Super Middleweight World Champions & Their Championship Fights (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 my version of the 'world' 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.
6 December 1987. Chong-Pal Park w rsc 2 (12) Jesus Gallardo
Venue: Sajik Gym, Seoul, South Korea. Recognition: IBF/WBA. Referee: Carlos Berrocal.
Fight Summary: In a contest that involved the first WBA championship fight at the weight, Park (168) came out firing in the opening round only to be floored by a southpaw left. Back on his feet Park immediately retaliated when putting Gallardo (165) down twice before the first round was over, and after just 27 seconds of the second had elapsed the contest was over when the referee held the latter up following a cracking straight right that had threatened to put him down. According to the IBF Ratings, Park relinquished their version of the title at the end of January 1988.
1 March 1988. Chong-Pal Park w co 5 (12) Polly Pasireron
Venue: Indoor Gym, Chungju, South Korea. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Isidro Rodriguez.
Fight Summary: Making his first defence, Park (167½) kept on top of the relatively inexperienced Pasireron (168) right from the start before getting down to business in the fifth round. By now dominating the exchanges, Park eventually sent the Indonesian down to be counted out on the 2.25 mark following a barrage of head and body shots.
Park’s next 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.
23 May 1988. Fulgencio Obelmejias w pts 12 Chong-Pal Park
Venue: Waikiki Arena, Suanbo, South Korea. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Sean Curtin.
Scorecards: 114-110, 115-110, 117-109.
Fight Summary: Using his extra reach to good effect and scoring well Obelmejias (166) made life difficult for Park (167), who concentrated on the body and was in contention up until the seventh. In that session Park was badly cut over the right eye by an accidental butt, losing ground thereafter as Obelmejias stepped up the pace. The recess after the eighth saw Park’s eye damage being inspected by the ringside doctor, but having been allowed to carry on he was sent down by a heavy left hook. From there on it was all one-way traffic, with Park being knocked down twice more before bravely staying the course to lose heavily on points.
Obelmejias’ first 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.
28 May 1989. In-Chul Baek w rsc 11 Fulgencio Obelmejias
Venue: Hongkuk Gym, Seoul, South Korea. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Bernie Soto.
Fight Summary: Starting well by using his reach advantage to fire in left jabs the champion kept it tight until the eighth round when, after trading punches, Baek (167½) turned it around with a couple of hooks that floored Obelmejias (167). Although Obelmejias survived he was badly wobbled in both the ninth and tenth sessions, repeatedly holding on in order to survive. The end was now in sight, and in the 11th Obelmejias was down from a flurry of blows before getting up and immediately being sent crashing flat on his back from an explosive right hand. There was no way he was going to be able to recover from that, the referee calling the fight off there and then. The official time of the stoppage was given as 2.21.
8 October 1989. In-Chul Baek w co 11 Ron Essett
Venue: Inter-Continental Hotel, Seoul, South Korea. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Julio Alvarado.
Fight Summary: Baek (167½) showed plenty of aggression, but by the third round Essett (167½) had warmed to the task before coming with a big attack in the fifth when penetrating the champion’s guard throughout the session. However, the sixth saw Baek starting to turn things around as left and right hooks put Essett under pressure, and after concentrating on the body thereafter by the end of the tenth the latter was fast fading. Coming out quickly in the 11th, when Baek picked up where he had left off in the previous session a flurry of clubbing blows to the head sent Essett down to be counted out after 29 seconds.
13 January 1990. In-Chul Baek w rtd 7 Yoshiaki Tajima
Venue: Hyundai Indoor Gym, Seoul, South Korea. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Pinit Prayadsab.
Fight Summary: Proving far too strong for Tajima (166½) the champion put him down in the second round with a countering right uppercut before gradually working him over with punches that came from all angles. By the fourth the Japanese southpaw was carrying a swollen right eye, testament to the pounding he had received, and after Baek (168) had continued to batter him right through to the end of the seventh he was retired during the interval.
Baek’s next defence 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.
30 March 1990. Christophe Tiozzo w rsc 6 In-Chul Baek
Venue: Gerland Sports Palace, Lyon, France. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Carlos Berrocal.
Fight Summary: Giving the best performance of his career Tiozzo (166½) was too good for the champion, who was outscored right from the start as the left jab found its mark unerringly. Dropped by a right hook in the second, Baek was then given a standing count in the third after being caught again. Although the tough Baek (168) tried to fight back in the fourth and fifth he was still shipping too much punishment, and having been allowed to carry on with a cut left eye once it had closed completely the referee stopped the fight with six seconds left of the sixth.
20 July 1990. Christophe Tiozzo w rsc 8 Paul Whittaker
Venue: The Bullring, Arles, France. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Julio Alvarado.
