It was the beginning of the year and Oscar De La Hoya sat with a bunch of us reporters as I asked if his signing of Amir Khan signaled the beginning of a junior welterweight tournament.

The future Hall of Famer looked up with a poker face, took a breath, then pointed out that matching many of Golden Boy Promotion’s junior welterweights made sense including in the mix a non-Golden Boy boxer named Timothy Bradley.

Last weekend several junior welterweights led by Khan showed why the 140-pounders are pro boxing’s most dangerous and explosive division pound for pound.

Showing off explosive speed against Paul Malignaggi that few outside of the Wild Card Boxing gym in Hollywood had seen, Khan no longer is a mystery to the rest of America. Maybe he’ll even get more respect back home in the United Kingdom.

In the companion fight, Victor Ortiz showed against always dangerous Nate Campbell how he should have fought against Marcos Maidana. By using his boxing ability, speed and power the Ventura prizefighter took the win convincingly by decision. He didn’t fight that way against Maidana. Instead he engaged in a 50/50 go for broke slugfest that he lost. Had he boxed he would have won easily. It was a lesson learned.

Now it looks like Khan could be fighting Ortiz next. Or does it?

Khan and Ortiz fought each other several years ago during international amateur competition with the British boxer winning by stoppage. It’s a little different in professional boxing but still, Khan does seem to be closing those windows of vulnerability to opponents. All the flaws he displayed while in England are disappearing under the tutelage of Freddie Roach.

“I’m the world champion and I’m getting better and better and more confident with every fight,” said Khan.

Who can doubt what he says?

Perhaps that loss to Breidis Prescott was the best thing that happened to Khan. Sure he had blazing speed and power, but when he first arrived in Hollywood he often dropped his left hand after firing one of his blazing combinations. And, his chin was up. That seldom, seldom happens any more.

Malignaggi, a clever and technical boxer, probably saw those flaws in earlier videos of Khan. But it’s difficult to capitalize when someone is firing combinations in a blur with knockout power. Plus, Khan doesn’t stand around waiting to take return fire. He’s like a stealth jet. He drops his load then puff. He’s gone.

Two other junior welterweights remain out there to block any claims for superiority in the 140-pound class.

Devon Alexander, the WBC titleholder, captured the title against Junior Witter in a pretty good performance. Probably more impressive was his win over Juan Urango. The St. Louis junior welterweight is strong, resilient and has speed.

Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley continues to get little respect despite mowing through a murderer’s row to get to this point. It’s probably because he doesn’t have the gaudy knockout numbers but he’s got speed galore and defense along with it. Those things can carry any fighter a long ways.

Golden Boy Promotion’s De La Hoya hinted that he wants Bradley against one of the many junior welterweights signed under his company. All roads lead to Bradley at this point.

Marcos Maidana, who beat Ortiz last year, seemingly refused to fight Bradley on two occasions, according to one matchmaker who asked to not be named.

Khan wants Bradley but it makes more sense to build up the British bullet.

Speaking of British, what happened to undefeated Kevin Mitchell last Saturday against Michael Katsidis?

Most British boxing fans claimed Khan was evading Mitchell; that he was afraid of the London pugilist. Katsidis showed the world that Mitchell is not quite ready for world class competition. Khan is world class.

Hopefully Golden Boy will pair off the best of his junior welters against Bradley to find the best of the best.

Another junior welterweight spoke up last Friday when former two-time lightweight world champion Julio Diaz splashed punches on Herman Ngoudjo and showed superior defense in breaking down the gritty Canadian fighter. Ngoudjo allegedly suffered broken bones to the jaw and orbital bone.

Ironically, Diaz fights out of the same stable as Bradley and is trained by his brother Joel Diaz. Joel trains Bradley too. Both Bradley and Diaz are promoted by Thompson Boxing Promotions a burgeoning company that also has several under the radar junior welterweights like Josesito Lopez, Patrick Lopez, Mauricio Herrera and is also eyeing Jose Reynoso and Ariz Ambris.

All work with each other and provide top flight sparring that you just can’t buy. Seems like a partnership between Thompson Boxing and Golden Boy makes sense for any kind of junior welterweight tournament.