The Heavyweight division might be seen as the division that sums up boxing's health, at least in some quarters, but in reality it's the division which has been the most frustrating over the last 20 years or so. We've had a lack of real stand out fights at the top level, with only a handful really being great, and although the division does bring excitement and attention to the sport, it also has a knack of not giving us the big bouts we, as fans, want to see. Despite the issues it does have some interesting fighters in it right now, and there are some good bouts on the docket.
WBC - Deontay Wilder (42-0-1, 41)
Heavy handed American Deontay Wilder is one of the sports longest reigning champions and the "Bronze Bomber" is also one of the sports most potent punchers. Although technically not the most polished man in the sport few will doubt the fire power in Wilder's right hand, and does have genuine fight changing power. It's also worth noting that he has got under-rated skills, without being a technical genius, lighting speed, freakish size and a lot of charisma, though he can rub people up the wrong way. Later this month he will be facing Tyson Fury in a rematch of their 2018 draw in what is one of the most anticipated bouts of 2020.
WBA "Super", WBO and IBF - Anthony Joshua (23-1, 21)
It could seem odd listing a unified champion below a single title holder but 2019 left us with more questions than answers for Englishman Anthony Joshua. The popular "AJ" went into 2019 looking like the best in the division, a power punching, offensive boxer-puncher. There was a robot look to him, but he was incredibly effective and seemed to be the second best boxer at the top, behind Tyson Fury, and the second best puncher, behind Wilder. A nightmare US debut saw him being stopped by big under-dog Andy Ruiz Jr in June and having his aura shattered. Although he bounced back to beat Ruiz in December, in Saudi Arabia, there was very much a feeling that his aura had gone...despite a much more polished performance in that December bout. His next bout is expected to be against Kubrat Pulev, in or around May, and it's going to be interesting to see what version of "AJ" turns up against the Bulgarian Cobra.
WBA "regular" - Manuel Charr (31-4, 17)
And we're back to crazy WBA territory here with the WBA still recognising German based Syrian Manuel Charr as their regular champion....more than 2 years after he last fought. In fact he won the title in November 2017 and has yet to defend it. Absolutely bizarre and time the WBA had a look at the 35 year old, and their recognition of him.
Very few divisions changed in the way the Cruisierweight division has over the last year or so. As we entered 2019 there was only one man anyone saw as the world champion and that was Ukrainian star Oleksandr Usyk, with a good solid base of contenders fighting for second place. Since the Usyk has left the division, with Murat Gassiev also leaving the division, as both men pursue gold at Heavyweight. We've also seen the, long over-due, retirement of Russian veteran Denis Lebedev, who hung them up following a loss to Thabiso Mchunu in December. Despite the changes the division is still a really good one, and we are really looking forward to the upcoming WBSS final in March.
IBF - Yunier Dorticos (24-1, 22)
Having mentioned the upcoming WBSS final it's worth starting this with IBF champion Yunier Dorticos, who will be defending his IBF title in that final on March 28th against Mairis Briedis. The big punching Cuban is a genuine talent, with big power. Typically his bouts seem to be very good, or god awful, though whatever they end up being there is always a chance that the "KO Doctor" will land a bomb and leave his opponent out cold. On paper his resume is really solid, with wins over Youri Kayembre Kalenga, Dmitry Kudryashov, Mateusz Masternak and Andrew Tabiti, in 4 of his last 5, however a 2018 loss to Murat Gassiev and only 5 bouts in the last 4 years have hurt Dorticos' overall standing in the sport. Also with his 34th birthday coming in March he cannot afford another loss, or that could be the end for him
WBC - Ilunga Makabu (27-2, 24)
Earlier this year Ilunga Makabu became the WBC champion with a decision over the previously unbeaten Michal Cieslak in the Democratic Republic Of The Congo. That was Makabu crowning win and his 8th win since a 2016 loss in the UK to Tony Bellew. Amazingly since the loss to Bellew Makabu has fought in 6 countries, and scored notable wins not just over Cieslak but also the the 11-0 Aleksei Papin and the always dangerous Dmitry Kudryashov. Talented, heavy handed, tough and with top level experience Makabu is a genuine top fighter. He has the tools to beat anyone but just enough vulnerability to make fighters think they can take him out. With the WBC title around his waist he will be a target for fighters to chase, but is not an easy fighter to beat and on his day he could beat anyone at the weight.
