The Ring Ratings Reviewed 2023: Junior flyweight
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 talked-about in world boxing.
The Ring 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.
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.
Last year, we looked back on how each division was doing and have decided after a busy first half of 2023 to compile another divisional breakdown.
Next up is junior flyweight, which looks to have a clear No. 1. As always, please enjoy the debate and respect other people’s opinions.
CHAMPION: KENSHIRO TERAJI
RECORD: 21-1 (13 KOs)
THE PAST: Teraji won the Japanese and OPBF titles inside eight fights. Soon afterward, “The Amazing Boy” stepped up to the world scene and claimed the WBC title, in May 2017, edging Ganigan Lopez (MD 12). Teraji improved immeasurably with the world title win, making eight defenses against Lopez (KO 2), Milan Melindo (TKO 7), Jonathan Taconing (TKO 4) and Randy Petalcorin (TKO 4). However overconfidence saw him return from COVID-19 too quickly and lose his unbeaten record and title to Masamichi Yabuki (TKO 10) in September 2021. To his credit, Teraji, now 31, doubled down and showed his class and an extra edge we hadn’t seen previously by blitzing Yabuki (KO 3) to regain the title. He then upped his game again and scored a career-best win over previously unbeaten Hiroto Kyoguchi (TKO 7) to claim The Ring and WBA titles. He has since stopped late sub Anthony Olascuaga (TKO 9).
THE FUTURE: Will face WBC mandatory Hekkie Budler in Tokyo on September 18.
No. 1 JONATHAN GONZALEZ
RECORD: 27-3-1 (14 KOs)
THE PAST: Gonzalez, who was a standout amateur, claiming three national titles as well as gold at the Central American & Caribbean games and World Youth championships, turned professional in 2011 amid high expectations in Puerto Rico. After winning his first 13 fights, he came unstuck against the hard-charging former world champion Giovani Segura (KO 4). After righting the ship, he was surprisingly beaten by Jobert Alvarez (TKO 6). The 32-year-old slick southpaw was stopped by Kosei Tanaka when he attempted to win the WBO 108-pound title and looked like he may not reach his potential until he shocked Elwin Soto (SD 12). He has since made two defenses, impressively besting rising Japanese fighter Shokichi Iwata (UD 12) last October.
THE FUTURE: A bout of mycoplasma saw his unification with Teraji fall out at the last minute in April. Hasn’t fough since though one option is to face countryman Rene Santiago in the next couple of months.
No. 2 HEKKIE BUDLER
RECORD: 35-4 (11 KOs)
THE PAST: Budler won the vacant WBA strawweight title in 2014. “The Hexecutioner” made four defenses before being surprisingly beaten by Byron Rojas (UD 12). The South African made the jump to junior flyweight and lost to IBF beltholder Milan Melindo (SD 12) but, to his credit, he stunningly upset Melindo’s conqueror Ryoichi Taguchi for The Ring, IBF and WBA titles. However, Budler lost to Hiroto Kyoguchi (TKO 10) in his first defense. Budler, now 35, fought once in three-and-a-half-years. He breathed new life into his career when he headed to Mexico to face Elwin Soto in a WBC title eliminator. Budler used his vast experience to edge past Soto by one point on all three scorecards en route to claiming a close but well-deserved 12-round unanimous decision. He has since stayed busy demolishing overmatched Thai journeyman Wichet Sengprakhon in one round.
THE FUTURE: Will attempt to become a two-time Ring and unified junior flyweight titlist when he faces Teraji on September 18.
No. 3 SIVENATHI NONTSHINGA
RECORD: 12-0 (9 KOs)
THE PAST: The South African won the national title in his fifth fight. The 24-year-old has beaten compatriot Siyabonga Siyo (TKO 9) and tough Filipino Ivan Soriano (KO 5). Nontshinga held on after getting knocked down in the final round against Christian Araneta (UD 12) in an IBF eliminator. He edged out Hector Flores (SD 12) to claim the vacant IBF title in Mexico last September and has since retained his title outboxing Regie Suganob (UD 12).
THE FUTURE: Has said he’d like to unify, a fight with Teraji would be highly desirable and potentially next if Teraji gets past Nontshinga’s stablemate next month.
No. 4 ELWIN SOTO
RECORD: 20-3 (13 KOs)
THE PAST: Soto came from nowhere to claim the WBO title at the expense of Angel Acosta (KO 12). The 26-year-old Mexican made three successful defenses notably beating Edward Heno (UD 12) and Katsunari Takayama (TKO 9) before losing his title to Gonzalez (SD 12). “La Pulga” had home advantage when he fought Budler (L UD 12) but was out hustled. He has since beaten Brian Mosinos (SD 10).