Fight Summary: On top right from the beginning the champion was soon putting lefts and rights into the face of Whittaker (167¾), having far too much skill for the American, and by the third round he was looking to counter with solid rights as the latter came in to the attack. Although Whittaker was getting closer by the sixth, unable to pin Tiozzo (168) down, he was still being outpunched and losing ground. Finally, Tiozzo made his punches count in the eighth when sending Whittaker down from two solid left hooks, and when the latter was back on his feet and being blitzed from both hands the referee called it off with 22 seconds of the session remaining.
23 November 1990. Christophe Tiozzo w rsc 2 Dan Morgan
Venue: Cergy Hall, Cergy-Pontoise, Val d'Oise, France. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Franco Priami.
Fight Summary: Although dominating Morgan (168) with accurate left jabs and right crosses the champion picked up a bad cut over the nose and left eye before the opening session came to a close. Roaring out for the second, both hands blazing away, Tiozzo (167¾) soon had Morgan in difficulty before a cracking left hook put the American down. Having got up at ‘eight’, Morgan was blasted by lefts and rights to head and body before the referee stopped the contest on the 2.38 mark.
Victor Cordoba, a southpaw with a record comprising 17 wins, three draws and two defeats, would be the next challenger for Tiozzo. 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.
5 April 1991. Victor Cordoba w rsc 9 Christophe Tiozzo
Venue: Sports Palace, Marseille, France. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Enzo Montero.
Fight Summary: Even though both men got off to a good start, as early as the opening round the champion had felt the weight of Cordoba’s punches, saying afterwards that he had boxed on in a fog from there onwards. But Tiozzo (167¾), not a champion for nothing, continued to take the fight to the taller Cordoba (167¼) despite being hurt by solid southpaw lefts on the way in. The sixth was the best of the fight as both men gave it everything, but by the eighth Tiozzo was weakening. That became clear when he was rocked by a right-left at the end of the session. Realising he had Tiozzo in real trouble Cordoba came out strongly in the ninth, and after landing hooks from both hands and dropping the Frenchman with a heavy left the referee stepped in. The finish was timed at 53 seconds.
13 December 1991. Victor Cordoba w rsc 11 Vincenzo Nardiello
Venue: Bercy Sports Palace, Paris, France. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Stan Christodoulou.
Fight Summary: In a battle of southpaws the champion started the better of the two when dropping Nardiello (165½) with a straight left in the second round, but by the sixth it was the Italian who was ignoring the jab to apply steady pressure. While Cordoba (168) looked for one big left to finish the fight it was the aggressive Nardiello who had boxed his way into the lead by the end of the tenth. The previous two sessions had seen Cordoba getting back into the fight, and in the 11th he soon had Nardiello in trouble when smashing in a heavy left. Never properly recovering from that punch, after Nardiello had been dropped with a similar blow the referee brought the fight to a halt on the 1.44 mark without even bothering to take up the count.
Michael Nunn, the former IBF middleweight champion, would be Cordoba’s next challenger. 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.
12 September 1992. Michael Nunn w pts 12 Victor Cordoba
Venue: Thomas & Mack Centre, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Mills Lane.
Scorecards: 114-112, 114-113, 112-114.
Fight Summary: Making his first defence Cordoba (168) appeared unlucky to have lost to fellow southpaw Nunn (168), especially after hurting the latter throughout the contest and knocking him down in the tenth with a solid left to the head. Several times earlier in the contest Nunn looked to be in trouble from body shots, but he continued to fight back even if his punches did lack power. By the ninth Cordoba seemed to be out of steam while Nunn was beginning to put his punches together. In that session, however, Cordoba was deducted a point for a questionable low blow, an action that would ultimately cost him. Thereafter it was Nunn who was the busier, and despite the knockdown he did the better work in the last two sessions as Cordoba slowed. On winning, Nunn became a two-weight world champion.
30 January 1993. Michael Nunn w pts 12 Victor Cordoba
Venue: The Pyramid, Memphis, Tennessee, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Ernesto Magana.
Scorecards: 115-107, 120-106, 117-106.
Fight Summary: After losing unluckily to Nunn (168) last time out Cordoba (168) was expected to come back stronger in many quarters, but having been dropped twice in the second round and then having four points deducted for low blows he was eventually beaten out of sight by his fellow southpaw. Allowed to take a bad beating in the second and constantly fouling, Cordoba should never have made it to the final bell, especially when putting Nunn down four times from low blows and continuing to go low right up to the end.
20 February 1993. Michael Nunn w co 1 Dan Morgan
Venue: Aztec Stadium, Mexico City, Mexico. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Enzo Montero.
Fight Summary: This was a mismatch from the start with Morgan (167¾), lacking the tools to keep the strong southpaw champion away from him, soon in difficulty. After trying to walk through the punches without success Morgan was sent down for ‘eight’ from heavy blows to the head, and upon getting to his feet he was soon in trouble again. Dropped by a cracking left as Nunn (168) went all out for the finish, Morgan was counted out at 2.59 of the opening session in the act of rising.
23 April 1993. Michael Nunn w rsc 6 Crawford Ashley
Venue: The Pyramid, Memphis, Tennessee, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Julio Alvarado.
Fight Summary: Making his third defence inside four months Nunn (167½) ultimately punched too hard for Ashley (163), who for four rounds was in with a chance against the champion. However, by the fifth it was clear that Ashley was beginning to be ground down, especially after sustaining cracked ribs as Nunn concentrated on the body, and he was floored twice in that session before being dropped three more times in the sixth. The finish came with just one second remaining of the sixth after the referee was forced to call the fight off on the WBA’s ‘three knockdowns in a round’ ruling.
18 December 1993. Michael Nunn w pts 12 Merqui Sosa
Venue: Cuauhtemoc Stadium, Puebla, Mexico. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Julio Alvarado.
Scorecards: 116-113, 116-112, 116-112.
Fight Summary: Unable to initially make the weight, and fighting at altitude, the southpaw champion was thought to have a hard fight on his hands against the hard-hitting Sosa (165½). Prior to the contest the Dominican was seen as a danger man but after the opening six rounds, when Sosa got through with body punches, Nunn (168) dominated the action. Docked a point for carrying on after the bell to end the tenth, with Sosa fighting desperately in the last two sessions, swinging wildly with both hands, he was beaten to the punch with sharp jabs and good movement as Nunn fully justified the verdict.
The unrated Steve Little, a man with 13 defeats and two draws in a 36-fight record would be Nunn’s next challenger. 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.
26 February 1994. Steve Little w pts 12 Michael Nunn
Venue: Exhibition Centre, Earls Court, London, England. Recognition: WBA. Referee: John Coyle.
Scorecards: 115-112, 116-114, 113-115.
Fight Summary: In what was a huge surprise, Nunn (167) was on his back after just 30 seconds following a wide left hook to the jaw. Although the squat Little (168) rushed in to finish the job he was unable to do any further damage to the 6’2” Nunn, who tied his man up effectively before getting back to work. However, after the fourth round it was clear that the southpaw champion was taking it far too easy, while Little continued to throw sweeping punches in from both hands without ever looking convincing. Round after round followed with the lethargic Nunn, who had trouble making the weight, unable to up his work-rate while thinking that the decision was his for the taking, only to lose to the unheralded Little who worked that much harder. Most onlookers felt that despite being unimpressive Nunn had won, but two of the judges saw it differently and they were the men that counted.
Little’s first 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.
12 August 1994. Frankie Liles w pts 12 Steve Little
Venue: Villa Lujan Defenders Football Ground, Tucuman, Argentina. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Steve Smoger.
Scorecards: 118-112, 116-114, 118-113.
Fight Summary: In one of the poorest fights ever seen in Argentina, Little (166¾) was well outpointed by Liles (164¾). Scoring with good jabs and right crosses the tall southpaw was always going too well for the champion, who found it difficult to get inside and was consistently wrong-footed. Whatever Little tried he was thwarted, the only real surprise coming when one judge had him just two points down.
17 December 1994. Frankie Liles w pts 12 Michael Nunn
Venue: Ruminahui Coliseum, Quito, Ecuador. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Rafael Ramos.
Scorecards: 114-113, 115-112, 117-111.
Fight Summary: Starting well when staggering Nunn (168) with a southpaw straight left in the first round the champion continued to be busy during the opening six sessions, landing solidly with short right and left hook counters. After Nunn, who worked the body from the third onwards, was docked a point in the fifth for going low he continued to sail close to the wind before Liles (167) got his jab going again in the eighth. In the last three rounds both men did some good work, but it was Liles who impressed the judges the most to take the decision.
27 May 1995. Frankie Liles w rsc 6 Frederic Seillier
Venue: Broward County Convention Centre, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Bill Connors.
Fight Summary: Almost put down in the opening session by the southpaw champion Seillier (167) kept ploughing forward despite taking a battering. Even then it was clear that he had little or no chance of winning. In fact, the only punches that bothered Liles (166¼) were those below the belt, for which Seillier was continually warned. In the fourth round Seillier was stunned on more than one occasion as Liles began to pick up the pace, and in the fifth the Frenchman looked a sorry sight as blood poured from a cut on the left eye. Rarely missing, after Liles crashed in a batch of combination punches a short right to the head floored Seillier. Although the challenger got up and was allowed to continue he was barely able to stand, eating up punch upon punch before the referee finally stopped the one-sided affair with 16 seconds of the sixth remaining.
9 December 1995. Frankie Liles w pts 12 Mauricio Amaral
Venue: Hanns Martin Schleyer Hall, Stuttgart, Germany. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Hubert Earle.
Scorecards: 119-108, 118-110, 118-111.
Fight Summary: Winning virtually every round bar the sixth, despite Amaral (165¾) hammering in rights to the body the champion continued to score well with solid southpaw jabs throughout, barely raising his game. Strong and durable, even if somewhat easy to work out, with Amaral always going to be a hard man to stop the nearest Liles (168) came to achieving that was when he dropped him in the last ten seconds of the fight. Needless to say, the Brazilian was on his feet at the final bell.
8 June 1996. Frankie Liles w rsc 3 Tim Littles
Venue: International Arena, Newcastle, England. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Mitch Halpern.
Fight Summary: With both men going for an early finish it was Littles (167) who came off worse, being dumped heavily by a right-left to the head from the champion after he was set up by a right uppercut that left him dazed on the ropes. When the bell to end the session went a minute early, Littles was so confused that he went to the wrong corner. Taking the fight to Liles (167¼) in the second, Littles hurt his man with a cracking right to the jaw before sending him down with a swinging right to the body that looked to be low. Not scored as a knockdown, Littles, now cut over the left eye, followed it up with blows to the back of the head that put Liles on his knees. This time the referee deducted a point for excessive fouling from Littles, who moments later was smashed down by a right hook and saved by the bell. The third round saw Liles knocked out of the ring from a series of rights to the head and then bundled to the floor. Coming back strongly, Liles put Littles down with a right hook to the jaw before forcing the referee to come to the latter’s aid when he was staggering around with just two seconds of the round remaining.
19 April 1997. Frankie Liles w rsc 5 Segundo Mercado
Venue: Memorial Auditorium, Shreveport, Louisiana, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Terry Woods.
Fight Summary: Fighting a southpaw for the first time, when Mercado (166¾) was put down within 30 seconds by the hard-hitting champion he never looked like coming to terms with the style. With poor balance and much smaller than Liles (168) the Ecuadorian took a terrible beating for the next three rounds, being hammered by lefts and rights without too much response. In the fifth it was obvious that Mercado could not be allowed to carry on much longer, and at 1.37 of the session he was pulled out of the fight by the referee when shipping lefts and rights.
19 July 1997. Frankie Liles w pts 12 Jaffa Ballogou
Venue: The Arena, Nashville, Tennessee, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Anthony Bryant.
Scorecards: 117-111, 118-109, 115-110.
Fight Summary: In a match between southpaws the champion had a fair amount of trouble with the big-punching Ballogou (167½), both men being docked points as the contest degenerated. Ballogou, the biggest offender, really should have been disqualified for countless transgressions, but all the while he was in the ring he remained dangerous despite being outboxed by Liles (166½). After being pounded for much of the ninth, Ballogou put Liles down with a wide right to the jaw, and in the 12th the latter was in a bad way following a similar punch that sent him staggering around the ring and slipping down with 40 seconds on the clock. However, Liles hung on for the win.
3 April 1998. Frankie Liles w pts 12 Andrey Shkalikov
Venue: Ruben Rodriguez Coliseum, Bayamon, Puerto Rico. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Waldemar Schmidt.
Scorecards: 115-114, 115-112, 118-110.
Fight Summary: Looking a poor imitation of a champion, having been out of the ring since the previous July, Liles (168) was almost dropped by a long right in the third and struggled to find any rhythm. Cut on the forehead after a head clash in the second round Shkalikov (168) rarely looked like winning, remaining almost pedestrian for much of the time. However, the southpaw champion seemed unable to take advantage, even being deducted a point for throwing the Russian to the floor in the ninth. After losing the tenth due to lack of work, Liles finally got his jab working to take the last two sessions despite being almost doubled over by a body shot in the 11th. Regardless of Liles' poor showing he rarely looked like losing.
Next man up 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.
12 June 1999. Byron Mitchell w rsc 11 Frankie Liles
Venue: Shriners Auditorium, Wilmington, Massachusetts, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Gerry Leone.
Fight Summary: Back in action after a torn rotator cuff injury to his right shoulder, the southpaw champion looked as though he would suffer an early defeat when he was dropped by a sweeping right uppercut to the temple in the second round. However, on getting up at ‘eight’ Liles (168) began to outbox and hurt Mitchell (168), who was unable to respond in kind until late in the ninth when lashing in heavy blows of his own. Regardless of that, with Liles sticking to his boxing, by the end of the tenth he had won all but one session, the second, on the judges’ cards. Finally, in the 11th, Mitchell found the punches that he had been looking for. After forcing two counts he blasted Liles to the floor with a big right to the chin, and when the latter got to his feet, his right eye bleeding badly, the referee called the fight off at 1.17 under the ‘three knockdowns in a round’ ruling.
11 December 1999. Byron Mitchell drew 12 Bruno Girard
Venue: Grand Hotel, Tunica, Mississippi, USA. Recognition: WBA. Referee: Elmo Adolph.
Scorecards: 116-114, 113-115, 114-114.
Fight Summary: After recovering from a bad start Girard (166) had found his rhythm by the fourth round, and left-right combinations began to worry the champion who was continually being forced back. By the tenth it was anybody’s fight, but when Mitchell (167) began to get through with hard rights the last two sessions saw both men going toe-to-toe in an effort to swing the fight in their direction. With Girard, his nose pouring blood from the second onwards, showing great resolve he signed for a return match shortly afterwards.
Mitchell’s first challenger 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.
8 April 2000. Bruno Girard w pts 12 Byron Mitchell
Venue: Bercy Sports Palace, Paris, France. Recognition: WBA. Referee: John Coyle.
Scorecards: 117-114, 116-113, 116-113.
Fight Summary: Making good his return with Mitchell (167½) on home ground, Girard (168) was always competitive before coming on strongly to take three of the last four rounds as the champion tired. There was no doubt that Mitchell was the harder puncher of the two, boxing well behind the jab in the early stages, but had he paced himself better it could have been a different story.
16 September 2000. Bruno Girard w pts 12 Manny Siaca
Venue: Circus Tent, Chateauroux, France. Recognition: WBA. Referee: John Coyle.
Scorecards: 117-111, 116-113, 113-117.
Fight Summary: It was the champion’s aggression and work-rate against the classier boxing skills of Siaca (167½). Although Siaca scored well with left jabs, especially in the middle rounds, Girard (167½) barely gave him time to think as he bored in looking to get inside. The last two sessions were somewhat frenetic, and while Siaca won them on the cards he failed to make up the leeway despite one of the judges having him the winner by seven rounds to three with two even.
Girard forfeited the WBA version of the title on 3 March 2001 after refusing a rematch against Siaca due to contractual problems, before moving up to the light heavyweight division. The next time that my version of the 'world' 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.
15 March 2003. Sven Ottke w pts 12 Byron Mitchell
Venue: Max Schmeling Arena, Berlin, Germany. Recognition: IBF/WBA. Referee: Stan Christodoulou.
Scorecards: 115-113, 116-114, 112-116.
Fight Summary: In a fight to unify the IBF and WBA titles, and thus involving my version of the 'world' title, it was Ottke (167) who ultimately came out on top after surviving a tough last round when he was shaken up by heavy left and rights as Mitchell (167¼) tried to turn the fight his way. Ottke, who started as he meant to carry on, jumping in with jabs and straight rights before moving away and denying Mitchell openings, always appeared to be one step ahead. With four rounds to go Mitchell moved in, looking to land heavily, but was thwarted more often than not as Ottke, now cut by the side of the left eye, made him miss again and again. At the final bell most good judges had Ottke further ahead than the officials, and how one of them had the American in front beggared belief.
14 June 2003. Sven Ottke w pts 12 David Starie
Venue: Borderland Hall, Magdeburg, Germany. Recognition: IBF/WBA. Referee: Randy Neumann.
Scorecards: 116-112, 116-113, 115-113.
Fight Summary: Even though the decision was unanimous in the champion’s favour had Starie (168) upped his work-rate, especially in the middle rounds, the result could have been very different. Once again Ottke (167½) boxed in a conservative fashion, doing what he had to in order to keep ahead when picking his punches and using the left hook well on the inside. The last three sessions saw Starie finally take more risks, outpunching Ottke three to one in the 11th, but the German continued to work on the outside as if he knew the fight was already his.
6 September 2003. Sven Ottke w pts 12 Mads Larsen
Venue: Fair Hall, Erfurt, Germany. Recognition: IBF/WBA. Referee: Pete Podgorski.
Scorecards: 115-113, 115-113, 114-114.
Fight Summary: Facing a southpaw for the first time the champion had some difficulty in fathoming Larsen (167½) out initially, but with good footwork and classy countering, especially with rights to the body, he began to get on top. Although it had been expected that the hard-hitting Larsen would show more in the middle sessions he continued to miss wildly at times, there being only one winner at the final bell. Once again Ottke (168) had proved to be the master of just doing enough to win.
13 December 2003. Sven Ottke w pts 12 Robin Reid
Venue: The Arena, Nuremburg, Germany. Recognition: IBF/WBA. Referee: Roger Tilleman.
Scorecards: 115-112, 115-112, 117-111.
Fight Summary: Yet again Ottke (168) successfully defended his titles on home turf when all seemed lost, this time against the unlucky Reid (168). With the referee taking centre stage virtually throughout, warning Reid continuously and ignoring what seemed to be a perfectly good knockdown when Ottke was floored in the sixth, it turned into an untidy affair. The sixth also saw Reid deducted a point for an accidental head butt after Ottke had theatrically dropped to the ground. From the seventh through to the 12th the action became more and more untidy, which suited Ottke more than it did Reid, and the German just about got his nose in front.
