Ring Ratings Update: Is Artur Beterbiev P4P? Who’s No. 1 at light heavyweight?
Artur Beterbiev’s second-round knockout of Joe Smith Jr. not only added the WBO light heavyweight title to the IBF and WBC belts he already held, it reminded fans and media that he’s more than just a pressure-fighting KO monster – when he’s dialed-in he’s an elite boxer-puncher.
Beterbiev’s scintillating performance sparked two lengthy discussions among The Ring Ratings Panel this week:
- Whether he should re-enter the pound-for-pound rankings, and
- whether he should retake the No. 1 spot at light heavyweight currently held by Dmitry Bivol. (And for some, Bivol’s pound-for-pound ranking impacted their opinion on where to rank Beterbiev at light heavyweight.)
Panelist Anson Wainwright got the pound-for-pound discussion going with this take on the overall state of the mythical rankings:
“Pound-for-Pound is getting very crowded. We had to take out Chocolatito after an impressive win early this year (to make room for Jermell Charlo) and didn’t have room for Devin Haney to enter after his recent impressive win. There are about 15 fighters who could be in the top 10. Beterviev looked pound-for-pound worthy with his destruction of Smith. I’d like to see Beterviev re-enter. Beterbiev at No. 10 for me.”
Managing Editor Tom Gray responded with a call back to the old KO Magazine P4P top 12: “Yeah, I really wish we could introduce a Dynamite Dozen. Perhaps we should? Smith’s gameplan, albeit brave, bordered on insanity. Getting respect is one thing, but you need to set up your offense. With that said, Smith had never been stopped and Beterbiev crushed him in five minutes. I’m not totally against his entry, but I think Jermell (No. 10) has a slightly better resume. I also think Charlo beat a better fighter in (Brian) Castano to become undisputed than Beterbiev did to unify.”
Panelist Adam Abramowitz agreed with Gray.
Panelist Michael Montero shared his personal pound-for-pound top 10, which does not include Juan Francisco Estrada or Vasiliy Lomachenko.
“Things are getting crowded because we haven’t removed inactive fighters,” Montero said. “Here is my personal updated list: 1. Usyk, 2. Inoue, 3. Crawford, 4. Canelo, 5. Spence, 6. Charlo, 7. Bivol, 8. Taylor, 9. Beterbiev, 10. Chocolatito.
“I removed Estrada (who I felt lost to Chocolatito last March and hasn’t fought since) and Loma (who will not fight in 2022). Every fighter I have listed has either already fought this year, or is currently negotiating a fight with an elite opponent this summer/fall.”
Wainwright agreed with the removal of Estrada, which would allow for Beterbiev to enter.
“How about we remove Estrada? He’s been inactive since March 2021 and many believe Chocolatito beat him. He is due to face Joshua Franco but that still doesn’t have a date. I toyed with that idea before sending my initial email this morning. That would likely see Beterbiev re-enter at No. 10.”
Panelist Daisuke Sugiura also agreed with that suggestion.
“I’m good with ‘Estrada out and Beterbiev in’ too.
“I’ve been asked by some Japanese readers why Estrada has been ranked that high after the controversial win against Chocolatito and inactivity and I struggled to answer. We can reevaluate his placement after his next fight.”
While most of the Panel was fine with dropping Estrada to allow Beterbiev in the P4P top 10, they were split (4-4) on whether to move the IBF/WBC/WBO titleholder back into the No. 1 spot at light heavyweight.
Gray was in favor of Beterbiev at No. 1 at first, although he admitted that it was a toss-up between the top two light heavies.
“Not an easy call,” said Gray. “The hindsight reaction to Canelo-Bivol was that poor Canelo was so brave going in there against the bigger guy. We just ignore the fact that Bivol was the underdog and won the fight by an average of 8-4. However, Beterbiev is 18-0 (18 KOs) and he’s blitzing the division. I’m with Anson and would take Beterbiev to No. 1, but there’s nothing in it.”
