The talent in the 140-pound division of the sweet science runs deeper than any other in the sport and, fortunately for boxing fans, it is going to make for some great fights in the next year as the divisions stars collide. Heading the list of top junior welterweights is "Vicious" Vivian Harris, and he is ready to challenge any of the top contenders to prove he is the best.
Fresh off his TKO victory in Germany over Oktay Urkal, Harris is now 25-1-1 with 17 knockouts. He was the first man to ever drop the durable veteran when they first met earlier this year. In the rematch Harris did something that not even Kostya Tszyu could accomplish, as he stopped Urkal in the eleventh round.
The consensus champion at 140-pounds, Tszyu squeaked past Urkal when they met in the United States back in 2001. Harris has now twice traveled to Germany and beat Urkal in front of his home fans. As the WBA champion with a willingness to travel to Europe, Harris seems to be a natural candidate to meet undefeated WBU champion Ricky ‘The Hitman’ Hatton. Hatton has only fought in England and almost exclusively in his hometown of Manchester.
Whether Hatton handler Frank Warren would risk his fighter’s perfect record is another matter entirely. Hatton has shown a preference to meet opponents on the downside of their careers. He recently has beaten the likes of:
• Michael Stewart - coming off a beat-down at the hands of Sharmba Mitchell
• Carlos Wilfredo Vilches - who has now lost four of his past eight bouts
• Dennis Holbaek Pedersen - was a last-minute replacement for Kelson Pinto
• Ben Tackie - suffered his third consecutive loss against Hatton
• and throw in 40-something Vince Phillips
Fortunately for Vivian Harris, the division is rich in contenders, but limited in the number of championship belts worth coveting—and Harris holds one of them. Sharmba Mitchell and Kostya Tszyu meet November 6th to decide the IBF championship debate. Arturo Gatti holds the WBC title, and Harris is the WBA belt holder at junior welterweight. Miguel Cotto, 24, is still perfect as a pro off his shining destruction of fellow young prospect Kelson Pinto to claim the WBO version of the division championship.
With Gatti signed, sealed and delivered for a January date with Jesse James Leija and Mitchell set to challenge Tszyu, there are still big fights to be made. The man that many believe is the best fighter in the world, Floyd Mayweather Jr., recently made the move up to the division from 135-pounds. And we haven’t yet touched on Paul Spadafora, Junior Witter, 21-year old former “prospect” and now “project” Francisco Bojado . . . and many, many others because there are simply too many to list.
Vivian Harris is a mere 26-years-old and under the tutelage of Emmanuel Steward is as close to a "complete" fighter as there is. At nearly 5’10” tall he has all the physical tools and boxing skills to succeed versus any of the division’s elite. Once beaten by the incredible work-rate and combination punching of Ray Oliveira four years ago, Harris has matured and developed into a champion. Sometimes tasting defeat is good for a fighter – to know what it is like and to use it as the motivation and inspiration to not let it happen again.
Possibilities abound for Harris as the division is rich in marketable fighters and make-able fights. Feature bouts between Tszyu-Mitchell, Hatton-Oliveira and Gatti-Leija prove this to be the case, and these fights will all solve their piece of the junior welter puzzle in the coming days.
For "Vicious" Vivian Harris, he has already shown that he fits right in with the best, and he is ready to prove it.