by Paul Magno
There is no doubt that the Welterweight division is one of the very best in all of boxing, but political and promotional conflicts could threaten to turn the 147 lb. bunch into a ball of confusion.
Here’s a look at some of the major players and significant goings on in the Welterweight division:
Miguel Cotto vs. Antonio Margarito: The Battle for Bob Arum’s Love
If Cotto boxes and moves the way he can and the way his handlers are probably telling him, he should win this one solidly, but we all know that at some point Cotto will engage and that’s when Margarito has his shot and that’s when this fight could become Fight of the Year.
It’s been said that Margarito may be the most feared man in the welter division, Well. possibly, but feared doesn’t always mean good. He’s got real power, but lacks in everything else- Like a 10 billion dollar, nuclear warhead-equipped cruise missile propped up on two cinderblocks. But he does have power and he does pose a threat if/when he can connect and if/when he has somebody offering their chin to him like Kermit Cintron.
Margarito hasn’t a prayer of outboxing Cotto, but he can hurt him and that’s why the fight is so intriguing and tough to call. If Cotto has been seriously shaken by just decent Jr. Welterweights like Ricardo Torres and “Chop Chop” Corley and bothered at times by Judah’s and Mosley’s shots, then what will happen when he gets hit by a legit, power-punching Welterweight who just happens to be a pretty decent closer?
Cotto has vastly improved his defense and general skill set in recent fights and in a perfect world, where the better fighter wins all the fights, Cotto should beat Margarito all day, every day. But as we all know- Boxing is far from being a perfect world.
Questions: Who is there to fight for the winner? The winner will probably take on Joshua Clottey if Clottey beats Judah, but after that the only fights to be made are against the problematic Paul Williams, the “retired” Floyd Mayweather and the aging Shane Mosley. A win for the more marketable, better-skilled Cotto would probably be better for the overall health of the division since a Margarito win just may take the division back into the dark days when Margarito ruled over the WBO title by fighting one weak opponent after another.
Floyd Mayweather’s Crusade Against Himself.
The linear and WBC king of the Welterweight division is acting just like a real king- He sits on his throne, content to let the little guys beneath him dirty their hands and knock each other off.
But like most royalty, the throne has gone to his head and he needs to touch base with reality. Mayweather needs to understand that all the Wrestlemania’s, Dancing with the Stars’ and BET appearances don’t mean half as much to his financial success as one dominant win over a top fighter. Mayweather is a boxer and every other side gig he does is based around that fact.
He hasn’t fought as bad a level of competition as his critics say, but he hasn’t fought the Alphabet Soup-rated fighters that some fans insist on.
If his recently announced retirement is for real, everybdy at 147 gets bumped up a slot; If it’s just a publicity stunt or a tantrum, look for Mayweather to fight some of those Alphabet Soup fighters and champs in ’09 since, after Oscar, there are no other big money/easy money fights out there.
If he is indeed retired, he will be missed- not only for his unmatched skills and abilities, but for his unique ability to produce the most marvelously girlish hissy fits in otherwise battle-hardened, jaded boxing pundits.
Questions: How long will Mayweather stay “retired?” How well will he be able to do business with ex-promoter and hated rival, Bob Arum. Seeing that Arum has Cotto, Margarito and Clottey in his stable, at some point Mayweather and Top Rank will have to do business with each other if they want mega-paydays in ’09.
Paul Williams Smashes Carlos Quintana: Revenge is a Dish Best Served with an 82 inch Straight Left Hand.
With Williams crushing Quintana recently, its hard to deny the fact that the Williams bandwagon has begun to roll again…And why not?
If a tall, southpaw boxer with an 82 inch reach who throws 100+ punches per round is a terror- how about a motivated one who has begun to hit with power and with bad intentions? Yikes!
If rival promoters and trainers were hesitant to pick up a call from Williams’ people before, its a lock that, after watching Williams/Quintana II, they have ripped their phones right off the wall.
When the new WBO rankings come out, Shane Mosley should be Williams’ #1 contender. You can’t get more of an intriguing match-up than Williams/Mosley- That’s if Mosley even decides to take such a fight.
Questions: Will Williams be able to coax another top Welterweight into a fight before the lanky “Punisher” simply outgrows the division?
