Whilst the Middleweight division doesn't appear to have much depth in terms of contenders it does have some really interesting fighters rising through the ranks right now, and they are a very varied bunch of fighters from all over the globe.
For those who missed our looks at the champions and contenders at Middleweight those were covered here:
The state of the Division - Middleweight - The Champions
The state of the Division - Middleweight - The Contenders
Christian Mbilli (13-0, 13)
One of the best prospects in world boxing, regardless of weight, is Cameroonian born French fighter Christina Mbilli, who is looking like one of the most outstanding Middleweight hopefuls out there. He was a stellar amateur, winning gold medals at the European Youth, European Union and European Olympic qualifiers, and competed on the WSB. Since turning professional less than 2 years ago he has ripped through his competition, stopping his 13 foes in just 38 rounds. His competition hasn't been the strongest, but he has taken the unbeaten record of Ramon Aguinaga and smashed through Mexican Luis Fernando Pina. At 23 years old he should be regarded as one of the hottest fighters in professional boxing and someone to seriously keep an eye on.
Serhii Bohachuk (12-0, 12)
We know how there's a Ukrainian take over of boxing with the likes of Vasyl Lomachenko, Oleksandr Usyk and Oleksandr Gvozdyk all holding world titles and all set out to prove they are. There is also a second wave of Ukrainians below those top tier fighters, and including in that is 23 year old Serhii Bohachuk. The youngster made his debut in early 2017 and has gradually stepped up his competition, whilst running through fighters. Dubbed "El Flaco" he is certainly explosive and appears to have no issues making Light Middleweight, at the moment, but clearly has the frame to fill into a very strong Middleweight. A long term prospect, but one well worthy of attention.
Kazuto Takesakao (10-0, 10)
Japanese Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako isn't the next Ryota Murata, but the 27 year old is a legit prospect, and a really heavy handed, aggressive and exciting fighter, who usually comes forward, and always throws with bad intent. His KO win over Shoma Fukumoto was a big coming out win, and since the he has won the Japanese title and defended it once, with his next defense set for March. There are technical issues he needs to sort before progressing beyond regional level, but he has suggested that he wants to unify the Japanese title with the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles, so it's clear that he's looking to make gradual steps upwards, towards a world title fight. One to watch, but not one who will be in the world mix in the next 12 months.
Meiirim Nursultanov (10-0, 8)
The 25 year old Meiirim Nursultanov is one of two notable Kazakh prospects at Middleweight, and is probably the better of the two, if we're being honest. The Oxnard based, Klimas managed fighter turned pro in late 2016 and has been moved gradually through the rankings, with his best wins coming in his last 2 bouts. In late 2018 he stopped Jamar Freeman and began his 2019 with a win over Ramon Aguinaga. He's young, very powerful, and has been sparring with top competition, helping develop his skills, though he is still some way from a big fight of his own.
Misael Rodriguez (8-0, 4)
Talented Mexican Misael Rodriguez won a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics and is tipped to turn that medal into professional titles under the guidance of Abner Mares and Richard Schaefer. The talented 24 year old debuted in 2017 and although easy so far he is a fantastic talent who is getting experience and being developed by a fantastic team. Although talented it's unclear how talented he is given the level he's been fighting at, but given his amateur credentials and the team involved with him it's hard to not be excited about him. Sadly he appears to be a long term project, and it could be 3 or 4 years before we see him in really meaningful fights, though he is scheduled to fight just hours after this article goes live.
Artem Chebotarev (6-0, 4)
At the age of 30 Russian fighter Artem Chebotarev will need to make a big step up this year, but he did show signs of doing that last year, so we will give him the benefit of the doubt. He was a stellar amateur, winning a gold at the European Championships in 2010 and a bronze at the 2013 World Amateur Championships. He won the APB title in 2016, and scored notable wins in both the APB and the Amateurs. Sadly those side ventures meant he didn't make his "proper" professional debut until January 2017. In his debut year he went 4-0 (3) and scored a notable win over Nuhu Lawal. He built on that start in 2018 and ended the year with a big win over Javier Francisco Maciel, though did lose 12 months out of the ring. If he can score 1 or 2 big wins this year he will certainly be in the title mix by the end of the year.
