The game of boxing over the years and decades has taken on many faces and changes, some for the greater good of the sport and some that have backfired with intended and sometimes unintended consequences. The days of Sugar Ray, Sweet Pea, Bowe, Tyson, Holyfield, Mayweather and others is gone and now a new stable of exciting and talent-rich boxers have hit the scene. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, Keith “One Time” Thurman, Román “Chocolatito” González, Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin aka GGG, Danny Garcia, Errol Spence, Jr., Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder are just a handful of the names in the boxing game today that you are gonna want to familiarize yourself going forward. These fighters come from many different backgrounds, weight classes and divisions but they all have one common goal: To become the best pound for pound fighter in the world today. For the better part of the last 15 years that title (among other things) belonged to Floyd Mayweather, Jr. but with him drifting off into retirement (or so it seems) the race for the title of best boxer in world today is hotter and more contested than ever. The following is a rundown of the best divisions and the men who make the boxing game what it is today.
Let’s begin our look in the heavyweight division, starting with current IBF heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua (16-0, 16 KO) and current WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder (36-0, 35 KO) who currently dominate the landscape. Other contenders include the loud and brash Tyson Fury (25-0), former long-time champion Wladimir Klitschko (64-4) and power puncher Alexander Povetkin (30-1) but Anthony and Wilder are considered by many pundits to take this division back to its former glory. There has been some preliminary talk about a unification bout between Wilder and Anthony late this year or early next year but any talk of that is secondary to current in-ring business to be handled, specifically Wilder’s title defense that was to take place against Povetkin on May 21st in Moscow but as been postponed. Povetkin failed a pre-fight drug test after having tested positive for meldonium, which it is said to increase blood flow and allow more oxygen to be carried to the muscles and, therefore, enhance stamina, a trait boxers would want in a long fight. Wilder had taken off from the States 2 weeks before the fight to ready himself for the time difference and climate change but is now headed back to Alabama with uncertainty surrounding his next move boxing wise. Povetkin has also been suspended indefinitely as a result of the failed test as well and his boxing future is in doubt as well as throwing the division into a bit of Flux going forward.
Moving along to taking a look at the light heavyweight and super middleweights divisions, the class of the light heavyweight division clearly belongs to Oakland’s Andre Ward (29-0), a supreme ring general who moves well and punches hard all over when in the ring. His next bout is set to take place in November against Russian knockout artist Sergey Kovalev (29-0-1) who himself has beaten the likes of Bernard Hopkins and Jean Pascal with relative ease in recent months. Ward presents a very difficult and different challenge for Kovalev in that he moves well, punches for power on the run and has some of the best defense in boxing today. Their bout is definitely going to be a must-see. Possible challengers to them include the former super middleweight division champion Lucian Bute (32-3-1), ring technician Badou Jack (20-1-2), Poland-born and Chicago-based Andrzej Fonfara (28-3) and Detroit-trained Adonis Stevenson (27-1). A very competitive division overall that doesn’t always get the necessary recognition it deserves.
The welterweight division is one of, if not the best and most competitive division in boxing today. So many good, strong and skilled fighters make their home here, headed up by the Clearwater, FL-based Keith “One Time” Thurman (26-0). Thurman is a fast as they come in the ring and is the proud owner of a devastating left jab and uppercut that he has to use on his opponents one time (hence the nickname) to floor them. He’s joined in the division by Ohio born and trained “Showtime” Shawn Porter (26-1-1), another skilled in-ring technician with 16 knockout wins to his credit. Porter and Thurman will do battle on CBS June 25th in a bout delayed from March when Thurman was injured in an auto accident. Among other contenders in the division include devastating power puncher Kell Brook (36-0), former champion and boxing vet Timothy Bradley Jr. (33-2-1), another powerful and smooth ring general Danny Garcia (32-0) and the man who many say is and will be the future of the division: Mayweather Promotions star Errol Spence Jr. (20-0), who dropped Chris Algieri with a vicious right in an April bout. He has an upcoming title elimination bout against Russian contender Konstantin Ponomarev (30-0). The winner of this fight will get a mandatory title fight against Brook sometime in 2017. All and all, there is plenty of talent and plenty of knockouts to go around in this division.
The middleweight division of boxing has come back to life in the last few years, overseas with the efforts of the underrated and former two-division world titleholder Chris Eubank Jr. (22-1) and stateside with the performances of future Hall of Famer Miguel Cotto (40-5). More recently, 2 boxers have taken a stranglehold over things in the division in the form of Mexico’s Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (47-1-1, only has lost to Floyd Mayweather) and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin (35-0), who has retained his title for the 16th time (second-most in division history) following a 2nd round blowout in April that also notched his 22nd KO in a row. These two are slated to meet in September and the winner of this one can and will stake claim that they are the best pound-for-pound boxer in the sport today.
Of course, no boxing conversation would be complete without discussing one Floyd Mayweather (49-0). The highly decorated yet sometimes controversial former five division champion currently says he’s retired following a September 2015 bout against Andre Berto that was preceded by a lackluster superfight against Manny Pacquiao, a fight some 10 years in the making that never came together due to a number of factors. For many years Mayweather was the face of boxing and even now today, in retirement, is still in the conversation for best pound-for-pound fighter in the world today. If he does decide to come back to the sport he’ll be back front and center as the face of the sport and he’ll have no shortage of opponents to choose from, notably Danny Garcia and former protégé Adrien Broner, in addition to the media and fan attention that will surely come along with his return. Should he decide stay retired he will still be involved in the sport heavily by virtue of his management of several up and coming boxers as well as the promotion of several fights and events.
The state of boxing is in as good of shape as it’s been in quite a while. Talented and powerful fighters, exciting fights, budding rivalries and, as the Wilder fight that fell apart showed, more stringent drug testing methods that are in place to keep the sport clean and all competitors on a level playing ground. The individuals named here are taking the sport that has for a long time been (more or less) all about Money Mayweather and who he’s taking on next and moved it back to the sports forefront, thanks to Premier Boxing Champions, HBO and Showtime presenting free boxing content on Saturday nights that in the past would be reserved for pay per view and other platforms that will make sure that the “sweet science” is something to be studied and seen for some time to come.