Montero’s Midyear ‘State of Boxing’ Report

By Michael Montero – (monteroboxing@gmail.com)- There’s a power shift in the boxing world right now as the previous generation’s elite appear to be on the way out, sans one particular stubborn 46 year old. Household names like Shane Mosley and Roy Jones have looked awful as of late and are all but gone, while Floyd Mayweather has been a non-factor for a while now.

Pacquiao remains at the top of the sport, but seems to have lost a step recently. Sergio Martinez has been spectacular, but reigns in one of boxing’s weakest divisions without a significant dance partner. Nonito Donaire has captured our imagination, but is currently entangled in yet another Bob Arum-Golden Boy grudge match. Once promising contenders to the throne like Chad Dawson, Devon Alexander and Kelly Pavlik have all had hiccups, yet still gleam with potential. Several divisions are in the midst of mini-tournaments or round robins that are yet to yield a clear number one. Amid the soap opera that is professional boxing, there are several bright spots to focus on. Things are indeed cleaning up and there are great match ups waiting on the horizon. Below are some notes on what I consider the hot divisions in boxing right now…

Let’s look at the big boys, where the landscape has been dreadful in recent years. Suddenly, the top four ranked heavyweights are going to battle within months of each other – what a concept! Wladimir Klitschko, the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world and top five on the pound for pound list, faces WBA titlist David Haye this July in the most significant heavyweight championship bout since Lewis-Holyfield over a decade ago. This fall, the elder Klitschko faces former 175 and 200 pound champion Tomasz Adamek in the biggest boxing match to ever take place in Poland. Adamek is arguably the third best opponent of Vitali’s career and clearly the best he’s faced during his comeback. How exciting to not only have the Klitschkos face legitimate challenges, but for the bouts to actually be televised on American cable (via regular HBO). The result of these matches should hopefully bring some much needed excitement to boxing’s glamour division.

Thanks to the living legend that is Bernard Hopkins, 175 pounds is back in the limelight. I believe his history-making win over Jean Pascal in Montreal was just a precursor to even better things to come. Chad Dawson is developing his craft under the guidance of the great Emmanuel Steward and looks to get Hopkins next. Meanwhile, Florida’s exciting Tavoris Cloud figures to be in line for the winner of that match at some point, or maybe even against Pascal. Like Cloud, England’s Nathan Cleverly is 22-0 and holds a title – who wouldn’t love to see these two get it on? All of these are great fights that mean something. And Ukraine’s Ismayl Sillakh (now living in California) looks like a true blue chip prospect. Then there’s always the possibility that the cream of the crop at super middleweight could eventually move up. Things are looking very good at light heavyweight over the next few years.

What’s not to like at 168? We have a can’t miss action fight coming up between Carl Froch and Glen Johnson; the winner of which will face Andre Ward in the Super Six tournament finale later this year. And as long as Lucan Bute keeps winning, he gets the winner of that match next year. If Kelly Pavlik, Andre Dirrell and Mikkel Kessler can get things back on track, they bring plenty of excitement to the mix. Good stuff. Could any of these guys entice Sergio Martinez to move up?

Middleweight is pretty void of elite talent, but junior middleweight has potential. Paul Williams and top prospect Erislandy Lara face each other in July, while the revived Miguel Cotto waits for his next option. Up and comers like Alfredo Angulo, Saul Alvarez and Vanes Martirosyan all have talent and star potential. Pawel Wolak, Delvin Rodriguez and even the faded Antonio Margarito would make for interesting matchups against anybody. This division is heating up and as long as the right fights get made, we should not only get some clarity as to who’s for real, but some eventual competition for superstar Sergio Martinez.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that we’ll get certainty at 140 pounds as division kingpin Tim Bradley appears disinterested in fighting top contender Amir Kahn. But just seven pounds north, things look good for the future. Kahn figures to move up in the next year or so and Victor Ortiz has emerged as a true star in the making. Both of these guys are under the Golden Boy Promotions stable; why not match them up at some point over the next year or so? Andre Berto is still there and won’t be spoon fed B-rate opponents by HBO anymore, which will only make him better. Then of course there’s the biggest fight in the history of the sport looming in the background, but we won’t beat a dead horse there.

At lightweight, California’s Robert Guerrero looks to be the heir apparent to Mexican legend Juan Manuel Marquez. He’s looking better with every fight and is another win or two from cracking the pound for pound list. Other exciting youngsters like Brandon Rios and Miguel Vasquez factor to play a big role over the next few years as well. Meanwhile, perennial contender Michael Katsidis just can’t be in a bad fight. I’d love to see him in there with Rios at some point.

Shame on Bob Arum for not making the Yuriorkis Gamboa-Juan Manuel Lopez featherweight championship match while the kettle was still hot. Now that Juanma has lost his first professional bout to rugged Mexican Orlando Salido, the once promising super fight is toast. Expect to see a Salido-Lopez rematch later this year. If Lopez wins the rematch, Arum might finally pull the trigger on the Gamboa match but it will have lost some steam. Should Salido win again, we may see him in a rematch with Gamboa. Those two met last year in a foul-filled bout that resulted in a clear Gamboa victory. Chris John was once seen as the top fighter in the division, but has been MIA outside of his homeland of Indonesia for some time now. Will he resurface and fight any of the above mentioned fighters?

