A Preview to 2005 for the Junior Welterweights

23.12.04 – By Tim Foley: 2004 was the year that the Junior Welterweight division became arguably the deepest, most talented division in the sport. 2005 promises to be the breakout year for many fighters still considered to be stars, but not pay-per-view headliners. With Miguel Cotto transforming from promising prospect to bonafide contender in 2004, Paulie Malignaggi and Mike Arnaoutis have demonstrated the ability to be the next prospects to become top contenders in ’05.

The division can become even deeper provided two stars resolve their legal troubles in the upcoming year. Floyd Mayweather Jr’s pay-per-view superfight is in serious jeopardy following his most recent run-in.. Nothing infuriates a judge more than when you miss a court date. Due to Mayweather’s recent absence in the courtroom, it seems that Arturo Gatti may never get a chance to try to solidify his legacy against a world class athlete like Floyd. The fortunate thing is Mayweather could have this cleared up in time for the proposed June event.

Paul Spadafora is another story. Spaddy seems destined to spend the next couple years in prison, derailing a promising career. His brilliant boxing style would be a welcome addition to the division in 2005, but after pleading guilty to aggravated assault stemming from his incident involving the shooting of his girlfriend, it seems like 2005 will not be a year he can compete. He also has another hurdle to climb by restoring his license after testing positive for cocaine this past year.

On a brighter note, the most underrated champion in the division, and possibly in the sport, Vivian Harris could FINALLY get his headliner fight in the U.S. after years of toiling in bouts overseas. His impressive KO of Oktay Urkal in their rematch meeting this October 23rd solidified his stake as a top 5 fighter in the best division in boxing. He seems poised to receive a unification title bout against Kostya Tszyu or Miguel Cotto. Having no ties to HBO or Showtime helps his chances of receiving either match.

Miguel Cotto is becoming the poster boy of the sport. Well disciplined, technically sound, devastatingly powerful; he seems to be the most promising fighter in the division. There has been talk of him making the leap from fighting fringe contenders like Kelson Pinto and former champs like Randall Bailey, to fighting the legitimate superstars like Arturo Gatti and Vivian Harris. Personally, I think his camp will wait to see his fights early in 2005 before seriously negotiating with Kostya Tszyu. He is the future of the division and his people have managed his career flawlessly thus far.

The Human Highlight Reel, Arturo Gatti is most deserving of a pay-per-view mega-fight in ’05. As the Mayweather fight seems to be crumbling before his eyes, he may turn to fighting Vivian Harris or Miguel Cotto this coming year. Although Kostya Tszyu is the number one man on his hitlist, their TV contracts will certainly shoot down any chance of these two brilliant stars crossing paths.

Among the fighters on the cusp of earning their shots at world titles, the most dangerous fighter of the group, Ricky Hatton, can’t seem to secure anything. Tszyu and Hatton are currently in negotiations for an event early in 2005, but the disagreement on the location of the fight could push Hatton’s chance to the brink of disaster. Kostya Tszyu is the champion…he has earned the right to fight at whatever location he chooses. Ricky Hatton’s chances of getting noticed not only stateside, but worldwide are passing him by. He’s been in solitary confinement his entire career in Manchester. It’s time to unleash him to the world and for him to show what he’s all about.

Saving the best fighter for last, Kostya Tszyu certainly proved he was back…not with a bang, but with an explosion. After knocking Sharmba Mitchell around like a rag doll for three rounds, he resumed his spot as the kingpin of the division. It will be interesting to see if he makes the jump to 147 to fight Cory Spinks for his undisputed championship, but until then, it will be quite a ride for this warrior in 2005. He has everybody gunning for him and I’m sure he welcomes any of the challenges presented to him.

2005 should be the year when this division breaks out. The division could be in for some upsets, but regardless, we’re in for one exciting year!

Article posted on 23.12.2004

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