By Ian Mathias
The most elusive prize and the man who holds this accolade leaves no arguments as to who is the man in the division! Since the start of the 4 belt era there have been a handful of men who have been able to accomplish this feat! Before we get into that, let’s have a look at the current landscape of the 17 traditional divisions in 2022.
Starting from the top and the heavyweight division! We were seemingly so close to getting that all British undisputed clash that we have long yearned for between Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury only for it to be snatched away in a courtroom by an arbitrator!! Fury went on to have a fight of the year with Deontay Wilder and put a definite end to their trilogy where as Anthony Joshua’s world came crumbling back down as Ukranian Olyksandr Uysk produced in my opinion the performance of 2021 and left London with 3 of the 4 major belts! If common sense applies we will have a semi final heavyweight encounter in the first half of the year and then by the time the year is out we’ll have all belts aligned.
The cruiserweight division sees 4 champions who are all looking at very different landscapes. IBF Supremo Marius Briedis seems more intent on showing his creative side with raps, memes and tattoos to lure Jake Paul into a fight! Lawrence Okolie is desperately trying to get another champ in the ring before he outgrows the cruiser weight division and the WBA champion Arsen Goulamirian maybe his best best option after he makes his next defence on the 27th of this month. Ilunga Makabu was seemingly in line for Boxings golden ticket against Canelo Alvarez but that plan seems to have dissipated and he may also turn his attention to Undisputed
Just this week it has been confirmed that current unified champion Artur Beterbiev will match up with WBO kingpin Joe Smith jr in the search for there to be a last man standing at 175! With Canelo looking to face off against Dmitry Bivol also then we could be left with one man at the top of the mountain – A Beterbiev Vs Bivol in Russia or Canelo in Vegas is a mouth watering prospect for us fans
2021 will be remembered as the year Canelo swept aside all comers to earn the write and further rubber stamp himself as one of the greatest Mexican fighters of all time. Callum Smith, Billy Joe Saunders and Caleb Plant were no match for the ginger juggernaut who seemingly is looking to repeat this feat at 175lbs by the time he calls it a day on his career.
Middleweight is another division where there is no one who can take claim to be the man. Jermall Charlo who loves nothing more than a domestic dust up but doesn’t seem to have any interest in fights against fellow champions like Demetrius Andrade who give his fellow American 7 million reason to say yes but the hot headed, lesser talented twin Charlo declined. With Andrade not getting the big fights it is looking like he will step up to 168 and potentially Janibek alimkhanuly waiting in the wings to seize the WBO title. The elder stateman of the division who’s career is coming to an end, Gennady Golovkin is travelling to the land of the rising sun to face off against Ryota Murata to at least leave us with 3 champions but there seems no hopes of a undisputed champ anytime soon at 160
Another division where there is a real desire to see an undisputed champion as we get the rematch between Argentinian Bryan Castano and American Jermall Charlo. If Charlo gets the nod I don’t think it will be very long before he chucks all the belts up in the air but if Castano can do the job (and many thought he did first time around) there could be a undisputed champion at the end of 2022.
Yordenis Ugas pleads to the WBA to allow him to skip his mandatory challenge and get into this Unified title shot with inactive and injury recovering Errol Spence Jr. The truth is that these men are both petrified of getting in the ring with Terrence Crawford and whoever gets the victory in Texas I have no doubt will continue to avoid the Alabama phenomenon so although there should be a straight line to undisputed I wouldn’t hold my breath….
Sunday 26th of Febuary Jack Catterall gets the chance to capture Josh Taylor’s recently captured loot and walk away with all 4 belts! Taylors run to undisputed has not been done the easy way and it is hard to see him taking his foot off the gas and relinquish his hard work easily.
Lightweight is a division where lets be real we should have a undisputed champion but the WBC and their franchise belt has made undisputed disputed! The tattooed emperor George Kombosos Jr with 2 nations in his heart feels he is the man and is demanding his challengers enter his colliseum 8000 miles down under. With the ball in the court of Devin Haney and Vasyl Lomachenko it is a case of the first man to make a deal gets his shot.
Super featherweight and featherweight both have 4 seperate champions with no real sign of Undisputed in sight! Superstar in the making Shakur Stevenson will be looking to at least unify when he faces Oscar Valdez in April whilst Chris Colbert chases his shot. Potentially Kenichi Ogawa is being set up for a brit in Zelfa Barrett or Joe Cordina as they make a crack at the 130crowns. At featherweight the long hostage holding Gary Russell jr has thankfully being disposed of his crown by Mark Magasyo who is now being targeted by the other divisons bandit Leo Santa Cruz. I can see the winners of Mick Conlan and Leigh Wood facing either Kiko Martinez or Josh Warrington to clean up this division.
Super Bantamweight there is a perfectly balanced and belter of a fight with Stephen Coolboy Fulton and MJ Akhmadaliev as the 2 unified kins that need to be paried together like a burger and a bun to crown a king at 126
The widely regarded top 5 pound for pounder Naoya Inoue although considered as the best fighter at 118lbs will be looking to make himself undisputed against Joel Riel Casimero once he gets through his mandatory in Paul Butler (Yes Butler can win but will need to roll back many years to do so!). We all now the gentleman and never aging Nonito Donaire is very much up for a rematch with his Japanese friend and rival as soon as possible
Below Bantamweight the remaining 4 divisions have 4 champions but with some mega talented fighters such as Chocolatito, Juan Estrada, Julio Martinez, Sunny Edwards, Jesse Rodriguez and Kazuto Ioka all capable of going up and down in weight we may not get undisputed but could see some absolute fantastic battle royals with the unheralded smaller men.
In the 4 belt Era there have been 6 Undisputed champion (Womens divisions not included)
1. Bernard Hopkins unified all four middleweight titles in September 2004.
2. Jermain Taylor won all four middleweight titles from Hopkins in July 2005.
3. Terence Crawford unified all four light welterweight titles in August 2017.
4. Oleksandr Usyk unified all four cruiserweight titles in the inaugural World Boxing Super Series tournament in July 2018.
5. Josh Taylor unified all four light welterweight titles in May 2021.
6. Canelo Álvarez unified all four super middleweight titles in November 2021.
With two undisputed champions in 2021 there has been a push from fans and promoters to demand more of these fights. Great fighters such as Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather Jr, Roy Jones Jr and Manny Pacquiao were unable to get the job done and fortunate men like Jermain Taylor were able to take 4 belts in one swoop so it can be a case of being in the right place at the right time… With 9 of the 17 traditional divisions having a undisputed champion then 2022 could truly be the year of the Undisputed.
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