The Best Divisions in Boxing

By Cain Bradley on September 26, 2017
The Best Divisions in Boxing
The Light Heavyweights are as strong as they have been for a long time. (John Locher/AP)

Boxing fans are probably the sports fans most used to rankings. This is another set. In this list, the divisions will be ranked according to their current strengths…

Boxing fans are probably the sports fans most used to rankings. In an individual weight class you can see rankings from every sanctioning body, BoxRec rankings, Transnational Boxing ranking and The Ring just to name a few. Then you have pound for pound rankings which can also be found in wide variety of places. This is another set. In this list, the divisions will be ranked according to their current strengths.

1. Light Heavyweight
Superstars: Andre Ward, Adonis Stevenson, Sergey Kovalev and Badou Jack
High Level Contenders: Sullivan Barrera, Eleider Alvarez, Oleksandr Gvozdyk, Dmitry Bivol and Artur Beterbiev
Fringe Challengers: Joe Smith, Jean Pascal and Andrezj Fonfara
Potential Stars: Marcus Browne, Umar Salamov, Anthony Yarde, Ali Akhmedov, Tony Kraft, Junior Younan

Light Heavyweight is a marquee division which is the strongest it has been for a long time. The many most rate as the pound for pound number one resides in the division. It also has three more of the top thirty in Stevenson, Jack and Kovalev. The next tier just underneath thought is what set it apart from other contenders. Four of the men could also go in the prospect category but are so good already, they have to be considered contenders if they come up against anyone in the top tier. Gvozdyk is my favorite but any one of them could be the best. Even Sullivan Barrera is the kind of fighter that would hold a belt in most divisions. The prospect section is hindered a bit by having the likes of Bicol and Gvozdyk up a tier, but it is still decent and the division looks in good shape.

2. Super Featherweight
Superstars: Vasyl Lomachenko, Miguel Berchelt, Jezreel Corrales and Gervonta Davis
High Level Contenders: Orlando Salido, Francisco Vargas and Nicholas Walters
Fringe Challengers: Robinson Castellanos, Jason Sosa and Jose Pedraza
Potential Stars: Paul Fleming, Alberto Machado, Evgeny Chuprakov, Eduardo Hernandez, Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov, Robinson Conceicao, Can Xu and Joe Cordina

The division is potentially boosted a bit by Gervonta Davis being listed as a super featherweight rather than a lightweight which he seems to be becoming. With him they have four champions who are all around the top thirty boxers in the world. The biggest problem with this division is that the title holders seem a level above everyone else. Salido, Vargas and Walters will always be in fun, competitive fights but may be a level below. The prospects are also not the greatest crop.

3. Middleweight
Superstars: Gennady Golovkin, Canelo Alvarez and Daniel Jacobs
High Level Contenders: Jermall Charlo, Billy Joe Saunders and Sergiy Derevyanchenko
Fringe Challengers: David Lemieux, Martin Murray, Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam and Ryota Murata
Potential Stars: Maciej Sulecki, Jason Quigley, Yamaguchi Falcao, Esquivia Falcao, Hugo Centeno, Ievgen Khytrov, Azizbek Abdugofurov, Luis Arias

Middleweight has also enjoyed something of a renaissance and two years ago would have been low down on this list. Even now, it is a very top heavy division. Golovkin and Canelo are ranked top five pound for pound in the world after their draw. Behind them Charlo and Jacobs are just outside the top portion and could find themselves rising up lists very soon. It is also the division with some of the best prospects. Derevyanchenko is seen of by most as a potential world champion while the group of prospects are all a couple of years away from surely being good enough to challenge for titles.

4. Super Flyweight
Superstars: Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Naoya Inoue and Juan Francisco Estrada
High Level Contenders: Kal Yafai, Carlos Cuadras, Jerwin Ancajas and Jonas Sultan
Fringe Challengers: John Riel Casemiro, Raushee Warren and Sho Ishida
Potential Stars: Rex Tso, Francisco Rodriguez, Mikhail Aloyan, Charlie Edwards, Maximino Franco and Kyle Yousaf

This division suffers because I did not include Roman Gonzalez, who I assume will retire. It still has some great fighters but just falls below middleweight. The top level contenders and superstars are a superb list of boxers and fights involving those would be truly intriguing. It has far stronger depth than you would expect although the potential Stars do not rank as highly as some of the other weight divisions.

5. Featherweight
Superstars: Leo Santa Cruz and Carl Frampton
High Level Contenders: Gary Russell, Abner Mares, Lee Selby and Oscar Valdez
Fringe Challengers: Jesus Cuellar, Scott Quigg, Joseph Diaz and Oscar Escandon
Potential Stars: Josh Warrington, Reece Bellotti, Mark Magsayo, Azinga Fuzile, Jesus Rojas, Jorge Lara, Emmanuel Navarette, Tugstsogt Nyambayar

A real strong group here with the first six mentioned all of high quality, despite probably none of them being a top ten pound for pound boxer. All would provide interesting clashes with the wins all style dependent. Even the fringe challengers are all impressive with Diaz having the potential to be a world champion. It is another division though where the future does not necessarily look as bright as others and you would be hard pressed to pick a star.

6. Welterweight
Superstars: Keith Thurman, Errol Spence and Danny Garcia
High Level Contenders: Jeff Horn, Manny Pacquaio, Shawn Porter, Kell Brook
Fringe Challengers: Jesse Vargas, Lamont Peterson, Omar Figueroa, Bradley Skeete and Carlos Ocampo
Potential Stars: Sam Eggington, Carlos Adames, Quadratillo Abduqaxorov, Konstantin Ponomarev, Custio Clayton, Josh Kelly and Mohammed Rabbi

It was a tough call between Welterweight and Featherweight. Thurman and Spence may be the best over both divisions but the Featherweight would have more boxers in the top ten if the combined ratings. It is a very top heavy division with he fringe level contenders not inspiring, although that is probably partially overexposure to most of those boxers who we have seen lose too much. Abduqaxorov is one of the best European prospects near title contention while Rabii has long been called a potential superstar.

7. Cruiserweight
Superstars: Oleksandr Usyk and Mairis Briedis
High Level Contenders: Murat Gassiev, Denis Lebedev and Yunier Dorticos
Fringe Challengers: Krzysztof Glowacki, Krzysztof Wlodarczyk, Ilunga Makubu, Maksim Vlasov and Dmitry Kudryashov
Potential Superstars: Andrew Tabiti, Michael Hunter, Kevin Lerena, Michal Cieslak, Ryad Merhy, Jai Opetaia, Constantin Bejenaru, Yury Kashinsky and Fabio Turchi

We have seen the strength of this division with the World Boxing Super Series highlighting it. Usyk is a high level pound for pound boxer who could end up as a great heavyweight. The contenders are also an impressive group capable of challenging the best boxers in the division while the fringe challengers all can be involved in intriguing bouts. It is a strong batch of prospects but with the bigger divisions you can never tell who is really going to do well until they are tested at the highest level.

8. Lightweight
Superstars: Mikey Garcia and Jorge Linares
High Level Contenders: Terry Flanagan, Robert Easter and Luke Campbell
Fringe Challengers: Raymundo Beltran, Anthony Crolla, Denis Shafikov, Dejan Zlaticanin and Yvan Mendy
Potential Superstars: Ryan Martin, Tevin Farmer, Xolisani Ndongeni, Carlos Diaz Ramirez, Miseal Rodriguez, Faidlibbin Gaibnazarov and Felix Verdejo

The big decision here came when including Mikey Garcia as a lightweight despite having his last fight as a light welterweight. He has indicated a willingness to stay at lightweight and meet superstar Jorge Linares. This is another division that is arguably in its best state for five years. The high level contenders are decent fighters but may lack the upside. The prospects are somewhere in the middle of this list.

9. Light Middleweight
Superstars: Erislandy Lara
High Level Contenders: Demetrius Andrade, Jermell Charlo and Miguel Cotto
Fringe Challengers: Jarrett Hurd, Liam Smith, Liam Williams, Julian Williams, Kanat Islam, Nathaniel Gallimore
Potential Superstars: Egidijus Kavaliauskas, Jaime Mungala, Terell Gausha, Joe Pigford, Patryk Szymanski and Erickson Lubin

Light Middleweight barely edges out Super Middleweight as a division mainly because I am higher on a few of the boxers than most people. I think Lara has won every fight he has fought and deserves to be mentioned alongside Canelo. Andrade is possibly the most underrated fighter in the world while Lubin, Williams, Hurd and Kavaliusaks are all boxers who I rate higher than the consensus.

10. Super Middleweight
Superstars: James DeGale
High Level Contenders: Callum Smith, George Groves and Gilberto Ramirez
Fringe Challengers: Chris Eubank, Andre Dirrell, Anthony Dirrell, David Benavidez, Tyron Zeuge, Jose Uzcategui, Jesse Hart and Fedor Chudinov
Potential Superstars: Erik Skoglund, Vijender Singh, Zac Dunn, Vincent Feigenbutz, Patrick Nielsen, Caleb Plant, Erik Bazinyan, Zach Parker and Avni Yilidrim

The other weight division used in the World Boxing Super Series. It has nowhere near the strength in depth of the Cruiserweight tournament. There is a very high potential in this weight division with four or five able to make the jump to superstar such as Callum Smith and David Benavidez. The fringe challengers are all very good boxers, who will create intriguing matchups if they take a step up. The prospects perhaps are not the most impressive bunch.

11. Bantamweight
Superstars: Luis Nery
High Level Contenders: Shinsuke Yamanaka, Jamie McDonnell and Ryan Burnett
Fringe Challengers: Zhanat Zhakiyanov, Zolani Tete, Juan Carlos Payano, Marlon Tapales, Lee Haskins and Liborio Solis
Potential Superstars: Takuma Inoue, Emmanuel Rodriguez, Nikolai Potapov, Nordine Oubaali and Hinata Maruta

This division is in flux mainly because of the Luis Nery v Shinsuke Yamanaka fight. Nery won but then failed a drugs test for zilpaterol but it has been debated whether he actually was. It may be short on top level talent but it is another division with depth and a few of the potential Superstars seem to be some of the likeliest to actually make that level.

12. Heavyweight
Superstars: Anthony Joshua
High Level Contenders: Deontay Wilder and Luis Ortiz
Fringe Challengers: Kubrat Pulev, Alexander Povetkin, Joseph Parker, Hughie Fury, Bermane Stiverne, Tony Bellew
Potential Superstars: Luis Rivas, Adam Kownacki, Darmani Rock, Tony Yoka, Daniel Dubois, Oleksandr Teslenko and Jermaine Franklin

Another division enjoying part of a renaissance, but it is only some of the way there. Wladimir Klitschko and Tyson Fury not being included also hinders the division. Given the age of many of the protagonists of the division it should only get stronger. In a few years it could have a similar top group of boxers but only rated higher as they continue to enjoy successes.

13. Junior Flyweight
Superstars: Kosei Tanaka
Top Level Contenders: Milan Melindo, Ken Shiro, Ganigan Lopez and Pedro Guevara
Fringe Challenger: Hekkie Budler, Ryoichi Taguchi, Akira Yaegashi, Carlos Buitrago and Carlos Canizales
Potential Superstars: Jesse Espinas, Angel Acosta and Christian Araneta

Maybe suffering from the lack of exposure that the lower weights tend to receive, this is a division that does not get a lot of love. Tanaka will only receive the recognition he deserves if he steps up in weight but there are many matchups in his division that are intriguing. Even the fringe challengers can all remain competitive with some of the top guys in the division. It is just hard to rank while not knowing a huge amount about the boxers.

