The middleweight division will be in the spotlight on Saturday when RING champion Sergio Martinez defends his title against Darren Barker.
The bout, which will be televised live on HBO (in the U.S.) from the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., is Martinez’s third title defense since dethroning Kelly Pavlik last April.
So far, the 36-year-old southpaw’s first two title defenses — a crushing second-round KO of Paul Williams last November and a dominant eighth-round stoppage of Sergei Dzinziruk in March — have given him the look and momentum of a special middleweight champion.
Of course, that’s what everyone thought about Pavlik and the man that he dethroned, Jermain Taylor, early in their title reigns. It’s not easy to live up to the great middleweights of the past.
The middleweight champions of the first half of the 20th Century — colorful, courageous and sometimes tragic figures such as “The Michigan Assassin” Stanley Ketchel, “The Pittsburgh Windmill” Harry Greb, “The Man of Steel” Tony Zale, “The Bronx Bull” Jake LaMotta and, of course, Sugar Ray Robinson — are not only boxing legends, but part of American folklore.
However, excellence in the 160-pound division did not end with the 1950s. As boxing became more of an international sport, some of the best fighters of recent decades made their names in the middleweight division. RingTV.com’s Doug Fischer has ranked some of those fighters in a 10 List of the best middleweight titleholders of the past 50 years.
What does that mean? It means all the fighters listed had to have been in their prime (or at least close to it) after 1961 to be considered. As always, Fischer ranks his fighters mainly based on the quality of their opposition. It’s not about how good these guys looked, it’s about who they fought.