30.12.05 – By Paul Ruby: For the last half decade, the 140 pound division has hosted some of boxing’s most elite talents, as well as some of the true class acts of the sport – guys like Arturo Gatti, Kostya Tszyu, and my pick for Fighter of the Year, Ricky Hatton. The potential arrival of fighters like Acelino Freitas, Juan Lazcano, and Jose Luis Castillo from Lightweight as well as up-and-comers like Carlos Maussa and Miguel Cotto make for countless potentially interesting fights. The past year marked a changing of the guard when Hatton took out Tszyu in June. At this time, it appears that Hatton is the class of the field, with Tszyu still not far behind. Hatton the followed that victory with Carlos Maussa, the unorthodox Colombian fresh of a TKO of once highly-touted Vivian Harris.
At the moment, it appears Hatton is taking a much-deserved breather, but I hope that all would take a moment to track his career and progress during the last few years.
Every step of the way, critics have doubted him, and each time he has proven them wrong. He has kept fighting and winning his fights convincingly and, in doing so, has established himself among the great fighters and sportsmen in boxing today. His victory over Tszyu should also do nothing to diminish Tszyu’s record over the last decade as one of the boxing’s greatest fighters as well as one of the sport’s best representatives to the public. There is also buzz within the last week that Hatton may sign with Golden Boy Promotions. The BBC reports that this is only speculation with nothing yet finalized, but this should come as pleasing news to American fight fans who know that Hatton has not fought on this side of the pond since 2000.
The greatest fight of this young millennium was waged in 2005 at Lightweight between Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo. Though controversy surrounds their second fight, the quality of their first fight should not be overshadowed even for a second. The first bout in May was waged at a higher quality on both ends than any other fights in recent memory. Let’s all hope the 3rd installment in February sees both fighters make weight and go to war with even footing like they did the first time around.
The Lightweight division also saw one of the upsets of the year when Zahir Raheem outpointed Erik Morales. Morales’ frame may not be able to truly handle 135 pounds and he is poised to return to 130, but nothing should be taken away from Raheem’s accomplishment. Unfortunately, Raheem has done little to capitalize on this huge win; he has not fought since. Personally, I would love to see Raheem face off against a true Lightweight like Acelino Freitas, provided Freitas chooses to stay at 135.
The Super Featherweight division may have more star power than any other in boxing. The division features Marco Antonio Barrera, Manny Pacquaio, and Erik Morales. Each of those fighters has shown a willingness to challenge himself with other elite boxers, and that is an attribute far too few fighters today possess. Each of the above men is a throwback to a forgotten era when fighters truly sought to succeed not only financially, but also wanted to show the world that they truly are the best around. The division has everything – savvy veterans, elusive southpaws like Yodsanan 3-K Battery, hard-charging volume punchers like Robbie Peden, and a pair of unknown fighters from South and Central America that appear capable of defeating anyone on the right night in Jorge Barrios and Vicente Mosquera.
In 2006, Morales and Pacquiao are set to square off and Barrera is taking on another past-his-prime opponent on pay-per-view. Neither Barrios nor Mosquera are currently signed to fight (because each has fought within the last three weeks), so I truly hope the one of them is given a shot against Barrera or one of the other higher-profile fighters in the division.
At Featherweight, the class of the field is Juan Manuel Marquez. Unfortunately, Marquez’ trainer and manager, Nacho Beristain, has made some questionable decisions recently in guiding Marquez’ career. Marquez is signed to fight Chris John, an unknown Indonesian who is probably the biggest threat to Marquez in the division, for virtually no money. Marquez is chalked to make just over $30,000, so I tend to question whyhe is not only taking the risk, but also going to Indonesia to do so. Prospect Joan Guzman recently won an eliminator for a WBO title shot, but it remains to be seen whether a title bout can be made with Scott Harrison. I love Guzman, but I do not like this fight at all for him. I think he lacks the big-fight experience needed to really compete with Harrison. Additionally, though both fighters stand about 5’7, Harrison is enormous for a featherweight while Guzman probably should still be at 122; still, the latter has been working with Roger Mayweather of late and Mayweather’s ability to teach defense and a two-handed attack should prove useful to Guzman.
Two American prospects are coming off set-backs at 126 in Rocky Juarez and Robert Guerrero. To be honest, I have never been terribly high on either of them, but I believe Juarez will ultimately have a much better career than Guerrero, and I like the steps he’s taken since his loss to Humberto Soto.
Some of the best fighters in the sport and best fights of the year took place below featherweight. Sadly, these divisions are largely ignored by all but the most hardcore of fans. In an attempt to cater to all, I’ll quickly run through names to look for in each division. At Super Bantamweight, Oscar Larios and Israel Vasquez are the class of the field; they’ve fought thrice, with Vasquez taking two. Beyond the two of them, the best fighter in the division is Mayhar Monshipour, an Iranian based out of France, and southpaw Celestino Caballero.
Still, no fighter in the division can compare with the likes of Larios and Vasquez. At Bantamweight, Rafael Marquez is probably the best fighter at that weight since Carlos Zarate, 25 years ago. Still, there are other very good – and possibly great – fighters in the division. Jhonny Gonzales is an exciting fighter with a 17 fight win streak set to take on Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson in February. I would prefer to see Marquez challenge himself by moving up in weight, but a fight with Gonzales during 2006 would almost certainly prove an entertaining affair.