Lukie’s Light Heavyweight Rankings After Dmitry Bivol Beat Canelo
Today we look at Lukie’s current view of the light heavyweight division after Dmitry Bivol defeated Canelo Alvarez and where he sees the division minus politics and narratives constructed by networks to sell you stuff. This is one boxing fan’s view of the division, uncensored. I have excluded Canelo Alvarez from this list as he appears to not be fighting at light heavyweight anytime soon, as well as Sullivan Barrera who I think will stop fighting after his loss to “Zurdo” Ramirez.
01. Dmitry Bivol
Dmitry Bivol did something great. His resume was sneaky good up until this point, but not unlike cruiserweight and the junior middleweight division, most people disregard the competition in this division quickly after a year or two. Holding wins over Jean Pascal and Joe Smith Jr., in the late days of HBO, two fighters I still see as top-5 light heavyweights even now, let alone when they fought. Bivol was a top-tier fighter, who never got the fight to push him over the top.
Biggest Win: His career-defining win came this past weekend against Canelo Alvarez in which he outboxed, and bullied Canelo Alvarez, who seemingly looked arrogant and expected Bivol to just back down once he hit him. More impressive, Bivol step up to the occasion as opposed to faltered, something only the greats are capable of doing. Bivol beating Canelo is a historic light-heavyweight win and a historic win for Russian boxing.
Next Fight: TBA
02. Artur Beterbiev
The best resume on paper in the division, the problem is simply keeping Beterbiev active. With a win over Oleksandr Gvozdyk to unify world titles, and beating a world title contender Tavoris Cloud in just a few fights. One of the best Russian amateurs ever seemed like a lock for the hall-of-fame, but Beterbiev just never seems to fight enough to make the impact we expected from as one of the most fearsome pressure fighters ever. Beterbiev should be number one, but he isn’t partially because we just don’t see him enough, and haven’t gotten the massive moment from him in which he has taken over the division – like Bivol just did.
Biggest Win: Oleksandr Gvozdyk. Between Beterbiev, Gvozdyk, and Bivol we could tell those three were the best of the division, and with Beterbiev facing Gvozdyk, and stopping him we got some clarity. The issue was, Beterbiev just simply didn’t keep the momentum from that fight, and now we might be prisoners of the moment.
Next Fight: Artur Beterbiev on June 18th, at Madison Square Garden, live on ESPN
03. Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez
“Zurdo” is a confusing case, as Gilberto Ramirez has big wins on his resume, but his pure boxing approach as a Mexican fighter, seems to have not connected with the fans, and now he is looking to be more of a knockout guy after signing with Golden Boy Promotions in act II of his career as he was built up by Top Rank Inc, in the beginning. Ramirez is a tough puzzle to solve, and I don’t see anyone, but a master boxer or master brawler beating. “Zurdo” is currently the odd man out in a top heavy division as he finds himself in the position Dmitry Bivol was in prior to the Canelo fight.
Biggest Win: Jesse Hart. Beating Jesse Hart twice at super middleweight in fights he could’ve phoned it in on shows he has the heart and composure to compete against anyone in the division
Next Fight: This Saturday, May 14th, against Dom
04. Jean Pascal
Who would’ve thought nearly 12-years after defeating “Bad” Chad Dawson, Jean Pascal would still be getting marquee wins over guys like Marcus Browne, prospects such as Ahmed Elbiali and a contender in Badou Jack. Pascal failed a drug test in 2021, as Badou Jack was unable to face him in a rematch, which will stain Pascal’s career, and bring new questions to his long run, but that being said in terms of the top fighters at light heavyweight and the run he has been on, not many are on his level. Pascal isn’t a craftsman, he throws really hard with intentions to knock you out, and if he can’t land he is fine with losing.
