By Cliff Rold (photo by Chris Cozzone/FightWireImages)
The Other Nine, Pt. 4
Follow the sweet science long enough and even a passing fan will hear, with sounds of awe, about an ‘original eight,’ about a bygone era when the sport’s weight classes were limited to just that number with (usually) just that many World champions.
The era didn’t last very long.
As early as the 1920s, prizefighting saw extra prizes added by way of Jr. Divisions at Featherweight, Lightweight and Welterweight. Over the course of time, the total number has grown to a modern seventeen weight classes. Sometimes derided as bastard divisions, most didn’t begin with particular esteem. As the years and indeed decades have passed, all have built their own legacies in blood and all have produced greatness in the ring.
Through the course of “The Other Nine,” the best of each of the in-between classes will be given their due, examining how the champions of each performed against and in comparison to each other.
Of the Jr. Divisions, 140 lbs. arguably has amassed the most impressive history of any. It also took three tries to make it a permanent fixture. As noted at the Cyber Boxing Zone:
The title had been created by the New York Legislature in the Walker Law (1920).The NBA recognized the division on Jan. 22, 1922, but no champion was named. Several fighters claimed the title -- "Oakland" Jimmy Duffy, Richie Mitchell, his brother Myron "Pinkey" Mitchell, and Eddie Fitzsimmons. The Boxing Blade magazine held a vote whereby the fans named "Pinkey" Mitchell as the inaugural champion, and we start our lineage with that democratic decision.
The initial championship line would stand from that vote through 1935, with its share of great champions, but depression among other factors saw most of the Jr. classes abandoned. A brief return ensued when Tippy Larkin claimed a vacant claim to the crown in 1946 but the division was quickly abandoned again. It was not until the claim of the great Carlos Ortiz in 1959 that Jr. Welterweight established itself for good. It’s been here ever since, producing great fighters, fights, and memories. Hopefully, the following will trigger a few.
The Top Twenty
20) Frankie Randall– 4 Points: Tennessee’s Randall is one of those fighters who came up the hard way and then made the most of a giant opportunity…career mark of 58-18-1, 42 KO…won the lineal World title in a shocking upset in 1994 when he added the first official loss to the ledger of Julio Cesar Chavez…lost due to strange scoring rules after a headbutt cut Chavez in the rematch and the fight was sent to the cards…Randall would also twice capture the WBA title, defending successfully twice...in total, faced five titlists (Edwin Rosario, Sammy Fuentes, Chavez, Juan Coggi, Khalid Rahilou) eight times at Jr. Welterweight, avenging a Lightweight loss to Rosario at 140 and owning wins over all but Rahilou.
19) Carlos Ortiz – 4.5 Points: The All-Time Puerto Rican great, and member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame’s (IBHOF) second class in 1991, is best remembered for the bulk of his career, fought at Lightweight, but his first title came at 140, resuscitating the division after a thirteen year absence…won the vacant crown with a second round knockout of Kenny Lane in 1959 and defended twice before losing to Duilio Loi in a rematch of a consecutive fight split…would also lose the rubber match in 1961…later held 140 lb. great Niccolino Locche to a draw in 1966.
18) Oscar De La Hoya* – 6 Points: The East Los Angeles “Golden Boy” might well be remembered as a greater fighter had he stayed at 140 where he looked fantastic…career mark stands at 39-6, 30 KO…lifted the lineal World championship and WBC belt from Chavez in 1996, stopping the Mexican great for the first time on a cut…defended only once in early 1997 by dominant decision over then-undefeated former Lightweight titlist Miguel Angel Gonzalez and then was off to a lengthy stint at Welterweight and above.
17) Miguel Cotto* – 6.25 Points: The current Puerto Rican Welterweight star cut his teeth at Jr. Welterweight…current career mark stands at 32-1, 26 KO…WBO titlist 2004-06…six successful defenses…Cotto faced five titlists (Lovemore N’Dou, Randall Bailey, Demarcus Corley, Ricardo Torres, Paul Malignaggi), defeating them all…stopped Bailey, Corley and Torres, the latter two in memorable wars which saw Cotto hurt badly before rallying for victory…also avenged 2000 Olympic loss to eventual Gold Medalist Mohammad Abddulaev.
