Boxing traditionally has only eight weight classes. To evaluate the sport as it was and should be, with maybe the exception of a cruiserweight division, it is critical to evaluate and rank today’s fighters as if there were only eight weight divisions with one worthy champion per weight class. This properly rewards the most deserving fighters and exposes the overrated. For those wishing to do better at predicting and handicapping fights, you will also find it a valuable tool to blow away the smoke and find out who the most dangerous fighters are and who has a puffed-up resume. I last evaluated and rated the middleweights as an Original Eight class in July of 2017. I have found it more interesting, considering how infrequently fighters today fight compared to the past, to give some time for “the dust to settle” before re-ranking the fighters. Fortunately, this division has had a lot of activity and notable performances between July and November of 2017, so this is a very interesting exercise.
A lot has transpired. Most significantly was a true lineal middleweight championship title fight between the champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and the long-time true number 1 contender in Gennady “GGG” Golovkin. The fight lived up to its billing and was a thrilling, a see-saw battle ending in a draw. I thought Alvarez did enough to win, others obviously thought Golovkin did enough to win. Certainly, a draw was a fair result and unfortunately, the screaming of some Golovkin backers ended up doing more to taint a fight that lived up to its billing post-fight than did the card of Judge Adelaide Byrd. Anyone who thought Golovkin won the fight by a large margin was no better than Byrd. An immediate rematch makes sense for both fighters and the order of the sport. If it happens in May, as it rightfully should, Golovkin will probably get his last shot to be the real lineal champion. Even if it feels unfair, that’s the reality. While Billy Joe Saunders and David Lemieux next month is a legit even-money-type top-ten fight and a very interesting one that will also provide clarity, there is no need for Canelo or GGG to pick up that alphabet belt. There would be nothing wrong with the winner of that fight facing off with clear number 2 contender Daniel Jacobs, who signed a deal with HBO, opening up some additional interesting possibilities.
Criteria: A fighter’s overall record, perceived talent level, quality of opposition, quality wins and level of performance in wins and losses, where the fighter is ranked in the Transnational Boxing Board’s Middleweight and Junior Middleweight Rankings and The Ring’s Middleweight and Junior Middleweight Rankings. Also, strongly considered would be who would beat who and who and by how much one fighter would be favored over the other by odds makers were the fight to be signed tomorrow. The traditional standard of one year of inactivity will drop a fighter from the rankings will be taken into consideration but the fighter is eligible to re-enter as soon as he fights again. Champions will primarily be the recognized lineal champions, with consideration also given to champions recognized by the Transnational Boxing Board and The Ring. This is how the traditional middleweight division looks today:
Champion: Saul (Canelo) Alvarez (Mexico 49-1-2 34KO)
1. Gennady Golovkin (Kazakhstan 37-0-1 33KO)
2. Daniel Jacobs (U.S. 33-2 29KO)
3. Jermall Charlo (U.S. 26-0 20KO)
4. Erislandy Lara (Cuba 25-2-2 14KO)
5. David Lemieux (Canada 38-3 33KO)
6. Billy Joe Saunders (U.K. 25-0 12KO)
7. Sergiy Derevyanchenko (Ukraine 11-0 9KO)
8. Jarrett Hurd (U.S. 21-0 15KO)
9. Jermell Charlo (U.S. 30-0 15KO)
10. Ryota Murata (Japan 13-1 10KO)
Ratings Notes: Your average fan and a few others may view the champion differently but there is a surprising consensus among boxing historians and experts who try to provide some degree of order to this, the most chaotic of sports, that Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is the middleweight champion of the world. He successfully defended against the number 1 contender in Gennady Golovkin when he held him to a draw. Alvarez is the historical lineal champ and is recognized as middleweight champion by The Ring and was stripped by the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board but installed as their number 2 contender behind Golovkin. Only the alphabets recognize Golovkin as champion. Gennady Golovkin has rightfully stayed at middleweight. He chased a fight with the lineal champion, Canelo Alvarez, but unfortunately for him, he fell agonizingly short. He deserves another shot in May, but I think he took too much head and body punishment from Alvarez and it will be unlikely he captures the lineal middleweight title. Historians will have to forget the alphabet belts and come to a consensus evaluation as to where he stands. Should he gain the lineal title at his age, he will have a solid legacy.
Daniel Jacobs got an HBO deal and in his first fight scored an easy but somewhat uninspiring decision over Luis Arias. It was uninspiring because Jacobs worked his way back into the spotlight on the strength of legit KO ability but that was not evident against the survival-minded Arias. A fight against the Lemieux-Saunders winner would be interesting. Jermall Charlo fought the ultimate alphabet number 1 contender in Jorge Sebastian Heiland and took care of business in a ridiculous mismatch. Charlo was so superior it looked as if he could end the fight any time after the opening bell. Considering U.S. exclusive television deals and that HBO is now collecting top middleweights, it will be interesting to see who Charlo, who is with Showtime, can get to dance with him. Erislandy Lara was again uninspiring in an easy but boring and as usual overly cautious win against former U.S. Olympian Terrell Gausha, who looked happy to go the distance. Lara just isn’t generating enough offense. Lara’s time is probably running out and another big fight does not appear on the horizon except for being forced to take on Jermell Charlo or Jarrett Hurd, two fighters who will be tough for him at this stage.