Marquee light-heavyweight win: Marcus Browne, Chad Dawson, Ahmed Elbiali, Lucian Bute, and Badou Jack. Too many to list to be honest. Pascal would seemingly lose in a fashion that would make you think his career was over, only to upset a
Next Fight: Friday, May 20th on ProBoxTV.com, against Fanlong Meng
05. Joe Smith Jr.
Joe Smith Jr is your classic boxing overachiever. Defeats Fonfara in the first round via knockout as a massive underdog, than beats Bernard Hopkins in Hopkins last fight, lose to Sullivan Barrera, stops Eleider Alvarez, and beat Jesse Hart f. Smith Jr is the ultimate underdog, a likable fighter who fought his way to being a world champion while keeping a union job. His recent turnaround came after a loss to Sullivan Barrera and Dmitry Bivol at the end of the HBO Boxing era, when most people were not all that tuned in, and HBO wasn’t creating as much shoulder programming and storytelling around the fight.
Marquee light-heavyweight win: Bernard Hopkins. Even though it was old man Bernard, Smith Jr. will be remembered for how he ended Hopkins’ career. Other major moments are the Fonfara win, Eleider Alvarez as well as Jesse Hart.
Next Fight: Artur Beterbiev on June 18th, at Madison Square Garden, live on ESPN for three of the four major titles.
06. Callum Smith
Callum seems to be the best of the fighting Smith brothers, but the style they have is not one built to last of coming forward with a focus on pushing the opponent to the ropes without a jab. That being said, Smith now works with Buddy McGirt seems to be dramatically improving him in a small sample size. One fight at light heavyweight and one KO, I think Smith should be in the title picture or in a meaningful fight this summer and especially in the fall.
Marquee light-heavyweight win: none, but he beat George Groves for the Ali trophy at super middleweight. Smith seems like the highest level of a regional fighter, and in a limited division of light heavyweight that might be a good thing for him.
Next Fight: TBA
07. Maxim Vlasov
Vlasov might not be a household name, but a close loss to Joe Smith Jr. and a win over a very tough Felix Valera states that he is a formidable opponent for anyone. Hard to hit, and not really outstanding to watch. Vlasov has the awful distinction of being the guy who is good, but unenviable to face at the current moment.
Marquee light-heavyweight win: A split decision loss to Joe Smith Jr. A lot of people thought Vlasov outboxed Smith Jr. on ESPN for the vacant world title, and now after such a performance, Vlasov, at least to me is a truly elite fighter in this division.
Next fight: TBA
08. Joshua Buatsi
The star of 2016 U.K. Olympic team Joshua Bautsi not unlike his fellow Olympian from France from that same Olympic Games, Tony Yoka, both of whom train at Vergil Hunter’s gym in Hayward, Ca, has been moved slow. The opposite of most Olympians in which the beginning of the career expedited by the amateur success. Buasti whttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iO79lqwQh0U&t=227sill be fighting for the 16th time in his career and taking on his biggest challenge. Buatsi is a great athlete, and has a more fan-friendly style than the traditional upright European style best seen in modern times by the Smith brothers.
Biggest win: Olympic silver medalist in the 2016 Rio Olympics. We’re going strictly on potential as his next fight is a good one, and one that will tell a lot about his potential.
Next Fight: Craig Richards, May 21st, at the 02 Arena on DAZN.
09. Marcus Browne
“Sir” Marcus looked to be the class of the division after beating Badou Jack to become the WBA light heavyweight world champion, yet, an immediate loss to Jean Pascal, who had seen better days seemed to be a bit perplexing. Even more so, Browne appeared to win every round he didn’t get dropped in. Add to that, seemingly Browne disappearing for periods of time from network television, made the 2012 Olympian just fall into the background as just a guy, instead of the guy who I thought would be a long-reigning world champion. Browne is now fighting for his spot as a contender currently.
Browne’s last fight was a tough loss to Artur Beterbiev, in which, Beterbiev stopped Browne after a slow start. When he is on, he looks unbeatable to be one of the best boxers in his division, it just seems he gets caught a little bit too much at the highest level.
