During the Showtime® broadcast on Saturday night that featured Austin Trout's successful defense of the WBA light middleweight title against Miguel Cotto at Madison Square Garden, fans were asked to vote on Facebook for the best division in boxing. In a rather overwhelming result, the 147-pound welterweight division snatched 61% of the total votes, surpassing the super welterweight (31%) and super lightweight (8%) divisions.
With both pound-for-pound kings Manny Pacquiao (54-4-2, 38 KO's) and Floyd Mayweather Jr. (43-0, 26 KO's) campaigning at this weight, it is not altogether surprising that 571 of the total 939 votes were alotted to the welterweights. However, the talent within this group goes far deeper and is resurgent. In fact, Mayweather has not fought as a welterweight since his September 2011 fourth round knockout of Victor Ortiz where he captured the WBC belt and subsequently went on to defeat Cotto for the WBA light middleweight strap last May. To this point, the WBC has opted not to strip Mayweather of their belt for failing to declare in which division he will continue to compete, thus limiting the ability of other worthy welterweight contenders to fight for the world title.
Instead, former world featherweight and super featherweight titlist Robert Guerrero (30-1-1, 18 KO's) obtained the WBC's interim version of the welterweight belt with a unanimous decision victory over Selcuk Aydin in July. With his recent punishing decision win over former two-time welterweight champion Andre Berto, Guerrero has shown he can hang with the big boys and has made the division all the more intriguing. One could argue he has a legitimate case to potentially challenge Mayweather for the full championship in the future.
The undefeated and talented Kell Brook (29-0, 19 KO's) will be making only his second appearance on US soil when the former British welterweight champion gets his first world title shot against newly crowned IBF titleholder Devon Alexander (24-1, 13 KO's) in January. Alexander has been revived since moving up from light welterweight where he once held both the WBC and IBF championships.
Paulie Malignaggi (32-4, 7 KO's), another former 140-pound champion, made his mark at welterweight as well by defeating Vyacheslav Senchenko for the WBA title with perhaps the best performance of his career in April, outboxing the Ukranian and registering his first stoppage win in a world title bout. He showed a willingness to stand in the pocket and mix it up with the young, tough Pablo Caesar Cano en route to a debated split decision victory in his follow-up performance in October.
WBO champion Timothy Bradley (29-0, 12 KO's) is motivated to prove he is deserving of the title that he won in highly controversial fashion in his debut at welterweight over Pacquiao this summer. Relinquishing his light welterweight title to continue pursuing bigger fights at 147, Bradley has run into some obstacles. Although the rematch was rejected by the Filipino star (and boxing fans in general) and less attractive alternatives such as Guerrero, Lamont Peterson and Ruslan Provodnikov did not materialize for one reason or another, it is expected that Bradley should still attract a big fight in 2013 given all of the options that exist. The suspect circumstances under which he won the championship make his next fight all the more intriguing.
The drama that surrounds the volatile but dangerous Victor Ortiz (29-4-2, 22 KO's) always makes for must-watch contests. Berto's (28-2, 22 KO's) recent loss to Guererro and Ortiz's return from a somewhat embarrassing defeat at the hands of Josesito Lopez where he suffered a broken jaw that required repeat surgery, puts a different spin on the highly anticipated rematch of their 2011 "Fight of the Year". Nonetheless, it is one many fans would still enjoy watching.
While there is similar depth within the super welterweight division, including champions Mayweather, Trout, Saul Alvarez, K9 Bundrage and Zaurbek Baysangurov, it is quite possible fans have been turned off by what seems to have become a never-ending game of "Canelo Sweepstakes", one that involves generating the most money possible rather than setting up fights between the best talent that exists for the benefit of fans and the sport as a whole. This is a division that could conceivably be unified relatively easily if it were not for issues such as promotional wars, excessive protection of business interests and sanctioning body interference.
Additionally, the long awaited WBC title eliminator between Erislandy Lara and Vanes Martirosyan last month was underwhelming given what was at stake and the related build-up. As a result, it did not go very far in establishing the super welterweight division as being the best.
Who says we need the heavyweight division to save boxing?
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