16) Bruno Arcari – 6.5 Points: Italy’s Arcari put together a solid run in the 1960s and 70s but never faced the division ‘s brightest lights…career mark of 70-2, 38 KO…WBC titlist 1970-74…defended nine times before relinquishing his crown to move up to Welterweight where he never received a World title shot…faced only one Jr. Welter titlist, in winning the belt (Pedro Adigue), a shame in an era which featured Locche and Antonio Cervantes.
15) Juan Coggi – 6.97 Points: The Argentine was a steady title presence for the better part of ten years…career mark of 75-5-2, 44 KO…three time WBA belt holder (87-90, 93-94, 1996)…ten successful defenses…faced five titlists (Patrizio Oliva, Akinobu Hiranaka, Loreto Garza, Morris East, Randall) seven times, losing his first title narrowly to Garza and winning one of three versus Randall…the win over Randall came in a technical decision where Coggi, having dropped Randall in the third, was cut by a head butt to send the fight to the cards in five.
14) Saensak Muangsurin – 8 Points: The Thai product is one of Boxing’s more interesting stories…career mark of 14-6, 11 KO after an earlier run in professional Muay Thai…could probably have had many more wins but skipped altogether any traditional development period, winning the WBC title in only his third professional fight in 1975…ultimately held the belt twice (75-76, 76-78) with eight title defenses, the reigns broken by a disqualification title loss avenged by knockout…faced four titlists (Perico Fernandez, Miguel Velasquez, Saoul Mamby, Sang Hyun Kim) six times, defeating all but Kim and stopping both Fernandez and Velasquez once each…petered out quickly after Kim, losing four of five including a Welterweight loss to a rising Tommy Hearns.
13) Takeshi “Paul” Fuji – 8 Points: Hawaiian by birth and residing in Japan, Fuji was the last man to be undisputed atop 140 until Kostya Tszyu decades later…career mark of 34-3, 29 KO…World champion 1967-68…one successful defense…faced three champions (Sandro Lopopolo, Roberto Cruz, Locche), stopping the first two and retiring after ten against Locche.
12) Wilfred Benitez – 8 Points: If Muangsurin is remarkable for winning a title in his third bout, Benitez is even more remarkable for winning the lineal World title and WBA belt from the great Antonio Cervantes at a record 17 years of age...He held the lineal crown from 1976-79 with three title defenses…faced only one other titlist, Bruce Curry, in consecutive non-title fights…the first was fraught with controversy, Benitez dropped three times only to win on a rounds scoring basis…moved to Welterweight and then Jr. Middleweight as his body grew…elected to the IBHOF in 1996.
11) Tony Canzoneri – 9 Points: Perhaps one of the ten best fighters ever to lace gloves, the New York-based Canzoneri won outright World titles in three weight classes and made a strong claim in a fourth, beginning at Bantamweight...career mark of 141-24-10, 44 KO…Two-time World Champion at 140 (1931-32, 33)…one successful defense…faced four of the division’s first seven champions (Jack Berg, Johnny Jadick, Battling Shaw, Barney Ross), defeating Shaw, Berg in two of their three, and Jadick in one of three…both Ross losses were debated, the first heavily…member of the 1990 founding IBHOF class.
10) Duilio Loi – 9.5 Points
Record: 115-3-8, 26 KO
World Champion 1960-61, 62, 2 Defenses
Titlists/Champions Faced – 2: (Ortiz, Eddie Perkins)
Loi stands near if not at the top of any list of the greatest fighters ever to lace them up from Italy. A brilliant boxer, Loi got by on guile and craft where power wasn’t found. Spending most of his career at Lightweight, Loi won the Italian and European Lightweight and Welterweight titles but never secured a crack at the World Lightweight crown. The rebirth of the Jr. Welterweight division in 1959 gave him a chance to ascend to the highest peaks. It wasn’t easy and it didn’t happen right away. The first bout with Ortiz in 1960 ended in a split decision loss, Loi’s first defeat since 1952. The rematch came right away, this time in Italy, and Loi was crowned champion in a majority call. Loi would finish their trilogy with a unanimous decision before finding his last great rival in Eddie Perkins. A draw outing in their first encounter in 1961 set up a 1962 unanimous decision loss on Loi’s home turf but the aging technician had one more ace up his sleeve, winning on points in their third encounter to send Italy to bed with a smile. It was Loi’s final bout. He retired as champion and was elected to the IBHOF in 2005.
