The Ring Ratings Reviewed 2022: Junior Bantamweight
The Ring first introduced its divisional ratings in 1925. Almost a century later, it’s no exaggeration to claim that these independent rankings are the most respected and accurate in world boxing.
The ratings panel is made up of a dozen experts from around the world. Opinions are shared, debate takes place, and the final decision on who should be ranked where is decided democratically every week. It sounds easy, but this can be an arduous and time-consuming process.
A couple of years ago, during the pandemic, we reviewed and broke down each division in full. In a two-pronged approach, we looked back at the respective achievements of the finest fighters in the world and analyzed what lay ahead.
Now, with enough time having elapsed, and with a busy final quarter to 2022 ahead of us, we’ve decided to compile another divisional breakdown.
Next up is junior bantamweight. As always, please enjoy the debate and respect other people’s opinions.
CHAMPION: JUAN FRANCISCO ESTRADA
RECORD: 42-3 (28 KOs)
THE PAST: Came of age in a losing effort to former pound-for-pound king Roman Gonzalez (UD 12) in November 2012. Rebounded to win WBA and WBO 112-pound titles at the expense of Brian Viloria (SD 12). After making five defenses, Estrada abdicated his throne for a move up to junior bantamweight. After losing to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (MD 12), he outboxed the big-punching Thai to claim Ring and WBC junior bantamweight titles in the rematch. He made three defenses, edging old rival Gonzalez (SD 12) who held the WBA title, in a classic. The WBA ordered him to defend against Joshua Franco this summer, but he declined to go ahead with the bout and was stripped. Estrada also traded in his WBC title for the “Franchise” version, which The Ring does not recognize.
THE FUTURE: Reportedly looking to end a 17-month spell of inactivity on September 3 in Mexico against an as yet unknown opponent before looking at a third fight with Gonzalez this fall.
No. 1 ROMAN GONZALEZ
RECORD: 51-3 (41 KOs)
THE PAST: The legendary Gonzalez annexed titles at strawweight, junior flyweight and flyweight before moving north once more. In 2016, “Chocolatito” dared to be great when he stepped up to junior bantamweight in a bid to surpass his idol and mentor, the late-great Alexis Arguello, by becoming a four-weight world champion. Gonzalez edged the bigger Carlos Cuadras (UD 12) to claim the WBC title. He put two losses to Srisaket behind him when he rolled back the years to claim the WBA title with a ninth-round stoppage of Kal Yafai. Gonzalez made one defense before losing controversially to Estrada (SD 12) in their rematch. Bounced back with a great win over reigning WBC 112-pound titlist Julio Cesar Martinez (UD 12) in a catchweight bout.
THE FUTURE: Potentially the rubber match with Estrada later this year.
No. 2 KAZUTO IOKA
RECORD: 29-2 (15 KOs)
THE PAST: After claiming titles at strawweight and junior flyweight, Ioka lost for the first time to IBF flyweight titleholder Amnat Ruenroeng. Unperturbed, the Japanese star rebounded to best Juan Carlos Raveco (MD 12) to win the WBA belt in that division. He made five defenses, including a rematch victory over Raveco (TKO 11), then shockingly retired from the sport in 2017. However, following a 17-month layoff, Ioka returned at junior bantamweight in search of more glory. Lost a WBO title bout to Donnie Nietes (SD 12) but stopped Aston Palicte (TKO 10) for the very same belt after Nietes vacated. Now a four-weight world titleholder, Ioka, 33, has made five successful defenses, notably stopped Kosei Tanaka (TKO 8) before dominating Nietes (UD 12) in a rematch.
THE FUTURE: Has long wanted to face Estrada, Gonzalez or any rival champion, but their schedules have yet to align. Will likely have to settle for New Year’s Eve appearance in Japan.
No. 3 JESSE RODRIGUEZ
RECORD: 16-0 (11 KOs)
THE PAST: Decorated amateur at junior level before turning professional at 17. “Bam” worked his way through the junior flyweight rankings and was a highly touted prospect when he appeared on ESPN during the pandemic. Was given the opportunity to jump two weight classes and face savvy former titleholder Carlos Cuadras for the vacant WBC title earlier this year. Made the most of his big chance, dropping Cuadras en route to claiming a 12-round unanimous decision. Kept up the momentum by dispatching iron jawed Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (TKO 8) in impressive fashion.
THE FUTURE: Will get the opportunity to fight on a big card when he faces Israel Gonzalez in the chief support to Canelo Alvarez-Gennadiy Golovkin 3 on September 17.
No. 4 FERNANDO MARTINEZ
RECORD: 14-0 (8 KOs)
THE PAST: Martinez was a standout amateur and represented his home country of Argentina all over the world. Martinez appeared in the World Series of Boxing and the 2016 Olympics before turning professional in 2017. Won his first nine fights, all in Argentina, before venturing to South Africa to stop Athenkosi Dumezweni (TKO 11). The 31-year-old was largely unknown until he upset Jerwin Ancajas (UD 12) to win the IBF title in February.
