David Benavidez and Demetrius Andrade meet in Las Vegas on Saturday in a super-middleweight clash that may (or may not) produce the next challenger for division kingpin Canelo Alvarez. With 2024, now just a matter of weeks away, marking the 40th anniversary of the 168-pound weight class, ProBoxTV takes a look at the top super-middleweight boxers in the division’s relatively brief history.
5. James Toney
Record at 168 pounds: 21-1-1 (18 KOs)
At his peak, Toney was regarded as among the very best boxers, pound-for-pound, in the world. He moved up to super-middleweight after dominating the middleweight division and reigned at 168 pounds until a combination of weight struggles and Roy Jones Jr led to a mid-career tailspin and an ascension through the weight divisions. He loses points because half of his appearances at 168 pounds were early in his career; his peak at super middle lasted only from the time he won the IBF belt against Iran Barkley in early 1993 to his defeat by Jones in November of the following year. But during that brief period, he fought an astonishing 12 times, and his sheer brilliance until his indiscipline took hold secures a place on the list. Inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2022.
4. Carl Froch
Record at 168 pounds: 24-2 (17 KOs)
The man from Nottingham fought all but a handful of his early contests at 168 pounds and below in his career. Only Andre Ward, who outpointed him in the Super Six final in 2011, avoided defeat to “the Cobra,” with Froch avenging his only other career defeat, to Mikkel Kessler, in 2013. Victories over Jermain Taylor, Arthur Abraham, Glen Johnson, Lucian Bute, and George Groves (twice) - the second win over Groves coming in front of 80,000 fans at Wembley Stadium in the final outing of Froch’s career – were enough to seal the Englishman’s induction into the Hall of Fame in 2023.
3. Joe Calzaghe
Record at 168 pounds: 33-0 (22 KOs)
Like Froch, the great bulk of his non-168-pound contests were slightly-over-the-limit outings early in his career. Between upsetting Chris Eubank in 1997 to take a vacant title and moving up to light-heavyweight to close out his career ten years later, Calzaghe was in permanent possession of one or more belts. With the exception of his final outing at the weight, a title unification against Mikkel Kessler in one of his greatest performances, his title reign did not exactly feature a Murderers’ Row of opposition. But nobody came close to unlocking the keys to solving the puzzles posed by the Welshman’s unique, high-octane style; and he retired unbeaten in 2008 after wins at 175 pounds against Roy Jones and Bernard Hopkins. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014.
2. Andre Ward
Record at 168 pounds: 20-0 (8 KOs)
The imperious Ward, elected to the Hall of Fame in 2021, lost just one bout as an amateur and none as a professional. Turning pro after securing Olympic gold in 2004, he won a super-middleweight title in 2009 by becoming the first and only person to stop Mikkel Kessler. Victories followed against the likes of Sakio Bika, Arthur Abraham, Froch, and Chad Dawson, before a dispute with his promoter caused him to sit out three of his prime years. He returned at light-heavyweight, closing out his career with two wins at 175 pounds over Sergey Kovalev.
1. Roy Jones
Record at 168 pounds: 12-0 (11 KOs)
His spell at super-middleweight was but a brief bridge between his reigns at 160 and 175 pounds, but it saw the future Hall-of-Famer – whose induction was not until 2022 because he continued for many years past his best – score some of his most significant victories, against the likes of Thulani Malinga, Vinny Pazienza, and Toney. More than the numbers, though, was the manner of his wins: Pazienza failed to land a single punch, and threw only four, in the fourth round of his stoppage loss, while Jones played a game of basketball before stopping Eric Lucas in June 1995. To this day, boxing has arguably seen nothing to match the unique skillset that characterized Jones in his pomp.
Honorable Mentions: Mikkel Kessler, Nigel Benn, Chris Eubank, Steve Collins