The Ring’s Women’s Ratings reviewed 2023: Pound-for-pound
The Ring started its divisional ratings in 1925. And about a century later, after establishing those ratings as the standard of the industry due to their independence of criteria, The Ring gave birth to the female version of those ratings, honoring the trailblazing work of thousands of women who fought inside and outside the ring for equal rights to participate in this sport.
For this purpose, The Ring assembled a Woman’s 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 rated where is decided democratically every week. It sounds easy, but this can be an arduous and time-consuming process.
Periodically, we will take the time to delve deep into the reasons behind each of our choices, as a guide to those who want to learn more about women’s boxing but also as an explanation to those who wonder about the criteria that we use in rating these fighters.
We will do a quick rundown of our pound-for-pound ratings first, and then do a quick breakdown of the rest of the divisions in future installments of this article. Please enjoy the debate and respect other people’s opinions when reviewing these ratings.
Pound-for-Pound: (As of Nov. 6, 2023)
1 – Claressa Shields:
The self-appointed GWOAT (Greatest Woman of All Time) may finally be in a one-person race to the top of the mountain after having to share the spotlight with fellow legend Katie Taylor for a couple of years. Shields has proven unstoppable inside and outside the ring. She famously had only one defeat as an amateur, which she avenged as a professional, and after sweeping two entire divisions (154 and 160) in only 14 fights she may still have enough in the tank to return to 168 (where she already picked up a belt or two) and become Ring champion there two, to add to her two inaugural Ring championships in those two other divisions. Women’s boxing has a bright future ahead and anything can happen. But for now, the race to become the all-time greatest is Shields’ race to lose.
2 – Chantelle Cameron
‘Il Capo’ is a rare talent. A relentless two-fisted boxer-puncher with a superb amateur track record, she became the inaugural Ring champion at 140 after defeating Mary McGee two years ago and then proceeded to defeat fellow pound-for-pound entrants Jessica McCaskill and Katie Taylor, an unfathomable feat considering how highly-regarded they both were. Scheduled now to face Taylor in a rematch, she can further cement her legacy if she manages to defeat the Irish legend once again.
3 – Katie Taylor
‘Trailblazing’ is an adjective that doesn’t even begin to do justice to Taylor’s role in the development of women’s boxing around the world. Her story as an amateur is worthy of an entire movie all by itself, and her rise to the top of the pound-for-pound ratings in the pros was as meteoric as it was justified. A fighter first and a skillful, talented boxer as well, Taylor remains one of the greatest to ever do it, even after losing her homecoming bout to Cameron in heartbreaking fashion. Her standing should improve if she defeats Cameron in the rematch, but her best days are clearly behind her. Her million-dollar-purse Madison Square Garden headlining debut against Serrano remains the highest point of women’s boxing history.
4 – Amanda Serrano
Already a living legend, Serrano has been a sho-in first-round unanimous-vote Hall of Famer for a while now, and the only thing holding her back in this list is a lack of viable opponents and/or a reluctance to face the very best out there. Knowing her like we do, it’s probably more of the former, but coming up short in her challenge of Taylor in New York did hurt her standing in this list. Still, she will surely be in the all-time podium by the time everything is said and done – and judging by her monk-like training habits, that’s still a long way ahead. Let’s enjoy her while we can.
5 – Seniesa Estrada
As talented as she is ambitious (with a tad bit more of the latter, to her disadvantage), Estrada is becoming one of the most visible faces of women’s boxing. She already made history as the inaugural Ring strawweight champion, but has the frame and the talent to be a three-weight unified champ or more by the time she hangs up her gloves. Her herky-jerky movements and unorthodox techniques are an advantage against some opponents but sometimes they affect her consistency in the ring, and a few people have already taken advantage of that to make her look not too god. A few adjustments, and No. 1 in this list is not a far-off possibility someday.
6 – Alycia Baumgardner
As of this writing, she’s still under investigation for a positive test of PEDs that could upend her career and potentially wipe her out of these ratings. Aside from that, she has been a phenomenal boxer who scored major, almost back-to-back upsets by defeating fellow pound-for-pound entrants Terri Harper and Mikaela Mayer and then unify all four major belts to become one of boxing’s few totally undisputed champions. Time will tell if this entire entry requires an asterisk or not, but for now she’s being given the reluctant benefit of the doubt by all major sanctioning bodies – but not for long.
7 – Natasha Jonas
A trailblazing amateur for the UK and a superbly talented fighter, Jonas was set back early in her career by Viviane Obenauf and also affected by jumps in weight classes that delayed her progress at the title-contention level, but she now appears to have settled at junior middleweight where she is the current Ring magazine champion. She did earn a welterweight belt in her last outing, but it is difficult to foresee where she will land next, since she once jumped all the way from junior lightweight to 154 to win her first belt.
