Home Columns Why the middleweight division is boxing’s best

Why the middleweight division is boxing’s best

Credit: Will Hart - HBO

Defending the Middleweight Division as the Best in Boxing Today:

While heavyweight is the big-boy division, middleweight has been the third rail division in boxing for decades. As the middleweight division goes, so does the sport. It’s known as the division where you get some of the power of the bigger men, combined with the more refined and subtle skills of the smaller men. After some doldrums, it appears that 160 is poised to reclaim its spot among the best divisions in boxing. It may already be the best.

See the full seriesWhich weight division is the best in boxing today?

1. Excitement:

Good and getting better. 160 boasts of a deep and entertaining cast of champions and contenders. Typically, any bouts involving Sergio Martinez, Gennady Golovkin, and even Peter Quillin, Darren Barker, Martin Murray, and others are good fights. This group hasn’t had many clunkers in recent memory. Adding to the excitement are some fighters from north and south of 160 who could potentially get involved.

It helps when a division has a pair of co-number ones at play. Martinez is the recognized champion, though the balance has tipped with the majority of those who follow the sport thinking Golovkin is in fact the better fighter at this point. While the drums haven’t really been beating hard for this matchup yet, a fight between them remains an exciting prospect– a mini-Superfight for 2014.

What makes 160 really exciting is that you don’t have to see only the top guys fighting to get thrills. The contenders at middleweight are an exciting bunch of fighters who make for a ton of good fights. Guys like Brian Vera, Marco Antonio Rubio, Gabe Rosado, Sam Soliman, and a bevy of other veterans, fringe contenders, and dangerous journeymen at 160 can be counted on for excitement.

Points: 4/5

2. Star Power:

Martinez, though waning and coming off some rocky moments in his last two fights, is still a star. Golovkin is perhaps the fastest rising commodity in the entire sport. In addition, “GGG” is an active campaigner, helping pick up the slack for a dormant Martinez. 160 probably lost the star power of Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., who appears to have outgrown the division. Perhaps names like Darren Barker, Felix Sturm, Martin Murray, Matthew Macklin, and Daniel Geale don’t arouse much excitement among American fans, but they all generate massive interest overseas, making middleweight a truly international division.

Martinez has probably topped out in terms of star power. Golovkin, while surging, is not yet at the summit, meaning neither man is a transcendent figure at this point. They are boxing stars, without really being sports stars or registering very high on the overall fame-meter. Then again, what fighters today outside of a few can really claim massive mainstream appeal? And if there were a candidate for a new breakout star, Golovkin seems as good a choice as anyone.

Some of the second-tier guys struggle to build a name. Peter Quillin seems to be straining to gain a foothold. Let’s not forget that it’s a global sport with an inordinate amount of the biggest attractions in Europe and elsewhere being middleweights.

Points: 3/5

3. Depth:

This is an area of strength in the middleweight division. There is power at the top with an established champion in Martinez. Golovkin is nipping at his heels. Peter Quillin is looking to pick up the scraps, with Darren Barker rounding out the list of titleholders. As was the case in all of the middleweight division’s glory periods, there is a robust European and worldwide flair. The UK is the mix with a handful of world-class fighters. Australia has made their presence known with Geale, Soliman and Anthony Mundine. The top-30 middleweights are sprinkled all over the globe–in South America, Asia, Mexico, Canada, and throughout Eastern Europe.

There are ex-champs like Sturm, Geale, and Dmitri Pirog, contenders galore with Vera, Rubio, Murray, Stevens, Rosado, Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam, Andy Lee, Fernando Guerrero, Daniel Jacobs, Sebastian Zbik. There are also exciting worldwide prospects on the brink of bigger things in Matt Korobov, Chris Eubank, Jr., Gilberto Sanchez, Billy Joe Saunders, and Patrick Nielsen.

Points: 4/5

4. Potential and Influence:

There is good and bad news in this area. The real champion, Sergio Martinez, is breaking down and pushing 40. While still champion, the light at the end of the tunnel has become more visible in the past year or so. One area of concern is the lack of viable prospects at 160, particularly in the USA. When scanning the division for its best fighters, the names are familiar ones. The best prospects are from Europe, with the better U.S.-based prospects stagnating.

Offering hope are some of the fighters who could stop by and give 160 a boost. Floyd Mayweather has been fighting one division south. If Sergio Martinez can get hot again, he and Golovkin will represent a target of fighters looking to notch a big win. It may involve them dropping to 154 or Golovkin could fight Andre Ward at 168. The really big matchups might not happen at 160, but for guys at 160–there are options and the future looks bright.

In a year, there could be a logjam at the top of the division, with Martinez and Golovkin fighting for supremacy and guys like Peter Quillin and the European Wave nipping on their heels. That could pave the way for a slew of good fights involving the best in the division.

Points: 4/5

5. Pound for Pound:

While Martinez has slipped a bit off the pound-for-pound list, he is still number-five on the ProBoxing-Fans.com top 20. Gennady Golovkin, who appears a sure-shot top-5 or 10 entry in the future, is a new member of the top-20 at number 15. Future potential members of the ProBoxing-Fans.com top-20 include Peter Quillin, Darren Barker, and a slew of other middleweights who could very well make a substantial impact in the next year or 18 months.

Points: 4

Total Score: 19

Two clear co-number one fighters, a deep cast of exciting contenders, an international presence, and good cast of youngsters make middleweight the best division in the sport. It’s deep, exciting, and the best in the division are guys who fight hard to earn victories. There haven’t been many duds in key middleweight fights in the past few years. The exit of Chavez, Jr. and the aging of Martinez may soon leave a star-power void at the top, but there is enough youth and excellence at 160 to replenish and keep this division in the forefront for at least the next several years to come.