THE FUTURE: Due to face Ancajas in a rematch in Los Angeles on October 8.
No. 5 JOSHUA FRANCO
RECORD: 18-1-2 (8 KOs)
THE PAST: Franco was highly regarded before being upset by Lucas Emanuel Fernandez Leone (TKO 9). Has become more battle-hardened, sharing 30 grueling rounds with Oscar Negrete (D 10, SD 10 and D 10). That experience served the 26-year-old Texan well when he beat Andrew Moloney two out of three times (UD 12/ ND 2/ UD 12). As WBA “regular” titleholder, he waited patiently to face Estrada, but, when that didn’t happen, the WBA stripped the Mexican and promoted Franco to full world titleholder.
THE FUTURE: He will look to defend his WBA title this fall.
No. 6 SRISAKET SOR RUNGVISAI
RECORD: 50-6-1 (43 KOs)
THE PAST: Unseated WBC junior bantamweight titleholder Yota Sato (TKO 8) in May 2013 but lost it to Carlos Cuadras (TD 8) after one defense. Reeled off 15 consecutive wins to earn a shot at his old title against then-pound-for-pound No. 1 Roman Gonzalez. Srisaket upset huge odds to win a controversial majority decision but left no doubt in the rematch, which he won via brutal fourth-round knockout. Went 1-1 with the aforementioned Estrada. Stayed in the title picture with three wins while awaiting the rubber match, but settled on facing rising star Rodriguez for his old title. He was stopped in eight rounds.
THE FUTURE: He will carry on but that will be a difficult loss for the 35-year-old to rebound from.
No. 7 FRANCISCO RODRIGUEZ JR.
RECORD: 36-5-1 (25 KOs)
THE PAST: Headed to Nicaragua and lost to national hero Roman Gonzalez (TKO 7) early in his career. Dropped to strawweight and knocked out Merlito Sabillo (TKO 10) to become WBO titleholder at the age of 20 before adding the IBF belt in a unification with Katsunari Takayama (UD 12). In 2015, he moved up to junior flyweight and lost back-to-back decisions to Donnie Nietes (UD 12) and Moises Fuentes (SD 12). “Chihuas” moved up in weight once more and went on a 15-fight win streak to earn a shot at WBO titleholder Ioka. He was outpointed but has won two fights since to stay in the hunt.
THE FUTURE: Will stay busy while looking to earn another title opportunity.
No. 8 JERWIN ANCAJAS
RECORD: 33-2-2 (22 KOs)
THE PAST: Ancajas won the IBF title from McJoe Arroyo (UD 12) in September 2016. He made nine successful defenses, posting wins over Teiru Kinoshita (TKO 7), Jamie Conlan (TKO 6) and Israel Gonzalez (TKO 10). Ancajas is a road warrior and has competed in Macau, Australia, Ireland, the U.S. and Mexico. Insists that a bad weight cut affected him when he lost his title to Martinez (UD 12) in February.
THE FUTURE: Faces Martinez in a rematch on October 8.
No. 9 KOSEI TANAKA
RECORD: 17-1 (10 KOs)
THE PAST: Tanaka won the WBO strawweight title from Julian Yedras (UD 12) in his fifth fight and made one defense. He then moved up to junior flyweight and won the vacant WBO title and made two defenses. The Japanese star outgrew that division and edged Sho Kimura (MD 12) to win the WBO flyweight title. He made three defenses of that one, notably outboxing former unified junior flyweight titleholder Ryoichi Taguchi (UD 12) and stopping current WBO 108-pound titlist Jonathan Gonzalez (TKO 7). The now 27-year-old jumped to 115 pounds but was brutally stopped by Ioka (TKO 8). He is working his way back and has won two fights since.
THE FUTURE: Has fought on New Year’s Eve the past three years and will likely continue that trend. Given the conclusive nature of his loss to Ioka, he’d be wise to chase down one of the other titleholders.
No. 10 ANDREW MOLONEY
RECORD: 24-2 (16 KOs)
THE PAST: Moloney was a seasoned amateur and won gold at the 2014 Commonwealth games. Has scored solid wins over Luis Concepcion (TKO 10), Miguel Gonzalez (TKO 8) and Elton Dharry (RTD 8). Has dropped two decisions to Joshua Franco.
THE FUTURE: Has won three fights since losing to Franco. Called out Ioka recently, but he’s likely to return on the Haney-Kambosos Jr. 2 undercard on October 16.
YOU MAY HAVE MISSED
THE RING RATINGS REVIEWED 2022: POUND FOR POUND
THE RING RATINGS REVIEWED 2022: STRAWWEIGHT
THE RING RATINGS REVIEWED 2022: JUNIOR FLYWEIGHT
THE RING RATINGS REVIEWED 2022: FLYWEIGHT
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter @AnsonWainwright