If You Like Jet Li, You're Going To Love the Featherweight Division

Joe OneillCorrespondent IIJanuary 11, 2010

LAS VEGAS - SEPTEMBER 19:  Chris John celebrates his victory over Rocky Juarez to retain his WBA featherweight title at the MGM Grand Garden Arena September 19, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

I love the smaller weight divisions. Give me a fight anywhere from light flyweight to super featherweight, and I’m going to tune in.

The reasons are many to watch the little men throw down.

Because they don’t throw especially hard, they take more chances. Whereas in the heavier weight divisions, where one wrong move can mean a knockout, the smaller fighters don’t necessarily worry about getting knocked out as much.

Small guys are just flat out quicker. So the action tends to have a frenetic quality about it. Every fight is like watching a Jet Li movie.

Speaking of which, ever notice that Bruce Lee, Jet Li, Jackie Chan...they're all little guys.

If you like martial arts movies, then you'll love the featherweight division.

The only difference is these guys are the real deal. Real-life Bruce Lee's who get in the ring and go at it like a couple of rabid hummingbirds.

The Featherweight Division, in my humble opinion, is the most exciting in boxing. There are several young contenders ready to break out. Because it’s a lighter weight, it tends to be dominated by fighters outside of the U.S. This makes the quality of the division very, very deep.

Below are a few of my favorite fighters in the featherweight division.

Chris John rocked the boxing world by beating Juan Manuel Marquez a few years back. He went from a virtual unknown out of Indonesia to an overnight sensation. His recent win over Rocky Juarez cemented his position.  For a taller fighter, he absorbs pressure well and is surprisingly powerful.

Which brings us up to Rocky Juarez. Or as I like to call him "The Little Bulldog." He’s a scrappy, active fighter with a peek-a-boo stance and is a heck of a lot of fun to watch. I hope he and John have a third fight. The first was a draw and John won the second one. He fights out of Houston and has a great following in that city.

Yuriorkis Gamboa isn’t just the future of the featherweight division; he might be the next superstar in boxing. Do yourself a huge favor and watch his fight on Jan. 23 against Roger Mtagwa. This "kid" is 28 years old and 16-0 with 14 knockouts. He has amazing power for a featherweight. The reason he only has 16 professional fights is because he’s originally from Cuba. One of the most exciting prospects I’ve seen in recent years.


Juan Manuel Lopez is "technically" a super bantamweight (one weight below featherweight). However, he’s fighting Steven Luevana, a featherweight, on Jan. 23. Again, a fight not to be missed. Lopez, or Juanma, is  27-0 with 24 knockouts and on the way to becoming the next legendary Puerto Rican fighter. The most impressive I’ve seen him is when he dismantled Daniel Ponce De Leon in a first round knockout in July 2008. De Leon hasn’t wanted a piece of him since then. A stalking, brawler who is very strong and not to be missed.

Celestino Cabalero is, again, technically a super bantamweight (I personally think they just need to combine the super bantamweight and featherweight divisions). Anyhow, Cabaleros is very tall at 5’11” and very active and comes at his opponent from all matter of angles. His defense looks suspect, but he hasn’t lost since 2004. Fighting out of Panama, he reminds me of a praying mantis when he fights.

Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo is 32-0 with 18 knockouts. He’s only 24, and he’s never fought out of Thailand. He has a tremendous amount of natural ability and is very strong for a featherweight. Watch for him to have some bigger fights in the States very soon.


Abe Conception is 21 years old and fights out of the Philippines. His record is 27-3-1. Now, two of his losses came early in his career. In August 2009, he was, in my opinion, well on his way to dominating Steve Luevando when he, inexplicably, hit Luevano clearly after the bell had sounded in the seventh round and knocked him out. He was subsequently disqualified. He’s fighting Mario Santiago on Feb. 13 in what should be a good fight in Las Vegas. He’s a very strong fighter but is young and seems to have trouble with taller fighters.

There are some other good fighters in this division who I don’t think are quite the quality of the guys I’ve mentioned above.

Steve Luevano is a tough fighter out of La Puente, Calif. But, he doesn’t seem to have the athletic ability or quickness to hang with the stars of the division.

Daniel Ponce De Leon is very good but was manhandled by Juan Manuel Lopez and beaten by Cabaleros back in 2005. Once the darling of the sport, he needs to beat a "name" fighter.

Martin Lindsay out of Northern Ireland may need to be included along with the upper echelon. However, he’s only fought 15 fights, he’s 15-0, and he hasn’t fought out of the UK. That said, he’s a tough Irishman with a great left hook.