14. Flyweight
Superstars: Kazuto Ioka and Donnie Nietes
Top Level Contenders: Daigo Higa
Fringe Challengers: Juan Carlos Recevo, Moruti Mthalane, Sho Kimura, Masayuki Kuroda and Juan Hernandez Navarette
Potential Superstars: Andrew Selby, Junto Nakatani, Nawaphon Kaikanha, Vincent Legrand and Artem Dalakian

Another top heavy division. The two Japanese boxers and Nieves are top quality but apart from that the division is not strong. Selby is perhaps the boxer with the most potential but Legrand and Dalakian could also reach the level of world champions. If this does happen the division becomes more intriguing with good fights.

15. Strawweight
Superstars: None
Top Level Contenders: Chayaphon Moonsri, Knockout CP Freshmart and Hiroto Kyoguchi
Fringe Challengers: Byron Rojas, Simphiwe Khonco, Rey Loreto, Saul Juarez and Jose Argumendo
Potential Superstars: Leroy Estrada, Tsubasa Koura and Joey Canoy

Another division that suffers from lack of interest and promotion. However it is actually quite strong, especially at the top level. If any of the big three clashed it would be of huge interest. There are a number of big clashes that should be made clear although you have to imagine there would still be a very real lack of interest.

16. Super Bantamweight
Superstars: Guillermo Rigondeaux
Top Level Contenders: Jesse Magdaleno and Rey Vargas
Fringe Challengers: Ryosuke Iwasa, Moises Flores, Nonito Donaire, Julio Ceja, Daniel Roman and Jonathan Guzman
Potential Superstars: Gamal Yafai, TJ Doheny, Diego De La Hoya, Eduardo Ramirez, Thomas Patrick Ward and Jeo Santisima

The Super Bantamweight division is in a bad way and will only get worse as superstar Guillermo Rigondeaux jumps two weight classes to take on Lomachenko. Magdaleno and Vargas are champions but neither looks hugely special. In fact the weight division as a whole does not look very special, all the way down to finding a prospect.

17. Light Welterweight
Superstar: Terence Crawford
Top Level Contenders: Julius Indongo
Fringe Challengers: Sergey Lipinets, Victor Postol, Adrien Broner, Adrian Granados, Antonio Oroczo, Rances Barthélemy, Felix Diaz
Potential Superstars: Josh Taylor, Anthony Yigit, Jack Catterall, Hiroki Okada, Mario Barrios, Regis Prograis and Ivan Baranchyk

This division is scarily poor to me. Maybe Crawford is so good that he has made the competition look much worse than it is. He looks set on leaving this division and when you consider there will be four champions, you have to think this is the weakest division. Mikey Garcia moving up as soon as possible would really help it while Lipinets and Taylor could be superstars. For the meanwhile this is a division hanging on the coat tails of Crawford. In a couple of years one of two things may be true, I’ve underrated the division in part because Crawford was so dominant, or we have overrated Crawford as his divisions have been so poor.

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  1. Kid Blast 05:29pm, 09/27/2017

    But compared to the era of Great Light Heavyweights, these guys don’t even begin to compare.

  2. William Jennings 05:15pm, 09/27/2017

    Gervonta Davis lost his belt

  3. Korla Pandit 09:39am, 09/27/2017

    Indongo goes to the back of the line…..JoJo Diaz is not fringe….Kessler is back…..where’s Tomoki Kameda?

  4. Cain Bradley 07:41am, 09/27/2017

    He could be very good, probably already belongs in fringe challenger but his potential is far more so I kept him in that section. Part of what makes the division so exciting, although I did do this before Ward announced his retirement!

  5. Ted Sares 04:21am, 09/27/2017

    Cain, I think Marcus Browne might be more than a potential star. The way he slaughtered Seanie still has me buzzed.

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