Last weekend in Quebec, Billy Joe Saunders put on a boxing clinic against David Lemieux, winning an easy unanimous decision. It clearly establishes the British middleweight in his division’s top five. Here’s how the rest of the weight class fills in around him:
Champion: Saul Alvarez Alvarez beat Miguel Cotto, who beat Sergio Martinez. Martinez beat Kelly Pavlik, who beat Jermain Taylor, who beat Bernard Hopkins. So that makes Alvarez the Middleweight Champion of the World, at least in my book.
No. 1: Gennady Golovkin The majority of observers seem to feel GGG deserved the win against Alvarez last September, although I agree with the draw. They should rematch in May.
No. 2: Daniel Jacobs I actually thought Jacobs deserved the nod last March when he lost a close fight to Golovkin. In a fair world, he would get the rematch against Alvarez or Golovkin. I’d also love to see him against Saunders.
No. 3: Billy Joe Saunders The WBO calls Saunders a “world champion” but that is of course absurd. He is a very talented fighter and could give problems to anybody else in the division.
No. 4: Jermall Charlo I don’t care if he has only fought once at 160 pounds, Charlo’s record at 154 earns him this spot.
No. 5: David Lemieux His limitations were certainly exposed by Saunders last weekend. But his strengths would be enough against the majority of middleweights on the planet.
No. 6: Andy Lee Lee has fought just once since dropping the WBO strap to Saunders in December 2015, in a meaningless bout last March. He still ranks this high due to the historical weight of his resume.
No. 7: Atvandil Khurtsidze I would still ranks the sawed-off Georgian in the division’s top five, if I thought he was likely to fight again. His short but athletically powerful build make him an extremely rough fight for any 160-pound fighter in the world. But last June he got picked up on RICO charges in connection to a big sweep of Russian mafia figures operating in New York.
No. 8 Ryota Murata The Japanese contender entered 2017 as a relatively untested prospect. In May he dropped a split decision to Hassan N’Dam and in October he stopped him in the rematch, with a blistering series of combinations. An interesting one to watch in 2018.
No. 9: Sergiy Derevyanchenko Another potential star from the former Soviet Union, the Crimean native stopped Tureano Johnson in Round 12 of a war last August. He’ll need improved stamina against the division’s elite, because he won’t be able to finesse rest periods against them the way he could against Johnson.