Over the last few weeks we've seen a lot of discussion from numerous fans talking about how they aren't interested in the lower weights due to the lack of depth in the divisions. It make a change from the "they are smaller than my 9 year old niece" argument, but it's not particularly any better than that argument. Many even throw out number of active fighters from boxrec to back up their arguments. "There's only 451 Light Flyweights" and "there's only 250 Minimumweights" as if the total number of fighters in a division represents it's quality of fighters. True it represents the overall talent pool, but is a division is small, but more finely matched, surely that's better than a bloated talented pool, of unevenly matched fighters.
The Minimumweight, at least in 2019, did under-whelm. Massively. The two most recognisable champions in the division, Wanehng Menayothin and Knockout CP Freshmart, fought am combined 3 times. This wasn't a banner year for those two, but that didn't mean the division lacked overall. It was a year that saw a trio of fantastic hopefuls make their mark, with Ginjiro and Yudai Shigeoka along with Hasanboy Dusmatov, make their intentions clear.
The division also gave us some sensational fights, with Kai Ishizawa's war against Masataka Taniguchi and Samuel Salva Vs Pedro Taduran being among them, it gave us the feel good story of Norihito Tanaka finally winning a title at the age of 33 and we got a huge upset with Lito Dante shocking Tsubasa Koura.
Sure great fights, upsets, an emerging trio of prospects doesn't mean the division is deep, it means it's interesting. The depth comes in numbers of good fighters. With Wanhengm, Knockout CP Freshmart, Pedro Taduran, Wilfredo Mendez, Byron Rojas, Melvin Jerusalem, Jose Argumedo, the Shigeoka brothers and Vic Saludar the division has a healthy mix of prospects, contenders and champions.
The Light Flyweight division is another accused of having a lack of depth but yet it has Kenshiro Teraji, Hiroto Kyoguchi, Elwin Soto, Carlos Canizales, Felix Alvarado all holding some form of a world title. A chasing group of contenders that combine veterans like Milan Meldino and Tetsuya Hisada, along with untested veterans like Daniel Matellon and other more tested guys like Sho Kimura and Edward Heno.
Unlike many divisions we're not seeing the Light Flyweight division really recycling fighters either. Soto became a champion in his first world title bout and in 2019 we also saw Hisada, Heno and Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart get their first world title bouts. There is good fresh talent in the division and we've been getting great fights from that talent. Elwin Soto Vs Angel Acosta was a low key instant classic, just like Hiroto Kyoguchi Vs Tetsuya Hisada. The only real disappointment in the division was the illness that forced Felix Alvarado out of a unification bout with Kenshhiro Teraji.
Now lets take a look at some bigger divisions.
Lets take a look at the Welterweight division, a division with over 2000 fighters in it, apparently. Thee top guys there are tremendous, Terence Crawford, Errol Spence, Manny Pacquiao, Shawn Porter. Danny Garcia, Keith Thurman and Yodenis Ugas are a great pack of fighters. It is, almost certainly the best division in the sport right now. The division gave us great fights, Errol Spence Vs Shawn Porter being the pick of the bunch from the division in 2019.
Sad thing however is that the Welterweight division is an anomaly. It's a division that really has almost everything going for it, just a shame that Terence Crawford has failed to secure a bout against another top fighter in the division.
Welterweight aside no other division is particularly stacked, and delivering. The Super Middleweight division has obvious match ups to make, with Callum Smith vs Billy Joe Saunders being the most obvious, but the bout isn't being done. Instead we have Smith, Saunders, David Benevidez and Caleb Plant taking on a mix of mandatories and weak voluntary defenses.
In a supposed "deep division", with over 1300 fighters, Smith Smith fought chinny former Middleweight Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam, Saunders won his title with a win over the unknown Shefat Isufi, and then defended it against the equally as obscure Marcelo Esteban Coceres and Caleb Plant stayed busy by stopping the woefully over-matched Mike Lee.
The number of fighters in the Super Middleweight division is significantly more than either the Minimumweight division or Light Flyweight division, yet it failed to produce a fraction of the excitement of the lower two weight classes.
Another similar example is at Middleweight, where Saul Canelo sometimes fights, along with Gennady Golovkin, Chris Eubank Jr, Ryota Murata, Demetrius Andrade, Sergiy Derevyanchenko and Jermall Charlo. A great list of names, but from those 7 we only saw one bout pitting any 2 of them together in 2019, with Gennady Golovkin and Sergiy Derevyanchenko delivering a legitimate fight of the year contender.
Instead of the best Middleweights facing off we had things like Gennady Golovkin Vs Steve Rolls, Demetrius Andrade Vs Artur Akavov, and Adrade Vs Luke Keeler to kick off 2020 doesn't bode well for the year ahead. The division is actually damaged by the sheet number of options a fighter had here, with so many less fighters than someone can face.
And this brings us to the key point. Having a lot of fighters in a division doesn't make it stronger, or weaker, by default. A division's "depth" isn't based on some raw numbers. It's based on more than that, much more.
The key to a division's depth is how well matched fighters are on paper, and in the ring. The best divisions match up well on paper, and then deliver in the ring, when the best actually fight each other. If a division had 40 sensational fighters, but they never faced off, then what would be the point? In the lower weights the depth is usually magnified somewhat by the fact the top fighters need to face top competition to get attention. This isn't the case in some divisions, where a guy like Dominic Breazeale recent got a world title fight on the back of 3 relatively fan friendly but low level wins.
More important than depth to a division however is the knowledge of the fighters in the division. For years the Cruiserweight division was one of the most interesting divisions in the sport. It was delivering FOTY contenders on a regular basis, as two big lumps, often from Europe, smashed the ever loving snot out of each other. Sadly for a number of American fans those fighters were downplayed as nobodies. The ignorance of some fans towards the fighters saw them over-look a stacked division. It was a massive oversight and a serious mistake by certain fans who missed out on things like the Marco Huck Vs Ola Afolabi wars, Steve Cunningham's insane first bout with Tomasz Adamek, which took place in the US and was still over-looked by American fans.
If you think a division is lacking in depth sometimes you need to realise it isn't based on who YOU recognise, it's about the talent there. Sometimes it's worth learning a little bit about the fighters there, and enjoying the fights. Rather than downplaying a division due to their size, or the number of fighters competing at a weight class.
This is just an opinion, maaaan! It's easy to share our opinions, and that's what you'll find here, some random opinion pieces