THE FUTURE: Back with a win, albeit a little labored, needs to keep busy while waiting for his big opportunity.
No. 5 MASAMICHI YABUKI
RECORD: 15-4 (14 KOs)
THE PAST: Yabuki had a patchy start to his professional career losing three of his first 10 fights. He was beaten by future WBO flyweight titlist Junto Nakatani (UD 4), world-rated Seigo Yuri Akui (TKO 1) and skilled Cuban Daniel Matellon (SD 8). The 31-year-old power-puncher won three fights before winning the national title. As a rank outsider he upset Teraji (TKO 10) but was decisively dispatched in three-rounds in a direct rematch. Since then, he has scored impressive wins over Thanongsak Simsri (TKO 7) and Ronald Chacon (TKO 11).
THE FUTURE: He ruptured his Achilles tendon two-and-a-half months ago but is now back in training, though a ring return is likely a while off.
No. 6 CARLOS CANIZALES
RECORD: 26-1-1 (19 KOs)
THE PAST: The talented Venezuelan first caught the eye when he left his homeland to face WBA titleholder Ryoichi Taguchi (D 12). He returned home and claimed three victories before traveling overseas again and making a name for himself in Asia by defeating Reiya Konisha (UD 12), Bin Lu (TKO 12) and Sho Kimura (UD 12). The 30-year-old was surprisingly stopped by unheralded Esteban Bermudez (TKO 6) but has returned with four wins, notably stopping faded former WBC titlist Ganigan Lopez (KO 4) and, most recently, winning a WBA eliminator against Daniel Matellon (TD 8).
THE FUTURE: The WBA mandatory to Teraji but that will have to wait until next year. In the meantime should try to stay active.
No. 7 DANIEL MATELLON
RECORD: 13-1-2 (7 KOs)
THE PAST: The Cuban amateur stalwart was initially a nearly-man, always reaching the later stages of the national championships before finally claiming the prized top spot in 2010. Matellon decided to turn professional and now fights out of Panama, where most of his fights have taken place. He has wins over Kenny Cano (UD 11), Yabuki (SD 8), Luis De La Rosa (KO 1) and Jose Argumedo (UD 12) but suffered a set-back at the hands of Canizales (TD 8) last time out.
THE FUTURE: Needs to get back on the horse and in the win column and hope he can work toward a world title shot at Teraji.
No. 8 SHOKICHI IWATA
RECORD: 11-1 (8 KOs)
THE PAST: Iwata, who holds amateur wins over Takuma Inoue and Kosei Tanaka, turned professional in America in December 2018. The 27-year-old has gone on to win Japanese and OPBF titles in just nine fights. Iwata beat Toshimasa Ouchi (UD 8) before demolishing him in one-round in a return. He gained invaluable experience besting grizzled former world title challenger Kenichi Horikawa (UD 12). He lost against wily Puerto Rican Jonathan Gonzalez (UD 12) in a WBO title shot last November but has returned with two wins.
THE FUTURE: Would probably be well served facing a couple of imported fighters to gain experience against different styles before pressing for another world title shot next year.
No. 9 MIEL FAJARDO
RECORD: 11-1-2 (10 KOs)
THE PAST: Fajardo turned professional with a draw and lost his third outing to future world title challenger ArAr Andales (UD 4). Since then, the 23-year-old has lived up to his “Silent Assassin” nickname winning 10 of his 11 contests, scoring nine knockouts. The only time he didn’t win was against useful compatriot Bienvenido Ligas (D 8). Fajardo has won three times in Japan, the UAE and Thailand. He gained acclaim when he upset touted Agustin Gauto (KO 2) and has since won his last three fights in one round.
THE FUTURE: Stopped Gabunilas (TKO 1) on Tuesday and can expect a move up in the rankings. Looks like the dangerman in the division.
No. 10 REGIE SUGANOB
RECORD: 13-1 (4 KOs)
THE PAST: The Filipino scored wins over compatriots Jake Amparo (UD 8), Jerome Baloro (UD 10) and Mark Vicelles (TD 8) to earn an IBF title shot. Had to go leave his homeland and go to South Africa to face Nontshinga and was outpointed over 12-rounds.
THE FUTURE: Showed potential in world title loss, will be interesting to see how he rebounds now. Aiming for the OPBF title maybe a good starting point.
On the Cusp: Leandro Blanc, Arvin Magramo, Kanamu Sakama, Masataka Taniguchi and Ryuya Yamanaka
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Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected].