July 30 marked the 138th anniversary of Jack (Nonpareil) Dempsey’s coronation as the first world champion with middleweight gloves in the history of modern boxing. Nonpareil is not related to the mythical former heavyweight monarch of the same name from the 1920s.
“Nonpareil” fought between 1883 and 1895 and finished his career with a record of 50-3-11, 23 KO’s. On July 30, 1884, in Great Hill, New York, he knocked out George Fulljames (aka Old Horseshoe) in the 22nd round to take the American 160-pound belt (72.562 kilos), a category that is part of the traditional 8, created in the 40’s of the 19th century. The others are fly, bantamweight, lightweight, welterweight, light heavyweight, and complete.
In those years, the belts were recognized only in England and the United States, and the first title fight took place was bare-knuckle bout in 1867 between Tom Chandler and Dooney Harris, with the former winning with the U.S. middleweight belt at stake.
The middleweight, that groups fighters between 154 pounds (69.853 kilograms) and 160 pounds, between welterweight or 147 pounds and the super middleweight (168 lbs.). It was born, as we noted, in the fourth decade of the 1800s. Dozens of the best gladiators in the modern history of boxing have paraded through it, among which we can mention stars such as Stanley Ketchel, Harry Greb, Gene Fullmer, Ray “Sugar” Robinson, Roberto “Mano E Piedra” Durán, “Sugar” Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Carlos Monzón, Marvin “Marvelous” Hagler, Nino Benvenutti, Bernard Hopkins, just to mention the most representative in the history of boxing.
In recent years, the two biggest stars of the category have been Mexico’s Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Kazakhstan’s Gennadiy Golovkin, who will dispute the unified super middleweight (168 pounds) crown in the third fight on September 19 in Las Vegas, now for the WBO, WBC, IBF belts of the former and the WBA belt held by GGG, whose percentage of knockouts (84.9%) is the highest in the history of the middleweights. Alvarez has one win and one draw in his two fights with the Kazakh, who has a record of 42-1-1, 37 KO), and Saul Alvarez records 57-2-2, 39 Kos.
One of the first middleweights to attract worldwide attention was Stanislaw Keical, whom the boxing world knew as Stanley Ketchel, nicknamed The Michigan Assassin (master of the division from 1910-1912) for the aggressiveness he unleashed against his opponents in all his bouts and who at the age of 21-22 became the youngest middleweight champion in history and was considered for some five decades among the best 50 fighters in history (next week we will offer a more complete biographical profile of him).
Ketchel was displaced as the youngest ever at the weight by Al McCoy, who won the belt in 1914 and retained it until 1917.
McCoy, a southpaw from New Jersey, won 139 fights without defeat in his first nine years and dethroned George Chip with a KO in 1.50 of the first round, when he was just 19 years, 5 months, 16 days old.
Bernard Hopkins, aka ET and The Executioner in his active years, holds the record for most defenses in the category with 20 and was the first boxer to reign simultaneously in the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO versions.