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Boxers are rated and ranked

(a) only in one weight division and
(b) only if they are "active".

Being "active" means:

(a) they have not formally retired, and 
(b) they have fought in the last 18* months.

*Starting with the June 2011 rankings this inactivity limit was raised from 12 to 18 months, one month at a time.  

The computer program gives active boxers points for each fight by rating: 

  1. how convincingly the fight was won
    (i.e. KO or TKO, type of decision - unanimous, split, majority, or draw), and 
  2. each fight's competitiveness,
    based on both boxers' previous results.    


Rating the Fights

All fights in the WBAN fight database are considered, but only the previous two years' fights are used for the head-to-head comparisons between ranked boxers (see below). 

The program decides how many rating points should be at stake in  any given fight after going through the entire database to "learn" which fights were the most competitive.  

The program rates the fights as well as rating the fighters, i.e., more points are available for "big" competitive fights than for bouts between novices, or for bad mismatches. The score a boxer gets from a given fight depends on whether she wins or loses it, and how, and on the quality of her opponent.  In this system, a boxer cannot get a high rating just by winning many fights against weak opponents.  The only way to get a high ranking is to win, draw (or lose narrowly) in "big fights" as rated by the program --- and the only way for boxers near the top of the rankings to move up is to take fights against high-ranked opponents!  

Note that this program can rank a boxer with a losing record ahead of one with a winning record ... if it concludes that the first boxer lost narrowly to quality opponents while the second  boxer piled up a winning record against easier competition. The program looks at quality of wins, not just quantity.

Rating the Fighters

The program uses the principles that the most recent fights and the most difficult fights count most in determining the final rankings.  

It works in two steps, for each weight class.

  1. It first calculates a preliminary "career score" for every boxer in the weight class.  The number of points awarded to a boxer for any given fight is based entirely on how she won or lost the fight (by KO or TKO, by unanimous, split or majority decision, or a draw) and by the strength of her opponents' record prior to that fight.
  2. It then looks at head-to-head competition between the  boxers in the weight class. This step looks only at fights in which the rankable boxers competed against each other, and it re-adjusts their scores, giving the most weight to the most recent fights.  Head-to-head fight results are allowed to control the ranking order of the boxers for up to two years following each fight.  If a rematch changes a head-to-head result, then the most recent result always controls the ranking.

Boxers who've retired are dropped only at the end of the ranking process, so all fights involving retired boxers have been considered even though those boxers are not listed themselves.  Boxers with less than a minimum number of wins are not ranked unless they have defeated a higher-ranked boxer.  

I've run this ranking/rating program since 2001. Since 2005, only small adjustments have been made to the ranking method.   I've found that boxers can eventually work their way into the lower rankings by consistently defeating enough lower-ranked boxers, but the only way to climb high in these rankings is to defeat, fight to a draw with, or narrowly lose to, higher-ranked boxers in head-to-head competition. 

If the top boxers in a weight class often compete head-to-head, then all of them may benefit by getting larger, and better determined, rating scores in this system.  The ranking scores in the more competitive weight classes are therefore higher than those in which competition is thin.  For that reason, you should not directly compare scores of boxers who are in different weight classes, e.g. when trying to make "pound for pound" rankings.   Only relative scores within a weight class are significant with this system.

The Opponent Rating

As well as computing a rating score for each boxer, the program rates her "strength of schedule" by calculating her average "Opponent Rating" (higher number for stronger opposition). 

The final tables list an average opponent rating for all that boxer's fights.  This career average is not directly used in  the final rankings ... it's there just to help you see "at a glance" which boxers have fought generally strong, or generally weak, schedules. The individual (fight-by-fight) opponent ratings are however used when rating the individual fights, and when deciding how many rating points to award for winning a given fight.

The "opponent rating" can be high even for a boxer who has lost most of her fights (and therefore gets a low ranking). It's a figure like the "degree of difficulty" rating for a dive in  competitive high-diving ... it measures how hard the boxer's fight schedule was, and not how successful she was in it (in terms of winning fights). 

You can use the opponent ratings to see who's won-lost record has been discounted for fighting mainly weak opponents, or who's been ranked despite having a poor won-lost record, because she had some key wins, draws or close losses in a tough schedule.

The Ranking Lists

The WBAN ranking pages list

  1. The top 10 ranked boxers in each weight class with their records, opponent ratings and final rating scores.
  2. Detailed lists for all the ranked boxers in each weight class, including a list of recent fights for boxers in the weight class.

The ranking order is simply the order of the final rating scores. The "opponent ratings" for individual fights have already been taken into account while rating the fights, so the overall average opponent rating is not used again to determine the ranking order.  Note that small differences in the final rating scores mean that the ranking order is uncertain for those fighters. 

A small rating score (in the hundreds rather than thousands) also implies that a boxer's ranking could easily be changed by a single "big fight". 

Dee Williams

Page last updated: Friday, 02 December 2011


Computer Rankings by Dee Williams


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