Middleweight: a deluxe division

by
Middleweight: a deluxe division
Middleweight: a deluxe division

Middleweight: a deluxe division

by
Middleweight: a deluxe division
Middleweight: a deluxe division

World boxing pages are full of countless fights and names of memorable names for boxing fans. Those were battles and stars that left a permanent mark in the memory of those who had the pleasure of enjoying and watching them, and there are other more recent battles that are discussed from time to time in cafes and bars where people talk and discuss what happened and what is happening today in the world of boxing.

Among those past and present fights, there are many that had renowned stars of the middleweight category as protagonists, undoubtedly a true elite division among the 17 that exist today, 9 more of the so-called traditional ones. 

Recalling some of those historical confrontations and names is the reason for this work, written and published much more summarized some time ago, today amplified and brought up by chance after a brief review of the history of the category, among several of those fights that animated by the years 1908-09 such figures as Stanley Ketchel and Billy Papke (the most relevant of the division at the beginning of the last century), who exchanged blows on three occasions with favorable balance to the first one, winner by the fast track in 12 and 11 rounds, respectively, and on points the third time.

Ketchel, who was murdered by a jealous husband when he was 24 years old, was the United States champion at a time when world championship appointments had not yet been made official. Nicknamed “The Michigan Assassin,” you can guess why, he known as the best middleweights of any era. At his demise he had a record of 52-4-4 with 49 Kos, with one such setback suffered against the champion two categories higher, Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion in history.

“SUGAR” RAY ROBINSON AND MONSON

The name of “Sugar” Ray Robinson is a must in this story. “Sugar”, whose most brilliant record was at welterweight, was also a top level middleweight. In his record of 173-19-6 with 108 knockouts and only one loss, the half dozen of his famous and unforgettable wars between 1942-51 against “The Bull of the Bronx”, Jake LaMotta, of which he won five, the last three at 160 lbs,  and the final on 2/14/1951, which ended in the 13th round when the referee stopped the carnage in favor of “Sugar”, without LaMotta going to the canvas, as happened in his 5 previous confrontations. We must remember that several years after those 6 fights, LaMotta once told reporters that it was a miracle he did not get diabetes after so many fights with “Sugar”….

Similarly, the Argentine Carlos Monzon occupies a privileged place in any summary of the 160 lbs. division. He was world middleweight champion for almost 7 years, and Monzon’s record includes, among dozens of his performances, the two headline fights against Italian Nino Benvenuti on 7-11-70 when he won the belt and the one on 8/5/71 which were settled by the Santa Fe fighter in 12 and 3 rounds, respectively. Two other great weight fights had Monzon as hero, who beat the Colombian Rodrigo “Rocky” Valdez, in June-76 and July-77, to hang up his truss and gloves after this performance.

Another name that is impossible to forget is that of Marvin “Marvelous” Hagler, who faced, among others, aces of the likes of Roberto “Mano ‘e Piedra” Durán, Thomas Hearns and “Sugar” Ray Leonard, to name just three of his rivals. Against the former he won by clear decision in October 1983, knocked out the latter in three episodes in April 1985 after a first round described as the most violent and emotional in the history of boxing and lost on April 16/87 with Leonard the WBC belt he held (he was also WBA and IBF champion) for almost 7 years of reign, with 12 defenses in his favor, eleven of which were resolved before the end.  Only Duran was able to finish the distance of those championship fights against the hard puncher born in Newark, New Jersey on May 23, 1954 and died on 3/13/21 due to causes not yet fully clarified.

