Nestled between the classic featherweight and lightweight divisions, we have the 130-pound super featherweight division. If you are a boxing purist, perhaps you do not agree with the creation of such weight classes deviating from the original weights as intended. What you cannot possibly disagree with is the legitimacy of the fighters currently occupying this weight class and the potential greatness of their fights in the future. What follows is the state of the boxing union as it stands today in the super featherweight division.
1. Marco Antonio Barrera: Can we claim to know of a fighter that has brought his career from the very depths to the highest level of achievement so many times? Barrera’s legend will remain long after he throws his final punch in the prize ring regardless of what fate befalls him from here on. He reinvented himself from a brawler to a boxer to ruin “Prince” Naseem Hamed, then, reverted back to those crucial warrior instincts in battling to earn two wins over eternal rival Erik Morales. Barrera stands above a much- esteemed selection of fighters here, and ominously, he says he is not satisfied yet.
2. Erik Morales: Morales is a fighter of immense talent, but one not always content to use it to its full extent. The wars Morales fought with Marco Antonio Barrera, Manny Pacquiao and In Jin Chi will stand as monuments to his courage and strength. It is ironic though those outstanding fights remain closely linked to what will likely be Morales’ retirement in the next two years. If there is any justice, Morales’ career will stand as one of the true Mexican legends for generations to come. His ascension into the lightweight division is unconfirmed, but if it happens, he should end his career amongst the likes of Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo, warriors akin to his own proud spirit.
3. Manny Pacquiao: A deflating loss to Erik Morales is not the end of the Manny Pacquiao story, by a long, long way. Rarely will you see a fighter of such incredible speed and power, with such irrepressible fighting will. Still being so young in comparison to the top two pugilists here, Pacquiao has the time to evolve into a more versatile fighting machine, in order to avoid the fate of the once again retired Felix Trinidad. In terms of negotiations, the ace card for Pacquiao is his stoppage win over Barrera, which the Mexican great may still want to avenge. Whether against Barrera or current featherweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez, Pacquiao figures to be involved in very significant fights for years to come.
4. Jorge Barrios: At long last Barrios is a world champion. The unstoppable Argentinean force dethroned formerly unbeaten champion Mike Anchondo, and under the guidance of Golden Boy Promotions, his talent and fighting instincts should get the exposure they truly deserve. A revenge assignment against Brazilian knockout artist Acelino Freitas may figure in Barrios’s future plans, but the advice here is that Barrios can stand to make a firm statement without indulging that challenge. When Barrios says that all his promoters need do is provide opponents, and he will knock them out, you are inclined to believe him more than most.
5. Robbie Peden: The Australian “Bomber” holds the IBF portion of super featherweight championship. One suspected that Peden may have become the “nearly man” of the division, having lost high-profile fights, but he lived to fight another day and finally made his championship aspirations a reality. Peden owns a high-intensity style delivering some heavy leather during his fights, and if marketed and matched appropriately, he might become a very hot property in the division.
6. Jesus Chavez: “El Matador” enters his latest fight against Carlos Hernandez this week, knowing that failure may mean a drastic reduction in future championship chances. As a former WBC champion, Chavez fought the best available fighters, and acquitted himself well against elite level champions such as Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Erik Morales. “El Matador’s” road to a championship was not an easy one, and in order to achieve another one, the way is no easier this time around.
7. Carlos Hernandez: El Salvador’s favorite fighter, known as “El Famoso” takes to the ring this week to try to earn the right to fight for a world championship once again. The aforementioned Jesus Chavez stands between that possibility. The similarity between the careers of the two fighters is obvious, and whichever of them manages to separate himself from the other will truly earn his title shot. In possibly his last chance at a title, Hernandez knows that he has a country in his corner, and win or lose, he will always be a hero to them.
8. Vicente Mosquera: This Panamanian hard case is only twenty-five-years-old, and can claim the WBA super featherweight championship after taking the title from Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai in a dominant performance. Mosquera decked the former champion several times en route to a unanimous decision win. A year of inactivity for the orthodox puncher means that he has yet to capitalize on his great title win, and the fact that he is a champion and still quite unknown to the boxing community at large means that there is much to do in building his profile.
9. Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai: This former champion from Thailand went undefeated in almost ten years before to the aforementioned Mosquera. Before losing his title, Nanthachai claimed victories over such notable names as Lamont Pearson, Steve Forbes and Mongolia’s Lakva Sim. As with Mosquera, Nanthachai is yet to resume his career since their championship fight, and with the lack of time on the thirty-four-year-old southpaw’s side, he needs to make a move and soon to get back into title contention.
10. Zahir Raheem: Seething from his first loss, to featherweight contender Rocky Juarez last year, the “Z-Man” is determined to become a fixture on the championship scene in the 130-pound weight class. Raheem is a fast and classy boxer who ran rings around Juarez before suffering some rather curious officiating; even then, the writing was on the wall that Raheem’s days as a featherweight were numbered. Expect to hear much more about Zahir Raheem in the future.
Jim Cawkwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org