After Juan Manuel Lopez's thrilling second round knockout of Bernabe Concepcion last weekend, one thing is becoming more and more obvious: The featherweight division is starting to look like one of the most exciting in the sport once again.
The last "golden age" for featherweights several years ago featured names that need no introduction, from Pacquiao to Morales to Marquez and many more. This current group has some big shoes to fill if it wants to give back to the sport as much as those warriors did, but it is safe to say these new boxers are on the right track.
For a little look at the cream of the crop in this loaded division, let's go through the Boxrec.com top five.
5. Yuriorkis Gamboa (18-0-0, 15 KO) Cuba
The fifth-rated man may in this case be the most talented. A 2004 Olympic gold medalist, Gamboa has already established himself as a powerful force only 18 fights into his career. Concerns about his commitment to defense stem from his being knocked down several times, but his punching power is unquestioned. Expect fireworks anytime he steps in the ring.
His next test is a unification bout with sixth-rated Elio Rojas (22-1-0, 13 KO) in September.
4. Rafael Marquez (39-5-0, 35 KO) Mexico
The veteran of the group is actually a newcomer when it comes to the 126-pound division. Marquez is already a likely Hall of Famer and is a champion of two divisions. After finishing (hopefully) his epic series with Israel Vasquez in his last fight, Marquez will now set his sights on conquering a third weight class.
His attempt will not be an easy one, as he fights division king Lopez September 18th.
3. Celestino Caballero (34-2-0, 23 KO) Panama
Caballero is beginning to draw comparisons to Paul Williams. This is a good thing if it means he's a tall, rangy, pressure fighter with great skills and an impressive record. The not-so-good part of the comparison is that, like Williams, nobody seems to want to fight him. Like Marquez, he recently moved up from 122 pounds to look for a big fight at featherweight. His first fight after the move was a dominating performance against previously undefeated Daud Cino Yordan.
"Pelenchin" doesn't have anything currently scheduled, but let's hope that changes soon. He would make an excellent opponent for any of the division's top fighters.
2. Chris John (43-0-2, 22 KO) Indonesia
John is a career featherweight who has held a major title for years now. Having only fought twice in the United States, he remains a bit of an unknown to many boxing fans. He is likely the slickest boxer in the division, and he would make an interesting style matchup with the bigger punchers on the list.
John recently had to reschedule his next fight because of injury. He is currently waiting on word from his doctors regarding when he can re-enter the ring.
1. Juan Manuel Lopez (29-0-0, 26 KO) Puerto Rico
Lopez passed John for the top spot last weekend after his above-mentioned win. An absolutely thrilling fighter who combines shocking power with occasional lapses in defense, Lopez is must-see TV.
His next fight against Marquez is a true summit meeting in the sport. A win over the Mexican legend would set him up for an even bigger fight with Gamboa, one that hardcore fans are already begging for.
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