For many, Hagler, with Monzon and Bernard Hopkins as opponents, was the best middleweight in history, he fought between May 18, 1973 and 6/4/87 (14 years), with a triumphant debut against Terry Ryan and his farewell after his controversial setback against “Sugar” Leonard. During this time in the ring he accumulated a record of 67 wins, 62 by KO and 10 decisions, two draws with only three losses, all on points. Only once did he go to the canvas, for 8 seconds, against Argentine Juan Domingo “Martillo” Roldan, in the second round of a belt fight on March 30, 1984 at the Riviera casino-hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Hagler was shaken by a right hand, but he got up and in the 10th round he knocked out the South American.
He won the WBA-WBC and The Ring belts against Englishman Alan Minter on 9/27/80 (TKO3) and successfully defended it against Venezuelan Fulgencio Obelmejias (2 times, KO in 8 and in 5), Vito Antuofermo (RTD4), Mustafa Hamsho (2 times, TKO11 and in 3), William Lee (TKO1), Tony Sibson (TKO6), Wilford Scypion (KO4), Roberto Duran (DU12), Roldan (TKO10), Thomas Hearns (in the famous fight of the most violent first round in history on 4/15/85. He won in the 3rd, at the Cesar Palace) and John Mugabi (TKO11).

After this fight he faced Leonard and lost on points in a controversial decision, in a fight where many saw the “Marvelous” as the winner, among them Monzon and the Argentinean promoter Tito Lectorue, We are certain that the decision that gave the winner to “Sugar” with a vote of 118-110, 115-113 and 113-115, created a dust-up at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas and in the media, most of which argued that “Marvelous” had done enough merits for the victory. It has even been said, and rightly so, that the verdict had a lot to do with the box office magnet that was the charismatic “Sugar” Leonard, who “outsold” the unassuming and quiet Marvin.  

After that, “Marvelous” Hagler, still in his physical prime and only 33 years old, decided to leave the ring for good. He went down in the books as the greatest 160-pounder of the old discipline, an opinion supported by a good part of the connoisseurs.

BERNARD HOPKINS WAS SPECIAL

It would be an unforgivable omission not to mention Bernard Hopkins, The Alien, also called The Executioner and The Exterminator, was the only one who could dispute with Hagler and Monzon the honor of being considered The Best Middleweight in History. It would take another article to highlight his record, one of the most illustrious not only at middleweight but in any boxing category.

Bernard Humprey Hopkins, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on January 15, 1965 (58 years old), fought professionally between October ’88-in the debut he lost by decision to Clinton Mitchell-until December 2016 in which he left a balance of 55 wins, 32 by KO, 8 defeats, 2 draws and 2 no decision.

After an unhappy childhood full of hardships and being in prison for all sorts of youngster offenses, except perhaps murder, he learned to box in prison and got out of jail and crime to dedicate himself fully to boxing, the vehicle that transformed his life for the better.

After his debut against Mitchell, he returned and scored a points victory over Greg Page to win the U.S. belt with a KO1 over Wayne Powell after 21 straight wins. Roy Jones defeated him in a world title fight, and after 26-2.1 he fought for the world title with the Ecuadorian Segundo Mercado on 12-17-94, for a draw. In a second fight he knocked him out in 7 rounds and won the IBF belt, which he defended 13 times and on 14/4/2001 he added the WBC belt vs. Keith Holmes and later added the WBA belt with a KO12 to Felix “Tito” Trinidad on September 29, 22 years ago.

On September 18, 2004 he overcame WBO titleholder Oscar de la Hoya to become the first in history to hold 4 crowns at the same time. He was dethroned by Jermain Taylor after 10 years of reign and 20 defenses, a record for the weight and in the rematch he lost again. After those two defeats he became IBO and NBA light heavyweight world champion with victory over Antonio Traver, titles he abandoned without defending them.

On 12/17/2016, Hopkins, 51, hung up his gloves with a TKO8 loss to Joe Smith, 27, younger than him by 24 years! The Alien is also the oldest world champion in history: he was 45 years, 11 months and 3 days old when he beat on points the 34-year-old Haitian Jean Pascal, who was WBC and IBO king. He thus displaced the Texan heavyweight George Foreman, who was 45 years, 9 months and 25 days old when he dominated Michael Moorer in discussion of the WBA and IBF crown.

Let’s say to conclude that there are other names of high relevance in the category, of course. There will be time left to go on with the remembrance.


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