Super Middleweight World/Lineal Champions (168lbs)
Further to the WBA deciding to recognise the weight division, the contest between the IBF champion, Chong-Pal Park, and Jesus Gallardo (18 wins and one defeat), a southpaw, should be seen as involving the lineal title. Only the second man to have contested the 168lbs title which began in March 1984, Park had been the inaugural IBF champion, beating Murray Sutherland, Roy Gumbs, Vinnie Curto (2), Lindell Holmes (2), Marvin Mack, Doug Sam and Emmanuel Otti prior to meeting Gallardo. With 44 wins, one draw, three defeats and a technical draw on his tab, Park had been the OPBF champion at middle and light heavy.
Chong-Pal Park (6/12/1987 w rsc 2 Jesus Gallardo – 23/5/1988)
Having successfully defended against Polly Pasiron, Park’s second lineal title defence would be against Fulgencio Obelmejias, a solid all-rounder, who had twice lost to Marvin Hagler in world title attempts at middleweight. Having beaten Park back in 1981, he also had victories over Rudy Robles, Willie Warren, Elisha Obed, Norberto Cabrera, Jeff Lampkin, Jerry Celestine and Chris Reid, and with a record of 48 (39 inside the distance) wins and four defeats he was a threat.
Fulgencio Obelmejias (23/5/1988 w pts 12 Chong Pal Park – 28/5/1989)
Obelmejias’ first lineal title defence would be against In-Chul Baek, a man who had been turned back by Julian Jackson in a battle for the WBA junior middleweight title in 1987, but had continued his winning ways since, defeating Park in what was effectively an eliminator. With a record of 44 wins and two losses, he had beaten Sean Mannion, Fred Hutchings and Troy Waters, and with 40 of his victims being finished off inside the distance it was clear that he had a puncher’s chance.
In-Chul Baek (28/5/1989 w rsc 11 Fulgencio Obelmejias – 30/3/1990)
Baek’s third lineal title defence, having already turned back Ron Essett and Yoshiaki Tajima, would be against Christophe Tiozzo, the former undefeated EBU middleweight champion. A bronze medallist at the 1984 Olympic Games, he was unbeaten in 25 contests and had defeated James Kinchen and Frank Minton in recent bouts. Having 17 inside-the-distance wins to his name showed that he was no mean puncher, and with a strong jab to match he had the tools to reach the top.
Christophe Tiozzo (30/3/1990 w rsc 6 In-Chul Baek – 5/4/1991)
Victor Cordoba, a southpaw with a record comprising 17 wins, three draws and two defeats, would be the third lineal title challenger for Tiozzo, who had earlier turned back Paul Whittaker and Dan Morgan. Rated fifth by The Ring magazine, Cordoba was both heavy handed and accurate, and had overcome a poor start to his pro career when suffering a kayo defeat and three draws in his first four contests.
Victor Cordoba (5/4/1991 w rsc 9 Christophe Tiozzo – 12/9/1992)
Michael Nunn, the former IBF middleweight champion, would be Cordoba’s second lineal title challenger following a vain attempt by Vincenzo Nardiello. Another southpaw, Nunn had beaten Randall Yonker since moving up, and in 38 contests had only suffered one defeat when losing his IBF title to James Toney. An excellent box-fighter, his jab being his best weapon, Nunn had beaten Alex Ramos, Curtis Parker, Frank Tate, Juan Domingo Roldan, Sumbu Kalambay, Iran Barkley, Marlon Starling and Donald Curry.
Michael Nunn (12/9/1992 w pts 12 Victor Cordoba – 26/2/1994)
The unrated Steve Little, a man with 13 defeats and two draws in a 36-fight record would be Nunn’s fifth lineal title challenger, Cordoba, Dan Morgan, Crawford Ashley and Merqui Sosa all failing to unseat the champion. Not only that, but Little had been out of action since December 1992. On the plus side, however, he had beaten Glenn Wolfe, Pipino Cuevas, David Braxton and Ismael Negron, and as Nunn’s former sparring partner he knew more about the champion than most.
Steve Little (26/2/1994 w pts 12 Michael Nunn – 12/8/1994)
Little’s first lineal title challenger would be Frankie Liles, a clever, hard-punching southpaw who had participated in 26 contests, winning 24, losing once and being involved in a no contest. Having been a top amateur, Liles had fought his way to number six in the ratings and beaten Rollin Williams and Merqui Sosa along the way.
Frankie Liles (12/8/1994 w pts 12 Steve Little – 12/6/1999)
Following wins over Michael Nunn, Frederic Seillier, Mauricio Amaral, Tim Littles, Segundo Mercado, Jaffa Ballogou and Andrey Shkalikov, the eighth lineal title challenger for Liles would be Byron Mitchell, who was unbeaten after 19 contests but had yet to meet anyone of note. A national Golden Gloves champion in 1996, Mitchell turned pro the same year and had somehow got to number one in the WBA ratings despite being unranked by The Ring magazine. Nicknamed ‘The Slammer from Bama’, he could certainly punch as could be witnessed by the fact that only four of his victims had heard the final bell.
Byron Mitchell (12/6/1999 w rsc 11 Frankie Liles – 8/4/2000)
Mitchell’s second lineal title defence would be Bruno Girard, a former undefeated European champion who had won 36 and drawn once in 40 contests since turning pro in 1991. A clever boxer with fast hands, the unranked Girard had recently beaten Andrey Shkalikov and was ready to be tested. He had also drawn with Mitchell last time out in the latter's first defence.
Bruno Girard (8/4/2000 w pts 12 Byron Mitchell – 3/3/2001)
Girard forfeited the WBA version of the title on 3 March 2001 after refusing a title rematch against Manny Siaca following their drawn contest. Having problems with the weight, Girard then moved up to the light heavyweight division and vacated the lineal title. The next time that the lineal title was on the line, came when Sven Ottke, the IBF champion, met the WBA’s Byron Mitchell in a unification contest. Mitchell, who had 25 wins, one draw and one defeat on his tab, had regained the WBA title he had lost to Bruno Girard when beating Manny Siaca. He then defended it against the same man and Julio Cesar Green before coming up against Ottke. A former two-time European amateur champion, and a man who was unbeaten as a pro with 29 wins, Ottke had won the IBF title when beating Charles Brewer on 24 October 1998, going on to make successful defences against Giovanni Nardiello, Gabriel Hernandez, Thomas Tate (2), Glen Johnson, Lloyd Bryan, Tocker Pudwill, Brewer, Silvio Branco, James Crawford, Ali Ennebati, James Butler, Anthony Mundine, Rick Thornberry, Joe Gatti and Rudy Markussen.
Sven Ottke (15/3/2003 Byron Mitchell – 27/3/2004)
Ottke announced his retirement from boxing immediately following the Armand Krajnc lineal title win, which followed successful defences against David Starie, Mads Larsen, Robin Reid. Almost two years later, when a match was made between the top-ranked WBO champion, Joe Calzaghe, and the IBF’s Jeff Lacy, rated at number three, the contest would carry a lineal dividend. Lacy had won the vacant IBF title when beating Syd Vanderpool and had successfully defended it against Omar Sheika, Rubin Williams, Robin Reid and Scott Pemberton. Both men were unbeaten, Lacy on 21 and Calzaghe on 40, but while Lacy was seen as a good puncher the southpaw Calzaghe could not only hit hard but was a clever all-rounder. Having won the WBO title when outpointing Chris Eubank on 11 October 1997, Calzaghe had made successful defences against Branko Sobot, Juan Carlos Gimenez, Reid, Rick Thornberry, David Starie, Omar Sheika, Richie Woodhall, Mario Veit (2), Will McIntyre, Charles Brewer, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Tocker Pudwill, Byron Mitchell, Mger Mkrtchyan, Kabary Salam and Evan Ashira.
