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Road To Undisputed #12: Junior Middleweights

undisputed junior middleweights

Welcome to “Road To Undisputed,” a series where I look at every weight class in boxing, look at the champions and contenders and map out a road to crowning an undisputed champion and the chances of it happening anytime soon.

This week, we’ll take a look at the junior middleweights, where recent developments opened the door to a massive unification fight.

Here are the divisions covered so far:

Minimumweights
Light flyweights
Flyweights
Super flyweights
Bantamweights
Super Bantamweights
Featherweights
Super Featherweights
Lightweights
Junior Welterweights
Welterweights

Titleholders:

  • WBA “Super,” WBC and IBF: Jermell Charlo
  • WBO: Brian Castano
  • WBA “Regular:” Erislandy Lara

Contenders:

  • Jarrett Hurd
  • Tim Tszyu
  • Sebastian Fundora
  • Julian Williams
  • Jeison Rosario
  • Tony Harrison
  • Michel Soro
  • Israil Madrimov
  • Charles Conwell
  • Erickson Lubin
  • Sergio Garcia
  • Jack Culcay
  • Serhii Bohachuk
  • Ted Cheeseman

Current Outlook:

The junior middleweight division has been undergoing a paradigm shift on a near-quarterly basis. Since 2018, the following names held titles among the four sanctioning bodies:

  • Jermell Charlo
  • Erislandy Lara
  • Julian Williams
  • Brian Castano
  • Patrick Teixeira
  • Jarrett Hurd
  • Jeison Rosario
  • Tony Harrison
  • Jaime Munguia
  • Sadam Ali

That level of parity is almost unheard of in a division nowadays. The lack of stability among the major beltholders have led to a series of great fights and several new champions being crowned.

Out of all the current top names at junior middleweight, the only one who has been consistent for the most part is Charlo. His only hiccup came in late 2018 when he lost his WBC title to Tony Harrison, but would regain the title the following year. As it stands, Charlo stands atop the mountain holding the WBC, WBA and IBF titles. On the other side stands Brian Castano, the Argentine boxer who won the WBO title back on February 13 with a dominant performance against Patrick Teixeira.

Although Charlo and Castano are recognized by many as the top two junior middleweights today, the rest of the division provides a talent pool that is viewed as one of the best in the sport.

Looking at the former champions/secondary titlist, Erislandy Lara has been a stalwart in the division, with fights against Jarrett Hurd, Canelo Alvarez, Austin Trout, Ishe Smith and more. Lara possesses a secondary WBA title at 154 pounds, but there is no doubt that he is still one of the most technically-proficient boxers today, even when he’s past his prime.

Speaking of Hurd, his career is a bit of a mystery. Hurd has teased the idea of moving up to middleweight, but has not outright fully committed to it. If he were to stay at junior middleweight, he would still have plenty of big fights and can easily pose a major threat to every fighter at 154 pounds.

The top prospects at 154 pounds are all on the verge of shedding their prospect label for good. Sebastian Fundora is the most visually interesting fighter of the bunch, standing in at more than 6 feet and 5 inches. Despite his extremely tall and lanky frame, Fundora has deceptively good power and is quite adept at fighting on the inside, having already answered several questions over how a fighter of his stature would fare at this weight.

Tim Tszyu, the son of the great Kostya Tszyu, is already one of the most gifted offensive prospects in boxing today. Tszyu carries an incredibly diverse set of punches with an equally-impressive ability to mix punches up on the fly and already has a win over former world champion Jeff Horn last year. Tszyu will more than likely enter the top 10 at 154 pounds within the next 12 months.

There is also Charles Conwell, a rugged fighter from Ohio who is a hard puncher and has no reservations fighting on the inside and trading blows with opponents. Conwell also has a high ceiling that will likely catapult him into the top 10 conversation sooner rather than later. Lastly, there is the unbeaten Serhii Bohachuk. In the last 18 months, Bohachuk turned into a cult favorite among hardcore boxing pundits thanks to his incredible power and KO punching. Bohachuk has won all 18 of his pro bouts by KO or TKO.

Even if the current crop of top junior middleweights leave soon, the prospects coming up will ensure the future of the 154-pound division for years to come. That’s not even mentioning the list of top guys who were champions not too long ago such as Jeison Rosario, Julian Williams and Tony Harrison, who still can provide plenty of challenges to the top of the division.

What will it take to get an undisputed champion?

To answer it simply: Lock Charlo, Castano and the powers that be within PBC in a broom closet and lock the door until there’s a fight contract signed, sealed and delivered.

There is really no reason why this fight can’t happen next. Both fighters fight under the PBC umbrella and the allure of being undisputed is always enticing. Charlo has already made his mark in the division by being a two-time champion. Castano has started to enter the collective consciousness in the United States. Castano already made waves with how he performed against Lara, with that fight ending in a draw. The win over Teixeira was perhaps Castano’s finest performance and it couldn’t come at a better time.

Castano instantly became the best opponent for Charlo as far as his next fight. Although Charlo has yet to test the waters against the likes of Hurd and Lara, Castano is the one holding a title.

As the holder of three belts, Charlo does have his fare share of potential mandatories. Erickson Lubin is the WBC’s mandatory and Fundora recently won an IBF title eliminator. However, neither the WBC and IBF have given strict deadlines over when Charlo has to make a mandatory defense. If Charlo’s team were to express interest in getting a fight with Castano made, I doubt that any sanctioning body will get in the way of an undisputed title bout.

History is on the verge of being made in boxing’s junior middleweight division and it would be foolish to not pursue that fight immediately. I would bet that we see an undisputed 154-pound champion by the end of the year.

Chances of there being an undisputed champion in the next 18 months: 70%

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