The Ring Ratings reviewed 2023: Junior welterweight
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 welterweight, which much like lightweight is full of talent and intriguing fights. As always, please enjoy the debate and respect other people’s opinions.
CHAMPION TEOFIMO LOPEZ
RECORD: 19-1 (13 KOs)
THE PAST: Lopez represented Honduras at the 2016 Olympics. Since turning professional, the big puncher went about his business in devastating fashion, scoring highlight-reel knockouts against Mason Menard (KO 1), Diego Magdaleno (KO 7) and Edis Tatli (KO 5). After a learning-experience win over Masayoshi Nakatani (UD 12), Lopez was back to his brilliant best, demolishing IBF titleholder Richard Commey (TKO 2). The 26-year-old became undisputed lightweight king when he edged past Vasiliy Lomachenko (UD 12). An often-postponed bout and outside-the-ring drama meant Lopez didn’t face IBF mandatory George Kambosos for 13 months and, when he did, he shockingly dropped a 12-round split decision. Lopez promptly moved up to 140 pounds and looked less than stellar winning two fights before returning to his best impressively outboxing Josh Taylor (UD 12) to become Ring and WBO titlist.
THE FUTURE: Lopez was made up to WBO “super” champion, which means he will no longer have to meet mandatory obligations, he will receive higher guaranteed percentages in the event of purse bids and become the mandatory challenger if he changes weight class.
No. 1 JOSH TAYLOR
RECORD: 19-1 (13 KOs)
THE PAST: Taylor was a decorated amateur before turning professional in 2015. He claimed wins over former world titleholders Miguel Vazquez (KO 9) and Viktor Postol (UD 12) before entering the World Boxing Super Series. In a terrific run, the talented Scotsman beat the previously undefeated Ryan Martin (TKO 7); wrenched the IBF title from Ivan Baranchyk (UD 12) and unified against WBA beltholder Regis Prograis (MD 12). The latter victory saw the 32-year-old southpaw claim the Ring championship. “The Tartan Tornado” went on to become undisputed 140-pound champion by beating WBC and WBO titlist Jose Ramirez (UD 12). Taylor struggled with Jack Catterall before being awarded a highly controversial 12-round split decision. Looked like he’d face Catterall in a rematch before settling on Teofimo Lopez, who outboxed him to win a 12-round unanimous decision.
THE FUTURE: Looks like he’s moving up to welterweight to embark on the next chapter of his career.
No. 2 REGIS PROGRAIS
RECORD: 29-1 (24 KOs)
THE PAST: The southpaw boxer-puncher earned a reputation with some impressive performances on ShoBox against Amos Cowart (UD 8), Abel Ramos (RTD 8) and Joel Diaz Jr. (TKO 2). Built on those wins by stopping former unified 140-pound titleholder Julius Indongo (TKO 2) and dominating former lightweight titleholder Terry Flanagan (UD 12). Won the WBA title by taking apart Kiryl Relikh (TKO 6). Lost for the first time in an action-packed encounter with Taylor. The 34-year-old old bounced back with three wins and stopped tough Mexican Jose Zepeda (TKO 11) to win the vacant WBC title. Has since defended it in a homecoming though wasn’t impressive against Danielito Zorrilla (SD 12).
THE FUTURE: Will fight undisputed lightweight champion Devin Haney, who is stepping up to 140-pounds in San Francisco on December 9.
No. 3 JOSE RAMIREZ
RECORD: 28-1 (18 KOs)
THE PAST: The 2012 U.S Olympian moved steadily in the pro ranks before hitting world level. Ramirez won the vacant WBC title against Amir Imam (UD 12) and defended his title against Antonio Orozco (UD 12) and Jose Zepeda (MD 12) before unifying with WBO titlist Maurice Hooker (TKO 6). He then turned back the tricky challenge of Viktor Postol (MD 12). The 31-year-old lost his titles when he faced fellow unified champion Josh Taylor (UD 12) when they contested the undisputed championship. Has rebounded to beat former two-division beltholder Jose Pedraza (UD 12) and former lightweight titlist Richard Commey (KO 11).
THE FUTURE: Likely to fight in the fall. Could it be against Teofimo Lopez in what would be a mouthwatering prospect?
No. 4 SUBRIEL MATIAS
RECORD: 19-1 (19 KOs)
THE PAST: Heavy-handed Puerto Rican wrecking ball has stopped every opponent he has faced. Stopped unbeaten Maxim Dadashev in 11-rounds. Tragically the Russian passed away after the fight. That may have affected Matias, who was surprisingly listless against Petros Ananyan and lost a close 10-round unanimous decision. The 31-year-old has bounced back to take the unbeaten records of Malik Hawkins (RTD 6), Batyrzhan Jukembayev (RTD 8) and erazed the only blemish on his record when he stopped Ananyan (RTD 9). Bludgeoned previously unbeaten Jeremias Ponce (RTD 5) to claim the vacant IBF title.
THE FUTURE: Will face dangerous mandatory Shohjahon Ergashev on November 4.
