Fantasy Five - Middleweights
By Samuel Lee: The Middleweight division in boxing is probably the most competitive in the history of the sport. The name itself implies that this is the category for the "average" weight fighter. Not too heavy, not too light. Some have remained and dominated, such as Carlos Monzon, Marvin Hagler and Bernard Hopkins, while others have used it as a stepping stone from Welterweight/Junior-Middleweight or to Light-Heavyweight/Super-Middleweight.
Article posted on 21.06.2012
What better division, then, to conjure up fantasy match-ups from! Always steep in talent, particular in the last 30 years, I don't need to mix and blend the eras. So my fantasy match-ups and their outcomes will be conjured from matches that could easily have occured at the time but for one reason or another never did.
'Marvelous' Marvin Hagler vs Herol 'Bomber' Graham, April 1987, Atlantic City
If Sugar Ray Leonard had remained retired and Hagler was still intent on breaking Monzon's Title record, a match with tricky British Mandatory challenger Herol Graham was on the cards. Graham was a switch hitting southpaw with a Naseem Hamed-esque style but without the punch power, particularly noted for how difficult it was to hit him!
Hagler at this point in his reign was showing signs of deter, slow and struggling against a limited slugger in John Mugabi and a blown up rusty version of Leonard. Despite, I still believe the Marvelous One had too much of everything to be threatened by Graham, and would have exposed Mr Graham's poor ring generalship and tendancy to completely lose his cool (as shown against Sumbu Kalambay, Mike McCallum and Julian Jackson).
Graham's lack of any decent type of punch would see Hagler quite simply bulldoze his way through the pecking and poking.
Michael Nunn vs Nigel Benn, May 1989, Las Vegas
The two hottest things since sliced bread in the US and UK in the late eighties, Tyson aside, were Michael Nunn and Nigel Benn. Nunn: height, reach, hand speed, foot speed, workrate, stamina and out of this world slickness. Benn: power, aggression, hand speed, foot speed, head movement, body movement and out this world leverages. Both unbeaten. The ultimate match!
I believe a young, wild Benn's mindlessness would determine the manner in which the fight panned out. He is reduced to a punchers chance against the smart, talented Nunn, who was often 'on his bike' to keep his opponent off-balance and rarely stopped releasing useful long shots to keep his opponent occupied. The first two or three stanzas see Benn out of the blocks like Linford Christie and 'Second To' Nunn struggling to contain him.
'The Dark Destroyer' would get frustrated and begin tiring due to missed head hunting power shots, and when the pace slowed Nunn would pepper the Brit into submission.
Mike McCallum vs Chris Eubank, June 1991, London
The #1 match for Jamaican Legend McCallum during his middleweight reign was British Braggart Chris 'Simply The Best' Eubank. 'The Body Snatcher' chased him for a unifiction fight, but Eubank and management were unwilling to engage the thought. 'What would be bring?,' stated promoter Barry Hearn, meaning returns at the box office. 'Danger,' someone replied.
I believe Eubank had a weakness towards taking body shots. It was not only Nigel Benn that nearly broke him in half with telegraphed leads downstairs, but weak-punching Hugo Corti with a McCallum-esque long left counter under the elbow, and McCallum-victim Michael Watson with a counter below.
Expect McCallum to struggle early on to get to grips with the awkward, lean back style and lateral movement of Eubank, but once he gets hold of his timing and distance you can also expect to see 'The Body Snatcher' land his counters below the Eubank shoulders to restict the Englishman's mobility and pepper him up-top to edge the rounds.
Gerald McClellan vs Roy Jones, July 1993, Las Vegas
The former amateur rivals and acquintance friends seemed destined to meet in the pro ranks in a rematch of their stand-out amateur war won by McClellan. The two most exciting, dynamic, devastating young fighters on the planet were expected to have a superfight series in the nineties, but for politics and tragedy.
What if the fight did happen, following Gerald's demolition job on a dangerous Julian Jackson and Roy's mastery of a younger, aggressive Bernard Hopkins.
I believe a cagey first few rounds would be in store for McClellan from Jones, as both men looked to find their range with the right hand by stabbing out extended lefts; Jones looking for potshots and McClellan looking for power shots; Jones catching the double jabs and McClellan leaning away from over-the-top counters; both men stop-start circling.
The fight would largely depend on whether Jones could stay off the ropes, because if 'G-Man' pinned him, he would land his pinpoint left hook to the Jones body that dropped dozens of foes. Another thing Jones would have to avoid is clinching for the same reason, as McClellan could side step and sneak one in down below.
I believe McClellan would get to Jones' body, one way or another, after four or five rounds, opening him up to the head shots; provided McClellan didn't go 'balls to the wall' to stop him in the first two or three. I'm sure he'd listen to Emanuel Steward in the corner.
Carlos Monzon vs Marvin Hagler, July 1978, New York
Had the Argentine Legend continued fighting, top Philly hardman Hagler was the man to fight. Monzon was perhaps the steadiest, most accurate boxer there ever was in the division. Monzon maximized his long reach fantastically well and controlled the pace of a bout masterfully. He was far too smart for any of those seemingly mindless brutes of the early seventies. But Marvin Hagler was underratedly very cute around the period of the late seventies.
Monzon was the slightly stronger of the two, he literally lifted Benvenuti off his feet in their bout. However, I believe Monzon would struggle with the southpaw stance, smart style and speed of this version of Hagler. I believe Hagler would get his right jab off first while moving to his right, landing perhaps 50% of them and leaving Monzon unable to jab back or counter with his own right. Hagler was also a counter puncher at this stage, he had the great ability to step back at the right time and leave an orthodox fighter open to be countered inside of his lead right hand.
What Hagler lacked, however, was power in his southpaw left hand. He wouldn't keep Monzon honest, he wouldn't earn Monzon's respect. King Carlos would step a few inches further forward and open up more with one-twos and an array of counter-counters to slow down Hagler's jab-and-counter activity and active foot movement, landing perhaps 50% towards 10 rounds; before coolly leaning out of distance of young Hagler's frustrated leads in the last third as accuracy increases to perhaps 75%.
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