By Matt Bevan (@MBevs68)
Fresh off the back of Kell Brook’s bravery against Gennady Golovkin the week before, last Saturday we got another gutsy effort from another Brit as Liam Smith was ousted by Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in front of over 50,000 people at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
But in much the same way as Brook, Smith’s stock has grown in defeat and he has shown he absolutely deserves to be in the conversation as one of the top fighters at 154lbs, which has suddenly ignited as a division.
The champions, Canelo aside, don’t exactly set the pulses racing, however there are some who could well make this the best division out there in the next couple of years, providing they don’t use it as a brief stepping stone up to the 160lbs for middleweight.
The current light-middleweight champions, now including Canelo, are Erislandy Lara, the WBA champion and not exactly a fighter you look to for excitement, and the Charlo brothers, Jermell and Jermall, who hold the WBC and IBF belts respectively.
I’ll ignore Jack Culcay, the naturalised German, who holds the secondary WBA title, who is a decent fighter, but looks to be short of the top level. He is likely to be found out in his next fight, when he comes up against perhaps the top fighter in the division, and former world champion, Demetrius Andrade in his next “defence”.
Andrade, who returned with a superb performance over Willie Nelson, has been touted by many as a potential pound-for-pound superstar. Now he is free of contractual wrangles and whisperers in his ear, the Providence, Rhode Island man can finally set his sights on fulfilling his undoubted talent.
He looked to be focused on going after the WBC belt, and I wouldn’t hesitate to pick him over Jermell Charlo, but Culcay provides a simpler option and a path to face Erislandy Lara, who is considered the top dog at 154lbs, although that will now be disputed as his former conqueror Canelo is now back.
Canelo may be back but don’t expect it to last long. He has his sights set on middleweight and hopefully Gennady Golovkin in a super-fight, so he may not even try to defend his new title.
So if we count out the Mexican star, Lara and Andrade is the top fight out there at 154lbs. As for the Charlo’s, Jermell will likely defend against Charles Hatley and Jermall will take on Julian Williams, so nothing to get your pulses racing there.
But, with Smith looking to rise to the top again, after enjoying his time in the spotlight last week and Brook possibly coming up, British interest has suddenly gone up a notch.
You could even throw Amir Khan into the mix, although his future looks to be and should be at welterweight, as he may not be able to resist some big money fights, whilst Miguel Cotto, supposedly fighting Lamont Peterson late this year or early next, is now officially back down at 154lbs, after pretending to defend the middleweight title.
Throw in well known contenders like Austin Trout and Vanes Martirosyan, as well as rising prospects in Erickson Lubin and Liam Williams, that is a hell of a mix. There are also lesser known entities including mouthy American Tony Harrison and a potential dark horse in Michel Soro from France.
Yes, there will always be promotional problems and politics will probably play a big part in stopping these fights from happening, but this light-middleweight mix could have just got a huge shot in the arm and may well be a huge division of interest for boxing fans over the next couple of years.
Canelo is by far the biggest draw but I can’t see him hanging around for long, with Brook a good name and more than adequate name to replace him. Don’t get me wrong I’d love to see them meet, but I think Canelo sees himself up at middleweight, so it will likely never happen anyway.
Logic never really comes to fruition in boxing, as money talks and ego’s need to be caressed, so this is nothing more than a pipe dream, but for me light-middle could be a lesser version of the cruiserweight division which is exciting plenty of the hardcore boxing fans over the years.
Light-middleweight has one advantage over cruiserweight though and that is American interest, as well as the significant push that Brook and Smith will receive from their chosen promoters of Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren respectively. Who knows, they may even face off against each other.
It’s hard to make any predictions due to boxing’s unpredictable nature, but I really do believe that light-middleweight is poised to become one of the biggest interest divisions in the sport over the next couple of years.