Little (51-6, 31 KOs) is, unfortunately, a long-forgotten champion. That’s too bad because he was a very good fighter. In 1966, Little knocked out former champion Denny Moyer. A year later he dropped Ki Soo Kim twice but still allegedly lost the fight by a split decision in South Korea. He received another shot in 1968 against Sandro Mazzinghi. The bout was ruled a no-contest. It should have been a TKO 8 for Little but instead, politics intervened. When Sandro refused the rematch, he was stripped of the title. Little then fought Stanley Hayward for the vacant title. He won the fight and went on to defend the title twice before losing it. Little is on this list because he deserves recognition. I know other guys like Koichi Wajima or Julian Jackson could take this spot, but Little was an outstanding fighter and should be remembered by somebody.
The sad thing about Kahlule is he’s remembered as a man who lost to Sugar Ray Leonard, but there was more to him than just that fight. Number one he fought his ass off against a Leonard who was his absolute best and gave Leonard a tough go before being stopped in the ninth round. Early in his career, he defeated former titlists Duran, Obed, and Castellini with only Obed lasting the distance. He beat former Olympian Sugar Ray Seales and captured the lineal and WBA belt by defeating Masashi Kudo over fifteen in 1979. Four defenses ensued and then Kalule got the financial call everyone in the early 1980s wanted. After the Leonard fight, Kahlule’s career was up and down and for the most part down, but he did garner a disputed decision win over Sumbu Kalambay. All in all, a good career and a very underrated fighter.
Benvenuti may have been Italy’s greatest champion. His stay was not long at 154 but the man was a great fighter. The Olympic gold medalist made an immediate impact at 154 pounds beating the likes of Gaspar Ortega and Moyer before landing a devastating punch on the chin of Sandra Mazzinghi. He didn’t hold the title long. He traveled to South Korea and dropped Ki-Soo Kim, only to get screwed by a hometown decision. It would be his only loss through 73 fights before his second go in a memorable trilogy with Emile Griffith at middleweight. This division is not deep in long resumes. Benvenuti would give most trouble on this list.
Oscar spent almost as much time at 154 as he did 147. He moved up to 154 after a close loss at welterweight to Shane Mosley and in June 2001, he dominated reigning lineal and WBC titlist Javier Castillejo, scoring a knockdown late in the fight. His next defense a little over a year later was one of his greatest performances as he stopped his heated rival, Fernando Vargas. Next up he made Yory Boy Campas quit and that was followed by the Mosley rematch at 154 and in my view, Oscar won the fight, but Mosley got the decision in a very close fight.
Mosley started at 154 with a disputed win over De La Hoya. He followed that with back to back decision losses to Winky Wright, the second fight was much closer than the first. He beat Fernando Vargas twice, but it needs to be noted that Vargas was never the same after the De La Hoya beat down. Mosley scored a knockout win over Ricardo Mayorga and followed that up with one of his best victories as he took apart Antonio Margarito.
Rossi would never have beat De Hoya or Mosley, but his depth of work at 154 far surpasses those two. Rossi had 11 title defenses and defeated the likes of Duane Thomas, Lupe Aquino, Rene Jacquot, and Darrin Van Horn Gilbert Dele a couple of times. For a total of almost ten years, Rossi was either a contender or titleholder at 154 pounds. Impressive.
Wright never received much credit until later in his career. He was a tricky and slick southpaw who gave others fits. Wright won his first championship belt against then WBO titlist Bronco McKart. Wright traveled to Africa and lost his title against Harry Simon. His next title try has been mythologized as a much worse decision than it was as Wright was narrowly outpointed by a rising Fernando Vargas for the IBF strap in 1999. The fight was close and could have gone either way. Wright’s next title try would begin his ultimate ascent to the top of the 154lb class. With a unanimous decision over Robert Frazier, he picked up the IBF belt and ran off four defenses before claiming undisputable coronation as king against Mosley. In his first fight out of the division, he faced former titlist, Felix Trinidad, at middleweight and won in such a one-sided fashion it’s hard to imagine a different result one division lower. Wright is a fighter that should never be forgotten as skilful as almost any southpaw to ever lace up the gloves.
Norris was a contradiction in action. Sometimes as sweet as sugar, other times a fouling machine with a glass jaw. Norris had high-profile wins over past their primes Sugar Ray Leonard and Meldrick Taylor. His titled days started in a second shot at glory after a quick knockout loss to Julian Jackson. He rebounded with a one-round explosion of John Mugabi and tough outs like Daniels and Pettway would later miss the final bell. Also notable, he stopped reigning welterweight titlists Taylor and Maurice Blocker and defeated future super middleweight kings Steve Little, Quincy Taylor, and Jorge Castro. His tenure was so long compared to most in the division he has to rank near the top of anybody’s list.
The Hitman was dominant at this weight and his title-winning performance over Roberto Duran was the epitome of dominance. He wasn’t at 154 for long because of the eventual move to middleweight to challenge Marvelous Marvin Hagler, but while at 154 he may have been at his best weight. He won his portion of the 154 belts with a 15 round division over the great Wilfred Benitez at the Louisiana Superdome in 1982. He defended the title with a win over the tough Luigi Minchillo before knocking the stuffing out of Duran to unify the division. His final fight before leaving the division was a win over Fred Hutchings.
McCallum was better known for being the guy that couldn’t get the big fight, but that doesn’t diminish his greatness. “The Body Snatcher” could do it all and as the nickname suggests, he was brutal to the body. McCallum’s resume even without the names of Hearns and Duran is still impressive. When Roberto Duran opted for much bigger money against Tommy Hearns, the WBA stripped him. McCallum captured the crown by winning a dull 15 decision over Sean Mannion in 1984. McCallum would show his true colors during his six title defenses. He stopped the rugged and always tough David Braxton in eight, and knocked out undefeated Julian Jackson in two. Jackson had been terrorizing the 154lb weight class until he ran into McCallum. He also knocked out former welterweight champions Milton McCrory and Donald Curry. He sent Curry to dreamland with a perfect punch in round five. McCallum would go on to win titles in other divisions, but to me, this division was “The Body Snatcher” at his best.
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