An analysis of the state of the 140lb 2000 Olympic class

Where they are today vs 4 yrs earlier
10.05.04 - By Jose Sanchez - Miguel Cotto takes the leap from ‘Prospect’ to ‘Contender’ - A few years ago, ardent followers of the sweet science will remember the rich introduction of talent that was injected into the 140lb jr. welterweight division. Among the notables were the offensively flashy Francisco Bojado, the defensive wiz Ricardo Williams, the come forward body puncher Juan Diaz, the destroyer Mohamed Abduleav, and finally the shy and reserved Miguel Cotto. We wondered who among them would rise above their peers to become ‘the next sure thing’. Roughly 4yrs later, let us re-examine these prospects on an individual basis and see what has become of them.

Francisco Bojado:

Where was he then?

“The kid ‘is’ the goods”; “He’s the next Oscar De la Hoya”; “He is so impressive now, can you imagine when he gets older and his body matures?” Yes, all too well we remember the incredible accolades that were being bestowed on the young Bojado, virtually since his first pro fight. Many boxing experts claimed that out of all the new prospects, surely Mr. Bojado was the one that exhibited the most talent. Having come from the same high school as the great Oscar De la Hoya, naturally comparisons were quickly made between the two. Some even said that Bojado had potentially more of an ‘upside’ then the mega star, De la Hoya.

Where is he now?

So what became of the flashy Fransico Bojado, whom some claimed was the most talented of the ‘young blood’ sweeping it’s way into the 140lb division? In a fight that sent shockwaves throughout the establishment, Bojado was defeated by little known fellow countryman, Juan Carlos Rubio. The fight was such a shock to boxing insiders that Ring Magazine named it as the “2002 upset of the year”. How could this happen to someone as talented as Mr. Bojado? Well even before his fight with Mr. Rubio there were tales of Bojado out partying where he should have been religiously training. He was reported to have routinely shown up to training camp weighting upwards of 160lbs, and it was said he had so much trouble making 140lbs that he had to move up a full weight division to fight as welterweight (147lbs). What’s worse, it was leaked that he had brought his girlfriend to his training camp! The mere mention of this probably brings shivers to the ‘old school’ boxing insiders among us. Let me explain for the uninitiated. If in baseball the saying (made famous by the movie, A League of their Own) “There is no crying in baseball!” is truly characteristic of that sport, then the sport of boxing too has a similar saying. The similarly (in) famous saying in boxing is “Women weaken legs!” Who among us can forget the stories of perhaps the most renowned pugilist of all time, one Mr. “Sugar” Ray Robinson “leaving his legs in Paris” before the first Turpin fight (a shocking upset, Turpin would defeat the fighter whom was considered by far the best of his time)? What of the similar reports of Mr. Tyson doing the same in Tokyo before his earth shattering upset at the hands of James “Buster” Douglas? How could this happen? Just picture the scene in the original motion picture Rocky; you (hardcore boxing aficionados) know the one I mean. The scene where two young girls walk into the gym were ‘Rocky’ (Sylvester Stallone) is training for his upcoming fight with the champ, Apollo Creed. They (the two young girls) politely ask him for an autograph. Well his trainer ‘Mickey’ (Burgess Merideth) screams at the top of his lungs, “Get out of here! Go on, get out!” Why then wasn’t Bojado’s trainer equally as outraged when he saw Bojado bringing his girlfriend to training camp….a huge boxing ‘no-no’? Well Bojado was so celebrated that his management didn’t want to ‘rock the boat’, and consequently they pretty much let the young undisciplined Bojado do as he pleased. They didn’t want to upset their young cash cow, after all. It all blew up in their faces on the night a young unknown fighter named Juan Carlos Rubio was to face Mr. Bojado. Apparently they failed to mention to the young Rubio that it was ‘just a show’, that he was just a stepping-stone the young Bojado would need on his rise to fame and fortune. No one told Juan Carlos Rubio he was just supposed to put up a good fight, not actually try to win! The rest, as they say, is history. Fast forward to present day. Having recently avenged the loss to Mr. Rubio, Bojado claims to have learned from his foolish mistake and has vowed to take boxing more seriously. Despite this, there are still rumors of Mr. Bojado looking ‘soft’ in his fights and not taking his training seriously. At this point his future is uncertain …he is still exactly as he was 4yrs ago…a prospect. He has not yet moved forward into the more prestigious category of ‘contender’. So Bojado remains as we left him, still a good prospect with a lot of natural talent, whom has not quite lived up to his potential because of his ‘unusual’ training habits.

Ricardo Williams:

Where was he then?

“The next Pernell Whitaker”; “A defensive wiz”; “Guaranteed to be a world champion some day”. Yes, Ricardo Williams had it all set. He was thought of as the best defensive fighter out of all the prospects. You can’t beat someone you can’t hit, after all. Although lacking the ‘fire’ and charisma of his contemporaries, it was said he was the most technically sound of all the prospects. He was even compared to perhaps one of the top ten greatest fighters of all time, one Mr. Pernell “Sweet-Pea” Whitaker.

Where is he now?

It all looked like roses for Mr. Ricardo Williams. He thoroughly dominated former champ, Terron Millet in what was almost a virtuoso performance. In fact, because of his defensive skills, it was said that many of his peers were shamelessly avoiding Mr. Williams. One thing noted by veteran followers of sport was that Williams would often come into the ring with a ‘soft’ build, rather then looking chiseled. He also had difficulty making weight, often fighting a few pounds over the limit. It was answered that Ricardo was not out of shape, only that he had a certain body type that would not look chiseled, even though in pristine condition. We looked at this dubious answer with some disbelief, however his wins were impressive, so the matter was ‘brushed aside’ by nearly all his observers. Ricardo Williams was winning his fights, and winning easily, so naturally there was no need to try to force the young man to train even harder right? It was at that time, which the decision was made that one Juan “El Pollo” Valenzuela would make a good opponent for Mr. Williams. He had a 15-6 record, not exactly ‘stellar’, and nowhere near the amateur experience of a star like Ricardo Williams. Still you can’t judge the worth of a man by a string of numbers in front of his name, and Mr. Juan “El Pollo” Valenzuela was quick to take the fight to young Ricardo Williams. Even though Williams would effectively elude many of Valenzuela’s violent attacks, Valenzuela just kept throwing punches. Although many were avoided, they kept coming seemingly non-stop. It became clear that Ricardo Williams was being pressed into fighting at a quicker tempo then he was accustomed to fighting. It would now be revealed in the ring if his ‘soft’ exterior was truly in pristine condition or if that had been a falsehood. Unable to keep fending off the pressuring Valenzuela, Ricardo Williams would suffer a shocking defeat at the hands of “El Pollo”. Since the defeat Ricardo Williams has suffered yet another loss to a seemingly unheralded opponent, Manning Galloway (58wins, 17losses, 1draw). Having lost 2 out of his last 3 fights, Ricardo Williams is close to losing his designation of ‘prospect’. Indeed, many prospects have slipped to ‘pretenders’ or ‘journeyman’ nearly overnight. It is now up to Williams to come back and bring his career back into full swing. For the time being, to boxing insiders he is just a tale of ‘what could have been’. He had all the talent, but did he have then or even now the dedication and mental toughness to truly be the best? The best at what has been described as the most difficult sport of all to master? Time will answer all, but for now Ricardo Williams is has not progressed past the ‘prospect’ stage, and is dangerously close to slipping backward.

Juan Diaz:

Where was he then?

Juan Diaz was a ‘feel good’ story for boxing. He was a boxer who could not only fight, but also be a diplomat for the sport at the same time. He had decided to go on to college after graduating high school with high marks, as well as pursuing his boxing career at the same time (a very rare thing indeed). He was the type of ‘good guy’ that any parent would be proud to have as a son. It was so easy to root for Juan Diaz, that the mainstream media cast him as a ‘darling’ and he had special introductory pieces on ESPN’s ‘Friday Night Fights’ as well as on Showtime. Turning pro at a tender age, Juan Diaz was an aggressive, exciting fighter in the vain of a Ray ‘Boom-Boom’ Mancini. He was all action, all thrills, and when you went to see him fight, you were guaranteed an entertaining action fest. He fought with tremendous desire, and although he lacked a ‘knock-out’ punch, it was said that it would come with time as his body matured.

Where is he now?

Juan Diaz today, much like 4yrs ago, is still an undefeated fighter. There are no major blemishes on his record to point at and cry ‘foul’. He has therefore defeated every opponent put in front of him, and he has always been gracious and courteous in and out of the ring. But…. and there is always a ‘but’…he has now been dropped in 2 of his fights, and has had to struggle for victory in fights against fighters best classified as ‘B’ level opposition. He has also shown a bit of emotional instability, breaking down after the close split decision victory over Ulbaldo Hernandez. Granted, I personally had Diaz winning the fight…. however there were observers who had Hernadez the victor in what would have been a major upset. The question came up, does Diaz…although he may be a great guy personally, does he have what it takes to dominate the toughest sport on earth? Does he have what it takes to be a champion? He is an easy guy to root for, however his management has seemed somewhat reluctant to throw him in the mix with verifiable ‘A’ level opponents. Still he is young, and there is time to groom him and hope he matures into the type of fighter that the public originally envisioned him as. He certainly has the ‘all action’ style that made “Boom-Boom” Mancini a household name. He likewise has a personality that is easy to root for. The question is does he have the mental and physical toughness to excel? Today, like 4yrs ago, Juan Diaz is still a prospect. Will he rise to become a contender or even champion? We shall see.

Mohamed Abduleav:

Where was he then?

