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Ranking the Welterweights: August 2008

It's been a huge couple of weekends for the 147-pound division, obviously, so let's re-shuffle the deck and rank the top ten.

For the record, I don't think this is the best division in the sport. The lightweights have added Pacquiao, Marquez and Guzman, the three best 130-pounders in the world when they left the division, to go along with Campbell, Casamayor, Katsidis, Juan Diaz, Julio Diaz, and others. No other division boasts that much top-flight talent, not even the welters.

29639776a79b35edd1249fcd499bcdd1-getty-81085414em010_miguel_cotto__medium 1. Antonio Margarito (37-5, 27 KO, WBA Titleholder)

All hail the new king! The Mexican Terminator stood strong against Miguel Cotto, chasing his Puerto Rican rival around the ring, never tiring, never relenting with punches, and systematically breaking down a man whose entire career has been built on the systematic breakdown.

How impressive was Margarito's win? I have mixed feelings. Yes, he clearly beat Cotto down, so badly that Cotto did not want to continue for the remaining time of the fight, which was halted in the 11th of 12 rounds. Cotto was beaten, battered, bloodied, and sapped of his will to fight on. Now THAT is impressive.

But had Cotto not abandoned his greatest strength (the body attack), does Margarito stay so strong? Cotto headhunted, tried to become a stick-and-move fighter, and it just did not work for him. I think a rematch with a Cotto that goes back to his roots looks very different.

For now, though, there's no arguing who the king of the welterweights is -- it's Antonio Margarito, and it's been a long, hard road. He's a special fighter that makes up for a lack of pure skill and athleticism with monstrous toughness and a never-say-die attitude.

2. Miguel Cotto (32-1, 26 KO)

Yeah, I still rank Cotto as the second-best fighter in the division. He was not at his best against Margarito, though I do think he fought well. I still just do not understand why he let his body attack go by the wayside. Whose idea was that?

Cotto can box, we all know that. He showed it against Shane Mosley and won a great fight against a great fighter, and did it in a somewhat unexpected manner. But it seems like he and his team fell in love with the idea of Miguel Cotto: Boxer Extraordinaire!, when the fact of the matter is that's not Miguel Cotto's game.

Cotto is a beer and pretzels type of fighter, really. There's nothing fancy about what he does best. He works the body like a madman, he beats the tar out of his opponents, and he never stops coming. In short, exactly what Margarito did to him. Cotto cannot beat Margarito circling the perimeter of the ring and trying to land combinations to the head and playing defense. But I think he very much can beat Margarito if he attacks him as he has the many good and great fighters he's beaten.

3. Paul Williams (34-1, 25 KO, WBO Titleholder)

If anyone has a claim to being No. 1 but Margarito, it's Williams, who holds a win over Margarito. Williams is a damn good fighter, but I think a rematch there goes the other way. Margarito started very slow and fought poorly against Williams, then hurt him and had Williams reeling late. Had this been the days of 15-round championship fights, Margarito would've knocked Williams out -- I'm quite confident in that statement.

Still, you don't get to take Williams' win away from him. He beat Margarito, and that's the way it is. Either Margarito rematch (Cotto, Williams -- hell, Clottey, too) would be an interesting fight. Just because I think Margarito would beat Williams were they to tangle a second time doesn't mean Paul Williams has no claim to being the world's best welterweight. It might not be boxing's best division, but there is no top three anywhere that can rival Margarito, Williams and Cotto.

4. Shane Mosley (44-5, 37 KO)

Screw it -- there's no top four that beats Margarito, Williams, Cotto and Sugar Shane. Mosley is still a superb fighter, I have no doubt that he would have slaughtered Zab Judah, and I also have no doubt that his upcoming bout with Ricardo Mayorga is nothing more than a big-star farce in terms of competition. Mayorga is going to be destroyed by the fast, strong, accurate Mosley. What could Ricardo possibly do outside of landing one big punch, and how in the hell is he going to hit Mosley with that punch?

I'm more interested in what Shane (who turns 37 in early September) does after the Mayorga fight. He could fight anyone and it'd be interesting. He's still excellent, and he's on his way to the Hall of Fame.

Joshua-clottey_medium 5. Joshua Clottey (35-2, 20 KO, IBF Titleholder)

How good is Joshua Clottey? I really do wonder about this, because while his only "real" loss is to Margarito, he hasn't beaten a top-flight fighter, either. That might rub some Zab Judah fans the wrong way, but them's the breaks.

Margarito-Clottey is a rematch that I don't think goes differently. Tony's too big, too strong, and Clottey is essentially a middle class man's Margarito. When it comes to an action blockbuster, I'm taking James Cameron over Michael Bay every time, and that's sort of how I feel about Margarito v. Clottey.

I now realize that I'm sort of insulting the hell out of Clottey. Who would be a better choice than Michael Bay in this comparison? John McTiernan? Stephen Sommers? Len Wiseman? You make the call.

