Rankings (Dec. 11): Is Haney No. 1 at 140? Plus Ryan Garcia, Rafael Espinoza, more

Fighting

Usually rankings updates go up on Mondays, but there’s not enough to do one on the 18th, and then the 25th is (1) Christmas, and (2) one day before a Naoya Inoue fight, so the next update will come on Tuesday, Dec. 26 after the Inoue vs Tapales fight.

And we’ll wrap up 2023 with a big update. Lotta ranked fights.

Ranked fights the next two weeks:


Upcoming Fights: (3) Deontay Wilder vs (9) Joseph Parker, Dec. 23 … (5) Anthony Joshua vs Otto Wallin, Dec. 23 … (7) Filip Hrgovic vs Mark De Mori, Dec. 23 … (10) Frank Sanchez vs Junior Fa, Dec. 23 … (1) Tyson Fury vs (2) Oleksandr Usyk, Feb. 17


Notes: Chris Billam-Smith never makes it easy on himself, but he got the win again on Sunday, beating Mateusz Masternak to retain his WBO belt. On things go in the exciting land of the cruiserweights. Soon we will meet “Ellis Zorro”!

Upcoming Fights: (1) Jai Opetaia vs Ellis Zorro, Dec 23


Upcoming Fights: (1) Dmitry Bivol vs (7) Lyndon Arthur, Dec. 23 … (2) Artur Beterbiev vs (3) Callum Smith, Jan. 13 … (5) Joshua Buatsi vs (6) Dan Azeez, Feb. 3


Upcoming Fights: (3) David Morrell Jr vs Sena Agbeko, Dec. 16 … (5) Christian Mbilli vs Rohan Murdock, Jan. 13


Notes: It’s one final ranking cycle for Gennadiy Golovkin, who officially hits our 15-month inactive threshold on Dec. 17. I kept personal rankings well before I ever posted them on the site, and in the periods between different formats of posting them on the site over the 17 years we’ve been here, starting just months after Golovkin turned pro. The next update, unless he shocks everyone by scheduling a fight, will be the first time since probably 2009 or some point in 2010 that Golovkin won’t be in my middleweight top 10. An incredible run, an amazing career.

Upcoming Fights: TBA


Upcoming Fights: (10) Josh Kelly vs Placido Ramirez, Dec. 16


Note: Now that PBC have their broadcast future sorted, maybe this division can come off of its contractually-induced coma.

Upcoming Fights: TBA


Notes: Obviously a lot to talk about here. Devin Haney comes in at No. 1 after completely routing Regis Prograis, the previous No. 1 who had a tentative hold on the spot after a lousy performance in his last bout, albeit in victory.

I think Devin was extremely good in that fight, a career-best. I fully believe in his statement that making 135 was “depleting” him in his last few fights, even though the only one where he struggled was Lomachenko, who is just really great. At 140, he looked strong, fast, sharp, and also slicker than I’ve ever seen him.

Part of that, though, has to be chalked up to the fact that Prograis has looked pretty cooked this year. Zorrilla frustrated him, Haney just totally out-classed him in a way that Haney doesn’t usually do to opponents. We’ll talk more about it on Tuesday’s podcast, but Prograis got where he got because he had an odd, unusual fighting style, and guys like that sometimes hit a wall hard and fast, and I think that’s what has happened to Regis.

I’ve got Devin No. 1, but this is a situation where one of Teofimo’s hyperactive eyebrow rants would hold water — he has an argument, too. Maybe they should fight and figure it out. Haha. I say crazy things sometimes.

And I still don’t hear either of them saying Subriel Matias’ name, nor do I expect them to do so.

In all honesty, as a longtime Prograis fan, someone who has really enjoyed watching him fight, I might be being generous dropping him to No. 8. If the Prograis we saw twice this year fought Arnold Barboza Jr, I’m not sure I could reasonably pick Regis to win. Barboza may not be special, but he’s sound and solid, and Regis has looked outright crummy for two straight fights. That’s right: crummy.

Ryan Garcia holds at No. 7 following his win over Oscar Duarte, which I thought was a mixed-bag performance. Ryan admitting that the crappy shoulder roll was his own dumb idea was pretty funny, and ultimately he got the job done and in style.

Kinda starting to hate having Gary Antuanne Russell ranked, honestly. I do think he’s quite good, but he feels increasingly like an irrelevant man in the division, working on that “Gary Russell Plan” of barely fighting ever and being happy to take a lousy mismatch. I got enough of that from the other Gary Russell for many years, a clear talent and frustrating career to follow, although the other other Gary Russell hasn’t had these luxuries because he doesn’t have a level of natural ability on which to coast.

Upcoming Fights: (8) Sandor Martin vs Mohamed El Marcouchi, Dec. 16 … (10) Arnold Barboza Jr vs TBA, Jan. 6


Notes: Andy Cruz is very clearly one of the 10 best heavyweights in the world. I slotted him in at No. 7 because Cruz, Zepeda, and Martin have been in decent or better form recently, and I don’t want to go completely nuts.

There is not a world where I can imagine Hughes beating Cruz — and I genuinely enjoy Hughes — nor Abdullaev, and frankly I think he beats the brakes off Kambosos right now. Kambosos should have three straight losses, and while two were to Haney, one should have been to Hughes.

(Frankly, I gave strong consideration to keeping Raymond Muratalla in and booting Ol’ George, but while I can brush off most moaning and complaining about me not doing rankings “correctly,” I do have to speak out loud to John for a couple hours every week.)

You’re free to disagree, but remember these are not rankings that influence anything real in the boxing world (the ones that do are far stupider than even my stupidest takes), nor are they your rankings, nor do I think there is a “right” way to do any of this.

Not saying Cruz will never be challenged — the top three here would all be mountainous tasks right now — or can’t be upset along the way or whatever, but this is one of those times where you watch a guy and just know, especially if you saw him in the amateurs. It’s highly reminiscent of Lomachenko. Like Loma, Cruz was not a good amateur, he was a sensational amateur. And his first two pro fights suggest this will continue into the pro ranks.

So yeah, there you go, there’s one of my occasional Bold Ones. If nothing else, it’s fun to get excited about a fighter like Andy Cruz. Boxing is such a challenge to continue liking week to week for so many long stretches of every single year, I say embrace the now-and-again chance to just be fired up.

Upcoming Fights: TBA


Upcoming Fights: (2) O’Shaquie Foster vs Abraham Nova, Feb. 16


Notes: Weeeeell then! Huh. I’ll be danged.

Along with the stunning Rafael Espinoza upset of Robeisy Ramirez, decided to do some general housecleaning here, which I do from time to time with a division.

  1. Mauricio Lara is out, that was actually just a months-long oversight. I should have taken him out when I decided to “crack down” on fighters who miss weight horrendously, which he did for his lifeless May loss to Leigh Wood. If Lara comes back, makes 126, wins a fight, and so on, he reenters the rankings, sure.
  2. Dropping Ruben Villa few spots. I really think Villa is a very good boxer, and could be a problem for anyone here, and I am glad he’s with Top Rank and hope he gets a high-end shot in 2024. But he hasn’t had a “real” fight in three years. It is what it is.

The thing about Robeisy is he’s just not as good as he appeared he would be as a young amateur. This happens sometimes, guys who were great amateurs either don’t have the style to really be top pros, or they maybe just don’t have the same hunger in the paid ranks they did as amateurs.

But he’s not some flameout, either — he’s simply not a generational talent. He is good, but tough style matchups will be real trouble, and some nights he’s going to be better than others. On his best nights, he will flirt with greatness. On his worse nights, or when the style goes against his better approach, he will struggle.

Espinoza is a great addition, style-wise, to the upper tier. If he sticks with Top Rank, then there’s a potentially terrific fight to make with Luis Alberto Lopez or maybe Kholmatov, or Top Rank and ESPN will continue

Upcoming Fights: (10) Otabek Kholmatov vs Raymond Ford, TBA


Upcoming Fights: (6) Sam Goodman vs Zhong Liu, Dec. 15 … (5) Murodjon Akhmadaliev vs Kevin Gonzalez, Dec. 16 … (1) Naoya Inoue vs (3) Marlon Tapales, Dec. 26


Upcoming Fights: (3) Jason Moloney vs Saul Sanchez, Jan. 13


Upcoming Fights: (2) Kazuto Ioka vs Josber Perez, Dec. 31


Upcoming Fights: (1) Sunny Edwards vs (2) Jesse Rodriguez, Dec. 16 … (3) Julio Cesar Martinez vs Angelino Cordova, Dec. 16


Upcoming Fights: TBA


Upcoming Fights: (9) Jake Amparo vs Pedro Taduran, Dec. 28


Upcoming Fights: (7) Mikaela Mayer vs Natasha Jonas, Jan. 20

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