Who Is The Best Middleweight In The World?


25.11.05 – By Joseph Carlo Russo: As Bernard Hopkins and Jermain Taylor’s December 3rd bout draws nearer, fight fans remain divided among the question concerning the best middleweight in boxing. With regard to this dispute, there are usually two answers that tend to circulate the debating spectrum, Bernard Hopkins and Jermain Taylor. Seldom is Winky Wright mentioned, and rarely is Felix Sturm even considered. However, with the lackluster, unimpressive performances on the behalves of Hopkins and Taylor in their July 16th bout, it seems fairly justifiable that Wright and Sturm should be allotted their respective places in the argument.

Technically speaking, Winky Wright has only had one fight at middleweight with most of his endeavors having been pursued at junior middleweight. But, over the course of one middleweight bout, Wright has already equaled Hopkins’ most prized accomplishment. Wright’s immaculately thorough decimation of Puerto Rican star Felix “Tito” Trinidad was as resounding, if not more than, that of Hopkins. As Winky proved himself once again to be a true upper echelon fighter, his victory over Trinidad catapulted him to the top of the middleweight division with no questions asked. Winky Wright is currently the number two pound for pound fighter in the world and deservedly so.

At this point, Winky looks virtually immovable and unstoppable as his laser sharp jab and turtle tight defense are sure to make any contender or champion think twice about stepping into the ring with him. Winky is doing the right thing by facing Sam Soliman. Defeating a game, but overrated hyped contender like Soliman forces the undisputed middleweight champion into a position that which he cannot avoid Wright.

Having had an unblemished 20-0 record Felix Sturm remained a classic European question mark of a fighter until he was brought over to the States to face Oscar DeLaHoya as the “Golden Boy” debuted at middleweight. Unbeknownst to DeLaHoya and his promoters of the talent this young German possessed, Felix Sturm clearly stole the show, igniting an outrage from fight fans when the decision was awarded to the “Golden Boy.” Since then Sturm has made sure to stay active and force his way into the ranks beating game European fighters such as Jorge Sendra and Bert Schenk. It’s a shame Sturm recently got injured as he was in line to fight Macelino Masoe for the WBA middleweight title. A win there would have unquestionably earned Sturm his much deserved shot at the middleweight crown. The Ring currently ranks Felix Sturm the number three contender to the middleweight championship. Let’s just hope we don’t have another Joe Calzaghe/Sven Ottke on our hands.

Arkansas’ Jermain Taylor is frequently looked upon as the heir apparent to the middleweight throne as his career defining bout with Hopkins was labeled “Next In Line.” Granted, Taylor won a decision over the ex-champ, but he did not defeat Hopkins as much as Hopkins defeated himself. As the heir apparent, Jermain Taylor’s first duty, which was to take the throne from the king, was not fulfilled. Rather, he cautiously slipped it out from underneath him. Jermain Taylor is a new champion and therefore presides over a new era of contenders, which include possible hindrances to his reign in Winky Wright and Felix Sturm. A decision win over Hopkins alone is not enough to undoubtedly consider Taylor the best middleweight in the world. But, a more decisive victory in their rematch would surely do much for helping.

Bernard Hopkins has been undisputed champion for a decade and so it is understood that he deserves the benefit of the doubt. Critics have drawn reference to legends such as Marvin Hagler, Carlos Monzon, and Sugar Ray Robinson when speaking of Hopkins. However, his constant uneventful quality of performance exhibits that “The Executioner” consistently fails to live up to his nickname. He was credited with retaining all four belts, which made him undisputed. But, having engaged his most challenging test, Jermain Taylor, in a most undefining champion-like manner, Hopkins’ validity should rightfully be susceptible to dispute. If he defeats Taylor in the manner that most fight fans and critics believe he can then he may have his undisputed status back. A win over Wright, Tarver, or both and then Hopkins can boast champion middleweight legend.

En route to the highly anticipated rematch between Bernard Hopkins and Jermain Taylor fight fans and critics will continue to dispute who the best middleweight in the world is. The winner of that match will certainly be the undisputed middleweight champion, but the best middleweight in the world will still be subject to dispute. The middleweight division is experiencing the dawn of a new era and Jermain Taylor’s newfound crown should not be defined by Bernard Hopkins’ outdated victories. With Taylor and Hopkins ready to stake their claims and Wright and Sturm lined up to take their piece of the pie, the middleweight division is one that exhibits potential for a healthy beginning to a new era as well as justification for a thorough conclusion to an old one.