Stay Out of the Deep End!
The other day a colleague asked me what division in boxing was the most competitive today. Tough question I thought – but not really. I had to think about it but the answer was easy to come to . . . 140. Call it Light Welterweight if you want, call it Super Lightweight if it tickles your fancy, just don’t call any other division in boxing more competitive than these guys are.
Swimming in the deepest of waters is Kostya Tszyu (30-1-0) – one of the top 5 pound-for-pound boxers on anyone’s list. Tszyu is scary in that he carries sleep drops in both hands and has actually made an effort to become a better boxer as opposed to just a puncher. Other than being upset by power punching Vince Phillips, Tszyu has taken on and defeated the best fighters at 140. Looking at his resume, you see the names Sharmba Mitchell, Jesse James Leija, Ben Tackie, Oktay Urkal and Zab Judah. Pretty heavy stuff, and even more so when you consider he has fought these guys back-to-back-to-back-to . . . well you get the idea. Next on deck is likely a rematch with Mitchell or perhaps taking on Judah again. That takes us to Judah and Mitchell.
Judah (29-1-0) has to be considered second man in the water closely followed by Sharma Mitchell (52-3-0) who dives in right behind him. Judah was dunked by consecutive right hands (courtesy of Tszyu)and then decided he would rough up ref Jay Nady afterwards. That blemish aside, Judah has continued to paddle forward and can see Tszyu splashing about right in front of him once again. Mitchell also dove in with Tszyu and did well in treading water with Tszyu and causing the Aussie some trouble with his speed and angles. In the end a bad fin got the best of Mitchell and he has to retire on his stool after the 7th with a partially torn knee ligament. Mitchell has gone on to give a boxing lesson to Tszyu’s conqueror (the aforementioned Phillips) and did something Tszyu could not do in knocking down the iron-jawed Tackie. Clearly when Tszyu looks back, the two making the biggest splashes are Judah and Mitchell.
As we gaze into the middle of the pool, but making their way to the deep end, is a pod of fighters making waves. The biggest star of that group is none other than Arturo Gatti, coming off epic wars with Micky Ward. Gatti is a lot like Tszyu now, in that he has a ton of power and has learned at a later age to become a better boxer. Gatti has a headlong lead over the rest of the crew that consists of Vivian Harris, hard-hitting Ricky Hatton, slick Paul Spadafora, flawless Miguel Cotto, vet Jesse James Leija and solid Ben Tackie. Looking at the ten fighters mentioned so far there is some very strong competition here, were any of these to face each other, it would make for a highly competitive bout.
Just making their way out of the shallow end and moving deeper is the likes of Otkay Urkal, who gave Tszyu a lot of trouble and lost by the slimmest of margins. Fitting in here is also fellow European Junior Witter (26-1-2) who has also lost just once – a decision to Judah. Following along are title contenders Diobelys Hurtado, Omar Weiss, DeMarcus Corely and perhaps Michael Stewart.
Finally, the pool gets filled with a young group jumping in with arm floaties keeping them up as they learn to tread water. Brazlian KO artist Kelson Pinto, ever-exciting Francisco Bojado, Mohamed Abdulaev and Terrance Cauthen make out this solid group moving deeper.
Looking back at the depth of the 140-pound division (as noted above) there is obviously a ton of talent. Tszyu, Judah and Mitchell rule the deep end but the drop off to the middle and shallow ends is not really that big of a drop at all. Perhaps more terrifying to any newbies looking to jump in the water is what is coming up in weight and entering the division. Diego Corrales and Floyd Mayweather are the top fighters at 135 and would immediately cannonball dive straight into the deep waters. Scary indeed.