Ranking the 5 Most Competitive Weight Divisions in Boxing

Kevin McRaeFeatured ColumnistFebruary 9, 2013

Ranking the 5 Most Competitive Weight Divisions in Boxing

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    Boxing is known for its various weight classes and myriad of championship belts. The distinctions are often lost on anything, but the hardcore fan who truly can't comprehend what a huge difference a few pounds can make in the ring.

    Competition can be stymied by these various divisions, but that isn't the case for these five.

    They are top to bottom the deepest, most competitive classes in the sport. They all possess great champions, top contenders and young up-and-comers who will soon challenge for the throne.

    These are the five most competitive weight divisions in boxing.

1. Welterweight

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    The welterweight division is top to bottom the deepest in the sport. 

    The top-dog in the yard is the erstwhile pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. who holds the WBC championship and has recently teased a return to the ring against IBF champion Devon Alexander. Whether the fight will come off, with the IBF refusing to sanction it, remains to be seen.

    The other two championships are held by the undefeated WBO champion Timothy Bradley and the slick boxer and part-time TV analyst Paulie Malignaggi who holds the WBA belt.

    Some other pretty notable names at this weight are eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao, interim-WBC champion Robert Guerrero, Andre Berto, Marcos Maidana and Victor Ortiz.

    On the up-and-comers front there is nobody better at welterweight than Kell Brook. The 26-year-old British sensation was due to face Devon Alexander for the IBF title later this month, but the fight was postponed due to injury.

    With Alexander now mentioned as a foe for Floyd Mayweather, it's uncertain if Brook will get his first title opportunity against the St. Louis native or someone else.

2. Junior Welterweight

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    The junior welterweight division only narrowly loses out to welterweight as the best in the sport.

    Danny Garcia is on top of the 140-pounders and holds the unified WBC and WBA title plus The Ring Magazine championship. His scheduled defense against veteran former world champion Zab Judah was postponed to April due to an injury.

    In addition to Garcia, the junior welterweight class has several other exciting, all-action fighters including Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado who will rematch their fight of the year candidate in March with the WBO title on the line.

    Former champion and one-time can't miss prospect Amir Khan also campaigns at 140-pounds and looked impressive in his first fight under new trainer Virgil Hunter.

    One of the men who helped derail Khan's rise, Lamont Peterson will also return to the ring in the coming weeks and defend his title against former champion Kendall Holt.

    And this doesn't include yet the man who might well be the best fighter in the division, but who doesn't hold a belt yet. Lucas Matthysse is a knockout machine who hopes to find his way into a much deserved title shot sometime this year.

3. Featherweight

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    The featherweight division was pretty deep before Abner Mares decided to make the jump north to 126-pounds after a showdown with Nonito Donaire failed to materialize.

    He will make an immediate impact, but likely won't face the best fighter at this weight, new WBO champion Mikey Garcia, because of the Top Rank/Golden Boy feud.

    Garcia won his first world title with a shockingly dominant technical decision over tough veteran Orlando Salido at Madison Square Garden in January. 

    Daniel Ponce de Leon, once exclusively a brawler, has reinvented himself and reemerged as a legitimate threat. He faces young stud up-and-comer Jayson Velez in early March. 

    Add to that mix a returning Juan Manuel Lopez, still dangerous vets Salido and Jhonny Gonzalez and future stars like Velez and Gary Russell Jr., and you have a division worth watching.

4. Junior Lightweight

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    The junior lightweight division could possibly be placed even higher on this list due to the great number of good fighters at the weight. The problem is that nobody has truly established himself as a great fighter.

    Rocky Martinez and Juan Carlos Burgos are close to the top of the heap with Burgos getting robbed of a deserved title win by horrific judging earlier this year at Madison Square Garden.

    Instead of an immediate rematch, Martinez will defend his WBO title against undefeated Diego Magdaleno. 

    Also competing at 130-pounds are the undefeated Japanese WBA titlist Takashi Uchiyama, IBF champion Juan Carlos Salgado and the recently returned Yuriorkis Gamboa who was once considered one of the best fighters in the sport.

    Gamboa is obviously the biggest individual name at this weight, but he has become a bit of a reclamation project with great upside but no guarantees.

5. Junior Middleweight

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    Much of the hype surrounding the junior middleweight division centers around Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, the undefeated Mexican prospect who hopes to meet Floyd Mayweather Jr. later in the year.

    While Alvarez has shown great potential and talent, he was recently met with criticism for his opponent selections. Facing faded names and blown up fighters is certainly a way to build up a prospect, but it doesn't equate to superstardom. 

    Hopefully that problem is solved later in the year with a bout against WBA champion Austin Trout.

    Trout shocked the boxing world with a stunningly lopsided decision win over Miguel Cotto in December at Madison Square Garden. With the win his star rose and Cotto's fell, but it's hard to count out the Puerto Rican legend.

    Erislandy Lara and Vanos Martirosyan have been avoided by the top talent in the division for years now and with good reason.

    Just below that level, or possibly even on it now, are fighters like Carlos Molina and James Kirkland. And none of that even mentions the elder statesman of the division, and WBA champion, Cornelius "K9" Bundrage.

    There are simply a ton of great fights to be made at 154-pounds.