On the back of two world title fights at the weekend, we asked Carl Froch to pick out his best five fighters in the current super-middleweight division…
I’ll be honest, and it won’t surprise you, that I think the super-middleweight division is weak right now. But it’s all about timing.
All of a sudden the heavyweight division boasts some big names and big characters but right now, the 168lbs weight-class does appear easier for people to go out and not just challenge for, but win world titles.
I am not going to knock anyone who has a belt because you have to respect them, but it is not red-hot right now. There are a couple of young stars coming through and there seems to be a unification fight coming up, so it’s not all bad news.
But if Mikkel Kessler was at his prime, if I was still knocking around, if Andre Ward was at this weight, even Jermain Taylor – who I thought was past his best when I beat him – was in there, the super-middleweight division would have some formidable forces to talk about.
You cannot show me any retired fighter who sits there thinking their division is currently better than it was when they were in action, and I’m no different.
Boxing is all about timing and when it comes to weight divisions, it is cyclical and right now, the super-middleweight division is poor in my eyes. But whether or not I rate them massively, there’s always people top of the pile, no matter how bad the bunch is.
5: Lucian Bute – 32-3-1-KO25
Even though he is way past his best, this is a guy that pushed two of the title holders all the way. You won’t be surprised to hear me say Bute has never been the same since I smashed him, but this guy has been a world champion longer than the rest of them put together and he is still staying up there with the current crop.
Against Jack at the weekend, his work rate and his fitness were impressive, but he has no punching power and he didn’t seem able to change his style. Age is not on Bute’s side – especially compared to Callum Smith or Gilberto Ramirez – but he is still going strong and if anything he is almost a gatekeeper at the very top level of the division.
4: Callum Smith – 19-0-KO14
He’s got to be in there but the one thing we are waiting to see is him beat one of these experienced fighters or of course, a world champion. We did think Hadillah Mohoumadi was going to be a test but Smith blew him away inside the first round. The one thing he seems to have grown is that finishing power.
He also did it against Rocky Fielding and in both fights showed he not only has power, he has all the shots and doesn’t seem to waste them. Callum is part of a great gym with Joe Gallagher but he also has that amateur pedigree. On top of all that he is tall, rangy and looks like he could be the real deal. We all want to see him fight for a title and even now he would give any of them a real, real test.
3: Badou Jack – 20-1-2-KO12
I have to be honest and say from the first time I saw him beat the other Dirrell – Anthony – I wasn’t that impressed with Jack. He edged out George Groves to defend that WBC title and the weekend was his second defence, seven months down the line, which is probably not down to him. But the bottom line is he held on to his title with a draw, against a guy who has been around for years.
I was looking forward to seeing the WBC holder and to start with, he looked like he’d improved. He put some nice shots together, had a good sharp right over the top, and seemed to have decent counter-punching skills, but they were all too few and far between. Is he struggling to make the weight? Maybe he is still developing, but I am sure I am not alone in being a little disappointed with what we’ve seen, against what we were expecting.
2: Gilberto Ramirez – 34-0-KO24
I’ll be honest and say I only saw a few clips of him beating Arthur Abraham for the WBO title but I can’t stand the former champion standing there, with his guard up for 12 rounds and then nicking it. Abraham bores the hell out of me, so that in itself means I am already a fan of Ramirez! And he is the one – maybe just because he is the new kid on the block – that I am hearing very good things about.
The record itself suggests he is good, plus the fact he looks capable of doing everything and can clearly bang. This is a 25-year-old, 6ft 2in, Mexican southpaw, and that says it all! He’s rangy, he’s awkward and he’s tough. The way he got past Abraham is probably the toughest test any of this bunch of super-middleweights has passed – not many people have done that.
1: James DeGale – 23-1-KO14
Let’s get the bad stuff out the way first. This division is wide open and if anyone looks capable of going on to dominate, then it is DeGale. But there are still things I want to see. You need an engine that goes for the full 12 rounds and finishes strongly, yet for the past three fights, he seems to have stopped after five or six rounds and just got past the finishing lline. He said he’d be disappointed if he didn’t stop Rogelio Medina – and he should be. DeGale doesn’t seem to be a big puncher, he seems to slap a bit and I will question his fitness on the back of the last two defences.
But let’s be fair, this is a guy that not only won the world title in America but has defended twice on the other side of the Atlantic, and I know you never get enough credit over there. DeGale has loads of natual talent and winning an Olympic gold medal proves that. He has to be my number one at the moment and I can’t see many people disagreeing. The one thing I think we all want to see is DeGale make a big homecoming -hopefully the unification fight with Jack later this year. We need to see him put on a show on his home soil.