by Fox Doucette
Let’s play a little game of free association. What do you think of when I say words like “woeful”, “pathetic”, and “sad”? If you’re like me, you think of stuff like Greek sovereign debt, the US economy, maybe some homeless guy in a gutter with all of his belongings in a rucksack and a pigeon passing overhead taking a crap on him. And, of course, you think of the junior middleweight division.
I thought of this while I read all the plaudits given to Saul Alvarez after his demolition of Ryan Rhodes last week. Everyone is keen to crown El Canelo as the next big thing at 154 even as the fighter himself tells anyone who will listen that he’s a prospect with a long way to go in this world before truly carving out a name for himself. Some dissidents question the fighter himself while still acknowledging that he’s a fight or two away from being the undisputed (or at least Ring Magazine, which isn’t the same thing) champ in the division.
So what we’re left with is two differing viewpoints with the same general result, which invites the question of just who Canelo would have to beat in order to claim that title. And it is here that one must look around and wonder which Greyhound bus station they pulled the contenders out of in order to compile these rankings. Some of the guys I am about to mention would be throwing bums off freight trains for a living if such work were still to be had.
Let’s start with the belt holders. Alvarez, previously mentioned, holds the WBC strap. The WBA recognizes two champions—Miguel Cotto (“Super Duper Premium Hyper Fighting Champion Edition”) and Austin Trout (regular). Cornelius Bundrage and Sergey Dzinziruk hold the IBF and WBO titles, respectively. The Ring belt is vacant but Cotto presently tops their rankings. So what you have is a murderer’s row of a past-his-prime pretender (Cotto), two prospects with belts (Alvarez and Trout), a reality show participant (Bundrage), and a guy who sends the proofreaders to the medicine cabinet for migraine pills (Dzinziruk). Not exactly a Showtime Super Six event here.
Other contenders (if they can be called such) include Kermit Cintron, Alfredo Angulo, Vanes Martirosyan, Pawel Wolak, Sechew Powell…do I even need to go any further? I’ve blatantly pinched Dan Rafael’s pecking order to make my point, but you could use the Tribune’s rankings, Ring Magazine’s, Boxrec’s, or you could put the names in a hat and draw them and have some plausible list at 154.
Back to Alvarez. Except for Martirosyan, which would make an instant classic of a fight and generate a ton of interest on HBO’s Boxing After Dark series, there’s not a single guy (or a married guy) on that list who even presents an interesting matchup for him. Even if there were, Alvarez could beat all nine of the other guys on anyone’s top ten list and still not have his ticket punched to Canastota. He’d have to either move up to middleweight and beat a guy like Sergio Martinez or catch one of the big guns at 147 moving up in weight to face him (more on why this will never happen tomorrow) in order to have a plausible Hall of Fame candidacy.
Who else in boxing could clean out a division and not be a serious Hall contender? A division has to have truly gone to the dogs before such a claim can be made. Even the heavyweight graveyard these days only looks that way because the Klitschko brothers are so dominant rather than the division being a grocery store endcap of tomato cans. But at the rate Canelo’s going, he’d have to beat Cotto and Cintron at the same time.
Mind you, Saul Alvarez will be 21 years old next month. There’s plenty of time for him to build a legacy, and maybe some of the young prospects in the division will rise up and be able to give him a match, but when the best 154 seems to have to offer is Demetrius Andrade and Fernando Guerrero, I wouldn’t bet my livelihood on it. Alvarez will either grow into a middleweight or even a super middleweight as he completely fills out or he will be so dominant for so long that we will assume that the low quality of opposition is testament to his skill. Or Vanes Martirosyan will knock him out and make me look like a total chump. Either way, we all get our entertainment for the day.
Fox Doucette covers Friday Night Fights for The Boxing Tribune. If he had any money at all he’d spend it to make Alvarez-Martirosyan happen. Fan mail, hate mail, and inane ramblings can be sent to email@example.com.
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