Five days out from the Canelo Alvarez vs. Danny Jacobs middleweight showdown, Blake Chavez takes a fresh look at the division
It is the best of times to be a middleweight. Charles Dickens hit the nail on the head when it comes to what it means to be a middleweight champion or contender in the maelstrom of dynamics shaping the destiny of one of history’s richest divisions. Like the man said: It is the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.
Few chests puff with more pride than the division that categorizes the average man on the streets. Through the years, if you weighed anywhere from 150 to 170 pounds, Mister, you were a ’middleweight’. The average height of a man in the USA in 1960 was 5’8" and he weighed 166 lbs. Today the average height is 5’10’ and the weight is 190. Scientists state men today are 25 lbs. over their ideal weight, which brings us to 165 lbs. So middleweights are America’s "Average Joe". Ergo, to wit, middleweights. So who in the olden days were, and who today are, the baddest Average Joe’s on Planet Earth?
My list, in order are (olden days) Roy Jones Jr., Sugar Ray Robinson, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Carlos Monzon, Emile Griffith, Bernard Hopkins, James Toney, Sam Langford, Mike McCallum, and Dick Tiger. Rough SOB’s. All of them game. Roy and Sugar could be cute for the fans, but make no mistake, these men were all killers. In whatever era or decade considered their brightest, their contemporaries knew to bring their lunch when facing these monsters. Talk about a hard day’s night!
Imagine the average guy on the street strolling by any one of these legends and accidently bumping into them. Remember; both are average sized. The stranger might not know that they were treading on a monumental flame-thrower, but after looking into their eyes, they knew damn-well something just wasn’t right with dude. Best to keep it moving.
My list, in order (today’s bosses) David Benevidez, Canelo Alvarez, GGG, Daniel Jacobs, Billie Joe Saunders, Errol Spence Jr., Jermall Charlo, Demetrius Andrade, Jarrett Hurd, and Erislandy Lara.
Benevidez? Yes. Put super-fight money on the table and that guy and any other "super"-middle will find a way to squeeze down and collect that life-altering check that comes with battling Canelo or GGG. In my mind’s eye, Benevidez has the most natural talent. He can fight orthodox, he can shift gears to become instantly flashy, and he has a vast arsenal of off-the-radar head banging angles that he deploys seemingly effortlessly.
The key impression in my eyes; he fights sooooo relaxed. He’s never scared nor nervous. He’s somewhat of a savant in that at his tender age he’s landing ungodly sophisticated combinations.
I thought Canelo and Juan Manuel Marques were the combination kings, but watch Benevidez and he runs them off insets that are smooth and effective as hell.
Caneo has the thudding shots and the grueling body attack, but this guy is just waaaay too big and his own combinations are just as accurate as Canelo’s, with the difference being Benevidez’s opponents wilt much faster from this guy’s attacks than do Canelo foes, and Benevidez has faced the much larger foes by far. Besides, Benevidez was around 250 lbs at age 15. So he is the much bigger fighter. And he was champion at age 20.
The Achille’s heel for Benevidez is his judgement. His dad, Jose Benevidez Sr., (who traines him) can be silly, and his younger brother, welterweight contender David, is also lacking. Jose. Jr. shot himself. David Benevidez got stripped of his title for being a coke-head and testing dirty for cocaine.
But one thing’s for sure, David Benevidez can fight his azz off! Sampson Boxing firmly controls Benevidez despite Bob Arum trying the okie-doke. Arum gave Benevidez a cool quarter mil to switch allegiances. When the dust settled, Benevidez returned the dough and resides in Sampson’ stable. Despite Canelo’s vast experience, Benavidez wins as he’s huge and very, very slick.
Canelo catches my favor because he has improved every step of his journey and every stage has never been too big for him. He’ s tough as nails and his ballz are unquestionable. He danced with GGG the first fight, then in the second he backed GGG the hell-on-up. Canelo was the aggressor and was effective. His jab was also crisp. How many folks are the aggressor fighting GGG? Zero.
That’s how many. But GGG’s face was marked with bruises and raised welts after the bout and Canelo didn’t look the worse for wear. GGG’s face told the story. Viva the rematch.
I felt GGG spanked Canelo’s azz the first fight. Canelo forced the action in the 2nd fight and was pounding on GGG pretty much at will. The style confused GGG. Canelo was confused in the first fight, but he set the tone in the 2nd fight. By setting up for the third bout, it shows he’s anxious to put it to bed, and willing to fight him again just to shush the naysayers. I favor Canelo to win that fight...BIG!
I believe Danny Jacobs does not win the upcoming fight in Las Vegas on Cinco de Mayo. He may prove to be the superior boxer, but at some point, the younger, harder punching Canelo will take over. I also don’t believe the judges will award Danny the win if it’s a "close" fight. Canelo is the A-side.
Billy Joe Saunders rounds out my Top 5. Very good sustained movement is very tough to pull off. Especially by a white fighter who can go hot and cold. Gut call on my part. I bring Errol Spence up to his more natural division. I see Spence being more than competitive with everyone he faces in that division. He’s a gem, and can do some of the division hopping Leonard, Duran, and Hearns did.
Charlo vs Lara would be spectacular now that Irislandy is no longer able to run away in the big fights. Lara could compete at 160 in the Bottom Five strictly on experience and skills. I believe Charlo would finally shut him up! Charlo himself is now on the clock. He talked 27 different kinds of shznitt and he needs to do something amazing besides his amazing social media outbursts. He needs to be a killer again. Jarrett Hurd may be The Dark Horse of the bunch. He’s a big 154 and he’s now in the mix. Let’s see what color his hair turns when an elite middleweight rocks him.
Andrade is like a fine wine (at least he is on the internet) He gets better and better, if you pay close attention to him telling everyone how great he is. But I don’t think The Bottom Five can move the needle by fighting my Top Five. Andrade has the biggest chance of being a dud.
And so as our cups runneth over with the talent, it is indeed the best of times for middleweights. With the fractured broadcasting and network affiliations situation, it is also the worst of times. With the new and improving streaming technology this is a time of wise men, but when you look at the degree of fights being marinating endlessly, one realizes it is also an age of foolishness.
Today’s era is marked by the belief the top middleweights have in themselves. As for this time being incredulous for middles one need only look as far as Canelo’s $300-plus million dollar contract with DAZN. That is some cool shznit. As for seasons of light... DAZN, PBS, ESPN, SHOWTIME have drawn the elites in the division to contemplate how to avoid the darkness of promoters content to merely stage "in-house" fights which rob Terence Crawford and his ilk from establishing true dominance and legacy. Let’s hope against hope they are drawn to the light.
Just like spring training in baseball, hope springs eternal in the fight game because it is the fans who are the true lifeblood of the game. And boxing fans are the most passionate bastards on earth, and I’m proud to stand alongside them, fighting off the despair of putrid PPV events with pricing that’s absurd and live tickets that damned-near amount to fan abuse. But we love our fights. Our fighters. Because we too are fighters at heart. And nobody is taking our game away from us. Ever.
So raise your glass to today’s middleweights. They are the blokes and dudes that represent the best in all of us. Average Joes who dared to become great. Their nobility is displayed in a squared circle and makes our hearts race and our blood boil. And we know that for every Amir Khan fading on his way out, there is a Boots Ennis... a Teofimo Lopez... a Devin Haney exploding spectacularly onto the scene. Our scene. And once again, all is right with the world.
Blake Chavez answers all of his emails.