A gold medal winner, Mohamed Abduleav was an obvious candidate to excel in the pro’s based on his celebrated amateur career. Part of the European invasion that seemingly is sweeping professional boxing, Abduleav like other gold medallists of European heritage (in various weight divisions) seemed to be ear-marked for a successful career. Indeed, his style seemed very well suited for the professional ranks. A power puncher instinctively, Abduleav favors a ‘seek and destroy’ approach, rather then relying on grace or agility. He has the type of style that enamors observers, and intimidates opponents.

Where is he now?

Mohamed Abduleav, being slightly older then most of the other prospects, decided that it was best to reach the top as quickly as possible to maximize his ‘fighting years’ while still in the prime of life. Abduleav wanted a fast track to success. He therefore trained hard, and fought relatively often. It was often remarked that out of all the prospects, Abduleav was the most ‘fearless’ as far as willing to take on any challenge. He seemed to be willing to fight for a championship at any time should he be able to secure such a fight. He definitely did not seem to lack confidence, and being somewhat older he also seemed quite mature in comparison to the other up and comers in his weight division. It was then a huge shock to everyone, when Mohamed Abduleav would suffer the first blemish on his record, at the hands of tough journeyman Emmanuel Clottey. This was a fight were Abduleav was winning easily going into the 10th round, when he is suddenly dropped by Clottey. The inexperienced Abduleav hesitated for seemingly just a moment, whilst on one knee waiting to rise after being knocked down (a flash knockdown) for the first time in his professional career. Unfortunately for a sport as demanding as boxing, a momentary lapse in concentration is more then enough time to guarantee a loss on your record. So now the dangers of Abduleav’s ‘fast track’ mentality seem readily apparent. Had he been ever so slightly more seasoned, he ‘might’ have been able to handle the adversity he faced at the hands of Clottey more gracefully. In a sport as unforgiving as boxing, such a quick mental lapse is all that is necessary to set your career back. Fortunately for Abduleav he is in the position to learn from that horrible mistake, and apply that knowledge toward his future endeavors in the sport. The loss however, is quite enough to ensure that he will ‘probably’ not be fighting for a title in the near future. For now, Abduleav remains a prospect in the sea of talent that is the 140lb weight division.

Miguel Cotto:

Where was he then?

Along with Francisco Bojado, Miguel Cotto was often touted as being among the best of ‘the new crop’. His style was compared to that of his countryman, the great Felix “Tito” Trinidad. Could it be fair to compare such a novice to a certain future hall of famer? With the support of his fanatical fans behind him, Cotto was almost instantly hailed as Puerto Rico’s next great champion. The fans anxiously spoke of mythical match-ups with Mexican rival Francisco Bojado. The two seemed destined to meet in the future, perhaps even as champions.

Where is he now?

Although many in ‘the know’ did not consider Miguel Cotto to be quite as talented as his archrival Francisco Bojado, he had one other quality which seemed to guarantee his success. Indeed, it has often been remarked that out of all the prospects, Cotto is the one that exhibits the most maturity. There are no ‘inside’ rumors of him skipping training camp for a night out on the town, no scandals detailing late night parties and bringing back female companions to his training camp. If anything, Cotto was said to be shy and reserved outside the ring. Inside the ring, this maturity also showed. Cotto is a very patient fighter; this quality is something he shares with the renowned Felix Trinidad. Cotto has remained active, and steadily taken on better and better opposition. He seemed to avoid the pitfalls of reading his own press clippings and considering himself ‘a sure thing’. He was patient enough to avoid trying to take a ‘fast track’ to fame and fortune. He did not neglect his training to the extent that his body looked soft on the night of a fight. As a matter of fact, Cotto even attempted to ‘move down’ in weight, something unheard of for a prospect. While his body did not cooperate with his initiative, it showed us one thing…Cotto takes his boxing career very seriously. He is determined to succeed; yet he is not arrogant enough to consider himself a ‘sure thing’ because of his talent. Masterfully has he avoided all the many trappings of the sport famously known as ‘the sweet science.’ He has avoided the promises of fame and fortune, the sly women eager to meet a future millionaire, and the many distractions that come with being a celebrity in his own country at such a tender age. It is this quality, his maturity, which has allowed Miguel Cotto to rise above his peers. So let me be the first to make it official, with Saturday night’s victory over tough Lovemore N’Dou, Miguel Cotto has taken the leap from PROSPECT to CONTENDER. He has graduated past the no hopers (club fighters if you are polite, bums if you are not), past the former champions no longer in their primes, past the journeymen, and has now taken on a legitimate test (N’Dou) and passed with flying colors. He is now a true contender in his weight class. He is a verifiable challenge to anyone out there in his weight division, including the champ himself. Will Miguel Cotto go on to be a champion as many predicted he would 4yrs ago? Time will answer all questions, but the future certainly looks bright if your name happens to be Miguel Cotto. Congratulations Miguel Cotto, you have risen above your peers in the toughest sport on earth. Your dedication is commendable.

Article posted on 10.05.2004

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