WBA "Super" - Arsen Goulamirian (26-0, 18)
Armenian born Frenchman Arsen Goulamirian is possibly the division's hidden gem, and he current WBA "super champion. Goulamirian won the "interim" title in 2018 and the some how seems to have become the "super" champion by the time he first defended it, when he stopped Kane Watts. He then netted his second defense in just weeks after stopping Watts, as he broke down Constantin Bejenaru. The exciting, aggressive, tough and talented Goulamirian isn't just unbeaten in 26 but has stopped his last 6, taking the unbeaten records of Bejenaru and Ryan Merhy along the way. Although he's only fought in France and Belgium he has proven to be a nightmare to go up against and we wouldn't be surprised to see him heading out to pastures new by the end of 2020 in search of big pay days and serious tests.
WBA "Regular" - Beibut Shumenov (18-2, 12)
Sometimes things completely surprise us, and finding out that Beibut Shumenov stills holds a world title is one such thing. The 36 year old Kazakhhas fought only once since June 2016, and that was back in summer 2018, yet the WBA still have him listed as their champion. Bizarre. Once a pretty talented Light Heavyweight we do need to wonder what his connection is to the WBA for them to have still have him listed, it's frankly bizarre. We genuine assumed Shumenov had retired when we started this. As a Cruiserweight his crowning glory was beating BJ Flores, and yet he is some how a 2-time WBA champion. If anyone can explain please do! Also we expect the WBA to strip him sooner rather than later, especially now they know that someone is aware of Shumenov's current "reign".
One of the sports most intriguing divisions right now in the Light Heavyweight division, which has fighters wanting to fight, want to unify, and wanting to prove themselves. Even though there are a lot of veterans hanging around they are all proving themselves as top fighters, time and time again, the division also has plenty of fresh blood and a nice mix of styles, experiences and excitement. It's one of the few divisions that really does thrive with must watch fights and it sometimes seems like it doesn't even matter who is facing who, we're going to be in for something memorable. It's also a division with a vacant WBO title up for grabs later this year.
WBC and IBF - Artur Beterbiev (15-0, 15)
Russian destroyer Artur Beterbiev was once one of the most avoided men in the sport, in the space of just 2 years he has gone 4-0 (4) in world title bouts and unified the WBC and IBF titles, making him essentially the man people have to look at, if they want to become a world champion. With bricks for fists, an aggressive mentality and bull like strength it would be easy to write Beterbiev off as just a puncher but he's not. He's actually more of a boxer-puncher, but one with absolutely dynamite punches. He's a well schooled former amateur standout with scary power, but also someone who had been dropped several times himself, leaving some question marks over his chin. His best win is is his 10th round TKO win over Oleksandr Gvozdyk, though stoppages over Tavoris Cloud, Gabriel Campillo and Enrico Koelling are solid wins, especially at the time he beat them. He'll be back in the ring in March when he defends his title against Fanlong Meng and then there is plans for a huge bout later in the year in Russia.
WBA "super" - Dmitry Bivol (17-0, 11)
Another Russian champion is Dmitry Bivol, who lacks the power and physicality of Beterbiev, but is instead is a more polished boxer. The 29 year old Bivol started his career looking like an aggressive, exciting fighter, but as he's stepped up in class he's become more of a boxer-puncher, using his feet to create space and keeping things long and at range. In many ways Bivol looks like he's keeping things simple in there, though his ring IQ is very allowing him to using the basics incredible well. His last 4 bouts have all gone the distance, but he's been clearly winning them behind his boxing skills and ring control. Whilst he's not as destructive as Beterbiev his recent resume is stronger, with wins against Sullivan Barrera, Isaac Chilemba, Jean Pascal and Joe Smith Jr.
