Boxing traditionally has only eight weight classes. As the oldest two of the alphabet sanctioning organizations, the WBA and the WBC, entered the 1970’s. Not only were there two “champions” per division, needless weight classes were added for sanctioning fees.
Entering the 1980’s, a “Golden Era” of boxing, fans and fighters still did not pay much attention to the super and junior classes, as well as cruiserweight; and the divisions that were added by the alphabets to the original eight were not paid particular attention to. For example, Roberto Duran skipped the junior welterweight division. Aaron Pryor only took a fight for a belt in that division against Antonio Cervantes when he could not get a title shot at lightweight, and initially after winning that title, Pryor requested that The Ring still rate him at lightweight for a time because he wanted to pick up the title in that traditional division. Earlier, Carlos Ortiz had moved down from junior welter to forge a legendary campaign at lightweight. There were some great fighters that did some campaigning in junior divisions like Alexis Arguello and Wilfredo Gomez, and the junior welterweight title had been around for awhile, but all the added divisions were looked upon as afterthoughts or “hiding places” Unfortunately, as great as he was, Sugar Ray Leonard was the first real superstar to put an emphasis on grabbing a junior belt, when he stepped up to dispatch Ayub Kalule for the WBA Junior Middleweight title, but quickly moved back down to his linear welterweight perch. Though it resulted in one of the greatest fights of all-time, by 1982 we had Pryor-Arguello for the WBA junior welterweight title being hyped as being for Arguello’s fourth world title. It was all downhill from there as Leonard, post-Hagler, began fighting at catch-weights, jumping around weight classes and picking up alphabet belts as the super middleweight division was added to the oversaturation of weight classes.
The IBF had also added itself to the mix, followed by the WBO, and as the years went on, the reality became matchups between fighters who would have been ranked in the Top Ten or Champions, had there still only been one champ per division in the Original Eight weight classes, became as rare as a lunar eclipse. To add insult to injury, the UFC entered the scene and took the best of boxing: eight weight classes and basically one champ per division, and dumped the worst of boxing—all the added weight classes.
Boxing needs all the fans it can get, but most of the newer generations of fans have lost all perspective. Older fans and younger and older students of history need to have something to compare to the rest of boxing history to, its more popular days. The sport itself needs the true best recognized and to put pressure on the alphabet organizations, promoters and television network to make better fights. Therefore, there is still a great need to recognize one champion per Original Eight division and the fighters who would be in the Top Ten should only eight divisions exist in 2017. Therefore, the Original Eight Ratings; starting with the middleweights, a division likely to provoke the most discussion.
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 48-1-1 34KO)
1. Gennady Golovkin (Kazakhstan 36-0-0 33K0)
2. Daniel Jacobs (U.S. 32-1 29KO)
3. Jermall Charlo (U.S. 25-0 19KO)
4. Erislandy Lara (Cuba 24-2-2 14KO)
5. Billy Joe Saunders (U.K. 24-0 12KO)
6. David Lemiuex (Canada 36-3 32KO)
7. Demetrius Andrade (23-0 16KO)
8. Hassan N’Dam (Cameroon 35-2 21KO)
9. Avtandil Khurtsizde (Georgia 32-2-2 21KO)
10. Sergiy Derevyanchenko (Russia 9-0 7KO)
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 not only the Ring but the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. His status is also bolstered by his number 1 ranking by both at Junior Middleweight. While Canelo has not helped his cause by failing to emphasize his status as middleweight champion and fighting at the hated catch-weight until the consensus becomes catch-weights will not be involved in title fights, he’s the champion. He also has fought Mayweather, Cotto, Lara and Trout at weights over 147. That is better opposition than Golovkin at this point. Chavez at 164.5 is clearly a non-title fight but will at least give us a look at Canelo against a former, legitimate top middleweight.
Golovkin must be credited for his knockout streak and dominance, despite what some of his detractors say. Only recognizing and ranking eight weight divisions, his opposition would probably qualify as bottom half of the Top Ten Middleweights. That all changes in March when he takes on Daniel Jacobs, everyone’s number 2 ranked middleweight. Ironically, Jacobs is about the same level underdog as Kell Brook was, who Golovkin ultimately blew out. Brook was arguably the number one welterweight, even with only eight divisions. Jacobs first-round blow out of legitimate top of the division Peter Quillin is enough to put him in that position in this era when true Top Ten’s over the Original Eight divisions rarely fight. While he may have fought a shot Sergio Mora, Jacobs also gets some points for his ability to hurt a guy who was extremely slick and durable throughout his career.
Jermall Charlo is number 3 based on the eye test and his win over Trout, who is a fringe top ten guy, even when only ranking eight divisions and his recent impressive knockout of Williams, who was a guy approaching contender status even with only eight divisions. Number 4 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.
After the top four, the contenders outside of Derevyanchenko appear to be susceptible to be replaced at any time with a variety of similar 148-160 pound fighters who just missed this Top Ten. Billy Joe Saunders lands at number 5 with wins over Andy Lee, a legit top ten even with only eight divisions, and Chris Eubank, Jr. who was undefeated. Saunders has not performed impressively however. David Lemieux is a similar case, as he is also a guy who is ranked, at number 6, but you have the feeling it won’t hold. Lemieux showed tremendous improvement in a big win over N’Dam but didn’t show much against Golovkin and Glen Tapia. Tapia had been KOed in two of his last three when his corner stepped in quickly against Lemieux.
