State of the Game: Super middleweights
This is the 14th 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: Super 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.
We wrote in last year’s “The State of the Game” that “the outlook isn’t all that interesting” at super middleweight. In our defense, the “Super Six World Boxing Classic” was but a twinkle in Ken Hershman’s eye at the time. Showtime announced the Super Six shortly after the magazine came out and suddenly 168 pounds became one of the most intriguing divisions in the sport.
We’ve already seen Arthur Abraham vs. Jermain Taylor, Carl Froch vs. Andre Dirrell, Andre Ward vs. Mikkel Kessler, Dirrell vs. Abraham, Kessler vs. Froch and Ward vs. Allan Green, Ward vs. Dirrell, Abraham vs. Froch, and Kessler vs. Green are on the horizon. And that’s all before the single-elimination portion of the tournament begins.
The first six fights of the Super Six have already shaken up the division. No. 3-rated Kessler and No. 7 Abraham have suffered upset defeats, Abraham, No. 6 Dirrell and No. 4 Froch have lost the zeros at the ends of their records, No. 2 Ward and Dirrell have made the leap from prospects to elite contenders, Taylor has probably seen his time as a contender come to an end, and Froch’s girlfriend has become an international sensation. The tournament is not without its problems; Green had to sub in for Taylor and was at an instant competitive disadvantage by not having a first-round match, while injuries have caused postponements that might extend a tournament that already spans about two years. But nothing in boxing is perfect. All we can ask for is that fights of consequence get made, and the Super Six guarantees that. The result is that a division that wasn’t “all that interesting” is suddenly among boxing’s hottest.
Perhaps the greatest flaw of the Super Six, however, is that the fighter currently rated No. 1 by THE RING, Lucian Bute, isn’t involved. (In the accompanying sidebar, we called Bute the most avoided fighter in the division, which is more a result of circumstance than of anybody specifically ducking him.) If Bute is still unbeaten when the Super Six ends, hopefully we’ll see him take on the winner and bring complete clarity to the division. And if it happens in front of 100,000 screaming Bute fans at some outdoor stadium in Canada, all the better.
After the Super Six competitors and Bute, the quality certainly falls off. No. 5 Sakio Bika is a dangerous and awkward veteran, but his career has been frustratingly mismanaged since he won the third season of The Contender. No. 9 Librado Andrade is still a tough out for most fighters, but a lot of the luster came off when Bute stopped him with a bodyshot in their rematch. And No. 8 Robert Stieglitz holds an alphabet belt, but you know how that goes. That he’s lost by knockout to Andrade reveals more about where he stands than any trinket he can strap around his waist.
Think About It: Boxing fans love cross-generational hypothetical matches, so who wouldn’t be excited about a fantasy Super Six tournament featuring the greatest super middleweights of all-time? This is not an old division (it debuted in 1984), so the list of greats isn’t what it would be in, say, the middleweight division. Still, how’s this for a dream Super Six: Roy Jones, Joe Calzaghe, Sugar Ray Leonard, James Toney, Nigel Benn, and Steve Collins. Interestingly, just like the real modern-day Super Six, it matches three Americans and three Europeans. Who’s the pick? In each preliminary round, we’ll just follow the example set in 2009-’10 and go with whoever’s fighting in his hometown. Overall, we tend to lean toward Jones, who was in his absolute prime at this weight, to win the tournament.
Is He Still Around?
Andre Ward-Andre Dirrell
Deserves A Title Shot
Most Fun To Watch
On The Way Up
On The Way Down
Best Fight In 2009
Carl Froch KO 12 Jermain Taylor
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/