31.12.03 – By Mike Bearenhof: If only the Heavyweight division possessed half the talent as the fighters at 140lbs, we could have one of the greatest era’s in heavyweight history. Sadly though, the public has probably never heard of a single top rated fighter in the 140lbs division, and the division could never generate as much interest as the Heavyweight Division. To die hard boxing fans though, 140lbs is truely a throw-back to a better age in boxing, when there was no PPV and the divisions were racially diverse, and not just dominated by black or hispanic fighters.
In recent years the 140lbs division was defined by the Gatti/Ward trilogy, to old school boxing fans it was probably a look into past. Here were two fighters that were seemly prepared to fight to the death not for titles or big money, but for respect. In an age when racial rivalry can dominate boxing, fight fans were mismerized by two tough white guys, one Irish and one Italian.
The three fights were fought at a brutal pace, nobody could ever forget the 9th round in the first fight, or in the 3rd fight when Gatti broke his right hand but still fought on and won a UD. Sadly the 3rd fight was the last showing by Micky Ward, after that he walked into retirement being universially recognized as a true warrior. Thankfully, Arturo Gatti looks like he still has a few good fights left in him, and could be a competitive force in the division for a few more years.
Although the Gatti/Ward trilogy demonstrated bravery and talent, it was actually of little importance to the elite contenders of the division. One of the most promising contenders in the division is Sharmba Mitchell. Sharmba Mitchell was the the former WBA 140lbs champion, until losing his title due to a leg injury incured during a title unification bout in 2001. Since than Sharmba Mitchell has had impressive victories over veteran Vince Phillips and a TKO over Carlos Vilches. Mitchell will face the ultimate test on Feb. 7 when he battles for the 140lbs title.
With Mitchell preparing to fight for the title, some still consider Zab Judah to be the best 140lbs fighter out there. Zab currently holds the WBO 140lbs title, but used to be the legit Champion until he lost his title in 2001. Zab has gotten back on track in 2003 though, and is looking very sharp. He won the WBO title from DeMarcus Corley in July 2003 and showed the world that he is still an elite contender with a huge 1st round KO against Jaime Rangel on Don King’s “Night of the Undisputed” on Dec. 13. Zab is probably the fasted fighter in the division, not only can he move around the ring with perfection, but he can stop on a dime and fire some devestating punchs.
Judah and Mitchell have been huge names in the division for many years, but the newest name in the division has just came out the UK, Ricky “The Hit Man” Hatton. Hatton won the vacant WBU 140lbs belt in 2001 against Toney Pepp. Although at the time of winning the belt Hatton was just consider another ABC champion, he showed the world that he is a serious threat after defending his title 11 times, the last defence was a UD against proven fighter Ben Tackie. Ricky Hatton currently has an undefeated record of 33-0 with 24 KO’s. Being that he is only 25 years old, he has great promise.
Another ABC title holder is Vivian Harris, Harris currently holds the IBA and WBA 140lbs belts. He won the WBA title against a very overmatched Diobelys Hurtado in 2 rounds by a TKO. His most recent victory was over Souleyman Mbaye. A fight between Vivian Harris and Zab Judah is a possibility, they got into a recent “disagreement” on NY’s Hot 97 radio station, which Harris called Judah a “Bum”.
Even in a division that contains a seemly endless amount of talent, there is still somehow one man that remains in a class above the rest, he is the undisputed, emeritus champion of the world Kostya Tszyu. Even though Tszyu rules over the most talented division in boxing, he has been considered an underdog his whole carrer and some still say he has yet to truely prove his greatness. Tszyu’s rise to greatness started in 1995 when he captured the IBF 140lbs title from Jake Rodriguez by a TKO in the 6th round. He defended his IBF title 5 times until he was defeated by Vince Phillips in 1997. In 1998 he came back and took the WBC 140lbs title, and unified the title against WBA champ Sharmba Mitchell. In 2001 he faced the fight of his carrer against Zab Judah, who held the IBF title that Tszyu lost 4 years ago. Many picked Judah to win this fight, but Tszyu proved to the world that his only lose to Vince Phillips was to be forgotten. After taking flush shots against Judah in the 1st round, Tszyu came out in the 2nd round and dominated. He somehow managed to time Judah’s lightning fast movement and caught him with one huge right hand, Judah didnt know what him. With that, Kostya Tszyu became the Undisputed Super Lightweight Champion of the world.
Even with his victories over Sharmba Mitchell and Zab Judah, some still doubt Tszyu. His victory over Sharmba Mitchell was won on a TKO due to Mitchell hurting his leg, and the his win over Zab Judah was because the referee stopped the fight. Zab did get back up by the count of two, but fell down again, forcing the referee to stop the fight. Don’t ever count on seeing a rematch between Zab and Tszyu, Zab made it quite clear this fight was “winner take all” and there will be no rematch, although now he is forced to eat his words. As for Sharmba Mitchell, Tszyu and him will settle their business on Feb. 7 to determine the fate of the division. Even though Sharmba Mitchell is a skilled southpaw with over 50 professional fights, I give Tszyu the edge in this fight.
For everybody that loves the boxing and knows about the 140lbs division, watch HBO on Jan. 24. They are showing a 140lbs double header, featuring Arturo Gatti vs. WBC #1 ranked contender Giancluca Branco. On the undercard there will be Fancisco Bojado vs. Jesse James Leija.
So, be ready for some SUPER lightweight fights in 2004.