WBC 140-pound titleholder Junior "The Hitter" Witter is universally regarded as second-best. Second-best in his division, second-best in his country in the division, second-best at pretty much everything.
But some folks will tell you that Witter should be considered the best 140-pounder in the sport. With Ricky Hatton trying over the past couple of years to find a home at welterweight (and failing), the mega-popular "Hitman" has returned to the 140-pound ranks for the time being, waiting on a May 24th fight against Juan Lazcano, part of a double-header with potential future opponent Paulie Malignaggi, arguably America's best 140-pound fighter.
Where does that leave Witter?
Junior Witter is 36-1-2 in his career. You can throw out the two draws, since they happened early in his career. And his only loss came in 2000 against Zab Judah. Eight years is so long that you might as well throw that fight out, too.
Right now, who would you favor if the long-desired bout between countrymen Hatton and Witter came to pass? There are a ton of people who would pick Witter. I am, in fact, one of them.
While he's often been content to just outbox his opponents and take a decision victory, Witter showed last year how destructive he can be, when he faced talented enigma Vivian Harris. Take a look at the KO, even if you've seen it before.
Witter proved he has real power, for anyone that doubted it. When he's willing to take chances, he's as deadly as anyone in the division. He's also technically superior to just about everyone at 140, save perhaps only for Malignaggi, who can be extremely good defensively.
Witter is somewhat comparable to Floyd Mayweather, Jr., who dominated Hatton with upper body movement and short, quick punching. Like he did against Mayweather, Hatton would be forced to work -- perhaps too hard -- to get in good shots on Witter.
But before a Hatton fight could even potentially come off (and I believe it will), Witter has another American lined up before him. Tomorrow night on Showtime, Witter will face a challenge from top prospect Timothy Bradley (21-0, 11 KO), a highly talented young man with all the potential in the world.
But is the 24-year old Bradley truly ready for a fighter like Witter? Conventional wisdom says no.
Bradley doesn't have big power. But he's a student of the game, with a good trainer (Joel Diaz) who has seen big fights. He's going to have to find a way to block out the obvious hometown advantage that Witter will have in Nottingham. And after that, when he settles down (if he settles down), he'll have to find a way to out-box a terrific boxer.
Bradley got this fight because an eliminator bout with Jose Luis Castillo was called off after Castillo couldn't come close to making weight. He's been rushed into a title fight, but you can't blame him or his team for taking it. Should he lose, they simply get back on the horse, because frankly, he's supposed to lose. And you have to admire his guts, because most guys with 21 pro fights and the prospect tag that Bradley carries wouldn't get into a fight where they're such a huge underdog.
For Witter, this is about trying to kickstart his American branding, and trying to muscle his way into a fight with Hatton. For Bradley, this fight is more about trying to beat the odds, and leapfrog his way into the money fights in this division.
The smart money is on Junior Witter. In fact, the dumb money, the moderately intelligent money, and the brilliant money are all on Junior Witter. This isn't one you can sugarcoat. Nothing will tell you that Timothy Bradley can or should win this fight. But they'll fight for a reason, that reason being that you just never absolutely know until the bell sounds.
We'll be here tomorrow night with round-by-round coverage, scoring, and BSing during the fight, which starts at 10:45 EDT on Showtime. It's a rare chance for American fans to see Witter live, and a chance to see a very promising young fighter. Last word I've heard is that the co-feature will be Carl Froch against Albert Rybacki.