By Neil Thompson , 23rd February 2007 – The last time I submitted my 168-lb rankings was in June 2006 and since then Kessler has beaten Beyer, Calzaghe beat Bika, Mkrtchian lost his European title and Mario Viet was stopped by Dennis Inkin. With the departure of Danny Green, Mger Mkrtchian, Mario Viet and Markus Beyer there has been 4 new entries into my top 10 list. So whilst the top 3 has stayed the same, the rest of my list has changed around..
1. (1) Joe Calzaghe
The Ring Magazine and WBO champion has been one of the top dogs of this division for almost 10 years. Its seems so long ago now when he first won the WBO crown in beating Chris Eubank. With 19 defenses under his belt Joe is Boxings longest reigning champion. In March, Calzaghe turns 35 and has yet to show any signs of deterioration. For his 20th defense he faces a star of the contender series, the likable Peter Manfredo Junior. It’s easy to see why Calzaghe’s team has accepted the Manfredo challenge; he’s a limited fighter with the main stream appeal in both the US and the UK. I don’t expect this fight to last over 8 rounds. Joe is too big, too strong and too fast for Manfredo. Manfredo has not boxed anywhere near this level before. There are big fights for Calzaghe at 168 or 175 with Taylor, Hopkins, Kessler, Woods and Tarver all being mentioned.
2. (2) Mikkel Kessler
The ‘Viking Warrior’ is the only fighter apart from Calzaghe that can stake a claim to being the best is this under-rated division. This fighter from Denmark has looked impressive every time Ive seen him. He completely destroyed Markus Beyer last time out to add his WBC title to his own WBA crown. At the moment I see Kessler as being the only real challenger for Calzaghe to face at 168-lb’s. At 27-years-old, the 6’1” tall power puncher has time on his side. Next for Kessler is a fight with Librado Andrade on 24th March which is certainly more of a challenge for Kessler than Manfredo is for Calzaghe. Hopefully Kessler will get his shot at Calzaghe soon.
3. (3) Anthony Mundine
Next for Anthony ‘The Man’ Mundine is a fight with, fellow Australian, Sam Soliman on 7th March 2007 for the vacant WBA alphabet title. For someone that took the sport up later than most professionals, Mundine is surprising a very talented boxer. This has been helped by the fact that he is a naturally gifted athlete. Lighting fast and skillful, Mundine is a hard man to beat. His rematch with Sam Soliman should be a tough one just like their first encounter but I still expect Mundine to win.
4. (5) Jeff Lacy 27-1 (17)
Due to the defeat of Markus Beyer at the hands of Kessler, Jeff Lacy has moved up one place to number 4. This may surprise some people due to Lacy’s fortunate decision victory over Vitali Tsypko in December. In my opinion Tsypko won that fight, but it was also obvious that Lacy was fighting through an injury. For someone with the nickname ‘Left Hook’ it was surprising how little he used this punch throughout the 10 rounds of the fight. Lacy showed heart that night and won the fight almost one handed. At 29-years-old, Lacy can come back. He was once a feared fighter in this division and he can be again once his injury has had time to heal.
5. (6) Lucian Bute 19-0 (16)
The Canadian / Romanian southpaw is impressive and I hope he gets a shot at one of the alphabet champs soon. This 6’2” 26-year-old is a threat to anyone in this division. His most impressive victory to date is his 8th round stoppage victory over Kabary Salem, who gave Calzaghe a tough fight a couple of years ago.
6. (9) Librado Andrade 24-0 (18)
The 6’2” Mexican fighter, trained by Wayne McCullough, has secured at title shot against Mikkel Kessler for the 24th March. This will be a contest against 2 unbeaten fighters. “Somebody’s ‘0’ has to go” and in my humble opinion it will be Andrade that will suffer his first loss on his record. However, you can never completely write off an unbeaten fighter and Andrade may surprise us yet.
7. (new) Allen Green 23-0 (16)
Allen Green gets his first big test against the formidable middleweight contender Edison Miranda on 3rh March, in what should be a war against 2 huge punchers. Miranda has proved himself at world level whilst Green has not. This is a very risky move by Green’s team and one which may backfire. On the other hand, if Allen Green can impressively beat Miranda, then Green can expect to be taken a lot more seriously in this division and will leap frog a few places, in this list, to the number 3 spot behind Calzaghe and Kessler. The Miranda fight is one I’m really looking forward to and should answer all the unanswered questions regarding Mr Green’s ability at world level.
8. (new) Carl Froch 20-0 (16)
Now is the time for Carl ‘the Cobra’ Froch to make his play to reach the top of this division. A good boxer with power in both hands needs a good test now. His most impressive performance came in beating the talented Irishman Brian McGee. The 29-year-old is no ‘spring-chicken’ and he needs to fight a legitimate top 10 contender to force this division to take notice of him. As his promoter is Mick Hennersey, its is unlikely Sports Network will allow him to fight Joe Calzaghe unless the Nottingham hard man can secure a number one ranking with the WBO. Froch would be hard to beat for anyone in the top 10. Calzaghe may beat him with speed and work-rate but Froch’s style may match up better against Kessler who is more thoughtful in his boxing style. Within a year Froch should be ready for the top 3 of this division.
9. (new) David Gogiya 17-1 (4)
This Georgian native is the European champion and holds victories over impressive super middleweights like Mger Mkrtchian and Jackson Chanet. With only 4 stoppage victories, it’s obvious that this 30-year-old super middleweight doesn’t possess much power, but with victories over Chanet and Mkrtchian he should be respected. Next up for Gogiya is another defense of his European crown against the former alphabet titleholder, Cristian Sanavia of Italy. Gogiya is certainly a talented boxer but his lack of power will be a hindrance at the highest level.
10 (new) Vitali Tsypko 19-2 (10)
Tsypko has earned his place with his surprising showing against Jeff Lacy although how much of that performance was down to Lacy’s injury is debatable. Many, if not most, people thought Tsypko had done enough to be awarded the points decision but that’s not what happened. The 30-year-old southpaw from the Ukraine will be looking for another shot at one of the leading contenders of this division soon.
The best of the rest:
11. (new) Dennis Inkin 29-0 (22)
12. (7) Mger Mkrtchian 27-3(17)
13. (new) Peter Manfredo Junior 26-3 (12)
14 (12) Sakio Bike 22-2-2 (14)
15. (3) Markus Beyer 34-3-1(13)
16. (10) Mario Viet 48-1 (29)
17. (15) Juergen Braehmer 28-1 (29)
Thank you for reading