On Saturday night Lightweight champion Terence Crawford delivered a breakout performance. The Omaha native showed speed, great technical ability and power, dropping Yuriorkis Gamboa four times en route to a ninth round stoppage win. The question now is, where does he go from here?
The answer is that he has to move up to Light Welterweight to get the big fights. Crawford’s victory has shone a light on the decline of the once great Lightweight division.
A scan through the Ring Magazine Lightweight rankings shows that Miguel Vazquez is ranked number 1 with Crawford number 2. The first time I saw Vasquez fight was against Mercito Gesta on the undercard of Pacquaio – Marquez 4. It will be my last time watching him. Vasquez is the John Ruiz of Lightweights. He is slow, plodding, and feather fisted, yet he is the IBF champion because he has come along at the right time in a poor division.
Ray Beltran is ranked number 3. Beltran, like Vasquez, is a solid and tough fighter, but is mostly known for being a sparring partner for Manny Pacquaio.
It is a huge decline from ten years ago. Back then we had some great lightweights such as Floyd Mayweather, Luis Castillo, Diego Corrales, and Joel Casamayor. The first fight between Castillo and Corrales is widely regarded as being one of the best fights of all time. The tenth round currently has over one hundred thousand views on YouTube. Can you ever envisage Miguel Vasquez and Ray Beltran delivering that kind of excitement?
The most obvious reason for the lack of quality Lightweights is because of the star power and glamour of the Light Welterweight, and Welterweight divisions. Guys who can make 135 pounds will move up to 140 or 147 to get those big fights. Adrien Broner is a prime example. He wants a piece of the big Welterweight pie, so he’s not going to make that extra effort to get down to 135 even though he could. As a result the Lightweight division loses out on a marquee bout between Broner and Crawford.
For years now people have bemoaned the quality of the Heavyweight division, prepare to add the Lightweight division to that list.