All that aside, Clottey is a tough customer who can fight. He's a counter-puncher by trade, but I do think he'd be even better if he pressed a little more. He's not the biggest puncher in the world, but he's got some pop and I think more pressure would really suit his style.

6. Carlos Quintana (25-2, 19 KO)

Poor Carlos. Bombed out in one round by Paul Williams, which all but erases the biggest win of his career from memory. Without a belt, he's stuck in no man's land. He's way too good for most fighters to want to battle, and he's got no sway at the box office. I have a hard time taking any one-round knockout as an indictment of anyone's skills. Especially at the championship level, first round knockouts are such a fluke occurence that it's hard to take it seriously.

He's lost two fights, against Williams and Cotto. Not bad, really. He could give just about anybody a tough fight, but I do think this is where the division stops having truly elite fighters. Clottey has made his case as being one, but Quintana is just below that level. As he's shown, though, on the right night, that means he can win a title.

7. Kermit Cintron (29-2, 27 KO)

Kermit, Kermit, Kermit. He was cut loose by his promoter after his April loss to Margarito, the only man who's ever beaten him. The truth is that Margarito is the exact wrong fighter for Cintron, a devastating puncher trying to punch out a guy that seemingly could take a brick to the head and keep going.

Who else could stand up to the Cintron assault, though? He's not the brightest fighter in the game, but he is the division's biggest puncher, probably, and he's become a much better all-around fighter over the years. Still, he is fairly one-dimensional, and his defense tends to disappear.

First piece of advice: don't fight Margarito again. Accept the losses and move on.

8. Andre Berto (22-0, 19 KO, WBC Titleholder)

If Clottey can't land Margarito, he says he wants Berto, who is due to take on Stevie Forbes. Berto, 24, has natural abilities that rival the best of the last two generations of fighters, and I mean that. His speed is fantastic, he's got damn good power, and he has shown an ability to play nice defense when needed. Cosme Rivera used his veteran savvy to test Berto a bit and knock him down, but I don't think that showed much against Berto's chin. He got caught, recovered, and won handily.

I do worry a bit about how Berto might fare against a good puncher. He's not going to face one in the feather-fisted Forbes, but after that people are going to demand more from the WBC's titleholder than fights against the likes of Forbes, Miki Rodriguez, Michel Trabant and Rivera. It won't be acceptable for the holder of the big green belt to take on veteran tests and ill-suited no-names. He'll have to fight someone real. Then we'll find out how good he is.

9. Luis Collazo (28-3, 13 KO)

Consider this Luis' lost year, and also consider this another step down in the division. Collazo fought and beat a bum on the Jones-Trinidad undercard and has been inactive since, with nothing on the horizon. That's been his only fight since his loss to Mosley in February 2007. He needs to get to 100%, of course, but he also badly needs a fight, because his spot is slipping away. I think he's a fine, fine boxer, but he's not interesting or exciting enough to get a big or even semi-big fight without activity.

10. Jackson Bonsu (28-1, 23 KO)

The 27-year old Belgian could be a real spoiler in the division if he ever lands a big fight. He won a clear decision over Viktor Plotnikov in May to retain the European welterweight title, and his record is quite good for a regional competitor. Coming to the States wouldn't be easy, but he has the knockout power to become a success. Is he more than a European fighter? Perhaps he is, perhaps he isn't. I'd like to know for sure, though.

You Coulda Been a Contender...

If he ever needed a win, last night was it for Zab Judah (36-6, 25 KO). He just couldn't get it done, just as he hasn't gotten it done in years. It's going to take a rather epic career rebirth for Zab to be thought of as he once was; he was at his best three years ago when he stopped Cory Spinks, an excellent performance by Judah that avenged a loss. Since that fight, he's 3-4 with one no-contest, beating Cosme Rivera, Edwin Vazquez and Ryan Davis, while losing to Baldomir, Mayweather, Cotto and now Clottey. Every time he has a big fight, he loses -- and let's also not forget that Baldomir was no more highly regarded at the time than Rivera was. There are lots of things about fighters that "can't be measured," and some of Judah's unmeasurables don't work in his favor.

Steve Forbes (33-6, 9 KO) is a quality veteran that doesn't belong at 147 pounds. At 140 (a weight he made comfortably last year), he might still be a title-worthy fighter, a guy that could capture an alphabet strap with the right matchup. He's double tough, fights smart, and rarely gets hurt. The much bigger Oscar de la Hoya never hurt Forbes. Can Forbes upset Berto? It would not shock me, but it wouldn't surprise me if Berto becomes the first to drop or even stop Forbes, either.