Ulugbek Khakberdiev (5-0, 3)
Unbeaten Uzbek hopeful Ulugbek Khakberdiev has had a frustrating career so far. He turned professional in 2017 and beat Karen Avetisyan, a very under-rated journeyman. He really came to our attention in September 2017, when he stopped Dmitry Sukhotsky, in what should have been a huge break out win, but he would then have a break from the ring losing momentum and not fight for over 7 months, before picking up a low key win in Uzbekistan. Sadly he's again been inactive, and hasn't fought since May 2018. Given how talented, promising, heavy handed he is there is so much to be excited about, and at 26 he does have time on his side, but needs to get active after essentially wasting the last year and a bit. He's too good to not fight, but it appears there is something keeping him inactive, and that is a huge shame during what should be the start of his prime years.
Janibek Alimkhanuly (4-0, 1)
Whilst top Uzbek amateur fighters have taken immediately to the pros, some of the top Kazakh amateurs have taken a few fights to adapt. It appears another Kazakh who hasn't quite settled to the professional style yet is the unbeaten Janibek Alimkhanuly, who looks to have the tools to go a long way, but just needs a little bit of time. As an amateur he won the World Amateur Championships, the Asian Championships, twice, and competed at the Olympics. As a professional his career has been stop start, but he's now based in the US with Top Rank and has fully committed to being a professional boxer. He's notched recent wins over tough competition, in the form of Carlos Galvan and Vaughn Alexander and we're expecting to see him really spread his wings in 2019, with some top performances as he continues to adapt to professional boxing.
Whilst the champions at Middleweight are exciting the Contenders unfortunately don't have great quality running through them, with a few standouts, a few unproven fighters and a few that seem to be making up the numbers.
We covered the champions here, The state of the Division - Middleweight - The Champions, if you missed it
Gennady Golovkin (38-1-1, 34)
The standout contender at Middleweight is Kazakh puncher Gennady Golovkin, a former unified champion and the man who was long considered the best in the division. He lost his belts in controversial fashion last year, losing a razor thin decision to Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, after having previously fought to a draw with Alvarez. Although still an elite level fighter we do wonder what his body has left in it, and he turns 37 in April. There is no set future plan for Golovkin and he is yet to announce which TV network he will be working with after the demise of HBO's boxing content. It's assumed he will head over to DAZN but no announcement has yet been made, and he may find himself frozen out of big fights until early next year.
Billy Joe Saunders (27-0, 13)
Another former champion in the division is England's Billy Joe Saunders, a controversial figure who has really harmed his career with out of the ring activity. The out of the ring issues saw Saunders turn many against him last year, before he failed a drug's test and forced the cancellation of a bout against Demetrius Andrade in late 2018. He's now been ordered to fight Adrade, in a mandatory title shot, but will receive a very low share of the purse and may well look else where. Saunders is a talented southpaw, and seemed set to become a star following his impressive win over David Lemieux, but the out of the ring issues has certain killed his moment.
Ryota Murata (14-2, 11)
Former WBA "regular" champion Ryoto Murata has blown hot and cold through his career, and at 33 it's not clear how much the 2012 Olympic champion can actually improve. Murata is a heavy handed and physically strong pressure fighter, but he's very basic, rather slow and can be out worked, out manoeuvered and outsped. At his best he's a tank but his title loss to Rob Brant last year showed just how limited he can be when fighters with good lateral movement and combinations face him. That loss was his only clear loss, with the other being a very controversial decision that was later avenged. He's hugely popular in Japan, but we do wonder if he will get another chance at the top given how poor he was against Brant.
Jason Quigley (15-0, 11)
Unbeaten US based Irishman Jason Quigley had long been linked to a fight with Murata, prior to Murata's loss to Brant, and as with many Irish fighters he does have a notable and loyal following. Despite that, following he is lacking in terms of notable victories and doesn't seem to have progressed in the way many had expected. As an amateur he won a Silver medal at the 2013 World Amateur Championships and a Gold medal at the European championships. He's been a professional since 2014, and whilst he is just 27 his best wins are against the like of James De La Rosa and Glen Tapia, rather than true top contenders.
Sergiy Derevyanchenko (12-1, 10)
Talented Ukrainian 33 year old Sergiy Derevyanchenko proved he belonged at world level with a good showing against Daniel Jacobs last year. He's a technically solid fighter, who is strong and has decent power, but at the age of 33 and given his lack of size he may well find himself unable to get the big win in the division. He was a standout in the WSB but turning professional in 2014 may well have cost him his peak years and it's hard to know how long he really has at the top. He's a fantastic fighter, it just feels like his career will be coming to an end before it ever really got the chance to take off. He was avoided at times but seems to be a high risk-little reward opponent for anyone in the sport, and may well be avoided again until he's slipped to the point where another contenders fancies their chances against him.
