If gray is the new black, and Macau is the new heights of Las Vegas, then welterweight is the new heavyweight. “If the heavyweight division goes, so does boxing” is another cliché that‘s just plain nonsense. It’s the glamour division filled with X factor fighters and marquee names that HBO executives live off. It’s no secret that the 147 pounds is star-studded, but the depth of the division is what makes the welterweight field the best of the lot, and one of the most intriguing fields in the open era. It’s right up there with the featherweight class of ’01, the welterweights of ’81, maybe even the middleweights from the early ‘50s.
What more could you want than to have the two best pound-4-pound fighters and two of the most marketable fighters, challenging each other for the pleasure of millions of hardcore fanatics across the world’s surface, and grabbing the attention of many casual fight fans in the major boxing nations. At the top of the division, there are two faces that have made their case for the fighter of the decade, followed by a revitalized future hall of famer, an exciting Puerto Rican, a undefeated heavily hyped titlist, and a seemingly unending list of recognizable faces that includes a balanced mix of veterans and youngsters, punchers and boxers.
And the most surprising thing about the talent-rich division is that it has been pretty easy to rank over recent times. But as the best fighters from every division hunt for success at the money-magnet at welterweight, it has been difficult to rate if the legit welters’ success against a weight drained opponent from the north or an out-muscled midget from the lower weights. Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Juan Manuel Marquez are just a few names that are hard to judge if a win is a perfect victory. Ever since the triangle involving Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito, the division has been almost impossible to get spot on. With the inclusion of The Boxing Tribune’s Fighter of the Year Manny Pacquiao, and my Fighter of the Decade Floyd Mayweather Jr. quickly jumping at the opportunity to make even more money, the division’s depth is multiplying by the month.
Then you go to your #6, #7 and #8, which could include Carlos Quintana, Andre Berto and Joshua Clottey which are world class operators and prove a struggle to the bigger names of the division. Clottey and Quintana are indecisive about their future, looking into the possibility of moving up to junior middleweight, and just to outline the strength of the division, they could probably finish the year at #1 and #2 respectively.
Another wildcard fighter, Paul Williams is currently fighting at middleweight, but ‘The Punisher’ claims he could easily make weight for any of the top 5. Williams possibly defeated a cheating Margarito, which is even more of an achievement than he gets credit for. A defeat to Quintana however, plummeted his risk/reward ratio despite stopping him in the first round in the rematch. This meant that he was a no go for any of the big names, which gave him the title of ‘The Most Feared Man In Boxing.’
Back into the welterweight bubble, Luis Collazo lost a disputed decision to Berto in January, so does that merit a place above Quintana? Where does Zab Judah fit in if he doesn’t drop down to the 140 pounders? Does he stay in the top 10? The ‘If’ and ‘But’ goes on, and the possible combinations make it a matrix to say the least.
Pacquiao is on top following his destruction of Cotto on November 14, in one of his best performances to date. The Filipino seems to be the most liked figure in the sport, but suspicions of him using performance enhancing drugs have quadrupled when Pacman refused to take a blood test 30 days before fight night. With all his division jumping, could Pacquiao jump up to challenge Yuri Foreman for the WBA light middleweight trinket? His position will be under threat on March 13, if the fight goes ahead against Mayweather.
And that guy is back for good. Mayweather outperformed Marquez on September 19, who was the second best fighter at the time. Mayweather showed everyone why he was the pound-4-pound king with his stunning reflexes, punishing counterpunching and faultless defence during his shutout decision of the Mexican. Can Mayweather reclaim his spot as the best fighter on the planet?
Following the dynamic duo at the top is ‘Sugar’ Shane, who has failed to capitalize on his magical display against the Master of Plaster, or his internet name, ‘Marga-cheato’. Margarito is unranked due to his suspension. Mosley desperately called out both Pacquiao and Mayweather, unsuccessful and losing dignity on both occasions, giving up to Pacquiao’s ridiculous weight demands by agreeing to go down to 144, and doing his Kanye West impression by interfering and tarnishing someone’s limelight. Mosley is slated to face Berto next on January 30, which is possibly the second most exciting match-up in the division.
Berto eked out a close decision against Collazo a week after Mosley’s knockout victory, before defending his WBC crown against 140 pound titlist Juan Urango in a comprehensive display from the undefeated American. Can the quick-fisted Berto win against the odds?
Miguel Cotto is still up there following his humiliating defeat to Manny Pacquiao in November, but I and many question how much he has left in the tank, and is he fighting only for the pension? IF, Manny failed the dreaded drug test, Cotto would’ve been cheated on twice, equalling Mrs. Woods, pushing his love for the sport even further away. He is still up there for now, but an irreversible slide is expected.
Behind Cotto is Ghanaian Clottey, who narrowly lost a split decision verdict to Cotto in June. Clottey believed he had done more than enough to get the nod at the Madison Square Garden, but the judges pointed towards Cotto on the eve of the Puerto Rican parade. Since then, Clottey has been signing and pulling out of fights more often than Kelly Pavlik and David Haye together, citing the lack of money as his reason not to fight.
Still a top name but likely to move to junior middleweight, Carlos Quintana is next on the list. He signed a catchweight agreement with Clottey to fight in December, but nothing came in the end. It would’ve been a quality style match-up, and another interesting contest in the glamour division.
Zab Judah and Luis Collazo have lost close and competitive decisions to fighters in the top 6, and maybe worthy of a place in the top 10. But inactivity and lack of victories at top level at the weight sees them drop out of the top 10.
Travelling across the pond to Europe and there’s plenty of talent that might deserve a mention and a place in the rankings. Straight off the back of a quick knockout title win against South African Isaac Hlatshwayo, Jan Zaveck currently holds the IBF belt. The Slovenian possesses extreme punching power at lower level of opposition, but it seems to fade against more equipped operators. A rematch with Poland’s Rafal Jackiewicz should be next up, a fight which went to Jackiewicz despite Zaveck claiming he won every round. Jackiewicz was again fortunate, earning a very early Christmas present against Delvin Rodriguez in an eliminator. Rodriguez was in control, but the judges somehow scored it to the Pole. What is it with Central Europe and hometown scoring?!
Moving further east now to Turkey, where Mini Tyson Selcuk Aydin is making a name for himself, stopping Jackson Osei Bonsu with killer combinations. The undefeated fighter is looking to make a name for himself on the European scene before attempting to platform onto world level. Kell Brook is quickly climbing up the domestic ranks and has his toughest test to date against Krzysztof Bienias in February. Touted as a poor man’s Floyd Mayweather, the Sheffield slickster may well be the real deal, and definitely one to look out for in the future. He doesn’t do enough to get a place in the top 10.
There’s still plenty of live fighters in the division. Ukranian Vyacheslav Senchenko is unbeaten and has some sort of relation with the WBA title. Don’t count on him fighting a worthy contender. Sebastian Andres Lujan is still winning, as is Alfonso Gomez, who produced a career best performance on the Pacquiao-Cotto undercard by defeating Jesus Soto Karass via technical decision. Ricardo Torres looks likely to permanently move to welterweight, as is Junior Witter and Randall Bailey. Jose Luis Castillo might be shot, but he could face Miguel Cotto next year. Two Argentineans Luis Carlos Abregu and Hector David Saldivia could face each other in ‘Argentina’s Fight Of The Century’ to go along with the over-used phrase. Antwone Smith stunned so called experts in his stoppage of Henry Crawford earlier in the calendar year. Daniele Petrucci is looking for a big fight to light up his career, but he is determined that the fight must take place in Italy. I’m not a fan of Matthew Hatton and you can’t be robbed in your own hometown. Lovemore N’Dou might take him up on a rematch, but Hatton is hoping to be Pacquiao’s replacement if the fight falls apart.
Mike Jones and Saul Alvarez could be the new faces of the division. When Mayweather, Pacquiao, Mosley and Cotto retire, the division’s younger stars might capture an alphabet belt and sit on it, waiting for a unification fight. Jones, Alvarez, Berto, Brook and Aydin, there sure is life outside of the celebrity names. Mike Jones is definitely a worthy candidate for prospect of the year.
Dafs’ Rankings Assessment
#1 Manny Pacquiao (PHI) (50-3-2, 38 KOs)
Wins: Ricky Hatton KO2, Miguel Cotto TKO 12;
Next Opponent: Floyd Mayweather Jr., March 13
Summary: The Filipino fighter is #1 in the pound-4-pound stakes, and after a brilliant 2009, is at the top of the division following a stoppage of Miguel Cotto in November. The pound-4-pound showdown with Floyd Mayweather is on and off, but it should decide who is the best once and for all, and re-crown a welterweight champion.
