Boxing traditionally has only eight weight classes. To evaluate the sport as it was and should be, with maybe the exception of the cruiserweight division, it is critical to view and rank today’s fighters as if there were competing in 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. A lot has transpired in this division since I first rated it in February 2017. Gennady Golovkin held on for a close victory over a worthy opponent in Daniel Jacobs, while Canelo Alvarez weighed in at the highest weight of his career in embarrassing an overmatched Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. who looked like he didn’t belong and looks nothing like the Chavez from 2012.
Most importantly, the division is now finally in position to become the example boxing needs, as the lineal champion, Canelo Alvarez, who I recognize and is recognized by The Ring, takes on the universal number 1 contender; Gennady “GGG” Golovkin, who I recognize as the number 1 contender as does Ring and Transnational. The fight will take place in Las Vegas on September 16. Transnational got to this fight being for their title but in a strange way, as they recognized Canelo Alvarez as the champion, stripped him, then installed him as the number 2 middleweight to Golovkin’s number 1 when the big fight was made. Nevertheless, this is the way it should be, a fight for the universally recognized title in a traditional, Original Eight division. Anyone that recognizes alphabet belt-holder Billy Joe Saunders as middleweight champion needs to try following a different sport.
Ideally, the fight wouldn’t be on PPV, but the consolation is that it is a fight that would be worthy of PPV or closed-circuit back in the Ali era, or selling out Yankee Stadium before that. Hopefully Mayweather-McGregor on August 26, which will technically be held within the traditional middleweight division, will enhance overall exposure and enthusiasm for the sport leading into Canelo-GGG instead of tapping out fans’ wallets or leaving a bad taste a short time before the real middleweight title fight that is Canelo-GGG.
Criteria: Fighters 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 49-1-1 34KO)
1. Gennady Golovkin (Kazakhstan 37-0-0 33KO)
2. Daniel Jacobs (U.S. 32-2 29KO)
3. Jermall Charlo (U.S. 25-0 19KO)
4. Erislandy Lara (Cuba 24-2-2 14KO)
5. David Lemieux (Canada 38-3 33KO)
6. Billy Joe Saunders (U.K. 24-0 12KO)
7. Sergiy Derevyanchenko (Russia 10-0 8KO)
8. Demetrius Andrade (U.S. 24-0 16KO)
9. Andy Lee (Ireland 35-3-1 24KO)
10. Hassan N’Dam (Cameroon 36-2 21KO)
Ratings Notes: Your average fan and a few others may view Gennady Golovkin as the middleweight champion 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. 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. He has rightfully chased a fight with the lineal champion, most recently Canelo Alvarez. Now he has it. He is in a position much like fighters such as Jake LaMotta, Marvin Hagler, and Bernard Hopkins were in: a long frustrating wait trying to fight and stay viable until getting a shot at the real title. LaMotta, Hagler and Hopkins were all able to deliver. For true legacy, Golovkin must do the same. Daniel Jacobs was the best opponent of Golovkin’s career to-date, and while he scored a knockdown and got the win, the fight was very close. I felt Jacobs did enough to win. In the meantime, Canelo Alvarez was fighting much-less dangerous opposition in Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., who wasn’t in any legit Top Ten. Canelo made Chavez look foolish, but continued a habit of outboxing and not disposing quickly of overmatched opponents who don’t truly press him. Between that and Golovkin’s more cautious performances against Lemieux and Jacobs, opponents he thought could hurt him, Canelo-GGG is still and exciting, dramatic matchup but is unlikely to be the explosive collision we might have thought a couple of years ago. Daniel Jacobs, proved he belonged at the number 2 contender spot with a performance against Golovkin that was enough to make an argument he won, despite suffering a knockdown. Golovkin seemed to respect Jacobs’ power. Jacobs now must decide how he wants to position himself for a possible shot at the lineal title, as either a Golovkin rematch or Canelo are clearly his biggest potential paydays. Taking on some of the PBC’s tough customers from 154-160 doesn’t seem to have the right risk-reward for him right now, though the fights would be good for boxing and the middleweight division.
Jermall Charlo will fight a guy in Jorge Sebastian Heiland who has been on the fringes of the middleweight Top Ten on July 29 on SHO on the Garcia-Broner card. Good exposure and a fight he needs to look spectacular in. An uninspiring decision over Heiland might not be enough to keep him from needing to take on some of PBC”s minefield of guys from 154-160, which could be dangerous. Erislandy Lara has only lost to guys who have been at the top of the middleweight division in Alvarez and Paul Williams. Both were controversial, though I thought Canelo edged him in a razor close fight. However, Lara is 34 and hasn’t fought the best opposition as of late. I buy the argument a lot of people who don’t want to fight him but PBC/Showtime has plenty of good opposition available from 154-160 and it would be natural for him to fight one of those guys, who a lot of other people aren’t anxious to fight either. It’s going to take a win more significant than the type he’s been getting lately. The Yuri Foreman fight was a travesty. David Lemieux picked up a highlight-reel KO and showed his chin can hold up against a puncher when he dispatched of Curtis Stevens on HBO, and then stayed active in winning a decision against Marco Reyes. The winning activity was enough to vault him over Billy Joe Saunders.