David Lemieux will get a crack at a legit top ten guy against Billy Joe Saunders in a very interesting and significant even-money fight. Even though Lemieux has moved up in the ratings, questions are still abound about him. He gets Saunders, who has not looked good as of late, in Canada. He’s got to take advantage. Billy Joe Saunders star has been fading since the round he scored two knockdowns against Andy Lee. He did nothing to change that in a winning, but dreadful fight against the soft-handed Willie Monroe, Jr. He gets a chance to get higher again in the pecking order by traveling to Canada to take on David Lemieux. Sergiy Derevyanchenko continued his positive march forward with a stoppage of Tureano Johnson. It will be interesting to see who he gets next. Derevyanchenko is probably a tough opponent for anyone. He again lived up to his great nickname “The Technician”.
Jarrett Hurd has looked spectacular and got his most significant win yet when he scored his sixth straight KO over a motivated Austin Trout in one of the best fights of 2017. Hurd has a bit of everything: size, power, boxing skill, toughness, aggressiveness, chin and heart. He was cut by a butt, and instead of unraveling, he just dug deep and got tougher. He’s a threat to anyone in the middleweight division. Jermell Charlo continued his surprising and impressive KO streak with his best one yet: a one-punch KO of hot-prospect Erickson Lubin. Adding trainer Derrick James and the power-surge have now fully recaptured his lost momentum and put him right in the top ten. It is the height of idiocy to worry if he can make the “jump” from 154-160, in addition to the usual fact that it’s not enough weight to be a significant factor. His identical twin brother now fights at 160 pounds. Ryota Murata made it clear he is the superior fighter when he beat down Hassan N’Dam in a rematch in Japan. He also has amateur pedigree. It will be interesting to see if Top Rank points him towards legit top ten opponents or if he will make easy alphabet defenses in Japan.
Fighters not in the Top Ten but worthy of mention and watching include: Floyd Mayweather, Jr. came back successfully against Connor McGregor on August 26, getting his 50th straight win and scoring a KO within the traditional middleweight limit. His win over Canelo Alvarez, the lineal champ looks better than ever, but he again announced his retirement. Hugo Centeno, Jr. got himself back in the mix with a spectacular one-punch KO over the very tough Immanuwel Aleem. Centeno redeemed himself for an underwhelming performance in his only loss against Maciej Sulecki, who has proven to be very good. Demetrius Andrade has continued to win but has been unimpressive in his last two wins and with the improvement of the division, he has lost his spot in the top ten. Fortunately for him, he has signed an HBO contract and is smartly campaigning at the true middleweight limit, so big fights still appear on the horizon.
Andy Lee ended a period of inactivity with a decision win over KeAndre Leatherwood but his performance against Saunders isn’t now looking as good as it was, considering Saunders has not been impressive. Lee simply hasn’t done enough to keep a spot in the top ten. Avtandil Khurtsidze had an impressive win over unbeaten Brit Tommy Langford by KO and was set to face fellow Top Ten middle Billy Joe Saunders in an intriguing matchup. But the fight was cancelled when Khurtsidze was charged with very serious federal crimes in the United States. While he fought recently and Transnational and Ring understandably chose to leave him in the rankings, since he was forced to postpone a significant Top Ten fight due to the charges; despite the fact he’s innocent until proven guilty under U.S. law. The fact that he apparently can’t fight while facing the charges and that the legal process could be long means he may never fight again. Considering those factors, I think it makes more sense to drop him from the ratings now and allow him to reenter if he can fight again. If he’s done, the gritty scrapper from Georgia finishes at 33-2-2 22KO. Immanuwel Aleem lost momentum from his spectacular win against Khytrov when he was simply caught and KOed by one bomb against Hugo Centeno, Jr. However, he always comes to fight, has skills and heart and he will be back.
Miguel Cotto is a former lineal world middleweight champ and returned with an easy and somewhat impressive win over the overmatched Yoshihiro Kamegai on the same night as Mayweather-McGregor. He gets Sadam Ali next, who moves up from welterweight. This is supposedly Cotto’s last fight. I’m not buying this is his last fight, however. I think he will take one more shot at the heart of the middleweight mix. Peter Quillin came back but had a dreadful performance against a no-hoper opponent. His career has really gone off-track. Maciej Sulecki of Poland is skilled, undefeated and made a puzzling move down to 154 pounds, yet continued to win again, this time beating former Andrade opponent Jack Culcay in Newark, N.J. He looked spectacular against Hugo Centeno, Jr. and the performance looks great with what Centeno did to Aleem. Sulecki should fight at 160 and target the best.
Austin Trout has only lost to the best: Alvarez, Charlo in a razor close fight, Lara and now the very tough Jarrett Hurd in a great fight. He has a win over former lineal middleweight champ Cotto. Should he choose to fight on, he has still earned mention here. It appears he may get another brutal test against Jarrett Hurd next. Nate Gallimore has fought at 154 and 160 and looked spectacular with an absolute demolition of the red-hot Justin DeLoach. Gallimore showed the ferocity of a Marvin Hagler in that performance and only has a loss by split decision, and has knocked out six straight since, including two unbeaten fighters. When one of the top fighters says they need an opponent, fans should beat the drum for Gallimore rather than be subjected to a no-hoper. He has a fight tentatively set for November 17 against Esau Herrerra. That should be a seventh straight KO. Brian Castano of Argentina remained undefeated with a split decision win over the streaking Michel Soro of France who probably was one of the most underrated fighters in boxing and had a draw with Antoine Douglas and a KO over Glen Tapia and was on the fringe of this top ten in his own right.
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