Joshua Clottey vs. Zab Judah: The War to Stay Off of Basic Cable
This bout for Antonio Margarito’s soon to be vacated IBF strap will be the last stop on one of these guy’s train schedule. Next Stop…Versus and Fox Sports!!!
Clottey is the tough luck kid among the Welterweight class. Despite being a prospect since the Clinton administration, Clottey has yet to pull off the big one and his time is running out. He is 0-2 in his only fights with future or current world champs. He was clearly ahead against Carlos Baldomir when he got himself disqualified and he was ahead of Margarito and making Margarito look foolish until he hurt his hands and was forced to limp across the finish line with a close Split Decision loss.
Despite the hard luck, if Clottey goes 0-3 in big fights, he can no longer be considered a prospect and has to go back to the end of the line once again. Unfortunately, He isn’t well-known enough to get preferential treatment and he’s too good to get the benefit of the doubt.
Judah, on the other hand has the type of bad luck that is 100% self-inflicted.
Despite having the ability to easily beat Baldomir, he was out-hustled and beaten and despite doing well early on against Mayweather and Cotto, he let things slip. He lacked the discipline to continue the game plan that was proving effective against Mayweather and he lacked the focus to realize just how badly he had hurt Cotto a couple of times early in their fight.
Judah may just be a shot fighter at this point, too. His reaction time has been slower than normal against weak competition recently and his attitude has been sluggish. A loss for Judah would hopefully mean the end of his career before he suffers any further, permanent damage. A win for Judah would allow for him to hand over the title to Mosley or Williams in his next fight.
Questions: Does Judah have anything left? Does Clottey have what it takes to pull off a big win in a spotlight fight?
Shane Mosley: All Dressed Up with Nowhere to Go
Just a couple of months ago, the world was at Mosley’s feet. He was coming off of a close decision loss to Cotto and was in final preparations for a PPV encounter with Zab Judah as well as a title fight with Quintana should both fighters get past their respective opponents.
Now, he is a 36 year old, world-class fighter with no one to fight.
Cotto has shown absolutely no inclination to give Shane a rematch; The fight with Judah fell apart thanks to an angry shower door and Quintana was blown out by Williams.
Mosley’s options at Welter are to either wait to be installed as William’s new mandatory and work through an extremely tough match-up with Williams or just wait for the outcome of Clottey/Judah and hope to pick up the scraps. A Clottey win would mean that Mosley probably wouldn’t get within sniffing distance of the IBF, WBA or WBC crowns until late ’09 at the earliest- a death sentence for a finesse fighter in his late 30’s. A win for Judah would possibly mean a shot at the IBF crown sooner rather than later and a good chance to become a world champ again.
Questions: How long can Mosley’s reflexes hold out before he becomes just a smart and skilled but otherwise ordinary top 10 fighter?
The Best of the Rest
Luis Collazo: Between a Rock and a Hard Head
Despite going 0-2 in his last two big fights, Collazo is a crafty, legit ex-champ and top 10 Welterweight who can hang in there with anyone.
He’s too unheralded to gain much from beating him and too good to look impressive against. No wonder lines haven’t been forming to fight him.
Kermit Cintron: It’s not Easy Being Green
When talking about Cintron, “Green” is the operative word because, despite being a two-time world champion and training under Emmanuel Steward, he lacks some of the most fundamental basics of the sport.
Its a cliché to say that Cintron has all the tools to be an excellent fighter, so I won’t say it- but the word “Tool” would be another operative word when talking about Cintron. Who calls out the fighter that KO’d you previously only to fight a worse fight the second time out and get KO’d easier? Geez, “Tool” is the operative word there, as in “Kermit Cintron is a tool.”
Carlos Quintana: Will the Real “Indio” Please Stand Up?
Quintana’s career has suffered from a real case of split personalities. Is Quintana the fighter who schooled Joel Julio and fought the perfect fight against Paul Williams or is he the fighter who got blown away by Miguel Cotto and in the rematch with Williams?
He needs to make up his mind fast and pick one or the other before he gets swarmed by the rest of the Welterweights looking to become champion.
Andre Berto: Fact or Fiction?
