Super Middleweight: 2010, July 19-25

Eduard Gutknecht got a new opponent on short notice: Michel Bilak.  The fight actually ended up being contested at light heavyweight, and Gutknecht won when Bilak retired after the first round.  No change in the rankings this week.

Here are The Ring’s top 10 for comparison purposes:
1) Lucian Bute
2) Andre Ward
3) Mikkel Kessler
4) Carl Froch
5) Sakio Bika
6) Andre Direll
7) Arthur Abraham
8 ) Robert Stieglitz
9) Librado Andrade
10) Brian Magee

Dan’s Top 20

Champ: None

1) Lucian Bute (34-224-224)
Last Fight: 4/17/2010- TKO3 Edison Miranda
Next Fight: 10/15/2010- vs. #15 Jesse Brinkley
It’s almost a tossup between him and Andre Ward. In terms of top 10 contenders, Bute has beaten Librado Andrade twice, at which points Andrade was rated #4 and #5, as well as former contender Alejandro Berrio (not sure where he was rated, but my guess is around 5 somewhere). Ward, on the other hand, has beaten then-#1 Mikkel Kessler and then-#8 Allan Green. The shaky nature of the first Andrade win adds to the controversy. It seems inevitable that the winner of the Super 6 will eventually overtake him in the rankings- perhaps even the winner of Ward vs. Dirrell- but for now I’ll stick with Bute, who has also beaten seven fighters that were fairly classified as fringe contenders at the time he beat them- including currently-rated contenders Edison Miranda and Sakio Bika. Ward, in his much shorter career, has also beaten Miranda, but only has one other significant win: gatekeeper Henry Buchanan in early 2009.
2) Andre Ward (34-62-62)
Last Fight: 6/19/2010- UD12 Allan Green
Next Fight: 9/25/2010- vs. #5 Andre Dirrell
Ward is currently the odds-on favorite to win the Super Six, and is the first and only participant to clinch a spot in the elimination round thus far. One thing is certain: if Bute remains undefeated at 168, a fight between him and the Super Six winner will crown a champion and will be a huge event. Ward-Dirrell is scheduled for 9/25, but that date remains tentative and the venue remains uncertain.
3) Mikkel Kessler (13-294-294)
Last Fight: 4/24/2010- UD12 Carl Froch
Next Fight: 9/25/2010- vs. Allan Green (UNR)
Kessler’s fight with Allan Green, which should be a slaughter, now has a time and place: September 25 in Herning, Denmark.
4) Carl Froch (12-215-215)
Last Fight: 4/24/2010- L (UD12) vs. Mikkel Kessler
Next Fight: 10/2/2010- vs. #7 Arthur Abraham
Froch’s fight with Arthur Abraham finally has a venue- the neutral site of Monaco- and will take place on October 2.
5) Andre Dirrell (3-17-17)
Last Fight: 3/27/2010- DQ11 Arthur Abraham
Next Fight: 9/25/2010- #2 Andre Ward
Win, lose, or draw (I say draw), Andre Dirrell fought like a punk in his controversial split-decision loss to Carl Froch. He ran incessantly and grabbed more often than he punched. But whether or not you think he was really as knocked out as he acted when Arthur Abraham blatantly clocked him after a slip, Dirrell was thoroughly outboxing and frustrating the slugger. Despite Andre Ward’s utter dominance in his first two fights, the upcoming showdown between the two friends named Andre has got to be considered a pick ‘em fight. If, in fact, Dirrell has ever legitimately lost, it hasn’t been by more than a point. The  Ward fight is scheduled for September 25, though the venue remains in dispute.
6) Robert Stieglitz (3-48-48)
Last Fight: 4/17/2010- UD12 Eduard Gutknecht
Next Fight: Unknown
Stieglitz was stopped by Librado Andrade in early 2008, but he is rated ahead of him because Stieglitz has simply done more winning since then. The key win was an 11th-round stoppage of Karoly Balzsay, who was ranked #7 at the time. He ranks ahead of Abraham simply because he’s got a win over a slightly higher-rated contender than does Abraham, and has a larger body of work in this division.
7) Arthur Abraham (17-40-40)
Last Fight: 3/27/2010- L (DQ11) vs. Andre Dirrell
Next Fight: 10/2/2010- vs. #4 Carl Froch
Setting aside his lengthy and impressive Middleweight resume, Abraham’s claim to his current position is based on his knockout of #8 contender Jermain Taylor 2009 and his stoppage of quality fringe contender Edison Miranda in the summer of ’08. Many think he was starting to catch up to a tiring Dirrell before fouling himself to a loss, but what is clear is that he lost. He will fight Carl Froch on October 2 in Monaco to close out the group stage of the tournament.
8 ) Librado Andrade (5-166-166)
Last Fight: 5/28/2010- RTD8 Eric Lucas
Next Fight: Unknown
Andrade is in one of the most unenviable positions of any top-ten contender in the sport. He’s frozen out of the Super Six, so he can’t get a fight with any of those guys for close to another year at a minimum. He can’t reasonably get a fight with Bute because he’s lost to him twice- once by early knockout. Jermain Taylor is virtually retired. Sakio Bika has another fight scheduled. Therefore, the only fight he could possibly make within the top ten would be a rematch with Robert Stieglitz, whom he stopped in 2008. His last fight was technically at light heavyweight, but I have no reason yet to believe that he’s abandoning 168.
9) Jermain Taylor (3-3-3)
Last Fight: 10/17/2009- L (KO12) vs. Arthur Abraham
Next Fight: Unknown
Taylor is retired for all practical purposes, but hasn’t made any official announcement to that effect, and as such I feel obligated to treat him as an active fighter until he no longer is. He remains rated for this reason, coupled with his late-’08 stoppage of then-#5 contender Jeff Lacy. He may not even be contractually free to sign for a fight before the 1 year anniversary of his last one, so expect Taylor to drop from the rankings in mid-October. You might argue that his two back-to-back stoppage losses should push him from the top 10, but not even #8 Andrade has a win over a top 10 contender in his career. It’s hard for me to ignore that credential, even when it was a while ago, and even when it’s all he’s really got at this weight (and even when it’s only Jeff Lacy).
10) Sakio Bika (3-172-172)
Last Fight: 7/30/09- KO1 Nestor Casanova (at Light Heavyweight)
Next Fight: 7/31/10- vs. #17 Jean Paul Mendy
There’s a very good argument to be made that he shouldn’t be rated at all. His last fight was at light heavyweight, and his last super middleweight fight was way back in November 2008. Technically, that qualifies him for deletion from the rankings. On the other hand, the fight last July was only halfway to the LHW limit, and since he has a fight signed with a top 20 contender and a resume capable of supporting a top ten ranking despite his inactivity, it seems a little pointless to not rank him for 3 weeks, only to return him to the rankings in some capacity regardless of how his next fight turns out. What is clear, though, is that his Ring ranking, #5, is far too high considering he’s never beaten a fighter ranked in the top ten (either at the time or currently) and is one of the most inactive fighters in the entire division, even if you count his pointless fight a year ago. Beating Mendy may give him enough of a body of work to supplant Taylor at #9, but I’d really like to see him fight someone in the top ten for a change.
11) Eduard Gutknecht (3-3)
Last Fight: 7/17/2010- RTD9 Michel Bilak
Next Fight: Unknown
Gutknecht fought replacement opponent Michel Bilak this week, who quit on his stool after round one.  The fight was no challenge, and thus carries no reward.
12) Dimitri Sartison (3-3)
Last Fight: 11/21/2009- TKO6 Stjepan Bozic
Next Fight: 7/31/2010- vs. Khoren Gevor (UNR)
Sartison has a couple pretty decent wins against accomplished gatekeeper Pablo Nievas (in February 2008) and more impressively against fringe contender Stjepan Bozic back in November. So far, he’s only lost at the very highest level, when he was stopped in the 12th round by #1 Mikkel Kessler in the summer of ’08. He’s got a fairly interesting match-up coming up at the end of the month against rated middleweight contender Khoren Gevor. A win may or may not get him into the top ten, as #10 Sakio Bika is fighting the same night.
13) Karoly Balzsay (3-3)
Last Fight: 12/4/2009- L(SD12) vs. Eduard Gutknecht
Next Fight: Unknown
In 2009, Balzsay appeared to be on fire- crashing the top ten by toppling #9 rated Denis Inkin in January in only his second major fight. But time has not been kind to the Hungarian contender. In his last two fights, which consecutively followed that victory, he lost to Robert Stieglitz (by 11th round TKO) and Eduard Gutknecht (by close decision). At 30, he’s young enough to bounce back, though.
14) Edison Miranda (3-3)
Last Fight: 4/17/2010- L (TKO3) vs. Lucian Bute
Next Fight: Unknown
Miranda clearly isn’t an elite fighter. He comes up well short when he fights at the elite level, having been stopped by Bute, Abraham, and Pavlik (at Middleweight), and dropping a decision to Ward and Abraham (at Middleweight). But he did beat Allan Green, who at the time appeared to be a serious contender, along with fringe contender Willie Gibbs, whom he knocked out in the first round. These victories were long ago, though (the Green victory was in March 2007 and the Gibbs fight in 2006). Still, he hasn’t done anything to prove that he’s slipped below the level he achieved with those victories, since he’s only lost to fighters that are a cut above those that he’s beaten, and so I assume that he’s still a solid fringe contender and worthy of exactly this ranking.
15) Jesse Brinkley (3-3)
Last Fight: 1/29/2010- UD12 Curtis Stevens
Next Fight: 10/15/2010- vs. #1 Lucian Bute
Brinkley’s signature victory thus far is a dominant decision over very tough gatekeeper Curtis Stevens back in January. He beat a few lesser gatekeeper-prospect types prior to that, and also had a not-so-great loss to another prospect, Joe Spina and another gatekeeper in Robin Reid (at LHW) earlier on. He’ll have to show that he’s a much better fighter than the version that lost to those guys if he hopes to have any chance against #1 contender Lucian Bute in October.
16) Thomas Oosthuizen (3-3)
Last Fight: 4/27/2010- KO8 Saul Roman
Next Fight: 11/6/2010- vs. #18 Isaac Chilemba
Oosthuizen, a South African southpaw who debuted just 2 years ago this week, made some serious noise by knocking out tough veteran Saul Roman in April. He also holds a win over a minor gatekeeper Tshepang Mohale. His next fight is an even bigger test against #18 Isaac Chilemba. The winner of that fight is sure to move up a notch or two.
17) Jean Paul Mendy (3-3)
Last Fight: 3/20/2010- KO9 Josival Teixeira
Next Fight: 7/31/2010- vs. #10 Sakio Bika
Mendy is a tough case. He hasn’t done anything worth mentioning since 2007, but in that fight he earned a draw with a very solid fringe contender, Anthony Hanshaw. Obviously his decision to pick on absolute non-entities ever since has hurt his standing somewhat, especially since he’s not getting any younger at 36, but since he’s stayed at least somewhat active and hasn’t lost or looked bad since, it’s hard to assume that he’s become garbage since then. He would have been somewhat higher in the rankings a few years ago, but he’s still ranked today. He’ll have a moment of truth against another fighter who’s been inexcusably inactive against top competition in Sakio Bika later this month.
18) Isaac Chilemba (3-3)
Last Fight: 6/19/2010- UD12 Michael Bolling
Next Fight: 11/6/2010- vs. #16 Thomas Oosthuizen
Chilemba is very close to Oosthuizen in terms of his accomplishments, but he has a loss (which he later avenged) to a relative non-entity in Wilbeforce Shihepo and has fought at light heavy. A November meeting should obviously set one clearly above the other.
19) Daniel Geale (3-3)
Last Fight: 6/2/2010- TKO11 Kariz Kariuki
Next Fight: Unknown
Geale is ranked at Middleweight, where he’s spent most of his career. It’s unclear whether he plans to continue campaigning at middleweight or make his recent move to Super Middle permanent. Regardless, his win over established Super Middleweight gatekeeper Kariz Kariuki is enough to earn him a #19 ranking in the new division. He will retain his ranking at middleweight so long as he continues to fight at that weight regularly and successfully, though.
20) Peter Quillin (3-3)
Last Fight: 2/6/2010- UD10 Fernando Zuniga
Next Fight: Unknown
The Zuniga victory from February earns him the last spot in the rankings when added to his decision over lesser gatekeeper Antwun Echols back in the spring of ’08.

THE WEEK AHEAD: No major fights in the division this week.

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