Publish Date: 04/15/2017
Fact checked by: Mike Goodpaster
Boxing traditionally has only eight weight classes. This is the sixth installment of my Original Eight Ratings. I have rated the Middleweights, Welterweights, Heavyweights, Light Heavyweights and Lightweights. The featherweight division in an Original Eight context is a division that is gaining strength, yet one can’t help but wonder the additional great fights we might have gained had Vasyl Lomachenko and his promoter Top Rank elected to keep him in the featherweight division and try to get fights made against the likes of Guillermo Rigondeaux, Carl Frampton, Leo Santa Cruz or even an appealing rematch with Gary Russell, Jr. In addition, Top Rank has Jesse Magdaleno who is coming on strong. Boxing fans will just hope Lomachenko makes up for it by some intriguing fights in the lightweight division.
Criteria: Fighters overall record, perceived talent level, quality of opposition, quality wins and level of performance in wins and losses, where the fighter is ranked in the Transnational Boxing Ranking Board’s Featherweight and Junior Featherweight Rankings and The Ring’s Featherweight and Junior Featherweight Rankings. Also strongly considered would be who would beat who and who and by how much one fighter would be favored over the other by odds makers were the fight to be signed tomorrow. The traditional standard of one year of inactivity will drop a fighter from the rankings will be taken into consideration but the fighter is eligible to re-enter as soon as he fights again. Champions will primarily be the recognized lineal champions, with consideration also given to champions recognized by the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board and The Ring. This is how the traditional featherweight division looks today:
1. Leo Santa Cruz (U.S. 33-1-1 18KO)
2. Carl Frampton (U.K. 23-1 14KO)
3. Gary Russell, Jr. (U.S. 27-1 16KO)
4. Guillermo Rigondeaux (Cuba 17-0 11KO)
5. Lee Selby (U.K. 24-1 9KO)
6. Jesse Magdaleno (U.S.24-0 17KO)
7. Abner Mares (U.S. 30-2-1 15KO)
8. Oscar Valdez (Mexico 21-0 19KO)
9. Joseph Diaz, Jr. (U.S. 23-0 13KO)
10. Jesus Cuellar (Argentina 28-2 21KO)
Ratings Notes: Leo Santa Cruz fought two exciting fights against Carl Frampton, dropping the first one in a close decision and proving he can bounce back and make adjustments in his more-decisive rematch victory. One wonders why he doesn’t get a bit more respect. It appears he will have a rematch with Abner Mares, the first of which was spectacular. Mares looked so good in his win over Cuellar with Robert Garcia in his corner it’s hard to argue with PBC and Al Haymon’s thinking. Carl Frampton had a career best performance in his decision win over Leo Santa Cruz and had a respectable showing in the rematch, though he clearly lost. He also has a significant win over Scott Quigg. He did travel to the U.S. twice to fight Santa Cruz. One wonders what is in store for him while waiting for the Santa Cruz-Mares winner, possibly an all-U.K. showdown with Lee Selby.
Gary Russell, Jr. has looked spectacular in wins of late, including the destruction of Jhonnny Gonzalez, who was riding high at that time. His fight with Oscar Escandon was postponed but is now back on. He shouldn’t have much trouble and he should be in with the best. His only blemish is a majority decision loss to Lomachenko. Guillermo Rigondeaux is on a lot of pound for pound lists and has skills and amateur pedigree but he’s 36 and is getting an awful lot of mileage over his victory against a Donaire who got dominated by both Walters and Magdaleno later on. He’s also been dropped on multiple occasions, including his fight with Donaire. He’s going to be difficult for anybody but he may be more overrated than underrated. He’s no sure thing over Santa Cruz, Frampton or Russell, Jr. or even Magdaleno to be regarded as highly as he is by some. Let’s see how he looks against Moises Flores, even though Flores is a huge underdog.
Lee Selby is a pretty slick boxer who has some skills but no pop and is probably as far as he’s going to get. Jesse Magdeleno has a lot of skill and ability and dominated Nonito Donaire. Let’s hope Top Rank gets more creative with him. Abner Mares looked completely rejuvenated against Cuellar and it was a rare case where a trainer, in this case Robert Garcia, really seemed to make a difference. His rematch with Santa Cruz should be a barn burner. Oscar Valdez has amateur pedigree and some power and talent. I’m not as high on him as some and he’s another we need Top Rank to do something creative with. Joesph Diaz, Jr. is a former American Olympian, has some skills and is on the cusp of this Top Ten but I’ve got the feeling he is too underpowered for this featherweight division. Jesus Cuellar was on a roll but has not looked good in his last two fights, especially against Mares. He’s in here by the thinnest of margins because he may still have something left.
Fighters not in the Top Ten but worthy of mention and watching include: Rey Vargas has shown power but went the route in traveling to England to outpoint Gavin McDonnell. He’s close to entering this Top Ten but isn’t quite there yet. Simpiwe Vetyeka, the South African, is at an advanced age and is long removed from truly significant winning performances, like his win over an end-of-the line Chris John. I just don’t see him meriting the status that even the Ring and Transnational seem to give him in their ratings. I don’t think he’ll be a factor at this stage of his career at this weight division. Jorge Lara looks like an on-coming threat and was impressive in a nationally televised blowout of veteran Fernando Montiel on the undercard of Berto-Ortiz II on FOX. Diego DeLaHoya hasn’t been overly impressive but keeps getting exposure on some good cards and keeps winning. We’ll have to see what happens when he finally ups the opposition. Moises Flores has shown some promise and will get a crack at Rigondeaux on the Kovalev-Ward II undercard on June 17. Scott Quigg is planning on getting back into action later this month as a full-fledged featherweight, he’s at least capable of cracking the bottom-half of this Top Ten.
For Comparison look at the Ring Ratings for the end of the years 1980 and 1950:
Champion: Salvador Sanchez
Champion: Sandy Saddler
While today’s Original Eight Featherweight division has already started to live up to some of its promise with the Santa Cruz-Frampton fights, Gary Russell, Jr. looking sharp, and the skilled Rigondeaux waiting in the wings, the potential may be there; but looking at 1980 being led by Sanchez, Gomez and Pedroza, and the very tough Rocky Lockridge, Juan LaPorte and solid Ruben Castillo around, it trumps today. 1950 is led by Sandy Saddler and Willie Pep. Shows you today’s featherweights still have a ways to go, but again, at least the future looks bright.