Turning Dough to Bread: How Near or Far are we to Crowning One World Champion Per Division? (Last of three parts)
By Teodoro Medina Reynoso
Thu, 24 Nov 2022
Since finally and belatedly realising the confusion and the inanity of having as many as four world champions for each of boxing's now 17 (actually 18 if we include the so called Bridgerweight), authorities have dreamt of crowning just one true universally recognized boxing champion for each.
This has led to tournaments as Super Six which resulted to Andre "SOG" Ward being crowned as undisputed super middleweight king in the 2010s and the World Boxing Super Series that enthroned the likes of Oleksander Usyk and Josh Taylor at cruiserweight and super lightweight respectively. It should have also crowned the one true champion at bantamweight had the WBO not pulled out of the tournament on account of injury to then champion Zolani Tete.
This December, that delayed coronation would happen when unified WBC-WBA-IBF and Ring Magazine lineal world champion Naoya Inoue is expected to add the WBO title of Paul Butler to complete the crown jewel.
As the year winds down, it is appropriate and timely to review how near or far boxing has been to its dream of one world champion per division.
In this three part series, we will look into the situation (the dough) and assess the potential of attaining the goal of one true champion (the bread) for each of boxing's universally recognized 17 weight classes or divisions.
In the first part, we covered the minimumweight (maximum
weight limit of 105 lbs) through the super bantamweight or junior featherweight (maximum weight limit of 122lbs) classes.
In the second part, we covered the situations in the next five weight divisions, i.e. from the featherweight through the welterweights.
In this third and last part, we will review the situations and try to assess the prospects in the Big Boys divisions, i.e., the super welterweights through the heavyweights except the new and still fringe bridgerweight class above the now accepted cruiserweights.
Part Three: Super Welterweight To Heavyweight
Super Welterweight (Maximum of 154 lbs)
The Bread: This year, the loaded super welterweight or junior middleweight division finally had its undisputed world champion after American Jermell Charlo, the other half of the powerful boxing twins, unified all the belts at 154 lbs with an emphatic stoppage win over close rival Brian Castano of Argentina in the rematch of their first unification bout that ended in a highly competitive draw earlier in 2022.
Prognosis: Undisputed Champion Jermell Charlo has been ordered by the WBC to face Australia's Tim Tszyu, son of boxing legend Kostya Tszyu on January 28. interim titlist Sebastian Fundora will meet Tony Harrison in a final eliminator. But there are speculations that Jermell, especially if he beats Tszyu; will also soon leave the 154 lbs class and try his mettle at the middleweight division in view of twin brother, Jermall likewise planning to move up to super middleweight for a lucrative showdown with cash cow Canelo Alvarez. If that happens, Jermell's departure will leave not only a huge void but plenty of vacancies that the likes of Castano, Fundora or Harrison will only be happy to fill up. That may also entice current welterweight titleholders Errol Spence and Terrence Crawford to also finally move up to vie for any of the titles Jermell would leave behind. But pending Jermell's final decision and the result of his Tszyu fight, we have a undisputed champion at 154.
Middleweight (Maximum of 160 lbs)
The Dough: The major world titles in the division are held primarily by just three men, namely Gennady Golovkin of Kazakhstan who holds the super title with the WBA and the regular belt at IBF, the aforementioned Jermall Charlo who has the WBC strap and Golovkin's countryman Janibek Alimkanully who recently won the WBO title stripped from the injured Charlo. But the WBC has an interim champion in Carlos Adames and Golovkin has Cuban veteran Erislandy Lara as regular champion at WBA.
Prognosis: Champion Jermall Charlo is currently sidelined due to injury. Once he is fit, he will face interim titlist Adames. Given that and that Golovkin has just came from a failed title try at super middleweight in a third fight versus Canelo Alvarez and is not predisposed to facing any of Lara or fellow Kazakh Alimkhanully in unification, the prospects of turning dough into bread in this division which Golovkin himself ruled (until losing to Canelo in their second fight) is very slim at least for the entirety of 2023. Then of course Jermall has plans of moving up to 168 which would affect the whole equation.
