The current scene in the junior middleweight division is about as open as it gets. With upsets occurring regularly (just ask Roman Karmazin, Cory Spinks, and Kassim Ouma), older fighters atop the division, and a plethora of young lions vying for supremacy, the result is a weight class without a true kingpin. The question is, who exactly is the right man for the job? With a division in such a state of flux, it would seem that the most dominant fighter could be any of several applicants.
However, one fighter seems to be left out of the equation, but with little reason. Sechew “Ironhorse” Powell appears to be the forgotten man at 154, which is puzzling considering his credentials. In a recent conversation with Powell, he was both candid and confident in assessing the state of the division.
“There's a lot going on at 154 right now, a lot of good guys, but I consider myself at the top of the list. There are some talented guys in the division, but at this point in my career, I feel like I'm the best.”
Alongside the other highly touted young fighters in the division, Powell appears to be more accomplished. The Brooklyn native has an extensive amateur background, including experience on the international level, a National Golden Gloves title, and U.S. Amateur title. It wasn't too long ago that Powell was undefeated and considered to be one of the top prospects in the sport. Regular appearances on ShoBox showcased Powell as a rising talent who was improving with each outing.
However, just as Powell’s star seemed to be reaching its apex, a decision loss to a prime Ouma lowered his stock slightly, and remains his lone defeat. In the Ouma fight, Powell struggled to find answers for his perpetually-punching opponent. More annoyed by Ouma’s punches than truly hurt, Powell found himself outhustled over ten rounds. At the time, Kassim Ouma was considered the class of the division, which would certainly put this loss in the category of forgivable.
Following the Ouma loss, Powell returned against Ishe Smith of Contender fame. Televised on HBO’s Boxing After Dark, Powell’s victory was not the type of comeback statement he wanted. The fight saw sparse exchanges and a questionable knockdown which saw Powell hit the deck, but Powell controlled the fight, winning a unanimous, if unspectacular, decision. With less than stirring results, Powell, (23-1, 14 KO), decided changes needed to be made.
“Right after the Ishe Smith fight, I sat down with the people in my camp and we decided that we were going to put together a more aggressive style, something a little bit more pleasing for the fans. I think so far, I’ve been able to show that new style.”
The results have indeed been more crowd-pleasing, with knockouts over Terrence Cauthen (KO 4) and Kevin Finley (KO 1) added to his résumé. Stylistic changes are not the only recent transitions in Powell’s career. He recently parted ways amicably with DiBella Entertainment, signing with Seminole Warriors Boxing and their increasingly growing stable of talent. The progress has been immediate, as Powell is currently the mandatory challenger for Verno Phillips’ newly won IBF junior middleweight crown, a title for which Powell is eager to challenge.
“I’m looking for that [a shot at Phillips] as soon as possible. I consider myself at the top of the division right now. I would love to fight Verno Phillips, or [WBA champion] Joachim Alcine, or even [WBC champion] Vernon Forrest. I think I can beat any of those guys at the top of my division right now.”
The truth remains, though, that Powell is not the type of fighter anybody is going out of their way to fight. He’s a big, strong, skilled southpaw who matches up well with anybody in the division. He is the type of high-risk/low-reward fight that others tend to avoid, which Powell is quite aware of.
“Of course, there are a lot of things that go on behind the scenes, such as political moves and other financially motivated moves where I might be pushed to the side for a little bit. I’m hoping that this won’t be the case, but if it is, I plan to be busy and hope to be right back in the ring by June.”
At 28, time is not Powell’s enemy yet. He still has time to establish himself as one of the division’s best, and remind all of the experts why he was so hyped such a short time ago. With all the progress and setbacks of the past two years, the Ironhorse believes he has finally settled into his identity as a fighter. Powell now possess a maturity and understanding of the game he didn't have earlier in his career. When asked to evaluate his standing in the division, a thoughtful Powell offered a confident response.
“At this point in my career, I’ve really mastered my style of fighting. I feel like I’m one of the best at what I do. Against all of the top ten guys, I feel like we match up nicely, we make good fights, but I see myself beating all of them.
The fans that know me know what I’m about. They know that I’m all business and I come to win. My goal right now is to become a household name, because there are only a handful out there right now. I want to be one of the fighters that fans are accustomed to seeing.”
Just as Powell needed to find himself as a fighter, so too does the 154-pound division need to find its own identity. In the past three years, the three major sanctioning bodies have produced nine title changes. The biggest names at junior middleweight have either gone up (Winky Wright) or down (Oscar De La Hoya, Shane Mosley) in weight, thinning the pool of marquee names and leaving the division in its current state of disarray. Gradually, from the chaos of this division, a dominant champion must emerge.
Powell hopes to be that champion. If he is able to seize the moment and utilize all of his natural ability, Powell could usher in the Iron Age in the junior middleweight division.
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV