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Bad Left Hook Best of the Decade - Super Middleweight

Now that 2009 is getting close to wrapping up, it means this decade is almost over. Before the end of the year, I hope to get through all the weight classes, presenting to you some choices for the best fighter in a given weight class in the decade. I'm not going in any particular order here, but we'll get through all 17 weight classes.

When voting, please only consider the time that the fighter was in the specified weight class during this decade. Also, I'm not going to count obvious ballot stuffing when I tally these up at the end of the year.

Super middleweight, much like light welterweight, was one of the few weight classes that was for the most part cleared out in the 2000's. Early in the decade, Ottke defeated many of the top guys and retired undefeated. Then, mid-decade, Calzaghe and Kessler cleaned out every name worth mentioning before fighting each other to create a true undisputed champion in the weight class. And now, the cycle begins anew, as the Super Six tournament includes the majority of the names really worth mentioning, and likely will create a new champ in the weight class in early 2011. That said, there's really only two names that deserve any votes.

Lucian Bute - Bute has gone 14-0 in the weight class, including 4-0 in title fights. Key wins include victories over Librado Andrade, Sakio Bika, Fulgencio Zuniga, Alejandro Berrio, William Joppy, and a number of Calzaghe rejects. He has a rematch coming up next month against Andrade. If he does make a big name for himself, it's a lot more likely he'll be near the top of this kind of poll for next decade than for this one.

Joe Calzaghe - Calzaghe went 17-0 in the weight classes, all of which were title defenses, including two unification victories over Jeff Lacy and Mikkel Kessler, the latter of which probably created the first true super middleweight champion in the history of the weight class. In the decade, the best wins were over Kessler, Lacy, Sakio Bika, Byron Mitchell, Charles Brewer, Richie Woodhall, Omar Sheika and David Starie. One thing that hurts him is that for about half the decade, he really focused on taking mandatories and the weakest defenses possible, leading to a pretty underwhelming collection of title defenses from 2000 through 2005. In addition, he only left England and Wales twice during the reign, and one of those times was on the Tyson-Nielsen undercard where he was facing an unknown American. On the other hand, his last four defenses were fairly strong (the wins over Bika and Manfredo look better now than they did at the time), and he did manage to make himself the lineal, undisputed, unified super middleweight champion of the world.

Carl Froch - Froch has gone 17-0 in the division, including 3-0 in title fights. His important victories are over Jermain Taylor, Andre Dirrell, Jean Pascal and Robin Reid. Like Bute, he's on this list because he's undefeated and has a number of legitimate wins, but he's more likely to make a bigger name for himself in the future than he is to win this poll now.

Mikkel Kessler - Kessler has gone 23-2 in the weight class this decade, including seven title defenses and unification of belts with Markus Beyer. Kessler has beaten seven former and future beltholders - Beyer, Eric Lucas, Anthony Mundine, Manny Siaca, Julio Cesar Green, Dingaan Thobela and Dmitri Sartison, and one more who still could become a beltholder before the decade is over (Librado Andrade). The two losses came to Joe Calzaghe and in last night's destruction by Andre Ward.

Jeff Lacy - Lacy started off the decade making a lot of noise, and sort of left it with a whimper. Lacy went 22-2 in the weight class, including four title defenses. His best wins include Robin Reid, Omar Sheika, Syd Vanderpool, Epifanio Mendoza and Peter Manfredo. His losses came to Joe Calzaghe (a fight in which he was so thoroughly beaten, that he was never the same fighter again afterwards) and Jermain Taylor. It's pretty easy to look back at his resume now and say that he was probably always overhyped, but for a while, people thought he was going to be the next great thing.

Anthony Mundine - Mundine has gone 33-3 in the weight class, including twice winning belts. The former professional rugby player was a novice to boxing when he vowed to win a title within his first 10 fights, and while he didn't win the title, he did manage to get a title shot against Ottke very quickly. He also lost to Mikkel Kessler and Danny Green. His best wins were over Danny Green, Antwun Echols, RIck Thornberry and Sam Soliman (thrice). More recently, Mundine is campaigning at middleweight, having blatantly ducked out of a potential Sakio Bika fight that would have been big in Australia to go after some easier foes.

Sven Ottke - Ottke also went 17-0 in the weight class, all of which were title defenses, including a unification fight with Byron Mitchell. Key wins include Mitchell, Charles Brewer, Silvio Branco, James Crawford, Anthony Mundine, Rick Thornberry, David Staris, Mads Larsen and Robin Reid (albeit in a fight that nobody other than the judges and Ottke's mum thought Ottke won). Other than the one name that's blatantly missing from his resume (Calzaghe), Ottke actually did fight the best out there, which is commendable. On the other hand, he never once left Germany and was on the right end of several gift or questionable decisions, which is not.

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