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 middleweights, which features an array of talent and champions but seem to have a tough time in securing unifications.
Here are the divisions covered so far:
- WBA “Super:” Ryota Murata
- WBC: Jermall Charlo
- WBO: Demetrius Andrade
- IBF: Gennadiy Golovkin
- Jaime Munguia
- Chris Eubank Jr.
- Sergiy Derevyanchenko
- Liam Smith
- Esquiva Falcao
- Zhanibek Alimkhanuly
The middleweight division has been one of the most popular weight classes in the sport, with a number of top names and Hall Of Famers gracing 160 pounds in recent years. Canelo Alvarez, who could go down as a modern all-time great, was a unified champion back in 2019.
The present day version of the middleweight division still is a quality one. Gennadiy Golovkin may not be the same devastating fighter that he once was, but he’s still arguably the best at 160 pounds today. Golovkin demonstrates much of the same fearsome power he’s shown for a decade and still looks in phenomenal shape, but time is slowly creeping up on him.
Some of the younger champions and titleholders at 160 pounds are slowly taking the reigns for the future of the division. Ryota Murata, who is 35 years old, is another beltholder who is a solid fighter, but time is not necessarily on his side. Murata is not well known in the United States, but is a ferocious puncher with technical prowess that earned him an Olympic gold medal back in 2012. However, Murata has shown inconsistencies in performances such as his surprise 2018 loss to Rob Brant. When Murata is at his best, it’s hard to argue that he is one of the best middleweights in the world today.
Andrade’s stock never seems to reach to the level his boxing acumen stands at. That can be best attributed to the run of relatively subpar opponents throughout his title reign. Andrade has shown he has the skills to contend with the best in the world, but his recent opponents did not push him to demonstrate that world class ability.
Lastly, there’s Charlo. The start of his middleweight run can’t be described as stellar with wins against the underwhelming Jorge Sebastian Heiland and Hugo Centeno Jr. Charlo needed less than six total rounds to beat both. His two most recent fights against Dennis Hogan and Sergiy Derevyanchenko showcased Charlo’s underrated technical prowess while also highlighting his stellar power.
Charlo and Golovkin have arguably the biggest claims for the top spot in the middleweight division today. Andrade and Murata aren’t that far behind, but it is a solid quartet of champions.
The list of viable contenders isn’t exactly the deepest in the sport today. Perhaps the two most notable contenders are Jaime Munguia and Derevyanchenko. Munguia, a former junior middleweight champion, carries a lot of raw power and still-developing boxing skills. His potential alone had many excited and some even salivating at the thought of him challenging for a middleweight title soon. Whether or not that potential catapults him to a second world title remains to be seen.
Derevyanchenko is an interesting case. The Ukranian fighter has challenged for a title three times in his pro career. His three losses to Daniel Jacobs, Golovkin and Charlo are nothing to be ashamed about, especially after his losses to Jacobs and Golovkin were by close decisions. It’s the loss to Charlo that has some people concerned. Derevyanchenko was thoroughly outmatched and physically outclassed when the two faced off last year. Although he is still a quality fighter, it’s not unusual to speculate whether or not those three losses have taken away too much from him.
The wild card contender is Chris Eubank Jr., who holds the interim WBA title at middleweight. Physically, he has the look of a champion. But his raw talent, which never fully developed, has kept him from becoming a true champion. Recent wins against James DeGale and Matt Korobov have Eubank in the right direction, but he is still somewhat untested at this point.
What will it take to get an undisputed champion?
At one point, Alvarez and Golovkin seemed destined to crown an undisputed middleweight champion. Unfortunately, after their two epic encounters, we’re even further away from an undisputed middleweight champion.
Since Alvarez’s last fight at middleweight (against Jacobs in May 2019), Golovkin reclaimed a piece of his middleweight crown. Meanwhile, Murata and Charlo got elevated to full champion and Andrade kept fighting mostly overmatched opponents.
To unify all four belts, there has to be at least one title unification take place. Even getting that done this year seems highly unlikely at best.
Let’s look at two champions who many have been wanting to face each other for years: Charlo and Andrade. It’s a fight that almost seemed like that were close to have any concrete talks take place. However, a fight between those two seems as unlikely as a fight between any other set of champions.
Charlo’s future is unclear at this point and given the relative lack of depth at middleweight for PBC, predicting a challenger isn’t so clear cut. Andrade has an upcoming mandatory title defense against Liam Smith but that fight is not set in stone yet.
Golovkin would also be a prime candidate for Andrade. After all, both fight on DAZN and work very closely with Matchroom Boxing. Golovkin recently had a mandatory title defense against Kamil Szeremeta and is free to have a voluntary title defense.
A voluntary title defense could include a unification against Murata. Once upon a time, a potential Golovkin vs. Murata fight sounded plausible and even probable had Golovkin emerged victorious in the rematch against Alvarez in 2018. A fight between both fighters is still in the realm of possibility. But there’s no idea if the plan for such a fight would involve making it into a massive event in Japan, where Murata is extremely popular.
If that is the case, it’s more likely that all sides would hold off on it until current coronavirus regulations ease up a bit more. But that involves waiting until much later in the year and there’s another potential roadblock.
Golovkin (as well as DAZN) has held out hope that a third fight against Alvarez is still doable. Although Alvarez has repeatedly said his 2021 is to become the undisputed super middleweight champion, it’s hard to ignore the possibility that the trilogy bout can still happen for perhaps September. Even if there is a chance that fight can happen, it’s best to describe the odds of it happening as unlikely.
Everything in the middleweight division is in a holding pattern as far as the champions are concerned. Combined that with boxing still not fully back to normal since the pandemic shut down the sport 11 months ago and you have an extremely long wait before an undisputed champion at 160 pounds can ever be dreamt of.
Chances of there being an undisputed champion in the next 18 months: 1%