By Cliff Rold

It’s an odd year when not only do the two best Middleweights in the world not fight each other, they pick up their best wins in non-title catchweight rematches of the Middleweight fights that made them.  Such was the case as World champion Kelly Pavlik met and defeated Jermain Taylor for a second time while IBF titlist Arthur Abraham stopped rival Edison Miranda.  Making matters odder, after a single forgettable defense Pavlik stepped into another catch weight showdown in October against former Middleweight king Bernard Hopkins and, well…

That bout might have produced the best news for fight fans in 2009.

Hopkins schooled Pavlik for twelve, enhancing both his career and Middleweight legacies in the process.  He also left Pavlik with something to prove, and the best proving ground he can find at 160 is Abraham.  It’s potentially the most explosive Middleweight power match since Julian Jackson-Gerald McClellan and a must-see for the year ahead.

For now, another titlist stands out for his work in the division this year.  Much maligned since a disputed decision loss in 2004 to Oscar De la Hoya, the WBA’s current beltholder had one of his best years to date in 08.

Middleweight Fighter of the Year: Felix Sturm (31-2-1, 13 KO)

2007 wasn’t a bad year for Sturm.  He avenged his only outright defeat and drew with a game Randy Griffin.  2008 was better.  In three contests this year, Sturm stopped an undefeated, if untested, Jamie Pittman before boxing beautifully against both Griffin in a rematch and against deserving contender Sebastian Sylvester in November.  They were performances that made Sturm look like something serious again for the first time in a while and reminded that he, as much as Abraham, is a threat to the lineal World Middleweight champion Pavlik.  While Pavlik and Abraham did their best work away from Middleweight, Sturm handled his business in his latter two bouts of the year against top ten threats at 160.  It is acknowledged here.

Strum could have made an even bigger statement if he and his team had chosen to square off in early ‘09 with Abraham in a legitimate German market super fight but if he can, as his team claims to want to, cut straight to Pavlik then so be it.  Win and Abraham only gets bigger; lose and Pavlik-Abraham gets more mouth watering than it already is.  Good for Boxing either way.  The only bad thing would be another year where soon 30-year old Sturm doesn’t get a chance to show his wares on a bigger stage.  Boxing fans know he’s not a bad fighter.  It would be nice to know how much more he is.

Middleweight Fight of the Year: Raul Marquez UD12 Giovanni Lorenzo

Selected as BoxingScene’s fight of the month in June, Marquez turned back the clock for one of those ‘veteran’s last great fight’ moments which make Boxing a special sport.  Long written off, the 1992 Olympian and former Jr. Middleweight titlist Marquez appeared cannon fodder for an undefeated Lorenzo.  By the end of the night, he was a mandatory to Abraham.  That challenge didn’t work out well, but the gutsy Marquez deserved full credit for getting there.  As reported at: https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=14585

The veteran Marquez struck first in the opening round, landing two hard body shots as Lorenzo calmly circled.  A lazy right from Lorenzo just missed and Marquez landed a single left hook downstairs.  Lorenzo landed a long right and off the ropes and then another at mid-ring in the final minute.  Working out of a corner as the seconds ticked down, Lorenzo attempted to roll and counter against Marquez’s aggression with mixed success.

Marquez continued to press behind his right jab as the second round kicked off.  Another left downstairs brought a right from Lorenzo in response and Marquez found himself backed up.  Lorenzo continued to work the right, using the left jab and a lead left hook to create openings.  A right hand from Lorenzo in the corner was equaled by a left hook to the head from Marquez as they headed for the bell.

A marked increase in intensity could be seen at the start of the third and carried through to the fourth as Marquez’s efforts to get inside on Lorenzo were stepped up.  In each round, Marquez started off with lead power shots.  In round four, it led to a full, sustained opening minute of landing hooks and straight rights.  The game old man was also wise, never ignoring the body.  As the final thirty seconds wound down, Marquez was defending against Lorenzo’s right hand counters, landing a particularly nasty right hook to the body followed by a left hook to the temple of the younger man.

Having seized control of the bout in the previous round, Marquez again attempted to bum rush his man at the bell and was clipped with a right hand from Lorenzo that came close to being an official knockdown as Marquez’s gloves came perilously close to the floor.  They traded rights as the moved around the ring, Lorenzo going backwards but planting to deliver and Marquez never giving him time to settle.  A right to the body from Marquez led to a furious power punch exchange near the ropes around the thirty second mark but little action followed from there.

With his left eye showing redness at the end of the fifth, Lorenzo was forced to eat a steady diet of Marquez rights in the sixth that brought the red to swelling.  Defying the calendar, Marquez refused to relent, pressuring and landing echoing power blasts.  The pace slowed in the seventh as Lorenzo cautiously moved and held to try and slow Marquez down, a tactic that woke the boo birds in the crowd.

Two left hands to the top of Lorenzo’s head in the middle of round eight appeared to have the Dominican stunned but he shook it off and landed his own slashing right inside the final minute.  Marquez reached to hold, clearing his head and then landing yet another left on Lorenzo in the waning seconds of the round to halt any surge of confidence that. 

