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State of the Game: Junior middleweights

05
Jul

This is the 12th in a series of stories from “The State of the Game,” the popular annual feature of THE RING magazine. We’re posting one weight class per day, starting with strawweight and working our way up to heavyweight. The package was featured in the July issue of the magazine. The August issue, with Floyd Mayweather Jr. as the cover story, is on newsstands now. Today: Junior middleweights.

It’s often been said that in boxing, the top two percent of the fighters make about 98 percent of the money. Well, we’re about to feed directly into that inequity. Not only do the top two percent get most of the money, but they get most of the attention too, and in “The State Of The Game,” we focus primarily on that top two percent – the cream of every weight class. Maybe it’s not fair to the 145th best junior featherweight in the world, but hey, there’s a reason he’s only 145th best.

Still, you have to admit, we go deeper and include more fighters in State of the Game than just about any other article you’ll read all year. Where else will you find Wladimir Klitschko, Fernando Guerrero, Alfonso Gomez and Hekkie Budler all discussed in the same story?

Basically, the State of the Game is just what it sounds like: an all-encompassing exploration of where every division in boxing stands at this particular moment. As for the state of the sport as a whole, we know the balance of power is continuing to shift away from American fighters and away from the heavyweight division, but does that mean boxing is any worse off than it was a year ago or five years ago or 10 years ago? In a global sense, and judged in relativity to the economic climate across most of the world, no. Remember, some people in both the boxing community and the mainstream media opined three years ago that Oscar De La Hoya vs. Floyd Mayweather was going to be the last megafight we’d see for years. How laughable is that now? We’ve since had four different pay-per-views cross the million-buy mark, and if Manny Pacquiao vs. Mayweather ever happens, it will crush every number Mayweather-De La Hoya posted.

Of course, all that this means is that the guys at the very top are getting exponentially richer while everyone else is struggling to make ends meet. Hey, that’s the way boxing has always been, and in a nutshell, that’s how life works. Boxing has loads of problems, no doubt, but year after year, it entertains and amazes those loyal followers who persevere through all the crap to get to the good stuff.

JUNIOR MIDDLEWEIGHT

The first thing you’ll notice looking at the accompanying sidebar for the 154-pound division is that several of the names we’ve slotted in are exactly the same as in the 160-pound division’s sidebar, which will be posted tomorrow. THE RING has always been willing to rank a fighter in multiple divisions if he’s active in multiple divisions, and it just so happens that arguably the two best fighters in either weight class are campaigning in both classes. No. 1-rated Sergio Martinez and Paul Williams are key players at middleweight, and they’re every bit as key at junior middle. A rematch between the two of them is the dream fight at 160. And it’s the dream fight at 154, also.

One guy who does need to be concerned about the weight he’s agreeing to fight at is No. 4 Miguel Cotto, who has added additional star power to the 154-pound division by moving up and taking No. 7 Yuri Foreman’s alphabet belt at Yankee Stadium in June. Cotto is only 5-foot-7, which is very short for this weight class and might result in some stylistic problems against taller opponents (although it certainly was no issue against Foreman). But Cotto has the skill set and experience, and he fears no one, making this division considerably more interesting at the top. The same could be said of pressure-fighting No. 3 Alfredo Angulo, as “El Perro” is one of those all-offense fighters you’d like to see in the ring with just about anyone.

Titleholder Cory Spinks is not quite so guaranteed to excite, though the St. Louis veteran did provide some thrills last time out in winning a split decision over Deandre Latimore 15 months ago. Spinks finally gets back into ring against Cornelius Brundrage on Aug. 7. Spinks, 32, reportedly ballooned up in weight during his hiatus, which typically works against aging fighters.

No. 2 Kermit Cintron seemed to be acquitting himself well against Williams in May when he went flying out of the ring and the fight was stopped, giving Williams a technical victory. Cintron certainly remains a fact at 154. And Foreman could be better than he was before if his surgically repaired knee, which gave out against Cotto, is 100 percent after rehab.

There are plenty of other solid fighters and respectable names in the division, like No. 5 Ryan Rhodes, No. 6 Sechew Powell, No. 8 Joachim Alcine, No. 9 Vanes Martirosyan and No. 10 Sergei Dzindziruk of Ukraine, a very talented boxer. And let’s not forget about James Kirkland, who’s currently in jail but instantly becomes one of the division’s must-watch fighters again the moment he returns to the ring.

Think About It: Neither of them are particularly active, relevant fighters anymore, but we just have to comment on Tarvis and Travis Simms, the latter of whom was a junior middleweight beltholder for a short while. As you probably heard, the twin brothers were arrested in April for fighting with each other in Travis’ home, and Travis’ 10-year-old daughter allegedly got bitten on the arm trying to break up the scuffle. What does this all mean in the big picture for boxing? It serves as a reminder that it’s a perfectly natural thing for brothers to sometimes fight with each other. So why not get paid for it? All right, we’ll cut to the chase: Klitschkos, stop hiding behind your mother’s skirt and get it on! Make $50-million or so combined and give us an undisputed heavyweight champ already!

JUNIOR MIDDLEWEIGHT

Best Puncher
Alfredo Angulo
Best Boxer
Sergio Martinez
Most Protected
Austin Trout
Most Avoided
Sebastian Lujan
Is He Still Around?
J.C. Candelo
Matchmaker’s Dream
Sergio Martinez-Paul Williams II
Deserves A Title Shot
Paul Williams
Most Fun To Watch
Paul Williams
On The Way Up
Erislandy Lara
On The Way Down
Daniel Santos
Best Fight In 2009
Ryan Rhodes KO 7 Jamie Moore

WELTERWEIGHTS: https://www.ringtv.com/ blog/2071/state_of_the_game_welterweights /

JUNIOR WELTERWEIGHTS: https://www.ringtv.com/ blog/2069/state_of_the_game_junior_welterweights /

LIGHTWEIGHTS: https://www.ringtv.com/ blog/2067/state_of_the_game_lightweights/

JUNIOR LIGHTWEIGHTS: https://www.ringtv.com/ blog/2061/state_of_the_game_junior_lightweights /

FEATHERWEIGHTS: https://www.ringtv.com/blog/2059/state_of_the_game_featherweights/

JUNIOR FEATHERWEIGHTS: https://www.ringtv.com/blog/2058/state_of_the_game_junior_featherweights/

BANTAMWEIGHTS: https://www.ringtv.com/blog/2057/state_of_the_game_bantamweights/

JR. BANTAMWEIGHTS: https://www.ringtv.com/blog/2050/state_of_the_game_junior_bantamweights/

FLYWEIGHTS: https://www.ringtv.com/blog/2048/state_of_the_game_flyweights/

JR. FLYWEIGHTS: https://www.ringtv.com/blog/2047/state_of_the_game_junior_flyweights/

STRAWWEIGHTS: https://www.ringtv.com/blog/2044/state_of_the_game_strawweights/

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