With so many belts around, the idea of champions can get watered down and not just by the WBA. It’s almost certainly one of the reasons pound-for-pound ratings gained so much more heft in the marketplace in the last two generations.
It was a way to cut through the chaff.
That doesn’t mean there still aren’t men who exemplify what a champion should be. They are the men who face the best available in their class more often than others who share their place as beltholders. In anticipation of the return of all the men who call themselves champions, let’s take a look at each of the seventeen weight classes in the game, identifying the most impressive champion in each division, ending with the top ten title reigns in the sport.
For the purpose of comparison (and with a full disclosure of personal involvement), this comparison will use the current and archived Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ratings as a reasonable gauge to identify the rated contenders defeated during each current title reign for the primary titlist of each sanctioning body or, where applicable, reigning lineal kings. WBA sub-titlists can be found on the BoxingScene Championship stats page but won’t be included for this evaluation.
Last week featured a look at the champions and titlists from heavyweight to light heavyweight. Let’s continue in this installment with...
WBA (Super): Callum Smith (27-0, 19 KO, 2 Defenses); won 09/28/2018, KO7 G. Groves
WBC: David Benavidez (22-0, 19 KO, 0 Defenses); won 09/28/2019, KO9 A. Dirrell
IBF: Caleb Plant (20-0, 12 KO, 2 Defenses); won 01/13/2019. UD12 J. Uzcategui
WBO: Billy Joe Saunders (29-0, 13 KO, 1 Defense); won vacant 05/18/2019, UD12 S. Isufi
168 lbs. is a division really searching for someone to break from the pack. The best win to be found in any of the current title reigns belongs to Smith by way of his stoppage of George Groves in the World Boxing Super Series. The problem with Smith is the baggage of a highly debatable win against rated contender John Ryder. Benevidez might have had more to his credit by now but was set back by a positive drug test in his first go with a strap. Plant and Saunders are both interesting, crafty boxers but it’s hard to find a truly notable reign here at this juncture.
Lineal Champion: Saul Alvarez (53-1-2, 36 KO, 4 Defenses)
WBA (Super): S. Alvarez (1 Defense); won 09/15/2018, MD12 G. Golovkin
WBC: Jermall Charlo (30-0, 23 KO, 3 Defenses – 2 full, 1 interim); won interim 04/21/2018, KO2 H. Centeno; elevated when WBC designated S. Alvarez “Franchise”
IBF/IBO: Gennady Golovkin (40-1-1, 35 KO, 0 Defenses); won vacant 10/05/2019, UD12 S. Dereveyanchenko
WBO: Demetrius Andrade (29-0, 18 KO, 3 Defenses); won vacant 10/20/2018, UD12 W. Kautondokwa
The leader at middleweight has done his share of scale hopping in recent vintage with fights from 154 to 175 lbs. since capturing history’s crown from Cotto. Agree or disagree with the verdicts in his contests with Golovkin, Alvarez at 160 lbs. has taken the fights a champion should. Golovkin twice, and then Jacobs, marked the most deserving threats when he faced them. In addition to those lineal defenses, he also added a defense against rated welterweight Amir Khan. Alvarez’s win over Golovkin doesn’t lend much value to Golovkin’s alphabet straps though Golovkin did secure victory over a highly rated foe to add to his trophy case. Charlo has yet to face a TBRB rated middleweight in his title contests at middleweight while Andrade has defeated only one in the four title fights of his current reign (a then-tenth rated Walter Kautondokwa).
WBA (Super): Jeison Rosario (20-1-1, 14 KO, 0 Defenses); won 01/18/2020, TKO5 J. Williams
WBC: Jermell Charlo (33-1, 17 KO, 0 Defenses); won 12/21/2019, KO11 T. Harrison
IBF: J. Rosario (0 Defenses); won 01/18/2020, TKO5 J. Williams
WBO: Patrick Teixeira (31-1, 22 KO, 0 Defenses); won interim 11/30/2019, UD12 C. Adames; since elevated to full recognition
Easily one of the most compelling divisions in the sport the last few years, Jr. middleweight is also one of the harder to predict. Upsets of Jarrett Hurd, Jermell Charlo (now avenged), and then Julian Williams have left this talented field without a single major titlist with a defense to their credit. Both Rosario and Charlo compete under the PBC umbrella. At 154 lbs., and the next class down, the PBC has shown a willingness to put their beltholders together. A unification match between Rosario and Charlo would make a compelling case to fill the lineal throne left vacant since the retirement of Floyd Mayweather and illustrate which man is the best example of a champion. For now, Rosario’s title win came against the higher rated foe in Williams for the edge.
WBA (Super): Manny Pacquiao (62-7-2, 38 KO, 0 Defenses); won 07/20/2019, SD12 K. Thurman
WBC: Errol Spence (26-0, 21 KO, 0 Defense); won 09/28/2019, SD12 S. Porter
IBF: E. Spence (4 Defenses); won 05/27/2018, KO11 Brook
WBO (Super): Terrence Crawford (36-0, 27 KO, 2 Defenses); won 06/09/2018, TKO9 J. Horn
IBO: Sebastian Formella (22-0, 10 KO, 1 Defense); won 07/06/2019, UD12 T. Mbenge
When Pacquiao lost a hotly debated decision to Jeff Horn, how many would have wagered he’d still be right near the top of the class heading in 2020? Before winning the outright WBA crown from Thurman, he’d already picked up the organization’s sub-title and defended it as well. While the living legend continues on, his work will be cut out for him to climb all the way to the top. Most, fairly, see the debate about the world’s best welterweight as resting between Spence and Crawford. Crawford, an exemplary champion at lightweight and Jr. welterweight, ran Horn out of the ring to win his belt and added a TBRB-rated contender in Egidijus Kavaliauskas to his reign last out. Based on overall title results, and quality of competition, it is Spence who stands out as welterweight’s best example of a champion at the moment. Brook was rated third by TBRB when Spence beat him to start his titled time and he has added two more solid contenders in Lamont Peterson (then rated #8) and Porter (then #4). The Porter win also gave him partial unification. His other defense came against the then-TBRB World champion at Jr. welterweight and #2 lightweight Mikey Garcia. With a loaded cupboard at welterweight on the PBC side, Spence will have no shortage of quality contenders, along with a further unification possibility against Pacquiao, to enhance his reign as one of the best on the current boxing landscape on the road to the likely inevitable showdown with Crawford.
WBA: J. Taylor (0 Defenses); won 10/26/2019, MD12 R. Prograis
WBC: Jose Ramirez (25-0, 17 KO, 3 Defenses); won vacant 03/17/2018, UD12 A. Imam
IBF: J. Taylor (1 Defense); won 05/18/2019, UD12 I. Baranchyk
WBO: J. Ramirez (0 Defenses); won 07/27/2019, TKO6 M. Hooker
IBO: Jeremiaz Nicolas Ponce (25-0, 16 KO, 0 Defenses); won vacant 09/14/2009, MD12 R. Mueller
This division is perfectly divided as far as the title belts from the most recognized organizations go. Taylor also has the Ring Magazine belt to his credit after his WBSS tournament final victory over Regis Porgrais. While Ramirez has more wins in title fights, both men have the same number of wins over TBRB-rated men in their title affairs. For Taylor, Baranchyk was rated #7 and Prograis was rated #1. Ramirez has defenses against a then-fourth rated Antonio Orozco and his unification win over a fifth-rated Hooker. Prograis gives Taylor the edge for now but it’s enough to say both men have behaved as champions so far. The sooner they fight to clear up the matter of the true king at Jr. welterweight, the better.
To Be Continued with Lightweight and below
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org