Michael Montero’s Boxing Notebook: The Super Middleweight (168 pound) Division, a closer look
27.07.06 - By Michael Montero: Many of you may laugh when I state the following, but I feel that 168 is shaping up to soon be one of the most entertaining divisions in professional boxing. Much like the Cruiserweight division, Super Middleweight has always been seen as a “gateway” or “pathway” division for fighters in search of bigger and better things. Many boxing experts have viewed the division as a waste; this has largely been due to it’s lack of marquee names and big fights in recent years.
Article posted on 27.07.2006
Try to name a 168-pound fight since Roy Jones beat James Toney back in 1994 that got you (and the media) really excited – it’s not easy. The only bout that comes to mind is the beat down Joe Calzaghe handed Jeff Lacy back in March of this year. That’s a twelve year gap, void of any significant action, which has made it very easy for the casual boxing fan to forget about the Super Middleweights.
But things are changing – there’s an upcoming unification fight (WBC/WBA) between Mikkel Kessler and Markus Beyer on October 14th. We have rising prospects popping up from all over the world (Showtime will be displaying eight of them in a “ShoBox” tournament beginning this Friday night). And finally the division has a pound for pound player as it’s king, Joe Calzaghe, is widely recognized as one of the ten best fighters in the world. Truth is, while more and more large athletes continue to go into basketball, baseball and other sports; many of the men who “aren’t quite big enough” fall right into size requirements of the Super Middleweight division. In the past, fighters may have tried to squeeze down to 160, or bulk up to 175, in search of bigger matches with bigger names – but no more. There are numerous big names and big fights at 168, with plenty of money to be made worldwide. Let’s take a closer look at the division’s top players…
Joe Calzaghe (41-0) - May prove to be the best ever at 168 by the time he hangs up his gloves. Currently holds the best resume in the division, as well as the RING/IBF/WBO belts. However, he has talked about moving to Light Heavyweight for his next fight – which would seriously change the face of the division he’s rained over for years. Let’s all hope that he stays put.
Mikkel Kessler (37-0) – Should beat Beyer this October in his homeland of Denmark to unify the WBC/WBA belts. At that point there will be only one super-fight to make at 168 - can anybody guess where I’m going with this? If Calzaghe does move up to 175, Kessler will be the new frontrunner at 168.
Jeff Lacy (21-1) – Still the most powerful puncher in the division. Everybody jumped off the bandwagon after his loss to Calzaghe, but I still believe he’s a top fighter at 168. He’s slated to face highly-touted prospect Allan Green in October; that fight will tell us a lot about both men.
Markus Beyer (34-2-1) – Is he another overrated/protected German-based fighter, or will he surprise us? Consider this – he has not fought outside Germany since first becoming a titlist back in 1999. His controversial decision victories over Eric Lucas and Danny Green in Germany pose the question – can he win a tough, close match on the road? We’ll find out in October when he travels to Denmark to face Kessler.
Anthony Mundine (26-3) – With his victory over Danny Green in May, he is now Kessler’s mandatory for the WBA strap. Mundine already fought Kessler in his native Australia last year and lost – can he exact revenge in their second match?
Danny Green (21-3) - I felt that he beat Beyer last year, but it went in the books as a mixed-decision loss. Was it another case of “home-cooking” from the German judges? What we do know for sure is that Danny is a tough guy who’s never been stopped, and he gives anybody in the division a long night. I wouldn’t mind seeing him face the winner of Lacy-Green (Allan) sometime in early 2007 - that would likely make for an exciting, “fan friendly” fight.
Allan Green (21-0) - Just blew out former “Contender” participant Anthony Bonsante, who was grossly undersized with his much younger opponent. He takes a big step up in opposition if his proposed October bout with Lacy comes off. A victory over Lacy puts him at #3 on my list, and gives him big-time momentum with the US boxing media.
Librado Andrade (23-0) – Still an unproven prospect, he won a WBC eliminator bout in April over Otis Grant. This 27 year old from Mexico has many people’s attention as he has shown some real potential and an exciting style to this point in his young career. Can/will he continue to grow and become a contender?
Carl Froch (19-0) – The Englishman they call “The Cobra” has many UK fans excited, but I’m waiting to see him in the ring with better opposition. Who wouldn’t love to see him come across the pond (or visa versa) and face Andrade?
Denis Inkin (28-0) – Another German-based Russian fighter. He’s piled up 28 wins fighting in seven different countries (all in Europe), mostly against journeyman that you’ve never heard of. The time has come for his team step him up to the next level so we can all see if this kid is for real.
Others in contention: Lucian Bute (17-0), Mger Mkrtchian (23-2), Joe Spina (19-0-1), Victor Oganov (25-0), Robert Stieglitz (28-0), Jean Pascal (13-0), Mario Veit (48-2)
The biggest reason that I like this division so much is it’s diversity, as my top ten list is comprised of fighters from seven different countries. Indeed, the champ of the Super Middleweight class can truly call themselves the World Champion. Additionally, we will have two unified champs in just a few months, setting up the possibility of a five-title unification in 2007 (RING, WBC, WBA, IBF, WBO). Lastly, there are contenders and rising prospects coming up the ranks from all over the world – and they’re actually fighting each other! Mundine-Green (Danny) back in May and Lacy-Green (Allan) coming up in October are prime examples.
There is little doubt that Welterweight (147) is the premiere division in professional boxing today, and the Heavyweights will always fight in boxing’s “glamour division”; but Super Middleweight has risen from obscurity, and may soon be recognized as one of the most exciting divisions in the sport. The clarity of a single champion (provided Calzaghe and Kessler do the right thing), along with plenty of talented young challengers from across the globe, will bring the fight fans and the networks to 168. The potential is there, only time will tell if it all comes to fruition.
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