8 – Dina Thorslund
One of the latest additions to the mythical P4P ratings, this talented Dane remained unbeaten and grabbed the inaugural Ring magazine bantamweight belt (it’s on its way, champ! For real!) with a win over Yulihan Luna Avila. Even though she never left Denmark she is still a force to be reckoned with and one of boxing’s most consistent talents, rarely losing a round and always looking great in her fights. She’s in the crosshairs of many talented champs coming up in weight, so expect her talents to be put to the test very soon.
9 – Yokasta Valle
Valle was on everyone’s “least likely to succeed,” at least at this level, a few years ago. But her progress has been nothing short of spectacular. Already a 32-fight veteran at the age of 31, Valle has traveled around the globe in search of opportunities and has earned her place in this list by always outworking and outboxing some of the most talented fighters in the lower divisions. If she can manage to get both Marlen Esparza and Seniesa Estrada in the ring, we’re in for a “Four Kings” era in women’s boxing assuming that Thorslund eventually jumps in, and the winner of the whole thing could easily clam all-time greatness status. A fighter to follow and enjoy while she’s still around.
10 – Mikaela Mayer
Take those two first sentences from Valle’s profile, flip them over to mean the exact opposite of that, and you get a good start. A former Olympian with tons of talent and intense motivation, Mayer was expected to be the next big thing and was looking the part until a defeat at the hands of Baumgardner cost her her titles, her lofty position in these ratings, and much more. Moving up in weight with no clear final destination in sight, Mayer is now rated by The Ring at junior welterweight, up from junior lightweight where she made history as our inaugural champion. But she could end up fighting at welterweight too, since she has the frame and the drive to hang in there with the big girls of the division and still make a splash.
On the outside looking in:
Only a handful of great fighters are ready to step up to this mythical list. Here are a few of them:
Delfine Persoon: Demoted recently due to her lack of activity at the top level, this perennial P4P entrant can make anyone not named Shields look bad in the ring, and on a good day she can beat almost all of them. Tough as they come, albeit unpolished and lacking the finer boxing skills that make most of her competitors pass the “eye test” ahead of her, Persoon remains a fabulous threat.
Jessica McCaskill: A competitive loss to Taylor and two wins apiece against Erica Farias and Cecilia Braekhus helped her build a pound-for-pound resume, but a loss against Cameron and a fishy draw against Sandy Ryan sent her career in a downward spiral lately. Already being one of the least-active fighters out there, it is unclear whether she will return and at what weight class. If she brings back the talent and the determination that helped her become our Ring inaugural welterweight champion, then she will be once again a factor in whatever division she lands on.
Marlen Esparza: After a trailblazing amateur career, Esparza was supposed to be headed to multi-weight championships and Disney-biopic territory. A few mishaps, more than one inexplicable long pause in her career, and a grueling clash against her natural-born nemesis Seniesa Estrada have conspired to keep her away from the top 10, but it’s almost entirely up to her to turn things around. She still has time to do it – and she probably will.
Cecilia Braekhus: It feels odd to write an article on the subject of women’s boxing’s top pound-for-pound talents and leave the “First Lady” out. So here she is. The Ring gave Braekhus a symbolic Ring belt as the game’s best-of-the-best when we started producing these ratings, and she was a part of those ratings almost for as long as she stayed active. A draw against Terri Harper in her most recent outing and those two back-to-back losses to McCaskill definitely hurt her standing, but there’s always a rabbit that she can pull out of her hat to enhance her Hall of Fame-worthy career even more – and maybe even make a brief return to the top ten before she sails towards the sunset.
Caroline Dubois: Step by step, Dubois is making the right decisions and winning the relevant fights she needs to win in order to earn wider recognition. She’s probably a couple of years away from her absolute prime yet, but expect her to rule the post-Taylor lightweight-ish region after the Irish giant is gone.
Sandy Ryan: Very few fighters deserve to be rated at No. 1 in two divisions simultaneously, and that gives you an indication of how good Ryan is. Her setback against Erica Farias will come back to haunt her more than once, but she earned her revenge and is now ready to prove her mettle against the best in the 140-147 region. A bit of good luck, the right matchups, and we can see her up there with the very best very soon.
Diego M. Morilla writes for The Ring since 2013. He has also written for HBO.com, ESPN.com and many other magazines, websites, newspapers and outlets since 1993. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He has won two first-place awards in the BWAA’s annual writing contest, and he is the moderator of The Ring’s Women’s Ratings Panel. He served as copy editor for the second era of The Ring en Español (2018-2020) and is currently a writer and editor for RingTV.com.