Today we return to our Super Official Boxing Rankings No Seriously Guys Rankings with junior middleweights, a division with some really big-name, star power.
A quick note here before we begin: I feel these rankings are useful and something that I legitimately enjoy writing, but my (admittedly small) site traffic drops off the Empire State Building every time I write about boxing. People want to talk books, music or other sports, but in-depth boxing articles just don’t draw. But you know what? I enjoy writing about the sport, so this will be my passion project for an audience of one. And if on the off chance it helps one person better make sense of the sport, well, great.
Previous boxing ranking posts:
|LINEAL CHAMP||WBC CHAMP||WBA CHAMP||IBF CHAMP||WBO CHAMP|
|N/A||Floyd Mayweather||Floyd Mayweather||Carlos Molina||Demetrius Andrade|
Champ: Floyd Mayweather, USA (47-0, 26 KO)
Ah, yes. Floyd Mayweather. While there is technically no ‘lineal champ’, Floyd Mayweather is the unquestioned pound-for-pound king of the sport and division. The undefeated defensive maestro is the greatest fighter of his generation, an undefeated technician who has only a few times in his career even come close to losing a match. He’s also a terrible person, but that is a different conversation.
Mayweather has taken an unappealing, defensive style with minimal power and somehow turned himself into the highest paid athlete in all of sports. He has crafted a persona–“Money” Mayweather–in which he paints himself as a callous, flashy asshole, burning money, talking trash and making himself as unlikeable as possible. Some people respond positively to this, most respond negatively, but everybody is paying attention, so Floyd always wins. He’s a smart boxer, smart businessman and good matchmaker, in recent years cherrypicking opponents who pose little threat to him and avoiding more dangerous fighters (though he does hold pretty nice victories over Miguel Cotto, Canelo Alvarez and the rugged-but-limited Marcos Maidana). I am not going to talk about Manny Pacquiao here, though the fact that that fight has not happened is a travesty that could have only happened in boxing.
Though Floyd is 37 and slowing down (he claims to have just two career fights left before retiring, though we’ll see about that), and regardless of what you think of him as a person (the ‘Money’ thing may be a character, but Floyd the man has laid his hands on multiple women outside the ring), his skill is undeniable. He will likely top the sport until he retires.
The Other Beltholders and Top Contenders:
Demetrius Andrade, USA (21-0. 14 KO)
Demetrius Andrade is a young fighter who has a very bright future in the sport. I’m very high on him as a prospect; as ‘Boo Boo’ is a 26-year-old southpaw boxer-puncher with solid power in his hands and a high level of technical skill. He has been matched pretty soft throughout his career, but holds a nice split decision win in November 2013 over tough veteran Vanes Martirosyan–a fight STW scored 117-110–and a blowout win over fringe contender Brian Rose in June. It’s time for Andrade to step up, and it’s going to be interesting to see what level he manages to get to.
Carlos Molina, Mexico (22-5-2, 6 KO)
Molina, who defends the IBF belt against washed up Cornelius Bundrage this Saturday night (which should tell you something about the value of this belt), is an awkward technical fighter who is a good fighter but brutal to watch. This man could not be less interesting in the ring, as his lack of power and slow-it-down-and-muddy-it-up style does not create many fans. He also is notable for being deported from the U.S. due to a past sex crime accusation he never got sorted out despite growing up in Wisconsin, so he can only fight in Mexico. He is not relevant to the average boxing fan and I am only putting him up here because he does own a belt.
Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, Mexico (44-1-1, 31 KO)
Canelo Alvarez is a big deal, despite not having a title belt at the moment (losing his in a blowout 2013 loss to Mayweather). He is a 24-year old, good-looking, redheaded Mexican boxer puncher who has a giant marketing machine behind him and also happens to be a pretty good boxer on top of it all. He is the sport’s current Next Big Thing and is already considered a Pay Per View star at a young age.
And you know what? His record might be a bit inflated, and he might be a bit overhyped due to his marketability, but he has won over a lot of boxing fans by busting his ass and taking on top competition; he has fought Floyd, Erislandy Lara and Austin Trout in the last two years, three boxers impossible to look good against. He is a bit plodding and slow in the ring and isn’t necessarily elite at any one thing, but he is good at all other areas–power, chin, skill and drive. He holds close wins over the difficult Lara and Trout, and while Floyd took him to boxing school in the ring, there is no shame in that. The jury is out on whether he can back up the hype, but we know he isn’t afraid to try. Rumor has it he is fighting Miguel Cotto in the spring, and there are only three words to say about that: Oh Hell Yes.
Erislandy Lara, Cuba (19-2-2, 12 KO)
Erislandy Lara is a tricky southpaw fighter who fights in the slick, defensive style taught in Cuba. This style is effective, hard to deal with and nearly impossible to look good against if done well, making him a very tough opponent and a dangerous fighter to the top of this division. The problem with this style is it doesn’t exactly make for a lot of fans, and Lara, despite elite speed and skill, can be hard to watch sometimes.
This was never more evident than when he stepped up and fought Canelo in a PPV fight this past summer. It was Lara’s biggest ever opportunity: a headlining fight against a star fighter in a major boxing event in front of his biggest audience. At times in the fight, it seemed like he held almost all advantages: he was faster, slicker and more technical than Canelo. He proceeded to blow the opportunity completely by not throwing much, running from Canelo (there is a difference between good defense and movement and running, and Lara was running for much of that fight), and proceeding to lose a split decision on the cards, a result that was fair (though STF scored the fight a draw). He just didn’t do enough to win and perhaps worse, didn’t do enough to make any fans and ensure that people would want to actually see him fight again. He remains a tough out that will never be a star, an enigma, and he may always be that way if he doesn’t up his aggression.
Other Contenders and People of Interest:
- Miguel Cotto, Puerto Rico (39-4, 32 KO) — Cotto is the lineal titlist at middleweight, but he is more of a junior middleweight in size. He will likely face Canelo in the spring and be a major name in this division as well.
- Jermell Charlo, USA (24-0, 11 KO) & Jermall Charlo, USA (19-0, 15 KO) — The Charlo brothers, who look exactly the same and are indistinguishable except for one vowel, are both interesting, rising 24-year-old prospects. They are worth keeping an eye on, though you’ll have trouble figuring out which one is which. Best I can do for you: Jermall is more of a ‘maul’ing fighter, with power and better knockout skills while Jermell is a more technical boxer. That’s the best I can do.
- James Kirkland, USA (32-1, 28 KO) — Kirkland is perhaps the biggest waste of talent in boxing today, a powerful and talented fighter with a troubled history and the most compelling trainer in sports. He has ridiculous power and is a fascinating watch in the ring, firing off heavy punches in machine gun fashion with little regard for either his opponent or his own safety. Unfortunate, the guys is frustratingly inactive, as he has not been seen since a December 2013 pummeling of Glen Tapia, and rumors abound of erratic behavior, turning down deals for big fights and in general self sabotaging his own career. His story is an annoyance for boxing fans but likely headed to a tragic conclusion in real life; we can only hope he turns his life and career around.
- Vanes Martirosyan, USA/Armenia (35-1-1, 21 KO) — Vanes is a relatively talented fighter who is a good second-tier fighter in this division, but not a true championship threat. He’s a tough, experienced guy who vaulted himself back into the contender conversation with a deserved win over fellow contender Willie Nelson this past weekend. He’s a likeable guy who makes okay fights.
- Other names of interest: Austin Trout, USA (27-2, 14 KO); Cornelius Bundrage, USA (33-5, 19 KO); Joshua Clottey, Ghana (38-4, 22 KO)