WBA "regular" - Jean Pascal (35-6-1-1, 20)
Although the WBA have created a mess for themselves with a regular champion and a super champion, again, we must confess that Jean Pascal is someone we, as boxing fans in general, absolutely love. The Hatian born Canadian 37 year old has done what we, as fans, want to see. He has faced pretty much a who's who of who since 2008. Win or lose he's not looked to duck fighters and instead has gone in with the likes of Carl Froch, Chad Dawson, Bernard Hopkins, Lucien Bute, Sergey Kovalev, twice, Eleider Alvarez, Dmitry Bivol and Badou Jack. Him holding a title is the bull shit the WBA have created, but as a fighter, who been written off time and time and time again Pascal is a throw back to an era where ducking was less prevalent. We do, genuinely, worry about Pascal's health after his career comes to an end, and he has taken a lot of punishment, and hope that when he does hang them up he has a great life afterwards. After his last bout, a narrow win over Badou Jack, it seems likely that retirement will be sooner rather than later.
When we look through the divisions one really frustrates us more than any other, and that's the Super Middleweight division, which has obvious match ups to make, but yet still finds a way to frustrate and antagonise fans with mismatch among the top fighters, and a lack of great in ring activity. In fact over the last year or so it's felt almost like the champions are intentionally trying to look bad at times. Sadly the contenders are struggling to make a case for a shot at the titles too, further making the division look rather stagnant.
IBF - Caleb Plant (19-0, 11)
Unbeaten American Caleb Plant is arguably the most consistent of the champions, but someone who is also rather untested. Dubbed "Sweet Hands" Plant relies on skills, hand speed and ring craft rather than power, but certainly has enough sting on his shots to get opponents respect, as seen last year when he dropped Jose Uzcategui twice, en route to dethroning the Venezuelan. His first defense was a farcical bout against Mike Lee last July and later this month he'll return to the ring to defend in a mandatory defense against Vincent Feigenbutz.
WBC - David Benavidez (22-0, 19)
Potentially the best fighter in the division, when he's on form, is hard hitting American 23 year old David Benavidez. "El Bandera Roja" is a big guy at the weight, with big power, and an exciting style, when he gets going. Sadly however he also appears inconsistent, with a really poor performance against Ronald Gavril in their first clash, back in 2017, and he looked uninspired last time out, against Anthony Dirrell. Added to his inconsistent performances are out of the ring issues, and he's had recreational drug issues. If he can sort his performances out, and fight to his potential, he's the man to watch, but right now it feels like he could against any of the other champions, or contenders.
WBA "Super" - Callum Smith (27-0, 19)
Heading in to 2019 Callum Smith looked to be the big dog of the division. He had won the WBA "super" title, and the Muhammad Ali Trophy, winning the WBSS tournament in Saudi Arabia. Then 2019 happened and his momentum vanished. Rather than get his promoter to chase the big fights he took on Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam, who had been been stopped 2 fights earlier by Ryota Murata and then struggled to get a very controversial decision over John Ryder. Having entered the year with everything on his side, and in the eyes of many the top man in the division Smith has come in to 2020 with question marks all over him, and on the back of a shocking year. The big man from Liverpool really needs to get a big win this year, and potentially needs his promoter, Eddie Hearn, to help him recapture the public's attention after such a poor year.
WBO - Billy Joe Saunders (29-0, 14)
Talented yet frustrating and inconsistent isn't just something we can use to describe David Benavidez but also unbeaten Englishman Billy Joe Saunders. Saunders is a former WBO Middleweight champion who moved up in weight following an issue with a drug test, and became a 2-weight champion last May when when he beat Shefat Isufi. Since then he has defended the title once, pulling out a late KO to defeat Marcelo Esteban Coceres. Although a skilled southpaw Saunders has shown a frustrating lack of stamina and his competition at times has been close to awful. Fingers crossed he can land a big fight, but the reality is that the 30 year old should have achieved much more since making his debuted almost 11 years ago!