27 March 2004. Sven Ottke w pts 12 Armand Krajnc
Venue: Borderland Hall, Magdeburg, Germany. Recognition: IBF/WBA. Referee: Armando Garcia.
Scorecards: 120-108, 120-110, 119-109.
Fight Summary: Putting on his best performance for some time the champion, Ottke (167½), was soon threading in the jabs to head and body, with Krajnc (166½) having great difficulty in keeping up with his speed. Although Krajnc had little joy, being outboxed round after round, he gave it a real go over the final three sessions to no avail.
Ottke announced his retirement from boxing immediately following the Krajnc contest. 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 involve my version of the 'world' title. 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.
4 March 2006. Joe Calzaghe w pts 12 Jeff Lacy
Venue: MEN Arena, Manchester, England. Recognition: IBF/WBO/The Ring. Referee: Raul Caiz.
Scorecards: 119-105, 119-107, 119-107.
Fight Summary: In what was a unification contest between Calzaghe (168), the WBO representative, and the IBF champion, Lacy (167), the former put in one of his best ever displays to outclass the American danger man. Pounded for round after round by southpaw lefts and rights and cut over both eyes, Lacy showed his mettle as he continually looked for a winning blow. Calzaghe, who was deducted a point in the 11th for an illegal punch, had been at his best, ripping in speedy punches from all angles, and in the final session he finally had Lacy down. Getting up at 'four' Lacy looked to have a breather until almost being taken out by a clutch of uppercuts and being saved by the bell.
14 October 2006. Joe Calzaghe w pts 12 Sakio Bika
Venue: MEN Arena, Manchester, England. Recognition: IBF/WBO/The Ring. Referee: Mickey Vann.
Scorecards: 116-111, 117-110, 117-110.
Fight Summary: With his championship belts on the line it was not one of Calzaghe’s better nights, but he still boxed well enough to win clearly over the tough Bika (168). In the fifth round Bika had a point deducted for repeated head butts, and at the end of the contest Calzaghe (168) finished with a vertical cut over the left eye and a badly swollen jaw, testament to the former's rough, tough tactics. Boxing well on the counter Bika had occasionally hurt his southpaw opponent, especially in the ninth, but the Welshman continually threw more punches than his rival, something that was reflected on the scorecards.
On 27 November, it was reported that Calzaghe had relinquished the IBF version of the title in order to defend his WBO crown against Peter Manfredo rather than face Robert Stieglitz, the IBF’s mandatory challenger.
7 April 2007. Joe Calzaghe w rsc 3 Peter Manfredo
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales. Recognition: WBO/The Ring. Referee: Terry O’Connor.
Fight Summary: Far below the level to be fighting for a world title, especially when up against an unbeaten champion, the game Manfredo (166) was stopped at 1.30 of the third round, a decision that was thought by many to be premature. Regardless of that, Manfredo was on his way to a beating and was not fighting back against the fast-handed southpaw when the decision was made. After the contest Calzaghe (167¾) stated that he had fractured his left hand again, which probably explained why he looked for the early win and went downstairs more often than not.
3 November 2007. Joe Calzaghe w pts 12 Mikkel Kessler
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales. Recognition: WBA/WBC/WBO/The Ring. Referee: Michael Ortega.
Scorecards: 117-111, 116-112, 116-112.
Fight Summary: With Kessler (168) putting his WBA and WBC titles on the line while Calzaghe (167½) had his WBO crown, it was the latter who came home by a unanimous decision. Although Kessler fought at the top of his game he could never close down the Welsh southpaw, who continually went up the gears and took over completely in the second half when winning five of the last six rounds. Always dangerous, Kessler proved to be a very good fighter, but in Calzaghe he was up against a great one.
On 28 June 2008, 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 and WBA titles on 26 September 2008 as he felt that regardless of his forthcoming contest he would find it too difficult to make 168lbs again. My version of the 'world' 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.
17 December 2011. Andre Ward w pts 12 Carl Froch
Venue: Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Recognition: WBA/WBC/The Ring. Referee: Steve Smoger.
Scorecards: 115-113, 115-113, 118-110.
Fight Summary: In unifying two belts, the top-ranked Ward (168), the WBA title holder, showed genuine ringcraft when beating the WBC’s Froch (167½), his ability to get off punches and move out of range showed him to be one of the best in a long line of champions. Rated at number two, Froch was never out of the fight but was unable to find any rhythm, and in order to land he was often prepared to throw many wasteful punches. In the last two sessions as Ward tired Froch gave it everything he had, but was unable to find the finishing blow he so desperately required that would turn certain defeat into victory.
8 September 2012. Andre Ward w rsc 10 Chad Dawson
Venue: Oracle Arena, Oakland, California, USA. Recognition: WBA/WBC/The Ring. Referee: Steve Smoger.
