Ring Ratings Update: The complex case of Conor Benn and a seven-week round up

Much has happened since the last Ring Ratings Update was posted, a span from the week of February 18 to April 1. 

Badou Jack and Brandon Figueroa re-entered the rankings. Jack at cruiserweight; Figueroa at featherweight.

Tim Tszyu advanced to the No. 1 spot at junior middleweight. David Benavidez and Lawrence Okolie defended their No. 1 positions at super middleweight and cruiserweight. 

Subriel Matias jumped to No. 3 at junior welterweight.

Veterans Jean Pascal and Joseph Diaz jr. exited the rankings.

But the lengthiest discussion the Ratings Panel held during that seven-week period was reserved for Conor Benn’s exit from the 147-pound rankings.

The subject of Benn’s positive test for the banned-substance clomifene (which shelved an October showdown with Chris Eubank Jr. in England) was brought up by Martin Mulchahey months ago. The Panel agreed to wait until Benn’s case was brought before the British Boxing Board of Control (and details of the report were made public) before deciding what to do with the undefeated welterweight.

The WBC, whose Clean Boxing Program/VADA-testing revealed the clomifene in Benn’s system, conducted its own investigation (with the cooperation of Team Benn) and cleared the popular 26-year-old son of British boxing legend Nigel Benn of intentionally doping (owing the elevated levels to eating too many eggs). However, Benn has not cooperated with the BBBofC, which licenses British boxers. Benn relinquished his British boxing license, intends to sue the BBBofC and claims that VADA mishandled his tests (a claim the WBC does not back up).

It’s clear that Benn intends to fight outside of Britain, wherever there’s an athletic commission that will license him.

Tom Gray brought up Benn’s plight.

“I was recently quizzed on Conor Benn’s current ranking.

“We were holding off until Benn’s independent investigation had concluded. However, the results of this (207 pages worth), still haven’t been passed to the BBBoC.

“The WBC’s decision to re-rank Benn is irrelevant here. What’s everyone’s take on Benn right now and his current position?”

Tris Dixon was first to respond.

“Great question. Seems he will carry on regardless, and likely in a meaningless fight that won’t alter his ranking i.e. Eubank, (Kell) Brook and (Manny) Pacquiao,” said Dixon.

“I’m torn. Morally we should pull him until due process has been completed and made transparent. But if he just carries on and we are none the wiser, who are we to take him out as he makes his way up the ladder, if and when he does?

“The answer? I don’t know.”

Adam Abramowitz was not torn.

“This is an opportunity to be on the right side of the issue,” he said. “I’m not torn whatsoever. He should be removed.”

Corey Erdman, a newer member of the Ratings Panel, was curious about The Ring’s protocol on ranked fighters who test positive for PEDs. 

“I think this is probably as good a time as any to at least try to establish some sort of rubric for how we handle situations such as Benn’s (if we don’t have one already), and will that be a precedent we choose to follow only moving forward, or retroactively?

“There are, of course, active and notable fighters who have had pretty similar situations to Benn (Luis Nery, for example), who people would probably point out if we announce that we’re specifically choosing to penalize Benn.

“Another thing to consider is, are we actually penalizing Benn here, or are we utilizing a fortuitous period of time in which it’s justifiable to not rank him to make a statement? Basically, what if Benn comes back and beats a welterweight of repute, will we continue to keep him out?

“I don’t have any of these answers, I just think it’d be good to decide upon before we make any kind of public statements about excluding Benn, and so we all have a good explanation if Tom’s friends start quizzing us too!”

Gray replied to Erdman.

“Hey Corey, due to his failed test, Nery was stripped of his Ring (bantamweight) championship post-(Shinsuke) Yamanaka. Again, it was the WBC that did not penalize him and retained him as their titleholder.

“It’s very difficult to be consistent because failed tests differ so much. For example, Billy Joe Saunders failed after ingesting a substance that WADA had on their banned list. However, the substance in question was not banned by UKAD when out of competition.

“Murky waters.”

Erdman had more questions (good ones).

“Of course, it’s very difficult to set a firm precedent because very few of these situations will be identical,” he said. “I used the Nery comparison because, as you said, he was punished by this committee, but at a certain point was deemed a rankable fighter again. So with Benn (or fighters who have similar infractions), are we setting a time limit that they’re removed from our rankings, or a number of approved negative tests in order to be considered again?

“I’m not at all against removing Benn by the way, I’m just curious if we are setting a precedent in doing so, and if so, what that will be.”

Added Dixon: “The thing that gets me is when/if he beats someone in the top 10, does he just come back in?”

Confirmed Gray: “Hey Tris, with the way boxing operates, The Ring can only penalize a fighter for a short period of time. If the overall punishment from the powers at be was more severe, then that would change things. However, the average ban time is a year or less. That pretty much mirrors an elite fighter’s time between fights.

“For example, Canelo was stripped of The Ring (middleweight) title for testing positive (for clenbuterol), but he came back into the ratings five months later because he beat the best fighter in the world in (Gennadiy Golovkin). If we kept Canelo out of the ratings after that result, then the ratings system just falls apart.

“I’m not saying I agree with the way things are, I’m just explaining the complexity of the situation.”

Abraham Gonzalez cast his vote.

“I vote to remove Benn,” he said. “He can rejoin the rankings if we get a result from the investigation that states no foul play or he fights someone notable and not someone that is currently retired. 

“I don’t think there is a ‘one size fits all’ ruling with these situations and we have to evaluate them on a case by case basis.”

I agreed with Abe’s take on PED cases and echoed his vote.

“I’m with Abe,” said your favorite Editor-In-Chief. “I say we drop Benn for now, even though he hasn’t been suspended by any governing or sanctioning body. If he beats a ranked or quality fighter, we will have the option of re-ranking him. This is what we did with Oscar Valdez, who tested positive for a banned substance before his WBC 130-pound title defense against Robson Conceicao (and was allowed to go through with the fight due to commission/legal loopholes that were supported by the WBC and Top Rank). Valdez, who re-entered the rankings following his one-sided loss to Shakur Stevenson, also maintained his innocence and avoided suspension. He’s currently our No. 1-rated junior lightweight.

“At some point we may want to discuss multi-year or lifetime bans from The Ring rankings for fighters who have failed more than one PED test (such as Jarrell Miller).”

Anson Wainwright gave his two cents.

“Many good points from all, I think I’d say remove (Benn) for now,” he said. “Let’s see how things pan out further down the line with regards to more opponents, etc. It will be interesting to see who he does fight because future opponents are going to insist he undergoes very strict testing.”

Added Daisuke Sugiura: “Thanks for a good discussion. I’d agree with removing him now and considering to rerank him depending on what will happen from here. Consistency is important but also being flexible is important for this issue too.” 

So, who replaces Benn in the rankings?

Abramowitz nominated Cody Crowley if the unbeaten Canadian defeated  gatekeeper Abel Ramos, which he did via 12-round majority decision on the March 25 David Benavidez-Caleb Plant undercard. 

The majority of the Panel agreed with Abramowitz that Crowley (22-0, 9 KOs) should enter at No. 9 (ahead of No. 10-rated David Avanesyan).

I proposed some other options:

“I have no problem with Cody Crowley entering our welterweight top 10, but I view Abel Ramos as a gatekeeper, and it’s not like Cody crashed through those gates into contender status, so I would like to bring up some other 147-pound fringe contenders that the Panel can consider:

“Roiman Villa, Alexis Rocha, Souleymane Cissokho and Giovani Santillan. If I missed someone, please let me know and let’s take a good look at all of them.”

Replied Gonzalez: “I will stick with Crowley but I wouldn’t be mad at adding Alexis Rocha who is next in line for a title shot if Crowley doesn’t get in.”

Replied Abramowitz: “I’d pick Crowley over that group.” 

Stated Yours Truly: “Fair enough, Adam. Crowley has defeated enough solid foes to merit a Ring ranking. If you mean you’d ‘pick him’ to beat the welterweights I brought up, I respectfully disagree, but as that great philosopher Chris Colbert so eloquently stated on (March 25): Opinions are like assholes.

(Adam got a laugh from that quip, “I enjoyed that, Doug”)


RING RATINGS UPDATE (as of April 1):

Heavyweight – Anthony Joshua remains at No. 3 following his unanimous decision over fringe contender Jermaine Franklin.

Cruiserweight – Lawrence Okolie remains No. 1 after retaining his WBO title with a unanimous decision over unrated David Light. Badou Jack enters the rankings at No. 4 following his WBC title-winning 12th-round TKO of IIunga Makabu, who drops to No. 5. Thabiso Mchunu exits (due to inactivity). Chris Billam-Smith (17-1, 12 KOs) enters at No. 10.

Light heavyweight – Jean Pascal exits the rankings. Michael Eifert (12-1, 4 KOs) enters at No. 10. Dan Azeez advances to No. 9 after scoring a 12th-round stoppage of Thomas Faure, winning the European championship.

Super middleweight – David Benavidez remains No. 1 following his unanimous decision over Caleb Plant, who remains ranked at No. 2. Christian Mbilli advances to No. 3 after winning a thrilling 10-round unanimous decision over dangerous fringe contender Carlos Gongora.

“Diego Pacheco continued his ascent with a fourth-round stoppage over Jack Cullen,” noted Wainwright. “Pacheco is on the fringes of the top 10; he passes the eye test but needs a better win than Cullen.”

Middleweight – Ryota Murata exits the rankings after announcing his retirement. Meiirum Nursultanov (18-0, 10 KOs) enters at No. 10.

Elijah Garcia and Jose Resendiz breathed some young, new blood into the division, beating Amilcar Vidal and Jarrett Hurd respectively,” noted Wainwright. “No rankings but on the cusp of things (probably one more solid win) in what is a relatively weak division.”

Junior middleweight – Tim Tszyu advances to No. 1 following an impressive ninth-round stoppage of former titleholder Tony Harrison, who drops from No. 4 to No. 8. Jesus Ramos Jr. (20-0, 16 KOs) enters at No. 8 following his one-sided stoppage of unbeaten prospect Joey Spencer (pushing Harrison to No. 9). 

“Tszyu looked mighty good dominating and then stopping Harrison,” said Wainwright. “I did wonder if this ballsy move may come back and bite Tszyu on the backside, turns out he had things very much under control.”

Welterweight – Benn exits. Crowley enters at No. 9.

Junior welterweight – Jose Ramirez remains No. 2 after an 11th-round stoppage of former lightweight titleholder Richard Commey. Subriel Matias advances to No. 3  following a fifth-round stoppage of unrated Jeremias Poncetween to win the vacant IBF title. Jose Zepeda remains No. 6 following a 10-round shoutout over Nareej Goyat.

Lightweight – Joseph Diaz jr. exits the rankings after being outpointed by fringe contender Mercito Gesta. Shuichiro Yoshino entered at No. 10. Gustavo Lemos exits (due to inactivity). Jermaine Ortiz enters at No. 10 (pushing Yoshino to No. 9).

Junior LightweightRoger Gutierrez remains at No. 7 after stopping unrated Henry Delgado in two rounds. Kenichi Ogawa remains at No. 8 after a fifth-round stoppage of unrated Krai Setthaphon.

Featherweight – Mauricio Lara advances to No. 1 after winning the WBA title with a seventh-round TKO of Leigh Wood, who drops to No. 7.

Brandon Figueroa enters at No. 4 following his unanimous decision over Mark Magsayo, who drops to No. 5. Robeisy Ramirez advances to No. 5 following his WBO title-winning unanimous decision over former 122-pound beltholder Isaac Dogboe (pushing Magsayo to No. 6).

“Wood was winning the battle but lost the war when he was stopped by big-punching Mauricio Lara, noted Wainwright. “Lara wasn’t as aggressive and picked his spots more than I expected, waited for his opportunity and ended matters in the seventh round. There’s no clear No. 1 in the division and I could see Lara, who holds wins over Josh Warrington and now Wood, at No. 1. Wood to drop one place. He was ahead but ultimately lost.

“Joet Gonzalez and Enrique Vivas poured their hearts out and broke CompuBox lol,” continued Wainwright. “Gonzalez won a 10-round unanimous decision and possibly a shot at Ramirez, who won a world title in the main event. Not an Oba Carr welterweight run in the ‘90s but I still have to feel for Gonzalez, who has so far met Shakur Stevenson and Emanuel Navarrete in title fights!”

Junior featherweight – Luis Nery advanced to No. 3 with a thrilling 11th-round stoppage of Azat Hovhannisyan, who drops to No. 5. 

BantamweightRyosuke Nishida remains at No. 8 after scoring a 12-round shutout decision over unrated Songsaeng Phoyaem. Keita Kurihara re-enters at No. 9. Lee McGregor exits the rankings (after a move to junior featherweight). Liborio Solis (35-6-1, 16 KOs) enters at No. 10. 

Flyweight – Angel Ayala Lardizabal remains at No. 4 following an eight-round decision over unrated Luis Rodriguez. Ricardo Sandoval remained at No. 7 following a second-round stoppage over unrated Jerson Ortiz.

Junior flyweight – Shokichi Iwata remains at No. 10 after stopping unrated Jerome Baloro in three rounds. 


Email Fischer at dougie@boxingmailbag.com. Follow him on Twitter and IG at @dougiefischer, and join him, Tom Loeffler, Coach Schwartz and friends via Tom’s or Doug’s IG Live most Sundays.

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