WBC: Gennady Golovkin
WBA Super: Gennady Golovkin
WBO: Billy Joe Saunders
IBF: Gennady Golovkin
European: Emanuele Blandamura
British: Tommy Langford
Commonwealth: Sam Sheedy
Outside of the heavyweights, no division has a history to match the histrionics and heritage of the 160lb middleweight class.
With its rich blend of speed, skill and strength, the 11st 6lb category has provided the sport with many of its greatest fighters and greatest fights over the past 150 years.
And expect that legacy to be further enhanced when galacticos Gennady Golovkin (the defending WBA Super, WBC and IBF king) and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez get to club each other silly at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas this Saturday.
Billed simply as ‘Supremacy’, the long overdue shootout pitches principals with shared stats of 86-1-1, including 67 kayos and seven world titles; a very genuine ‘superfight’. Both should feature in any educated pundit’s top half dozen ‘pound-for-pound’, and both can expect a berth at the sport’s pantheon in Canastota, once the curtain is drawn on their already glorious careers.
There is a rematch clause inserted in the contracts and expect it to be utilised if Saturday’s ‘set to’ is anywhere near as close and compelling as universally predicted. Whoever prevails shall be both unified and undisputed king of the division but there is a growing list of worthies waiting for a chance to pummel them from their perch.
Leading the chase is the mercurially talented Billy Joe Saunders, custodian of the remaining WBO belt and arguably the best pure boxer on the 160lb playground. Now coached by no nonsense Sheffield task master Dom Ingle, the 28 year old Hatfield southpaw has the speed and skills to send anyone dizzy on his best night. Now seemingly fit and focussed, expect BJS to cement his standing as the most reputable challenge for the Canelo-GGG winner, by putting on a clinic against credible Yank Willie Munroe in London this Saturday.
And there’s plenty of potentially great match-ups ahead for whoever might emerge with all the marbles. Canadian clouter David Lemieux - stopped in eight whilst still standing against Golovkin two years back – is now older and wiser and capable of concussing anyone he clips clean with his hooks. He is ranked in the top four with all major sanctioning bodies.
Talented Texan Jermall Charlo, the 26-0 former IBF light-middle champ, is mandatory at the WBC and appears to have brought his feted firepower six pounds north. In July, he obliterated the never previously stopped Argentine hard case Jorge Sebastian Heiland in four. A lethal proposition.
Earlier this year, there was a very real triple threat to the titles from rising US trainer Andre Rozier’s Starrett City gym in Brooklyn. Local hero Danny ‘The Miracle Man’ Jacobs, still only 30, possesses both the bang and the background story to merit a crack at regaining a version of the world title.
Stablehand Sergiy Derevyanchenko, a Ukrainian pain dispenser and one-time Olympic squadmate to Vasyl Lomachenko and Oleksandr Usyk, has raced to 11-0 with nine falling early. The 31 year old ‘Technician’, who went 22-1 in the WSB, is already mandatory for the IBF title and a proper handful.
Alas the third cog, sawn-off Georgian Avtandil Khurtsidze, shan’t be contending any time soon. Whilst rated number one at the WBO, the 5ft 4in ‘mini ‘Mike Tyson’ – a seriously dangerous individual - was arrested for racketeering and, at the age of 38, is unlikely to feature regardless of which way his jury sways.
Perennial French contender Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam presently claims the second tier WBA ‘regular’ title which he recently retained via a highly dubious decision against 2012 Olympic champion Ryota Murata. They re-sit in October, again in Japan. Cameroon born N’Dam’s brittle chin is compensated by a huge heart but, long term, big hitter Murata, lionised in the Land of the Rising Sun, poses the greater threat to the division’s elite.
These isles have traditionally featured strongly among the middle men and, in addition to Saunders, four Englishmen and three Irishmen presently grace the world ratings.
Oldbuy southpaw Craig Cunningham (WBC 15), Blackpool’s Jack Arnfield (IBF14, WBA 8) and Craigavon’s Conrad Cummings will all require some promotional genius and a huge dollop of luck if they’re ever to compete at the highest stage. Good luck to them, anyway.
St Helen’s hardman Martin Murray (WBA 6) has already flunked four world challenges – all on foreign climes – and, at 34, might have missed the boat. A year younger, ‘Irish Andy’ Lee, the ex WBO champ, carries the punch and commercial clout to merit a final tilt at top level.
Reigning British boss Tommy Langford, levelled in five by Khurtsidze in April, is young enough and gifted enough to rise again but perhaps the best bet for future home success comes with the explosive Irish fists of Jason Quigley.
Promoted by string-pulling Golden Boy and schooled by Manny Robles in California, 26 year old ‘El Animal’ has stopped ten of 13 and is highly placed with both the WBA and WBC.
Nevertheless, as is likely to be apparent on both sides of ‘The Pond’ this weekend, challenging for a title and dethroning the reigning masters are two entirely different propositions.