State of the Game: Middleweights
This is the 13th 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: 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.
After one of the greatest championship reigns in middleweight history was authored by Bernard Hopkins from 1995 to 2005, his successors have given us two of the most disappointing reigns ever at 160 pounds. First Jermain Taylor couldn’t seem to win a fight without a little help from the judges, and then Kelly Pavlik beat Taylor but couldn’t defeat anyone else beside come-forward clubfighters. Will Sergio Martinez be different? He certainly has the talent, but at 35, he probably isn’t going to reign for 10 years as B-Hop did.
Still, from what Martinez has shown in his last four fights, all HBO-televised bouts against world-class foes, we can safely say he didn’t get to the top on a fluke. In three consecutive fights, he arguably deserved to go 3-0 against Kermit Cintron, Paul Williams and Pavlik. The Argentine boxed two-thirds of a perfect fight against Pavlik in April, claiming THE RING title in the process, and now it’s up to him to put together the dominating reign we’ve been waiting to see for the last five years. For all we know, though, he might just move back down to his more natural weight class, 154 pounds, and abandon the middleweight title. And we couldn’t blame him if he did; there just aren’t that many worthy opponents for him at 160.
There are rematches with No. 2 Williams and No. 3 Pavlik, of course. And maybe you could argue that veteran beltholder and No. 1-rated Felix Sturm still has a little bit of name value based on his 2004 fight with Oscar De La Hoya. But beyond that, the contenders are a mediocre group made up of fighters with no Q-rating at all in America.
Does Martinez vs.No. 4 Sebastian Sylvester excite you? Perhaps Martinez vs. No. 5 Khoren Gevor or No. 6 Matthew Macklin? Maybe a fight against one of the Aussies, No. 7 Anthony Mundine or No. 8 Daniel Geale? There’s always No. 9 Sebastian Zbik, who helps fill the division’s Sebastian quota. Or perhaps you prefer limited veterans No. 10 Roman Karmazin and David Lopez.
Two of the biggest names in the division aren’t currently ranked in the Top 10. One is Winky Wright, who’s now 38 and hasn’t fought in over a year, but could probably still beat several of the guys rated by THE RING. The other is Sergio Mora, although he is negotiating to fight Shane Mosley at 154 in September.
Think About It: OK, the middleweight division isn’t very deep right now. But if you’re not in a hurry, if you can be patient for a year or two, you’ll find that 160 pounds has a ton of potential. Look at this list of young prospects: Daniel Jacobs, Fernando Guerrero, Matt Korobov, David Lemieux, Craig McEwan, Andy Lee, and Gennady Golovkin. And we should mention Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., whose name gives him some level of significance. They’re not all going to pan out, obviously (Lee already has one discouraging loss, in fact), but if a few of them do, we could have real middleweight depth, something we haven’t enjoyed in a couple of decades. Jacobs is scheduled to fight fellow unbeaten Dmitry Pirog of Russia for a vacant title on July 31.
Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam
Is He Still Around?
Sergio Martinez-Paul Williams II
Deserves A Title Shot
Most Fun To Watch
On The Way Up
On The Way Down
Best Fight In 2009
Paul Williams W 12 Sergio Martinez
JUNIOR MIDDLEWEIGHTS: https://www.ringtv.com/ blog/2075/state_of_the_game_junior_middleweights /
JUNIOR WELTERWEIGHTS: https://www.ringtv.com/ blog/2069/state_of_the_game_junior_welterweights /
JUNIOR LIGHTWEIGHTS: https://www.ringtv.com/ blog/2061/state_of_the_game_junior_lightweights /
JUNIOR FEATHERWEIGHTS: https://www.ringtv.com/blog/2058/state_of_the_game_junior_featherweights/
JR. BANTAMWEIGHTS: https://www.ringtv.com/blog/2050/state_of_the_game_junior_bantamweights/