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All-change for boxing’s 168lb division, which three years ago was ruled over by the likes of Callum Smith (who’s moving up to light-heavyweight), Gilberto Ramirez (also now at 175lb), George Groves and James DeGale (both now retired).
But the arrival of one megastar can bring glamour to a division - and super-middleweight certainly has that, along with a pair of undefeated Americans at his heels. Brits traditionally do well at 168lb, from Carl Froch and Joe Calzaghe right back to the era of Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank (senior, naturally).
There’s two British fighters still in the top 10, even after Smith’s departure, but no doubting the nationality of the man who’s all-conquering force at the top of this list.
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W: 26 (15 KOs), L: 13, D: 1
Yes, 13 defeats. But Gabe Rosado is a classic example of a fighter you cannot judge by his record. In 2020 he lost a tight split-decision to Daniel Jacobs, then in 2021 he scored the win that got him here. Bektemir ‘Bek the Bully’ Melikuziev was an undefeated, highly-rated prospect - until Rosado absolutely iced him with a titanic right hand. That win, a contender for KO of the year, means Rosado gets at least one more marquee fight and sneaks him into this top 10.
W: 33 (24 KOs), L: 2, D: 2
A crafty veteran clinging to top-10 status, the younger Dirrell brother won a 168lb world title back in 2014 and has had mixed fortunes since. A split-decision loss to Badou Jack and a stoppage on a cut to David Benavidez, but also wins over fringe contenders such as Caleb Truax and Marco Antonio Rubio. A draw with Kyrone Davis in February showed us that while the awkward Dirrell isn’t going to take this division by storm, he isn’t washed-up either.
W: 24 (16 KOs), L: 2, D: 1
An aggressive, come-forward fighter, Chudinov lacks the one-punch power that would make him an elite-level threat. Currently on an 11-fight unbeaten streak since he suffered losses to Felix Sturm (who the Russian had previously beaten) then George Groves. That KO6 looks unimpressive in the record books but Chudinov was giving the Brit all he could handle in a world title fight and is undefeated since. Could yet get another crack at a world title, depending on where the belts land in the future.
W: 20 (15 KOs), L: 0
With good amateur pedigree and an unbeaten record, Gongora has been labeled the dark horse of this division. Came from behind to KO the then undefeated Ali Akhmedov in the final round in an absolute thriller last year, while his stoppage of Christopher Pearson in April was altogether a smoother victory. A rangy, 6ft 1in southpaw who carries power in his left hand, Gongora still needs to test himself against the best at 168lb - but there is potential.
W: 34 (29 KOs), L: 5
A lesson in how a fighter can grow in defeat, Ryder has five losses to fellow Brits but he always comes back stronger. It’s actually a defeat that places him this high: Ryder gave Callum Smith - then the division’s unbeaten top dog - absolute fits in 2019, losing a close decision many believe he won. That showed off Ryder’s excellent in-fighting skills, toughness and aggression. Got back to winning ways in December and the southpaw is a handful for all but the very best.
W: 37 (30 KOs), L: 3
Extremely hard to tell what magic ‘The Miracle Man’ has left. At middleweight, he lost very competitive fights to Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez, while beating a host of top contenders. So far, so impressive; but Jacobs was lacklustre in edging Gabe Rosado on points in his last outing in December. This classy all-rounder has always had the odd ‘off’ night, however - and it’s TBC whether, after years of boiling himself down to 160lb, Jacobs can still be a force at super-middle.
W: 30 (14 KOs), L: 1
An optimist’s view of Saunders’ defeat to Canelo in May is that he came in unintimidated and won several rounds against the reigning pound-for-pound king before a nasty injury ended his challenge. The pessimist’s view is that Saunders was getting figured out even before that crushing uppercut fractured his orbital bone. Either way, Saunders is a slick, defensively savvy southpaw of proven ability who can give almost anyone in this division fits - if he wants to come back after his eye socket has healed.
W: 21 (12 KOs), L: 0
‘Sweethands’ Caleb Plant gets his big shot in November when he takes on Canelo to unify the super-middleweight world titles. Plant brings an undefeated record, excellent conditioning and slick defence, while his speed impressed in his last win over Caleb Truax. But, clearly, Truax is not Alvarez and there are concerns that Plant may not hit hard enough to get Canelo’s respect; while - for all Plant’s ring smarts - his next opponent may be stronger and that bit smarter. A massive test awaits.
W: 24 (21KOs), L: 0
An absolute beast at 168lb, so far the toughest foe the massive-framed, hard-punching Benavidez has faced is himself. He’s been stripped of world title belts twice; for testing positive for cocaine in 2018 and later failing to make weight in 2020. But around that, Benavidez has bullied all of the decent contenders he’s stepped in the ring with. Always brings the aggression and, if he can keep making 168lb, is probably the biggest threat to this division’s No 1.
W: 56 (10 KOs), L: 1, D: 2
The scary thing about the best fighter in the super-middleweight division - and arguably the sport as a whole - is that even after 59 fights, Canelo just keeps improving. Fighting off the back foot, coming forward, elite defence, punch variety, Alvarez is verging on being a complete fighter. He often starts slowly, trusting that he has the ring IQ and power to open up an opponent when he needs to. He’s not wrong. Despite his time at 154lb and 160lb, Canelo looks totally settled at 168lb - a fighter at the peak of his powers.
Featured Image Credit: PA Images
Topics: Canelo Alvarez
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