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Ranking the Middleweights: Like it or not, Canelo secures his spot

Canelo Alvarez is No. 1 at 160, even if the arguments and debates will rage on.

Gennady Golovkin v Canelo Alvarez Photo by Al Bello/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 (50-1-2, 34 KO)

I thought Gennady Golovkin deserved to win the first fight, but it came back a draw. I thought Gennady Golovkin deserved to win the rematch, but it came back a majority decision for Alvarez. I wasn’t outraged either time. I have my own scoring biases, same as just about anyone, and I am not paid to be a judge for prize fights. The Golovkin side, at least publicly, isn’t taking issue with Saturday’s outcome, and I’m not either.

What’s clear about Canelo is this: he can fight. The clenbuterol story is in the past. He was clean — as clean as boxing can guarantee, anyway — for the rematch with GGG, and he didn’t back down, didn’t “run,” didn’t shy away from anything in the fight. He scraped out a majority decision on two 7-5 cards going his way against the man who had been the best middleweight of the generation. He’s 28 and right in what should be his prime.

Will a third fight with GGG be next? Maybe, but the Alvarez side wants to fight in December. Much of that will depend on what shakes out with his deal at HBO and all that. But a third fight with Golovkin seems inevitable at some point, at least by September 2019, if neither man loses a fight before they can meet again. They make good money together. Next: TBA

2) Gennady Golovkin (38-1-1, 34 KO)

Golovkin, 36, didn’t look old to me on Saturday night, as he was the busier guy, I think landed the bigger punches, a lot of the cleaner shots, and rallied down the stretch of the bout on through its finish. He can still fight at the elite level. He was never going to wreck the Canelos and Daniel Jacobseseses of the world the way he did guys like Dominic Wade or even David Lemieux; even the best fighters meet their matches along the way, either stylistically or just because the competition gets tougher and better. GGG has had a great career, and it should continue on at least a little while longer with him in the top end of these rankings. Next: TBA

3) Daniel Jacobs (34-2, 29 KO)

Jacobs, 31, hasn’t really overly impressed since going 12 hard rounds with Golovkin in March 2017. He’s gone 2-0 since then, widely beating Luis Arias by decision and then getting through a pretty good fight with Maciej Sulecki in April of this year. Do not sleep on Jacobs’ October 27 matchup with Sergiy Derevyanchenko, coming to HBO from the MSG Theater in New York. That’s a really good one on paper, and I think closer to 50-50 than some might realize. Next: Oct. 27 vs Sergiy Derevyanchenko

4) Billy Joe Saunders (26-0, 12 KO)

Speaking of not exactly taking the ball and running with it, there’s Saunders, who routed David Lemieux on HBO last December and since then has done nothing but pull out of fights with Martin Murray, perhaps hoping at one point to land a fight with GGG or Canelo, before those two just put together their rematch in the end. Saunders has done this before — he took a year after beating Andy Lee for the WBO title in 2015 to fight again, and remember, he did not impress in that return against Artur Akavov, even by his own admission. Saunders is a very skilled boxer, but his next fight is tougher on paper than Akavov, and if he’s rusty again, or has gotten ahead of himself again, that could be trouble. Next: Oct. 20 vs Demetrius Andrade

5) Sergiy Derevyanchenko (12-0, 10 KO)

Derevyanchenko has impressed through all 12 of his pro fights. He tried to fight GGG, didn’t get it, and ultimately forced the IBF to strip Golovkin of their belt, which will now be contested between Derevyanchenko and Jacobs in October. It’s the second-best middleweight matchup we’re going to see in 2018. Next: Oct. 27 vs Daniel Jacobs

6) Ryota Murata (14-1, 11 KO)

Murata, 32, has the WBA “world” title, which some of you bristle at, and I get it, but also don’t really care, the sanctioning body takes the fees either way, if the fighters are going to pay for it I might as well at least half-ass acknowledge it. The former Olympic gold medalist has one loss on his pro record and it was both bogus and heartily avenged. He beat Italy’s Emanuele Blandamura in a mediocre April title defense, and now faces Rob Brant in October, coming to Las Vegas for the ESPN+ headliner. Brant isn’t a bad fighter, but my guess is Murata is too good for him. Given his age, I’d love to see him mix it up with the top guys before it’s too late, but that seems unlikely given his promotional affiliations. Next: Oct. 20 vs Rob Brant

7) Jermall Charlo (27-0, 21 KO)

Adrien Broner v Jessie Vargas Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

A lot of people would rank Charlo higher, and I understand. He’s had big network exposure for a while, he’s a good fighter, unbeaten, with sometimes scary power. But his best wins are Austin Trout and Julian Williams at 154 pounds. At 160, he’s beaten Jorge Heiland and Hugo Centeno Jr. I think this division is eight deep in guys who can compete at a really high level on the right nights. I just happen to have Charlo ranked seventh for the time being. That could change soon, though, if he can get the right fights, which isn’t easy. Like Murata, his promotional ties don’t help him much in this division. But he’s 28 and, at some point, is going to get his chance to fight someone. And it should be exciting, because he’s an exciting fighter to watch. Next: TBA

8) Demetrius Andrade (25-0, 16 KO)

On some nights, the 30-year-old Andrade looks world class. On others, he looks a level below that. He hasn’t fought since October 2017, when he beat Alantez Fox on HBO, and he’ll return for a world title shot on October 20 against Saunders in Boston, close enough to his home in Providence. He is a former titleholder at 154 and plenty good enough to take Billy Joe’s belt if things go right for him. I think that’s a fight with a lot of potential x-factors determining the outcome. If they’re both on, it’s going to be a really interesting fight and potentially very tough to score. Next: Oct. 20 vs Billy Joe Saunders

9) David Lemieux (40-4, 34 KO)

Spike O’Sullivan called Lemieux a one-trick pony. Then Spike O’Sullivan saw Lemieux’s one trick, and the fight was over in two minutes and 44 seconds. David Lemieux, still just 29 even though he seems older (at least to me), is never going to be an elite level fighter, but he’s dangerous against anyone, powerful as all hell, and someone who will be around and in the mix, probably for a few more years at least. It’s no an easy fight to make between GBP and PBC, but damn if I wouldn’t be up for a Charlo-Lemieux fight. Next: TBA

10) Maciej Sulecki (26-1, 10 KO)

You could go with veteran Martin Murray here, but I’m going with Sulecki, at least for now, as he gave Jacobs a solid test in April. Sulecki may return to the 154-pound division, but it’s clear he can fight at 160, as he gave a top fighter 12 good rounds. The 29-year-old Pole has nothing on the schedule right now, but hopefully gets back out before the end of the year, even in a tune-up type matchup. Next: TBA

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