In a two week span this September, boxing's Middleweight division receives some much needed clarity. The majority of the major title straps at 160 pounds will be up for grabs, and at least five of the top 10 ranked fighters in the weight class will be seeing action. When the smoke clears, there will be a much clearer pecking order, and a juicy wish list of fights to come in the near future.
The action got started on September 1 with two big fights. First, Daniel Geale unified the IBF and WBA titles, earning a Split Decision over Felix Sturm. It's a huge breath of fresh air for the division, as Sturm has gleefully hidden away his championship in his friendly home confines of Germany. He has been largely unwilling to risk the belt against top opposition, and has received more than a few beneficial scorecards along the way, such as his bogus win over Matthew Macklin last year.
Then, fight fans saw the U.S. debut of the undefeated Gennady Golovkin, who also holds claim to a WBA title, thanks to that organization's ridiculous practice of awarding "super" and "regular" championship belts. Regardless, Golovkin captivated fans with his performance, knocking out Grzegorz Proksa in five rounds.
Up next is the big fight everyone has been waiting for, as Sergio Martinez, the division's true kingpin, meets Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., the WBC titlist who absurdly captured his belt after it was stripped without cause from Martinez himself. Nevertheless, Chavez Jr. is the clear number 2 guy in the division, and this is a great clash of styles and should be a fun fight to watch on September 15.
The winner of Chavez-Martinez will be the clear top dog at Middleweight, but will be left with two very legitimate contenders for the future in Geale and Golovkin. A pairing of any of these four fighters would be great for fight fans and for the sport. When you throw in Dmitriy Pirog and Matthew Macklin as well, suddenly the Middleweight division seems quite resurgent, after an abysmal, dull stretch lasting several years.
Still, the mess of title belts and the list of seemingly half a dozen "champions" makes one yearn for the reign of Bernard Hopkins. Hopkins held three of the four major straps for over three years, and then added the fourth as well.
He lost all four to Jermain Taylor, and Taylor subsequently dropped the IBF belt, and then dropped the WBA belt as well. That led to the fracturing of the rightful, lineal championship in the division - which still belongs to Martinez, although he holds no belts.
But I digress, let's not get too caught up in the crazy politics of boxing. Instead, let's enjoy these fighters stepping into the squared circle and settling it the old fashioned way, and hope that the trend of the best in the division meeting the best continues.
Sources: ESPN.com/Boxing, Yahoo! Sports, HBO
Jake Emen runs the boxing news website ProBoxing-Fans.com. You can find more of his writing, along with interviews, rankings and breaking news stories at the site, or you can follow ProBoxing-Fans.com on Twitter, @ProBoxingFans.
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