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History lessons for Canelo Alvarez and Sergey Kovalev – eight middleweights who jumped to light-heavyweight

Canelo Alvarez and Sergey Kovalev engage in a middleweight vs light-heavyweight fight. Here are eight other cases to examine

Dick Tiger v Jose Torres (1966)

After losing the world middleweight title to Emile Griffith in April 1966, Dick Tiger stepped up to light-heavyweight eight months later and challenged the favoured world champion, Jose Torres [pictured together, top]. Tiger, weighing 167lbs, took the fight to the favourite and won a decision over 15 rounds. Tiger would win the return, add another successful defence against Roger Rouse before Bob Foster brutally knocked out the smaller Tiger in 1968.

VERDICT: Cream rises to the top

Tony Sibson v Dennis Andries (1986)

Leicester hero Tony Sibson bypassed a super-middleweight class that was very much in its infancy and challenged countryman and WBC light-heavyweight champion, Dennis Andries. Sibson had moments of fleeting success but the Hackney king was too strong. By the eighth round, a bleeding Sibson was exhausted and after being dropped three times in the next session, the challenger was rescued.

VERDICT: Size matters

Thomas Hearns v Dennis Andries (1987)

Andries welcomed another middleweight contender to the 175lbs class in his next bout. But Hearns, unlike Sibson, was suited to the division. His long arms pummelled Andries in a brutal contest. The champion was dropped four times in the sixth, again in the ninth and once more in round 10. Hearns, 6ft 1ins, who had previously won world titles at 147 and 154, dropped down to middleweight in his next bout to win world title number four.

VERDICT: Hearns’ frame and quality fits light-heavy like a glove

thomas hearns
GREAT: Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns [Action Images/Andrew Couldridge]

Sugar Ray Robinson v Joey Maxim (1952)

Inside a scorching Yankee Stadium, middleweight boss Sugar Ray Robinson seized the early initiative while challenging light-heavyweight boss, Joey Maxim, in 1952. Reportedly 103 degrees in the ring, referee Ruby Goldstein had to be replaced by Ray Miller due to heat exhaustion after 10 rounds and in the 13th round, Robinson – well ahead on the cards – subsided too. It’s since well documented that Robinson would have won if not for the heat but what was not mentioned as much, and it really should have been, is that Maxim had to cope in those conditions too.

VERDICT: A step too far for the greatest of them all

IN CHARGE: But Robinson will lose his way against the bigger Maxim

Bernard Hopkins v Antonio Tarver (2006)

At the age of 41 and after two defeats to Jermaine Taylor had ended his long middleweight reign in 2005, Bernard Hopkins looked like he’d reached the end of the line. But he breathed new life into his career and defeated the odds the following year when he jumped straight to light-heavyweight to hand linear champion Antonio Tarver a convincing 12-round points defeat. Any size advantage Tarver may have had was nullified completely by Hopkins’ superior boxing brain.

VERDICT: Hopkins’ speed of thought allowed him to thrive at higher weight

Ronald “Winky” Wright v Bernard Hopkins (2007)

In Hopkins’ first defence, he took on Ronald Wright, much better known as “Winky”, in a Las Vegas showpiece in 2007. Wright had been enjoying a purple patch at middleweight but found the leap to light-heavyweight far too much. It was a bad-tempered affair and Wright, noticeably sluggish at a career-high 170lbs (the bout was fought at a catchweight), was not helped by Hopkins’ liberal use of his head. Wright’s jab was ineffective because Hopkins’ legs were so impressive. In the end, Wright lost a unanimous decision after 12 rounds.

VERDICT: Wright certainly not helped by the extra mass

Sugar Ray Leonard v Donny Lalonde (1988)

Something of an anomaly given that Leonard managed to persuade Lalonde to come down to 168lbs and the WBC to put both the super-middleweight and light-heavyweight titles up for grabs. Leonard, who weighed 165lbs but would claim in reality he was six pounds less (he carried weights in each hand as he took to the scale), survived a knockdown to savage Lalonde in the ninth. It was exciting and impressive but Leonard’s claim to the light-heavyweight title was rightly questioned.

VERDICT: Lalonde’s physical advantages wiped out by some dodgy pre-fight terms and conditions

THRILLER: The odds were stacked against Lalonde from the start

Mickey Walker v Tommy Loughran (1929)

While world middleweight king, the pug-nosed Mickey Walker stepped up to challenge the majestic ruler of the light-heavyweight division, Tommy Loughran. The 1929 bout, staged inside the brand new seven-million-dollar Chicago Stadium, was won over 10 rounds by Loughran, boxing smartly, via split decision. According to reports, Walker’s bullish approach was largely ineffective but he stunned the bigger man in the fifth round with a right cross. Loughran, three inches taller, had success by keeping Walker at bay with his superior reach. It should also be noted that Walker – who would later score notable success in the higher weight classes – warmed up for Loughran with two non-title bouts at light-heavy.

VERDICT: Loughran’s supreme skills the difference

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