9) Eddie Perkins – 11 Points
Record: 74-20-2, 21 KO
World Champion 1962, 63-65
Titlists/Champions Faced – 5 (Loi, Cruz, Carlos Hernandez, Locche, Adigue)
It’s only fitting that Loi and Perkins would sit so close together given the veritable tie in their rivalry. Raised in Chicago after being born in Mississippi, Perkins was managed by a great in his own right, Bantamweight Johnny Coloun, developed into a champion through the school of hard knocks. From his pro debut in 1956 up to the Loi draw, Perkins would suffer eight losses in his first 33 bouts. Of his other twelve, four would come in his final four bouts. In between, he captured the world title twice against a range of talents. After ending his rivalry with Loi, he picked up the vacant WBC and the recently filled WBA titles from Roberto Cruz, making two title defenses before dropping a split decision in 1965 to Venezuela’s Carlos Hernandez in Venezuela. Perkins would face Locche in 1967, losing on points, stop Adigue in five, and continue with mixed success until 1975.
8) Ricky Hatton – 13.5 Points*
Record: 45-1, 32 KO
Lineal & Ring World Champion 2005-Present, 5 Defenses
Titles: IBF (2005, 1 Defense); IBF/WBA (2005, 0 Defenses); IBF (2007, 0 Defenses)
Titlists/Champions Faced – 5: (Vince Phillips, Kostya Tszyu, Carlos Maussa, Juan Urango, Paulie Malignaggi)
Hatton will surely seem out of place in this list to some and could fall precipitously from this spot as his career progresses. As of this date, this is the spot he’s worked into. The pressuring Manchester hero was built in a style many an old timer could appreciate, brought along with careful and increasing progression through 38 fights before settling on the target of World Champion Kostya Tszyu in the summer of 2005. Tszyu entered a favorite off of some bad injury layoffs and a return knockout of Sharmba Mitchell that rated as one of his best career performances. Hatton and Tszyu played out as a classic case of young lion and old, each winning their share of rounds before youth prevailed late in a grueling, mauling affair that saw Tszyu retire to his stool after the eleventh. Since then, Hatton has fought seven times, five of those starts in defense of his 140 lb. crown and two at Welterweight to mixed reviews, including his sole career loss to Floyd Mayweather. In defense, he’s stopped Maussa, Malignaggi and former World Lightweight champion Jose Luis Castillo. Much of Hatton’s future and place could be written in May 2009 when he faces multi-division former champion Manny Pacquiao.
7) Barney Ross – 14 Points
Record: 74-4-3, 22 KO
World Champion 1933-35, 10 Defenses
Titlists/Champions Faced – 1: (Canzoneri)
Lucky on the cards or not to defeat Canzoneri the first time, New York’s Ross made the most of the crown. Defending it ten times, Ross eventually became the first man (not Henry Armstrong as often claimed) to hold three World titles in three divisions simultaneously at Lightweight, Jr. Welterweight and Welterweight. Ross marked the end of the division’s first incarnation, vacating in 1935 and seeing the class die for over a decade as Ross moved on to concentrate on the Welterweight division. In perhaps his most notable defense, he defeated the tough Frankie Klick after an earlier controversial draw. Of Ross’s four losses, two came in his first two years as a pro and the others at Welterweight to Hall of Famers Armstrong and Jimmy McLarnin. Ross was an inaugural member of the IBHOF and one of Boxing’s greatest fighters.
6) Jack “Kid” Berg – 14 Points
Record: 157-26-9, 61 KO
World Champion 1930-31, 6 Defenses
Titlists/Champions Faced – 3: (Mushy Callahan, Canzoneri, Tippy Larkin)
The Whitchapel Whirlwind was the first truly great fighter to sit atop the Jr. Welterweight throne. Like many of the early champions, Berg spent much of the focus of his career on the more notable Lightweight class but unable to capture the laurels there, Berg went after Callahan one fight after dominating Canzoneri in their first of three battles. It would be Berg’s lone win in their thrillogy as Berg would lose by both knockout and split decision to Canzoneri in 1931 to fork over the title. In between, Berg made six defenses but got his best work done in non-title wins over Hall of Famers Billy Petrolle and Kid Chocolate. Berg, who turned pro in 1924, fought on until 1945, even winning a decision over Larkin in 1939 some six years before Larkin would briefly claim the throne himself in 1945, a short lived second life for the Jr. Welterweights. Berg entered the IBHOF in 1994.