Super Middleweight ( Maximum of 168 lbs)
The Bread: Canelo Alvarez holds all the belts in the division, attaining undisputed status in November 2021 after completing his collection of trinkets by stopping then IBF titlist Caleb Plant. But Canelo made only one defense of his undisputed crown later this year, beating old bitter rival Gennady Golovkin after being thwarted in his second bid for world title at light heavyweight losing to Dmitry Bivol. He was later sidelined by fight related injuries and in his absence, undefeated Americans David Benadivez became interim WBC titlist while David Morell recently won a "secondary" belt with WBA by beating Kazakh Aidos Yasbossynuly.
Prognosis: Undisputed Champion Canelo Alvarez is currently recovering from surgery. How long he will be inactive will be determined before he is able to return. David Benavidez and Caleb Plant will fight for the WBC interim title in March. The winner will become Canelo’s mandatory. Christian Mbilli vs. Ali Akhmedov has also been called for in an eliminator as next mandatory for Canelo.
Light Heavyweight (Maximum of 175 lbs)
The Dough: The major titles in the division are split between two Russians, Arthur Beterbiev who holds the unified WBC-WBO-IBF crowns and Dmitry Bivol who has the WBA strap.
Prognosis: Calls for a Beterbiev vs Bivol fight for all the marbles, so to speak, has been on for sometime now but remains far off. Beterbiev will defend his titles against WBO mandatory Anthony Yarde. Callum Smith is the next WBC mandatory challenger and will fight once more before facing the Beterbiev-Yarde winner. Meanwhile, Bivol is interested in a lucrative title rematch with Canelo Alvarez and may wait for the Mexican superstar to return to the pink of health for this unless the WBA has other plans. Alvarez also has plans to fight Beterbiev once he gets passed Bivol which is not a given. Beterbiev versus Bivol therefore remains the main option down the road which hopefully could be by 2024.
Cruiserweight (Maximum of 200 lbs)
The Dough: The last undisputed champion of this division was Ukrainian Oleksander Usyk who achieved the status in 2018 after defeating Mairis Breidis and Murat Gassiev. Usyk has since moved up to the heavyweights and becoming unified champion in 2021 Since then, four different fighters have ascended to the throne, namely Congolese Ilunga Makabu who holds the WBC crown, French Armenian Arsen Goulamirian (WBA), Australian Opetaia (IBF) and UK's Henry Okolie (WBO).
Prognosis: None of the champions is in the mood or position for at least a two title unification. The most senior of the champions, WBC titlist Makabu is in a voluntary stage but then has to face mandatory challenger Noel Mikaelyan. WBC has also called for Thabiso Mchunu to meet Badou Jack to decide the next mandatory. Full unification is far off as the champions have their own priorities and obligations with respective sanctioning bodies.
Heavyweight ( Unlimited weight category)
The Dough: Two men are claiming to being the best in what used to the the greatest prize in professional boxing- Ukraine's Oleksander Usyk who holds the unified WBA-WBO-IBF titles and UK's eccentric giant WBC titlist and Ring Magazine lineal world champion Tyson Fury who are both undefeated.
Prognosis: After Fury and Usyk took care of former claimants Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua both in two fights, expectations are sky high that the two would meet for the undisputed championship this year. But those were dashed as Fury showed hesitancy and opts to fight old time foe Derek Chisora a third time this December 3. Compounding the matter, ex titlists Wilder and Andy Ruiz have been mandated by the WBC to fight to decide the next mandatory. Meanwhile Usyk is still undecided on his next moves. Hope still springs eternal for a full unification and undisputed champion though in 2023 depending on the determination---and state of mind--- of Tyson Fury.
As of todate, of the 17 recognized boxing weight divisions, only three currently have undisputed world champions, namely: super middleweight (Canelo Alvarez), super welterweight (Jermell Charlo) and lightweight (Devin Haney) with a very high possibility in a fourth, bantamweight (Naoya Inoue). It should have been five had Josh Taylor not fell out of grace as super lightweight undisputed world champion this year.
There are bright prospects though in two more divisions: light flyweight through unified champion Kenshiro Teraji who has expressed desire and willingness to mop up the weight class, and light heavyweight as both champions are Russians, Arthur Beterbiev and Dmitry Bivol.
Click here for Part I of this series.
Click here for Part II of this series.
The author Teodoro Medina Reynoso is a veteran boxing radio talk show host living in the Philippines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and by phone 09215309477.
Click here to view a list of other articles written by Teodoro Medina Reynoso.
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