Robert Guerrero climbs the junior lightweight ladder following a strong win on Saturday night in Houston over South Africa's Malcolm Klassen. (AFP Photo)
Bad Left Hook Junior Lightweight (130) Rankings
|1||Humberto Soto||48-7-2 (31)|
|2||Robert Guerrero||25-1-1 (17)|
|3||Malcolm Klassen||24-5-2 (15)|
|4||Roman Martinez||22-0-1 (13)|
|5||Jorge Linares||27-0 (18)|
|6||Kevin Mitchell||29-0 (22)|
|7||Cassius Baloyi||36-4-1 (19)|
|8||Mzonke Fana||29-4 (12)|
|9||Nicky Cook||29-2 (16)|
|10||Humberto Gutierrez||26-1-1 (19)|
Not longer ago than 2007, this was one of boxing's best divisions, loaded with the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez, Joan Guzman, Marco Antonio Barrera, Edwin Valero and Humberto Soto. Now, only Soto remains, and it appears that he, too, will soon move up in weight.
The division is not even close to what it was just a couple of years ago, and frankly it's not even that good or very interesting. But there could be some good fights made among the top guys.
I have Humberto Soto ranked No. 1 simply because he's done the most. We all know his record is hardly indicative of the fighter he is today, as five of his losses came between 1998 and 2002, and his last loss was a horrible disqualification against Francisco Lorenzo, a bogus defeat that he avenged. The only loss of Soto's that I think really matters at all to his current career and standing is his November 2007 shortcoming against Joan Guzman, who was just a bad style matchup and schooled Soto early before running with his lead late.
The current word is that Soto could be facing Edwin Valero at 135 pounds on the Cotto-Pacquiao undercard. Top Rank's Bob Arum was going to put the two in separate bouts if he could, but then changed his mind: "What changed was I didn't want to do separate opponents because then I have s**t. They should fight each other."
Arum foresees the winner fighting Manny Pacquiao at 140, should Pacquiao beat Cotto (or even if he doesn't, I guess).
The Saturday fight between Robert Guerrero and Malcolm Klassen didn't really shake anything up; if anything, all it did was reverse my No. 2 and No. 3-ranked fighters. I can't say enough how bad of a call HBO's Bob Papa, Max Kellerman and Lennox Lewis had for that fight. Guerrero started very fast and jumped out to a commanding lead after four one-sided rounds, but Klassen dominated the second half of the fight, in my view, and I wound up scoring it a draw. If you close your eyes and listen to Bob, Max and Lennox call that one, it sounds like Guerrero met no resistance, when in truth he was stung quite a few times, bothered by Klassen's refusal to go away, and gutted out a win far more than cruised to one. It was a fine performance by Guerrero and I can see anyone having him as the winner, but Klassen was in that fight. It was also a damn good fight.
Unbeaten Puerto Rican titlist Roman Martinez fights again on September 12, as the featured undercard bout on the Calderon-Mayol II pay-per-view. Martinez won the WBO title from Nicky Cook in March in a pretty exciting, short bout that saw Martinez stop Cook in the fourth in a bout that Cook had been controlling. He takes on Vicente Martin Rodriguez (25-2-1, 13 KO) next.
Fifth-ranked Jorge Linares is still unbeaten, but a lot of the shine has come off. A couple years ago he was one of the most exciting young fighters out there, and while he still has a lot of promise, he's just not moving as fast as many expected. Part of that is simple: He lives in Tokyo and fights there and in his native Venezuela. He's also fought a couple of times in Panama and once in Mexico, and he's only fought on U.S. soil one time, a wicked 2007 beating of Oscar Larios on the Hopkins-Wright undercard. Linares and Soto have shot some words back and forth recently.
Kevin Mitchell may not have the resume just yet, but the 24-year old "Dagenham Destroyer" can fight. He pounded the career out of Carl Johanesson in March 2008, and was supposedly in line to fight Roman Martinez this summer, which didn't come off. Martinez-Mitchell would be a hell of a fight, sort of a UK revenge story on Mitchell's side against the Puerto Rican titlist.
Veterans Cassius Baloyi and Mzonke Fana join Klassen in the top ten, making 30% of this list South African. Baloyi was stopped in seven by Klassen in April, but has plenty of solid wins and has only lost to good fighters. Fana is perhaps still best-known for his 2005 fight with Marco Antonio Barrera, in which Barrera knocked Fana out 1:48 into the second round. Baloyi beat Fana via majority decision in April 2008.
Nicky Cook may be no world-beater, but he's a solid pro and it's a shallow division. Between his two losses (to Steven Luevano and Martinez), Cook won a 130-pound title from Alex Arthur in what many felt was a pretty dominant performance. Arthur was simply outmatched against Cook, who was coming up in weight, then feigned shock at the decision for Cook.
Rounding out my top ten is 20-year old Mexican Humberto Gutierrez, who beat Belarus' Sergey Gulyakevich in Mexico on Saturday via majority decision. Gutierrez has a loss and a draw on his record, and he rematched both men and beat them a second time around. On paper, this looks like a kid with a lot of guts.