James Toney’s dramatic final-round knockout of Prince Charles Williams in 1994 is one of the greatest super middleweight title bouts. Photo / Al Bello-Getty Images Sport
Of all the weight classes created during the 1970s and 1980s, the super middleweight division may be the greatest success story in terms of historical impact, its ability to attract superstar-level talent and the wealth of great fights staged within its environs.
Unlike the cruiserweight division, which enjoyed flickers of prominence and acceptance during its 33-year history, the 168-pound class achieved instant credibility with the arrivals of Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns and Roberto Duran in the late 1980s and maintained its standing throughout the next quarter-century with an assembly line of worldwide superstars that included Roy Jones Jr., James Toney, Chris Eubank, Nigel Benn and Joe Calzaghe.
It can be argued that super middleweight is boxing’s deepest and healthiest weight class. At the top is RING champion Andre Ward and longtime IBF titleholder Lucian Bute, who are part of most top 10 pound-for-pound lists. Its ranks boast a pleasing mixture of veteran ex-champs (Carl Froch, Glen Johnson, Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham, Kelly Pavlik), established contenders and beltolders (Andre Dirrell, Robert Stieglitz, Sakio Bika, Karoly Balzsay) and up-and-comers (Thomas Oosthuizen, Edwin Rodriguez, George Groves, James DeGale, Adonis Stevenson, Maxim Vlasov).
Another reason for the division’s success is that the most high-profile fighters are willing to fight each other on a regular basis. Last weekend Kessler scored an off-the-floor one-punch knockout over fellow Super Sixer Allan Green and on Saturday Bute and Froch – the top two contenders for Ward’s RING belt – will again demonstrate their fearlessness by meeting in a high-stakes showdown in Froch’s native Nottingham.
It shouldn’t be a big surprise that the top dogs step up to the plate again and again. Throughout its history the super middleweights have created a wealth of unforgettable moments, many of which unfolded with championships on the line. The following is one writer’s opinion of the 10 greatest title fights the division has yet seen, and if history is any guide the list will undergo frequent changes in the coming decades.