The Greatest Junior Lightweights of All Time
By Brent Matteo Alderson from Boxing Scene
1. Floyd Mayweather- Statistically, Mayweather, Arguello, and Chavez are very similar. Both Chavez and Mayweather successfully defended their titles on nine different occasions during the course of three year reigns while Arguello defended his title on eight different occasions during the course of 2 Ĺ years. At 130 pounds Mayweather defeated four men who had either been title holders or would become organizational champions while Chavez defeated three and Arguello four. None of the aforementioned fighters officially unified the title, but Floyd fought and beat Diego Corrales who had impressively reigned as the IBF 130 pound champion for over a year prior to facing Floyd and was unjustly stripped of the title due to political shenanigans.
Floyd should be ranked first because of his dominance at the weight, his longevity, and quality of opposition. He won the title from Genaro Hernandez, a man who had accumulated twelve title fight wins of his own and who had never lost at the weight. Then he immediately defended it against Angel Manfredy who had just stopped Gatti and who was on a 17-fight win streak. Then he dominated an undefeated Diego Corrales, a man who was viewed as one of the ten best pound for pound fighters in the world.
2. A number of people, discredit that win and claim that Diego was weak from making weight, but I disagree with that assertion. After serving time in Prison for spousal abuse, Diego Corrales went back down to 130 pounds and even weighed in the 120ís for his first bout with Casamayor. If Diego had such a hard time making 130, then why did he continue to fight at that weight years later when his body was more mature? I think the boxing establishmentís criticisms of Roy Jonesís victory over James Toney and Floyd Mayweatherís over Corrales are retaliatory since members of the media were perturbed by how both Mayweather and Jones started acting more like managers and not hall of fame fighters trying to establish a lasting legacy.
Still Floyd didnít duck anybody at 130 and should be ranked as the divisionís best champion because he dominated a quality group of challengers and wasnít tested until after he moved up to Lightweight and none of the other champions on this list dominated to the extent in which the Pretty Boy did, and thatís why heís the greatest junior-lightweight in history.
3. Alexis Arguello - The battle for the second place spot between Chavez and Arguello was a lot closer than the battle for the top spot between Mayweather and Arguello due to the fact that Arguello was an exceptional fighter and an exceptional champion. Arguello won the title from the formidable Alfredo Escalera, who himself had made ten defenses of the WBC 130 pound title, and defended it on eight different occasions. His list of knockout victims as WBC 130 pound champ include Bobby Chacon, Boza Edwards, and Bazooka Limon, three men that ended up trading the title around for a three year period after Arguello moved up to Lightweight. Of his eight challengers, only Arturo Leon lasted the route. Also, Arguello had major physical advantages at 130 pounds. He had a 76-inch reach, a very good chin, excellent conditioning, and a huge heart.
4. Julio Cesar Chavez- Chavez won the vacant WBC 130 pound title when he was 22-years old when he defeated Mario Martinez for the vacant title. He then proceeded to defend the title on nine different occasions during the course of a three year reign and a number of those wins came against quality fighters such as Rocky Lockridge, Juan LaPorte, and Ruben Castillo. The main reason that I ranked Chavez below Mayweather and Arguello is due to the fact that he wasnít as dominant of a champion even though he left the division with a record of 56-0. The fights with Lockridge and LaPorte were razor thin decisions and Chavez himself commented after his victory over LaPorte that the decision could have gone either way and one judge had the Lockridge fight a draw. Also Floyd and Arguello beat respected champions in Genaro Hernandez and Alfredo Escalera while Chavez beat the unproven Martinez. Still unlike most fighters Chavez seemed to improve as he rose in weight and even though he didnít stay at Lightweight that long, I feel like Chavez was at his best at 135, just watch his fights with Edwin Rosario and Jose Luis Ramirez.
5. Azumah Nelson- Consistency, longevity, class. What more can you say about Azumah Nelson? From the time Nelson beat Mario Martinez for the vacant WBC title in 1988 until he finally lost the title for the last time in 1997, the Professor left an indelible mark on the division and established himself as one of the greatest 130 pounders in history. In all he defended the WBC title on eleven different occasions and during that time he dotted his resume with a number of well regarded pugilists. Title fight victims include Jeff Fenech, Jesse James Leija, Gabriel Ruelas, Mario Martinez, Juan LaPorte, and Calvin Grove. And after earning a dubious draw in his first fight against Jeff Fenech, undoubtedly the greatest fighter in Australian history, Nelson went over to Melbourne and handed the tough Aussie his first loss and erased the controversy surrounding their first fight. Then at the age of 37, after having lost his title in his previous fight nineteen months before, he came back to knockout Gabe Ruelas in five rounds and then validated his position as the best 130 pounder in the world by knocking out Leija, the man who had taken his title.
Quite simply Nelson was a great fighter, but his dominance and sub-par performances hurt his ranking. He looked awful in his title winning victory over Mario Martinez and won by split decision and almost everyone who saw his first fight with Fenech feels he lost. Also, most observers felt he lost the first fight with Leija, which was declared a draw, and his first victory over Ruelas was by majority decision. Still these are all very good world class fighters and having the type of success that Azumah had against these types of fighters is an accomplishment and secures his place among the 130 pound greats.
6. Flash Elorde - Along with Manny Pacquiao, Elorde is considered to be the greatest fighter in Philipino history. He was a quick southpaw with a powerful left hand and had seventy fights before he won the title. He reigned for seven years, a division record, as undisputed champion and made ten successful defenses. During his reign as champion he lost in title tries to Sandy Saddler and Carlos Ortiz for the featherweight and Lightweight World Championships. Today thanks to Pacquioaís success, people are starting to remember what a fine champion Flash was and a couple of years ago, Nigel Collins, the editor of Ring Magazine, went over to the Philippines for an award ceremony involving the Pac-Man and the government cleared up Elordeís grave site and conducted a special ceremony commemorating his career .
7. Brian Mitchell - Brian Mitchell successfully defended his title twelve times, which is the divisionís record for consecutive successful title defenses. He also beat his IBF counterpart, Toney Lopez, the second time they fought in September of 1991 after having fought to a draw the first time. He won the title from the ordinary Afredo Layne and besides title fight wins over Tony Lopez, Jim McDonnell, and Frankie Mitchel, most of the guys were no-hopers. Still, Mitchell beat a very good fighter in Tony Lopez and only lost once in a career that spanned 49 fights and avenged that loss early in his career. The problem that historians have with ranking Mitchell higher is that during much of the time that he was WBA champ, Azumah Nelson was his WBC counterpart and odds makers would have made the Ghanaian at least a two to one favorite to beat the South African. Mitchell probably deserves more accolades than heís given, but being the sixth best champion in a divisionís history isnít such a bad thing.
8. Genaro Hernandez - Won the WBA title that was stripped from Brian Mitchell for taking a return match with Tony Lopez and successfully defended it on eight different occasions. Then he vacated the title to move up to challenge Oscar De La Hoya at Lightweight in 1995. After getting stopped by De La Hoya in six, he beat an old, but still dangerous Azumah Nelson for the WBC title in 97 and defended it three times, which included a twelve round decision over future title holder Carlos Hernandez. He lost that title to Floyd Mayweather. In all he made eleven defenses during the course of two different reigns and only lost twice in his career and those were to two future hall of famers.
9. Tod Morgan - Many of Morganís bouts are undocumented and his record is in concise, but he first laid claim to the 130 pound title in 1925 and lost it in 1929 and along with Flash Elorde was one of the champions that helped legitimize and establish the division.
10. Alfredo Escalera- Escalera made ten defenses during a two and a half year reign against average opposition and lost his WBC title in a thrilling shoot out with Alexis Arguello, which is partly the reason why heís rated so highly on the list.
11. Sammy Serrano - Was the WBA champ from 76 Ė 83 on two different occasions and made 13 defenses of the title.
12. Tony Lopez - Tony the Tiger won the IBF 130 pound title in Ring Magazineís fight of the year in a bout with Rocky Lockridge. Then after defending the title three times, two of which were against Lockgridge and John John Molina, he lost the title to Molina. Then he regained the title and defended it three more times, one of which was a draw with WBA champion Brian Mitchell, before losing the title in his second fight with Mitchell. Generally Tony isnít regarded that highly from a historical standpoint, but he beat two good fighters in Lockridge and Molina and deserves to be mentioned with the best 130 pounders in history.
13. Acelino Freitas - Freitasís career was kind of a disappointment. He started his career out with 29 consecutive knockouts and one of those was a spectacular first round title winning knockout of the very formidable Anatoly Alexandrov. Afterwards Alexandrov layed unconscious for five minutes and had to be taken out on a stretcher. Something happened to Freitas when he started to fight better competition outside of his native Brazil and he looked sloppy almost every time I saw him fight. Plus he held the WBO title, which I still consider to be a rung below the big three in terms of profitability and prestige. Still the Brazilian superstar whose wedding was televised on national television made ten successful defenses of the title and partially unified the title with a razor thin decision victory over Joel Casamayor. He also beat Javier Jauregui, Juan Carlos Ramirez, and Jorge Barrios in a stunning come from behind victory. At this weight I would have to rate his historical legacy ahead of Corralesís even though Diego eventually knocked him out due to the fact that they fought at 135 pounds. I still think Corrales would have beaten Freitas at 130, but you canít give too many points to speculation and Acelinoís numbers and accomplishments substantially outnumber Diegoís at 130.
Diego Corrales-I wanted to put Diego on the list, but he was only IBF champion for about a year and WBO champ for even a shorter time and really didnít get a chance to establish his legacy partly due to his conviction and partly because Floyd Mayweather was there. Still when Corrales was at his best he was a sharpshooter and Iíd probably pick him against half the guys on this list.
Arturo Gatti - Gatti first established himself as one of boxingís great warriors during his stint as the IBF 130 pound titlist. His fights with Patterson, Rodriguez, and Ruelas were awe-inspiring, but quite frankly Gatti wasnít that good of a 130 pounder and in all likelihood would have lost to Genaro Hernandez and Azumah Nelson.
I almost forgot about Morales and Barrera being 130 pound champs, but Iím not really sure those two guys have a meaningful legacy at 130 pounds. Their most important body of work occurred south of 130 pounds. Still Barrera has been the 130 pound champ for a while now and a win over the Pac-man in a return match would put him on the list.
John John Molina was a tough cookie and was real close to making the cut.
Sandly Saddler held the Junior Lightweight title and Iím sure he could have beaten almost all of the fighers on this list, but he only had three title fights against non-descript opponents at the weight so I didnít include him on the list. Itís hard to rank guys when they just stopped in the division for a pit stop. For instance look at Roy Jones, he beat Hopkins and took Thomas Tate out in two rounds at Middleweight, but we canít rate him with the middleweight greats because he didnít have any type of longevity at the weight. Same goes for Sugar Ray Leonard. He was awesome when he beat Ayub Kalule, but you canít rank him with the best 154 pounders in history even though he would have beaten any 154 pounder you care to name.