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Boxing Ranks in Review: Bantamweights

Photo Courtesy of AP

Welcome to Today’s Knockout’s “Ranks in Review,” a feature where we examine one boxing division, starting with the heavyweights and ending with the 105-pound minimumweights. Our champions will be the men who have earned it the ring, not been handed a belt by a combination of letters, and our rankings come from the computers of boxing’s most valuable website, BoxRec.

The bantamweight title has been around since 1894, but spent 25 years bouncing around after Bernardo Pinango vacated it in 1987. Abner Mares got his hands on it in 2011, but immediately vacated it to fight at higher weight classes. It was another two years before someone won the vacant belt and hung on to it.

CHAMPION: Shinsuke Yamanaka (24-0-2, Japan)

After two early-career draws, Yamanaka made his name in the bantamweight division by beating Christian Esquivel in late 2011 and Vic Darchinyan in early 2012. In April 2013, he got a shot at the vacant belt and took advantage by knocking out Malcolm Tunacao in the 12th round.

Since then, he has defended the belt six times, most recently in September with a split-decision win over long-time contender Anselmo Moreno. In a battle of southpaws, Yamanaka won two cards 115-113, while Moreno took the third by the same score. A rematch is probably coming.

No. 1 Contender: Jamie McDonnell (27-2-1, England)

After 11 fights, McDonnell was 8-2-1, but he’s rattled off 19 straight wins, picking up British, European and alphabet titles along the way. In May, he knocked off undefeated Tomoko Kameda on a razor-thin decision – winning 114-113 on all three cards – then beat Kameda again in September.

He will have to travel to Japan if he wants a shot at Yamanaka, since the champ has never fought outside his home country.

No. 2 Contender: Lee Haskins (32-3, England)

Haskins is another English veteran, having won the British, Commonwealth and European championships. His three losses came in fights where he was defending each of the belts. In 2008, shortly after losing the British title, he beat McDonnell in a close eight-round decision.

His career never took off until June, when he upset Ryosuke Iwasa with a sixth-round knockout. He’s fighting alphabet champ Randy Caballero in two weeks, and then would be looking for a rematch with McDonnell.

No. 3 Contender: Shohei Omori (15-0, Japan)

At just 22, Omori is very much the future of the bantamweight division, if he doesn’t outgrow it. He has big power for 118 pounds, having knocked out seven of his last eight opponents, including a pair of decent fighters in Esquivel and Japanese champion Kentaro Masuda.

He’s scheduled to fight Filipino journeyman Marlon Tapales next month, with the winner getting a shot at No. 4 Pungluang Sor Singyu’s alphabet belt.

No. 4 Contender: Pungluang Sor Singyu (51-3, Thailand)

Also known as Phuengluang Onesongchai Gym in the proud tradition of Thai fighters selling their names for sponsorship deals, he started his career at the age of 16 and has packed 54 fights into 11 years. He lost to long-time contender Stephane Jamoye in 2009, then lost to relative unknown Paulus Ambunda in 2013.

Last year, he was knocked out by Kameda, but he beat Japan’s Ryo Akaho for an alphabet belt in August.

No. 5 Contender: Anselmo Moreno (35-4-1, Panama)

After Mares vacated the title in 2011, Moreno was the favorite to grab it, but never fought a tough-enough opponent to qualify. He then moved up to junior featherweight to fight Mares, but lost a lopsided decision.

He came back to 118 pounds, but still ducked tough competition, and was stunned by unknown Juan Carlos Payano when the fight was stopped after six rounds because of a head butt. At that point, he decided to get serious, and gave Yamanaka the fight of his life. Now he has to hope for a rematch.

If you’ve missed out on any of our previous rankings, be sure to check them out below:

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