The 140-pound division has lost stars in recent years, as Floyd Mayweather, Jr., and exciting prospect Miguel Cotto have both moved up in weight to 147, and become welterweight champions in the process.
Often I've wondered why Vivian Harris, who fought last night, hasn't done the same. But so have a lot of people. Harris doesn't want to fight at 147, even though former trainer Emmanuel Steward has said that "Vicious" Vivian has a lot of trouble making the weight limit, and that his tall, broad-shouldered frame would make his transition to welterweight very easy. There's also the fact that Harris hits hard and can be very accurate when he's on his game, a deadly combination. So it's always seemed like a given that we'd see Harris move up.
But he won't, and for the foreseeable future, he's not going to. With the departures of Mayweather and Cotto, and the brief exit of Ricky Hatton, the 140-pound division has undergone serious shifts in the last year.
But there's really good news, too. The light welters may be ready to become the most exciting, most competitive, and most intriguing division in all of boxing.
After repeatedly having trouble making the 135-pound weight limit, Jose Luis Castillo has now officially left the lightweight division behind him, and has become a player among the light welterweights. His win over Herman Ngoudjo wasn't the most impressive you'll ever see, but Castillo is a marketable name and a great talent. His old rival, Diego Corrales, will likely soon be joining the 140 pounders, as well. Corrales stepping up in weight can only be good for his career, just like Castillo.
But Castillo and Corrales moving in is only the start of the division's potential. Current kingpin Ricky Hatton returned in January, with a dominant victory over Juan Urango, reclaiming his throne in the division after a brief and ill-advised foray into the welterweights. Hatton, at 28, is just beginning his American career, really, and could become a bigger star yet than he already is. He is in what should be his prime, although after 42 fights, his last two have not been vintage Hatton.
Realistically, however, both are explained fairly easily: Hatton didn't belong at 147 against Luis Collazo, and Urango basically refused to engage Hatton for the entirety of their bout, forcing Hatton into a pick-and-peck role, which he was perfectly good at en route to an easy decision victory. While it wasn't a famed Hatton blood-and-fury attack, it was effective regardless.
Then you have the other British champion in the division, Junior Witter. At 35-1 and 32 years of age, Witter hasn't lost since being a Zab Judah victim in 2000. Witter has a long-standing, bitter, and personal rivalry with Hatton, and while Hatton has repeatedly shot down any chance of Witter getting into a ring with him on the basis of not wanting to give Witter his biggest possible payday, most seem to agree that someday, Hatton and Witter will fight. Unfortunately, most also seem to agree that it will be after both have exited their primes, and will likely be little more than a gift to the UK boxing public that wants badly to see two of their best fighters go toe-to-toe. If the fight were to take place right now, it could sell out in minutes in England.
Witter has no reason to not fight other top contenders, though. He has beaten several good fighters, but has yet to take on one of the elite, and it's not like any of them have ever been rushing to get into the ring with him. If we could see Witter get a crack at one of the division's bigger names, things could take another turn. Plus, it would increase the chances that we would see Hatton/Witter before it's irrelevant.
Vivian Harris is another guy that could potentially beat anyone in the division. Souleymane M'baye, Lovemore N'dou, Kendall Holt, Demetrius Hopkins, Andreas Kotelnik -- these are all guys that could make some waves. We'll have to see further evidence of his skills, but Ngoudjo fought a very good fight against the far more experienced Castillo in January.
Paulie Malignaggi still has a lot of ground to cover in his career, and proved his mettle in his only loss. 23-year old Lamont Peterson could be a serious prospect for the division, if he doesn't also move to 147. Ricardo Torres didn't look great against Mike Arnaoutis, but he could still be a very dangerous fighter. Hell, Arnaoutis could have won that fight, so you can't ignore him yet, either.
Henry Bruseles is still lurking and winning fights since he lost to Mayweather. 20-year old Brit Amir Khan is 10-0 and getting some attention.
It's true of pretty much all divisions: There's a lot of talent, and the more you look for it, the more there is to find. But the mix of talent fighting at 140 now -- Hatton, Castillo, Witter, Corrales, Harris, even tough guys like Juan Lazcano -- is really intriguing, and could lead to some great fights. The light welterweight division could be on the cusp of something great again, with veterans and prospects fighting it out to become the top dog at 140.