Demetrius Andrade is here on pedigree and eye test as well as his extremely impressive KO of Willie Nelson, a big guy who would be on the fringe with eight divisions and owned a KO over Tony Harrison. But Andrade has not faced particularly tough opposition to date. As with Golovkin, people are probably not particularly anxious to fight him. N’Dam was good enough to beat Curtis Stevens and Khurtzide and has looked good since the Lemieux loss against low-level opposition. However, in that Lemieux fight and the fight with Peter Quillin, we was up and down like a rubber ball, though he managed to last the distance in both fights.
Khurtzide lands here primarily based upon his performance in a last-round stoppage against then undefeated Antoine Douglas, a fight I thought was 2016’s Fight of the Year. With his style and at his age, coming off that kind of war, it is difficult to envision him doing it again but he fought his way into the Top Ten.
Sergiy Derevyanchenko lives up to his great nickname, “The Technician”. Derevyanchenko has amateur pedigree and passes the eye test. He has had many fights in the World Series of Boxing. He makes fighters like Sam Soliman look as overmatched as they are. One would think he would be a tough out for anybody however, looking at Immanuel Aleem’s recent upset of Khytrov and you are reminded that you can never be sure until the opposition gets better.
Fighters not in the Top Ten but worthy of mention and watching include: Miguel Cotto, Peter Qullin and Andy Lee, who have become inactive. Inactive fighters can re-enter the rankings once they get back into action. Immanuwel Aleem was spectacular against Khytrov, always comes to fight, has skills and heart. If the power he just showed continues to be there, he will quickly be in the Top Ten. Maciej Sulecki of Poland is undefeated and looked spectacular against Hugo Centeno. Chris Eubank, Jr. only has a close loss to Saunders and even with the wealth of Eastern European talent in the sport and the output of Mexico, the Americans and British are still producing numbers of elite fighters that still by-pass the others. Ryota Murata of Japan has shown power and has amateur pedigree. 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. Jermell Charlo can give anyone trouble but has been unimpressive in recent fights. Jarrett Hurd has looked spectacular over his last three fights and has an upcoming fight against a resurgent Tony Harrison on national TV. He could crack this Top Ten soon. Michel Soro of France is probably one of the most underrated fighters in boxing and had a draw with Antione Douglas and a KO over Glen Tapia. He is also a guy who can give anyone some trouble.
Various fighters rankings in the Ring and Transnational Boxing Board’s Middleweight and Junior Middle Weight rankings at the time of this compilation; Alvarez (Ring Middle-C Transnational Middle-C, Ring Junior Middle-1, Transnational Junior Middle-1), Golovkin (Ring M-1, TN M-1), Jacobs (R M-2, TN M-2), Jermall Charlo (R JM-2, TN JM-2), Lara (R JM-3 TN JM-3), Saunders (R M-3 TN M-3), Lemiuex (R M-4 TN M-4), Demetrius Andrade (R JM-6 TN JM-4), Hassan N’Dam (R M-7 TN M-5), Avtandil Khurtsidze (R M-8 TN M-7), Sergiy Derevyanchencko (TN M-8)
For comparison look at the Ring Ratings for the end of the years 1980 and 1950:
Champion: Marvin Hagler
1. Alan Minter
2. Dwight Davidson
3. Vito Antuofermo
4. Fulgencio Obelmejias
5. Curtis Parker
6. Mustafa Hamsho
7. Wilford Scypion
8. Ronnie Harris
9. Frank Fletcher
10. Tony Sibson
Champion: Jake LaMotta
1. Ray Robinson
2. Laurent Dauthuille
3. Dave Sands
4. Randy Turpin
5. Jimmy Bean
6. Gene Hairston
7. Ray Barnes
8. Robert Villemain
9. Walter Cartier
10. Paddy Young
An important note regarding 1980, as further evidence that “no one cared” about junior divisions in this era, no junior middleweight was worthy of cracking the middleweight top ten in this era, fighters like Ayub Kalule and Maurice Hope simply were not good enough to do so.
When comparing the eras talent wise, to my surprise, 2017 probably compares favorably to both 1950 and 1980. We immediately look at the legends at the top who are literally some of the greatest fighters of all time: Robinson, Hagler, and LaMotta, and rightfully think that Canelo and Golovkin don’t stack up. We think about all the classic Top Ten middleweight fights ABC and NBC broadcast in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s which was part of the start of another brief “Golden Era of Boxing” and we scoff at the current crop. However, when comparing eras that is the crux of the problem with today’s group and today’s boxing: fighters who are legitimately Top Ten when ranking only eight weight classes simply do not fight each other. We don’t get the enjoyment of those fights and analytical fans and historians don’t get a good chance to evaluate the true standing of the fighters. At the top end of the division, greatness may be within reach if the fights being discussed really happen. Should Canelo knockout Chavez and then Golovkin in the Fall, his resume against the greats will start to stack up more, especially at his age. Golovkin doesn’t have as much time, but considering his knockout streak, and that no one has really come particularly close to beating him, should he add to his knockout streak and destroy everyone’s number 2 Daniel Jacobs and Canelo, he will clearly be this generations Bernard Hopkins or Marvin Hagler; a guy who had to wait a long time to get the lineal title and the spot light but who validated his previous successes many fights into his career.