Billy Joe Saunders lands at number 6 but at the pace he’s been on he will continue to fade as a relatively dangerous opponent in Atvantil Khurtsidze has been replaced with powder-punching Willie Monroe, Jr. Saunders’ recent performances have not been impressive. Sergiy Derevyanchenko stayed active with a surprisingly difficult but inexperienced opponent in undefeated Kemahl Russell, before his pedigree took over and he got Russell out of there. Derevyanchenko is probably a tough opponent for anyone. He again lived up to his great nickname “The Technician”.
Demetrius Andrade had a miserable performance in winning a close decision against the unheralded Jack Culcay. Maybe it’s true that he’s being avoided but then it would be natural for him and Lara to get together, though it would not be a thrilling matchup. The Culcay fight was disappointing after his extremely impressive KO of Willie Nelson. Andy Lee ended a period of inactivity with a decision win over KeAndre Leatherwood. Lee has done enough to earn his ranking but his time is definitely running out if it hasn’t passed and it’s unlikely he could hold off the talented younger fighters at 154-160. Hassan N’Dam took on unbeaten Japanese puncher and former amateur star Ryota Murata and again showed his chin doesn’t do well against hard hitters, as almost all observers felt he was given a gift decision. He barely holds on to the number 10 spot.
Fighters not in the Top Ten but worthy of mention and watching include: Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Yes, that’s right, he will have an official fight against Connor McGregor on August 26 seeking his 50th straight win and fighting within the traditional middleweight limit. Though he’s been off for almost two years, he is the only one to beat the reigning middleweight champ Canelo Alvarez and he did it in a 12-rounder within the traditional middleweight limit. There is no telling what he might do after McGregor, especially with credible reports of tax problems surfacing and Mayweather continuing to fight is a possibility that can’t be ignored, especially if he fights and wins, like it or not. Plus, the exposure of this fight is enormous. I doubt at age 40-plus he would make 147 pounds again. 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 he apparently can’t fight while facing the charges and that the legal process could be long, 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 was spectacular against Khytrov, always comes to fight, and has skills and heart. If the power he just showed continues to be there, he will quickly be in the Top Ten. The Ring currently has him at number 10. Jermell Charlo has been on an impressive KO streak as of late but the opposition has been week. However, he has also added trainer Derrick James and seems to have regained some of his lost momentum. He is again a threat to break this 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. Jarrett Hurd has looked spectacular over his last four fights including an impressive KO over a resurgent Tony Harrison on national TV. A good test against Austin Trout is rumored to be next. He could crack this Top Ten very soon. He appears to have it all–boxing skill, power, chin, toughness, versatility. Ryota Murata joined the ranks of punchers like Peter Quillin and David Lemiuex who were able to bounce Hassan N’Dam around but lost a very controversial decision in a fight it seemed all but the judges thought he won. He’s now among the fighters on the verge of this Top Ten.
Miguel Cotto is a former lineal world middleweight champ who will return for the first time since losing the title on August 26., with an uninspiring choice of an opponent, Yoshihiro Kamegai on the same night as Mayweather-McGregor. Peter Quillin has remained inactive. Inactive fighters can re-enter the rankings once they get back into action. Maciej Sulecki of Poland is skilled, undefeated and made a puzzling move down to 154 pounds, yet continued to win, picking up two victories in Poland against little-known foes. He looked spectacular against Hugo Centeno, Jr. Austin Trout has only lost to the best: Alvarez, Charlo in a razor close fight, Lara and has a win over former lineal middleweight champ Cotto. It appears he may get another brutal test against Jarrett Hurd next. 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.
Erickson Lubin hasn’t faced good opposition yet but has had some impressive performances. There is no reason not to keep a close eye on him. Justin DeLoach continued his very impressive recent KO run with a two-round destruction of former top prospect Chris Pearson. Hurd or Jermell Charlo would appear to be big tests on the horizon. Antoine Douglas wisely took over a year off after a brutal KO loss to Khurtside in what I thought was 2015’s Fight of the Year. He came back under the radar with two knockout wins before setting an appearance against Bruno Sandoval on SHOBOX. He has talent and heart and you can’t help but root for him to be able to get his career back on track without suffering from the after-effects of the Khursidze loss.