WBA "Regular" - Saul Alvarez (53-1-2, 36)
The WBA strikes again! The The WBA have really caused some messy situations with their multiple titles and it's the case here where Saul Alvarez is holding both their "Super" title at Middleweight and their "Regular" title at Super Middleweight. That Super Middleweight title is one he has held since December 2018, but is yet to defend it. The Mexican might be the biggest name in world boxing but it's hard to know what's next for him. There is talk of Alvarez facing Billy Joe Saunders or Callum Smith in May, but if we're honest neither of those bouts look like that appealing, given the previous performances of Smith and Saunders. Alvarez has only fought once at the weight, but it seems this is going to be the weight that he moved forward at following a short foray at Light Heavyweight last year. He's essentially the princess at the ball, but unfortunately not of the prince's seem all that appealing as dance partnes for "Canelo".
The Middleweight division is one of the biggest messes in the sport, and like the Lightweight division it was the politics of the WBC and WBA that have caused a complete mess. The mess that those bodies have caused is compounded by the fact the division, if we're being totally honest, is rather thin on the ground in terms of worth while contender. In fact whilst the Middleweight division might be one of the most historically significant it is currently one of the worst, lacking depth in the ranks of the contenders, and being a total mess at the top.
WBA "super" and WBC "Franchise" - Saul Alvarez (53-1-2, 36)
Mexican star Saul "Canelo" Alvarez is by far and away the biggest name in the division, and the current unified WBA "super" and WBC "Franchise" champion. Sadly however it's looking less and less likely that he will fight at Middleweight again and is essentially holding up the division's development. As one of boxing's few global stars we understand the title bodies bending over to accommodate Alvarez to some extent but creating the whole "Franchise" tag to help appease him really was a pathetic move form the WBC who have really created a mess here. It's really unclear what Canelo's future holds, but as the biggest name in the sport he really is in the driving seat for whatever the future brings.
IBF - Gennady Golovkin (40-1-1, 35)
Kazakh star Gennady Golovkin is one of the stars of the division and still a hugely popular fighter even though he is now coming to the end of his long and successful career. The 37 year old won his first 37 pro bouts, unified the WBA, WBC and IBF titles and gave the division a real sense of clarity with a major divisional king. Sadly though he's gone 3-1-1 in his last 5 and looked more and more human with every fight. His two bouts with Saul Alvarez were both great but it was clear that he had slipped in the year between them. Golovkin looked even more of a faded force last October when he narrowly squeaked a decision against Sergiy Derevyanchenko to reclaim the IBF title. His next bout will be an IBF
WBO - Demetrius Andrade (29-0, 18)
American world champion Demetrius Andrade is a genuine, but also a man who has spent much of his career making poor decisions and and not doing things that would help him. Typically Andrade's fights have been dull to watch, and like he's fighting well within himself. Tall, rangy, talented, awkward and a southpaw he's a fighter that top fighters wouldn't be in a rush to face at the best of times, but he's also done little to help his marketability and his team don't seem to be in a rush to get him big fights. Andrade, known as "Boo Boo" has been a professional since 2008, yes he's fought 29 times in over 11 years, he's become a 2-weight champion, but his competition has been poor and at 31, soon to be 32, he really needs to do something big this year. He's started the year in an acceptable fashion, stopping the over-matched Luke Keeler, but now needs to face top competition to put pressure on the other champions to face him.
WBC - Jermall Charlo (30-0, 22)
The WBC mess, creating the Franchise champion status for Saul Alvarez, has seen Jermall Charlo being upgraded from the WBC "interim" champion to the WBC regular champion. Since being upgraded he's defended the title against Brandon Adams and Dennis Hogan. Charlo, like Andrade, is a 2-weight champion, having held titles at 154lbs and 160lbs, but is another fighter who has failed to secure big fights and done little to deserve them. On paper Charlo has a decent resume, with wins against the likes of Austin Trout, Julian Williams and Matt Korobov, but for a fighter who has been a professional for over a decade and has 30 fights he really should have achieved more. There is an argument that some fighters avoided Charlo, but in reality he did little to appeal to the top guys, and it's likely that he'll continue to meander through lower level challengers rather than get a career defining bout.