No. 5 JACK CATTERALL
RECORD: 27-1 (13 KOs)
THE PAST: After turning professional learnt on the job and scored several impressive wins over the likes of Tom Stalker (TKO 8), Joe Hughes (UD 12) and won the British title against Tyrone Nurse (UD 12). However, despite staying unbeaten his career seemed to stall. He was the WBO No. 1 ranked contender and finally got his big chance when he met then undisputed champion Josh Taylor. Catterall fought the fight of his life, dropping Taylor before holding off the defending champions late charge. Most believed he had done enough but he lost a highly contentious 12-round split decision. When the rematch never came to pass the 30-year-old craftsman returned and beat Darragh Foley (UD 10).
THE FUTURE: Faces former three-weight titleholder Jorge Linares in Liverpool, England on October 21.
No. 6 ARNOLD BARBOZA
RECORD: 28-0 (10 KOs)
THE PAST: The 31-year-old Los Angeles native played American football in his teens, bulking up to 210 pounds, before dropping a huge amount of weight and returning to boxing. Barboza edged fellow prospect Mike Reed (UD 10) in 2018. He has won the NABF title against Manuel Lopez (UD 10) and made two defenses, stopping former world titleholder Mike Alvarado (KO 3) and William Silva (KO 5). Steady rather than spectacular performer beat former world title challenger Alex Saucedo (UD 10) and took Danielito Zorrilla’s (UD 10) unbeaten record. Most recently beat former two-division titleholder Jose Pedraza (UD 10). Surprisingly left Top Rank over the summer and is a free agent.
THE FUTURE: Nothing scheduled, it will be interesting to see in what direction he goes.
No. 7 JOSE ZEPEDA
RECORD: 36-3 (27 KOs)
THE PAST: The Mexican-American sharpshooter suffered a dislocated left shoulder when he fought Flanagan (RTD 2) in a bout for the vacant WBO lightweight title. After recovering, Zepeda beat Ammeth Diaz (TKO 1), Miguel Zamudio (TKO 6) and the previously unbeaten Carlos Diaz Ramirez (KO 5) to earn a WBC 140-pound title shot against Ramirez. He gave a strong account of himself but dropped a close decision. Rebounded with six wins, including hard-fought win over former two-weight world titleholder Jose Pedraza (UD 12), an up off the canvas shootout with former 140-pound titleholder Ivan Baranchyk (KO 5) and a stirring stoppage over Josue Vargas (TKO 1). Was stopped late by Prograis (KO 11) in a shot at the vacant WBC title but has since got back in the win column.
THE FUTURE: Remains dangerous but probably past his prime. We will know more when he meets up-and-coming Richardson Hitchins in Orlando, Florida on September 23
No. 8 GARY ANTUANNE RUSSELL
RECORD: 17-0 (17 KOs)
THE PAST: The younger brother of former WBC featherweight titlist Gary Russell Jr. and bantamweight contender Gary Antonio Russell Jr. was a standout amateur and represented the U.S. at the 2016 Rio Olympics, reaching the quarter-finals. After transitioning to the professional ranks, Russell was impressive but 27-year-old southpaw’s activity initially held him back. Last year was a breakthrough for him stopping former world champions Viktor Postol (TKO 10) and Rances Barthelemy (TKO 6). Lost his father and brother and spent 13-months on the sidelines but looked as good as ever taking out previously unbeaten Kent Cruz (KO 1).
THE FUTURE: Hopefully no more extended hiatus from the ring. Only needed a round in his last fight, so he is fit and healthy to capitalize on that with a fall fight.
No. 9 SHOHJAHON ERGASHEV
RECORD: 23-0 (20 KOs)
THE PAST: The big-punching Uzbekistan-born fighter won his first nine fights in Russia before moving to America. Since then, the 31-year-old southpaw has shown flashes of his potential taking the unbeaten records of Sonny Fredrickson (TKO 3) and Mykal Fox (UD 10). However, his team hasn’t been able to lure any bigger names into facing the fighter. Inactive since last August but remains ranked because he has an upcoming fight against Matias.
THE FUTURE: An excellent matchup with IBF titlist Matias on November 4.
No. 10 SANDOR MARTIN
RECORD: 41-3 (14 KOs)
THE PAST: Martin turned professional in 2011 and claimed the Spanish national title on his way up before adding the European title. He made one defense before losing it in Sweden to Anthony Yigit (UD 12). To his credit, after reeling of several wins he was able to regain his European title and made two defenses before he was given the opportunity to face former four-weight titleholder Mikey Garcia in October 2021. The 30-year-old used his awkward southpaw style to win a 10-round majority decision. He has since lost a contentious decision to Lopez (SD 10) but has returned with a win.
THE FUTURE: Will likely have to tick over whilst waiting for his next opportunity.
On the Cusp: Steve Claggett, Richardson Hitchins, Brandun Lee, Rolando Romero and Kenneth Sims
Editors Note: Alberto Puello is currently serving a PED ban and was not considered.
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Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected].