The light heavyweight division has certainly seen better days. Where, once upon a time, fierce battlers roamed the 175 lb. class, looking to establish divisional dominance, a new, significantly less-valiant group of fighters currently exists.
These days, lamenting over good light heavyweight scraps that never got made (and likely never will get made) is much more common than significant, compelling battles between the division elite. Make no mistake about it, the talent and possibility is there, the willingness to step into danger, apparently, is not.
So, assuming a position as King of Boxing with unlimited matchmaking powers, here are the five fights that would be first on the list of mandatory 175 lb. scraps:
Bernard Hopkins (52-6-2, 32 KOs) vs. Nathan Cleverly (25-0, 12 KOs)
The former undisputed middleweight champ and two-time light heavyweight titlist will be 48 years of age in January, but still insists that he can compete at the highest levels of the sport. At his age and coming off a decisive loss to Chad Dawson, this might sound far-fetched, but Hopkins is also just about eighteen months away from a solid win over then-top light heavyweight, Jean Pascal. If Hopkins really wants to affirm his place among the top fighters in the division, a bout with the confident, energetic, and undefeated 25-year-old Cleverly would do the trick. Cleverly would be bringing his WBO title to the showdown while Hopkins would bring his name and reputation, something the fairly untested Welshman would love to add to his resume.
Tavoris Cloud (24-0, 19 KOs) vs. Gabriel Campillo II (21-4-1, 8 KOs)
Most observers saw Spain’s Campillo take a clear and decisive victory over the defending IBF champ, Cloud when the two met in February. Instead, Cloud would take the split decision and Campillo would find himself on the losing end of yet another controversial decision (Campillo lost a similarly controversial decision to Beibut Shumenov in 2010). In a fair and just world, Campillo deserves a shot at rectifying the injustice of the Cloud fight.
Chad Dawson (31-2, 17 KOs) vs. Beibut Shumenov (13-1, 8 KOs)
Dawson is the defending WBC champion, but has to be considered damaged goods after being dominated and stopped by Andre Ward in a September super middleweight bout. However, in terms of rankings, he is still regarded as the no. 1 fighter in the division. Shumenov won his title in controversial fashion against Gabriel Campillo and has survived as champ on a steady diet of no-hopers and journeymen. The talented 29-year-old desperately needs some credibility and a bout with Dawson would be ideal for him to start earning some street cred at 175 lbs.
Jean Pascal (26-2-1, 16 KOs) vs. Lucian Bute (31-1, 24 KOs)
This could very well be the biggest Canadian fight of all-time, despite the fact that both would be limping into the showdown after stunning defeats. Haitian-Canadian, Pascal is still smarting from an upset loss to Bernard Hopkins in May of 2011 and hasn’t been in the ring since then (although he’s scheduled to return against Aleksy Kuziemski this Friday). Romanian-Canadian, Bute, prior to his recent decision win over Denis Grachev, was battered and stopped in five rounds by Carl Froch at super middleweight. Pascal-Bute would be a battle from the losers’ bracket, but it would be a compelling battle nonetheless.
Eleider Alvarez (10-0, 6 KOs) vs. Ismayl Sillakh (17-1, 14 KOs)
Colombia’s Alvarez is now occupying the spot Sillakh used to hold as the light heavyweight division’s “next big thing.” Fighting in his adopted home of Quebec, Canada, Alvarez is working his way to true world class legitimacy while the previously unbeaten Sillakh is still looking to overcome his stunning eighth round TKO loss to Denis Grachev last April. A battle between the two prospects would let the world know who’s legit and who is pure second-tier.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.
Boxrec, Boxing Records and Stats