Khasan Baysangurov (17-0, 7)
Russian born, Ukrainian based, 21 year old fighter Khasan Baysangurov is one of the youngest challengers in the division, and is lined up for a shot against Rob Brant in February. Despite being a relative unknown he has been picking up wins against the likes of Guido Nicolas Pitto and Paul Valenzuela Jr. Given the quality of those wins he certainly doesn't seem ready for a shot at Brant, and very much looking like a fighter being jumped up levels. He is a decent boxer, but lacks power, and is really a few years away from developing his man strength. In a few years time Baysangurov might be a very good fighter, but right now it's far too early for him to get a shot at the top level.
Matt Korobov (28-2, 14)
At 36 years old Korobov is one of the sports most frustrating talents. He was an elite amateur, twice claiming World Amateur Championship gold medals, and he turned professional in 2008 at the age of 25 with the potential to go all the way. His career showed early promise, but he could regularly put in the performance that he was capable of, often preferring to win safe rather than to shine. In 2014 he got his first shot at the big time, but was stopped in the 6th round by Andy Lee and since then his career has struggled to come alive, that was until last December when he challenged Jermall Charlo and give the unbeaten Charlo a real test. That loss raised Korobov's profile and could well lead to another shot in the near future.
Maciej Sulecki (27-1, 11)
Poland's Maciej Sulecki is a 29 year old who has been a professional since 2010, but only really began to make a name for himself in the last few years. Since 2014 he has scored notable wins over Grzegorz Proksa, Darryl Cunningham, Huge Centeno Jr and Jack Culcay, as well as giving Daniel Jacobs a much tougher than expected fight. He's tough, has a good engine and a fun to watch style, though his lack of power and technical flaws do seem likely to hold him back from being a champion. He's a fun fighter however and should be considered a main contender at the moment.
Jack Culcay (25-3, 13)
Former WBA Light Middleweight champion Jack Culcay was just mentioned as one of Sulecki's best wins and is a pretty decent fighter himself, though sadly he sort of sums up the gulf between the top contenders and the other contenders. Culcay was a notable amateur, winning the World Amateur Championships in 2009, and was regarded as a big German hope as part of the post Sturm and Abraham era. Sadly however he has failed to fill the void left by the great Germans that came before him. Culcay is a pretty standard level European fighter who won the European title last year, but vacated it before making his first defense. He will likely get a world title fight, but unless he improves drastically at 33 he will be little more than a contender, never doing enough to become a true champion.
Liam Williams (19-2-1, 14)
Talented Welshman Liam Williams is probably another fighter who should be regarded as a European level fighter looking to move up a level. The 26 year old is a fighter who does have plenty of skill, but often ends up in gruelling affairs, which is a shame as when he's on point he is a fantastic fighter. He made his mark mostly at Light Middleweight, but move up after a couple of losses to Liam Smith and look fantastic last time out when he stopped the touted Mark Heffron. He still has a long way to go to prove he's a world class Middleweight, but he's young enough to develop the experience and tools. Worries do remain about his stamina and toughness at the highest level, but he does deserve a mention here.
Esquiva Falcao (22-0, 15)
Brazilian fighter Esquiva Falcao is one of two Brazilian fighters who are looking to get title fights at 160lbs this year. The southpaw from Vitoria is a talented fighter who won a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics, a bronze at the 2011 World Amateur championships and competed in the WSB. As a professional his career hasn't really taken off, and at the age of 29 it's getting to the point where it really needs to move on to the next level. His best wins aren't anything special but his performances have, for the most part, been dominant and it's clear he can step up another level. Sadly his competition has been several levels below world class, and we really don't know how good he is.
Yamaguchi Falcao (16-0-0-1, 7)
The other Brazilian brother looking to win a world title is the other brother, Yamaguchi Falcao. At 31 he is now in the "now or never" territory in regards to stepping up in class. He's proven to be talented, though like his brother we really don't know how good he is, and he's yet to face anyone of any known quality. Like his younger brother Yamaguchi was a top amateur, taking a bronze medal in the 2012 Olympics and competing in the WSB. If he's able to get the push he needs this year he could certainly be managed into a world title fight, but it really does seem too late in his career for him to become the star that Brazilian boxing needs.
