We last ranked the middleweights in February, and there has been some major shifting around. Guys leaving, guys have fought since then, some have looked good and others have not. It is a ridiculously empty division now.
1. Kelly Pavlik (35-1, 31 KO, Ring Magazine World Champion)
Kelly Pavlik has to move up to 168 pounds. He has to. There is nothing left for him on a major scale at 160. Period. There is NOTHING. In a perfect world, Pavlik might need to stay at 160, but the world ain't perfect and Kelly's got no opponents, making his totally legitimate championship a bit of a paper crown. He has made only two defenses of his title since beating Jermain Taylor for it in their September 2007 instant classic. In spring of '08, he fought and demolished Gary Lockett in a yawner that shouldn't have happened. In February of this year, he dominated Marco Antonio Rubio on Top Rank PPV, a fight most people just didn't see.
I've bashed Kelly a little lately because I thought his comments on the Super Six were really...dumb. There's no other way to put it. Judging by the comments here and elsewhere, I wasn't alone in thinking that. It just came off poorly in every possible way. But I've been a Pavlik fan since the first time I saw him wreck someone with that right hand of his, and I remain one to this day. But he's got to get out of this division, because it's doing nothing for his career. If he's that concerned about money, 168 has more of it than 160 does. The only semi-money fights he can make at 160 are against 154-pound titlist and division-hopper Paul Williams (not gonna happen, that fell apart once in nasty fashion) and Winky Wright, which is a fight you could probably get HBO to buy, but also isn't that attractive as Winky is old, kind of out of the loop, and has never been a draw.
I really don't know what the next step for Pavlik is going to be, but they're talking October 3 as his return date. Sergio Mora is out of the running since no one wanted to see that fight and it was probably better off canceled. The best thing would be if everyone swallowed their pride and made Pavlik-Williams happen, but don't hold your breath for that. And I still do like the Pavlik-Sergio Martinez rumor. That would be a damn solid fight for both guys.
2. Winky Wright (51-5-1, 25 KO)
This is how bad this division is. No offense to Winky Wright, but he's a 37-year old man who has fought once since 2007, and he won at best one round of that fight against Paul Williams. But I would pick him on fair ground with good judges to beat anyone else in this division, and handily so. His defense still looked OK, but Williams punched like a madman on ten five hour energy shots that night, so there was really nothing Wink could do. He says he intends to fight on and has talked about going to Germany to take on Felix Sturm, and also says he'd be happy to fight Pavlik. If Pavlik-Wright happened, I would pick Pavlik on youth and power but you'd have to Mr. Blonde me to get me to put any money on the pick, too. I'd be awash in memories of what a 43-year old Bernard Hopkins did to Pavlik.
3. Khoren Gevor (30-4, 16 KO)
I don't care that he "lost" to Felix Sturm. If you didn't catch it, find that fight and explain to me how Sturm won it, because I sure as hell didn't see it. Brickhaus summed up the latest German controversy with this after the fight:
Throughout the entire fight, Gevor probably threw twice as many punches as Sturm. He controlled the action for all but one round. He landed the harder shots in all but about three rounds. He blocked about 85% of what Sturm threw at him, and although Sturm probably blocked around the same percentage of punches, the sheer volume of Gevor's output means that he landed many many more punches than Sturm.
Gevor won that fight. He's better than Sturm.
4. Anthony Mundine (36-3, 23 KO)
It's kind of too bad that Anthony Mundine has lost a step at 34 years of age, because he's really not a bad fighter, even still. He's not world class and never quite was, but in a division depleted as this one is, he remains a viable contender. That's kind of too bad itself, I suppose. His last fight with Daniel Geale was a damn good scrap, and a rematch has been ordered. There's big money in that in Australia, so I expect it to happen while Mundine continues to chirp about coming to the States and working with Golden Boy.
5. Daniel Geale (21-1, 13 KO)
Mundine's split decision win over Geale wasn't really controversial, I don't think. I had Mundine winning the bout close and didn't feel there was anything shady about it whatsoever. If anything, you'd expect a screwjob to likely go in Geale's favor, since he's younger, has a brighter future, and isn't, um...how do I put it? Such a loudmouthed, prickly sort? Sure, that works. Geale impressed me with his resolve and his skills. There's work to be done there, but he could be an actual export instead of "just an Australian fighter."
