The Ring ratings reviewed 2023: Super middleweight
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 super middleweight, which has a top dog, a clear No. 1 contender and a solid cast of other fighters waiting for their opportunities in a fairly strong division.
As always, please enjoy the debate and respect other people’s opinions.
CHAMPION CANELO ALVAREZ
RECORD: 60-2-2 (39 KOs)
THE PAST: Canelo boasts a cache of outstanding wins over Shane Mosley (UD 12), Austin Trout (UD 12), Erislandy Lara (SD 12), Miguel Cotto (UD 12), Gennadiy Golovkin (MD 12), Daniel Jacobs (UD 12), Sergey Kovalev (KO 11), Callum Smith (UD 12), Billy Joe Saunders (RTD 8) and Caleb Plant (TKO 11). The 33-year-old is a modern-day great, having captured world titles at junior middleweight, middleweight, super middleweight and light heavyweight. The Mexican superstar was upset by Dmitry Bivol (UD 12) but has bounced back by beating Golovkin (UD 12), John Ryder (UD 12) and, most recently, Jermell Charlo (UD 12).
THE FUTURE: Likely to return in May 2024 against an as yet unknown opponent in the second of a three fight deal with PBC.
No. 1 DAVID BENAVIDEZ
RECORD: 27-0 (23 KOs)
THE PAST: Benavidez is an offensive beast; physically imposing with impressive power. He became the youngest fighter to win a super middleweight world title when he edged past Ronald Gavril (SD 12) to collect the WBC title. Beat Gavril (UD 12) much more comprehensively in a rematch. The Arizona native was busted for cocaine use and stripped of the title. Benavidez impressively regained the belt from Anthony Dirrell (TKO 9). However, missed weight in his first defense and lost the belt at the scale. The 26-year-old has fought four times since, notably demolishing former middleweight titlist David Lemieux (TKO 3) and beating arch-rival Caleb Plant (UD 12).
THE FUTURE: Will face former two-weight titleholder Demetrius Andrade in the main event on a Showtime PPV in Las Vegas on November 25.
No. 2 CHRISTIAN MBILLI
RECORD: 25-0 (21 KOs)
THE PAST: Mbilli represented France at the 2016 Olympics, losing to eventual gold medalist Arlen Lopez at the quarterfinal stage. He moved to Canada and, where he is now a citizen and after taking the usual steps, has worked his way up the rankings. The 28-year-old all action fighter has impressively dominated Ronald Ellis (UD 10), scored an eye-catching knockout over former title challenger Nadjib Mohammedi (KO 5), blitzed DeAndre Ware (KO 2), engaged in a thrill-a-minute war with Carlos Gongora (UD 10) and, most recently, stopped Demond Nicholson (KO 4).
THE FUTURE: Tabbed to be chief support to stablemate Artur Beterbiev vs. Callum Smith in Quebec City, Canada on January 13.
No. 3 CALEB PLANT
RECORD: 22-2 (13 KOs)
THE PAST: Plant was a solid amateur and was an alternate for the 2012 U.S. Olympic team. As a professional, he quietly went about his business until his big moment came against IBF titleholder Jose Uzcategui (UD 12). “Sweethands” made three defenses, easily beating Mike Lee (TKO 3), thrilled his hometown fans by putting on a clinic against Vincent Feigenbutz (TKO 10) and whitewashing former titleholder Caleb Truax (UD 12). Lost his title when he faced Canelo Alvarez (TKO 11) when they met to decide the undisputed champion. Returned with a highlight-reel knockout of Anthony Dirrell (KO 9) and, most recently, despite a good start was turned back by Benavidez to lose a 12-round unanimous decision.
THE FUTURE: Doesn’t have a date to return, could be this fall or early next year. Has feuded with Jermall Charlo and that would appear an intriguing option at some point.
No. 4 DAVID MORRELL
RECORD: 9-0 (8 KOs)
THE PAST: Won Cuban national titles at various levels before turning professional in 2019. His amateur pedigree has helped him move quickly as a professional, and he has already beaten some very solid fighters including Mike Gavronski (KO 3), Alantez Fox (TKO 4), Aidos Yerbossynuly (KO 12) and Yamaguchi Falcao (KO 1). Although none of those is elite, the manner in which the 25-year-old southpaw has dominated them suggests he may well be.
THE FUTURE: Is on a two-fight year schedule and hasn’t fought since April, would be fair to expect him to return late this year.
