The Junior Welterweight Division is in a State of Flux:
Danny Garcia’s shocking knockout victory over Amir Khan has shaken the talent-deep, action-packed junior welterweight division down to the ankles. This is because it leaves what is one of the better weight classes in boxing today completely up in the air. Sure, we have a Top 10 ranking list. So do others, including magazines, websites, and sanctioning organizations. But that is because we have to, and that forces us to make distinctions. Yet right now, those distinctions are pretty cloudy at 140 lbs.
Chaos at the Top
The shake-up really began when Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley, long the top dog of the division, moved up to welterweight. Amir Khan was the successor-in-waiting, and jumped immediately in the #1 slot. When Garcia knocked out Khan, he dethroned the king without automatically replacing him (more on that later). As a result, it’s anyone’s guess who the #1 guy in the division should be, and I’ve already seen plenty of argument on that very subject.
We put Juan Manuel Marquez in the top spot because he was the top dog at 135, had just suffered yet another controversial loss to Manny Pacquiao (at a catchweight just north of 140), and he just plain looks better than everyone else in the division. Yet the fact of the matter is that Marquez has only the interim (fake) WBO title, and has not fought anyone else in the junior welterweight Top 10. His claim to the #1 slot is hardly a clear and easy one.
Lamont Petersen (or “PEDersen” as some are calling him now) would be the natural choice, since he owns a close, hometown win over Khan. With Khan having suffered such a huge, upset defeat, he would have been a serious contender for the top slot… except for the fact that his win is tarnished by his failing a drugs screening. That lingering doubt over how much of Petersen was really Petersen, and not something from a syringe, blocks him from becoming king of the hill.
What about the man of the hour, Danny Garcia? Garcia’s victory over Khan should not blind people to the man’s ability. Khan was drilling him before Garcia landed that game-changing left hook. Prior to the big win, his resume highlights include beating an old Eric Morales, a washed-up Nate Campbell, and Kendall Holt. Garcia is a good fighter, but he hasn’t shown the stuff of a world beater. I would pick a few guys in the 140 lbs Top 10 to beat him, and that ain’t the material of a #1 fighter.
The middle-tier contenders present an equally confused picture, due to a mix of stinky decisions, known facts and previously described issues. We rank Marcos Maidana at #3, but I would pick both fellow Argentine Lucas Matthysse and Lamont Peterson to beat him. Yet Matthysse suffers because he wound up on the short end of two suspect decisions (Devon Alexander and Zab Judah), and Peterson for the aforementioned reasons.
Observers could also argue very easily that ranking Khan at #6, as we do, is too harsh. Where Khan actually goes in the Top 10, or where Garcia should be based on his lucky punch knockout, is an argument that could go on all day. Furthermore, some might ask “hey, what happened to Andriy Kotelnyk?” And so on and so on.
This lack of clarity in the division is important for two reasons. While fans often disagree about who is the top dog in a weight class, consensus on who belongs in the top three or top five is usually both broad and solid. That is no longer the case at 140 lbs.
Let’s remember that junior welterweight is one of the most talent-rich divisions in the sport today, full of potentially first-rate match-ups. The lack of a clear idea of who trumps who adds a bit of the unknown to the division, and that is exciting. However, it also opens the question of whether a given match-up is really a marquee fight. We don’t rank Erik Morales, Juan Urango or Brandon Rios in the Top 10, but that doesn’t mean everyone else (or even anyone else) agrees with us. Yet is Lamont Peterson vs. Erik Morales really a big league fight? According to some rankings, it is, but not according to ours.
Yet there is an upside to a division gone topsy-turvey. Watching the weight class sort itself out is usually a great big bag of monkeys.