Boxing can be equally frustrating as it can be inspiring, and a big contribution to that is often the matchmaking. Sometimes fantastic match-ups are made that prove to be excellent viewing, but sometimes the fights that we really want to see just don’t happen or happen when it is of particular advantage to one fighter. In the first of a “two part series” of articles, I want to at least acknowledge the fighters that try to consistently compete with the elite. Next time, I write about those who don’t. (disclaimer: active fighters only, in no particular order.)
I wrote an article recently that heaped praise on the Nebraskan and that praise is becoming increasingly deserved. He flew to Scotland to wrest the WBO lightweight title from Ricky Burns back in 2014 and went straight into a very tough first defense against Yuriorkis Gamboa (W TKO 9). Since then, Raymundo Beltran, Thomas Dulorme, Henry Lundy and Dierry Jean have all been handed losses. Now a super lightweight, he faces unbeaten WBC champ Viktor Postol in a unification match between the best two in the division by some stretch. If he defeats Postol, he will undoubtedly be the top 140 pound fighter and a move to 147 pounds where the big fights are, may be next.
This choice comes with a caveat; his inclusion in the list is dependent on him facing Sergey Kovalev later this year. Thankfully, it looks like talks are positive, so I shall give him the benefit of the doubt. He looks good at light heavyweight, but it is his exploits at super-middle that earn him this spot. Victories over Carl Froch, Mikkel Kessler and Arthur Abraham won him the Super Six tournament and the WBC and WBA super middleweight titles, which he immediately defended against then-WBC light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson. Time off has slowed his momentum, but defeating Kovalev in a fight the entire sport is excited by will certainly speed things up again.
A tough customer with a willingness to travel, Martinez certainly gets involved in a scrap or two. He came to Britain twice, the first time to knock out Nicky Cook, the second to lose his WBO super featherweight title to Ricky Burns. He regained the title two years later, handed Diego Magdaleno his first loss, then was knocked out by Mikey Garcia (though not before putting Garcia on the canvas in the 2nd). He won the belt a third time with a win and a draw against Orlando Salido, and is now penned in to face superstar Vasyl Lomachenko after Nicholas Walters declined to do so.
I like Tim Bradley. I think he’s a good fighter & a good person, and his list of opponents over the last few years should earn him considerable respect. Just look at some of the names on his resume: Manny Pacquiao. Brandon Rios. A then-undefeated Jessie Vargas. Juan Manuel Marquez. Ruslan Provodnikov. Miguel Vazquez. Lamont Peterson. A then-undefeated Devon Alexander. More importantly, look at the different styles of the fighters on that list. There’s brawlers, counter-punchers, technical boxers, southpaws, combination throwers, all of whom were considered elite or top contenders at the time. He really has faced them all, and apart from Pacquiao, he’s beaten them.
What an ambassador for the sport. The recent Golden Years of the welterweights would have been poorer without him, and we’ve been treated to some memorable nights thanks to his efforts. Like Tim Bradley, there aren’t many top names not on his CV. Manny Pacquiao, Shane Mosley, Floyd Mayweather, Paulie Malignaggi, Zab Judah and Joshua Clottey all feature, but he will be most remembered for his two bouts with Antonio Margarito and his fight with Sergio Martinez, which he won to become Puerto Rico’s first 4 weight world champion. He announces his next opponent soon.
Gennady Golovkin – He hasn’t yet fought the really big names, but that’s not for lack of trying. He has attempted to coax his fellow elite middleweights into facing him for a while now, but no one seems to be listening. Saul Alvarez being stripped of the WBC belt (and therefore no longer obliged to face GGG) will frustrate him further, although a fight with Billy Joe Saunders looks plausible.
Roman Gonzalez – A 3-weight world champion who now competes at flyweight, the Nicaraguan has people running for cover. Names like Juan Francisco Estrada and Brian Viloria are among the beaten fighters who comprise his perfect 45-0 record, but he will need a marquee name or two in order to make the full list.
Shane Mosley – A token gesture really, representing those boxers making comebacks in search of glories past. In his day he was a fearsome fighter with a record littered with star names, most of whom he defeated. Now 44 years old, he will almost certainly not mix with the elites again after losing his WBA interim title shot this weekend, although he managed to keep the fight competitive.