Look out, welterweights. Another weight class is about to give you a run for your money.
The lightweight division has undergone a transformation in recent months, and a division recently considered mundane has suddenly become one of the most exciting in the game. The world’s best lightweights have not been shy about facing one another in high stakes matchups. Consider for a moment what the lightweight division has produced in the last six months alone.
This past March was the biggest shot in the arm for the division, as the race for the world’s best lightweight focused on two men. First, in a significant upset, the enigmatic Nate Campbell finally realized his lofty potential in punishing Juan Diaz over the full twelve round distance. Diaz was supposed to be settling in for a long reign as the division’s king; that is, until Campbell unceremoniously slapped the crown from off his head.
Then, just two weeks later, Joel Casamayor proved his days atop the division were not yet numbered as he outfought and outlasted the rugged Michael Katsidis in a wild affair, which saw both men hit the deck before Katsidis finally crumbled in the tenth round.
Then in July, junior lightweight superstar Manny Pacquiao made his lightweight debut, viciously thrashing titlist David Diaz en route to a ninth-round stoppage. The win not only cemented Pacquiao’s position among the best in the world, but also signaled that the lightweight division’s star power suddenly increased exponentially.
You would be hard-pressed to find any other division that has offered so many highly-entertaining, yet significant fights during that time. The best part is that the great fights just won’t stop. Case in point, over the next two weeks, lightweights are headlining three major cards in some of the most intriguing fights of the fall.
Up first this weekend is a potential barn-burner, pitting Juan “Baby Bull” Diaz against Michael Katsidis. Fresh off the first losses of their careers, both intend to rebound strongly. Combine the sense of urgency surrounding both fighters with their high octane, high contact styles, and the ingredients add up to combustion. In a year without Margarito-Cotto, this fight would have a shot at being the Fight of the Year. In the months leading up to the fight, Diaz himself spoke regarding how crucial this fight is to the future of his career, describing it as a “do or die” matchup for both Katsidis and himself. This is the definitive crossroads fight.
Then, in dueling cards on September 13, Joel Casamayor and Nate Campbell will each state their case as the top 135 pounder in the world, although it won’t be against each other. Casamayor will clash with pound-for-pound fixture Juan Manuel Marquez, who is not wasting any time in his first dance at lightweight. The fight promises to be a classic for boxing aficionados, as two of the game's cagiest veterans match wiles for the linear lightweight championship.
Meanwhile, Campbell will take on undefeated slickster Joan Guzman, who is also moving north from 130 pounds. Campbell has set his sights even higher than Guzman, wanting ultimately to be recognized as one of boxing's best regardless of weight class.
“If I get the fights that I want, when I get through winning them, I'll be Fighter of the Year,” the rejuvenated Campbell said. Campbell's plans ultimately involve unifying the division, which would ideally mean locking horns with the winner of Casamayor-Marquez. This is all, of course, contingent on Campbell handling a bit of business against the tough Dominican native, Guzman.
The best part of it all is the action doesn’t appear to be letting up. Other top junior lightweights are considering following Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez, and Joan Guzman in making the five-pound jump to the already talent-loaded division, including tough veteran Humberto Soto and Venezuelan banger Edwin Valero. Much has been made of the golden age currently being witnessed in the endlessly deep welterweight division; the lightweights seem to at least be experiencing a bronze age of their own.
A division that once seemed rather faceless following the departure of names such as Floyd Mayweather, Diego Corrales, and Jose Luis Castillo is suddenly bursting at the seams with talent, sporting an endless catalogue of sensational matchups. The bottom line is that the recent fights produced by lightweight division have been a dream come true for hardcore fight fans, and serves as an example to the rest of the boxing world of what can happen when fighters are willing to risk it all for glory.
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV