The 130-pound division and its fan favorites
Healthy competition among divisions in boxing obviously helps the game survive and thrive. Perhaps one of the best divisions these days is the 130-pound (junior lightweight, also known as super featherweight) class that features some of boxing’s most entertaining sluggers.
While the summer boxing season lends itself to a holiday schedule, with prime pay-per-view dates reappearing in the fall, there are certainly some fighters that HBO and Showtime should be locking up for future dates ASAP.
Let’s take a quick look at just some of the guys lighting up what has been one of boxing’s hottest worksites as of late.
Vasyl Lomachenko, 6-1 (4) – WBO world junior lightweight champion. The man that five-decade, promotional mastermind Bob Arum of Top Rank Promotions recently called “the best of our time” shortly after referencing Muhammad Ali as “the best of all time.” High praise and well-earned as the Ukraine-born, Oxnard, California resident has quickly Hoover-ed up two world titles in only seven pro outings. Has fought some level of title in every professional contest and has competed in a major world title fight in six of his seven fights. Tried to fight for a world title in his debut but had to settle for that assignment in his sophomore outing. A phenomenal boxer who makes every move and punch count, built on the back of almost 400 amateur fights and two Olympic medals. He’s 28, in his prime and one of the game’s best.
Orlando Salido, 43-13-4 (30) – The former IBF and WBO featherweight and WBO junior lightweight world champion came up in the exact opposite fashion of Olympic-schooled Lomachenko by slugging it out in the trenches of the tough, Mexican club fight circuit. However, he is the guy who handed Lomachenko his only loss. A boxer who went 6-5-1 in his first dozen fights took a while to be taken seriously as a real threat to anyone. However, experience, always-improving skills, incredible toughness, 60 bouts and two decades in the game now sees the red-hot slugger as a three-time world champion and one of boxing’s hottest tickets. He seems to go from one “Fight of the Year” candidate to the next with a style that excites fans and, as of late, has attracted the (much deserved) attention of the pay-per-view suits who know a good thing when they see one. Coming off back-to-back, disputed draws against Francisco Vargas and Roman Martinez, it will be interesting to see who manager Sean Gibbons puts him in against when he returns to the ring in the fall. Whoever it is, fans will be lining up to see one of boxing’s most exciting fighters.
Francisco Vargas, 23-0-2 (17) – The Mexico city resident burst onto the world title scene when he dethroned champion Takashi Miura last November to capture the WBC junior lightweight strap. An exciting banger who should award Orlando Salido an immediate rematch based on the fact most fans felt he was very lucky to hang onto his title after their fight earlier this month produced a disputed draw. He and Salido may have produced the Fight of the Year and there is little to indicate a second go-round wouldn’t be more of the same. Vargas might be a guy who is hampered by cuts as he has been sliced up a few times in his career and his style lends itself to taking as much as giving. I’m not sure his style will allow for a long title run but it will be fun while it lasts.
Takashi Miura, 30-3-2 (23) – The Tokyo, Japan-based former WBC world junior lightweight champion lost his title back in November of last year when he ventured into Las Vegas looking to make his fifth title defense but was stopped by Francisco Vargas. There is talk that Vargas may sidestep Salido and rematch Miura when Vargas’ cuts heal up, probably early next year. Miura’s style also makes for good fights although he is largely unknown with mainstream boxing fans outside of his native Japan. A title fight with Miura would be big in Japan but a North American- based champion would more than likely want a home game if facing him.
Jezreel Corrales, 20-1 (8) – After losing his second pro bout, Panama’s Corrales went on a five-and-a-half-year unbeaten streak that culminated with capturing the WBA interim world junior lightweight title last December. More impressive was Corrales venturing into Tokyo and stopping Japan’s Takashi Uchiyama, who was making the 12th defense of his WBA world junior lightweight title.
Jose Pedraza, 22-0 (12) – IBF world junior lightweight champion. Won the title in June of last year by beating Andrey Klimov and then squeaked by perennial contender Edner Cherry in his first title defense last October. At 22-0, he is “so far, so good” but will need to beat a real division “name” or a fellow champ to elevate his status.
Roman Martinez, 29-3-3 (17) – Turned heads way back in 2009, when he ventured over to England and beat Nicky Cook to capture the WBO junior lightweight title. Boasts impressive career stats with three title runs but has gone 2-2-1 in his last five outings. In fairness, those five bouts included Orlando Salido twice, Mikey Garcia and Vasyl Lomachenko, so it was heavy lifting, to say the least. Got schooled and stopped by Lomachenko (in impressive fashion) last time out, so he needs an impressive win to restore some shine.
Takashi Uchiyama, 24-1-1 (20) – With 20 stoppages in 24 wins, Tokyo, Japan’s Uchiyama clearly packs a punch. Was riding a very impressive run of 11 title defenses after his title win back in 2009 until Jezreel Corrales came into Japan and stopped him a couple months back. It was his first time being stopped and his first loss. Uchiyama will, no doubt, return to the ring later this year and it will be interesting to see how he rebounds.
News and notes…
– The boxing world was sad to learn of the passing of boxing writer Jack Obermayer, who passed away in Lindenwold, New Jersey at the age of 72. Obermayer, who chronicled all of his assignments, covered 3514 professional fight cards in 49 states in over 400 cities (and was affectionately known as “KO-JO”), was a beloved figure at ringside for 50 years. He wrote for many publications such Flash Gordon’s “Tonight’s Boxing Program”, THE RING magazine, Boxing Illustrated (which later became Boxing Digest) and USA Boxing News. Obermayer was inducted into the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Boxing Halls of Fame. In 2010, he won the “Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service” by the Boxing Writers Association of America. Rest in peace, Jack.
– Keith Thurman-Shawn Porter II? Yes, please! That was a beauty and boxing could use a few more of those. Fresh off the fantastic Francisco Vargas-Orlando Salido gem, boxing now has a couple of great ones, back to back.
– Former two-division champion Mikey Garcia finally returns after two-and-a-half years away when he faces former WBC featherweight titlist Elio Rojas on the Leo Santa Cruz-Carl Frampton card in Brooklyn at Barclays Center, July 30.
– I wonder how IBF/WBA/WBC middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin feels about fighting on a football pitch in England? I wonder how Chris Eubank Jr. feels about fighting in the California sun? While fight fans wait for “GGG” against lineal middleweight champion Saul Alvarez, there could be a fun one here with Gennady against England’s brash Eubank. Said Eubank this week, “Gennady Golovkin, I’m coming for you. I’m coming for your belts, man. Everyone’s scared of you. For some reason, they think you’re this indestructible man. You’re not! And I’m coming. And if I can’t get you, (WBO middleweight titlist Billy Joe) Saunders, you I’m coming for as well. You’re getting it. Anybody out there with a world title, I’m coming for!”
Speaking of Alvarez, “Canelo” now has a confirmed fall dance partner. Alvarez will look to win his third title in the junior middleweight division when he challenges undefeated Liam “Beefy” Smith for the WBO junior middleweight world championship on Saturday, Sept. 17. Oddly enough, he has delayed a potential super-fight with Golovkin for a year so he could (supposedly) acclimate better to the 160-pound division and yet, his first assignment is at 154. But understandably, he has a chance at a title, so he may as well take it. And he can work on beefing up over the next 11 months following the fight.
– Former world title challenger “Iceman” John Scully will hold his fourth annual Amateur Boxers Reunion on July 23 inside the Margaritaville Restaurant at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut. Former champions expected to attend are “Irish” Micky Ward, Mark Breland, Junior Jones and Marlon Starling, among many others.
-In his second comeback fight, former world champion “Mile High” Mike Alvarado showed a little ring rust before pounding out an eight-round decision over rugged Josh Torres on Saturday night in Dallas, Texas.
– Two weeks before the Wladimir Klitschko vs. Tyson Fury rematch (July 9 in Manchester, England’s O2 Arena), Fury had to pull out of the fight due to an ankle injury. Fury says he has to stay off the ankle for six-to-seven weeks so that fight is postponed, likely until October.