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If not for the schism between Golden Boy and Top Rank, the featherweight division would be hotter than the Arabian Peninsula in July. As it is, the weight class is still stuffed with veteran stars and promising young talent and should provide some of 2014's most exciting matchups.
Abner Mares and Nonito Donaire both spent time in the pound-for-pound, top-10 rankings in 2013, before suffering major setback losses. But both men remain highly skilled, extremely experienced fighters, still in their prime.
By shocking Mares with a Round 1 KO last August, former champion Jhonny Gonzalez propelled himself back to the top of the heap. Daniel Ponce De Leon, the last man to beat Gonzalez, would no doubt love another shot at him.
"The Mexican Russian," Evgeny Gradovich, jumped on the opportunity to challenge for Billy Dib's IBF belt on a month's notice in March 2012 and took the gold with a split decision. The undefeated Gradovich continues to improve, as he demonstrated when he beat Dib by TKO in the rematch last November.
Undefeated prospects Nicholas Walters and Ronny Rios show great potential, as does WBA interim champ Jesus Marcelo Andres Cuellar of Argentina. But the true rising star in this division is likely Ukrainian Vasyl Lomachenko. The two-time Olympic gold medalist will challenge Orlando Salido for the WBO belt in just his second fight this March.
I also predict super bantamweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux will move up to featherweight at some point, in order to get the quality of fight he needs. A showdown between Rigondeaux and Lomachenko would be a boxing purist's dream.