5) Kostya Tszyu – 11.08 Points
Record: 31-2, 25 KO
Lineal World Champion 2001-05, 3 Defenses
Titles: IBF (1995-97, 5 Defenses); WBC (1999-2001, 3 Defenses); WBC/WBA (2001, 2 Defenses); Ring/WBC/WBA/IBF (2001-05, 3 Defenses)
Titlists/Champions Faced – 9: (Sammy Fuentes, Jake Rodriguez, Roger Mayweather, Vince Phillips, Diobelys Hurtado, Julio Cesar Chavez, Sharmba Mitchell, Zab Judah, Hatton)
The Russian-born Tszyu, fighting out of Australia, didn’t have a ton of pro fights but he packed an awful lot into a truncated career. It doesn’t hurt that he had over 200 fights in the amateurs, including a 1991 World Championship. By his fourth fight, he was taking on older vets like Juan LaPorte and stopped Rodriguez in six to capture his first belt only 13-0. Tszyu lost what looked like a fast track to Oscar De La Hoya in 1997 when stopped by Vince Phillips in ten rounds but bounced back for his defining run. He stopped former Lightweight titlist Rafael Ruelas in nine, came off the floor twice to stop Hurtado in five, and stopped Miguel Angel Gonzalez in ten to snare the WBC belt. A needles sacrifice of an ancient Chavez in 2000 set up unification clashes with Sharmba Mitchell and Zab Judah to set Tszyu concretely at the top of class. Injuries would see him out often, defending only three times from 2002-05 and Hatton ended his reign and career in 2005. It didn’t overcome the impressive body of work built before the finish.
4) Niccolino Locche – 20.5 Points
Record: 117-4-14, 14 KO)
Lineal World Champion 1968-72, 5 Defenses
Titles: WBA (1968-72, 5 Defenses)
Titlists/Champions Faced – 8: (Ortiz, Lopopolo, Perkins, Fuji, Hernandez, Cervantes, Alfonso Frazer, Adigue)
The Argentinian “Untouchable” was one of the great defensive gems in history. Turning pro in 1958, Locche established himself as a force with a 1963 points win over former Lightweight king Joe Brown. Competing at both Lightweight and Jr. Welterweight in his career, Locche ascended to the throne with one of the rare stoppages of his career, forcing relent from Fuji. His first defense was an off the floor unanimous decision over Hernandez. In perhaps his finest championship win, Locche mastered the great Cervantes in 1971 for his final successful defense. An upset to Frazer would follow in 1972 and Cervantes would avenge defeat in 1973 when a cut Locche retired in his corner after ten. The fourteen draws in Locche’s career are a testament to how tough defensive stylists can be to judge, but there is quality in the draw pool. Ortiz and Lightweight great Ismael Laguna both came to even terms. He closed his career with seven straight wins on the cards but never received another title shot. Locche joined the IBHOF in 2003.
3) Aaron Pryor – 20.88 Points
Record: 39-1, 35 KO
Lineal World Champion 1983-85, 4 Defenses
Titles: WBA (1980-84, 8 Defenses); IBF (1984, 2 Defenses)
Titlists/Champions Faced – 3: (Frazer, Cervantes, Sang Hyun Him, Gary Hinton)
It’s rare that a proven great fighter leaves people wondering what might have been. Pryor, the Hawk, is one of those fighters. The Cincinnati product was a prodigious amateur but missing the Olympics in 1976 left him to come up the hard way. His talent was such that it didn’t take long. Knocking out aged former champion Frazer on his way up, Pryor got a crack at Cervantes for the WBA crown in his fourth paid year, coming off the floor to stop the veteran in four. With a windmill style which reminded some of the great Henry Armstrong, Pryor would dominate the division until 1985 and produce classic wars against the likes of Dujuan Johnson and Akio Kameda. His defining moment would come in 1982 with a legend rising in weight. Alexis Arguello brought Pryor into his veritable turf at the Orange Bowl and together they provided what Ring Magazine would later name the best fight of the 1980s and the best Jr. Welterweight fight in history. Pryor endured for a fourteenth round stoppage and exceeded in the 1983 rematch, ending Arguello in ten. It should have been the step to even bigger things, but drug problems hastened a quick end to the prime of Pryor. He took off all of 1986 and returned in 1987 for the only loss of his career. In a time outside the powdered 80s, it’s hard not to imagine if Pryor might well have been greater. He was great enough as was and inducted to the IBHOF in 1996.
