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.
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.