Berto’s been brought up the right way and he’s faced a decent level of competition for the level he’s at. The odd problem for him is that he’s the WBC’s #1 ranked contender and he will soon be the IBF’s #1 contender. How long can Berto resist the urge of taking a shot at a title and a big payday? We may never know if Berto’s a real player or not if he takes those fights and bites off more than he can chew. At this point of his career, he’s simply not ready for the upper ranks of the stacked Welterweight division.
Cosme Rivera, David Estrada and Jesse Feliciano: The Journeymen
Every division needs a Rocky Balboa-like underdog and who better than 3, grizzled pros with nothing but hearts and guts? These veteran journeymen have become the gatekeepers of the division.
Rivera was the first person to knock down Andre Berto and was within a few seconds of stopping Joel Julio in what turned out to be a narrow decision loss for the ex-champ, Rivera. Just recently he beat undefeated Colombian prospect Raul Pinzon via TKO. Rivera is still only 31 years old and may be making a real run at getting back in the championship picture.
Estrada is the hard-core action fighter who gave Shane Mosley a tougher than expected fight and rocked Kermit Cintron and was ahead on all 3 judge’s scorecards before being KO’d in the 10th. Estrada will fight any and all comers and is a tough nut to crack.
Feliciano is all toughness and action. He will fight every second of every round and despite not having the greatest of technical skills, he can give anyone a real fight. He may be on a par with most club fighters when it comes to technique, but his accomplishments speak for themselves: He fought a much tougher than expected fight against Cintron before getting stopped late, he laid out former Welterweight prospect Delvin Rodriguez, he scored an upset win over ex-champ Vince Phillips and has gone 1-1-1 with the Contender’s Alfonso Gomez.
Isaac Hlatswayo, Michael Jennings, Yuri Nuzhnenko, Jackson Bonsu, Francisco Bojado: The Foreign Exchange.
Technically, 3 of these fighters are belt holders. Hlatswayo holds the IBO strap, Jennings holds the WBU title and Nuzhnenko is the Interim WBA champ. Technically, these foreign fighters have a combined 134-6 record. The reality, though, is that none of these guys have a real name on their resumes and none would make a serious run at the elite Welters. With the right mojo and the right promotion they may be able to raise a minor stink in the lower part of the division’s top 10.
Ricky Hatton, Steve Forbes, Demetrius Hopkins, Vivian Harris, Junior Witter: Terror from Below or Just a Bunch of Little Guys Wanting Big Money?
While Hatton has proven to be out of his league at 147, there is no doubting the kind of attention and money he can produce. Any Welterweight would be crazy to reject a possible Hatton match up while Hatton just may be crazy enough before retiring to make one last run at making an impact in the sport’s current glamour division.
The rest of these natural 140 pounders mentioned have good enough skills to make any fight at Welter interesting with Forbes and Hopkins having the greatest possibility to pull off an upset. Forbes already holds a handful of good wins at Welterweight (Bojado, Quinonez) and held his ground against a 150 lb Oscar De la Hoya while Hopkins has beaten Forbes.
Final Thoughts (ala Jerry Springer):
From one to ten, the Welterweight division is better than any other division in the sport, but the window of opportunity to turn this era into a Golden Age for Welterweights is quickly closing. The rest of ’08 and ’09 will have to be the time to make the fights that pride and politics didn’t permit earlier. At some point Mosley and Judah will retire and Williams, Margarito and Collazo will move up in weight. What will be left is a very good Cotto beating very suspect challengers and the chance to make some of the best possible match-ups of our era will be gone forever.
For the sake of the division, let’s hope that Mayweather is not really retired and that he comes back from his break with a more realistic attitude. There is no one who attracts more attention to the 147 pound clan than “Money” and no one who sets the internet ablaze like the current 147 lb. and Pound 4 Pound champ. The promise of a fight with Mayweather has contributed to the relative stillness in the division as nobody really wanted to risk a loss if they felt they had the possibility of a 7-figure payday in their future. But the promise of a fight with the champ could also push the division to greater heights if the cards are played right. For Crissake, this is the division of “Sugar” Ray Robinson, “Sugar” Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Tommy Hearns and Pernell Whitaker!
Here’s hoping that the next 18 months or so give us more memories than my Margarita-addled mind can handle…