By Derek Bonnett: Boxing fans can put another year of professional prizefighting in the record books. 2010 was a good, not great year of boxing, but it rose to the occasion and put in a strong comeback during the championship rounds of the year. Most would prognosticate a stronger year in 2011 considering a slew of meaningful fights on the horizon.
The clash between two of SecondsOut’s top three junior welterweights, Timothy Bradley and Devon Alexander, should start the year off nicely on January 29 in the spirit of the best meeting the best. February will also present us with the best bantamweight colliding in Fernando Montiel’s title defense against Nonito Donaire. If the talks are accurate, somewhere along the line, we may actually get to see David Haye share a ring with Wladimir Klitschko in the coming year. If that’s possible, then there is still great hope for Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquaio in 2011.
The SecondsOut staff extends its warmest regards to all of our readers and hopes for a prosperous 2011 for you all. Most importantly, we hope the 2011 boxing year exceeds all of our expectations. With a sport of all seasons, there is no need to wait. It is always boxing season. With that said, please enjoy a concise look back at some of the most significant movement across the divisions as the landscape of SecondsOut world rankings transformed again and again.
Junior Lightweight (130 Pounds):
The 130 pounders of today are a far cry from names like Azumah Nelson, Brian Mitchell, and Alexis Arguello. Unfortunately, they are still far below that of Arturo Gatti, Jesse James Leija, and Gabriel Ruelas. In spite of this, some significant action occurred throughout 2010. Takashi Uchiyama emerged on the scene with a surprise 12th round KO of Juan Carlos Salgado in January. He put together two more wins of lesser note to remain WBA champion. Ricky Burns also defied the odds to unseat the favored Roman Martinez in September. Lastly, Jason Litzau proved his worth over many 130 pound contenders with upset wins over Rocky Juarez and Celestino Caballero in April and November respectively. Uchiyama holds the number one spot at SecondsOut, while Burns turned in at third, and Litzau earned his way to eighth.
Featherweight (126 Pounds):
The featherweight division currently is a pool of gasoline just waiting to be ignited. However, Chris John, Yuriorkis Gamboa, and Elio Rojas seemed to have misplaced their matches. The fighters on the move in 2010 were Juan Manuel Lopez, Daniel Ponce De Leon, and Hozumi Hasegawa. If not for Sergio Martinez at middleweight, Lopez might have been 2010’s Fighter of the Year. The Puerto Rican star won by stoppage three times. In January, he stopped Steve Luevano and has seemingly forced him into retirement. He followed that up with an off the floor KO of Bernabe Concepcion in two rounds. Then, in yet another Fight of the Year candidate, he forced Rafael Marquez into eighth round surrender. Daniel Ponce De Leon, unbeaten since a 2008 KO loss to Lopez, went 4-0 in 2010 and disposed of four good fighters. Mostly notably he crushed rising prospects Orlando Cruz and Antonio Escalante in three rounds apiece between February and September. Hasegawa, a former bantamweight champion, jumped two weight classes after an April knockout loss to Fernando Montiel to dominate the unbeaten Juan Carlos Burgos to win a world championship in November. Lopez wrested the number one position at SecondsOut from Chris John, Ponce De Leon punched his way to fourth, and Hasegawa climbed aboard at seventh.
Super Bantamweight (122 Pounds):
Great evolutions transpired in the 122 pound class in 2010, but a dominant champion will have wait to be established in 2011. Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym entered the year at number one given his victory over Bernard Dunne and the exodus of several top fighters. After two successful defenses, he was upset in October by the unassuming Ryol Li Lee. Wilfredo Vasquez Jr. made his presence known with a February KO of Marvin Sonsona, the premature heir apparent to Manny Pacquiao. Vasquez Jr. followed with two more victories in May and October. Toshiaki Nishioka followed up a strong 2009 with two victories in 2010, including an October decision over Rendall Munroe. The top four is very uncertain, with each fighter capable of claiming the top spot in 2011. Nishioka slid into first at Secondsout while Lee, Kratingdaenggym, and Vasquez Jr. round out the top four.
Bantamweight (118 Pounds):
If SecondsOut were GQ Magazine, I would dub the bantamweight division as the new welterweight division. Truth be told, the bantamweight class has been the sexier division of the two for quite some time given its seemingly endless depth. It’s just been too hard for them to step out of the shadow of names like Mayweather and Pacquaio. Make no mistake, it’s happened. 2010 was a great year for the division; where to begin? In April, Fernando Montiel withstood the early onslaught so many bantamweight contenders succumbed to in order to dethrone Hozumi Hasegawa. Montiel pocketed four wins in 2010 in total. In May, Yonnhy Perez and Abner Mares squared off in a spectacular match-up that fittingly ended in a draw. Mares met Vic Darchinyan in December in an even wilder affair that seemed to have draw written all over it as well, but Mares walked away with a close decision. Perez rematched Joseph Agbeko the same night only to lose his title by clear decision. Agbeko never looked finer in the ring. Also, Anselmo Moreno won two closer than they seemed decisions over Nehomar Cermeno in March and August. As if things couldn’t get hotter, Nonito Donaire joined the bantamweight ranks with a fourth round destruction of Volodymyr Sydorenko in December. Just to give SecondsOut fans the full magnitude of how stacked the bantamweight division is, here’s the top seven in order: Montiel, Donaire, Agbeko, Moreno, Mares, Perez, and Darchinyan.
Super Flyweight (115 Pounds):
The 115 pound class is nearly shapeless. After defeating Nobuo Nashiro in May to become champion, Hugo Cazares fought three more times. Omar Andres Narvaez moved up to 115 in February and went on to win a vacant belt in May, but still toiled in obscurity. Tomas Rojas and Cristian Mijares revived their careers with title wins as well. Rojas upset Kohei Kono in Japan in September. Mijares bested his fellow countryman Juan Alberto Rosas in December. Drian Francisco remained a top contender, but failed to meet a name fighter in 2010. Currently SecondsOut ranks Cazares first, Narvaez second, Francisco fourth, Rojas sixth, and Mijares seventh.
Flyweight (112 Pounds):
The flyweights also lack a clear fighter at the top above all others. Pongsaklek Wongjongkam has been called the Comeback Fighter of the Year by some due to his upset victory over Koki Kameda in March, but it wasn’t really that much of an upset. Wongjongkam finished the year with two lesser wins to keep active. Luis Concepcion made the most of 2010 by steam rolling three opponents. Most notably, Concepcion put Eric Ortiz and Denkaosan Kaovichit away in a round apiece to put the rest of the division on notice. Also, Milan Melindo made his presence known to the rest of the division with four wins. The most significant was a clear decision over former world titlist Carlos Tamara in November. SecondsOut ranks Wongjongkam and Concepcion as the top two, while Melindo is quickly climbing the ranks at sixth.
Junior Flyweight (108 Pounds):
Just like the bantamweights, these little guys are big-time. The 108 pound class continues to rank among boxing’s most talent laden and most overlooked divisions. 2010 saw the crowning of a new king at 108 as Ivan Calderon lost his unbeaten record by eighth round KO to Giovanni Segura in August. Segura won four times in 2010 in total and never had to hear the sound of the final bell. Walter Tello, Ronald Ramos, and Manuel Vargas all surrendered sooner than Calderon. Roman Gonzalez re-entered the 108 pound pool after reigning at 105 for two years. In October, he made quick work of Francisco Rosas in two rounds after going the distance with him previously. Journeyman Gilberto Keb Baas scored an Upset of the Year candidate by outpointing Omar Nino Romero for a portion of the 108 pound title in November. Luis Alberto Lazarte defeated Carlos Tamara for a title in May, successfully defended it once, and then held onto it with a hometown draw against Ulises Solis in December. Segura rules the division at number one, while Calderon loosely holds down the number two spot. Gonzalez sits at number three for now, while Solis, Lazarte, and Keb Baas round out the top six.
Strawweight (105 Pounds):
This final summary could be left blank without much notice because boxing fans continue to ignore the very exciting 105 pound class. With the exit of Roman Gonzalez, Nkosinathi Joyi climbed into the number one position based on his March victory over Raul Garcia. Oleydong Sithsamerchai appeared ready to fall in 2010 following a close decision win over Juan Palacios to close out 2009. In March, he barely edged Yasutaka Kuroki by no greater than a two point margin on all three judges’ scorecards. In September, Sithsamerchai was dropped in the sixth and drew with Pornsawan Porpramook. He closed the year with a meaningless stoppage over a winless fighter. Denver Cuello recorded six appearances in 2010 including a September stoppage over former world champion Muhammed Rachman. SecondsOut currently ranks Joyi first, Sithsamerchai second, and Cuello sixth.
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January 3, 2011