek Alimkhanuly and budding British light heavyweight star Joshua Buatsi.
Alimkhanuly (12-0, 8 KOs) brutally dismissed overmatched Danny Dignum, scoring an eye-catching KO in the second round of their scheduled 12-round bout for the WBO’s “interim” title. The 29-year-old Kazakhstani, who scored stoppages of former contender Rob Brant and faded former titleholder Hassan Ndam in 2021, moved from No. 6 to No. 5, supplanting Chris Eubank Jr.
Buatsi (16-0, 13 KOs) received considerably more resistance from his opponent, former WBA title challenger Craig Richards, who gave Dmitry Bivol a stern challenge last May and was able to extend the 2016 Olympic bronze medalist 12 competitive rounds. The 29-year-old Buatsi moved from No. 9 to No. 8, supplanting countryman Anthony Yarde.
A couple of veterans were removed from lofty positions they’ve held in their respective weight classes for years (although one of them resurfaced in a heavier division). Jamel Herring exited the junior lightweight rankings following a 10-round decision loss to unbeaten lightweight prospect Jermaine Ortiz, after which the 2012 U.S. Olympian and former WBO 130-pound titleholder announced his retirement.
And former junior flyweight titleholder Felix Alvarado exited the 108-pound rankings after abdicating his IBF belt and making a successful debut at flyweight, stopping unrated Luis Cerrito Hernandez in four rounds. Alvarado entered the 112-pound rankings at No. 10.
The Panel’s main discourse was focused on whether to re-rank Jean Pascal after the veteran’s 12-round decision over unbeaten-but-unrated Fanlong Meng. You may recall that Pascal had been dropped from The Ring’s 175-pound rankings after testing positive for a variety of banned performance-enhancing drugs last May, just a week before a scuttled rematch with Badou Jack.
Panelist Anson Wainwright suggested re-entering the battle-worn former champ at No. 10, but fellow panelist Michael Montero took issue with that opinion given Pascal’s recent PED history.
“I agreed with all your (other) suggestions Anson, except for one: I just can’t rate Pascal after being such an egregious doper,” said Montero. “It’s not like he popped for one thing, it was a cocktail, sort of like Jarrell Miller.”
Panelist Martin Mulcahey added his two cents: “Jean Pascal is just not going away. I can’t deny his record of late, and overall it is much better than our current No. 10, Mathieu Bauderlique. Still, it’s not been a year since Pascal was busted, so I say we continue to keep him out until at least after June.”
Replied Wainwright: “No issues if Pascal doesn’t re-enter. This was a solid win and he was stringently tested for this fight. I preferred (this win) over anything Mathieu Bauderlique has.”
Managing Editor Tom Gray reminded the Panel of The Ring’s policy on re-entering fighters removed from the rankings for positive PED tests.
“If our policy is to reinstate fighters who have previously failed PED tests, then Pascal should be no different,” said Gray. “The amount/variety of PEDs makes no difference. It’s straight up cheating. But unless we’re taking the stance to ban all fighters who have previously popped dirty, then we have to treat Pascal the same as every other fighter.
“Pascal’s actions were disgraceful and his long standing punishment will be that no one will ever forget it.”
Added Yours Truly: “I agree, Tom. Either Pascal’s win over Meng is enough to get him back in the ratings, or it isn’t. I never thought much of Meng, so I don’t really mind if Pascal remains outside of our light heavyweight top 10.”
Replied Wainwright: “No strong push this end, I just felt that Pascal’s win over Meng was better than anything Bauderlique has on his resume.”
Since nobody on the Panel had a strong desire to push for Pascal’s top-10 re-inclusion, the veteran remained out.
RING RATINGS UPDATE (as of May 21):
Light heavyweight – Buatsi advances to No. 8.
Super middleweight – David Benavidez remains at No. 1 after a three-round smashing of brave-but-overwhelmed veteran David Lemieux, who exits the rankings. NABF titleholder Erik Bazinyan (27-0, 21 KOs) enters at No. 10.
“David Benavidez did exactly, maybe a bit more, than expected with the game but much smaller David Lemieux,” said Mulcahey. “Just destroyed him, and showed what he can do when properly motivated and trained. Pretty weak 168(-pound rankings) at the bottom, so we kinda have to go with potential over proven ability. I like Erik Bazinyan as well, but I think Vladimir Shishkin says he can still make 168… if he can, I would go with him. Or even Carlos Gongora who gave our current No. 10 a really tough fight, and has a better win than Bazinyan.”
Answered Wainwright: “Shishkin was someone who I considered but his career has stalled over the past few years and so I went with Bazinyan, who was a good amateur, looks really good, and is active.”
Middleweight – Alimkhanuly advances to No. 5.
