With uncharacteristic optimism in this holiday season, here’s this writer’s personal 2023 Wish list for the middleweight/super middleweight divisions.
The Return of King Canelo
Love him or hate him, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is the top box office drawn in the sport. He’s one of the few boxers with the ability to be the rising tide that lifts all boats. 2022 was an “off” year for the Mexican superstar and unified 4-belt super middleweight champ. A rumored May bout with the tough, but modestly-talented John Ryder won’t do much to reverse the slide brought on by a decisive loss to light heavyweight champ Dmitry Bivol and a lukewarm showing in beating Gennadiy Golovkin. If the Ryder fight must happen on Cinco de Mayo weekend next year, here’s hoping for something really big on his usual September, Mexican Independence Day weekend, date. Boxing loves– and needs– blockbusters.
A Caleb Plant-David Benavidez Fight That Matters
Caleb Plant vs. David Benavidez is an outstanding pairing in a lot of ways. Not only is it a compelling tactical matchup between two very distinct talents, it’s also a true best vs. best bout among super middleweights not named Saul Alvarez. These are the kinds of fights that fans want and boxing needs. The only thing that could ruin it is a controversial finish or a poor showing from one (or both). Given boxing’s unique ability to disappoint, it’s not taken for granted that we won’t see an anticlimactic follow-through on this outstanding pairing. Here’s hoping we DO get the fight Plant-Benavidez is supposed to be and that the winner will actually get the boost he deserves from his performance.
Golovkin Goes Outside His Comfort Zone
With the exception of his three Canelo Alvarez bouts, Gennadiy Golovkin has never really tested himself against ring styles that weren’t absolutely tailor made to his strengths. At 40 years of age and nearing retirement, that’s not likely to change. But there’s the hope that, maybe, a continued desire to fight and hold on to his WBA and IBF middleweight world titles might push him into a spot where he has to take on someone who gives him a different look and who presents a true stylistic challenge. For a fighter already listed by some among the all-time middleweight greats, that’s the least we could expect from him.
The Return of Jermall Charlo
Outside of Canelo Alvarez and Gennadiy Golovkin, Jermall Charlo is arguably the most captivating character in the 160-168 lb. weight range. Inactive since June of 2021 and with no fight on the foreseeable horizon, the WBC middleweight titlist has all but disappeared from the fans’ hearts and minds. It really doesn’t matter whether the inactivity has been caused by back problems or something else, the reality is that the 32-year-old fighter is losing out on the prime years of his career. Hopefully, 2023 sees Charlo back in the ring and positioning himself for a big fight against Alvarez, Golovkin, or the winner of Plant-Benavidez.
The Full Rise of David Morrell Jr.
The 24-year-old Cuban is, technically, already a world champion with four defenses under his belt despite having only eight professional bouts. But, putting aside that silly WBA “regular” super middleweight world title, Morrell’s got elite-level skill and ability and is already more than ready to take on any of the big dogs at 168. Actually, he’s so clearly above everyone he’s been facing at the second-tier level that we might see atrophy in his game if he doesn’t start facing some higher-end competition soon. Here’s hoping that the coming year sees this future star fighting some of the very best in the division and that the very best will be willing to accept his challenge.