WBA "Regular" - Ryota Murata (16-2, 13)
Japanese fighter Ryota Murata might not be the most natural athlete, but the physically strong and imposing fighter is an Olympic champion, a former World Amateur Championship Silver medal winner and a 2-time WBA regular champion. In the ring Murata is a very basic fighter, but a very strong, powerful and heavy handed one who presses forward and looks to unleash monstrous right hands. At 34 years old Murata's time in the sport is limited, but he's expected to get a career defining bout this year, and he's been linked to both Canelo and Golovkin since December. The next 12 months will be pivotal in how Murata's career is remembered though it's hard to deny that he's a mega star in Japan and draws TV audiences in the multiple millions. His team have the money to attract a big opponent to Japan and that seems to be their aim this year.
Over the last couple of years the Light Middleweight division has been one of the most interesting with regular upsets, shocks and surprises. On paper it's one of the most interesting divisions, but also one of the most frustrating with none of the fighters involved really being able to make the divisions theirs. It's not a bad division, not even close, but it's one that is lacking consistency and is very much a mess, an exciting, competitive, mess.
WBA "Super" and IBF - Jeison Rosario (20-1-1, 14)
Dominican fighter Jeison Rosario announced himself on the boxing world earlier this year when he stopped Julian Williams to claim the WBA "Super" and IBF titles. Prior to that win he wasn't particularly well-known but had notched decent wins against Justin DeLoach, Jamontay Clack and Jorge Cota. Notably he has suffered a stoppage loss, being stopped in 6 rounds by Nathaniel Gallimore back in 2017. Since that loss he has bounced back and gone 8-0-1 (5) and matured from the 22 year old kid he was when that loss was suffered. Strong, heavy handed and physically powerful, he's going to be a very tough may to win a war against.
WBC- Jermell Charlo (33-1, 17)
American boxer-puncher Jermell Charlo has been happy to talk the the talk and has got himself a solid resume, with wins against the likes of John Jackson, Erickson Lubin, Austin Trout and Tony Harrison. In reality however he's very much a fighter who has frustrated fans. As a 2-time WBC champion he's a talented fighter, and has avenged his sole defeat, but there is very much a feeling that should do more, both in regards who he faces and what he does in the ring. Although not a puncher he certainly isn't feather fisted, and when he catches an opponent clean he can take them out. Probably the best in the division, but also one of the most frustrating.
WBO - Patrick Teixeira (31-1, 22)
Exciting Brazilian fighter Patrick Teixeira shocked many in November when he took a decision over the highly regarded Carlos Adames to claim the WBO "interim" title, which later became the full version of the title when Jaime Munguia moved up in weight. Although not the best fighter out there Teixeira combines skills, power and toughness, along with good size for a fighter in the division and a southpaw stance. Notably he was stopped back in 2016, by Curtis Stevens at Middleweight, but since then he has racked up 5 wins and claimed the WBO title. He's expected to make his first defense later this year against Brian Carlos Castano.
WBA "regular" - Erislandy Lara (26-3-3, 15)
Cuban veteran Erislandy Lara, who is now 36, has long been in and around the world title scene with a mix of bad luck and not doing himself many favours. The skilled southpaw is arguably the best natural boxing talent in the division, but he's also proven to be one of the most frustrating and has, like other Cuban fighters, done a lot to hamper his own career. Through his career he has beaten a who's who, but many of his best wins are years in the past and he once has 1 win since the end of 2017, with that being a victory over Ramon Alvarez. Although he was competitive with Jarrett Hurt in 2018, losing a close decision, and fought to a draw with Brian Carlos Castano last year. He's world class, but we do wonder what he has left in the tank.
In recent memory the only division which has attracted attention similar to the Heavyweight division has been the Welterweight division, which has created a lot of buzz in recent times with several of the top names in the sport fighting there. Today the division is certainly an interesting one, but one where the obvious massive fights aren't being made.
WBA "super" - Manny Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39)
The biggest name in the division is WBA "Super" champion Manny Pacquiao, who rolled back the clock last year when he defeated both Adrien Broner and Keith Thurman. The now 41 year old Filipino certainly has the clock ticking down on his career, but we suspect that until he loses again he's pretty the man that everyone in the division wants. He's not the mega star he once was, but he's still the biggest name in the division, and the one true PPV fighter at Welterweight. Essentially he's the one guy who can pick who fights, when he fights.
