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NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: MIDDLE OF NOWHERE

By Paul Magno | October 16, 2023
NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: MIDDLE OF NOWHERE

WBO middleweight champ Janibek Alimkhanuly picked up the IBF middleweight belt Saturday night in the main event of an ESPN card from Fort Bend Epicenter in Rosenberg, Texas. The undefeated Kazakh dominated IBF titlist, Germany’s Vincenzo Gualtieri from opening bell to sixth round stoppage with little more than his southpaw jab and...oh, who the hell cares?

That shit was awful. So, let’s talk about the elephant in the room and not the elephant dung splattered on the floor of the room. The middleweight division is awful. Beyond awful. What the fuck happened?

There are several reasons the 160 lb. class sucks at the moment-- and has sucked for at least three or four years. 

The inactivity of WBC champ Jermall Charlo gets a lot of press and social media attention. And while it’s absurd that the WBC hasn’t, at the very least, made Charlo a Champion in Recess after 28 months (and counting) without a defense due to personal reasons, Charlo’s absence hasn’t hurt all that much. Not to the degree that it warrants so much obsession, anyway. Frankly, Jermall has made himself irrelevant at this point. 

Saul Alvarez taking his money train up to super middleweight has, to an extent, contributed to the fall of 160. There’s been no reason for fighters to zero in on middleweight when a couple more pounds could get them a ticket in the Canelo sweepstakes. But, realistically, the loss of Canelo hasn’t pulled that much juice from 160.

Much more harmful to the comings and goings of the division was Gennadiy Golovkin’s ascension to middleweight top dog status after Canelo Alvarez moved up in weight. 

Media man-crush GGG assumed the throne at 160 by default in 2019...and promptly did nothing. Gifted a big multi-fight deal by the money marks at DAZN, Golovkin was content to run out the clock on his career. Ironically enough, the man who made a career of fighting tailor-made fall guys because A-side fighters were supposedly avoiding the risk he represented, refused to meet tough B-side challengers when he became A-side. From mid-2019 to the present, the only real, meaningful 160 lb. fight he made was with Sergiy Derevyanchenko for the vacant IBF title back in October of 2019 (because the IBF title was the only one available to him at the time). 

Golovkin could’ve cleared out the flotsam and jetsam near the top of the middleweight rankings, making a path for new talent and/or simply establishing a noteworthy reign. Worst case scenario for him, he could’ve passed the torch in a dignified changing of the guards defeat. Instead, he displayed the same sense of entitlement he showcased in his “prime” middleweight reign where he was allowed 16 straight tailor-made soft defenses before facing a live body in Daniel Jacobs. 

In the wake of Golovkin’s No Drama Show reluctance, the best of an already-diminished cast assumed roles of prominence by merely existing.

Kazakhstan’s Janibek Alimkhanuly became WBO interim champ and then full champ in 2022, going through a Not-Quite Murderers’ Row of Danny Dignum, Denzel Bentley, and Steven Butler en route to ESPN headliner status. 

Golovkin ditching his IBF belt would make way for Vincenzo Gualtieri beating Esquiva Falcao to claim the vacant title. Neither Gualtieri nor Falcao, by the way, were legit Top 10 middleweights. A post-prime Golovkin could’ve beaten both in a two-on-one match.

After ditching the IBF title, Golovkin refused a WBA-mandated defense against the 40-year-old Erislandy Lara, leading to “regular” WBA champ Lara being elevated to full champ status.

On the WBC side of things, Carlos Adames would become eternal interim champ in the shadow of Jermall Charlo’s eternal layoff. 

Saturday’s Alimkhanuly-Gualtieri flop was stale and, ultimately, pointless. In terms of urgency, importance, and heat-of-battle unification intrigue, it made the 2017 Julius Indongo-Ricky Burns junior welterweight unification look like the Marco Antonio Barrera-Erik Morales super bantamweight unification by comparison. Alimkhanuly, as the unified WBO/IBF champ, means nothing. It doesn’t matter how cool Top Rank made him look on their fight posters, with glowing, flaming eyes and “boogey man” moniker. Alimkhanuly is a dud beating duds. Making him an ESPN main-eventer is the boxing equivalent of blasting the War and Peace audio book over the speakers during an otherwise decent house party. It’s a total vibe killer. 

A star will eventually come along to Make Middleweight Great Again (MMGA). But it won’t be anyone on the title picture radar right now. We might have to wait for Tim Tszyu to outgrow 154.

Whatever the case, 160 is the shits right now and probably the biggest culprit in giving it the fecal swirly was the beloved GGG, who, of course, will still not be held to any level of scrutiny or accountability. Such is the benefit of being racially/ethnically “right” and appealing to comfortable middle class media dweebs. But that’s a topic for another day. 

Got something for Magno? Send it here: paulmagno@theboxingtribune.com

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