Ranking the Welterweights: January 2009

The welterweight division is constantly touted as the sport's best, but the truth is with recent evacuations of key fighters, it's really no deeper up top than a lot of other weight classes.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. is semi-retired ("retired" say he and Leonard Ellerbe), so he's out of the discussion. Paul Williams hasn't fought at 147 pounds in either of his last two fights, one at 160 and the other at 154, and his next fight will be at 160, so he's not ranked here, either. Carlos Quintana and Kermit Cintron are both moving up to 154 pounds, Quintana because making weight has become an issue and Cintron because he got more money to fight Sergio Martinez instead of Joshua Clottey.

Take those guys out, and the second part of this top ten starts looking fairly regular, and even if you switched out a few for other fighters, that doesn't change.

65a3d9cbc91fa9bedd917e93dc154b81-getty-84061873dm001_margarito_mosley_medium 1. Shane Mosley (46-5, 39 KO, WBA Titleholder)

Sugar Shane hasn't been at the top of the welterweight rankings since at least 2002, the year where he lost his first two fights, both to Vernon Forrest. Since then he's gone 4-2 at 154 pounds (with one no-contest) and 4-1 at welterweight. But none of the wins were bigger than his dismantling of Antonio Margarito last night in Los Angeles.

If there were any doubters left about Mosley's Hall of Fame case, they are totally done with their argument now. At 37, he put in one of his all-time best performances and got one of his biggest wins, and he did it with crushing ease. If they were any doubters left about his Hall of Fame case, they were also crazy. He was signed, sealed and waiting to be delivered even before the Margarito fight.

Mosley's return to the top of the sport isn't quite as astounding as something like Bernard Hopkins taking Antonio Tarver and later Kelly Pavlik to boxing school after we all thought his age had finally caught up with him, but it's pretty great. And despite the BALCO stuff, it really couldn't come to a better guy. Shane's as easygoing and likeable as a fighter gets, and I'll admit I'm completely thrilled that he's returned to the sport's elite status once again. I'm happy for him because I really like him.

2. Antonio Margarito (37-6, 27 KO)

We'll all be waiting for some sort of verdict to come back from the CSAC, but right now, Margarito is on the edge of some very hot water. Nazim Richardson asked the public to not perceive Margarito as any less of a monster just because he lost, and putting the controversy aside for the time being, I agree with him. Mosley beat Margarito because he was at least twice as fast as him, didn't make the same lackadaisacal errors he did against Mayorga in September, and didn't get hit. Margarito is a big, strong guy, and Mosley landed some hellacious shots. Really, I can't think of another welterweight that stays up as long as Margarito did. If you look at the shots he ate before getting dropped in the eighth and finished in the ninth, they are cringe-worthy at times. He's still a machine.

But the idea that he can't be stopped is now done. Mosley beat him relentlessly and finally the wall come tumblin', tumblin'. The myth of Margarito's unbreakable chin is out the window, but that's not to say he doesn't have the best chin in the division. Well, Mosley might argue that...

3. Miguel Cotto (32-1, 26 KO)

We may have seen some lingering effects of the Cotto fight on Margarito last night, because it's sometimes easy to forget that in his epic victory, Margarito took a vicious beating himself. It wasn't just Cotto walking out of that ring hurting badly. Miguel took it to Margarito, he just couldn't withstand the assault.

Cotto's return fight against Michael Jennings should be a walk in the park. Again, I hate feeling like I'm disrespecting Jennings, but he's remarkably just OK. He's got boxing skill, but none of it is exceptional. He'll be overmatched by Cotto unless Miguel is seriously damaged goods. I somehow doubt that he's so damaged that Jennings can beat him. A win could lead to a rematch with Mosley, which Shane wants, or the rematch with Margarito, which I don't think HBO will pay big money to put on pay-per-view, so Arum might have to go the PPV route alone on that one, too. Or he could just suck it up and put it on regular old HBO and still watch his company make money.

4. Joshua Clottey (35-2, 20 KO, IBF Titleholder)

Probably the best defensive fighter in the division with Mayweather gone, as I think I'd rank Clottey ahead of Collazo in that regard. He's also stuck in limbo. The other big names aren't going to fight him. We were talking about this in the comments for one of the other recent posts, but it's really simply, and as much as we all might hate it, it's obvious. Clottey won't get those fights because he's capable of beating anyone in the division on the right night, he's tougher than nails, it's hard to look good against him, and the general public has zero clue who in the hell he is. Clottey makes no money, has no fanbase, and is too good for his own benefit. It indisputably sucks, but that's the reality of the sport.