Abramowitz was in favor of keeping Bivol No. 1 at light heavyweight, in part because “it would be a weird situation to have Beterbiev below Bivol (in the P4P rankings) but ahead of him in the (175-pound) division because both have only fought at 175. This isn’t Crawford and Spence where Crawford had a huge body of work below welterweight.”
That statement made Gray take a step back and change his mind.
“I’m going to switch and vote for Bivol to remain at No. 1,” he said. “When I truly ask myself what impressed me most; Beterbiev flattening Smith or Bivol schooling Canelo, it’s the latter and by a significant distance. Canelo, despite the weight jump, was a former champ at 175 and the pound-for-pound king.”
Sugiura agreed with Gray’s re-take.
“Bivol is No. 1 at 175 to me,” he said. “He has the biggest win (Canelo was a big favorite), he already beat Smith and has defended (the WBA title) 11 times.”
Panelists Montero and Martin Mulcahey favored Beterbiev.
“Beterbiev has three of the (four major) belts and just annihilated Smith, who took Bivol the distance,” said Montero. “Artur has to be No. 1, with Dmitry at No. 2.”
Added Mulcahey: “I like Beterbiev at No. 1 simply because he has looked the best beating guys in this division… Canelo is not in this division. Also, look at how both fared against Smith!”
Panelist Tris Dixon favored Beterbiev at No. 1, but was conflicted because of the P4P conundrum.
“This is a real headache,” Dixon admitted. “I’d remove Estrada for Beterbiev but as, I think, Adam pointed out, how can you have Beterbiev ahead of Bivol at light heavyweight but below him P4P when they are career light heavies. Yet that is where I find myself.
“Beterbiev has the better 175 resume for me, so he goes No. 1. A solution could be to bring him in P4P at No. 7, with Bivol at No. 8, and Taylor staying No. 9 and Charlo at No. 10, but then I feel like I’m making it up as I go along, even though it’s kind of a logical fit for me.”
Wainwright agreed after some back-and-forth.
“I’m with Tris here,” he said. “I believe Beterbiev to be the No. 1 light heavy but it wouldn’t look right if he is No. 1 at 175 but behind Bivol. I bring it up again that the Gvozdyk win was awesome, that was an elite-level performance.
“Like Tris says, we can put Beterbiev ahead of Bivol pound-for-pound, but it’s not ideal. It’s quite a jump.
“The best look may be to bring Beterbiev in the pound-for-pound but keep him where he is at light heavy. I’m not happy with that but I’m struggling to get an outcome that I feel is correct.”
When pressed to confirm that he was OK with Beterbiev at No. 2, Wainwright clarified his position.
“Sorry to be a pain but I can’t get my head around Beterbiev not being the No. 1 fighter at 175 pounds. Ignore my previous email.
“To me he has to be. I want him at No. 1 at light heavy and let the cards fall as they may pound-for-pound. Beterbiev to enter at No. 10. Fans will have something to say whatever we do.”
Added Daisuke: “I’m good with both Bivol and Beterbiev in the P4P but Bivol should rank higher.”
Added Gray: “I’m (for) Bivol (at No. 1) based on Adam’s argument. And resume-wise, Bivol may also have the edge.
“Opposition faced outweighs the number of belts accrued.
“The one area Beterbiev comes out ahead is method of victory. He’s a destroyer, so I’m not ultra fussed how it goes.”
The tie-breaker was left to Yours Truly, and I voted in favor of Bivol. I agree with Gray’s statement that he’s got the edge “resume-wise.”
Bivol beat Smith in 2019. So what if he didn’t knock him out. He’s a boxer not a KO Artist. (We didn’t penalize Andre Ward, Floyd Mayweather Jr. or Pernell Whitaker for not scoring KOs, did we?) Bivol also has victories over Sullivan Barrera (who also beat Smith), former champ Jean Pascal (who owns recent wins over Marcus Browne and Badou Jack), perennial contender Isaac Chilemba (who gives everyone a hard time), and, of course, his most recent victory, the sensational performance against the reigning super middleweight champ.
There was one additional debate and that had to do with how far to drop Smith in the light heavyweight rankings.
Wainwright suggested he dip to No. 6. Montero and Mulcahey agreed.
Abramowitz did not.
“I think No. 6 for Smith is way too low,” he said. “No. 3 at the lowest. The rest of the guys in the division have accomplished very little.”
Added Mulcahey: “Highest I would (go with Smith) is No. 4. I still prefer Callum Smith above him. Looking back, has Smith beaten anyone rated in the top five of the division? I don’t think he won a round against guys rated in top two. Even with recency bias aside, would anyone bet on Smith beating Zurdo?”
Abramowitz’s retort: “Callum Smith literally has done nothing in the division. You won’t find a win as good as Fonfara, Hopkins, Alvarez or Vlasov. It’s not even close, Marty.”
Mulcahey’s come back: “I thought Vlasov beat Smith, so take that one away for me (ha ha). How long ago was Fonfara or Hopkins, half a decade? I see your argument, which is why I said No. 4 at very best.”
Added Wainwright: “I agree (that the other light heavyweight are not as accomplished as Smith), but Joe Smith Jr. was demolished (by Beterbiev). Zurdo Ramirez and Callum Smith have advanced in large part because of the lack of depth in the division. They have looked good at 175 though. Callum Smith has had one fight but drilled Lenin Castillo who’d been the distance with Bivol and was eye-catchingly impressive. Browne did better head-to-head with Beterbiev than Joe Smith. I see Smith just behind Browne.”
Added Montero: “I like Joe, he might be the best overachiever of his generation, but I wouldn’t favor him against Zurdo or Browne right now. A fight against Callum Smith would be close, as would bouts with Buatsi and even Yarde.
“I just can’t see Smith rated higher than No. 5 or No. 6 at present.”
RING RATINGS UPDATE (as of June 18):
Pound-for-pound – Beterbiev re-enters at No. 10. Estrada exits due to inactivity.
“Are we being slightly harsh on Estrada?” asked Gray. “I had him losing to Chocolatito in the return, but the 117-111 card for him pissed me off more than anything.
“Estrada has a win over (Srisaket) Sor Rungvisai and he stopped (Carlos) Cuadras. I know he’s outside the 12 months (allowed for inactivity), but he’d signed to fight Choc again and came down with Covid. And, as I understand it, he’s supposed to be fighting (Ring-rated Joshua) Franco. Personally, I’d cut the kid some slack.”
Replied Abramowitz: “Estrada has been very tough to get in the ring at different points in his career. Too many other guys are fighting and beating great competition. We can always bring him back at a later point if deemed appropriate.”
Cruiserweight – Richard Riakporhe advances to No. 6 following a second-round TKO of unrated Fabio Turchi.
Light heavyweight – Beterbiev remains at No. 2. Joe Smith Jr. drops to No. 6.
Middleweight – Jaime Munguia remains at No. 4 after stopping unrated Jimmy Kelly in the fifth round of a non-title super middleweight bout.
Junior middleweight – Carlos Ocampo remains at No. 10 following a stay busy first-round knockout over unrated Vicente Martin Rodriguez.
Featherweight – Robeisy Ramirez enters at No. 9 following a one-punch fifth-round KO of previously unbeaten (but unrated) Abraham Nova.
“Ramirez has really adapted to the pros after that shocking upset on his debut,” said Wainwright. “I definitely think he deserves a top 10 spot. Bring him in at No. 9.”
Added Morilla: “Ramirez’s debut was a freak occurrence, he is one of the best all-around fighters out there without a title yet. No. 9 sounds good to me.”
Bantamweight – Naoya Inoue remains champ after a brilliant second-round stoppage of future hall-of-famer Nonito Donaire, who drops to No. 3. Takuma Inoue exits after scoring a one-sided UD over unrated Gakuya Furuhashi (his second bout at junior featherweight). Alejandro Santiago enters at No. 10.
Junior flyweight – Hiroto Kyoguchi remains champ following a bloody, brutal eighth-round stoppage of Esteban Bermundez, who drops to No. 9.
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