No. 5 JOHN RYDER
RECORD: 32-6 (18 KOs)
THE PAST: Ryder lost three British title attempts before coming good on the International stage against Patrick Nielsen (KO 5), Jamie Cox (KO 2) and Bilal Akkawy (TKO 3) to earn a shot at Ring magazine champion and WBA titleholder Callum Smith. Although he lost a contentious decision, his performance did more for him than any of his wins. The 35-year-old Brit stayed active ticking over with two stay busy fights before edging past former middleweight titlist Daniel Jacobs (SD 12), beat previously unbeaten compatriot Zach Parker, who retired with a broken hand in four rounds. That set up a fight in Mexico with undisputed kingpin Canelo, though he was dropped, he gave a good account of himself lasting the 12-rounds, losing a wide unanimous decision.
THE FUTURE: Has been mentioned that he may face Jaime Munguia, which would figure to be an exciting fight.
No. 6 ERIK BAZINYAN
RECORD: 31-0 (22 KOs)
THE PAST: An excellent amateur in Armenia before migrating to Canada and turning professional at 18. He learned his craft away from the pressures that often follow highly-regarded prospects. It’s been a slow burn but he seems to have matured into a well-rounded professional. The 28-year-old took apart experienced club fighter Scott Sigmon (TKO 2), used a smart boxing brain to beat the much heavier Reinaldo Paniagua (TKO 9), scored a career-best win over former title challenger Marcelo Coceres (UD 10), edged past stylistically challenging Alantez Fox (MD 10) and bested tough Mexican Juan De Jesus Macias (UD 10). However, had flattered to deceive in some of those fights but showed why he belongs with an impressive knockout over Ellis (KO 6).
THE FUTURE: Will likely return in the first quarter of 2024 and hopes to move toward a title shot.
No. 7 ANTHONY DIRRELL
RECORD: 34-3-2 (25 KOs)
THE PAST: This inspiring cancer survivor defeated Sakio Bika (UD 12) to claim the WBC title but lost it to Badou Jack (MD 12) in his first defense. Stayed in the title hunt with five wins before besting Avni Yildirim (TD 10) for the vacant WBC title that had been stripped from Benavidez. When Benavidez returned to action, he reclaimed the title at Dirrell’s expense. Showed signs of slippage only drawing with Kyrone Davis (UD 12) but then found some form knocking out Marcos Hernandez (TKO 4) before being knocked out by Plant (KO 9).
THE FUTURE: Not been heard of since the Plant loss, and at 38 he may decide to retire after a productive career.
No. 8 VLADIMIR SHISHKIN
RECORD: 15-0 (9 KOs)
THE PAST: The Russian turned professional in 2016. Since then, he’s managed to show his class by stopping Nadjib Mohammedi (TKO 10), DeAndre Ware (TKO 8) and unbeaten Ulises Sierra (UD 10). The 32-year-old has also dominated once-beaten Sena Agbeko (UD 10) on ShoBox and outpointed former IBF titlist Jose Uzcategui (UD 12).
THE FUTURE: Shishkin is marking time while hoping for a world title fight.
No. 9 JAIME MUNGUIA
RECORD: 42-0 (33 KOs)
THE PAST: The power-punching Mexican came from nowhere to bludgeon Sadam Ali (TKO 4) and lift the WBO junior middleweight title. He made five defenses, most notably defeating Liam Smith (UD 12). Munguia then stepped up to middleweight and established himself further by beating the experienced trio of Gary O’Sullivan (TKO 11), Kamil Szeremeta (RTD 6) and Gabriel Rosado (UD 12). The 27-year-old had conversations to face WBC titlist Jermall Charlo that ended in a frustrating stalemate. Weight issues saw him move up and edge past Sergiy Dereyanchenko (UD 12) in a classic.
THE FUTURE: Edgar Berlanga was an option but appears to be heading in the direction of Ryder.
No. 10 DIEGO PACHECO
RECORD: 19-0 (16 KOs)
THE PAST: Outstanding young amateur turned professional at just 17 and has since moved through the ranking on big undercards (Andy Ruiz-Anthony Joshua 2 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Canelo-Gennadiy Golovkin 3 in Las Vegas) all the while gradually stepping up in level. The tall 22-year-old has beaten the likes of Enrique Collazo (TKO 5), Jack Cullen (TKO 4) and, most recently, Manuel Gallegos (TKO 4). Admittedly not a murderer’s row of opponents but has continued to impress and may be the future of the division.
THE FUTURE: Will face his best opponent to date in former world title challenger Marcelo Coceres at the YouTube Theater, Inglewood, California on November 18.
On the Cusp: Demetrius Andrade, Carlos Gongora, Lester Martinez, Bektemir Melikuziev and Kevin Lele Sadjo
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Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected].