By George Ogier
In the absence of a thriving heavyweight scene boxing fans and the media alike are keen to anoint a weight class as the sport’s “glamour” division. The recent dominance of both Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao have led many to suggest that the 147lb stars of welterweight boxing are today’s kings but is that reputation deserved?
There can be little doubt that Mayweather and Pacquiao are the pre-eminent fighters of this generation. Both men have risen through the weights and now, more often than not fight around the 147lb mark. They are responsible for some of the biggest PPV figures of recent years and all this without ever facing each other. Does the mere existence of both men mean that the welterweight division is the most exciting?
The events of the past few weeks have served to turn the welterweight boxing on its head. Pacquiao lost a shocking decision to Tim Bradley, Randall Bailey knocked out Mike Jones and Josesito Lopez forced Victor Ortiz to quit on his stool with a broken jaw. Whatever you think of the judges from Pacquiao- Bradley, the division has been front and centre in terms of news coverage.
It is only really the depressing emergence of rampant PED use within the sport that has taken the shine off some enthralling fights of late. Suspicion still surrounds Julio Cesar Chavez Jr after his victory over Andy Lee. There have also been positive drug tests for the likes of Antonio Tarver, Andre Berto and Lamont Peterson.
Beyond the thrill of watching the enormous talents of Pacquiao and Mayweather there is a generation of more than capable talent at 147lb. Fans were treated to a Rocky-style storyline as Lopez met Ortiz on Saturday. Paulie Malignaggi fought in Ukraine and captured the WBA title. Here in Britain we have the mercurial Kell Brook and the very real prospect of Bolton’s Amir Khan moving up from light welterweight.
Therein lies the strength of the welterweight division. It isn’t so much about Pacquiao and Mayweather and more about what is bubbling just under the surface. Yes, everyone wants to dine at the top table in terms of fighting the two figureheads but the battle to get that honour is equally compelling.
The race to win a payday against Pacquiao and Mayweather provides great sporting drama. However, the inability of Floyd and Manny to actually fight rather than just snipe through the media is a problem. It has created a situation whereby there is little for other fighters to aim at in becoming the best. In many other weight classes there are universally accepted “top dogs”. To get to the title you have to beat the man who beat the man.
Wladimir Klitschko is head and shoulders (and probably chest too) above all other heavyweights. Andre Ward has proven that he is the premier super middleweight fighter on the planet. Just below Ward you’ll be hard pushed to find anyone that doesn’t believe Sergio Martinez to currently be the world’s greatest middleweight.
At 147lbs there just isn’t that pinnacle, a summit of human endeavour. If you beat Floyd or Manny (fairly) then you are merely part of the alphabet soup of titles. It has become a twin peaks of achievement and like David Lynch’s masterpiece it can be hard keep track of what is happening.
Both Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather are destined to be remembered as all time greats. Nonetheless, that undeniable fact should not mask an addition to both men’s legacies. By not meeting in the ring they are robbing a new generation of fighters the chance to call themselves the undisputed champion.
In terms of talent and sheer popularity the welterweight scene is the most exciting at the moment. However, individual contests do not shape the whole boxing story. Fans want to know who is the best, they want to see one man rise above all others to become champion. The 147lb scene is currently throwing up some fantastic contests. Sadly, the confusion at the top of a very congested pile is diluting many people’s enjoyment of a golden era.