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NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: RIP, MIDDLEWEIGHT DIVISION

By Paul Magno | January 13, 2020
NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: RIP, MIDDLEWEIGHT DIVISION

Saturday night at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Jaime Munguia, in his official middleweight debut, pretty much confirmed what we already knew about him. The 23-year-old is engaging, compelling, and entertaining—but he’s not an elite-level fighter yet and he’s still in constant danger of being taught a hard lesson or two every moment he’s in the ring. 

Munguia’s stoppage of Irishman Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan was not unexpected. It did, however, come maybe five or six rounds too late against a very limited fighter whose greatest boxing asset is quaint retro facial hair. 

O’Sullivan was brought in as chum for the young DAZN fighter and lasted well into the eleventh round, even managing to ring the Tijuana native’s bell at the end of the third. 

All in all, Munguia-O’Sullivan was entertaining for what it was—but it did nothing to convince the boxing world that the kid was storming the 160 lb. class to really shake things up. 

And that leads me to the second takeaway from Saturday’s bout—The middleweight division is in bad, bad shape. And with the buzz about Canelo Alvarez fighting BJ Saunders at 168, pretty much officially ditching 160 forever, things look even more bleak for the glamor division, historical home to names such as Sugar Ray Robinson, Carlos Monzon, Marvin Hagler, and Bernard Hopkins. 

Preach to me all you want about the skills and talents of WBO champ Demetrius Andrade—and I agree that the man is very skilled and very talented—but his style does not make for an easy road to stardom. You can pretty much tell that from the fact that there’s not exactly a line formed to take the belt from him. Most likely, Andrade will keep fighting the second-tier pugs who will risk looking bad for a marginal payday (like painfully nondescript January 30 opponent Luke Keeler).  

With Canelo gone, Gennady Golovkin is the “big” name in the division and he’s now carrying around the IBF belt he won in a much-more-difficult-than-he-wanted war with Sergiy Derevyanchenko in October. 

But, let’s face it, when it comes to “Triple G,” the hype train has derailed. After feasting on stylistic soft touches for almost all of his career, the Kazakh KO machine failed to confirm the greatness foisted on him by a fawning media when he finally faced multifaceted opposition. Going 1-1-1 in the only three fights of his career where he wasn’t absolutely guaranteed a win (one against Daniel Jacobs and two against Canelo) and generally failing to separate himself as a true elite in those contests, it became safe to say that Golovkin wasn’t going to be the presence he was promoted to be. And now, just three months shy of his 38th birthday, there’s no more time to confirm greatness. From here on out, it’s back to soft-touch squashes—as evidenced by plans to face total no-hope Polish pug Kamil Szeremeta in March.

Jermall Charlo has the WBC middleweight belt and is a legit top 5 (or higher) guy in the division, but he won’t get a shot at Golovkin or Andrade at DAZN unless he signs a chunk of his career over to DAZN. Time will tell whether Charlo decides to make that leap of faith. 

The Ukraine’s Derevyanchenko is a bottom-five top 10 middleweight who had the right style and came along at the right time to give Golovkin fits, but may have had a huge portion of his fighting spirit taken from him in that war. And even if he didn’t, he’s, overall, hardly a needle-mover at 160.

Chris Eubank Jr. is competing now at middleweight and is good enough to make some waves, but the question is whether he’ll stick around long enough at 160 to do so. Ryota Murata does nothing but pack arenas in Japan and bottom-feed on low-level contenders to his WBA paper title. Jeff Horn was a punching bag at 147 and is an even bigger, more hapless one at 160. Nobody else in the division manages to register even a blip on the radar. Rob Brant, Liam Smith, Liam Williams? Nope, nope, nope.

At some point junior middleweights like Jarrett Hurd, Julian Williams, and Jermell Charlo will move up in weight, but there’s no guarantee as to when and no guarantee that they will meet up with guys like Golovkin or Andrade, unless, like what’s facing Jermall Charlo, they sign over a piece of their future to DAZN.

These things tend to run in cycles. Maybe some young gun stud middleweight will emerge in the not-too-distant future to wedge some excitement into the scene and become the undisputed king of the division. Or, maybe, the current mega-divided business model in the sport will forever keep such magic from happening ever again. We’ll see.

For now, though, the middleweight division is pretty crappy and only getting worse. 

Got something for Magno? Send it here: paulmagno@theboxingtribune.com

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