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Ranking the Welterweights: July 2007

Heavyweights (04/20/07) :: Junior Welterweights (07/12/07) :: Middleweights (07/14/07)

No. 1: There's no contest, and there won't be until someone can beat Floyd Mayweather, Jr., whose pure skill is unrivaled.
1. Floyd Mayweather, Jr. (38-0)
When someone beats him, we'll talk. Oscar de la Hoya gave Floyd a good fight because Floyd doesn't belong at 154, although I don't think there's anyone that can beat him in that division, either. At 147, Mayweather beats Oscar pretty easily, I think. And he's just too fast for a banger like Cotto or Margarito, let alone Hatton. Sometimes people say, "Here's what it takes to beat Floyd." How would we even know? Lots of different types of fighters have tried, and they've all come up short. Again, when someone beats him, we'll talk.

2. Shane Mosley (44-4)
I'd love to see Mosley/Cotto, but the fight I want is Mosley/Mayweather. Mosley is the closest anyone can get to challenging Mayweather's hand speed and overall skill. He'd be tough for Floyd to avoid defensively, which is where Mayweather really shines. I'd favor Floyd, but by the slimmest margin one can favor Floyd.

3. Miguel Cotto (30-0)
Intense, hard-hitting guy who does much of what Margarito does, but he's a little bit better at it. Cotto isn't fast, but he's faster than Margarito. He's not exactly quick on his feet, but he's quicker than Margarito. And he's not great defensively, but...well, that's actually where I'd give Margarito an edge. Cotto is a bully fighter, and he's excellent at the style. He is a "come and get it" fighter, the guy who will challenge anyone he's in the ring with. And that's why people love to watch him fight. He's the fastest-rising star in boxing for a reason, and he's already got a town and a home field at Madison Square Garden. Not a bad place to be popular.

4. Paul Williams (33-0)
Any more questions? Williams won a rough fight against a rough fighter who can punch. What more can you ask? He's the WBO champion, dethroning a guy who held the title for five years. He did it, and he's more than legit now. He's a world champion. On the right night, Paul Williams' size, speed and awkwardness makes him a tough opponent for just about anybdoy.

5. Antonio Margarito (34-5)
His loss to Williams is nothing to be ashamed of. He fought tough and has plenty of people convinced he won. To me, he just was too far out of some rounds, but many of the rounds I gave to Williams were, in fact, quite close, and I could see them going the other way. The fight was not exactly how it was called by Lampley and Steward, particularly, who both focused on Williams' punching output. Margarito said he was blocking many shots, and a lot of fans have thought that to be inaccurate. In truth, he was blocking lots of shots, and was picking off that flicking jab very well for a lot of the fight. I, too, thought Williams won the fight, but I didn't see Margarito losing any stature. If you put them in the ring again, the outcome may well be very different. Some of those rounds were owned by Margarito's heavy hands.

6. Oscar de la Hoya (38-5)
All reports are that Oscar will be returning to the welterweight division, so let's put him here now. He'd have a really tough time beating anyone in the top five. Mayweather and Mosley are too, you know, talented, Cotto and Margarito are too mean, and Williams would be a puzzle for Oscar to figure out. But he's still a very good and very strong fighter. Discussion of him fighting Ricky Hatton at 147 has already started.

7. Kermit Cintron (28-1)
Cintron was a machine against Walter Matthysse, totally overpowering a credible challenger with his second-round KO. If you put Cintron and Margarito back in the ring right now, I think you'd have a much more competitive fight than their first encounter, when Margarito bombed Kermit out of the ring in five rounds. Cintron seems to have seriously matured under Manny Steward.

8. Joshua Clottey (31-2)
Let's give Tony Margarito further credit: No one was exactly lining up to fight Paul Williams, and he fought him (eventually, anyway). Eight months prior, he did the same for Joshua Clottey. He got a tough fight both times, and he beat Clottey, who would go on to obliterate the late Diego Corrales in April. And still, nobody's ringing a fire alarm to get a fight with Clottey, who may be best off stepping up to 154 if he can handle the weight.

9. Zab Judah (34-5)
I am as big of a Zab Judah hater as you can find, really, but he stood in there and banged with Miguel Cotto, and he tested the younger, stronger fighter like no one before had been able to do. Unlike Malignaggi and Torres, not only did he stand in there and take the shots from Cotto, but he gave back something significant. Zab's not old at 29; he can still get back to the top. In this division, that'll be really tough, but at his core are the skills to do it. We've seen him at his best, and the man can fight. He is not washed up.

10. Carlos Quintana (23-1)
We hear often about too much being made of a fighter's first loss. Although he's been inactive since December, Quintana lost to Miguel Cotto on a wicked liver shot. That's not the end for anyone. He's not a terribly impressive fighter in any way, but then, neither is Margarito, and frankly neither is Cotto. He doesn't quite have their brute power, but he's not a slapper, either. People (including me) are again very excited about Joel Julio. What about the guy that totally outclassed him?

Other guys:

There may be no better prospect in boxing than Andre Berto. The explosively powerful 23-year old American will get his first real test against veteran Cosme Rivera, who has given a lot of good fighters trouble.

IBO titlist Isaac Hlatshwayo has just one fight at 147, but his only loss was at 140 to Kendall Holt. If Hlatshwayo continues to succeed as a welterweight, he'll be in the top ten before long.

It's hard to know what we can expect from Alfonso Gomez. He did look good, but that was against a 100% shot Arturo Gatti, who was in fact 100% shot a year ago against Carlos Baldomir. Against Baldomir, Gatti's power shots seemed to have no power, and Baldomir simply walked through his offense to beat him soundly. What did we see against Gomez? The same exact thing: Gatti's punches with no pop, telegraphed to boot, and an opponent that had absolutely no trouble with him. Gomez is a great guy and someone to root for, but if he does wind up with Gatti's November fight against Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., I'd still consider him a major underdog.

Speaking of Chavez, his destruction of veteran Grover Wiley was impressive. Wiley is no world-beater, but he's a guy who's been around, and the strapping Junior Chavez's body punches were wreckers. I was skeptical of him for a long time, but he has grown into his frame and developed his style to the point where I'm now a believer. He would have beaten Gatti to a pulp.

There are plenty of solid but largely unproven fighters, too -- too many to list, really. But this is the deepest division in boxing.

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