Marquee light-heavyweight win: Badou Jack. Despite a strange cut that occurred to Badou Jack, one that also happened to Artur Beterbiev as well, Browne announced himself as a world champion by dethroning one of the most underrated boxers of his era, Badou Jack.
Next Fight: TBA
10. Jesse Hart
The forgotten man of the division, a guy who has a quality promoter in RDR Promotions, who is rebuilding him after his loss to Joe Smith Jr. on TV, but doesn’t have the TV times to compete with the big promoters affliated with large networks. Hart is a big personality, with a lot of talent, and a lot of pedigree. I am not willing to give up on Hart, and I think he still has something to give to the sport as well. Interested to see where his rebuild leads to as he could end up in a trilogy fight with Zurdo Ramirez at some point despite being 0-2 in the series so far to the outstanding Mexican fighter.
Marquee light-heavyweight win: Sullivan Barrera. Never being able to beat “Zurdo” Ramirez has to sting, but beating a solid top-10 light heavyweight in Sullivan Barrera, who only losses to the elite fighters which says Hart belongs at the top, in my opinion.
Next Fight: TBA.
Guys To Watch For: Rahim Gonzales, Imam Khataev, and Atif Oberlton
Though Rahim Gonzales is still an amateur, the light heavyweight 2024 Olympian seems to be the guy to beat in his era. He is the best guy in the United States by a mile, and maybe even further than that. Gonzales has the skills to be an all-time great at light heavyweight, and people should start to look out for him as I believe in a historically weak division such as light heavyweight Gonzales could fight for a world title in 12-15 fights. He is that good.
Marquee light-heavyweight win: Not losing a round at the 2020 Olympic Trials, and looking to be a lock for gold at the Olympics before being allowed to compete.
Imam Khataev is a guy that I feel could be Beterbiev 2.0. A big puncher, who was knocking out a slew of Olympians in the 2020 Olympics. Khataev is now pro with his lone pro fight coming in November, I hope that he can get some momentum and get interesting future fights with guys listed above as well as respark a great match from the 2020 Olympics between himself and Ben Whittaker.
Marquee light-heavyweight win: none to speak of, still a prospect.
Next Fight: TBA
Atif Oberlton was the man, who would lose in the finals to Rahim Gonzales in the lead-up to the 2020 Olympics, as Oberlton was beating everyone in the amateurs not named Rahim Gonzales. As a pro, Oberlton has shown a great exciting style that has gotten him a lot of slots on television early, especially on FOX as part of PBC. Oberlton is being moved fast, and focuses on the body which for a young fighter is special to see.
Marquee light-heavyweight win: Jasper McCargo. A really good amateur, who’s career was built in Northern California. A solid win for a young fighter.
Next Fight: TBA.
Spoilers Of The Division: Anthony Yarde and Lyndon Arthur
Yarde looks like a video game boss with a cartoon action-figure physique, but a jarring loss to Lyndon Arthur and despite getting a KO win in his rematch really has a lot of wondering how far Yarde can go beyond the U.K. boxing scene. Prior to his series of bouts with Arthur, Yarde lost a close fight with Sergey Kovalev, and before that Yarde was simply known as the guy who has a lot of different mitt coaches.
Yarde’s arguably at the height of his boxing powers, but the letdowns in his two losses have me setting the bar a bit lower than maybe I should.
Marquee light-heavyweight win: Lyndon Arthur in a rematch.
Next Fight: TBA
Lyndon Arthur is the modern eras Sullivan Barrera, a big tough guy, who can out tough you or out big you, but probably won’t outskill you. Arthur can poke holes in unpolished fighters careers, and be a low-key big win for a prospect or a fighter looking to be a contender, as he beats as many as he loses to at the elite level. Not quite as good as a prime Sullivan Barrera, but in the same fighting family.
Marquee light heavyweight win: Anthony Yarde. Yarde is a limited athlete learning how to box, and Arthur sort of derailed the excitement around his career after he had a close fight with Sergey Kovalev. Arthur won’t make it pretty, it might not be exciting, but he can sure test you.