Bantamweight is stacked with talent and loads of potential great fights. Hopefully Nonito Donaire can get his managerial/promotional issues locked down and get back in the ring because he’s a star on the rise. Vic Darchinyan is back in the mix with his recent destruction of Yhonny Perez – who wouldn’t love to see a rematch with Donaire, the only man to ever stop Vic? Joseph Agbeko should be back in the ring soon against the undefeated Abner Mares, who has the makings of a very marketable “little guy” if he keeps winning. This is one of the best divisions in boxing right now.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted my rankings, so here they are. I welcome all feedback, criticisms and/or questions – either here in the form of a comment, or at my email address above. Bring on the debate!

POUND FOR POUND
1 Manny Pacquiao
2 Sergio Martinez
3 Nonito Donaire
4 Juan Manuel Marquez
5 Wladimir Klitschko
6 Bernard Hopkins
7 Miguel Cotto
8 Andre Ward
9 Giovani Segura
10 Pongsaklek Wonjongkam

HEAVY
C Wladimir Klitschko (RING, IBF, WBO)
1 Vitali Klitschko (WBC)
2 David Haye (WBA)
3 Tomasz Adamek
4 Alexander Povetkin
5 Ruslan Chagaev
6 Tony Thompson
7 Eddie Chambers
8 Chris Arreola
9 Alexander Dimitrenko
10 Dennis Boytsov

CRUISER – 200 pound limit
C VACANT
1 Steve Cunningham (IBF)
2 Marco Huck (WBO)
3 Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (WBC)
4 Troy Ross
5 Denis Lebedev

LIGHT HEAVY – 175 pound limit
C Bernard Hopkins (RING, WBC)
1 Jean Pascal
2 Chad Dawson
3 Tavoris Cloud (IBF)
4 Nathan Cleverly (WBO)
5 Adrian Diaconu

SUPER MIDDLE – 168 pound limit
C VACANT
1 Andre Ward (WBA)
2 Lucian Bute (IBF)
3 Carl Froch (WBC)
4 Glen Johnson
5 Mikkel Kessler

MIDDLE – 160 pound limit
C Sergio Martinez (RING)
1 Felix Sturm (WBA)
2 Daniel Geale (IBF)
3 Sebastian Zbik (WBC)
4 Dmitry Pirog (WBO)
5 Sebastian Sylvester

SUPER WELTER – 154 pound limit
C VACANT
1 Paul Williams
2 Miguel Cotto (WBA)
3 Kermit Cintron
4 Sergeii Dzinziruk (WBO)
5 Alfredo Angulo/Vanes Martirosyan

WELTER – 147 pound limit
C VACANT
1 Manny Pacquiao (WBO)
2 Victor Ortiz (WBC)
3 Andre Berto
4 Jan Zaveck (IBF)
5 Selcuk Aydin

SUPER LIGHT – 140 pound limit
C VACANT
1 Timothy Bradley (WBO, WBC)
2 Amir Khan (WBA)
3 Marcos Maidana (WBA “Interim”)
4 Devon Alexander
5 Zab Judah (IBF)

LIGHT – 135 pound limit
C Juan Manuel Marquez (RING, WBA “Super”, WBO)
1 Humberto Soto (WBC)
2 Robert Guerrero (WBO “Interim”)
3 Brandon Rios (WBA)
4 Miguel Vazquez (IBF)
5 Michael Katsidis/Miguel Acosta

SUPER FEATHER – 130 pound limit
C VACANT
1 Roman Martinez
2 Ricky Burns (WBO)
3 Takashi Uchiyama (WBA)
4 Jorge Solis (WBA “Interim”)
5 Takahiro Ao/Mzonke Fana (IBF)

FEATHER – 126 pound limit
C VACANT
1 Yuriorkis Gamboa (WBA “Regular”)
2 Chris John (WBA)
3 Orlando Salido (WBO)
4 Juan Manuel Lopez
5 Daniel Ponce De Leon/Jhonny Gonzalez (WBC)

SUPER BANTAM – 122 pound limit
C VACANT
1 Toshiaki Nishioka (WBC)
2 Guillermo Rigondeaux (WBA “Interim”)
3 Jorge Arce (WBO)
4 Akifumi Shimoda (WBA)
5 Wilfredo Vazquez Jr

BANTAM – 118 pound limit
C Nonito Donaire (WBC/WBO)
1 Joseph Agbeko (IBF)
2 Abner Mares
3 Vic Darchinyan
4 Anselmo Moreno (WBA “Super”)
5 Fernando Montiel

SUPER FLY – 115 pound limit
C VACANT
1 Hugo Fidel Cazares (WBA)
2 Tomas Rojas (WBC)
3 Omar Narvaez (WBO)
4 Nobuo Nashiro
5 Raul Martinez/Cristian Mijares (IBF)

FLY – 112 pound limit
C Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (RING, WBC)
1 Moruti Mthalane (IBF)
2 Hernan “Tyson” Marquez (WBA)
3 Daisuke Naito
4 Julio Cesar Miranda (WBO)
5 Luis Concepcion/Daiki Kameda

SUPER STRAW – 108 pound limit
C Giovani Segura (RING)
1 Roman Gonzalez (WBA)
2 Ulises Solis (IBF)
3 Adrian Hernandez (WBC)
4 Ivan Calderon
5 Ramon Garcia (WBO)

STRAW – 105 pound limit
C VACANT
1 Nkosinathi Joyi (IBF)
2 Kazuto Ioka (WBC)
3 Raul Garcia (WBO)
4 Nkosinathi Joyi (IBF)
5 Muhammad Rachman (WBA)

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