15) Kazuto Takesako (12-0-1, 11 KOs)
14) Jaime Munguia (35-0, 28 KOs)
13) Juan Macias Montiel (21-4, 21 KOs)
12) Walter Kautondokwa (18-2, 17 KOs)
11) Tureano Johnson (21-2-1, 15 KOs)
10) Steven Butler (28-2-1, 24 KOs)
“BANG BANG” is a fitting moniker for one of the heavier-handed men meeting the 160-pound limit. At 24 he is young but after the Ryota Murata loss and prior tussles with Brandon Cook and Vitalii Kopylenko, he has quality experience under his belt. In the Murata bout he showed his best stuff to date, having some early success. Butler’s punches were tighter and more fluid than ever, but his lack of physical strength and inability to cope with the Japanese fighter’s cross proved the difference.
9) Chris Eubank Jr. (29-2, 22 KOs)
Being the son of a boxing standout usually signifies that you will not reach the heights obtained by your father. This is yet another example. Granted that, Eubank Jr. has done well comparatively, as he is a high-level operator who has been rated inside independent top-10s for some time, only faltering against the best men he has faced in George Groves and Billy Joe Saunders.
Though he lacks the boxing finesse and power displayed by his Senior, he is quick-fisted and reels off some nice combinations, resulting in some flashy stoppages. A prime example being the Avni Yildirim fight.
8) Gary O’Sullivan (30-4, 21 KOs)
The Irishman is not a devastating banger like the one he lost to in David Lemieux, but he has venom in his shots. His issue is nuance. Defensively the flaws are glaring and offensively there is little in the way of creativity. Most noteworthy is his reliance on the left hook. It is ingrained in his character and nothing will change it at this point. It makes him fun to watch and a minor threat to those ascending. We saw that in real-time when he rocked Jaime Munguia at the end of the third round in a blistering exchange, bringing Oscar De La Hoya out of his seat in concern.
7) Sergiy Derevyanchenko (13-2, 10 KOs)
Derevyanchenko’s power is the product of his versatility—accuracy, punches in bunches, angles, etc. You can tell he has been fine-tuning his craft for many years, limited real professional experience be damned. In a Fight of the Year candidate, he buzzed an aged but tough Golovkin multiple times, nearly doubling him over to the body. Who he lands next is up in the air, but his skilled volume-punching should see him in the mix with the top brass for at least a few years.
6) Liam Williams (22-2-1, 17 KOs)
Disposing of Alantez Fox in five rounds was a nice stamp after Demetrius Andrade had to go the distance with him in 2017. Williams all but rolled over Fox, rocking him with a hard-right hand and then following up with a series of other shots while his foe tried desperately to hold on. The Wales-born “Machine” is now riding a six-fight knockout streak.
5) Ievgen Khytrov (20-2, 17 KOs)
“The Ukrainian Lion” has competed at 168 in 2 of his last 3, scoring stoppages in each, so I’m not sure he is a dedicated middleweight. However he looks best at 160 and may just be having over-the-weight contests until he lands something bigger. Regardless, the absurdly experienced Khytrov (allegedly 450-50 in the amateurs with a gold in the 2011 World Amateur Championships and an Olympic appearance in 2012) has not quite translated into the legendary puncher he was in the unpaid ranks, but that doesn’t mean he can’t crack.
4) Jermall Charlo (30-0, 22 KOs)
Jermall has always been the bigger hitting of the brothers, though there is little to differentiate stylistically between the two. One of the contrasts is that Jermall is more aggressive. In being so, he has made mincemeat out of some recognizable scalps in Julian Williams and Dennis Hogan, the latter of which caused a headache for Jaime Munguia. Both ended convincingly, so did knockouts over Hugo Centeno and Wilky Campfort.
3) Ryota Murata (16-2, 13 KOs)
The former Olympian has banged his way into contention at 160, stopping Hassan N’Dam and Rob Brant in rematches, and then overpowering a game Steven Butler in his last outing. Japan’s wildly popular pugilist is a physical, yet schooled aggressor who little issue targeting the head or body. He is sure to pop up in the opposite corner of one of the big names soon.
2) Saul Alvarez (53-1-2, 36 KOs)
“Canelo” isn’t a one-punch guy and he lets off the gas too often, but it’s undeniable that he has been getting quality results of late. Besides the stunning knockout of Sergey Kovalev at 175, he broke down another big man in Rocky Fielding in three, and his shots had a noticeable effect on Golovkin in their rematch.
He is sharp, accurate, and creative in his shot selection, and has forged himself as one of the better body punchers in the sport.
1) Gennadiy Golovkin (40-1-1, 35 KOs)
The departure of David Lemieux a division north means there is no challenge to “GGG’s” spot. While time has continued to take its toll on Golovkin’s chiseled anatomy, his fists still clang like a blacksmith hammering away on anvils.
Since his impressive 23-fight knockout streak was ended back in 2017 against the formidable Danny Jacobs, he has scored a knockdown or knockout against every foe he has faced, minus a prime Saul Alvarez, arguably the game’s best fighter and certainly one of its finest defensive practitioners.
Next up is top-10 rated Pole Kamil Szeremeta, likely another addition to Golovkin’s knockout tally.