Middle Is the New Heavyweight

By Clarence George on April 3, 2013
Middle Is the New Heavyweight
A tough call, but I predict Rosado will hand Love his first defeat. (Photo by SightWorkz)

Will Rosado vs. Love be a revisiting of Stanley Ketchel’s final and literally thunderous slugfest with Billy Papke? Um, no…

“The Sweet Science is joined onto the past like a man’s arm to his shoulder.”—A.J. Liebling

The Ring magazine has a monthly segment on the “degrees of separation between fighters of today and their predecessors.” In the May edition, for example, the publication notes that Maxie Rosenbloom fought Lou Nova, who took on Lee Savold, who fought Rocky Marciano, who faced Archie Moore, who fought Muhammad Ali, whose last bout was with Trevor Berbick, who fought Iran Barkley, who took on James Toney, who fought Roy Jones Jr.

Tradition and continuity were particularly notable among heavyweight champs. From John L. Sullivan to Jim Jeffries to Jack Johnson to Jack Dempsey to Joe Louis to Marciano to Ali to Joe Frazier… But that was when one was Heavyweight Champion of the World…or one wasn’t. Today, one is…and one isn’t. Wladimir Klitschko is The Ring, IBF, WBO, and WBA champ, while brother Vitali is the WBC titlist. There’s something delusional about these sanctioning bodies, rather like rogue bishops who ordain women as priests and think they’re fooling anybody. 

A blink of history’s eye. Gone the days when heavyweight champs could shout “Made it, Ma! Top of the world!” Cody Jarrett’s (James Cagney) famous line from White Heat, of course. Appropriate enough, given that Jarrett’s epitaph is easily that of the heavyweight division: “He finally got to the top of the world…and it blew right up in his face.”

True of all the weight classes, sure, but at least the lighter guys have held onto the concept of boxing as entertainment. They can move. Ever see Deontay Wilder in the ring? Sap flows from a tree with more grace.

With all due respect to the other divisions, I’ve always had a weakness for the middleweights. If the heavies were kings, the middleweights were princes.

And still are. The blood, royal blue, of Stanley Ketchel, Harry Greb, Mickey Walker, Tony Zale, Marcel Cerdan, Sugar Ray Robinson, Carlos Monzon, and Marvelous Marvin Hagler flows today with equal torrent through the veins of Sergio Martinez and Gennady Golovkin. And Gabriel Rosado and J’Leon Love?

Rosado and Love know how to mix it up, and they’ll be doing just that on the Floyd Mayweather-Robert Guerrero undercard at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on May 4.

A tough kid from Philly, 27-year-old Rosado (21-6, 13 KOs) is a seven-year pro. The junior middleweight fought three times last year, stopping Jesus Soto Karass by fifth-round TKO in January, Sechew Powell by ninth-round TKO in June, and Charles Whittaker by 10th-round TKO in September.

I enjoyed seeing “King” take on Golovkin for the Kazakh’s WBA and IBO titles at the Garden this January. Golovkin won by seventh-round TKO, but Rosado didn’t taste canvas once.

Not surprising that Love is a Michigander, given his wolverine characteristics—stocky, muscular…and predatory.

Though only a three-year pro, the undefeated 25-year-old has already racked up 15 wins, eight by stoppage. The middleweight fought a remarkable five times last year, defeating Elie Augustama by unanimous decision in January, Ibahiem King by third-round KO in April, Joseph de los Santos by unanimous decision in July, Ramon Valenzuela Jr. by disqualification in September, and Tyrone Selders by sixth-round TKO in November. Love already fought once this year, beating Derrick Findley via unanimous decision in February.

A tough call, but I predict Rosado will hand Love his first defeat, albeit not by stoppage.

Will Rosado vs. Love be a revisiting of Ketchel’s final and literally thunderous slugfest with Billy Papke? Um…no. But it’ll be something all too rare in this benighted time, and unheard of at the heavyweight level: A damned good fight.

Now, Golovkin vs. Martinez—that truly would be…

Top of the World.

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2012-01-21 Gabriel Rosado vs Jesus Soto Karass

J'Leon Love vs Brian Smith

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  1. Mike Casey 02:31am, 04/04/2013

    Agreed. I think he might just be one of those special boxers who can adapt his game to any style or level of opponent.

  2. Clarence George 02:28am, 04/04/2013

    Thanks, Mike.

    Not convinced we’ll see Golovkin vs. Martinez, but it’d be great.  My money’d be on the Kazakh.  Good as the Argentine is, I think Golovkin has what it takes to be among the few who transcend their time.  If only he were given the matches to prove it.

  3. Mike Casey 01:46am, 04/04/2013

    Very true, gents. Great write-up, Clarence, shot through with some nice humour. I too remember movement, grace and athleticism among the big men. Getting back to the middles, I think Golovkin is a rare ace. A fight with Martinez would be a corker.

  4. Clarence George 05:43pm, 04/03/2013

    Exactly, Eric.  And especially true today, given the heavyweight division’s abysmal state.

  5. Eric 05:32pm, 04/03/2013

    Combining the speed of the lighter weight classes with the power of the “big boys,” the middleweight division has often been filled with more talent than the other divisions, even boxing’s glamour division the heavyweights. The middleweight division has proven to be the thoroughbred division of boxing.

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