WBC and IBF - Errol Spence (26-0, 21)
Unified champion Errol Spence is widely regarded by fans and media in America despite having a relatively thin resume. His best wins have been over Kel Brook, Shawn Porter and a very under-sized Mikey Garcia. Whilst not bad, it does lack depth. In 2019 Spence was involved in a series traffic accident which is currently putting his career on ice, until medical and legal issues are sorted out. At the age of 30 time is on his side for a full return to the ring, and given he's a very fighter to watch, with a likeable personality the future is still bright for Spence. Fingers crossed he concentrates on his career for the next few years, then can party to his hearts content, with his finances and legacy assured.
WBO - Terence Crawford (36-0, 27)
With most of the top Welterweights over on the PBC side of the boxing street WBO champion Terence Crawford has found himself struggling to secure career defining bouts at 147lbs. Regardless his legacy is already a strong one, having won a Lightweight title, become the undisputed Light Welterweight champion and claimed a Welterweight title. As a 3 weight champion, the 32 year old "Bud" has a solid resume, and is one of the most adaptable and smart men in the ring. Able to box, brawl and punch Crawford is a fantastic fighter, but sadly his reign at Welterweight desperately needs a big fight after a string of solid but uninspired opponents.
WBA "Regular" - Alexander Besputin (14-0, 9)
At the moment the future is unclear on Russian 28 year old Alexander Besputin, who has had a drug testing anomaly in his A sample. At the moment we're awaiting the results of the B sample, and whatever investigation takes place. He impressively won the WBA "regular" title last year when he defeated Radzhab Butaev in Monaco. In the ring Besputin looks to be a lot of fun, and a bit like a discount store version of Vasyl Lomachenko, which is certainly not a complain. His drug situation is going to be a very interesting story to follow over the coming weeks.
The Light Welterweight division is one that really benefited from the WBSS tournament, leaving us with a Muhammad Ali Trophy winner who managed to unify two major titles, and now has fighters wanting to face him. It also benefited by the fact one of the fighters who didn't compete in the WBSS went on to unify titles outside of the tournament, giving us a 2 unified champions, who now look to be on a collision course to become the division's undisputed champion. It's one of the few division's where there is a clear #1 and #2 and where we all want those two men to face off. It's also a division with a fantastic array of contenders, ranging from former champions to unknown fighters rising through the ranks.
Whilst Light Welterweight may not be a star studded division right now it's certainly a solid looking one.
WBA and IBF - Josh Taylor (16-0, 12)
Scottish southpaw Josh Taylor had a fantastic 12 months, starting in November 2018, which saw him take the unbeaten records of Ryan Martin, Ivan Baranchyk and Regis Prograis. Those 3 wins saw him build on previous victories against the likes of Miguel Vazquez and Viktor Postol, and unify the WBA and IBF titles. With an aggressive and fan friendly style Taylor is a man who is great watch and at 29 years old really has time on his side to build his reputation further. Notably he has split from long term promotional outfit Cyclone Promotions, and trainer Shane McGuigan, earlier this year, so his next fight will be the first with a new time. Talking about his first bout of 2020 that's expected to be an IBF mandatory title defense against Downua Ruawaiking in Spring.
WBC and WBO - Jose Carlos Ramirez (25-0, 17)
Whilst Taylor was busy building his reputation in the WBSS Jose Carlos Ramirez was busy building his own outside of the tournament. He won the WBC title in early 2018 and has now defended it 3 times and unified it with the WBO title. Like Taylor he has been taking unbeaten records, giving Antonio Orozco and Maurice Hooker their first losses, and also beating solid contenders like Amir Imam and Jose Zepeda. An all action pressure fighter Ramirez is great to watch, though he can be out boxed, as he was at times by Jose Zepeda. His entire gameplan is based on pressure and aggression and it's a style that has worked, whilst also making him a star in Fresno. A scheduled bout in February with mandatory challenger Viktor Postol was planned, though had to be cancelled due to coronovirus in China. We've got our fingers crossed in the hope that that bout will be rescheduled for later in the year.