340x_medium 5. Andre Berto (24-0, 19 KO, WBC Titleholder)

A lot of the talk about Berto's win over Collazo last Saturday night has centered on how close it was and how you could argue that Collazo won the fight. I had it 114-113 for Berto, so I can absolutely see where people are coming from when they give it to Collazo, because a few of the rounds were very close. As for Harold Lederman's HBO scorecard, he gave a round to Collazo in which he landed six punches to Berto's 28, so, well...yeah.

But what I took out of it at the end was that when pressed, when gut-checked, when finally given a worthy challenge, Andre Berto dug down deep in the 12th round and went for it all, which won him the fight on the official scorecards. That lone round was what let him keep his WBC title. You can argue that this was the fight where he finally earned his distinction as a "champion."

Berto is going to have some problems down the road, maybe, but that's easy to say right now. At 25, he's still getting better, and Collazo has never been easy for anyone. Mosley was having difficulty with him briefly, before Collazo was injured, and I'm still one of many that thinks Collazo beat Ricky Hatton.

If Berto improves, which he likely will, the fact that he's fairly short for a welter won't kill him, I don't think. He's got stuff you just can't teach, and at the top of that list is incredible handspeed. Mosley has it. Roy Jones had it. Leonard had it. Berto's raw ability is greater than that of Margarito, Cotto or Clottey. He just has a little more refining to do. He proved he has the guts against Collazo, now it's time to get a little smarter, and that only comes with fighting.

6. Luis Collazo (29-4, 14 KO)

Collazo's case is puzzling statistically. You can very easily look over his record and go, "Who the hell has this guy beaten to be so highly-regarded?" It's only watching him fight that you get it. No, he's not an elite fighter, but on the right night he's good enough to take one out. He's fairly slick, he's very intelligent, he's got a good chin, and his southpaw stance makes him awkward when he really exploits it. He's good defensively and he knows how to fight with activity, which makes him look even better, in theory.

Still...

He's got two quality wins on his record. That's it. He's 0-3 against Hatton, Mosley and Berto, and past those guys and his wins over Miguel Angel Gonzalez and Jose Antonio Rivera, he's fought bums and Edwin Cassiani, a chinny guy who could punch and retired at 25-4.

Still...

He's good. Watching him fight, it's clear. On paper, he doesn't rank this high.

7. Zab Judah (37-6, 25 KO)

Here's what I'm saying about the depth of the division. We're at No. 7 and we're talking about Judah, who hasn't beaten a good fighter since 2005. The loss to Carlos Baldomir clearly did him in, as he then kept his date and lost to Mayweather, lost to Cotto, and then after a couple of harder-than-necessary wins over Edwin Vazquez and Ryan Davis, lost to Clottey. He fought valiantly against Cotto, but he hit the wall in that fight. He hit it against Clottey, too. And he just wasn't good enough to beat Mayweather, though he gave Floyd some tough looks.

Judah should really go down to 140, which he's said he will, but Anthony Mundine says he'll fight at 160, and he's back to trying to lure Danny Green into another fight, which would probably be at 175. Like Mundine, Judah's a big talker and not quite the fighter he is in his own mind. Still, he could give anyone a decent six rounds, and he can sell a fight a little bit.

8. Jackson Bonsu (30-2, 23 KO)

Bonsu can bang and is coming off of a win over Carlos Baldomir, though it was a close call on the judges' cards (114-113, 114-112, 113-113).

9. Isaac Hlatshwayo (28-1-1, 10 KO)

Hlatshwayo drew with Delvin Rodriguez on his home turf, and has now pulled out of a rematch as he's been appointed as the new IBF mandatory since Kermit Cintron relinquished his spot. Clottey-Hlatshwayo better be on an undercard.

10. Delvin Rodriguez (23-2-2, 14 KO)

Though it was a horrible story on the other side, I'm glad Delvin has been able to recover mentally from the fight that ended Oscar Diaz's career. It's not his fault, and it's something that unfortunately happens in boxing.

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