Grappling marked the beginning of round nine but Marquez was soon back on full offense with a left hook that drove Lorenzo into the corner.  A hard Marquez jab was met with a Lorenzo right uppercut, then lead right hand, before Marquez landed his own left.  Lorenzo holding on tight in the final thirty seconds, Marquez clipped him with two rights to the jaw in the clinch and then a left hook that sent Lorenzo stumbling back yet again.

Looking well behind in the fight, Lorenzo’s corner chided him to look for the knockout in the rest period before round ten.  Lorenzo came out with the right hand right away in search of that end.  A clinch ended with a Lorenzo right and a nasty cut over the right eye of Marquez.  It wasn’t clear if the blow or a clash of heads caused the cut; moments later, a clash of heads would be quite evident as Lorenzo intentionally head butted Marquez as he was backed into the ropes.  Immediately deducted a point on the cards by a visibly angry referee, Lorenzo was waved in to continue and Marquez charged across looking to put Lorenzo’s head into the seats with wide loaded hooks.  A violent exchange would carry past the final bell as each man took cheap shots on the other before their corners could separate them.

Marquez and Lorenzo picked up where they left off at the bell to start round eleven, fighting on even terms early before Marquez’s cleaner, straighter shots robbed Lorenzo of his initial fire.  Hurting from a fights worth of body and head punishment, the younger man was holding on for survival heading towards the final rest period.

The closing frame saw Lorenzo attempt some counter rights but Marquez’s stalking, varied offense dissuaded Lorenzo from going for the knockout, instead legging out stretches of the round and leaving it to the judges.  The underdog appeared a clear winner as the final bell of an exciting bout sounded, raising his arms into the air as the crowd stood to applaud his effort.

Closer in the official tallies than it should have been, the obvious was made reality as the judge’s scores were announced at 114-113 across the board.

Middleweight: The Year in Results

Since last January, BoxingScene has produced quarterly ratings for each of Boxing’s seventeen weight classes.  Ratings for the first quarter of 2009 should be available at the New Year; for now, here’s a look back at the critical Middleweight results of 2008.

First Quarter

01/26: #5 Sebastian Sylvester (28-2, 13 KO) UD Francois Bastient (33-6-1, 15 KO)

02/01: #10 Amin Asikainen (24-1, 16 KO) TKO7 Yori Boy Campas (91-11, 73 KO)

02/23: #7 John Duddy (24-0, 17 KO) MD10 Walid Smichet (17-4-3, 13 KO)

03/29: #1 Arthur Abraham (26-0, 21 KO, IBF) TKO12 Elvin Ayala (18-3-1, 8 KO)

Second Quarter

04/05: #2 Felix Sturm (29-2-1, 12 KO) TKO7 Jamie Pittman (16-1, 7 KO)

04/12: #5 Sebastian Sylvester (29-2, 14 KO) KO12 #6 Javier Castillejo (62-8, 42 KO)

06/07: World Champion Kelly Pavlik (34-0, 30 KO, Lineal/Ring/WBC/WBO) TKO3 Gary Lockett (30-2, 21 KO)

06/21: Raul Marquez (41-3-1, 29 KO) UD12 #8 Giovanni Lorenzo (26-1, 18 KO)

06/28: #7 John Duddy (25-0, 17 KO) UD10 Charles Howe (17-5-2, 9 KO)

 

Third Quarter

07/05: #9 Sebastian Zbik (23-0, 9 KO) TKO2 Mario Lopez (22-5, 19 KO)

07/05: #2 Felix Sturm (30-2-1, 13 KO) UD12 #5 Randy Griffin (24-2-3, 12 KO)

08/29: #9 Sebastian Zbik (24-0, 9 KO) UD12 John Carvalho (18-3-1, 11 KO)

08/30: #8 Amin Asikainen (24-1, 16 KO) KO2 Roberto de Jesus (13-3, 6 KO)

Fourth Quarter

10/18: #7 Marco Antonio Rubio (43-4-1, 37 KO) SD12 Enrique Ornelas (28-5, 18 KO)

11/1: #2 Felix Sturm (31-2-1, WBA) UD12 #3 Sebastian Sylvester (29-3, 14 KO)

11/8: #1 Arthur Abraham (28-0, 23 KO, IBF) TKO6 #9 Raul Marquez (41-4-1, 29 KO)

11/28: Khoren Gevor (30-3, 16 KO) TKO7 #4 Amin Asikainen (25-2, 17 KO)

12/05: #8 Sebastian Zbik (25-0, 9 KO) UD8 Christophe Karagoz (17-14-4, 4 KO)

Other divisions in 2008 reviewed:

Cruiserweight: https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=17478

Lightweight: https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=17496

Featherweight: https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=17536

Jr. Flyweight: https://www.boxingscene.com/index.php?m=show&id=17514

Check in tomorrow for more of BoxingScene’s 2008 Year in Review.

Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America.  He can be reached at roldboxing@hotmail.com