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Boxing's new grassroots campaign: Fight Humberto Soto

Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

On last Saturday night's pay-per-view event, Jim Lampley made it sound very simple in regards to 130-pound contender Humberto Soto: He needs people to rally around his career in order to get the big fights, because nobody wants to fight this guy.

Humberto Soto deserves his shot at a 130-pound title. (Getty Images)
Soto won on Saturday, as he usually does. At 42-5-2, the 27-year old Mexican fighter hasn't lost since falling to Kevin Kelley in 2002, a string of 20 fights in a row where "La Zorrita" has not been beaten. He does have one no-contest against Jorge Solis in that time, but that's it. 20 fights, no losses.

And though there are several no-names among his victims, there are also some familiar faces mixed in. Rocky Juarez was beaten in a tight unanimous decision in 2005, making Soto the interim WBC featherweight champion. He won another WBC interim title at the same weight in 2006, when he dropped Oscar Leon in the ninth round. And since then, he has knocked out Ivan Valle, Humberto Toledo and, on Saturday, Bobby Pacquiao, the scrappy little brother of 130-pound king Manny Pacquiao.

To watch Soto on Saturday night against Bobby Pacquiao was to witness a fighter that has fully matured and truly come into his own, even though he had some moments in the fight where Pacquiao did seriously hurt him, particularly on one huge right hook that Soto never saw coming. But when the volume got turned up in that bout, Soto responded by putting Pacquiao away in convincing fashion. The straight right that truly put Pacquiao out in round seven before an additional left landed was one of the punches of the year, a nasty shot that landed as flush as one could ever hope a punch to land.

After he knocked out Valle in four rounds, I think we all assumed it was just a matter of time. After all, that was a junior lightweight eliminator bout. Instead, he matched up against Toledo in February, and put him out in three. Then he got the inferior Pacquiao, and disposed of him as well. Just when will it be Humberto Soto's turn to get a crack at a title in this division?

As always, it'll happen whenever a fighter teams with a promoter who teams with a sanctioning body who teams with a TV network in order to get it all done. I talked about Soto in brief when discussing Lovemore N'dou, and N'dou's rise, which was somewhat similar to that of Carlos Baldomir and Antonio Margarito. Like those three, Soto is a fighter who lost fights early in his career. It makes his record look unimpressive to some people, although I don't know exactly who those people are. To me, a 42-5-2 record isn't anything to scoff at, and neither is the run he's been on for the last half decade.

And how can anybody not want this guy fighting on their shows? He's got knockout power that has evolved over time as his punching has gotten crisp and accurate. He's not a brawler, though he has a tendency to go that route if he feels necessary. He is a technician, but he's a good one. He's not a defense-first kind of guy in there, he wants to hit first and hit efficiently. He's exciting to watch.

Instead of Soto, Juan Manuel Marquez will be fighting Jorge Rodrigo Barrios on September 15. Barrios is a fine boxer, but Marquez should win that fight without much trouble. The division's other two biggest names, Manny Pacquiao and Marco Antonio Barrera, are undecided for the time being. Pacquiao has a tentative date lined up in October, and rumors have included Soto.

Since Barrera seems only to want to fight Pacquiao and then have a farewell bout in Mexico, we can rule out Barrera/Soto, plus there's the fact that it's a Golden Boy/Top Rank issue. That leaves us with Manny Pacquiao, and water cooler talk about that October date has mentioned Soto, Barrera, Edwin Valero and Joan Guzman. Valero is only possible if the fight is held in China, which has been considered, and Barrera is only possible if the world caves in and Top Rank and Golden Boy can come to some kind of understanding. That leaves Guzman and Soto.

The truth is, of the top guys at 130, only Manny Pacquiao is going to be willing to fight Humberto Soto without a lot of other considerations. Manny Pacquiao would fight a dump truck if it came to it.

Humberto Soto is such a good fighter that he honestly does deserve some type of hype machine around him as the newest ducked, should-be champion in the sport. Arum made Antonio Margarito a star with the same strategy, so why not Soto? And if Arum is willing to put Manny Pacquiao v. Jorge Solis on pay-per-view, why not Pacquiao v. Soto? The fight would be better off on HBO, but so would lots of fights.

I'd buy it. So would a lot of boxing fans. But the fight has to be made first. In the case of Humberto Soto, we're probably better off not holding our breath.

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