Fight Summary: Although he started the better of the pair, his extra height and reach to the fore, Dawson (168) soon found himself on the receiving end, being dropped in the third after taking a solid right to the body followed by a left hook to the head. There would be no let-up for Dawson in the fourth, and he was put down again after Ward (168) had lined him up with another left hook to the head. Despite the champion being just too fast for Dawson, who had come down from light heavy, the latter gamely plugged away, always looking for a punch that would get him out of trouble. However, after going down on one knee following a thumping five-punch combination in the tenth, the referee stopped the contest at 2.45 of the session when it was clear that Dawson had little left.
Due to Ward’s long-term shoulder injury, the WBC vacated the title on 11 April 2013, whilst my version of the 'world' title was left vacant on 19 February 2015 due to him not making a defence against a top-five man for over two years. Finally, on 12 November 2015, Ward decided to move up a weight division. The next time it 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.
18 July 2015. Arthur Abraham w rsc 6 Robert Stieglitz
Venue: Gerry Weber Stadium, Halle, Germany. Recognition: WBO. Referee: Earle Brown.
Fight Summary: Despite suffering a broken jaw early on the champion made all the running against Stieglitz (167¼), finding the latter with heavy rights and not allowing him room to work. Having gone down in the fourth from what seemed to be more of a slip than a punch as Abraham (167½) moved in aggressively, in the sixth Stieglitz eventually went to the floor after being struck on the temple following several combinations. With Stieglitz's corner asking for a stoppage the referee called the action off at 1.16 of the session.
21 November 2015. Arthur Abraham w pts 12 Martin Murray
Venue: TUI Arena, Hannover, Germany. Recognition: WBO. Referee: Benjy Esteves Jnr.
Scorecards: 116-111, 115-112, 112-115.
Fight Summary: Hoping for fourth time lucky, having lost three times in world title bouts, Murray (166¼) came up short again despite giving it his best shot. Murray had started well when keeping Abraham (168) on the ropes while firing in lefts and rights, but at the finish it appeared that Abraham's short bursts of punches in each round had impressed two of the judges more than the Englishman's all-round work. Murray also delivered the punch of the night, a cracking right to the head that hurt Abraham in the eighth before he was deducted a point in the 11th for use of the shoulder.
Abraham’s next defence of the WBO title would be against the fourth-ranked Gilberto Ramirez, who was unbeaten in 33 contests, 24 of his wins coming 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.
9 April 2016. Gilberto Ramirez w pts 12 Arthur Abraham
Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Recognition: WBO. Referee: Kenny Bayless.
Scorecards: 120-108, 120-108, 120-108.
Fight Summary: Making a fast start against Abraham (168), a man known for taking his time to get going, the southpaw challenger was soon picking up points with a sound jab and follow-up punches. Normally, Abraham catches up with opponents, but this time round he found Ramirez (168) just too fast and accurate for him. There were early warning signs that Ramirez could punch hard as well as box, and as much as the 36-year-old Abraham tried he could not get to grips with Mexican. With it going Ramirez's way for round after round it came as no surprise when the shut-out points tally in his favour on all three cards was announced.
22 April 2017. Gilberto Ramirez w pts 12 Max Bursak
Venue: SubHub Centre, Carson, California, USA. Recognition: WBO. Referee: Tom Taylor.
Scorecards: 120-106, 120-106, 120-106.
Fight Summary: Returning after a long time away from the ring due an injury to his right hand, the southpaw champion had a relatively easy night against Bursak (167½) when winning every round. To add to his woes, Bursak had two points deducted for excessive holding, in the fifth and 11th. The hard-hitting Ramirez (167¾) , who came to the ring with an unbeaten record of 34 (24 of them ending inside the distance), used his height and reach advantages to stay on the outside, landing heavily at times, while Bursak rarely threw more than one punch at a time.
22 September 2017. Gilberto Ramirez w pts 12 Jesse Hart
Venue: Convention Centre, Tucson, Arizona, USA. Recognition: WBO. Referee: Mike Ortega.
Scorecards: 115-112, 115-112, 114-113.
Fight Summary: In a battle between unbeaten fighters, the southpaw champion put the title up for grabs against the lanky Hart (167½) who, although starting confidently, was badly hurt in the second round when dropped by a solid one-two. Getting up and fighting back with both hands, while taking heavy blows himself, Hart was landing terrific shots to the head of Ramirez (167¾) at the same time. There was never that much between them, and despite giving it everything he had in the last two sessions, especially when landing with cracking right uppercuts on the inside, Hart ultimately failed to dislodge Ramirez.
3 February 2018. Gilberto Ramirez w rsc 6 Habib Ahmed
Venue: Bank of America Centre, Corpus Christi, Texas, USA. Recognition: WBO. Referee: Laurence Cole.
