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Boxing Year-End Top 10: The Junior Middleweights

Canelo Alvarez retreated to 154 to regain his No. 1 ranking heading into 2017.

Canelo v Smith - WBO Middleweight World Championship Photo by Omar Vega/LatinContent/Getty Images
Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

1. Canelo Alvarez (48-1-1, 34 KO)

Wasted 2016 avoiding Gennady Golovkin and instead taking all-but-gimme wins over Amir Khan and Liam Smith. The Smith fight officially returned him to the 154-pound division. So he gets the top spot here, largely because of his win over Erislandy Lara a couple years ago. I mean, there’s no other way to rank him at 154, really.

2. Erislandy Lara (23-2-2, 13 KO)

A good fighter. I don’t think Lara is a great fighter. He lacks the dynamic ability to be great, but he’s very good, and stylistically can be a nightmare for just about anyone. He’ll start 2017 with a waste of time against Yuri Foreman, but I don’t think there are a lot of guys banging down his door, either. Fought once in 2016, beating Vanes Martirosyan in a rematch.

3. Jermall Charlo (25-0, 19 KO)

Had a tough time with Austin Trout in June, but the win was not a robbery or anything, and Trout can fight. The way he knocked out Julian Williams in December really opened some eyes. Charlo is far from a flawless fighter, but has fight-changing power and a raw physicality that make him extremely dangerous. His plan is to move to 160 soon enough, and he says he wants Gennady Golovkin.

4. Demetrius Andrade (23-0, 16 KO)

Andrade is his own worst enemy thus far, torpedoing his career at points and keeping himself sidelined. He’s an extremely talented fighter, has the talent to beat anyone in this division. His win over Willie Nelson was dominant and impressive. And then that’s all he did, canceling a fight with Jack Culcay after Sauerland Event won the purse bid. Will he fight in 2017? Will he live up to his potential? Or is he doomed to stall his prime away?

5. Austin Trout (30-3, 17 KO)

Austin Trout’s three losses have come to the 1-2-3 guys on this list. Austin Trout is a very good pro fighter. He gave Jermall Charlo all he could handle on May 21, his lone fight of 2016. (Do you notice a lot of PBC guys have one fight for a year?) Trout is 31, so he’s still right in his prime, or should be. But what does he do now? Hopefully he’s more active in 2016, or at least finds one more big fight.

6. Jermell Charlo (28-0, 13 KO)

The lighter-punching Charlo twin, Jermell holds the WBC title, beating John Jackson for the vacant belt on May 21. The good news is he knocked Jackson out. The bad news is he was clearly losing that fight before he rallied and got Jackson out of there. So it’s still kind of an open question with Charlo, whose best win is still his 2015 victory over Vanes Martirosyan, a close decision. He’s got a date with mandatory challenger Charles Hatley on February 18.

7. Vanes Martirosyan (36-3-1, 21 KO)

Still a good fighter, just has never quite gotten over the hump. He fought just once this year, the loss to Lara, but I thought he was a lot more competitive in that fight than most people did. Then again, I am not overly enamored with Lara. Martirosyan would be a great opponent for Andrade, I think, if that fight could be made.

8. Michel Soro (29-1-1, 19 KO)

A rock solid European fighter who could be a tough out for a lot of guys, but probably is a good bit short of true world class. Soro, 29, went 2-0 in 2016, beating Hector Saldivia and Nuhu Lawal, both by stoppage. It’d be great to see him target some bigger names, to see how good he really might be, but he could tread water in France for a while, too, and frankly that seems more likely. That will get him lapped sooner than later, if that’s the case.

9. Tony Harrison (24-1, 20 KO)

Took a loss to Willie Nelson in July 2015, but has rebounded with solid wins over Cecil McCalla, Fernando Guerrero, and Sergey Rabchenko, and he’s looked more comfortable and confident each time out. Harrison is a good puncher and a terrific athlete, but he has some defensive lapses that can get him in trouble. That said, he appears to have learned well from the mistakes he made against Nelson, and he’s always readily admitted to being the one to blame for that loss, too. The future is still bright.

10. Julian Williams (22-1-1, 14 KO)

Took a terribly nasty loss to end the year, but was also competitive in that fight, too, which is worth noting. Williams is a good boxer, but his cerebral style apparently can be overwhelmed by pure physicality against someone like Jermall Charlo. That said, Charlo’s a legitimately big puncher, too, and was fighting with a chip on his shoulder. It was really a great night for Charlo. Williams deserves more looks. He’s got ability, and could be back in the mix very quickly.

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