6. Roman Karmazin (39-3-1, 25 KO)
It's probably way too late for him to capture lightning in a bottle and go on a tear, since "Made in Hell" is 36 years old now, but like Brick recently said, Karmazin is one of the actual most avoided guys in boxing. He lost in January 2008 to Alex Bunema, which was a big upset, but since then he has steamrolled Bronco McKart, Antwun Echols and Luiz Augusto Dos Santos. It's not the best collection of talent, but he's a good fighter, and he's another guy that if you give me a fair game all around, I'm picking him over Sturm at this point. I think he's the sort of guy who's relentless enough to win the fight.
7. Felix Sturm (33-2-1, 14 KO)
Most everyone on earth would put Sturm at No. 2 based on his title and his win streak and the fact that he does have some solid legitimate wins recently. But not me. This whole schtick has gotten tired. He's an overly protected fighter that gets sympathy in large part because a lot of us still feel he was given the screws against Oscar de la Hoya years ago, but that has worn out its welcome by now. Sturm has gotten enough gimme fights and questionable decisions to have more than made up for it at this point. He's a solid, talented fighter with few flaws but no really great strengths. He is a B fighter. If there was any money in it (there would be in Germany, but HBO has shown so little interest that they might as well have just passed without an offer), I would love to see Pavlik-Sturm. Pavlik has his limitations, too, but I have no doubt he knocks Sturm out.
8. David Lopez (38-12, 23 KO)
He beat Ossie Duran in April to continue his 14-fight win streak. He won't get a shot against anyone because his record isn't attractive and he has no name, but he's worked his ass off to earn his spot. He's a journeyman's journeyman, a guy who started out at welter and has fought as a cruiserweight. He's settled in at 160 and beaten some decent fighters on his current run. None of them were great, but there's also not a true bum in the bunch.
9. Sebastian Sylvester (31-3, 15 KO)
Sylvester's biggest problem stems from the fact that he's 5'7", which is just tiny for a middleweight. He beat Lajuan Simon in June, three months after Arthur Abraham beat Simon. He's now set up to decide the IBF title that Abraham vacated against Giovanni Lorenzo on September 19 in Germany. Considering he was knocked out 90 seconds into his pro debut, Sylvester has done pretty well for himself.
10. Daniel Jacobs (17-0, 15 KO)
The Michael Walkers, George Waltons and Jose Varelas of the world don't tell us that Jacobs will be a superstar for sure, but an empty division and the fact that those guys add up to a comparable resume to that of anyone else that could be put into this spot, plus Jacobs' obvious natural skill level being much higher than those other guys means he gets in here. This isn't like when I foolishly ranked Andy Lee. This is necessity. Someone has to be here, and Jacobs has really done just about as much as anyone else.
You Coulda Been a Contender...
Speaking of Andy Lee, his career sure got quiet, didn't it? He's still fighting and winning, just doing his job. ... Giovanni Lorenzo is the top-ranked fighter by the IBF's list, but he still hasn't shown me a whole lot. He was lucky his loss to Raul Marquez was scored as close as it was, because Marquez clearly outboxed him last year. Only a point deducted for a Lorenzo headbutt allowed Marquez to take the W that was rightfully his. Still, Lorenzo waxed Dionisio Miranda last time out and if he does something similar to Sylvester, don't be surprised. ... Craig McEwan is under Freddie Roach's care and Golden Boy's watch. Not a bad team to have. ... Brits Matthew Macklin and Darren Barker will face off on September 5. ... Enrique Ornelas still hasn't fought since his grueling loss to Marco Antonio Rubio last October. Rubio hasn't fought since Pavlik made him quit in February. ... Cameroon's Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam is fighting out of France and starting to make a small name for himself. ... How weird is it that Amin Asikainen is on Fight Night Round 4? ... Prospect Peter Quillin is in the middle of a lost year. He hasn't fought since September. ... Salisbury, Maryland's Fernando Guerrero remains one of my two or three absolute favorite prospects to watch. I'm not at all sure how good he'll be, but he did survive a bit of a gut check against Gabriel Rosado in February, and Rosado went on to upset Kassim Ouma two months later.