Lee Groves

10: Greatest middleweight champions

10. Arthur Abraham – IBF titlist (December 10, 2005-June 27, 2009)

This may be a controversial pick given that “King Arthur’s” reign unfolded largely in Germany against low marquee challengers and that he didn’t unify the belts against Taylor or longtime WBA belt-holder Felix Sturm in what would have been a domestic blockbuster. While those are legitimate knocks, there are also counterbalances that tilt the scales in his favor.

First, not many middleweight champions have the staying power to achieve 10 (or more) title defenses. Second, Abraham’s opponents had a combined 268-16-8 record (a .918 winning percentage). Third, he won the vacant belt by stopping the 23-1 Kingsley Ikeke – a 6-4 Nigerian with an almost endless 79-inch reach that few others wanted to fight at the time – in five rounds. Fourth, in his first fight against Edison Miranda, Abraham showed almost incomprehensible courage by fighting through a compound jaw fracture for eight rounds against one of the division’s most feared hitters and still winning a decision. Greatness is as much about tenacity as it is about talent and Abraham proved that his fighting heart was stouter than most.

All a champion can do is beat the men standing in the other corner, and this Abraham did time and time again. Abraham scored six knockouts in his 10 defenses – including five in a row – mostly due to a sledgehammer right that often came out of nowhere. Also, his defensive shell proved incredibly difficult to crack and in a way it was as big a weapon as his right cross.

Like a line of motorists stuck behind a slow-moving car on a double-lined road, Abraham’s opponents grew increasingly frustrated at their inability to land. Eventually, they took risks they normally avoided, just to change the situation or make it end. For the motorists, it would be a dangerous pass on a blind curve while for fighters it would be opening up indiscriminately. Once they did so, Abraham sprung the trap and the fight was soon over. Therefore, Abraham’s longevity, patience, ring generalship and opportunism helped him break into this list.

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