The Ring Ratings Reviewed 2023: Light heavyweight
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 light heavyweight, which has two dominant champions a couple of strong contenders, and then the quality drops off dramatically. As always, please enjoy the debate and respect other people’s opinions.
No. 1 DMITRY BIVOL
RECORD: 21-0 (11 KOs)
THE PAST: Bivol was a standout amateur before turning professional in November 2014. The 32-year-old Kyrgyzstan-born technician claimed the WBA light heavyweight title in 2017 and has reeled off 10 successful defenses. He holds wins over Sullivan Barrera (TKO 12), Isaac Chilemba (UD 12), Jean Pascal (UD 12) and Joe Smith Jr. (UD 12). A career-best win over Canelo Alvarez (UD 12) is what vaulted Bivol into the pound-for-pound ratings. He picked a part Gilberto Ramirez (UD 12) in his lone fight since besting Canelo.
THE FUTURE: He is pondering his options for a December fight. However, time is running out and may end up getting bumped to early next year, which would be a shame as he wouldn’t have fought at all in 2023.
No. 2 ARTUR BETERBIEV
RECORD: 19-0 (19 KOs)
THE PAST: Beterbiev was a standout amateur, winning gold at the 2009 World Championships and competing at the 2012 Olympics. The physically-imposing Russian moved quickly as a professional. He won the IBF light heavyweight title, stopping Enrico Koelling (KO 12) and defended against Callum Johnson (KO 4) and Radivoje Kalajdzic (KO 5). His breakout win came against then-WBC titleholder Oleksandr Gvozdyk (TKO 10) in a unification bout. The 38-year-old marked time against Adam Deines (TKO 10) and Marcus Browne (KO 9) before demolishing WBO counterpart Joe Smith Jr. (TKO 2) and showed his toughness to beatdown Anthony Yarde (TKO 8).
THE FUTURE: He will face dangerous WBC mandatory Callum Smith in Quebec City on January 13.
No. 3 CALLUM SMITH
RECORD: 29-1 (21 KOs)
THE PAST: Smith won the British and European super middleweight titles in impressive fashion and got his big break in the WBSS. He defeated Erik Skoglund (UD 12) and late substitute Nieky Holzken (UD 12) to earn safe passage to the final where he stopped George Groves (KO 7) to become Ring magazine champion and WBA titleholder. The Englishman struggled to capitalize on that momentum, easily defeating the undersized Hassan N’dam N’Jikam (TKO 3) and laboring against John Ryder (UD 12) in subsequent title defenses before losing to boxing superstar Canelo Alvarez (UD 12). The 33-year-old has since moved up to 175-pounds and won both outings and looks a real threat.
THE FUTURE: Smith’s acid test will come when he meets IBF, WBA and WBC titleholder Beterbiev in Canada on January 13.
No. 4 ANTHONY YARDE
RECORD: 24-3 (23 KOs)
THE PAST: The power-punching Londoner steamrolled through moderate opposition to earn a shot as the WBO mandatory against Sergey Kovalev in Russia. Unperturbed, he put forward a solid effort and rocked Kovalev before being stopped in the 11th round. He returned to the winner’s circle before being edged out by the slick Lydon Arthur (SD 12). However, a year later he exorcised his demons by being extremely aggressive and knocked out Arthur in the fourth round. In his second world title shot, Yarde gave a good account of himself against IBF, WBC and WBO titlist Artur Beterbiev, before wilting under heavy fire in eight-rounds.
THE FUTURE: The 32-year-old recently got back in the win column and now likely looking for something more significant.
No. 5 JOSHUA BUATSI
RECORD: 17-0 (13 KOs)
THE PAST: Buatsi won bronze at the 2016 Olympics before turning professional. He won the vacant British title in his 10th fight but never defended it. The British-based fighter began training with Virgil Hunter in California and has shown promise but has seen his career stagnate. The 30-year-old holds wins over unbeaten Marko Calic (TKO 7), Richards Bolotniks (TKO 11), Craig Richards (UD 12) and, most recently Pawel Stepien (UD 10).
THE FUTURE: Had been due to face Dan Azeez in a big domestic clash at the 02 Arena, London on Saturday but it was postponed on Tuesday.
No. 6 DANIEL AZEEZ
RECORD: 20-0 (13 KOs)
THE PAST: Azeez, who only started boxing at 19, while in university, he found the sport difficult and it was only through persistence that he improved. He got a degree in Accounting and Finance and it wasn’t until he was 28 that he turned professional. The Londoner’s story has been inspirational as he’s worked his way through the ranks on small hall shows, collecting Area, English, British, Commonwealth and European titles. The 34-year-old has beaten Hosea Burton (TKO 7), Shakan Pitters (UD 12), Rocky Fielding (TKO 8) and Thomas Faure (TKO 12).
THE FUTURE: Azeez suffered an injury in his last training session which saw his fight with Buatsi postponed.
No. 7 OLEKSANDR GVOZDYK
RECORD: 20-1 (16 KOs)
THE PAST: The 2012 Olympic bronze medalist was part of the Ukrainian dream team alongside Oleksandr Usyk and Vasiliy Lomachenko. As a professional, he impressively beat Nadjib Mohammedi (KO 2), Isaac Chilemba (RTD 8) and Yunieski Gonzalez (TKO 3) en route to unseating WBC titleholder Adonis Stevenson (KO 11). “Nail” made one defense before losing a unification match up to Beterbiev (TKO 10). He retired for over three-years before returning earlier this year with three wins.
THE FUTURE: The 36-year-old has enjoyed a solid comeback year and now looks primed for something bigger next year.
No. 8 MICHAEL EIFERT
RECORD: 12-1 (4 KOs)
THE PAST: Eifert turned professional in the summer of 2018. He won his first six fights before narrowly losing to the more experienced Tom Dzemski (MD 8) but gained a measure of revenge two fights later winning a 10-round majority decision. The 25-year-old went to Canada and shocked former Ring and WBC titlist Jean Pascal (UD 12) earlier this year in and IBF eliminator.
THE FUTURE: The German appears to be waiting to use his IBF mandatory status against the Beterbiev-Smith winner.
No. 9 ALI IZMAILOV
RECORD: 11-0 (7 KOs)
THE PAST: Izmailov was a decent amateur in Russia before turning professional in the summer of 2019. In just his second fight he shutout former two-time world title challenger Dmitry Sukhotskiy (UD 6). He also holds an impressive stoppage win over Ruslan Fayfer (TKO 9). He has since moved operations to America where he has fought on ShoBox, taken the unbeaten records of three fighters and claimed the USBA title. The 30-year-old most recently edged past Charles Foster (UD 10).
THE FUTURE: Nothing scheduled but hasn’t fought since June, so figures to see action in the coming months.
No. 10 ALBERT RAMIREZ
RECORD: 17-0 (15 KOs)
THE PAST: Ramirez represented his country Venezuela at the 2016 Rio Olympics, losing at the Round of 16 stage. His cousin former IBF super middleweight titlist Jose Uzcategui opened the doors to him turning professional in Mexico, where he won his first nine fights. The 31-year-old southpaw later moved in a different direction and impressed during a training camp in Russia with Beterbiev. He stunned then unbeaten Braian Suarez (KO 1) and, most recently, edged past former world title challenger Lenin Castillo (UD 10).
THE FUTURE: Ramirez may fight in Montreal on November 14.
On the Cusp: Lyndon Arthur, Robin Krasniqi, Jerome Pampellone, Richard Rivera and Malik Zinad
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Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him on
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected].