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Analysis: The super-lightweight division

super-lightweight
In part eight of our weekly series, the attention turns to the 140lb weight class, as Paul Wheeler runs the rule over the top 10 in the super-lightweight division

10. MARIO BARRIOS (USA)
Record: 25-0 (16) Age: 24 Height: 5ft 10ins
AFTER starting out as a super-bantamweight, Barrios gradually moved through the divisions until he reached super-lightweight, where he has been operating since 2017. Last time out in September, the versatile Texan took on Batyr Akhmedov – an unbeaten but inexperienced pro who boxed at the 2016 Olympics. Barrios was awarded the verdict and the unnecessary WBA secondary strap, but the result was hotly disputed.

STRENGTHS: He likes to keep on the move and pick his shots from the outside, yet he can also aggressively force the action when required with well-executed combinations.

WEAKNESSES: He was hit flush by Akhmedov with concerning frequency, highlighting some defensive deficiencies.

BEST PERFORMANCE: Juan Velasco lasted into the eighth round with Regis Prograis but couldn’t get past two against Barrios.

WORST PERFORMANCE: Despite scoring two knockdowns, he was deemed lucky by many to beat Akhmedov.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: Check out the Akhmedov fight and decide for yourself whether or not Barrios was fortunate.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? Following the controversy surrounding the Akhmedov bout, the WBA ordered a rematch. His position in the top 10 will be at serious threat in this sequel.

9. EDUARD TROYANOVSKY (RUS)
Record: 28-2 (24) Age: 39 Height: 5ft 8ins
THE oldest fighter on this list, Troyanovsky brought an end to Cesar Cuenca’s long undefeated record in 2015 to become the IBF champ. In an immediate rematch, the Russian registered a repeat stoppage victory to retain his title. Just over a year after winning the belt, danger man Julius Indongo ripped it away from him with a devastating early knockout. He has since won three out of four contests.

STRENGTHS: With an 80 per cent KO ratio – the joint-highest here – Troyanovsky’s prolific punch-power is obvious from the stats.

WEAKNESSES: Set to turn 40 at the end of this month, his peak years are behind him.

BEST PERFORMANCE: Although it took him one round longer to halt Cuenca in their return match, his dominance was greater the second time around.

WORST PERFORMANCE: Being conclusively wiped out by Indongo in a mere 40 seconds.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: The crunching knockout of Carlos Portillo, who was ruthlessly dispatched in just over two minutes.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? With his potent fists he always carries a threat, but his advanced age counts against him, so his place is at risk.

Valery Sharifulin/TASS via Getty Images

8. JOSE ZEPEDA (USA)
Record: 31-2 (25) 2NC Age: 30 Height: 5ft 8ins
RATED at No. 3 by the WBC, this Californian switch-hitter spent much of his childhood living in Mexico. A dislocated left shoulder saw him lose to Terry Flanagan in a clash for WBO lightweight honours in 2015, while Jose Ramirez pipped him on points when defending the WBC super-lightweight crown early last year. He has previously sparred with retired former pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather.

STRENGTHS: Zepeda hits with considerable weight and accuracy. His jab, body work and ring generalship are all noteworthy.

WEAKNESSES: In spite of his craftiness he can be tagged.

BEST PERFORMANCE: He deservedly decisioned ex-two-weight world titlist Jose Pedraza eight months ago.

WORST PERFORMANCE: It was an unfortunate incident, but his injury against Flanagan occurred before he could even get going.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: The dramatic battle with Carlos Diaz, during which Zepeda was forced to take a knee in the fourth, before rallying and landing a KO punch in the following frame.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? He enhanced his reputation with his displays in 2019 and will now be looking to improve on his ranking. He could well do just that.

super-lightweight
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

7. KIRYL RELIKH (BLR)
Record: 23-3 (19) Age: 30 Height: 5ft 9 1/2ins
RELIKH ironically made his name on the world stage in two fights that he lost. Ricky Burns outpointed him in 2016, while Rances Barthelemy did the same in 2017. However, the Belarusian performed admirably in both bouts. In 2018, he outscored Barthelemy and Eduard Troyanovsky to win and defend the WBA title respectively, but lost the belt via stoppage to Regis Prograis just over a year ago.

STRENGTHS: A well-travelled career super-lightweight with a tireless engine, Relikh is strong, aggressive and hard-hitting.

WEAKNESSES: Barthelemy and Prograis showed that he can be hurt to the midsection. A lack of variety is also a shortcoming of his.

BEST PERFORMANCE: Taking Barthelemy’s ‘0’ and claiming the WBA strap with a wide decision in their rematch.

WORST PERFORMANCE: Being dropped, busted up, steadily beaten to the punch and finally stopped by Prograis.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: His perfectly placed body blows that accounted for Ty Gilchrist in the opening round.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? Currently not ranked in the top 15 by any of the four major sanctioning bodies, Relikh’s route back to a world championship looks like a difficult one.

Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

6. PABLO CESAR CANO (MEX)
Record: 33-7-1 (23) 1NC Age: 30 Height: 5ft 7ins
A PRO for more than 14 years, Cano contested the WBC title against the great Erik Morales when he was only 21, with facial damage ruling him out. He failed to make weight when he had the chance to challenge for the WBA welter belt and he also has a No Contest on his record due to a banned substance. At the start of 2019 he stunningly stopped the vastly decorated Jorge Linares in the opener.

STRENGTHS: A tough and seasoned campaigner who has shared a ring with some top names, the Mexican warrior needs no invitation to let his hands go.

WEAKNESSES: He has more mileage on the clock than his age would suggest. Cuts have caused him issues before and he can be floored.

BEST PERFORMANCE: Decking Linares three times in what was a huge upset.

WORST PERFORMANCE: Being unexpectedly knocked out by Marcelino Lopez in just two rounds.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: How he bounced back from a knockdown to finish Roberto Ortiz in the second.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? It would be a surprise to see him rise further up this list.

super-lightweight
Al Bello/Getty Images

5. IVAN BARANCHYK (BLR)
Record: 20-1 (13) Age: 27 Height: 5ft 8ins
AS an amateur, this Russia-born Belarusian gained a gold medal at the Junior World Championships. His two best victories as a professional came in 2018 – inside-schedule wins over Petr Petrov and Anthony Yigit, the second of which earned him the IBF belt. Twelve months ago on away turf in Scotland, he lost the title on the scorecards in a competitive and stirring tussle with Josh Taylor.

STRENGTHS: Thestubborn and robust Baranchyk is comfortable either marching forward and launching solid hooks to head and body, or operating from range.

WEAKNESSES: Though he is a generally sturdy competitor, he has been knocked down on more than a couple of occasions.

BEST PERFORMANCE: Knocking out Angel Figueroa in a scarcely believable three seconds after throwing just two punches.

WORST PERFORMANCE: He clearly got the better of Abel Ramos on points but had to endure a trip to the mat.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: The highly charged Taylor fight is certainly worth a watch.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? The loss to Taylor does not have to define him – he can come again. Becoming a world champion once more is not beyond him.

Steven Ryan/Getty Images

4. VIKTOR POSTOL (UKR)
Record: 31-2 (12) Age: 36 Height: 5ft 11ins
THIS experienced Ukrainian has spent his entire career at super-lightweight and has competed in seven different countries. He KO’d the dangerous Lucas Matthysse in 2015 to pick up the WBC crown, before dropping it to Terence Crawford via decision in a unification contest the year after. Since being outpointed by Josh Taylor in Scotland in 2018, he has triumphed in both of his outings.

STRENGTHS: Postol is the tallest and rangiest fighter in the top 10. An accomplished technician with tidy footwork, he rams out stiff jabs to keep his rivals at bay.

WEAKNESSES: He has been decked four times in his last five bouts and has the lowest knockout percentage on this list. He is also the wrong side of his mid-30s.

BEST PERFORMANCE: The impressive defeat of Matthysse.

WORST PERFORMANCE: He was sent to the canvas twice during the Crawford reverse.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: His brutal uppercut that finished off Selcuk Aydin.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? His crack at WBC and WBO boss Jose Ramirez has twice been postponed. When it does at last take place, Postol will not be expected to prevail.

Viktor Postol super-lightweight
Naoki Fukuda

3. JOSE RAMIREZ (USA)
Record: 25-0 (17) Age: 27 Height: 5ft 10ins
IN 2018, Ramirez obtained the WBC strap on points against the heavy-handed Amir Imam, before outscoring the unbeaten Antonio Orozco in his first defence. Last year, he retained his belt on the cards against Jose Zepeda, prior to facing WBO ruler Maurice Hooker in a unification fight. It turned out to be a thriller, with Ramirez pulling off a spectacular stoppage in the sixth round to become a unified champ.

STRENGTHS: A 2012 Olympian with fast hands and feet, the energetic and adaptable Californian is a sharp puncher.

WEAKNESSES: Ramirez was kept off balance and out of range for periods when Zepeda employed disciplined boxing tactics against him.

BEST PERFORMANCE: It is difficult to look past his breathtaking win over Hooker.

WORST PERFORMANCE: He was put on the floor by Johnny Garcia, yet was still a clear decision victor.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: The all-action affair with Hooker.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? He will be a significant favourite when he defends his two titles against Viktor Postol. However, if he were to take on Josh Taylor for undisputed status, he would be an outsider for most.

Jose Ramirez super-lightweight
Stacey Verbeek

2. REGIS PROGRAIS (USA)
Record: 24-1 (20) Age: 31 Height: 5ft 8ins
A TEXAS-BASED Louisiana native, Prograis vanquished a pair of previous world champions in 2018, halting Julius Indongo and outpointing Terry Flanagan. The subsequent year, he pounded Kiryl Relikh to defeat in acquiring the WBA belt, before travelling to London to meet IBF titlist Josh Taylor in the WBSS final. A pulsating encounter saw Taylor pip him on points to unify the titles.

STRENGTHS: The powerful portsider boasts an 80 per cent KO ratio and pumps out a quick and accurate jab. He moves well and is defensively sound.

WEAKNESSES: Taylor demonstrated that by keeping up an incessant work rate, Prograis’ rhythm and fluidity can be disrupted.

BEST PERFORMANCE: Forcing Relikh to succumb in six rounds.

WORST PERFORMANCE: He would have been slightly frustrated at failing to get past James Harrison inside time.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: His ferocious fight with Taylor showcases boxing at its best – top-quality skills and tons of heart.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? His clash with Maurice Hooker was cancelled but could be rescheduled. It had been made at a 143lb catchweight, so he may have one eye on the welterweight division.

Regis Prograis

1. JOSH TAYLOR (SCO)
Record: 16-0 (12) Age: 29 Height: 5ft 10ins
WHEN you consider that Taylor has defeated three of the four boxers directly below him on this list, it is hard to argue against him being the No. 1 super-lightweight in the world. The stellar Scot has overcome Viktor Postol, Ivan Baranchyk and Regis Prograis en route to becoming the WBA and IBF champion, as well as the WBSS trophy-holder. He also fought at the 2012 Olympic Games.

STRENGTHS: With his unrelenting output and rapid-fire flurries, the multi-faceted southpaw never lets the opposition settle. He is skilled at evading and blocking shots, while his jolting jab, thudding hooks and fierce body punches are valuable weapons.

WEAKNESSES: Out of everyone in the top 10, he has taken part in the least number of rounds as a pro.

BEST PERFORMANCE: The Prograis win is his standout success.

WORST PERFORMANCE: The unheralded Alfonso Olvera is one of only four men to have taken Taylor the distance.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: His sublime KO of the usually durable Miguel Vazquez.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? If there is going to be an undisputed 140lb king, it is most likely to be him.

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