2) Julio Cesar Chavez – 24.19 Points
Record: 107-6-2, 86 KO
Lineal World Champion 1990-94, 9 Defenses; 94-96, 4 Defenses
Titles: WBC (1989-90, 3 Defenses); WBC/IBF (1990-91, 2 Defenses); WBC (1991-94, 7 Defenses); WBC (1994-96, 4 Defenses)
Titlists/Champions Faced – 13: (Roger Mayweather, Fuentes, Meldrick Taylor, Lonnie Smith, Hector Camacho, Greg Haugen, Randall, Parisi, De La Hoya, Tszyu)
As impressive as he was in capturing titles at 130 and 135 lbs., 140 is where “El Gran Campeon Mexicano” went from great fighter to living legend and made concrete his powerful claim to the mantle of Mexico’s greatest fighter. The first of two wins over Taylor, and his bludgeoning of Camacho, were among his greatest nights. Taylor was well ahead in their 1990 classic when Chavez rallied late to score an epic, and still debated, stoppage with two seconds remaining in the fight. Camacho and Chavez, Puerto Rico and Mexico, years of trash talk…it all resulted in a 1992 beating wherein Chavez won almost every round. It was more than the body of work in the ring. Chavez was also an unreal gate attraction at 140, luring in 1993 over 130,000 in Mexico City to see him strike down a surly Haugen in five. By the time he finally officially (Pernell Whitaker beat him at Welterweight only to be robbed with a draw) lost to Randall in 1994, Chavez had ensured himself a slice of immortality. His reputation took its dings late, with what looked like an easy way out choice to take to the cards rather than fight on with a cut in the rematch with Randall and in showing up for the De La Hoya fight appearing to still suffer from a training cut. Time should put those moments in perspective. For the first half of the 1990s, Chavez ruled Jr. Welterweight with an iron fist and, when finally eligible, he’ll have easily earned his slot in Canastota.
1) Antonio Cervantes – 26.5 Points
Record: 91-12-3, 44 KO
Lineal World Champion 1972-76, 10 Defenses
Titles: WBA (1972-76, 10 Defenses); WBA (1977-80, 6 Defenses)
Titlists/Champions Faced – 6: (Locche, Frazer, Adigue, Benitez, Mamby, Pryor)
If Chavez dominated the first half of the 90s, what of Colombia’s Kid Pambele and his shadow across the 1970s? Of his twelve career losses, eight came between his pro debut in 1964 and November 1969. From 1970 through 1979, only Locche and Benitez could add minuses versus his win column and legend has it the management of Roberto Duran wanted nothing to do with him. As noted previously, the Locche loss was revenged in his second title defense after stopping Frazer for the crown in 1972. The total ten-defense title reign was an impressive body of work. A rematch knockout of Frazer, non-title stoppage of Adigue, and unanimous decision over the only Lightweight ever to defeat Roberto Duran, Esteban De Jesus, highlighted his first stint as a champion. The split decision loss to Benitez, given Benitez’s youth, was shocking but Cervantes shook it off. A victory over Mamby set up a crack at a vacated WBA Jr. Welter crown in 1977 where Cervantes prevailed over Carlos Gimenez in six before adding six more defenses. In 1980, the shadow of Cervantes would be cast off the division by Pryor and Cervantes would fight only five more times before retiring in 1983. Heavy handed and well schooled, Cervantes’ time had run out. It is the way things go. He got more time atop his class than most champions ever have and took his rightful place at the IBHOF in 1998.
The results here are based on a numerical comparison, adjusted slightly from the previous weeks, which assigns points based on:
1. Number of fellow champions faced (total) then divided into a competition score to flatten the field due to the fluctuation in titles recognized.
2. Lineal World Titles (Noted; 1 Point)
3. Sanctioning Body Titles (Points Assigned based on number of bodies; i.e. .5 pre-IBF; .25 post-WBO)
4. Title Defenses (Points assigned in correlation to title points)
5. 2 Points per KO; -2 per KOBY; 1 per UD against fellow titlists
6. Quality Wins (Points Assigned based on opponent accomplishments; i.e. lineal champions count for 1, a single sanctioning body champion based on their sanctioning body total, discretionary points for established champions from other weight classes)
7. Quality Losses (Losses to champion opponents -1 point)
8. Draws (.5 points)
*Still an active professional
Coming Soon: “The Other Nine, Pt. 5: The Junior Lightweights”
Pt. 1 – Cruiserweight: http://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=18179
Pt. 2 – Super Middleweight: http://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=18376
Pt. 3 – Jr. Middleweight: http://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=18452
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com