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Boxing Perspective: The Welterweight Division

The Welterweight division, at the moment, looks very promising indeed with some very good fighters sitting on or around the weight and already some mouth-watering bouts lined up.

Number one pound for pound fighter in the world is Manny Pacquiao, and he currently resides in this division, although he started and won his first world title at flyweight he has moved up the weight divisions, capturing belts and beating some of the finest fighters in the world before settling in at welterweight.

He looks comfortable at this weight, unusually so as history has so often repeated itself that when a smaller fighter steps up through the weight divisions they tend to lose either speed or power or sometimes they are not as recuperative as they once were.

It is rare to see a fighter come up in weight and not lose any of their qualities. The strange thing with Pacquiao is, if anything, he has gotten better as he has gone up.

An argument could be made that the level of opponents have been easier but Pacquiao silenced those doubters with an impressive hard-fought fight leading to an eventual stoppage against Miguel Cotto.

Cotto agreed to fight him at a catch weight of 145lb, with the bottom line being that everyone knew Cotto was a big welterweight, a big puncher who liked to come in at the agreed weight limit and then re-hydrate over the next day, so when he steps into the ring he would of put on another 14lb.

The first couple of rounds were highly competitive, but in the end Pacquiao's power and speed prevailed against Cotto, the natural welterweight, who has now decided to move up another division himself, to light middleweight.

There are probably few people around who would argue Pacquiao’s dominance over the pound for pound rankings, but one of them would be number two on the list and also a self respected king in his own right, Floyd Mayweather Junior.

Mayweather also resides at the welterweight/junior middleweight divisions, although the last time he fought a real welter was 2006 against Carlos Baldomir. No one really expected Baldomir to beat Mayweather, and he didn’t, losing nearly every round in what Floyd would call a 'boxing clinic’ and what others would call a ‘boring fight’.

Yes, Mayweather is dazzling and defensively masterful, with brilliant handspeed and footspeed, but in reality, the majority of people watching would prefer him to utilize those skills against an opponent who would offer some sort of threat to his undefeated record.

He fought Zab Judah before Baldomir and that offered a different fight for Floyd as he was pushed in the early rounds by a hungry Judah.

When Judah brings his A-game he is a dangerous and talented fighter for any welterweight. Floyd looked to struggle with Judah's aggression, but as soon as he figured Judah out, he started landing those straight right hands and the writing was on the wall.

It was only a matter of time before Judah threw his toys out of the pram…as usual…and we ended up with a riot in the ring!

After that fight, Mayweather moved up in weight to light middle to face Oscar De La Hoya, and then Ricky Hatton at welter. Hatton, a career junior welterweight stepping up and fighting at 147lb was outboxed and exposed although valiant in this display, before Mayweather stopped him in the tent.

Mayweather then retired only to come back almost two years later to defeat Juan Manuel Marquez.

In contrast, Pacquiao remained busy, beating Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton in a far more emphatic and brutal fashion than Mayweather.

The two top pound for pound guys, Mayweather and Pacquiao, are now set to face each other sometime later this year. Before they do, they both have fights with top welterweights who are dangerous in their own right.

Pacquiao takes on Joshua Clottey next month, a career-serving welterweight who is big at the weight, has an excellent chin as has never been stopped. He utilizes a high guard effectively and is a good fundamental boxer.

Pacquiao is expected to come through this fight, but it will not be easy for him, he won’t be able to walk through Clottey but will be able to pick him off all night with the speed and the angles at which Pacquiao comes in.

Mayweather on the other hand has a higher mountain to climb when he goes up against "Sugar" Shane Mosley, now WBA Welterweight champion after destroying Antonio Margarito last year, something that had never previously been done.

So, obviously the older Mosley still has plenty of speed and power left and at 38 years old, plenty of experience. Mosley has been in with some of the very best: Oscar De la Hoya twice, Vernon Forrest twice, Winky Wright twice, Fernando Vargas twice, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Ricardo Mayorga and Luis Collazo; its like a who’s who of welterweights with a couple of light middleweights thrown in for good measure.

Mayweather vs Mosley will be an excellent welterweight clash, as will Pacquiao vs Clottey, just two fights at the beginning of the year to whet our appetites.

The next biggest threat to anyone at welterweight other than the guys already mentioned is most definitely WBC Champ Andre Berto. In possession of blinding speed, a good boxing brain and good KO power, if a little open when on the offensive, he is reminding many critics of a young Shane Mosley.

Which is why Mosley vs Berto would have been a fantastic fight, perhaps an even better fight than the one with Mayweather as Mosley can be outboxed.

Against Mosley, Mayweather is going to be clever and try to take away Mosley's jab and expose him when he steps inside whereas I doubt Berto would have been technically proficient enough to do that and would of played Shane’s game of stepping in and out, hitting hard and often.

Had it not been for the fact that Berto is Haitian and felt the need to go there with the recent earthquake, we would see that fight, but no one can blame Berto. He will be back soon against tough former champion Carlos Quintana, who should not pose Berto too many problems, but is no walkover himself.

Quintana has always been on the fringe of titles. When he steps up to the plate he generally falls, albeit so far only twice, against Cotto and Paul ‘The Punisher’ Williams, but the gulf in class was so obvious and when he did finally win a tile off Williams, he only held it for about two months, as in the rematch Williams showed that he was merely having an ‘off night’ when he lost the title by knocking Quintana out in the first round to re-capture his belt.

Paul Williams is the most avoided fighter in the sport and is now making waves that he is coming back to welterweight, which is great news but will he get his fights? The very reason he moved up in weight to light middle was that no one would fight him at welter.

Williams is a huge fighter for the weight in terms of height and the volume of punches he throws out is quite staggering. He is an awesomely awkward southpaw with a great chin, but not without flaws, as he has been put down once or twice, but never out.

Anyone who shuts out a veteran like Winky Wright, as Williams did, has to be taken very seriously indeed. Should the rumours be true and he heads back down to welter, we could see him in some high octane fights or we could sadly see him sit waiting, trying to get fights only to be turned down because the business side of boxing decides that he is a maximum risk, minimum gain opponent, but sometimes in boxing that is the price you pay for being too dominant at a given weight.

A welterweight to look out for, as he is coming up through the ranks fast, is a British fighter called Kell Brook, undefeated at 20-0 with 13KOs. Brook has good speed complimented with good power and great footwork and he is still learning.

Another is Mike Jones, 20-0 with 16 KOs, who last week made his mark by beating veteran Henry Bruseles, again he has good instinct and quite obviously, loves to bang so will be one to keep an eye on.

There are also great fighters who are slowing down in their careers and are on the way out as the way back to titles is just out of reach or they had previously stepped up and just fallen at the final hurdle, who will end up being gatekeepers of the division.

Gatekeepers, good ones at that, will always make the weight division stronger as they separate the hype jobs from the talent and generally bring out the best in the younger fighters coming up.

Carlos Baldomir, Zab Judah, Luis Collazo, Jose Luis Castillo, Randall Bailey, Lovemore N’Dou and Ricardo Torres are all great fighters who perhaps had their time to shine and now stand as tests.

With both the Pacquiao and Mayweather fights in the coming months setting up a mega-fight in the future, and the up and comers all making their way up the title contention ladder, 2010 looks to be an exciting year for the welterweights.

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