The state of the featherweight division

After this weekend the state of the featherweight division has dramatically changed. Albeit, most might believe that two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist, and current WBO featherweight world champion, Robeisy Ramirez, might end up being the best in the division. Ramirez just won his title over Isaac Dogboe and is still developing as a professional.

Since the absence of Shakur Stevenson and Emanuel Navarrete, the featherweight division has been waiting for the next great fighter to take over the division.

The Best 

Now it appears two fighters stand above the rest Robeisy Ramirez, and Luis Alberto Lopez, and they have taken dramatically different paths to get there. 

Ramirez should be the guy, he has the pedigree - he has the talent, and he weaponized his skills so he is more offensive, but his pro debut loss and his win over Isaac Dogboe felt a bit closer than some might have wanted to see. Though it appears this is Robeisy Ramirez’s world - we need to see a bit more from Ramirez, such as three-to-four world title defenses (a big ask I know) to proclaim him without a doubt the best featherweight in the world. Ramirez is the classic prospect, turned contender, who has been exalted as a legend since his infancy in the sport. Despite a setback, his prestige has remained. 

Lopez is interesting as he emerged winning on the B-side. He holds wins coming in on the b-side over Cristian Baez, who was with Golden Boy Promotions, Andy Vences, a Top Rank fighter, Gabe Flores Jr., a Top Rank fighter, and Isaac Lowe, a Top Rank fighter. The Lowe fight got him an IBF featherweight title fight in which he defeated Josh Warrington and now he knocked out Michael Conlan in Ireland to make his first world title. I can’t think of a fighter so willing to beat his opponent in their hometown more than ‘Venado’ Lopez, who is organically build-up a solid resume, and establishing himself as one of the best Mexican fighters of the era, most of which through his own doing by taking hard fights. 

Rey Vargas still holds a title in this division but had one of the most unpleasant losses to O’Shaquie Foster, and beyond that - his win over Mark Magsayo was rather uneventful. Vargas is good, but very inactive in this division, and has a style that is best described as a spoiler. Vargas is huge, and a good boxer, but despite being the WBC featherweight champion, he has just become an afterthought as we never hear from him or get insight from him.

The sleeper of the division is Brandon Figueroa, a fighter with only one loss to his record, Stephen Fulton Jr., often gets overlooked, because not unlike Orlando Salido, he makes his opponent know boxing is a physical sport. We often applaud the finesse and talented fighter, but a physical fighter like Figueroa weaponizes pace and conditioning as he holds a major win over Mark Magasayo, a former world champion in this division. Figueroa truly doesn’t get the respect he deserves, he might not be a scientist in the ring - but no one is eager to face him, since he is one tough fight for anyone, because he will not back down from a challenge.  

Leigh Wood is another interesting case as he was knocked out by Mauricio Lara, but came back this weekend to avenge that loss. Wood feels like a Capital G Guy for Matchroom Boxing, as he has changed the trajectory of his career over the past two years so much. Who knows where Wood goes from here, but he deserves a ton of respect and accolades for his unwillingness to go away.

The Others

The tier below the elite is filled out with the big puncher Mauricio Lara, who had a very flat performance on Saturday losing to Leigh Wood. Lara can knock anyone out in the division, but not unlike Emanuel Navarrete it appears he fluctuates far too much to be a truly elite fighter. Sometimes he looks like a legend, and sometimes he looks like a guy who didn’t work hard for the fight. That caught up to him this past weekend. 

Others who still hold solid footing in the division are Joet Gonzalez, who has lost to the two most dominant featherweight world champions in recent memory, Shakur Stevenson and Emanuel Navarrete. His loss to Isaac Dogboe was questioned by pundits, and Gonzalez is going to make it a tough fight for anyone who gets in the ring with him. Ruben Villa lost to Navarrete by a split decision, but holds a win over Luis Alberto Lopez, and is a sleeper in the division as he could beat any fighter on any day. Raymond Fordalso appears to be someone of note after winning a one-sided decision over former world champion, Jessie Magdaleno. Also, don’t forget about the massive attraction that is Josh Warrington, who is a big ticket seller, and a solid fighter in his own right. 

The spoilers of the division are quite obvious for now as Kiko Martinez, who is in his 40s continues to KO underprepared pros looking to go to the world-class level, as well as Isaac Dogboe is starting to fit into this spot as giving an honest test to a top-tier fighter. 

Then we have the emerging fighters such as Nick Ball, an undefeated featherweight who is slowly approaching contender status, as well as two notable featherweights signed to Top Rank Inc including 2020 Olympic silver medalist, Duke Ragan, as well as star-in-the-making, Bruce Carrington

So where do we go from here?

What we truly need is Robeisy Ramirez versus Luis Alberto Lopez. The fight is easy to make for Top Rank Inc. and determines who is the best featherweight in the world, more than likely. 

Leigh Wood versus Josh Warrington. It is a good U.K. fight, and with Warrington barely losing to Lopez, it determines who is the best U.K. featherweight in the world. 

Rey Vargas versus Brandon Figueroa. Can Figueroa’s style beat a world-class boxer? Great fights answer questions and both of these fighters need a fight like this to set up the future of the division.