While ‘Money May’s’ Away, The Best Welters Will Play
By Coyote Duran, DoghouseBoxing.com (June 6, 2008) Doghouse Boxing  
On July 26, WBA welterweight titlist (and arguably the best welterweight in the world) Miguel Cotto defends his belt against former WBO and IBF welterweight titlist Antonio Margarito and all I have to ask is “Floyd who?”

This isn’t to suggest that World Welterweight Champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. is a nobody or an irrelevant blip on the 147-pound radar. It’s to say that with all the good that cosmically works itself out at welterweight, the man seemingly at the top almost seems unnecessary for the success of 147 to continue.

When Margarito, 36-5 (26) with one no-contest, beat Cintron (KO 6) in a highly-anticipated rematch for the IBF strap in April, fans knew ‘The Tijuana Tornado’ would immediately look to the challenge he had in Cotto, 32-0 (26). But did these same fans ever guess that ‘Tony’ would just as immediately vacate his newly-won strap to get the Cotto gig?

As valuable as the IBF belt was to Kermit Cintron after beating Mark Suarez and as equally valuable as the same strap was to Margarito after beating Cintron again, the belt wound up about as coveted as a bologna and cheese sandwich that’s been duct-taped underneath a bed frame in a hostel for a month-and-a-half. It meant bupkis when it came to making Cotto-Margarito happen.

Almost as soon as Margarito vacated the red belt, it went straight up for grabs between former Undisputed Welterweight Champ Zab Judah and the dangerous Ghanaian Joshua Clottey; making a match that asks the questions: What took so long for Clottey to gain this opportunity and, at this juncture, how many more shots does Judah possibly have left as a welterweight contender?

Of course, the aforementioned title opportunity wouldn’t have become a reality without Cotto-Margarito becoming a reality. What really works is the fact that Cotto-Margarito has the absolute best chance of bringing championship clarity (if it wasn’t there already) to a division that already has an established world champion in Floyd Mayweather.

Yes, Mayweather is still World Welterweight Champion; albeit not a very good one. (Notice I didn’t say he was a bad fighter? Great fighter. Just not a great welterweight champion). Sure, he’s defended his belt once since beating Carlos Baldomir in November of ’06 but, at the same time, has dismissed challenges from Cotto, Margarito, Shane Mosley and Paul Williams; all viable contenders, indeed. ‘Money’, of course, has opted to take the mainstream to the extreme; playing to the masses outside Our Masses, thus leaving the kids (Cotto, Margarito, et al.) home alone with no sitter. Contrary to what might normally happen in everyday life while the parents are away, these welterweight kids have slapped together a wild party that serves as a treat for the most devoted of hardcore fans that no blanket stunt could ever truly satisfy. At stake, a measly alphabet strap that has been recently given more meaning than Mayweather’s dust-covered WBC strap and, very sadly, his Ring Magazine Championship.

A necessary amendment comes into play when I say the title opportunity that Judah-Clottey is couldn’t come off without Cotto-Margarito. It’s the title mention that’s operative, thanks to Margarito vacating the IBF belt. The fight itself was created when the Mosley faction turned down a fight postponement offer after Judah lacerated his arm in what most sources have substantiated as a shower door accident; putting the screws to their original May 31 meeting. Now, instead of being looked at as a fighter who’ll continue crapping out against his biggest challenges, Zab Judah now has a good chance of surprising Clottey if patience and discipline are employed. The classic foregone conclusion giving way to a forearm contusion.

Judah-Clottey? A wild party that serves as a treat for the most devoted of hardcore fans that no blanket stunt could ever truly satisfy. Huh. Déjà vu all over again has never sounded so right for a cliché.

Judah, 36-5 (25) with two no-contests, who has had more career rejuvenations than conventionally expected or allowed, gets yet one more and, as always, has that ‘Judah’s Chance’ of prevailing that’s never quite seen as an upset or an odds-favored prognostication borne from extreme confidence of analysis. It’s really just somewhere in between but never sinks quite to the watermark that would designate ‘just a lucky journeyman.’ Judah’s fortune throughout his career has hinged solely on use of his own talent vs. the quality of his opposition. Against Joshua Clottey, 34-2 (20) with one no-contest, a hardnosed contender whose last sanctioning body opportunity resulted in a unanimous decision loss to then-WBO titlist Margarito, Judah’s late-career hunger and selective lucidity will be matched and maybe even eclipsed.

If nothing else in the world, Zab Judah is human and humans reasonably are subject to even the slightest mental hiccups. Judah, for as strong as he portrays himself, has his history to remind him of mistakes and glories. Now, with relatively fresh wounds to heal, new worries will emerge. Can the southpaw effectively throw a jab or right hook if his lacerations haven’t quite healed right? With the depth of such unconventional cuts and as many as were sustained on such a useful limb, even training has to be dodgy and sometimes painful. That’s a transitional pain that Clottey could be waiting to exploit as soon as the opening bell rings. It’s this pathology that gives Clottey a distinct edge to win the vacant IBF belt on August 2.

What’s just as clear is how the next year pans out for our dear welterweights. Let’s say we get a clear winner out of Judah-Clottey. Either man becomes a new entrant in the Unification Olympics. We’re getting the Carlos Quintana-Paul Williams rematch on Saturday night so that winner locks in his position in the welterweight championship mix. Throw either winner against the winner of Cotto-Margarito and guess what you get?

A titlist that just might surpass the real champion in current-day quality and current-day accomplishment.

And that’s what the welterweight division needs when its ‘sole’ champion’s boxing career is treated more like a vacation/P.R. stunt. A situation possibly made more permanent should Floyd Mayweather’s tentative September rematch against Oscar De La Hoya happens at a catchweight or once more at ’54.

And that’s OK.

If Mayweather decides that the waters of 147 are getting way too choppy, he can always park his boat at junior middleweight; abdicating the welterweight championship accordingly and know that any of the existing alphabet titlists residing there are probably far less trouble than Messrs. Cotto, Margarito, Williams, Quintana and Clottey.

When the siege is over and the timing is right, a middleweight division minus current Undisputed Middleweight Champion Kelly Pavlik would be the ideal resting place for a storied career that, unfortunately, didn’t capitalize on the potential it truly had in its prime.

And that’s OK too. Because with or without ‘Money May’ or ‘Money May Not’, the diamond known as today’s welterweight division couldn’t possibly shine brighter with the facets it already has.

Questions or comments,
e-mail Coyote at: artofthepaw@yahoo.com
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