Amir Khan and the Junior Welterweights: Are the Next Four Kings Among Them?
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In the 1980's, Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Tommy "Hit Man" Hearns, and Marvelous Marvin Hagler defined an era of the best fighting the best.
They gave no excuses. Their promoters hyped fights that, get this, actually lived up to their potential.
Now we are in an era where we look to the junior welterweights, since there is an abundance of talent among the140-pounders, for the next boxing superstars.
Now some say it's blasphemous to suggest any of today's fighters could be Hall of Fame legends, let alone produce legends on par with Hagler, Hearns, Duran, and Leonard.
I say that you can't properly judge an era until its long passed. We could be in an era where legends are being made one great fight at a time.
Marcos Maidana vs Victor Ortiz and Lamont Peterson vs Timothy Bradley and many other fights have proven to be pure adrenaline-filled encounters with the highest awesome that current boxing has to offer.
Let's take a look at the top 10 junior welterweights who can create a golden era in this time of the sport.
Danny Garcia scores a beautiful third-round knockout of Deon Nash.
Professional Record: 21-0, 14 KOs
Garcia is climbing up the rankings slowly but surely. He most recently won by decision against Nate Campbell. That usually means a big matchup is soon to follow.
Ortiz, Juan Diaz, Ali Funeka and the legendary Joel Casamayor are among those who have gone on to have great careers after defeating Campbell.
Garcia is likely to have a fight or two, and then we'll see him tested against a bigger name.
10. Lamont Peterson
Peterson KOs Victor Cayo
Professional Record: 29-1-1, 15 KOs
Peterson lost his first big title shot against Timothy Bradley (27-0, 11 KOs) in a fight that was an all-American classic.
His recent knockout victory over Victor Cayo (26-2, 18 KOs) makes him the mandatory challenger for the IBF world title holder, Amir Khan (26-1, 18 KOs).
If Khan does give Peterson a chance, he can't screw up or his days as a title contender could get drastically shorter.
He's 27 years old, and it took him two years to become a mandatory challenger again. It may take him another six months to a year to land the actual title fight. If he loses, he may never get another shot.
He may have shown heart against Victor Ortiz in an effort that earned him a draw last December, but he's going to have to show championship victories to become a future legend.
09. Devon Alexander
Al Bello/Getty Images
Professional Record: 21-1, 13 KOs
Former IBF and WBC world champ, he was heralded for his back-to-back knockout victories over Junior Witter (39-5-2, 22 KOs) and Juan Urango (22-3-1, 17 KOs).
Then came his last three fights. First Alexander won a decision against Andreas Kotelnik (31-4-1) nobody felt he won. The fight was held in Saint Louis, Alexander's hometown. This led to speculation that Alexander got a "gift" with this fight.
He next faced Timothy Bradley. Bradley outfought him in the biggest fight of his career. HBO backed both fighters to be apart of the next group of Leonard-Hagler potentials. On the night of January 29 2011, they were wrong.
Bradley and Alexander clashed heads numerous times while Alexander stood mostly on the defensive while getting tagged. Barely fighting back, Alexander seemed to "submit" to the ring doctor when the fight was stopped by headbutts in round ten of the scheduled twelve.
Alexander tried to comeback later in a fight against Lucas Matthysse this past June. The fight proved Alexander had heart as he ate hard punch after hard punch, even coming back from a knockdown.
But in the end, any still felt Matthysse had won in spite of Alexander's determination. Then the Saint Louis judges once again granted an undeserving Alexander a victory.
Matthysse complained and Alexander laid out plans to move to welterweight. What Alexander can do from here is hard to say. He's won matches he didn't deserve to win, but he's shown qualities a boxer can use such as heart and the ability to come back from defeat.
Alexander can participate in some classic battles. His fight with Matthysse was a pretty good fight. The only problem was the hometown decision. Hopefully Alexander doesn't earn too many of those or he will only hinder boxing instead of enrich it.
08. Erik Morales
Highlights of Morales vs Maidana.
Professional Record: 51-7, 35 KOs
Roberto Duran was three years older than Marvin Hagler, five years older than Sugar Ray Leonard, and eight years older than Tommy Hearns.
Duran had accomplished so much at lightweight (135 lbs), by the time he moved up to welterweight to face Leonard, he had already been considered a legend.
Morales could be considered the next Duran of this current generation. As seen with Duran, an experienced fighter thrown into the mix with young lions makes for an interesting mix of matches.
Morales entered the 140 lb foray with a fight against Marcos Maidana (30-2, 27 KOs). Many expected an easy win for the knockout king.
The 28-year-old Argentine fighter proved to be confused at times by the veteran Mexican warrior. Though Maidana barely escaped with the decision win, many felt Morales truly won that night.
Morales proved he still had something left in the tank. How much he has left will determine how much of a factor he is in the junior welterweight classics, but I imagine he'll be a great factor for a least a year or two.
07. Robert Guerrero
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Professional Record: 29-1-1, 18 KOs
With a very accomplished resume at both featherweight (126 lbs), super featherweight (130 lbs), and lightweight (135 lbs), Guerrero now stands to make an impression at junior welterweight (140 lbs) by taking on Marcos Maidana first.
Now that's a tough first assignment, but Guerrero has shown his mastery of boxing's fundamentals and dangerous power can bring him through almost anything. If it can bring him through Maidana, then a series of great junior welterweight battles lie ahead for Guerrero.
06. Lucas Matthysse
Matthysse vs Corley in its (short) entirety.
Professional Record: 28-2, 26 KOs
Lucas Matthysse has arguably been screwed in the two biggest matches of his career. First, against Zab Judah. Judah won by split decision even after suffering a knockdown and struggling to handle Matthysse's pressure and power.
Then Devon Alexander clearly lost, but was awarded the unanimous decision in his hometown of Saint Louis.
Matthysse needs to use his power to put fighters away and not allow them to survive. The pattern seems to be that when his greatest opponents survive, they often get the decision.
Matthysse can only feed off the sympathy of boxing fans for so long before they blame him for his current situation. If he can turn things around with the hammer of his fist, then he can become a legendary champion.
His destruction of Demarcus Corley seemed to show he's learning to let his fist do the judging for him. Let's hope he continues this trend.
5. Brandon Rios
Rios eating a leather sandwich.
Nick Laham/Getty Images
Professional Record: 28-0-1, 21 KOs
Rios has been exciting at lightweight (135 lbs). His ability to battle through adversity and his willingness to take a mean punch to give a meaner one have turned him into a popular force with fans.
Rios has expressed a desire to move up to 140 lbs now that Juan Manuel Marquez is fighting Pacquiao and Guerrero has moved up as well.
He's mentioned the likes of Maidana and Guerrero as opponents on his hit list, but rumors have swirled that he could be facing Timothy Bradley. Rios is so exciting that even his rumors are exciting.
If anybody can create Hagler-Hearns battles in these current times, it's Rios. Money on a Rios fight is money never wasted.
4. Victor Ortiz
Ortiz's HBO highlight reel before moving up to welterweight.
Professional Record: 29-2-2, 22 KOs
Ortiz was the kid who could do no wrong when he was blowing through Carlos Maussa and Jeffrey Resto in one and two rounds respectively.
Then he faced Maidana and lost by sixth round technical knockout in what was a meat-pounding classic. Two heavy-hitters got their faces dented in, but the face of Ortiz gave in first. The fight was stopped on cuts.
Ortiz has since struggled to bounce back with victories over Nate Campbell and Vivian Harris. People just wouldn't forget Maidana's knockout win. Then Ortiz moved up to welterweight (147 lbs).
Andre Berto (27-1, 21 KOs) was undefeated, dominating,and the quintessential young welterweight being aimed at the aging stars Mayweather and Pacquiao.
Ortiz came and won a grueling fight of the year against Berto. Now he's set to face Mayweather next month and the boxing world still doubts him. How long will they do so? Probably not for long.
Even if Ortiz doesn't beat Mayweather, if he can land a few elephant-sized shots to Mayweather that clearly rock the undefeated star, then Ortiz will rack up fans quicker than any young fighter in the game.
With most of the junior welterweight class steadily moving up in weight, Ortiz is likely to face the likes of Maidana again and he's sure to cross paths with Khan, Alexander and any other fighter who seeks a place in welterweight history.
3. Timothy Bradley
Bradley barely scraps out a tough win against Kendall Holt.
Professional Record: 27-0, 11 KOs
Bradley is a tough one to rank. On one hand, he's beaten a Who's Who including a trilogy of undefeated fighters that include Lamont Peterson and Devon Alexander.
He defeated Junior Witter, Kendall Holt, and the list goes on. Then he reaches a fight with Amir Khan, a climax fight to end all the debate about who's the best at junior welterweight, and he decides against the fight.
There's talk of his promoter doing him dirty or not exposing him enough. There's talk of the birth of his daughter. There's talk of him signing with Top Rank where Manny Pacquiao resides or Golden Boy where a good relationship with Floyd Mayweather resides.
No matter what Bradley does next, he'll have to speed up his fight output. He fought once in 2010. He hasn't fought since facing Alexander. He currently has no fight lined up.
His inactivity is a waste of his best years as a top athlete.
2. Marcos Maidana
Here's the first round of Maidana vs Ortiz.
Professional Record: 30-2, 27 KOs
Maidana is a force not just to be reckoned with, but to be entertained by. He's action-packed with fist made of dynamite.
His classics against Ortiz, Khan and Morales have inspired many writers to praise with verbose statements of wonder as saliva ruins their pounded keyboards. His style of fighting does that, but it also leaves fighters with short careers.
Maidana is 28 and tougher than almost any fighter in his division, but he's going to have to learn defense if he wants to continue to be the successful fighter he is for years to come.
Even in his career-defining victory against Ortiz, he was knocked down three times thanks to his careless pursuit of the knockout. Either man could have went out in that fight. Maidana was just fortunate enough to be the first to land right and last man standing.
Defense can be the difference between milking 10 years of classic matchups out of a career or only three. The choice is his but enjoy the show...for now.
1. Amir Khan
Khan on the George Lopez Show.
Professional Record: 26-1, 18 KOs
Khan's a star. Every generation needs their Sugar Ray Leonard to lead the pack and Khan has been putting in work to be the man.
He's beaten Marco Antonio Barrera, Paulie Malignaggi, Marcos Maidana and Zab Judah. He's on an amazing roll that doesn't seem to be ending soon.
Word around boxing is that Erik Morales is looking likely to be his next opponent. Bradley is dealing with contractual issues, but maybe could be his opponent again in a distant future.
The winner of the upcoming Guerrero vs Maidana match is a very viable candidate Khan has announced as a future opponent.
The world is in his hands and so is boxing's future. The man has the speed and technique with a enough pop in his punches to lay anyone down if they forgo protection.
His skills continue to improve under the wise tutelage of legendary Manny Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach.
He claims to have an ultimate goal of facing Mayweather in 2012. If this is to be believed, then Khan's star could rise significantly in a very short amount of time.
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