Fight Summary: Right from the off, the southpaw champion chased the much smaller Ahmed (166¾) around the ring in virtually every round as the audience must have wondered how the latter ever got a WBO rating that allowed him to be in contention for the title. Stunned by a right hook in the fifth, Ahmed continued to move away having taken more big shots until the referee called the fight off at 2.31 of the sixth after Ramirez (168) had landed heavily and the challenger’s corner were intimating that they wanted their man pulled out.
30 June 2018. Gilberto Ramirez w pts 12 Roamer Alexis Angulo
Venue: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA. Recognition: WBO. Referee: Gary Ritter.
Scorecards: 119-109, 119-109, 120-108.
Fight Summary: Coming into the fight with an undefeated record of 23 wins, 20 of them ending early, Angulo (167¼) must have thought that he had a reasonable chance against the southpaw champion before realising that it was not that straightforward. Although winning virtually every round, Ramirez (167) often landed heavily before being forced to take something in return. Despite carrying a swollen left eye from the fifth, Ramirez continued to be the busier, and it was he who landed the more telling shots to head and body. The CompuBox stats showed that Ramirez connected with 178 punches to Angulo’s 113.
While still recognised as the WBO champion, Ramirez forfeited my version of the 'world' title on 28 September for not meeting a top-five opponent for well over two years. 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 a contest that also involved my version of the 'world' title. 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.
28 September 2018. Callum Smith w co 7 George Groves
Venue: King Abdullah Sports City Arena, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Recognition: WBA/The Ring. Referee: Luis Pabon.
Fight Summary: Having bided his time while waiting for the champion to recover from his shoulder injury, Smith (167¼) was soon in action as both men used their jabs well and landed heavily. In the third round Smith began his surge, forcing Groves (167¾) to the ropes before being held up, and in the next couple of sessions, while the latter was still dangerous, the challenger had his jab in full flow. Having been tripped up at the end of the fifth, Smith came back firing in the sixth before unloading a cracking left hook following the jab that wobbled Groves badly in the seventh. Hammering Groves into the ropes, with Smith now going for the kill, a crashing right to the body saw the former take the full count on the 2.04 mark.
1 June 2019. Callum Smith w rsc 3 Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam
Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York USA. Recognition: WBA/The Ring. Referee: Charlie Fitch.
Fight Summary: Defending his titles for the first time, Smith (167½) made short work of the smaller N’Jikam (166) after setting about him right from the opening bell. Starting with solid left jabs it was quickly apparent that the challenger had no answers to the Smith’s power, and following a cracking left hook to the jaw N’Jikam was floored. Although he was able to get to his feet before going over again from what was deemed to be a push, N’Jikam was in real trouble again in the second after a similar blow had him over again. Coming into the third with Smith looking to close the contest down, N’Jikam was badly hurt after jabs, hooks and uppercuts drove him into the ropes where he was a sitting duck for a solid right hand to the head that sent him crashing. Although N’Jikam just about made it to his feet, the referee decided that it was pointless for him to continue and stopped the action on the 2.56 mark.
23 November 2019. Callum Smith w pts 12 John Ryder
Venue: Echo Arena, Liverpool, England. Recognition: WBA/The Ring. Referee: Michael Alexander.
Scorecards: 116-112, 116-112, 117-111.
Fight Summary: Challenging his fellow Englishman for the WBA title and The Ring Championship Belt, Ryder (167½) made life extremely difficult for the champion who found his southpaw stance a problem. Always looking to get to close quarters, Ryder was more often than not able to find a way under Smith’s left jab where he could bang in short blows to the head and body. Although Smith won the opening four rounds on the cards, at the end of the fourth both men had cuts over right eyes, testament to heads coming together. The next three sessions saw Smith (167½), who was clearly not himself, unable to keep control and having difficulty in getting his left jab going. Although Smith came back to win the eighth, ninth and tenth, Ryder not only took the last two rounds but, along with many watching, thought he had won as he had forced the fight from start to finish.
19 December 2020. Saul Alvarez w pts 12 Callum Smith
Venue: The Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas, USA. Recognition: WBA/WBC/The Ring. Referee: Jon Schorle.
Scorecards: 119-109, 119-109, 117-111.
Fight Summary: Putting his WBA title on the line against Alvarez (168), the taller Smith (168) lost his unbeaten record after being conclusively outscored. This was a contest that also involved the vacant WBC title and Ring Championship Belt. Right from the off it was Alvarez, the shorter man by almost seven inches, who found a way of dictating the contest when using his hand-speed and movement to get inside the upright Smith’s guard. Unable to work his man out, Smith’s downfall was further exacerbated by a broken nose and a left tricep injury. The only round that all three judges gave Smith was the sixth when he threw both hands and scored well with the jab in what was ultimately a disappointing night for him after having great expectations. On winning, Alvarez, who still held two belts at middleweight, became a four-weight world champion.