Outside of heavyweights, the middleweights have long been considered the glamour division of boxing. The weight class of the average man.
Obviously, it has become a little below average these days.
This was the division of Bernard Hopkins most recently and the youngsters thought that was fine. Fans with a bit longer memories to go back before Roy Jones Jr. and James Toney (skipping Michael Nunn) recall a "Golden Age" when Marvelous Marvin Hagler was challenged by such stars as Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Sugar Ray Robinson.
They thought that was heaven.
Dig a little deeper into history, and there was dour Carlos Monzon ruling over such as Nino Benvenuti and Emile Griffith. The Golden Age’s mother lode was when middleweights like Sugar Ray Robinson, Gene Fullmer, Carmen Basilio, Randy Turpin, Jake LaMotta et al were around. Keep going back and there were Tony Zale and Rocky Graziano. We’d better stop skipping a bunch of guys who would have given Hopkins trouble to get to Mickey Walker and finally Stanley Ketchel.
Next Saturday, in a "middleweight title" fight from Berlin, we have Abetik Abrahamyan facing Khoren Gevor. Talk about depressing.
It’s not quite that bad, of course. The real 160-pound ruler remains Jermain Taylor, who will sweat and strain to make that weight one last time Sept. 29 to face Kelly Pavlik. The matchup is currently regarded as a pick’em. After that, Taylor can look for larger targets at 168 and 175.
With 35-year-old Winky Wright, who found 170 too much when facing Hopkins coming down the homestretch of a Hall of Fame career, the next leading contender may be Abrahamyan, who goes by the name of Arthur Abraham now.
King Arthur holds one of the alphabet titles — which one doesn’t matter of course. He is making his fourth defense just two months after dispatching Sebastin Demers (whoever he was) in the third round. Now he faces a man, like himself, born in Armenia and makes his home in Germany.
Berlin is Abraham’s home town, but he has a lot more advantages than just location, location, location. Unbeaten in 23 fights, Abraham scored 18 knockouts and you might have heard of some of the guys he’s beaten. The same can’t be true of Gevor, who now lives in Hamburg fighting Hamburgers to fatten his 27-2 record with 15 KOs.
The two losses were to a Czech, Lukas Konecu, back in 2002 when he was a junior middleweight. He’s still smaller than Abraham by an inch and a half. He is +600 against a guy who two fights ago had his jaw shattered.
That is part of the reason Abraham is -1100 here. Note, I didn’t say "prohibitive" favorite. Abraham had his jaw broken by the very hard-punchiing Edison Miranda and still managed to win a 12-round decision. He’s also outpointed such as Howard Eastman, Kofi Jantuah and Shannon Taylor. In 2005, he beat Kingsley Ikeke to win the vacant IBF title.
Okay, I knew it all along.
Abraham is a good boxer with adequate power to discourage opponents. Who the heck knows what Gevor is. At 28, he’s even giving Abraham a year’s edge in youth.
Normally, I wouldn’t even talk about a fight that, as far as I know, will not be seen on American television. One person who will see it is Dandy Dan Rafael, the man who invented boxing and now works for ESPN.com.
The week after has even less on the docket. The big event is Kendall Holt’s trip to Colombia on Sept. 1 to challenge Ricardo Torres for a 140-pound title. I can’t afford to overlook any crumbs.
These are dark days for the 160-pound division. Maybe the hard-punching Pavlik will knock off Taylor and prove there is a future. If so, that future will have to include not only Winky, but Abrahamyan.
No, I’m not telling you to lay 11/1 on a broken-jawed Armenian. I’m telling you don’t even think about taking 6/1 on what I suspect could be a glass-jawed Armenian.