Joe Calzaghe (4/3/2006 w pts 12 Jeff Lacy – 26/9/2008)
On 28 June 2008, after three successful lineal title defences, against Sakio Bika, Peter Manfredo and Mikkel Kessler, Calzaghe relinquished the WBC title to pursue a fight at the light heavyweight limit against Roy Jones. Once a match against Jones at 175lbs was signed and sealed, Calzaghe relinquished his WBO, WBA and lineal titles on 26 September 2008 as he felt that regardless of his forthcoming contest he would find it too difficult to make 168lbs again. The lineal title was once again up for grabs when Carl Froch, the WBC champion, came together with Andre Ward, the WBA title holder, in the final of ‘The Super Six Tournament. The big-punching Froch, who had lost just once in 29 contests, was a two-time WBC champion, having beaten Jean Pascal for the vacant title before making successful defences against Jermain Taylor and Andre Dirrell. He had then lost his title and unbeaten record when outpointed by Mikkel Kessler, but had come back to regain it when beating Arthur Abraham and Glen Johnson prior to meeting Ward in the final of the ‘Super Six’. A former Olympic champion, Ward, who was unbeaten after 24 contests, had won the WBA title when defeating Kessler and had made successful defences against Allan Green, Sakio Bika and Abraham before the dust-up with Froch. Ward was an extremely clever box-fighter who could go either way and was difficult to hit flush.
Andre Ward (17/12/2011 w pts 12 Carl Froch – 19/2/2015)
Due to Ward’s long-term shoulder injury, the WBC vacated the title on 11 April 2013, whilst the lineal title was left vacant on 19 February 2015 after just a single defence against Chad Dawson due to him not meeting a top-five man for over two years. Finally, on 12 November 2015, Ward decided to move up a weight division. The next time the lineal title would become available was when the top-ranked Arthur Abraham defended his WBO belt against Robert Stieglitz, who had 47 wins and a draw in 52 outings and was rated at number four. A former undefeated IBF middleweight champion, Abraham, who had 42 wins and four losses on his tab, would be coming to the ring as a two-time WBO title holder at super middle. His opponent, Stieglitz, had first won the WBO title when defeating Karoly Balzsay, and had successfully defended it against Ruben Eduardo Acosta, Eduard Gutknecht, Enrique Ornelas, Khoren Gevor, Henry Weber and Nader Hamdan before losing his belt to Abraham, who beat Mehdi Bouadla before Stieglitz regained his crown. Although Stieglitz went on to make successful defences against Yuzo Kiyota and Isaac Ekpo, he again lost the title to Abraham. Further to Abraham turning back Nikola Sjekloca and Paul Smith twice, this would be the fourth meeting between the pair.
Arthur Abraham (18/7/2015 w rsc 6 Robert Stieglitz – 9/4/2016)
Abraham’s next defence of the WBO and lineal titles further to his win over Martin Murray, would be against the fourth-ranked Gilberto Ramirez, who was unbeaten. In 33 contests, 24 of his wins had come inside the distance. A hard-hitting southpaw, Ramirez had beaten Rogelio Medina, Jaime Barboza, Giovanni Lorenzo and Fulgencio Zuniga, and was the WBO International champion.
Gilberto Ramirez (9/4/2016 w pts 12 Arthur Abraham – 28/9/2018)
While still recognised as the WBO champion, Ramirez forfeited the lineal title after four defences on 28 September for not meeting a top-five opponent for well over two years. In defence of his titles, he had turned back Max Bursak, Jesse Hart, Habib Ahmad and Roamer Alexis Angulo. With Callum Smith, rated at number three, and the top-ranked George Groves meeting to decide the World Boxing Super Series final on 28 September, it was clear that the winner of the fight should be seen as the new lineal champion and not be held back by Ramirez. After two defeats at the hands of Carl Froch and a loss to Badou Jack, Groves had come back strongly to win the vacant WBA title when beating Fedor Chudinov and making successful defences against Jamie Cox and Chris Eubank Jnr. While Groves had recorded 28 wins in 31 fights, Smith had a perfect 24-fight record, 17 of them coming inside the distance, having beaten Ruben Eduardo Acosta, Nikola Sjekloca, Rocky Fielding, Erik Skoglund and Nieky Holzken.
Callum Smith (28/9/2018 w co 7 George Groves –