WBA "regular" - Mario Barrios (25-0, 16)
Whilst the WBA "regular" title might be a damn joke it's champion at 140lbs is a noteworthy fighter in Mario Barrios, an unbeaten and exciting American boxer-puncher who makes for fun fights. He won the belt last September, winning a genuine FOTY contender with Batyr Akhmedov. Notably he's only 24 and is very tall for the weight, stood at 5'10", so his time at 140lbs is likely limited though he'll almost certainly fill into a very well sized Welterweight down the line. It's unclear what is next for Barrios, but he has been ordered to face Akhmedov again, and that is a rematch we're really looking forward to.
The Lightweight division is one of the weird division's in the sport right now, thanks to some odd decisions, and political game playing, by the WBC and the WBA. On paper it should be a division with 2 champions set to unify their titles in Spring, but instead it has two legitimate champions, two pretenders to the throne and another pretender on the way.
WBO, WBC "Franchise" and WBA "Super" - Vasyl Lomachenko (14-1, 10)
In the good old days unification bouts were the ideal and the type of bouts that were supposed to clear up the mess made by having 4 world titles. Instead Vasyl Lomachenko has found out that unifying titles has created a mess with the WBA and WBC both inventing new titles just to collect additional fees whilst someone ties up the main belts. Lomachenko moved to the Lightweight division in 2018, seeking challenges after the pointless match up with Guillermo Rigondeaux in 2017. He won the WBA belt in his divisional debut, he unified that with the WBO title in his next fight, had a mandatory and then added the WBC to his collection. In the space of 15 months he had won 3 titles and was lining up a bout at the IBF belt, before the WBC decided to call him the "Franchise" champion, creating a new belt for Devin Haney, and the WBA created a regular title, now held by Gervonta Davis.
WBO - Teofimo Lopez (15-0, 12)
The only legitimate title that Lomachenko doesn't hold is the IBF belt held by explosive American puncher Teofimo Lopez, who claimed the belt in December when he stopped Richard Commey. The touted American is an exciting, heavy handed fighter, but did have some flaws exposed last year when he faced Masayoshi Nakatani and struggled with Nakatani's size, reach, jab and toughness. His win over Commey covered over the Nakatani fight and set him up for the divisional super fight with Lomachenko. He's the division's banger, with dynamite fists, but out of the ring issues, and a lack of experience, combined with over-confidence, could be a problem when he takes faces someone like Lomachenko. At the age of just 22 he's being groomed as a future superstar of American boxing, and win or lose to Lomachenko he has the time to rebuild and become a big player on the US scene.
WBC "In Recess" - Devin Haney (24-0, 15)
Another unbeaten American youngster is Devin Haney, who got a WBC title in weird fashion, when the WBC made Lomachenko the Franchise champion and upgraded Haney's interim title. After defending the belt against the unknown Alfredo Santiago he suffered an injury and the WBC then made him Champion in Recess, making the whole giving him a title, in the way they did, look even more of a joke. At 21 years old and with sensational natural ability, a good boxing mind and a confident, yet level headed, approach in the ring Haney has the hall marks of being something very special. Sadly the WBC have cheapened his first title reign and it feels very much like he's been given an "email world title". His time will come, and he will be a star, but his WBC reign, so far, feels like little more than a cash grab by the WBC.
WBA "Regular" - Gervonta Davis (23-0, 22)
Another unbeaten American making their mark in the division, now, is Gervonta Davis, who made the move up in weight in December. He claimed the "vacant" WBA "regular" title when he stopped Yuriorkis Gamboa last time out, but he really failed to shine against an injured Gamboa. The fact Gamboa lasted into the 12 round, whilst fighting much of the bout on 1 foot, is a worry for Davis, who had been blowing out most opponents early on. Although a very talented and explosive fighter we do wonder about Davis' commitment and professionalism, and he looked in poor condition last time out. He is, also, naturally very small at the weight and this could be a major issue when he begins to face natural Lightweights.
