Undefeated But Rarely Undisputed

15.12.05 - By Joseph Carlo Russo: In today's era of boxing there are numerous fighters surfacing the sport boasting unblemished records. Some of the most notable are Floyd Mayweather, Ricky Hatton, and Miguel Cotto. All three of these fighters are undefeated, but still their statuses are not undisputed. To the non-boxing fan, an unblemished record may seem an extraordinary feat, but to your everyday fight fan he will not blink an eye at such a property. Thus, the debating spectrum continues to roar over who the best junior welterweight in boxing is.

When this question arises all the top three junior welterweights stake legitimate claims to being the best 140.

Although Floyd Mayweather has only had one fight at 140, and fought at welter last week, let's keep him at 140 just for argument's sake. He is unquestionably the number one pound for pound fighter in the world with his most notable accomplishments coming at lightweight. His decimation of Diego Corrales and two decision wins over Jose Luis Castillo were the shining moments in Floyd's career. In addition, he's beaten tough customers in Jesus Chavez, Emanuel Augustus, Carlos Hernandez, Angel Manfredy, and Genaro Hernandez. Then in his one and only junior welterweight appearance, though Arturo Gatti wasn't the most challenging opponent for him, Floyd truly demonstrated his top notch, upper echelon abilities in this fight, silencing any critics and skeptics, one being myself.

Even though Floyd Mayweather is number one pound for pound, he cannot be number one at 140 unless he fights Ricky Hatton. If Floyd is so preoccupied with money and bling, then maybe he ought to watch a Ricky Hatton fight and calculate the bling that would be involved in Manchester. If he fights Judah that will be fair and good, Judah is a spectacular fighter, but the fact of the matter is, Judah/Mayweather just doesn't have the nice ring that Hatton/Mayweather does.

Hatton/Mayweather has all the elements for a true superfight that would attract even non-boxing fans perhaps. Both fighters are undefeated, both fighters are young and in their primes, both are coming off superb wins at 140. And of course, we cannot overlook, be it right or wrong one of the most attractive qualities about this fight, England vs. America, but more essentially black vs. white. There is no getting around, we are all intrigued by this.

Miguel Cotto, also undefeated like Hatton and Mayweather poses the least serious threat to these men's records and reputations. But he is undefeated and he is 140, so we must allot him his respective place in the argument. Miguel Cotto is a solid prospect with a great arsenal of punches as he has 21 KO's on 25 wins. He has beaten game contenders in Ricardo Torres, Mohammed Abdullaev, Demarcus Corley, Kelson Pinto, and Carlos Maussa all by knockout.

The only missing link in the Cotto package is his chin. But I will say this, he may not have a good chin, but he has good legs that keep him on his feet. In his last outing with Ricardo Torres, Cotto was stunned many times but he found a way out and did everything he had to in order to stay in it. Through scurrying around the ring and moving frantically Cotto kept Torres off balance and regained his composure to pull out the seventh round knockout. Cotto has to get serious really soon if he wants to be a champion. DeLaHoya is not a good answer when asked who he wants to fight.

As Ricky Hatton is the only man who beat the man he deserves the most legitimate claim at being the best 140. Granted, Kostya Tszyu was old and was probably on his way out anyway, but he was the champion, and to become the champion you have to beat the champion. Ricky Hatton did just that in a fight that most, including myself, predicted that he would just become another victim to the "Thunder From Down Under." Unifying the titles in a fight with Maussa was a fair decision seeing as he was coming off a superfight and a fight with Cotto or Mayweather was probably out of the question. So, why not take Maussa's belt? If Ricky hadn't, someone else would've. And, frankly, I'd rather have Hatton take the belt than anyone else because he is a true warrior and a class act.

Ricky never gives a lackluster performance and always comes to fight. He is also the only one who is really pushing to become a true, undisputed champion as the "Hitman" takes aim at Floyd Mayweather next. Ironically, if there is any out of the three that doesn't need the other two to secure his legacy it's Ricky Hatton. The man can build a legendary career fighting tomato cans in England in football stadiums encompassing 60,000 at a time and he'll become wealthier than Mayweather and Cotto combined. But, he chooses to put his career on the line against Tszyu, and he chooses to put his career on the line against Mayweather in 2006. Not fighting Mayweather after fighting Tszyu was a perfectly legitimate choice by Hatton. There's no reason he should have to take two superfights in one year. He did well in saving Mayweather for 2006.

Part of the problem in the junior-welterweight situation is the sheltering and the over-protecting of undefeated fighters. Undefeated does not equal great. It can, if a fighter is undefeated against the best competition. But, undefeated, in itself, does not automatically imply greatness. Fighters must discard this sense of undefeated immortality and focus on the ultimate goal of fighting the best, beating the best, and being the best, even if that means accepting a loss.

In addition, fighters sometimes forget what boxing is meant to be, which is sports entertainment. It should not simply be a job for a fighter that he pursues at his own pace and will depending on his mood and bank account. Fighters have an obligation to fans and to the sports entertainment industry.

Can we imagine if the NFC and AFC champion football teams decided not to partake in the superbowl this year because both teams were undefeated and just weren't up to it? No, we cannot, because such is irrational, implausible, unacceptable, and downright disgraceful. Boxing should not be any different. So, let's hope that it is this mentality that is lingering on and perhaps haunting the minds of the top three junior welterweights that will result in the gems of matchups that we are all awaiting!

Article posted on 15.12.2005

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