By Cliff Rold
Is Jr. Welterweight a good division? It’s a question which was there before the start of 2008 and remains at the end of it. There are good fighters, but there isn’t a ton of depth below the very top of class.
Luckily for 140 lbs., the peak is one of the sports biggest stars and the few notables below him provide solid entertainment and potential to stay near the top for the next few years. In 2009, Jr. Welterweight looks like it will provide the latest home for Manny Pacquiao as well, improving profile and quality considerably. For now, 2008 can be remembered as much for what World champion Ricky Hatton did in two title defenses as it was for the emergence of a new face well worth following. The new face was the best story of the year at Jr. Welterweight.
Jr. Welterweight Fighter of the Year: Timothy Bradley
While his year may not have been littered with great wins, the May upset he pulled over Junior Witter for the WBC belt truly shook the Jr. Welterweight division. The British Witter, in the many years since a debacle against Zab Judah in 1999, had built a reputation along the lines of Winky Wright’s here in the U.S. He was the man the stars avoided, the risk-reward loser of the Ricky Hatton sweepstakes. With wins over almost half of the top ten at 140 going into the Bradley fight, Witter was becoming one of the game’s sympathetic figures.
He may ultimately have been a transitional one. Bradley’s win over Witter was dramatic, to include a knockdown of the veteran, and complete. With a wide gap in experience going against him, Bradley fought with poise and efficiency, undeterred by the hostile U.K turf Witter brought him to. Now, with the win and a first defense under his belt, Bradley stares at possible unification with WBO titlist Kendall Holt in 2009 and the chance to stamp himself as inevitable future. Hatton, the true World champion since the summer of 2005, may not have much longer in the game. Bradley is as good a bet as any to replace him.
Jr. Welterweight Fight of the Year: Kendall Holt-Ricardo Torres II
One minute is usually just enough for two warriors to break a sweat. On the first weekend in July, it was enough for a classic WBO title affair. As reported by Jake Donovan at: https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=14814
They promised post-Independence Day fireworks, and junior welterweights Kendall Holt and Ricardo Torres delivered and then some.
The two combined for three knockdowns in just over a minute of action, with Holt eventually emerging victorious with an explosive off-the-canvas first-round knockout in Las Vegas.
The bout served as the main event of a special Saturday night edition of Showtime's ShoBox: The New Generation series.
Both fighters came out swinging in what instantly became the frontrunner for 2008's Round of the Year. It appeared as if Holt's shaky chin would do him in; a right hand by Torres had the New Jersey native on the canvas thirteen seconds into the fight.
"I was OK," Holt said of the first knockdown. "I got momentarily distracted from a punch I didn't see coming."
Referee Jay Nady would issue what would be the first of three counts. Holt recovered but found himself on the canvas seconds later, though insisting it was a knockdown that shouldn't have been.
"I was slipping, I wouldn't call that a knockdown. I was off-balance and throwing punches, trying to keep him at bay."
Regardless of what he thought, the fact was that just over thirty seconds into the fight, Holt was a punch or two away from losing to Torres for the second time in as many fights.
That final punch would never come, at least not from the Colombian.
"I don't back down," insists Holt. "I lay backs down."
Torres' back would never quite touch the canvas, but the message of the statement still rings true. It didn't appear it would go that way, as Holt went into retreat mode while seeking any opening to get his foe to back up off him.
One would present itself, as Holt landed a left hook to the body. Torres doubled over, at which point their heads collided. Torres rocked backwards to the ropes, where he would remain for the remainder of the brief encounter. Holt went into harbor shark mode, sniffing blood and going in for the kill.
A corker of a right hand knocked out Torres – emphasis on out, as he lay frighteningly still, seated on the bottom rope as Nady counted him out.
"When I saw him not move at the 3-count, I knew he wasn't getting up," said Holt, who moves to 24-2 (13KO) in picking up his first major alphabet title.
The official time was 1:01 of the first round, with just about every second it going as expected for Team Holt.
"I knew from the first round that he'd come after me," insisted the Paterson (NJ) native. "He had good success at coming strong and we had good practice at him coming strong."
