Lightweight explosion

By César Pancorvo: Joel Casamayor defeated Diego Corrales in 2006, became Linear (and WBC) lightweight champion –many dispute the fact the he is the Linear champ, and have solid arguments to do it– and then defended, twice, against Santa Cruz, barely a Top10 contender that, in the eyes of most people with two eyes, won that fight, and against Michael Katsidis, an outstanding win for the Cuban nicknamed “El Cepillo”..

While Casamayor was spending months as the central character of an unexciting linear reign at 135, Juan Diaz –since late 2004– was making noise and eventually became the top contender, unified belt holder (WBA, WBO, IBF), made seven successful defences of the WBA belt and collected win over Popo Freitas, Julien Lorcy, Jose Miguel Cotto and Julio Diaz: of course, many started seeing him as the “true, people’s champion” since 2006, because of he was more dominant than Casamayor.

Juan Diaz, who was the novelty in the 135 division, was already creating a resume that most 23 years old fighters would wish to have, unifying three belts and overshadowing the much more experienced Champion. But that didn’t matter, 135 was not considered a particularly interesting division (the Top5 contenders, in 2006, were: 1) Joel Casamayor 2) Juan Diaz 3) Zahir Raheem 4) Jesus Chavez 5) David Diaz. The division wasn’t weak and wasn’t strong).

Lightweight had a renaissance this year when Nate Campbell, an old fighter with several losses, who was a huge underdog, destroyed Juan Diaz’ aura of invincibility, and also when Casamayor, whose reputation as champion was burnt in flames because of his abject performance against Santa Cruz, showed his superb talent by defeating a younger contender and apparent heir to the throne –Michael Katsidis. Since that moment, a new atmosphere surrounded this division, which is now my favourite and probably boxing’s best –but it could still be welterweight and it is debatable–: Joel Casamayor, Nate Campbell, Juan Diaz; and you have to add some characters that appeared a posteriori, fighters who have migrated (or have plans to migrate) from 130: Manny Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez, Joan Guzman, maybe Humberto Soto.

Casamayor, who has been injected some prestige by the public after his last TKO win, will fight again, in September, against Juan Manuel Marquez. While Pacquiao has opted for the long path of facing other belt holder and challenges at 135, Marquez has aimed his forces at Casamayor; he’s going for the main course directly, without appetizers or salads.

Campbell defeated Diaz and many declare that he is the “real man” at 135. His next opponent, also in a September fight, will be Jr. Lightweight contender Joan Guzman, while Manny Pacquiao, who debuted at Lightweight against David Diaz, is apparently going to face Humberto Soto next, in November. There were rumours, during more than a week, of a Pacquiao versus Edwin Valero fight, but Bob Arum recently indicated that: “A lot of people feel we are better off to go to a Soto fight and if Valero gets cleared (he’s referring to the medical clearance that Valero needs from the NSAC) put him on the undercard” (Viva Sports/Manila Standard Today).

Meanwhile, Juan Diaz has decided that, instead of returning to the scene with an easy win, Katsidis will be his next opponent.

Four fights. And then we will have the winners, hopefully, facing each other and facing, also, the new fighters that will soon arrive to the rankings, like Amir Kahn, or against bigger challenges, like the rumour of Pacquiao-Hatton at 140. Pacquiao started at 106 pounds and Hatton has been Light Welterweight Champion for three years –and his weight in the actual bouts is more than 140 or 147 pounds–: that fight somehow reminds me of Duran-Hagler. Not the style or the greatness of the fighters involved, but the concept is comparable.

What will happen to 130? If we examine The Ring ratings, the Champion (Pacquiao) and the majority of the five top contenders (except the experimented argentinian warrior Jorge Barrios) left of will leave that division. La Hiena Barrios versus Rocky Juarez could be the fight to determine who is the new top dog of the Jr. Lightweight division.

I’m not sure how much will this fantastic lightweight era last, but let’s hope that it can deliver us all the key fights and, in that aspect, distinguish itself from the excellent, but inconclusive, welterweight era.

-It is not foolish to think about Paul Williams as a middleweight (he fought above 147 for most of his career, but against easy opposition), but it is very unlikely that he will beat Kelly Pavlik –actually no, it is not very unlikely, it is very impossible. Williams should have done like Tito Trinidad and win a title at 154 first and then go up to 160 and challenge some ranked fighters before confronting the Champion. I don’t give him any chances against Pavlik, and I would have preferred to see Williams face the winner of Margarito-Cotto first.

Article posted on 12.07.2008

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