Sunday, April 17, 2011

Living up to legacy of welterweight royalty

With a relatively light weekend of MMA, my focus shifts to boxing this weekend where an intriguing welterweight championship fight turned out to be so much more. Former WBC welterweight champion Andre Berto (27-1, 21 KO's) lost his title last night to a hungry and much more determined Victor Ortiz (29-2-2, 22 KO's), in what is an early candidate for fight of the year. Little did they know it at the time, but Berto and Ortiz were living up to a legacy of welterweight royalty that goes back thirty years.

One of the great pastimes of boxing has always been the debates that take place when people argue about fighters from different generations. In the Eddie Murphy movie 'Coming to America', this long standing tradition was hilariously featured in the barbershop scenes. However, I don't know if anyone ever has debated about an entire weight class of fighters from one generation to the next.

Downstairs in my "man cave", one of the various Ring magazine covers I have adorning the wall is a personal favorite which features the class of the welterweight division of the 90's. The cover photo includes former champions Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya, Ike Quartey and Pernell Whitaker. All sure fire Hall of Famers although some may disagree about Quartey, but I'd argue that with a 37-4 record over an 18 year career, look who the man lost too. De La Hoya, Fernando Vargas, Vernon Forrest and Ronald 'Winky' Wright; all champions he went the distance with and the last two in the last year of his storied career.

Yet as great as this class of welterweights were, I don't think even they come close to the legendary foursome we had in the early '80's. You want to talk Hall of Fame, how about 'Sugar' Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran and Wilfred Benitez. These four waged their own personal wars against each other throughout the '80's, beginning with Leonard vs. Benitez in late November 1979. The rivalries amongst one another continued as they eventually moved up and out of the welterweight division.

However, welterweights are what we're talking and I've only mentioned the absolute cream of the crop from the '80's and 90's. I didn't even throw out the next tier of names from both those decades, which included the likes of Pipino Cuevas, Mark Breland and Marlon Starling of the '80's; and in the '90's where you had James 'Buddy' McGirt and Wilfredo Rivera. Yet, just looking at the absolute best from both those decades, how well does this generation's welterweight class stack up?

Taking a look at the top you have Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, who I don't think anyone would argue could not hold their own in any era. Sprinkle in a little sugar with 'Sugar' Shane Mosely, a future Hall of Famer who has fought Mayweather and will fight Pacquiao next month. Finally, add the young stars Ortiz and Berto, who put on an exciting show last night and you, have quite a group. However, until Mayweather and Pacquiao step up and face each other the way Leonard and Hearns did in '81 (pictured above) and the way Trinidad and De la Hoya did in 1999 when they were both undefeated, this class will have difficulty living up to the legacy of welterweight royalty.

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