The Middleweight division, along with the Heavyweight, Light Heavyweight and Welterweight divisions, has typically been one of the key divisions in deciding the state of the sport. Right now however, it does feel rather lacking in terms of depth, despite having some of the sports biggest names. It's a division that is incredibly top heavy and very much lacking in depth. What also doesn't help is that between the champions there has been a lack of established reigns and defenses, making the division have big names but lack a long reigning center figure
Saul Alvarez (51-1-2, 35)- WBC, WBA Super (0 defenses)
Saul "Canelo" Alvarez is arguably the biggest name in boxing right, and commands an insane amount of attention, huge purses and mass fanfare when he gets in the ring. Whether you like him or not, and whether you feel he has had some favours from judges or not, it's undeniable that when Canelo fights the boxing world pays attention. His win over Gennady Golovkin last year, in what was a very controversial result, saw Alvarez claim the WBA "Super" and WBC titles, with the intention now being to unify them on May 4th against IBF champion Daniel Jacobs. Something that is worth noting about Canelo is that he is still looking to rebuild his reputation following a drug test failure in 2018, and it seems like he will look to make a point of proving he is a clean fighter at every opportunity.
Daniel Jacobs (35-2, 29) - IBF (0 defenses)
Canelo won his title in September and the following month Daniel Jacobs won the IBF title, taking the vacant title with a win over Sergiy Derevyanchenko. The IBF title had been stripped from Gennady Golovkin, prior to his rematch with Alvarez, opening up the opportunity for Jacobs to win the belt. The 31 year old, soon to be 32 year old, Jacobs is an exciting and flawed boxer-puncher. He's quick, explosive and a smart fighter than many give him credit for. He also has a heart warming backstory of surviving cancer to become a world champion. Sadly for Jacobs he has shown some fragility, having been stopped by Dmitry Pirog and been put down by Golovkin and Sergio Mora, but he seems to have shown the brains to counter-act his questionable chin. His bout with Canelo should be very interesting, and is one of the first true super fights of 2019.
Demetrius Andrade (27-0, 17) - WBO (1 defense)
Unbeaten American Demetrius Andrade is a talented yet incredibly frustrating fighter who seems to have been around for years, and actually debuted back in 2008. Despite his long unbeaten career he has failed to set the world on fire, or even really make the most of any opportunity he's had. He won the WBO title in October, when he defeated Walter Kautondokwa for the title which had been left behind by Billy Joe Saunders following a drugs test. Whilst Kautondokwa was an awkward fighter Andrade seemed to show no killer instinct. He made his first defense of the title this past Friday, and scored a bizarre stoppage over Artur Akavov, in what seemed to be an awful decision by Arthur Mercante. Andrade is a huge, awkward, fast, explosive southpaw, but lacks that something that could make a star. His reign is shrouded in controversy, due to the way Saunder's reign ended, and his performances have regularly failed to show just how good he is. If he can put everything together he could be a star, but it seems like he will never really show what he's capable of.
Rob Brant (24-1, 16) WBA "Regular" (0 defenses)
Once beaten American Rob Brant shocked the boxing world last year, when he upset Ryota Murata to claim the WB "regular" title. The 28 year old was another champion crowned in what was a division changing October, and he'll be making his first defense in February, when he takes on the unbeaten Khasan Baysangurov. From his 25 fights Brant is known for 2. One is the shock win over Murata in which he set an insane pace and out boxed the Japanese Olympic champion with ease. The other is his loss to Juergen Braehmer, which saw Brant looking rather clueless against the German veteran. He has clearly learned from that loss to the German and given his performance against Murata it's clear he is a very talented fighter, with under-rated power, and a great engine.
Jermall Charlo (28-0, 21) WBC interim (1 defense)
Jermall Charlo, the unbeaten twin of Jermell Charlo, won the WBC "interim" title last April when he stopped Hugeo Centono Jr in 2 rounds. Prior to winning the Interim title Charlo had a short reign at 154lbs, where he had held the IBF title and made 3 defenses. Charlo is a talented boxer-puncher, with very respectable power, but is technically not as good as he seems to think he is, as we saw recently when he was fortunate to over-come Matt Korobov. The win over Korobov looked comfortable on paper, against an old and inactive Russian challenger, and looked clear on the judges scorecards but the reality is that Charlo wasn't the clear winner in the eyes of the fans, and it seemed like he was really tested by the first skilled Middleweight he'd faced. Charlo will call for the big fights, but the reality is that he's not in the same league as the top 2 men in the division.
Takahiro Onaga is a regular contributor to Asian Boxing and will now be a featured writer in his own column where his takes his shot at various things in the boxing world.