It all came together for Sebastian Lujan (30-5-2, 20 KO) in his clear decision win against Castillo last week. But even if you give him good credit for that win, the truth is it'll be hard for him to find any bigger fights. He doesn't have a name, doesn't have a pretty record, and has shown in his two biggest fights that he is no easy task. Margarito beat him up in a rugged brawl, and Castillo just couldn't hold him off. Lujan stays very busy, has a strong chin, and can punch hard enough.

South African fringe body titleholder Isaac Hlatswayo (28-1, 10 KO) has the same story as always: he once fought Kendall Holt, got blown up, and has done nothing since besides fight in his home country against questionable foes. He did once beat Nate Campbell at 135, and also has wins over Aldo Rios, Cassius Balyoi and Phillip N'dou. Again, all at 135 pounds. He's proven nothing past the lightweight division.

It appears that this is the weight at which we will say goodbye to Jose Luis Castillo (56-9-1, 48 KO), a fighter whose faults, fouls and transgressions will deservedly fade away in favor of his warrior mentality and memorable bouts. If Lujan was his final fight, he goes out with his head held high -- he made weight, he was in good shape, and he fought hard. He just got outgunned.

Alfonso Gomez (18-4-2, 8 KO) hasn't been heard from since being destroyed by Cotto in April. Who can blame him?

30-year old Brit Michael Jennings (30-1, 16 KO) may get a shot at Paul Williams if Williams and Dan Goossen fail to secure a rematch with Margarito, as he's the mandatory for Williams' WBO belt. I figure he gets beaten soundly. He's never faced anyone near as good as Williams. It might look something like Pavlik-Lockett did.

Delvin Rodriguez (23-2-1, 14 KO) had his last win somewhat marred by the injuries to Oscar Diaz, but if we look past the horrible scene that ended the night (hard to do, I know), there was a lot to like about Rodriguez's performance. He has rebounded very well from his stunning loss to Jesse Feliciano.

610x_medium Let's talk a bit about Floyd Mayweather, Jr., the retired pound-for-pound king. For one thing, I don't buy that he'll stay retired, particularly because he's taking so many shots from the boxing community since he officially set the gloves aside.

As a welterweight, Floyd did very little. He stepped up after destroying Gatti to beat Sharmba Mitchell, then took on Judah, who had just lost to Baldomir. He took a little bit of heat for fighting Baldomir after that, but Baldomir was THE welterweight champion, and it was a totally defensible move. Listen, if you're going to talk legacies and histories, you have to recognize the fact that Carlos was the documented, official "man" at 147 right then. It was a blowout, as we knew it would be.

He went up another division to face Oscar de la Hoya and won that megafight, which was good for his legacy as an important, big-time fighter, but did nothing for his welterweight status. Did nothing to hurt it, either. Then he took the challenge from 140-pounder Ricky Hatton and wound up beating the crap out of the "Hitman."

Then he retired just before promotion was to start for a rematch with Oscar, a fight that may have been desired by some, but I still think part of the reason that fight didn't come off was because it was not going to make enough money to make it worth all the effort. They were planning a HUGE promotional tour, the fighters were both obviously going to get big paydays, and I think someone sensed that this one wasn't as hot a ticket as the original. Part of that is because Mayweather clearly had real challengers out there that he was ignoring; part of it is because the first fight, while memorable, was not exactly one where you went, "I want to see a rematch!"

So now what? He was dogged years ago for passing up an $8 million offer to fight Tony Margarito, he was getting dogged for refusing to so much as acknowledge the existence of Miguel Cotto, he's been dogged for not fighting Mosley and a lot of other guys. NOW, with Margarito the king of the division, all those bad feelings from the Margarito duck are coming back, and folks are voicing them loudly.

HBO's Max Kellerman took it a step too far last night, I think, when he proclaimed that Floyd Mayweather can't beat Antonio Margarito. I say it's a step too far because I think the idea is preposterous. Yes, Mayweather CAN beat Margarito. Can he hurt Margarito? I highly doubt it. But can Margarito catch up with Floyd enough to hurt him? I also have my doubts there.

Listen, Margarito's a fantastic fighter, but I don't think Floyd is the right opponent for him. Mayweather would dance and pop all night long, as he's done against so many tough guys.

I'm not saying it's a foreglone conclusion that Mayweather would outpoint Margarito, especially now that he is showing that he's either legitimately bored with boxing and has lost interest, or that he's scared of real challenges, as has been said by Bob Arum and others. I think it's a very, very intriguing fight. But just as I wouldn't say that Mayweather definitely beats Margarito, I think it's very foolish to doubt Mayweather's abilities and conclude without any questioning that Margarito would pound away on him.

When has Mayweather ever taken a real beating? Who has successfully found a home for their punches with any consistency against Mayweather? Is it really the slow-footed Margarito with his mediocre hand speed that does it?

I think there are fighters that can beat Mayweather. I don't think Margarito is one of them, no matter how strong or how big he is. If they did fight (and they won't, because Mayweather doesn't want to fight him), I just don't think the "Tornado" would be able to land enough.

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