A Candid Look At The Featherweight Division

22.09.04 - By James MacDonald: Whatever website you visit pertaining to boxing, you will invariably find one thing that they all have in common: a tendency to demonstrate less than impartial views. And in my experience, this trend has been most prevalent with regard to the Featherweight division. With this in mind, a candid look at arguably the most exciting division in boxing is long overdue.

Picture the scene: Manny Pacquiao, showcasing a seemingly infinite fusillade of power punches, thrashes Marco Antonio Barrera, physically and mentally, within an inch of retirement. A bemused crowd look on, almost gasping in unison at what they have just witnessed; the commentators double-check their scripts, because that sure as hell wasn’t in it.

This, I believe, is what lit the touch paper in the most fiercely contested division boxing has to offer. Did Barrera have a rare off night or has his multitude of ring wars finally taken their toll? Is Manny Pacquiao really that good? These questions would be answered within the next few months… or would they?

Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez, was the next Featherweight Super fight on the agenda. At least one question appeared to have been answered with only 30 seconds remaining in the first round, as Marquez tried desperately to stem the tide, having been sent sprawling to the canvas three times already. Yes, it appeared that Manny Pacquiao was really that good. Marquez made it through the round, but surely couldn’t last much longer on such rubbery legs, could he? Again, however, the fans were thrown the proverbial curve ball as Marquez came back to outbox his tiger-like young foe for the majority of the remaining 11 rounds, and earning himself a creditable draw.

So what did we, the fans, learn from the fight? We learned that Pacquiao, while still very much a force to be reckoned with, is not infallible. We also learned that Juan Manuel Marquez, a fighter previously not exactly synonymous with the word ‘respect’, had finally earned the appreciation of his peers and, more importantly, the Mexican fight fans.

Next up for Featherweight fans was Marco Antonio Barrera, in his first fight since his TKO at the hands of Manny Pacquiao, taking on the tough Paulie Ayala. Barrera, looking to get back on track, would score a 10th round TKO over a Paulie Ayala on the wane. Although it was hardly what Barrera’s loyal fans had been hoping for, perhaps it was just enough to boost the great man’s confidence after his previous mauling.

But what of the rest of the Featherweight division? The main challengers to "The Big Three" include the WBC champion, In Jin Chi, and the WBO champion, Scott Harrison. The venerable Chi is coming off of a shaky 10th round TKO over Eiichi Sugama, a fight in which Chi was uncharacteristically shaken several times. Scott Harrison, on the contrary, scored an impressive TKO over the skilful William Abelyan in the 3rd round of his latest title defence. At the time of writing, a Chi-Harrison unification bout is in the works, assuming Harrison can negotiate his way past Samuel Kebede, in what could be a potential banana skin for the WBO ruler. Also rumoured is a Harrison-Pacquiao fight to be held in Glasgow. This, in my opinion, would suit both parties, giving Harrison the chance to earn the recognition he surely deserves, while also giving the inactive ‘Pacman’ the opportunity to win a World title.

With Barrera now signed to fight Morales at Super Featherweight in November, this opens up the possibility of a mouth-watering unification bout between In Jin Chi and Juan Manuel Marquez. Marquez, in his last fight, participated in a snooze fest with an outmatched and, to be quite honest, overawed Orlando Salido. Chi’s style of boxing would not allow Marquez to employ his sometimes cautious style, possibly leading to a fight of the year candidate.

In this writer’s humble opinion, with the rumours of the above would-be fights of the year, the Featherweight division is going from strength to strength. Here’s to the golden age of an under-appreciated weight class.

Article posted on 22.09.2004

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