Boxing reset — GGG still a force at middleweight; Erickson Lubin one to watch at 154


The coronavirus pandemic has brought the boxing world to a halt. Nearly all events worldwide are off through at least early May, and more cancellations and postponements are expected to be announced in the coming days.

So for a year-round sport that never has an offseason, this is a first. During this lull in the action, let’s check in on the middleweight and junior middleweight divisions and see where things stand.

Middleweight

What’s the biggest question you have about this division?

Will the third fight between Canelo Alvarez, right, and Gennadiy Golovkin, left, ever happen? Al Bello/Getty Images

In his past three bouts, Canelo Alvarez has won world title fights in three different divisions — secondary super middleweight title in December 2018, a middleweight world title in May 2019 and, most recently, a light heavyweight belt in November. The question is, will Canelo, who remains the middleweight world champion, ever return to the division? He looked absolutely ripped at 175 pounds, and the idea of him dropping 15 pounds to get back to middleweight seemed like a reach to me. His next fight is planned for 168 pounds (a unification fight against Billy Joe Saunders). After that he has a deal in place for a third fight with rival Gennadiy Golovkin. While many would think that fight would take place at super middleweight, I am told by sources that the fight is planned for middleweight. We shall see.

Who is the star? Who is his biggest competitor?

In whatever division Canelo fights he is its biggest star, be it light heavyweight, super middleweight or middleweight. His biggest competitor is obviously Golovkin, his bitter rival against whom Alvarez is 1-0-1 in disputed decisions.

Who is a potential dark horse?

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Sergiy Derevyanchenko was a decorated amateur, so forget about him having only 15 pro fights. He’s a seasoned veteran whose only two losses were extremely close decisions — first in a vacant world title fight against Daniel Jacobs in 2018, in a fight I thought Jacobs barely edged Derevyanchenko out — and another fight for a vacant belt against Golovkin last October. I — and many — thought Derevyanchenko deserved to win against Golovkin. Derevyanchenko could easily be undefeated and own a world title. Given another chance, he can certainly claim a belt.

What is a fight you need to see next in the division?

A unification bout Jermall Charlo, right, and Demetrius Andrade is one of the biggest fights you can make in the middleweight division. Edward Diller/Getty Images

The popular answer is, of course, a third fight between Canelo and GGG. I am certainly interested in it but I don’t need to see it. I’ve seen it twice. They were excellent fights. I did not agree with either decision, as I had Golovkin winning the first fight and a draw in the second fight. A third fight makes sense, but I’m pretty much over it at this point. Give me something new and fresh that doesn’t feel like just a grab for money. Give me a unification fight between Demetrius Andrade and Jermall Charlo, both former junior middleweight titleholders who have moved up in weight to win belts at middleweight. They are a combined 59-0, both are in dire need of a serious opponent, and they rank right behind Canelo and GGG in the division. They have contrasting styles — Andrade is the slick boxer and Charlo is more of a banger — they have talked smack with each other, and the winner will have earned a really big fight against the Canelo-GGG III winner.

Junior middleweight

What’s the biggest question you have about this division?

The 154-pound weight class is a fun one. It has several quality fighters who’ve engaged in entertaining and interesting fights over the past few years, but can anyone hold onto a title for an extended period? The belts have traded hands on a regular basis, with nobody able to establish dominance.

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Most recently, in January, unheralded Jeison Rosario turned the division on its head when he went to Julian “J Rock” Williams’ hometown of Philadelphia and knocked him out in the fifth round to take his two belts in Williams’ first defense. Eight months earlier, Williams, a big underdog, went to Jarrett Hurd’s home region in Fairfax, Virginia, knocked Hurd down for the first time in his career and won a decision to take his belts. There is also Jermell Charlo, who lost his belt by controversial decision to Tony Harrison in December 2018 and then stopped Harrison in the 11th round of a rematch this past December to regain it. It seems as though any of the top guys in the division is capable of defeating any of the other top fighters on any given night, but will somebody emerge as the division kingpin for more than a minute?

Who is the star? Who is his biggest competitor?

There are several good fighters in the weight class, but talent does not equal star power and there really is not a singular star in this division. There is nobody with wide recognition who packs a house or draws strong TV ratings, just a lot of good guys who have talent and can make good fights.

Who is a potential dark horse?

Erickson Lubin, right, has the chance to make noise in a crowded junior middleweight division. Tim Warner/Getty Images

I will take some liberty here and name two. There is former welterweight titlist Kell Brook, the closest thing the division has to a star because he is popular in his hometown of Sheffield, England. Brook did not fight at all in 2019, but he returned in February to knock out Mark DeLuca in the seventh round — and he looked very good after a 14-month layoff. If Brook can stay focused and busy, he could definitely make some noise in this division, where he has boxed three times since losing his welterweight title to Errol Spence Jr. in May 2017.

The other is Erickson Lubin, the 2016 prospect of the year, who I strongly believe still has a chance to fulfill the massive potential so many predicted for him when he turned pro in 2013. He is only 24 and should have many good days ahead of him. He was thrown in far too early for a title shot against Jermell Charlo in 2017 and paid the price by getting knocked out in the first round — the only loss of his career. Many wrote Lubin off after that defeat, but he has rebounded to win four fights in a row since (three by knockout) and he is in position to challenge for another world title.

What is a fight you need to see next in the division?

Before Hurd got upset by Williams and Charlo got upset by Harrison, the fight most wanted to see in the division was a three-belt title unification showdown between Hurd and Charlo. They were talking trash with each other and a lot of boxing fans were hyped for the fight that figured to be an evenly matched, exciting contest. OK, so they both lost and the fight went out the window, but why not revisit it? It’s still a very intriguing fight and one I still want to see. Bring it on.




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