Morrie’s Magnificent Seven: Boxers I Like NOW
The boxing world moves at quite a pace. Every weekend it seems titles change hands, new faces emerge with an attention demanding victory or a previously written off fighter turns the clock back and nets a surprising win. Yes the boxing scene is a constantly evolving one, meaning opinions on fighters are regularly changing.
As the weeks pass and 2017 moves towards its mid-point I decided to submit this countdown article: my seven current favourite boxers. I may revisit this annually to monitor how it changes year to year.
When compiling this list I had only one question that I asked myself in order to separate the boxers on this list from those who didn't quite make it – at this moment in time would I be prepared to travel a great distance to watch this man box live? The following fighters are those who engendered a ‘yes' response. Enjoy the countdown…….
7. Oscar Valdez (22-0-0, 19KOs) 26 years old, featherweight
Current titles held: WBO featherweight
Previous titles held: none
Oscar Valdez is a rarity for extremely talented boxers from Mexico. The Manny Robles trained fighter remained in the amateur ranks and represented his country at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. For Mexican boxers the norm is to turn pro at a very early age – some, Canelo Alvarez and Marco Antonio Barrera for instance, made the leap when they were as young as 15.
This different path seems to have served Valdez well so far. Still undefeated and holding the WBO featherweight world title his style reminds me very much of his countryman Erik Morales – always boxing offensively and looking to entertain.
His standard of opposition is now being stepped up. His last four foes had a combined record of 102-5-5. Valdez stopped three of them and scored a convincing UD over Miguel Marriaga in an exciting firefight in April.
MOVING FORWARD: Promoted by Top Rank, Valdez will be maneuvered sensibly but he has shown he is ready to step in with the other title holders in the red hot 126lb division. If politics prevent these bouts from taking place I suspect Valdez will move north to the equally challenging 130lb weight class within the next 18 months.
6. Carl Frampton (23-1-0, 14KOs) 30 years old, featherweight
Current titles held: none
Previous titles held: IBF super-bantamweight, WBA super-bantamweight, WBA “Super” featherweight
Still my favourite fighter from these shores, Carl Frampton lost his WBA “Super” featherweight title to Leo Santa Cruz via majority decision in Las Vegas in January. This was revenge for Santa Cruz after the man from Belfast had beaten him by the same manner last year.
Now firmly established on the world scene Frampton is operating at the top end of a stacked division, facing his peers while they are in their primes also. A loss here or there isn't the end end of the world – in fact losses are a genuine possibility when testing yourself against the best.
A Carl Frampton fight in Belfast is an event in itself. A superb atmosphere amongst knowledgeable fans is guaranteed. If you ever get the chance to attend one I'd highly recommend it. Frampton is now so popular in his home city that any fights he has there would need to be stadium affairs.
MOVING FORWARD: The long talked about stadium fight in Belfast will hopefully take place this summer. In terms of opponents any of the other belt holders at 126lbs would be fine but an all UK showdown with Wales' IBF champion Lee Selby would probably excite fans over here the most since the rubber match with Santa Cruz seems to be on hold for now.
5. Jorge Linares (42-3-0, 27KOs) 31 years old, lightweight
Current titles held: WBA lightweight
Previous titles held: WBC lightweight, WBA super-featherweight, WBC featherweight
The man from Venezuela should have his picture in the dictionary under the term globe-trotter. The South American is now based in Las Vegas but still spends a large percentage of his training time in Japan. He also fights all over the world.
Most recently Linares has brought his silky skills to the UK. He defeated Kevin Mitchell in 2015 before two decision wins over Anthony Crolla in 2016 then earlier this year. Jorge has gained plenty of UK fans off the back of these fights, myself included.
Previously having a reputation for cutting up badly or breaking down with injuries Linares looks to have put that behind him. He is a classy operator, quick of foot and hand, his combination punching is as fluid as anyone in the sport today. A tough night at the office awaits any boxer who has to face Linares in the near future.
MOVING FORWARD: Unification fights in the 135lb division are what we want to see. Jorge is mandatory for Mikey Garcia's WBC version of the title but it looks like this clash may now fall by the wayside sadly. If so it looks like Linares may be heading back to the UK. Undefeated WBO champion Terry Flanagan or Luke Campbell, the mandatory for his WBA belt, look the most likely opponents.
4. Gennady “GGG” Golovkin (37-0-0, 33KOs) 35 years old, middleweight
Current titles held: WBC/WBA “Super”/IBF middleweight
Previous titles held: none
The king of the middleweight division has finally been granted the fight he has waited patiently for. Canelo Alvarez will face “GGG” in September.
As he has been made to wait the career 160lb fighter from Kazakhstan has humbly gone about his business – usually winning by KO and hoovering up almost all of the significant world titles in his weight division.
Golovkin's last two outings have resulted in some fans and writers questioning whether he is slipping slightly. He is now at the age where that old undefeated foe Father Time begins to start sneaking up on many fighters. Fans of Golovkin, myself included, hope that this is not the case.
MOVING FORWARD: No point in looking beyond the September career defining showdown with Alvarez. A 50/50 fight in my opinion, whatever happens that night will influence what “GGG” does moving forward.
3. Mikey Garcia (36-0-0, 30KOs) 29 years old, lightweight
Current titles held: WBC lightweight
Previous titles held: WBO super-featherweight, WBO featherweight
Mikey Garcia holds the WBC crown in the 135lb division. The Californian boxer returned to the ring after a 30 month hiatus last year. His promotional problems behind him, Mikey picked up where he left off in 2014 and earlier this year won his current title – knocking out Dejan Zlaticanin in devastating fashion.
Now a three weight world champion who looks like his best performances may still be ahead of him, Garcia should be involved in some tasty fights between 135 and 147lbs before he calls it a day. Highly skilled in all departments, Mikey beautifully switches from defence to attack and hits with power off both wings.
MOVING FORWARD: Ideally I wanted to see a unification fight at 135 with Linares. It seems like this won't be happening now as it has just been announced that Mikey is stepping up to 140lbs to face Adrien Broner. Giving Broner a thrashing would be a satisfactory way to get his campaign at light-welterweight started.
2. Terence Crawford (31-0-0, 22KOs) 29 years old, light-welterweight
Current titles held: WBC/WBO light-welterweight
Previous titles held: WBO lightweight
Terence Crawford is quickly running out of opponents at light-welterweight. Since stepping up to the 140lb division Terence has ended five of his six encounters early. The weight class suits him, he can put a beating on his opponents while completely out-boxing them.
A supremely talented switch-hitter the quiet spoken fighter from Nebraska prefers to make his statements in the ring. When Crawford manufactures the chance he generally finishes his man in punishing fashion.
Quite possibly the best pound for pound boxer operating today Crawford is constantly on the move, attacking from all angles. He is a joy to watch and when he decides to move up to welterweight the elite fighters at 147 will need to be on their game to get the better of Crawford.
MOVING FORWARD: One final fight at 140lbs against Julius Indongo to completely unify that division. After that up to welterweight and straight into clashes with names such as Manny Pacquiao, Errol Spence and Keith Thurman.
1. Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (46-1-0, 38KOs) 29 years old, super-flyweight
Current titles held: none
Previous titles held: WBC super-flyweight, WBC flyweight, WBA light-flyweight, WBA minimumweight
A victim of poor judging last time out, the Nicaraguan offensive buzzsaw is still my favourite fighter. No longer in possession of a world title “Chocolatito” will look to remedy this in the immediate rematch that has been rumoured for September.
Now operating in his fourth weight division Gonzalez has entertained boxing fans royally during his twelve year professional journey. The little man with the magic footwork attacks relentlessly, the speed and accuracy of his punches is marvellous, and he always seems to be in action packed fights.
Defensively he does catch and shoot effectively but since his step up to 115lbs he has started to take more punches (and headbutts in the case of his last fight) in return.
Now aged 29 “Chocolatito” has perhaps just passed his peak but fans of his want to believe he still has a few more blockbusting performances left. This would underline his already Hall Of Fame worthy career – if you haven't been watching so far don't miss the remainder of his campaign.
MOVING FORWARD: Roman regains the title that he didn't lose legitimately to Rungvisai in March. After that a unification confrontation against Inoue of Japan, a fight which would have boxing fans salivating and would earn both men a monster payday.