Now and Then (Part III): The Middleweights

Sean MorehouseCorrespondent IFebruary 1, 2010

YOUNGSTOWN, OH - DECEMBER 19:  Kelly Pavlik (R) fights against Miguel Espino during their match at the Beeghly Center on December 19, 2009 in Youngstown, Ohio.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

(This is the last of three articles comparing current top rated fighters to the all-time No. 1s at their weight.  The rankings are taken from the computer rankings.)

The middleweight division has possibly been the most historically prestigious of the non-heavyweight classes.

The man most famous for middleweight success, Marvin Hagler, fought in the division for basically his entire career, taking only three losses to his 62 victories.  Other names like Greb, Monzon, and Fullmer also need no introduction to hardcore fans.

At the start of the last decade, Bernard Hopkins was already into a stretch of  middleweight dominance that would eventually extend to a record 20 consecutive successful defenses, and "The Executioner" definitely deserves a place in any discussion about middleweight greats.

Hopkins eventually lost his titles to a young challenger by the name of Jermaine Taylor, and left the division.  The man who went on to beat Taylor is the current top middleweight in the world, but in today's fantasy challenge he finds himself in the ring with an opponent likely much tougher than he will ever see in reality...

Kelly "The Ghost" Pavlik (36-1-0, 32 KO) vs. "Sugar" Ray Robinson (173-19-6, 109 KO)

Well your first reaction is probably something along the lines of "Ouch, Kelly.  Good Luck!"  I can't say that I would blame you.

Robinson is not only the top rated middleweight of all-time, but is also considered by most boxing analysts to be the greatest fighter to ever live at any weight class.

It's also a pretty decent sign of greatness when you are maybe the best middleweight ever and that wasn't even your natural weight class.  Robinson's career at welterweight is often thought of as even more impressive.

"Sugar" was a total fighting machine in the ring.  Amazing speed, unearthly power, footwork, ring generalship, just about the complete package. 

I say "just about" because if Robinson did have a weakness, you might say it was his defense.  He was not always committed to avoiding punches, and he was knocked down and hurt more than once over the course of his 200 bouts.

Of course, any criticism of Robinson can be seen as nitpicking.  When you consider how many great punchers he stood in front of and beat, it's impossible to ask somebody to accomplish what he did without taking some damage.

Pavlik, on the other hand, might not ever go down as an all-time great, but he is a very capable fighter and a worthy champion.  He has a good offensive game plan that, while slightly limited, works for him.

Pressure, pressure, pressure is the name of the game for Kelly.  He comes forward and is constantly probing with the jab, looking to set up the big right hand.

In this fight Pavlik would likely seem the bigger man.  He is large for a guy fighting at 160 and as mentioned, Robinson has moved up from welterweight.  This isn't a huge problem for a man as skilled as Sugar Ray though, who beat many bigger fighters throughout his career.

I see the fight being brief, but exciting.  Pavlik does his best to keep Robinson on the defensive, and is successful to an extent.  "The Ghost" manages to win a round or two in the early going as Robinson slowly figures him out.

When Ray turns on the gas, however, it's the beginning of the end.  He starts to counter Pavlik as he comes forward, stinging him with left hooks.  Pavlik fights gamely and manages to land some good shots, but it's just not enough.

Robinson is too fast, too good, and (though he's not a big middleweight) powerful enough to get the job done.  He makes it an early night and gets a fairly quick knockout, despite taking some punishment.

This fight is assuming Ray in his middleweight prime, of course, as he did slow down once he got older, and probably stayed in the game too long.  There were nights in his career where he would have lost to a guy like Pavlik, but if they had a series, I see it going pretty similar to Robinson's fights with Jake LaMotta.  LaMotta managed to win once, but was beaten five times.