“Alimkhanuly walked through overmatched Danny Dignum in two easy rounds,” said Wainwright. “Alimkhanuly looked scary good. Not sure the opponent merits a move up but given the manner in which Alimkhanuly won, I believe it does.”
Junior lightweight – Herring exits. Albert Bell (21-0, 6 KOs) enters at No. 10.
“I should vote against Albert Bell because of that huge beard they allow him to enter the ring with,” joked Mulcahey. “However, I have advocated for him in the past for consideration so I am all in for him at No. 10. Also, Anson has probably seen more of him than me but is Zelfa Barrett a consideration here? I liked what I saw against Kiko Martinez and his last outing.”
Answered Wainwright: “Barrett doesn’t overly impress me. That said, I am looking forward to seeing him fight for the European title in a few weeks. It’s not a strong division outside Shakur Stevenson, who is head and shoulders and then some over everyone, so maybe Barrett will reach a level to get ranked in the future.”
Flyweight – Felix Alvarado (38-2, 33 KOs) enters at No. 10.
Junior flyweight – Alvarado exits. Carlos Canizales (24-1-1, 18 KOs) enters at No. 10.
RING RATINGS FLASHBACK (as of May 1997):
Twenty-five years ago, in May of 1997, Oscar De La Hoya was No. 1 at welterweight and in the pound-for-pound rankings. Just 24 years old and with only 24 pro bouts, The Golden Boy was already a four-division world titleholder. His fourth and most recent championship (acquired one month prior) was the WBC welterweight title via unanimous (albeit disputed) decision over Pernell Whitaker, a victory that earned him the top spots at 147 pounds and in the mythical rankings, according to The Ring’s Editorial Board at the time.
However, the boxing world was split (as it often is) on who deserved to sit atop the pound-for-pound throne. The debate was the subject of the cover story for the September 1997 issue of The Ring, which went to press about a month after De La Hoya beat Whitaker and supplanted Roy Jones Jr. as the P4P King. At the time, De La Hoya, Jones and Whitaker were Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the pound-for-pound rankings, but many fans and boxing insiders continued to rate Jones (who was coming off a controversial DQ loss to Montell Griffin) or Whitaker as No. 1. The cover story consisted of a poll of “experts” – journalists, promoters, managers, matchmakers, broadcasters, and boxers – compiled by Editor-In-Chief Steve Farhood.
Here’s what the entire P4P top 10 looked like at the time:
1. Oscar De La Hoya
2. Roy Jones
3. Pernell Whitaker
4. Felix Trinidad
5. Ricardo Lopez
6. Junior Jones
7. Kostya Tszyu
8. Terry Norris
9. Evander Holyfield
10. Mark Johnson
Most of those who favored De La Hoya at No. 1 did so because of the quality of his opposition and the world class-to-elite level of his potential opposition, which they equated to his “potential greatness.”
They had a point. The 1992 Olympic gold medalist ended 1995 as the Fighter of the Year and the the star of the lightweight division by beating John-John Molina (No. 9 at lightweight, see the rankings below), Genaro Gernandez (No. 1 at junior lightweight), Rafael Ruelas (No. 7 at junior welterweight) and Jesse James Leija (who had been rated at lightweight in ‘95). De La Hoya beat the great Julio Cesar Chavez and Miguel Angel Gonzalez (Nos. 3 and 4 at junior welterweight) in 1996 and the start of 1997.
Whitaker, the man he most recently defeated, was still at No. 2 at welterweight, a division that was home to several future opponents: No. 3 Felix Trinidad (31-0, IBF titleholder), No. 4 Ike Quartey (34-0, WBA titleholder), No. 6 Oba Carr, No. 7 the much-maligned Patrick Charpentier, and No. 8 Wilfredo Rivera. De La Hoya faced them all by September 1999.
A few months after the September 1997 issue was published, lightweight up-and-comer Shane Mosley would advance into the top three of the 135-pound rankings by dethroning No. 1-rated Phillip Holiday for the IBF title. The blast from Oscar’s past would eventually challenge De La Hoya for the WBC welterweight title (and the No. 1 spot in the pound-for-pound rankings) in the summer of 2000.
1. Phillip Holiday
South Africa 30-0 (IBF Champ)
2. Orzubek Nazarov
Japan 24-0 (WBA Champ)
3. Steve Johnston
Denver, CO 21-0 (WBC Champ)
- George Scott
Pembroke Pines, FL 31-1
5. Shane Mosley
Pomona, CA 23-0
6. Ivan Robinson
Delran, NJ 23-1
7. Azumah Nelson
8. Jean-Baptiste Mendy
9. John-John Molina
Puerto Rico 41-4
10. Artur Grigorjan
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