The Junior Welterweight division in boxing is arguably the hottest division in the sport right now. There are a ton of competitive fights to make and when all is said and done, it's not easy to predict who will come out on top.
For much of this year, we were just waiting and praying for all the big 140 pound matchups to actually get made and not go the way of Pacquiao vs. Mayweather. Well, it now appears that everyone has got their wish.
Earlier this week, No. 1 rated Timothy Bradley signed his contract to face fellow undefeated titlist Devon Alexander at the start of 2011. It is the biggest fight that can be made at 140 pounds, but not far behind it is another matchup of top-five Jr. welters as Amir Khan has signed to face Marco Maidana in December.
This four-man tournament will determine who the top dog is in the division, but they are not the only pugilists with their eyes focused on the top.
Let's take a look at all the the possible contenders this loaded division has to offer.
Timothy Bradley (26-0)
Considered by most to be No.1 in the division, Bradley achieved his status with impressive wins over Junior Witter, Kendall Holt, and Lamont Peterson. Most recently, Bradley went up to welterweight and took on undefeated Carlos Abregu, winning by unanimous decision.
For a minute there, Bradley seemed to be confused over his place in the sport, thinking he was in line for big fights with Mayweather or Pacquiao. Frankly, he is nowhere near that. Would they be great fights? Yes. Is it realistic? Absolutely not.
He has now come to his senses and agreed to the fight everyone wanted from him against Devon Alexander. Way to go, Tim.
Amir Khan (23-1)
Khan is listed at the No. 2 spot by most rankings due to his wins over Andriy Kotelnik, Dmitry Salita (a first-round blowout), and Paulie Malignaggi. Khan was pulling for a big fight against lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez, but Marquez decided to stay at 135 pounds and defend his title. Now, Khan has signed to face his overdue mandatory Marco Maidana, the fight everyone preferred to see.
In Khan's only loss, he was knocked out in the first round against hard hitting Colombian prospect, Breidis Prescott. It was also not the first time Khan has hit the canvas. Now, Khan will have the chance to prove his chin can keep up with his skills and physical gifts, as he faces arguably the strongest of the division's contenders.
Devon Alexander (21-0)
A now unified and defending titlist, Alexander went quickly from a prospect that couldn't get a fight to possibly becoming the champion of the division. The change came with three big wins over Junior Witter, Juan Urango and most recently a close decision over Andriy Kotelnik. His knockout over the iron-chinned Urango was especially impressive.
After months of calling his name to the media, Alexander will get the fight he was begging for against Tim Bradley. HBO will start the year with a bang when these two meet.
Marcos Maidana (29-1)
Maidana broke onto the American scene last year with a six-round classic against Victor Ortiz. The two exchanged knockdowns like young couples exchange text messages until Ortiz couldn't take anymore and quit.
Before that, Maidana lost a close split-decision to Andriy Kotelnik that most thought could have gone either way.
Since the Ortiz win, Maidana has won three fights, most notably a sixth-round knockout of undefeated prospect, Victor Cayo. Now Maidana will get his chance against the best opponent of his career in Amir Khan. Will Maidana's power be too much for the possibly fragile chin of Khan? Or will Khan's boxing skills overwhelm the Argentinian slugger? I can't wait for December!
Zab Judah (39-6)
A former titlist in this division, Judah has now returned to his old stomping grounds at 140 pounds and in his return appearance looked like the budding prospect that first entered the title scene more than half a decade ago.
After a third-round knockout of Jose Santa Cruz on ESPN, Judah has now secured an HBO date in November against undefeated prospect, Lucas Matthysse.
If Judah can electrify the viewers again against Matthysse, big fights will be coming his way. With the natural gifts and experience that Judah possesses, I give him a shot against anyone in the division.
Victor Ortiz (28-2-1)
There were many that wrote Ortiz off after he quit in the sixth round of his brutal battle with Marcos Maidana. His subsequent interview where he stated he doesn't deserve to be taking this kind of punishment certainly didn't go over well with the ever-hard-to-please fans of boxing.
However, since then, Ortiz has strung together some notable victories and began to win the viewers over again. His shutout decision win against Nate Campbell impressed many, and most recently Ortiz looked stunning with a third-round knockout of former titlist, Vivian Harris.
The kid is still young and clearly has talent. He is a tough fight for anyone and always makes for fun fights. Though his stock dropped from that Maidana loss, let's not forget that Maidana had to go through hell to win that fight, being dropped three times himself.
Juan Manuel Marquez (51-5-1)
Marquez is certainly a wild card in this division, mostly because he has never even fought at 140 pounds. He is the champion at 135 pounds and has toyed with the idea of moving up in an effort to be the first Mexican to win titles in four weight divisions.
Though it may never happen, I give Marquez a chance against anyone at Jr. welterweight. Marquez is an all-time great.
Andriy Kotelnik (31-4-1)
Kotelnik has fought the best in this division and held his own. He is still the only man to hold a win over Marcos Maidana, and there are many that feel he deserved the nod against Devon Alexander. Kotelnik makes for a great fight with anyone in the division, and if he can ever get on a hot streak, he will be a force to be reckoned with.
Lucas Matthysse (27-0)
Matthysse is somewhat of an unknown entity in the division. He is undefeated with all but two of his wins coming by knockout, though he has only fought outside of Argentina a few times. His name got a big boost after stopping Vivian Harris in the fourth round earlier this year, but most considered the stoppage a tad early.
He will now have the chance to prove his mettle on a big stage against Zab Judah on November 6.
Joan Guzman (30-0-1)
It is truly amazing how far the stock of Joan Guzman has fallen in the last three years. In 2007, he looked amazing in shutting out Humberto Soto on HBO.
Since then, he missed weight and pulled out of a lightweight championship against Nate Campbell, received an absolute gift draw against Ali Funeka in a fight he clearly lost, and then missed weight again for the rematch with Funeka and won a fight that probably shouldn't have been allowed to go on.
It is really hard to believe he is still undefeated considering how much had faith in him has been lost.
He has now moved up in weight and claims to be rededicated. Still, with his skills and experience, he could be a force in this division and matches up well with a lot of the top guys.
Lamont Peterson (28-1)
Lamont has little power, but a ton of heart, toughness and skill. In losing a lopsided decision to Tim Bradley in December, Peterson earned some fans by hanging in there and making it a fight. He is a tough outing for anyone in the division and maybe with some more seasoning, he can work his way towards the top.
Most recently he returned to stop Damian Fuller in the seventh round.
Juan Urango (22-3-1)
Urango is the blue collar former titlist of the division. After losing his alphabet title to Ricky Hatton in 2007, Urango put together a handful of quality wins, most notably against Herman Ngoudjo and then Randall Bailey to win another title.
In his next fight however, he lost that title to Devon Alexander in a unification fight. He has yet to return, but Urango is as strong as they come and makes an interesting opponent for anyone on the rise or the rebound.