#2 Floyd Mayweather Jr. (USA) (40-0, 25 KOs)
Wins: Juan Manuel Marquez UD 12;
Next Opponent: Manny Pacquiao, March 13
Summary: The sublime performance against Marquez showed the boxing world what we’ve been missing over the 20 months he’d been away, and he proved that things were soon back to normal as he continued to call out and piss off most of the welterweight division and the executives at Top Rank. The world craves for a Pacquiao-Mayweather showdown, but will they deliver the highly anticipated fight of the decade?
#3 Shane Mosley (USA) (46-5, 39 KOs)
Wins: Antonio Margarito TKO 9;
Next Opponent: Andre Berto, January 30
Summary: Mosley returned to the top of the division following his perfect execution of the cleverly set out strategy by trainer Naazim Richardson, with a ninth round stoppage of cheat Margarito, but faces a tough test against Andre Berto on HBO. Can Mosley do enough to convince Pacquiao or Mayweather to share the ring with him, or could he lure Cotto into a rematch?
#4 Miguel Cotto (PUR) (34-2, 27 KOs)
Wins: Michael Jennings TKO 5, Joshua Clottey SD 12; Losses: Manny Pacquiao TKO 12;
Next Opponent: TBA
Summary: In his first real comeback since a bloody defeat to the plastered hands of Antonio Margarito, Cotto struggled to defeat the durable Clottey, battling through a horrific cut to eke out a split verdict. It was inevitable that he would get battered by Pacquiao, and he might be finished as an elite fighter.
#5 Joshua Clottey (GHA) (35-3, 20 KOs)
Losses: Miguel Cotto SD 12;
Next Opponent: TBA
Summary: It’s a real shame, and something that’s hurting boxing, that fighters like Clottey only fight once a year. The durable Ghanaian thought he’d earned the biggest victory of his career by upsetting Miguel Cotto, but the decision went against him, and it’s hurt him financially. If he would have earned the win, he would’ve had a HBO date with Mosley in December, but now HBO have no interest in showing him.
#6 Andre Berto (USA) (25-0, 19 KOs)
Wins: Luis Collazo UD 12, Juan Urango UD 12;
Next Opponent: Shane Mosley, January 30
Summary: Looks untouchable at times, but lapses in concentration and he will be punished by any elite fighter that’s on his game. Luis Collazo made Berto look all hype at times, but Berto showed the grit of a champion, especially in the twelfth, and that’s a positive sign. He dismantled the bomb that is Urango, by showing his explosive style, and clinching furiously. Can he produce his best performance to defeat Mosley?
#7 Carlos Quintana (PUR) (27-2, 21 KOs)
Wins: Jesse Feliciano TKO 3;
Next Opponent: TBA
Summary: Again, a shame that a smart operator like Quintana only fights once a year, and he came up from the canvas to stop Feliciano in three rounds on the Pacquiao-Cotto undercard. He might be tempted to move up to light middleweight to earn his trade, and could face Clottey next in a catchweight fight.
#8 Rafal Jackiewicz (POL) (35-8-1, 18 KOs)
Wins: Luciano Abis UD 12, Delvin Rodriguez UD 12;
Next Opponent: Jan Zaveck, TBA
Summary: Jackiewicz will get his title shot next year against new IBF champion Jan Zaveck next year in a rematch of their competitive fight in 2008. He endured a breakthrough year last year, but earned an American name on his record this year with a unanimous decision over Rodriguez. It was a robbery, as Rodriguez deserved to win, but Jackiewicz won’t mind as he’ll probably be IBF champion next year.
#9 Selcuk Aydin (TUR) (19-0, 15 KOs)
Wins: Luis Hernandez TKO 1, Said Ouali TKO 4, Jackson Osei Bonsu TKO 9;
Next Opponent: TBA
Summary: It’s hard to rate Aydin’s potential, but he sure is exciting. He can bang, box, and puts on a show every time he fights. He will continue to step on recognizable stones for awhile, but expect him to challenge for an interim title late next year. Keep an eye out for him, but don’t be surprised if he does get sparked, we really don’t know much about him, he’s a wildcard.
#10 Jan Zaveck (SLO) (28-1, 16 KOs)
Wins: Arek Malek UD 6, Jorge Daniel Miranda KO 12, Isaac Hlatshwayo TKO 3;
Next Opponent: Rafal Jackiewicz, TBA
Summary: If Zaveck married your sister, I bet you wouldn’t know who he is. He bursted onto the world scene with a battering of Hlatshwayo in three brutal one-sided rounds to capture the IBF belt, and he’ll make his first defence against Pole, Jackiewicz, in a highly anticipated rematch on the European scene.