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5 Overrated/ 5 Underrated in 2004
Juan Angel Zurita (March 19, 2004) 
Boxing fans and the media alike can be very passionate about the sport and its fighters. That same passion can oft times lead us to make inaccurate assessments about fighters which we later regret making. When a highly regarded fighter loses, we may write him off too quickly. If a fighter bursts onto the scene and racks up several impressive wins, we may overrate him. These are just a few examples of how boxing fans fail to protect themselves from committing a great boxing fanatic blunder; failure to strike a balance between overrating/underrating a fighter.

One of the most important things to keep in mind is that the perception of who’s overrated/underrated isn’t always universal. Although many observations fall into the consensus, the other half is basically the perception of the observer. In this half, personal biases and preferences can influence one’s perceptions. In the current boxing scene, there are a handful of fighters who fall into one of the two categories. Below is this writer’s perception of who is Overrated/Underrated in 2004.


Fernando Vargas – Pre-Trinidad Vargas was a top-notch world-class fighter. Today, he’s a shell of his former self, but he’s still highly rated by many in honor of his valiant performances against Trinidad and De La Hoya. Although he did fair well in both of those matches, he hasn’t been the same since his knockout loss to Trinidad. He was rocked by mediocre power when he faced Wilfredo Rivera and Shibata Flores, but even worse, the light-punching junior middleweight version of De La Hoya looked like King Kong against him. In his last bout, he looked sluggish against the remains of long time junior middleweight contender, Tony Marshall. At 26 years of age, Vargas is nearing the end of his once promising career. His management team would be wise to steer him away from dangerous fights against top contenders Kasim Ouma, Verno Phillips, and Travis Simms, to make a run at one last huge payday against one of the division’s big names. The current version of Vargas would probably lose or struggle immensely against the aforementioned contenders.

Zab Judah - Speedsters with good power and poor chins can be easily overrated. They’re slick, flashy, and provide beautiful knockouts against below sub-par opposition. Their impressive performances against this opposition hypnotizes their fans and leads them to downplay and disregard the speedster’s major weakness, a weakness that shouldn’t be overlooked. Judah will soon be challenging Cory Spinks for his undisputed welterweight title and amazingly, he’s the favorite. Now Cory Spinks is not a big banger, but he’s a natural welterweight with solid boxing skills and decent power. Coming off an upset victory over the once highly touted Ricardo Mayorga, why isn’t he amassing more respect? Judah failed in his quest to become the best junior welterweight. Defeating Spinks is not a foregone conclusion.

Arturo Gatti - Gatti has never beaten a solid, prime, top 10 junior welterweight, yet he’s highly rated by most of the top boxing publications. Terron Millet and Mickey Ward were way past their primes when Gatti faced them, but that doesn’t seem to matter. Despite the fact that he hasn’t proven himself in his weight class, Gatti followers will vehemently argue that he would knock out the division’s top fighters; Vivian Harris, Ricky Hatton, Sharmba Mitchell, Kostya Tyszu, and now Miguel Cotto. Does anyone think any of those fighters would’ve had any difficulties with Gatti’s last opponent Gianluca Branco? Gatti isn’t as good as some people think he is, and that will be revealed as he steps up the competition.

Paul Spadafora – As a lightweight champion, Spadafora was one of the most protected fighters in the sport. Still, he had his share of close calls. The referee assisted him against Victoriano Sosa and the judge’s gifts salvaged his unblemished record against Leonard Dorin. After several scares, fights against the division’s elites were avoided. Spadafora is a good fighter, but he’s extremely beatable. His management knows it and that’s why he’s been carefully managed. Sadly, now he’s looking for a big fight, but only because a pending attempted homicide trial may soon end his career.

Juan Lazcano – Soon after Lazcano defeated shopworn ex-light weight champion Stevie Johnston, many jumped on the power-puncher’s “Hispanic Causing Panic” bandwagon hailing him as a huge threat to Floyd Mayeather, JR.’s lightweight crown. The truth is that while Lazcano has improved a bit over the last several years, he knocked out a shot fighter with a name, he possesses a questionable beard, and he’s still the one-dimensional banger that was easily outboxed by Jesse James Leija and Julian Wheeler. Lazcano has major fits against fighters who use the ring and Mayweather, one of the world’s best fighters, has mastered that art. Those who expect Lazcano to give Mayweather a competitive fight, will be in for a big surprise. Lazcano is better served trying to outgun someone like Jose Luis Castillo, a fighter who isn’t mobile, a fighter who will stand and trade.


Ricardo Mayorga – Remember Mayorga Mania? All it took was one fight to kill it. Nothing has changed though. Mayorga is still the same exciting, crude, strong, power-punching brawler he was before the Spinks fight. Put him in against another brawler or a boxer who isn’t as elusive and defensively sound as Spinks, and his chances of scoring a knockout win increase a great deal. Should Zab Judah defeat Cory Spinks, Judah/Mayorga would be the perfect fight for Mayorga. Judah doesn’t possess the chin, defense, and consistency of Spinks, thus Mayorga would have many opportunities to make him pay. Antonio Margarito would also be a viable option. His stock is as high as ever, and he’s a fighter that loves to brawl. Mayorga would feel right at home.

John Ruiz – Many will ridicule this pick, but when one takes a look at the facts, there is no denying that The Quiet Man falls into this category. If any other heavyweight had defeated former heavyweight champions Evander Holyfield, Hasim Rahman, and heavyweight contender Kirk Johnson, he’d be viewed as a respectable heavyweight. That isn’t the case with Ruiz. Boxing fans are irked by his ill-favored boxing style and griping attitude inside the ring. At the top level, the majority of his victories have consisted of clinching, hugging, smothering, and outworking his opponents on the inside. It’s not a pretty style to watch, but it’s effective. Ruiz has far exceeded everyone’s expectations, and it doesn’t appear that he’ll be fading from the heavyweight scene anytime soon. The man is a two-time heavyweight champion with some solid victories under his belt and his only convincing loss of late came at the hands of Roy Jones, JR., one of the greatest talents to ever lace them up. You don’t have to love Ruiz, merely give him his just due.

Glencoffee Johnson – When it appeared that Johnson would become nothing more than an average middleweight contender, he moved up in weight and began fairing much better against top 168-175 pound fighters. He labored in Europe taking any fight he could get often times losing controversial decisions in his opponent’s backyards. In 2003, Johnson’s luck changed, somewhat. He lost a controversial decision to Julio Gonzalez, scored a huge upset win over Eric Harding, and was robbed via controversial draw against Clinton Woods in his bid for the vacant IBF Light Heavyweight Title. The latter result led to a rematch which resulted in him seizing the IBF Light Heavyweight Title in February of 2004. Johnson isn’t talented enough to get by the division’s elites in Antonio Tarver and Roy Jones, JR., but he deserves recognition for persevering through discouraging times, proving time and time again that he’s a world class fighter, and for finally capturing a world title.

Veraphol Sahaprom – Before Rafael Marquez came along and knocked out Tim Austin for his IBF Bantamweight strap, most “American” boxing experts considered Tim Austin the best bantamweight in the world. However, there were many others who believed that Sahaprom had a legitimate claim to the throne as well. Now that Austin has been derailed, Marquez and Sahaprom stand together at the top. Many will argue that Marquez’s victories over former flyweight champion Mark Johnson and Tim Austin are enough to grant him the title of bantamweight king, but Sahaprom’s supporters will tell you that the WBC Bantamweight Champion’s 12 defenses and 5 plus years as champion are even more impressive. Marquez/Sahaprom will probably never take place to end the debate, but nothing should be taken away from the Sahaprom. He’s been a solid champion and one of the sport’s most underrated fighters over the last several years.

Nacho Beristain – Beristain’s inclusion may strike some as odd considering that he’s a trainer, but this underrated list would not be complete without him. Beristain is one of today’s finest trainers and the boxing world doesn’t give him enough credit. He’s helped to mold and hone much better fighters than Freddie Roach and Buddy McGirt combined, yet he’s overlooked because he’s not an American trainer. His most notable champions include Hall of Famer Daniel Zaragoza and future Hall of Famer Ricardo Lopez. He currently trains IBF & WBA Featherweight Champion Juan Manuel Marquez, and his younger brother Rafael Marquez, the IBF Bantamweight Champion, two highly regarded world class fighters. What’s extremely unique about Beristain’s current day champions is that they all possess a unique hybrid style rarely seen among Mexican fighters. They’re ring technicians with the traditional Mexican warrior spirit, an extremely dangerous combination. Perhaps Beristain will finally attain merited accolades if his featherweight champion, Juan Manuel Marquez, can score an impressive victory over the linear featherweight king, Many Pacquiao, in a scheduled summer showdown. Should he not, it would be a grave injustice, but what’s new?
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