The Super Featherweight division is one that has an interesting feel to it right now, with a good mix of champions, and a solid variety of challengers. Sadly the division hasn't been giving us the fights we want, but it's not been boring either with a number of solid bouts taking place at 130lbs in recent years.
WBC-Miguel Berchelt (37-1, 33)
Heavy handed Mexican Miguel Berchelt has become a bit of a forgotten figure in the division, yet he's probably the most interesting fighter at 130lbs. "El Alarcran" is 28 years old and has held the title for around 3 years, since stopping Francisco Vargas way back in 2017. Berchelt not only has a win over Vargas but also victories over Takashi Miura, Miguel Roman and Jason Sosa. Heavy handed, exciting, and aggressive Berchelt should be a focal point for the division but needs a suitable dance partner in 2020, rather than fighters who are on the slide, like he's faced in recent bouts.
IBF - Tevin Farmer (30-4-1, 6)
One fighter who has been given a lot of attention is American Tevin Farmer, who has been one of the big winners from Eddie Hearn working with DAZN, who have really tried to make Farmer into a star despite serving him up some awful challengers. The "American Idol" is a slippery and highly skilled defensive fighter who has run up 4 defenses since winning the title in August 2018. Sadly his competition has, for the most part, been against European level challengers who were horribly unproven at world level. Thankfully at the end of this month he steps up, massively, to take on Joseph Diaz in what should be a genuine, and well over-dug, test for Farmer.
WBO- Jamel Herring (21-2, 10)
American fighter Jamel Herring is a real good guy, a former US Marine and a man with a fantastic story. He was a former amateur standout who struggled to make an impact at 135lbs but has really found his footing at Super Featherweight with wins against Masayuki Ito and Lamont Roach. Aged 34 his time on top is likely limited, though there is talk of a big money bout with Carl Frampton fight later in the year. Despite a likely short reign he'll make the most of it and is a very skilled southpaw boxer-mover with fantastic height and reach for the division. Probably the "weakest" of the champions but still a very good fighter, who seems to want the big bouts.
WBA "super" - Leo Santa Cruz (37-1-1, 19)
The WBA have a mess on their hands at 130lbs, with Leo Santa Cruz winning the "super" title in November when he moved up in weight and took on Miguel Flores for the then vacant "super" title. Santa Cruz is a legitimate big name, and a "4 weight" world champion, but a title like this does him no favours at all. Sadly his reign at Featherweight was relatively poor and although still a fun fighter to watch the Mexican has lost much of the good will fans had for him when he was at Bantamweight and Super Bantamweight. A high guy with a solid chin and under-rated skills Santa Cruz had the tools to be a star, though like Berchelt a lack of credible opponents and in ring activity, has helped him back from being a real star.
WBA - "Regular" Rene Alvarado (32-8, 21)
The WBA really do want us to never forget the mess they have created at 130lbs. We've just mentioned Santa Cruz winning the "super" title, the supposedly more legitimate version of their "world" title. The reality however is that Rene Alvarado is the true champion in the division. Alvarado beat Andew Cancio in November for the belt, which was the same belt Cancio had taken from Alberto Machado, who in turn had beaten Jezzrel Corrales who had beaten Takashi Uchiyama, who's reign had been 6 years. The WBA really have created a mess and it doesn't end here. As for Alvarado he's an under-rated, aggressive, rugged type of guy who is riding an excellent 8 fight winning run. Although he has 8 losses he's very much better than the record he sports and a true nightmare at 130lbs.
WBA "interim" - Chris Colbert (14-0, 5)
When we said the WBA have made a mess here we weren't joking. It was on November 23rd that Alvarado claimed the WBA "regular" title, beating Andrew Cancio. On the same night the WBA let Santa Cruz and Flores fight for the Super title. Less than 2 months later they manufactured an "interim" title that talented 23 year old American Chris Colbert won when he beat Jezzrel Corrales. Colbert is a genuine talent, but this title is a farcical one and the heads of the WBA are really making a mockery of themselves with things like this. Colbert is a very good contender on a good run of wins, and fought 5 times in 2019. He should be a top contender, not a plastic title holder.
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.