Surprisingly, the only thing he didn't expect was the sudden ending.
"I didn't sense… I was just trying to win the round, or at least prevent it from becoming 10-7."
He did a hell of a lot more than that – he evened up the score in emphatic and far less controversial fashion.
The bout was a rematch to their highly controversial first fight last September in Torres' hometown of Baranquilla, Colombia. An unruly crowd and inept referee hindered Holt's chances of returning home with a title belt. Holt was up on two of the three scorecards before getting dropped in the 11th round, after which he was forced to contend with Torres' punches and flying debris from the crowd before being stopped while under siege along the ropes.
Saturday night's win more than makes up for that debacle.
"(Colombia) seems like a long time ago, I'm just done with it."
Meanwhile, he's just beginning for bigger and better things in the junior welterweight division.
Torres falls to 32-2 (28KO) with the loss. Both losses have come inside the distance, as he was stopped in seven rounds by Miguel Cotto in what was one of the best fights of 2005. The Colombian figures to make his way to several year-end categories in 2008 – Knockout and Round of the Year among them – though once again on the wrong end of the outcome.
Jr. Welterweight: The Year in Results
Since last January, BoxingScene has produced quarterly ratings for each of Boxing’s seventeen weight classes. Ratings for the first quarter of 2009 should be available at the New Year; for now, here’s a look back at the critical Jr. Welterweight results of 2008.
01/05: #2 Paulie Malignaggi (24-1, 5 KO) UD12 Herman Ngoudjo (16-2, 9 KO)
03/22: #9 Andreas Kotelnik (29-2, 13 KO, WBA) TKO12 #4 Gavin Rees (27-1, 13 KO)
05/10: Timothy Bradley (22-0, 11 KO, WBC) SD12 #1 Junior Witter (36-2, 21 KO)
05/24: #2 Paulie Malignaggi (25-1, 5 KO, IBF) SD 12 Lovemore N’Dou (46-10-1, 31 KO)
05/24: World Champion Ricky Hatton (44-1, 31 KO, Lineal/Ring) UD12 Juan Lazcano (37-5-1, 27 KO)
06/06: Herman Ngoudjo (17-2, 9 KO) UD12 #6 Soulemayne M’Baye (36-3-1, 21 KO)
07/05: #3 Kendall Holt (24-2, 13 KO, WBO) KO1 #6 Ricardo Torres (32-2, 28 KO)
07/30: Sebastian Lujan (30-5-2, 20 KO) UD10 #9 Jose Luis Castillo (56-9-1, 48 KO); bout fought at Welterweight
09/13: #2 Timothy Bradley (23-0, 11 KO, WBC) UD12 Edner Cherry (24-6-2, 11 KO)
09/13: #4 Andreas Kotelnik (30-2-1, 13 KO, WBA) UD12 Norio Kimura (34-6-2, 18 KO)
11/1: #10 Marcos Maidana (25-0, 24 KO) KO2 Silverio Ortiz (19-12, 9 KO)
11/7: #9 Devon Alexander (16-0, 9 KO) TKO4 Sun-Haeng Lee (9-4-1, 4 KO)
11/8: #5 Junior Witter (37-2-2, 22 KO) KO3 Victor Castro (29-5, 12 KO)
11/22: World Champion Ricky Hatton (45-1, 32 KO) TKO 11 #1 Paulie Malignaggi (25-2, 5 KO)
12/11: #9 Devon Alexander (17-0, 10 KO) TKO3 Christopher Fernandez (15-6-1, 9 KO)
12/13: #3 Kendall Holt (25-2, 13 KO, WBO) UD12 Demetrius Hopkins (28-1-1, 11 KO)
Other divisions in 2008 reviewed:
Light Heavyweight: https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=17628
Super Middleweight: https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=17595
Jr. Lightweight: https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=17637
Jr. Featherweight: https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=17610
Jr. Bantamweight: https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=17572
Jr. Flyweight: https://www.boxingscene.com/index.php?m=show&id=17514
Check in tomorrow for more of BoxingScene’s 2008 Year in Review.
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