Who is the best cruiserweight boxer in the world?

It came as something of a surprise when Badou Jack relinquished his WBC cruiserweight championships in September. However, titles don’t stay vacant for long and the void has already been filled.

On Saturday, Noel Gevor Mikaaeljan scored a shuddering third-round knockout over former champion Ilunga Makabu in Miami and picked up the WBC crown. Subsequently, Makabu, on the back of his second stoppage defeat, drops from the ratings while Mikaaeljan makes his debut among the elite.

The Sporting News recently gathered opinions from members of its combat team to produce an updated Top-12 list at cruiserweight:

Russian contender Tischenko sustained one loss to two-time world title challenger Thabiso Mchunu, but he’s posted four straight wins since and will be looking for a step up in opposition.

There are several cruiserweights in his home country, two of whom appear on this list, so Tischenko shouldn’t be short on work. It’s too early to predict his ceiling, but if he keeps winning, then big fights are sure to come his way.

Next Fight: No fight scheduled

MORE: SN’s Top-12 pound-for-pound boxers

Masternak, 36, is a former European champion who has posted enough victories in recent years to stay relevant.

A professional for 17 years, the popular Polish fighter has suffered setbacks to former world champions Grigory Drozd, Jean-Marc Mormeck, Tony Bellew, and Yuniel Dorticos. The grizzled old veteran shows no sign of slowing down, however, and another opportunity may come his way if he keeps winning.

Next Fight: No fight scheduled

The imposing and hard-hitting Papin worked his way to a WBC title shot in 2019 and fell just short against Ilunga Makabu.

The Russian star hasn’t set the world alight since, but four stoppage wins have him heading in the right direction. Papin needs a step up in class and he has the power to take advantage of any opportunity. However, the 35-year-old needs his chance sooner rather than later.

Next Fight: No fight scheduled

Goulamirian is unbeaten and the holder of the WBA cruiserweight championship. However, if he wants full respect as a world champion, then he’ll have to come out of France and face the division elite.

The 36-year-old was upgraded to champion when a bout with then-titleholder Beibut Shumenov failed to transpire on three occasions. He has since made three defences, turning back the challenges of Kane Watts, Constantin Bejenaru, and Aleksei Egorov.

Next Fight: No fight scheduled

Record: 16-0 (12 KOs)

Riakporhe is a former British champion who has generated some excitement with a string of bone-crushing knockouts. The Londoner holds wins over Tommy McCarthy and Chris Billam-Smith and he’s on the cusp of a world title shot.

The IBF and Ring champ Jai Opetaia was about to enter purse bids to face Riakporhe, however, the Englishman’s team withdrew at the eleventh hour. A rematch with Chris Billam-Smith, who now holds the WBO title, has been mentioned more than once.

Next fight: No fight scheduled

You can fall off your perch very quickly in boxing and London’s Lawrence Okolie is a perfect example of that.

A former Olympian, Okolie would sweep up domestically, winning British, Commonwealth, and European championships. In March 2021, the 6-5 boxer-puncher blasted out former champ Krzysztof Glowacki in six rounds to win the vacant WBO title and the sky was the limit.

However, following three ho-hum defences, Okolie turned in an awful performance against Chris Billam-Smith, who beat him on points and took his title. The ex-champ has time on his side although he has mentioned a move to heavyweight.

Next fight: No fight scheduled

MORE: SN’s Top-12 fighters in women’s boxing

Cuba’s Dorticos has had five fights in as many years or he would have a higher spot on this list.

The former champ is one of the hardest hitters in the division, which is backed up by a 92 percent knockout ratio. Among his victims are Dmitry Kudryashov, Mateusz Masternak, and Andrew Tabiti. The 37-year-old was also very competitive in his two setbacks against Murat Gassiev and Mairis Briedis.

One high-profile win could see him vault up to the very top

Next fight: No fight scheduled

Miami-based Aremenian Mikaelyan turned professional in 2011 and became largely known for losing his two biggest fights, which came against former champions Krzystof Glowacki and Mairis Briedis.

However, when Bajou Jack relinquished his WBC cruiserweight title, Mikaelyan was matched against former champion Ilunga Makabu. Motivated by the biggest opportunity of his career, Mikaelyan overwhelmed his veteran opponent with pressure and produced an impressive third-round knockout.

Next fight: TBA

Top 12 best cruiserweights in boxing: Rankings for 200lb weight class starring Opetaia, Briedis, Jack

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