The state of the middleweight division, and why it is so bad right now

Gone are the days of the great middleweight division in boxing.

We used to have fighters at middleweight such as Bernard Hopkins, James Toney, or even Marvin Hagler, who carried the glamour division. Now, we just have question marks around the future of the division.

Where did it go wrong? Well, look at the money. After Canelo defeated Daniel Jacobs in May of 2019 he never fought again at the middleweight limit. We are now four years past the biggest name in the sport competing in this division.

Now added to it, Gennadiy Golovkin, a future hall-of-famer, is also in his forties now and has given up all of his world titles. The sport of boxing is also a business. When fighters get to the highest level they look for the biggest bout to monetize. Right now middleweight is a start-up compared to the fruitful endeavors of super middleweight and junior middleweight as it is stuck right in the middle.

Let’s look at how bad the middleweight division has gotten as we get ready for Saturday night’s WBC interim world title fight on Showtime, when Carlos Adames looks to make his first defense against former unified world champion, Julian “J-Rock” Williams, which will take place at the Armory in Minnesota.

Who is the best middleweight right now?

Shoulder shrugs and blank stares might just be the answer currently. Until September it will be Golovkin as he is still listed as an active fighter, but we doubt to ever see him fight again.

Janibek Alimkhanuly is an interesting figure who fights a lot like Viktor Postol before his stoppage win over Lucas Matthysse. Yet, Alimkhanuly is being rushed to the top - the skills are there, but at sixteen pro fights, the current WBO middleweight world champion is vaulted to the top of the division by necessity as much as anything. Alimkhanuly is a world-class amateur who could run the division for years but is still developing now it just depends on how life shakes out for him, and the number of fights he can get. Alimkhanuly stopped Steven Butler in two rounds in Stockton, California, last month, but has having trouble securing big-name opponents.

Yet, the marketing of Alimkhanuly as the ‘boogeyman’ has come with mixed results. Add to it, that Alimkhanuly also doesn’t speak English, and we have a great fighter who is going unnoticed.

Carlos Adames is the only other fighter who can lay claim to being the best fighter in the division as he has world-class wins and has been competing in the division for some time after a failed world title shot at the junior middleweight, Adames came back in 2021 as a middleweight. His win over Sergiy Derevyanchenko is the best win of an active fighter as well.

Liam Smith, a career junior middleweight deserves mention as he brutally knocked out Chris Eubank Jr., in January, but after that win, Smith has been inactive. It appeared Liam Smith would rematch Chris Eubank Jr., but that now seems a pipe dream as talk once again has ramped up for Chris Eubank Jr to face Conor Benn and revisit their failed bout from 2022.

Albeit, these fighters are world-class none of which screams a star of the division. Maybe, Smith could fit that bill, but it seems that he beat Eubank Jr., who is caught between personas of being a celebrity and a professional boxer.

Current Champions

When looking at the belts things get a bit more confusing

The WBC middleweight champion is Jermall Charlo, but he hasn’t fought in over two years and has not been stripped of his title. Carlos Adames won the WBC middleweight interim title in his last fight against Juan Macias Montiel and will be making his first interim title defense on Saturday night.

The WBO middleweight champion is Janibek Alimkhanuly, who has now made two world title defenses since winning the belt with one being a great stoppage of Steven Butler, and the other being a cautionary win over Denzel Bentley in which Alimkhanuly had to dig deep late in the fight to win. This hurt his perception of the boogeyman of the division as he was a heavy favorite heading into this bout, and was stopped by Felix Cash in three rounds a few fights prior.

The WBA middleweight champion is Erislandy Lara, a career junior middleweight who is now fighting at middleweight. Lara won the title by beating Thomas LaManna and made one defense of his title against Spike O’Sullivan. Add to it, Lara is now in his forties it is hard to believe Lara fights much longer.

Then we have on July 1st, the IBF title up for grabs as Esquiva Falcao will face Vincenzo Gualtieri for the middleweight title in a fight that very likely will have no major network or distribuion pay for or buy the fight to show it to the U.S. fans.

When a division hit slumps you can often look at the top of the division and see why. When looking at the current world champions, it feels as though we are in a transition of eras.

Who can save the division?

So what fighters could save the division?

Errol Spence Jr might jump to mind. If he does keep fighting for the next few years, he has hinted that he’d prefer to fight at the higher weights. Spence Jr., if he moved up today would be favored against many in the division and would probably bring a few big names up to this weight class as well.

It isn’t a matter of if, but when Jermell Charlo moves to middleweight and that can simply be answered by if he fights Tim Tszyu next, or if he fights Tim Tszyu in a year or so when Tszyu moves up to middleweight. Jermell Charlo would bring the presence needed which is that of a vocal champion making fights exciting.

Tim Tszyu will inevitably find himself in this weight class one day especially if the big-money fights end up in this division. Tszyu is becoming a star in the sport of boxing as when he returns to the U.S. for a fight in the future it seems as though his country will travel.

Two fighters a little below the world title level who might fit this bill are Xander Zayas, the heavily touted Top Rank Inc., a Puerto Rican fighter. Zayas already has the country of Puerto Rico behind him, and at some point, should be fighting at the middleweight limit and could be making a big fight especially over Puerto Rico Day Parade weekend in New York City.

The sleeper of the next generation is Jesus Ramos Jr. has one of the best resumes in the sport, yet he isn't getting the acclaim that a lot of other fighters have gotten so far. Ramos Jr feels like a future world champion and a fighter who will morph into a star but is building beneath the surface thus far. Ramos Jr. is very big for his weight class and should be at middleweight at some point in his career. 

Darrelle Valsaint, a 2020 Olympian, who has been featured heavily on, has built up a solid resume early in his career and looks to be someone who could be a future star of boxing. 

The state of middleweight 

In short, we need some ownership in this division. The division doesn't run through anyone as of now. So until someone can stake their claim as being the best in the division, and being the coveted fight, the division will simply exist until someone takes it over.