In the constantly changing world of boxing, pinpointing the most talented weight division proves difficult. In the past, such a distinction may have been easily discerned, but the current landscape is bursting with moving pieces which provide unprecedented shifts in the talent at every division.
Esteemed champions have fearlessly transcended their comfort zones and have ventured into uncharted territories, conquering their former divisions with an air of dominance, motivated by the golden opportunities awaiting their newfound weight classes. On the other hand, some fighters strategically opt to move up in weight class to avoid impending challenges.
From the lower division of the junior featherweight division at 122 pounds to the electrifying super middleweight division at 168 pounds, the boxing world has been gripped by a whirlwind of hyperactivity. In others, the silence of complacency is deafening, with only a few fighters actively participating.
I had a tough time picking the top spot but the 140-pound division takes the honor with a slight edge over 135. Here's my list of all 17 men's divisions ranked from most talented/best potential to the weakest.
1. Junior welterweight - Previous ranking: No. 5
Champions: WBC: Regis Prograis, WBO: Teofimo Lopez Jr., IBF: Subriel Matias, WBA: Rolando "Rolly" Romero
Bradley's top fighters in the division: 1. Matias, 2. Lopez 3. Prograis
This division is the most talented of all the weight classes in boxing. There is growing excitement for a potential showdown between lightweight undisputed champion Devin Haney and Prograis, the talented southpaw. Haney, known for his strategic brilliance, lightning-fast hand speed, and center-of-the-ring dominance, eagerly seeks a colossal showdown with Prograis, whose aggressive boxing style is complemented by his exceptional technical skills and dynamic upper-body movement. This matchup, planned for early November, would showcase intelligent pressure with one-punch power against a clever, sharp, tactical, master fleet-footed boxer in Haney.
The junior welterweight division offers a plethora of intriguing matchups. Potential bouts like Ryan Garcia, complete with hand speed, punching power and size, versus Lopez's exceptional athleticism, timing, quickness, and bruising punching power should be a must-see. How about Haney vs. Lopez? And there's the hard-hitting, awkwardly gifted, explosive puncher Rolly Romero vs. Garcia, and the relentless heavy-handed volume puncher Matias vs. any of these names, including Jose Ramirez, Jack Catterall and Arnold Barbosa. Any of these matchups would provide exciting, thrilling must-see encounters for boxing enthusiasts. The division is stacked with talent, making it an exciting time to be a junior welterweight in boxing.
2. Lightweight - Previous ranking: No. 4
Champions: WBC: Devin Haney, WBO: Haney, IBF: Haney, WBA: Haney
Bradley's top fighters in the division: 1. Shakur Stevenson 2. Tank Davis 3. Haney
Multiple boxing divisions are currently at a standstill. The 135-pound weight class falls into that category and stands out as an undeniable hotbed of talent and eye-catching competition. This division boasts an array of skilled, experienced fighters, including two-division world champion Shakur Stevenson, who has earned the moniker "Boogeyman" since joining the weight class.
The presence of living legend Vasiliy Lomachenko adds to the division's deep allure, as he recently demonstrated his enduring prowess in a closely contested defeat against reigning undisputed champion Haney.
Speaking of Haney, his move to campaign at 140 pounds has generated immense controversy as well as opportunities. Until his highly anticipated showdown with Prograis materializes, all belts in the division will remain securely tied up. Once the belts are vacated and become available, the list of matchups are as good as competitive.
Amidst this scenario, I must acknowledge the lurking presence of heavy hitter Gervonta "Tank" Davis, a highly acclaimed fighter in the division. Davis, the moneymaker of the division, has kept a watchful eye from the shadows, patiently awaiting his long-awaited rematch against Isaac Cruz, whom he beat in December 2021 in a very entertaining fight. The prospect of Davis stepping into the ring against Cruz has intrigued fans, amplifying the division's appeal and making most question what he will do next.
Meanwhile, other formidable young fighters like Keyshawn Davis, Raymond Muratalla, Frank Martin, Abdullah Mason, and William Zepeda are all standing idly, gaining experience and confidence while learning patience.
3. Featherweight - Previous ranking: No. 11
Champions: WBC: Ray Vargas, WBO: Robeisy Ramirez, IBF: Luis Alberto Lopez, WBA: Leigh Wood
Bradley's top fighters in the division: 1. Nayoa Inoue, 2. Ramirez 3. Vargas
The featherweight division generates a lot of buzz for several compelling reasons. Lopez has been defying the odds and displaying his resilience by venturing into enemy territory to defend his championship (he's fought three of his last five fights in the U.K.). His fearlessness and determination make him an indomitable force in the division.
Meanwhile, Ramirez has been steamrolling through the competition, delivering spectacular performances and knockouts. His impressive form and dominance makes him an exciting champion in the division.
Wood's recent victory and revenge against Mauricio Lara has undoubtedly revitalized his career. Wood showcases his cerebral boxing style, combining it with an abundant heart inside the ring. While some fighters may possess tremendous skill but cannot gauge the right moments, Wood has mastered the "know-when-to" formula. He understands when to employ his technical prowess and when to dig deep and engage in a gritty battle.
Additionally, pound-for-pound talent Inoue, who currently competes in the junior featherweight division, has been making waves with his exceptional skills and power. After his anticipated bout against WBA junior featherweight champion Marlon Tapales for the undisputed championship, the potential matchups between Inoue and fighters like Ramirez, Lopez or Wood would be nothing short of explosive.
The featherweight division is poised for history-making matchups, showcasing the best skill, power, and determination from these top fighters.
4. Welterweight - Previous ranking: No. 1
Champions: WBC: Terence Crawford, WBO: Crawford, IBF: Crawford, WBA: Crawford
Bradley's top fighters in the division: 1. Crawford, 2. Jaron "Boots" Ennis 3. Josh Taylor
Who can beat Crawford in the welterweight division? No one.
The long-awaited showdown between "Bud" Crawford and Errol Spence Jr. finally happened for the undisputed welterweight championship. Crawford's TKO victory in the ninth round had many people pinching themselves, trying to understand what happened to Spence. However, news has surfaced that Spence has activated a rematch clause, adding another layer of intrigue to their rivalry. While the weight class for the rematch is yet to be confirmed, it is speculated that it may take place at 154 pounds, as 147 pounds seems out of the question.
If Crawford does decide to move up in weight after the rematch, the welterweight division would see some exciting matchups for the potential vacant titles. One possible scenario could be a clash between rising star "Boots" Ennis and former champion Keith Thurman for one of the belts relinquished by Crawford. Ennis and Thurman possess immense talent and would provide an exciting contest that fans and the media would eagerly embrace.
Additionally, fighters such as Eimantas Stanionis and Yordenis Ugas present intriguing matchups in the division. Their high-level skills and competitive nature would make for compelling fights and add to the excitement in the weight class. However, if Vergil Ortiz can recover from the health issues he's facing, he would be a strong contender to fill the void if Crawford decides to vacate the welterweight belts. Ortiz's skillset and potential make him a promising fighter in the division.
The welterweight division is brimming with talent, and the potential matchups mentioned are undeniably exhilarating. Whether it's the Crawford-Spence rematch or the top contenders of Ennis, Thurman, Stanionis, Ugas, or Ortiz, the division offers a wealth of stability and enticing fights that would satisfy fans for years to come.
Naoya Inoue defeats Stephen Fulton by technical knockout to claim the WBO and WBC junior featherweight titles.
5. Junior featherweight - Previous ranking: No. 8
Champions: WBC: Naoya Inoue, WBO: Inoue, IBF: Marlon Tapales, WBA: Tapales
Bradley's top fighters in the division: 1. Inoue, 2. Tapales 3. Brandon Figueroa
The move-up in weight by Inoue and his dominant performance against Stephen Fulton in the 122-pound division has elevated the anticipation for another potential two-division undisputed champion. If Inoue can defeat Tapales, as many boxing insiders suspect, he will solidify his status as one of the best fighters of this generation and join Crawford as the only two men undisputed champions in two different divisions in the four-belt era (Claressa Shields was the first fighter in the four-belt era to win undisputed championship in two divisions, junior middleweight and middleweight).
Inoue's destruction of Fulton, who was widely regarded as the top fighter in the 122-pound division, left the world in awe and sparked discussions about Inoue's place among the elite. Tapales, a durable, rugged and formidable champion, will challenge Inoue. There is also Figueroa, a hungry, tall, aggressive switch hitter with punching power and a strong chin, who has been vocal about his willingness to test himself against Inoue.
A potential matchup between Figueroa and Inoue would captivate boxing fans due to the contrasting styles and the hunger displayed by both fighters. Figueroa's aggressive approach and punching ability, combined with his durability, could provide an intriguing test for Inoue's skills, power and dominance at junior featherweight. The division will have an answer sooner than later on who is the best 122-pounder in the world.
6. Junior middleweight - Previous ranking: No. 9
Champions: WBC: Jermell Charlo, WBO: Charlo, IBF: Charlo, WBA: Charlo
Bradley's top fighters in the division: 1. Charlo, 2. Tim Tszyu, 3. Crawford
The 154-pound division, much like lightweight and welterweight, has seen its fair share of standstill situations. One eagerly anticipated matchup is between Tszyu and Charlo, the undisputed champion. A clash between the two would be epic due to the knockout power possessed by both fighters, as well as Tszyu's precision and mental toughness. However, it is worth noting that Charlo has a scheduled bout with undisputed super middleweight champ Canelo Alvarez at 168 pounds, two weight divisions above Charlo's current weight class where Alvarez has been dominant.
Another name to consider in the junior middleweight division is Sebastian Fundora, known as the "Towering Inferno" due to his remarkable height for the weight class (6-foot-5) Fundora's unique physical attributes present a fascinating dynamic in his fights and make him an intriguing contender in the division.
Crawford, fresh off his victory over Spence, has expressed his desire to face Charlo. Crawford's determination and skills, combined with the power and talent of fighters like Tszyu, Charlo and Fundora contribute to the division's excitement.
7. Junior bantamweight - Previous ranking: No. 6
Champions: WBC: Juan Francisco Estrada, WBO: Junto Nakatani, IBF: Fernando Martinez, WBA: Kazuto Ioka
Bradley's top fighters in the division: 1. Estrada, 2. Junto Nakatani 3. Jesse "Bam" Rodriguez
This 115-pound division has exciting fighters, including Estrada, Nakatani, Rodriguez, Martinez, and the always-tough Ioka. Fans can look forward to all-out war matchups and intense battles as these fighters maneuver for supremacy in one of boxing's most exciting weight classes.
Estrada, the current king of the junior bantamweight division, has built his long-standing career on an impressive combination of skills and experience. However, some dangerous young fighters await to challenge him once he decides to return after he completed his trilogy with Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez with a majority-decision victory back in December.
One such fighter is the southpaw Nakatani, who has shown his ability to fight at any range despite his tall, rangy frame (5-foot-7. A potential matchup between Estrada and Nakatani would be a test of will, skill and sharp, accurate punching power.
Meanwhile, the exciting southpaw "Bam" Rodriguez, who fights just 3 pounds south of the junior bantamweight division, awaits his unified flyweight showdown with Sunny Edwards. "Bam" is a threat in both divisions. Rodriguez possesses impressive skills from the southpaw stance with compass-like angles and an aggressive style that would make him a problem opponent for anyone.
8. Super middleweight - Previous ranking: No. 7
Champions: WBC: Canelo Alvarez, WBO: Alvarez, IBF: Alvarez, WBA: Alvarez
Bradley's top fighters in the division: 1. Alvarez 2. David Benavidez 3. David Morrell
Morrell is a promising boxer in the division. He hails from Cuba and has shown great potential with his size, strength, punching power and technical abilities. He is similar to Ennis in the welterweight division, as both fighters are incredibly talented and have yet to face a credible, veteran former champion in their respective weight classes.
While Alvarez currently dominates the 168-pound division and holds significant control over it, fighters like Benavidez and Morrell present exciting options. However, it is essential to note that the boxing landscape is constantly changing, and specific fights are subject to negotiations and the decisions of the fighters involved. Canelo has now reached a point in his career where he can choose his opponents while still making millions, staying clear of dangerous opponents, unfortunately.
Ultimately, whether Morrell or any other contender in the super middleweight division gets the opportunity to compete against Alvarez will depend on various factors, including their performances and marketability, and, of course, Canelo!
Tyson Fury defends his heavyweight title by defeating Derek Chisora in their trilogy bout by way of technical knockout.
9. Heavyweight - Previous ranking: No. 2
Champions: WBC: Tyson Fury, WBO: Oleksandr Usyk, IBF: Usyk, WBA: Usyk
Bradley's top fighters in the division: 1. Fury, 2. Usyk 3. Deontay Wilder
The current state of the heavyweight division offers a mix of established veterans and emerging young talent.
Anthony Joshua's commitment and activity to the sport, plus his adaptability under new trainer Derrick James, is impressive, despite concerns about his defense against powerful hitters like Wilder.
Fury has raised eyebrows with his shift towards less competitive ventures. He's facing Francis Ngannou, the former UFC heavyweight champion, who has an uphill battle to prove himself against a seasoned boxer like Fury.
Meanwhile, Usyk's recent victory over Daniel Dubois solidifies him as a strong champion, with a potential showdown with Fury on the horizon. The division also promises fresh faces like Jared Anderson and Zhilei Zhang. Anderson has been carving his path impressively while Zhang prepares for a critical rematch with Joe Joyce, whom he beat by sixth-round TKO back in April.
Artur Beterbiev continues his dominant streak, finishing every one of his fights thus far.
10. Light heavyweight - Previous ranking: No. 3
Champions: WBC: Artur Beterbiev, WBO: Beterbiev, IBF: Beterbiev, WBA: Dmitry Bivol
Bradley's top fighters in the division: 1. Bivol, 2. Beterbiev, 3. Anthony Yarde
This division has been an exciting and competitive weight class featuring a mix of explosive power, technical skill and strategic brilliance. Fighters like Beterbiev, Bivol, Yarde, Oleksandr Gvozdyk, Joshua Buatsi, and Callum Smith have contributed significantly to the wellbeing of the division.
Beterbiev is known for his thunderous punching power, which has led him to an undefeated record and a 100% KO rate (19 KOs in 19 fights). Bivol, on the other hand, has showcased his tactical brilliance and technical mastery inside the ring. His ability to outmaneuver opponents -- like Canelo -- and control the fight's pace has made him a formidable force.
Yarde's hand speed and raw power have made him an exciting fighter, as he can end fights with a single punch. Gvozdyk briefly retired but now is making a seemingly silent return. He was renowned for his technical prowess and boxing skills. He held the WBC light heavyweight title and had notable victories over long-reigning champ Adonis Stevenson. Gvozdyk tested his abilities against Beterbiev but was stopped late during their encounter.
Buatsi has risen through the ranks with his flair and enormous punching power. His performances have garnered attention and made him a promising title holder someday in the division. Smith, known for his boxing finesse, has displayed excellent skills and has been involved in a high-profile fight against Canelo Alvarez. He's scheduled to face Beterbiev in January.
While the light heavyweight division has seen many great fighters, it is uncertain if we will ever witness an undisputed champion in this weight class. Negotiations and financial demands can sometimes complicate unifying the belts and creating an undisputed champion. Beterbiev and Bivol, like many fighters, seek big-money fights that can potentially freeze the negotiations. The business aspects of the sport can sometimes hinder the path to undisputed championships.
11. Flyweight - Previous ranking: No. 14
Champions: WBC: Julio Cesar Martinez, WBO: Jesse "Bam" Rodriguez, IBF: Sunny Edwards, WBA: Artem Dalakian
Bradley's top fighters in the division: 1. Rodriguez, 2. Edwards, 3. Martinez
Emanuel Navarrete comes out victorious in a 12-round classic vs. Oscar Valdez in Arizona.
12. Junior lightweight - Previous ranking: No. 13
Champions: WBC: O'Shaquie Foster, WBO: Emanuel Navarrete, IBF: Joseph Cordina, WBA: Hector Luis Garcia
Bradley's top fighters in the division: 1. Navarrete, 2. Foster 3. Cordina
13. Cruiserweight - Previous ranking: No. 15
Champions: WBC: Badou Jack, WBO: Chris Billam-Smith, IBF: Jai Opetaia, WBA: A Goulamirian
Bradley's top fighters in the division: 1. Opetaia, 2. Jack, 3. Richard Riakporhe
14. Middleweight - Previous ranking: No. 10
Champions: WBC: Jermall Charlo, WBO: Janibek Alimkhanuly, IBF: Vincenzo Gualtieri, WBA: Erislandy Lara
Bradley's top fighters in the division: 1. Alimkhanuly, 2. Lara, 3. Carlos Adames
15. Bantamweight - Previous ranking: No. 12
Champions: WBC: Alexandro Santiago Barrios, WBO: Jason Moloney, IBF: Vacant, WBA: Takuma Inoue
Bradley's top fighters in the division: 1. Barrios, 2. Moloney, 3. Inoue
16. Junior flyweight - Previous ranking: No. 16
Champions: WBC: Kenshiro Teraji, WBO: Jonathan Gonzalez, IBF: Sive Nontshinga, WBA: Teraji
Bradley's top fighters in the division: 1. Teraji, 2. Gonzalez, 3. Nontshinga
17. Strawweight - Previous ranking: No. 17
Champions: WBC: Petchmanee CP Freshmart, WBO: Oscar Collazo, IBF: Daniel Valladares, WBA: Knockout CP Freshmart
Bradley's top fighters in the division: 1. Erick Rosa, 2. Petchmanee CP Freshmart, 3. Oscar Collazo