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Ranking the Junior Welterweights: July 2007

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

See also: Ranking the Heavyweights (04/20/2007)

I've done this before with the heavyweight division, and have decided it would be just as fun to do it with the other divisions, too. I think I did the heavyweights just because those guys don't get discussed when P4P lists come up. But most guys in other divisions don't, either. I'll tackle more divisions this week, and do the welterweights specifically on Sunday after the big HBO card on Saturday night. Today, let's do the 140-pounders. It's a pretty shallow division, but one that I think has real potential to improve dramatically as a lot of these guys mature.

Oh, and in case you missed it (as I'm not making a post just about this), Mayorga and Vargas had a brawl at their presser. This is no shock whatsoever, whether it was legit or staged. Either way, what can you expect? If staged, it'll help sell the fight. SportsCenter wasn't going to cover two washed-up fighters at a press conference if not for something like this. If legit, well, no shit. It's Ricardo Mayorga, for one thing, and Fernando Vargas is no angel, either.

No. 1: Ricky Hatton's routine destruction of Jose Luis Castillo only solidified his position.
1. Ricky Hatton (43-0)
There's no question. The Hitman has his detractors, either from style or schedule, but I don't see anyone at 140 that could beat him. Not even Witter, which we'll never find out for sure anyway, or if we do, it'll be ten years too late and mostly a British special attraction. He is biting off more than he can chew with Mayweather, though. I'd stake everything I own on that one. A fight with Malignaggi makes more sense, and Paulie wants it, but if Ricky can get that much money to fight Floyd, he should take it, no matter the inevitable outcome.

2. Junior Witter (35-1-2)
He lost one time, seven years ago, to Zab Judah. Zab Judah in 2000, to make that even more clear. I will never say that the 33-year old Witter is exciting, but he is legit. The fight with Harris could be good or it could be a snoozer. But either way, it's two of the better junior welters fighting each other.

3. Kendall Holt (22-1)
Very talented. Very charismatic. And he's still young (26) and has fought good competition. His eliminator bout with Arnaoutis was an awful fight to watch, but that was all Mike Arnaoutis, who displayed a similar, less dramatic lack of any sort of killer instinct in his loss to Torres last year. I think on the right night and with another good win or two, Holt could be the guy in the division that can beat Hatton. I think he's got the potential to be a very, very good fighter.

4. Vivian Harris (28-2-1)
Oh, Vicious Vivian, will we ever figure you out? There's so much talent here. He absolutely bombed Stevie Johnston out of the ring last year, then struggled when Lazcano got into his head in February. Still, he did win the fight, and it's not like that was an easy opponent. Depending on which Harris shows up, he can beat Witter. But "depending on which Harris shows up" goes for every one of Vivian's fights.

5. Andreas Kotelnik (28-2-1)
After finally getting to see Kotelnik/M'baye II from March just recently, I thought Kotelnik won the fight, which was scored a draw. But I thought Kotelnik won their first fight, too, which was a split decision victory for M'baye. This is where the division really starts dropping off; not because Kotelnik and the next five guys aren't talented fighters, but because there's very little track record to rely on with all of them. They have a few decent wins, but nothing too special. Kotelnik is a solid fighter, but he'll never be a star. I do think he's better than M'baye, though, and that he's proven it two times, although he came away with a win in neither instance.

6. Paulie Malignaggi (23-1)
The Magic Man has won me over. So he can't punch very hard. OK, fine. He does hit accurately, has really good footwork, and he demolished Lovemore N'dou, who is a tough guy if not a terribly good fighter. Malignaggi has lost one fight, and it was the gutsiest defeat you could ever see. The kid has balls the size of grapefruits and I truly think he'd be glad to fight anyone, any time. There aren't a lot of top 10 fighters in any division that would legitimately do that. Buddy McGirt has done great work with Paulie and turned him into a better, smarter boxer.

7. Juan Lazcano (37-4-1)
There are some people that don't much consider Juan Lazcano. Why not? He fought a very intelligent fight against Harris in February, in a matchup that should have favored the stronger, bigger Harris in a major way. Lazcano got inside and banged Harris, getting Vivian to fight outside of his gameplan and comfort zone, and it resulted in a very dramatic, very interesting bout, in my opinion. Actually, I think that's the most overlooked fight of the year. It was really quite good, and Lazcano didn't look anywhere near finished. Of the four noted champs in the division (Hatton, Witter, M'baye, Torres), I give Lazcano a fair shot against any of them, and I'd favor him over the latter two.

8. Souleymane M'baye (35-1-1)
Nothing about M'baye has ever been too impressive to me, but he's definitely good enough for the European boxing circuit where, quite often, inferior opposition just gets run over, and records get padded. The French WBA champion fights Gavin Rees (26-0) on Rees' home turf in Wales. Rees has beaten absolutely nobody. In his 26 fights, he has faced fighters who came in with winning records eight times. How does that earn a title shot?

9. Ricardo Torres (31-1)
Hasn't really beaten anyone except for Arnaoutis, which was a really close fight that Torres should have lost except for the fact that Arnaoutis sort of let him stay in it and ultimately, let him win with his own indifferent approach. Torres is still best known for trying to bang with Miguel Cotto. It was admirable. He got admirably knocked out, too. I don't think he has the skills to beat Kendall Holt, and in fact I see a rather lopsided win for the challenger when they fight on September 1st.

10. Demetrius Hopkins (26-0-1)
Yeah, I think he lost that fight to Forbes, but he is a skilled boxer with some actual talent. I think he's overrated right now and protected, but I don't think he sucks. And besides, who else do I put here? Forbes? That was a career-best performance by Stevie Forbes, who has really never done much of anything else. For now, Hopkins sneaks into my top 10. And he could very easily rise quickly. All in all, he probably picked up some knowledge from the Forbes bout that will serve him well.

Other Guys:

Jose Luis Castillo is an admirable fighter, and a personal favorite. I love to watch Castillo fight. But even I have to admit that neither of his two fights at 140 have been impressive. He struggled with a raw, untested Herman Ngoudjo in January before being blasted by Hatton a couple of weeks ago. It's been said a million times, and I hope this is one of those instances where the guy makes the great comeback when we don't expect it, but let's put it out there again: Castillo looks shot. Finished. Toast. Kaput. Done.

23-year old Americans Timothy Bradley and Lamont Peterson could be huge pieces of the puzzle in the division as soon as they start facing real competition. That could take a while, though.

Herman Ngoudjo is a tough young man and could have a serious future. I wish I could say the same for Juan Urango, but his bizarre gameplan of standing very still in front of Hatton in January didn't help his case.

Lovemore N'dou had his chance to prove he belonged. He got smoked by a slick, light-hitting boxer from Brooklyn. Ain't gon' be no rematch. Or at least let's hope not.

I've never really known what I thought of Paul Spadafora the fighter, and after 41 professional fights and some prison time, I still don't.

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