Friday, March 24, 2023  |


State of the Game: Junior welterweights


This is the 10th in a series of stories from “The State of the Game,” the popular annual feature of THE RING magazine. We’re posting one weight class per day, starting with strawweight and working our way up to heavyweight. The package was featured in the July issue of the magazine. The August issue, with Floyd Mayweather Jr. as the cover story, is on newsstands now. Today: Junior welterweights.

It’s often been said that in boxing, the top two percent of the fighters make about 98 percent of the money. Well, we’re about to feed directly into that inequity. Not only do the top two percent get most of the money, but they get most of the attention too, and in “The State Of The Game,” we focus primarily on that top two percent – the cream of every weight class. Maybe it’s not fair to the 145th best junior featherweight in the world, but hey, there’s a reason he’s only 145th best.

Still, you have to admit, we go deeper and include more fighters in State of the Game than just about any other article you’ll read all year. Where else will you find Wladimir Klitschko, Fernando Guerrero, Alfonso Gomez and Hekkie Budler all discussed in the same story?

Basically, the State of the Game is just what it sounds like: an all-encompassing exploration of where every division in boxing stands at this particular moment. As for the state of the sport as a whole, we know the balance of power is continuing to shift away from American fighters and away from the heavyweight division, but does that mean boxing is any worse off than it was a year ago or five years ago or 10 years ago? In a global sense, and judged in relativity to the economic climate across most of the world, no. Remember, some people in both the boxing community and the mainstream media opined three years ago that Oscar De La Hoya vs. Floyd Mayweather was going to be the last megafight we’d see for years. How laughable is that now? We’ve since had four different pay-per-views cross the million-buy mark, and if Manny Pacquiao vs. Mayweather ever happens, it will crush every number Mayweather-De La Hoya posted.

Of course, all that this means is that the guys at the very top are getting exponentially richer while everyone else is struggling to make ends meet. Hey, that’s the way boxing has always been, and in a nutshell, that’s how life works. Boxing has loads of problems, no doubt, but year after year, it entertains and amazes those loyal followers who persevere through all the crap to get to the good stuff.


There have been various rumors circulating about HBO putting together some sort of 140-pound tournament – everything from a four-man event to a “Super Six” rip-off to an eight-man bracket. The rumors aren’t true; HBO just happens to feature most of the best junior welterweights and is doing a solid job of matching them against each other. But even if it were true, four, six, or eight fighters wouldn’t be enough. Year after year, somehow this division remains the deepest in boxing, and you could currently put together a 16-man tournament and still have some noteworthy fighters fail to make the cut.

Sound like an exaggeration? Check this out:

The first tier begins with pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao, who is still technically the RING and lineal champion, though he might never fight at the weight again. No. 1-rated Timothy Bradley has zoomed to RING cover-boy status, beating the likes of Kendall Holt and No. 10 Lamont Peterson last year while also getting the better of Nate Campbell en route to a controversial no-contest. No. 2 Devon Alexander is hot on Bradley’s heels in terms of making the leap and arguably has more pound-for-pound potential, having knocked out Junior Witter and No. 5 Juan Urango back-to-back at age 23. Britain’s No. 3 Amir Khan is another 23-year-old with enormous talent, an elite trainer in Freddie Roach, a streak of quality wins, and, unlike Bradley or Alexander, household-name status in his homeland. No. 4 Marcos Maidana is a thrill-a-second Argentine banger who turns Victors into victims, having stopped both Victor Ortiz and Victor Cayo.

The next tier features quality veterans who are probably past their peaks to varying degrees but still are tough outs for almost anyone, guys like former RING champ Ricky Hatton, punchless but determined No. 8 Paulie Malignaggi, Colombian pressure fighter Urango, onetime Maidana conqueror No. 7 Andreas Kotelnik and former lightweight titlist Campbell. Randall Bailey probably comes in a little below that group, but he’s a veteran who has the dynamite in his gloves to remain a factor.

The last major grouping is the up-and-comers who are either somewhat untested or have a loss to bounce back from, talents like Ortiz, Peterson, Cayo, No. 9 Mike Alvarado, and Lucas Matthysse. And don’t forget No. 6 Kaizer Mabuza, who hit our radar screen with a recent stoppage of Holt.

Think About It: Longtime junior welter champ Kostya Tszyu will become eligible for the International Boxing Hall of Fame next year, but he isn’t the most famous ex-fighter entering his first year of eligibility; that would be Mike Tyson. So here’s an interesting question to ponder: Who will get more votes? Both Tszyu and Tyson are certainties to get voted in as members of the class of 2011, but the hunch here is that Tszyu’s election will be pretty much unanimous, whereas some voters will deny ear-biter and convicted rapist Tyson on some sort of “principled” stand. So even though Tyson is 10 times more famous and was the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, Tszyu will most likely be the No. 1 vote getter. (And on a side note, it’ll be interesting to see if Dariusz Michalczewski gets in, making it a “modern” category class made up entirely of first-year eligibles.)


Best Puncher
Manny Pacquiao
Best Boxer
Manny Pacquiao
Most Protected
Cesar Cuenca
Most Avoided
Demetrius Hopkins
Is He Still Around?
Carlos Hernandez
Matchmaker’s Dream
Manny Pacquiao-Amir Khan
Deserves A Title Shot
Timothy Bradley
Most Fun To Watch
Manny Pacquiao
On The Way Up
Ruslan Provodnikov
On The Way Down
Kendall Holt
Best Fight In 2009
Marcos Maidana KO 6 Victor Ortiz

LIGHTWEIGHTS: blog/2067/state_of_the_game_lightweights/

JUNIOR LIGHTWEIGHTS: blog/2061/state_of_the_game_junior_lightweights /