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Boxing Ranks in Review: Junior 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.

Today, we are looking at a division with one of boxing’s youngest stars – the junior bantamweights. Fighters don’t tend to stay at 115 pounds for long, but it will remain to be seen if the new champ will hang around.

CHAMPION: Naoya Inoue (8-0, Japan)

That’s not a typo – Inoue won the linear 115-pound title in his eighth career fight, knocking out Omar Narvaez in the second round. That was his first fight in the weight class, having previously campaigned at 108 pounds and won an alphabet title in his sixth fight. He’s already earned a reputation as one of the most vicious body punchers in the sport.

At only 22, Inoue’s future seems unlimited. Because of a hand injury, he hasn’t fought since beating Narvaez last December, but he’s scheduled to return next month against Filipino veteran Warlito Parrenas.

No. 1 Contender: Carlos Cuadras (33-0-1, Mexico)

Cuadras won an alphabet title in May 2014, and has defended it four times, most recently in August against little-known Dixon Flores. His next defense will come later this month in Tokyo against Koki Eto.

Cuadras has fought in Japan several times in his career, which could be important experience if he wants a shot at Inoue in 2016.

No. 2 Contender: Zolani Tete (21-3, South Africa)

Tete didn’t look like a contender three years ago, holding a 16-3 record and having lost three of his last six fights, but he jumped back into contention in 2013 with a knockout of Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr. in Mexico. That earned him a shot at a vacant alphabet belt, which he captured with an easy unanimous decision over Japan’s Teiru Kinoshita.

He defended the belt with a knockout of Paul Butler in England – his third straight fight in his opponent’s home country – so he’s also used to fighting in hostile territory.

No. 3 Contender: McJoe Arroyo (17-0, Puerto Rico)

Another alphabet champion, he picked up his belt by beating up-and-coming Filipino star Arthur Villanueva on a fight that had to be stopped after 10 rounds due to an accidental headbutt. He’s defending against John Riel Casimero, who comes into the fight after losing a decision for a flyweight belt in June.

No. 4 Contender: Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (36-4-1, Thailand)

Rungvisai is one of the busiest world-class fighters in the world, having fought 14 times since the beginning of 2014. Most of the fights have been farcical – when he was the WBC 115-pound champ, he fought Den Nattapol Gym, who was making his pro debut.

After avoiding competition for as long as possible, he was matched up with Cuadras, and lost when the fight was stopped by a headbutt in the eighth round. He went back to his old tricks, fighting guys with losing records, but beat Jose Salgado in May to earn a future rematch with Cuadras.

No. 5 Contender: Luis Concepcion (33-4, Panama)

Concepcion got a shot at Cuadras in April and lost a lopsided decision. He rebounded to knock out David Sanchez in September, and is now due for a 2016 shot at No. 7 Kohei Kono’s alphabet belt. In the meantime, he’s got a December date with Mexican veteran Giovani Segura.

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