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I know his resume at junior welterweight is a little slim, but beating Antonio Cervantes at the tender age of 17 ( youngest man to win a world title) gets him extra points in my book. Benitez only defended his titles twice before moving up to welterweight. He was undoubtedly one of the most skilful fighters in boxing history.
One of the all-time great pound-for-pound fighters of all time, Canzoneri started at bantamweight and won titles in three separate divisions. Canzoneri faced four of the division’s first seven champions (Jack Berg, Johnny Jadick, Battling Shaw, Barney Ross), defeating Shaw, Berg in two of their three fights, and Jadick in one of three. His losses to Ross were heavily debated at the time. Canzoneri will be remembered by most in the lightweight division, but he’s an all-time great at 140. The little warrior won a world title on two separate occasions.
Berg’s career lasted 21 years. Most of his fights were in pursuit of the lightweight title, but he set his sights on the junior welterweight division when that didn’t work out. There he becomes the first star of the division. Berg made six defenses of his crown, but his most impressive work was in non-title wins over Hall of Famers Billy Petrolle and Kid Chocolate.
Loi was one of the greatest fighters to come out of Italy. His record of 115-3 proves that. Loi had very little power but got by on skill and guile. He never could secure a shot at the lightweight crown, but the rebirth of the junior welterweight division gave him a new lease on his career. Loi suffered his first loss in over eight years to Carlos Ortiz. Loi won the rematch in Italy by decision and then took the rubber match by decision. Eddie Perkins would be his next significant obstacle. Their first fight was judged a draw. Loi lost the rematch to Perkins. The rubber match in Italy sent Loi off into a glorious retirement as he got revenge by defeating Perkins by decision.
Lucky or not, what followed was a remarkable title reign of ten defenses for New York’s Ross. Ross beat Canzoneri the first time to win the title in a highly disputed decision. Of Ross’s four losses, two came in his first two years as a pro and the others at welterweight to Hall of Famers Henry Armstrong and Jimmy McLarnin.
Tszyu was a highly decorated amateur and looked on his way to a showdown with Oscar De La Hoya until a shocking loss in 1997 to Vince Phillips. He then got off the floor twice to stop Hurtado in five and defeated Miguel Angel Gonzalez in ten to snare the WBC belt. After that defeat, Tszyu got back on track by stopping former lightweight titlist Rafael Ruelas in nine. He beat a way past his prime Julio Cesar Chavez and followed that victory with two huge wins over Sharmaba Mitchell and Zab Judah in unification fights. After that, injuries limited him to three more fights until he lost his crown to Ricky Hatton.
117-4-14 with 14 draws, not a bad record. The 14 draws are a testament to how hard it is to score a fighter with great defense. Locche is considered one of the best defensive fighters in boxing history, and while his style may not have been entertaining to the untrained eye, he was a thing of beauty in the ring.
Cervantes had two title reigns at 140, and the first included 10 title defenses and the second 6. A unanimous decision over the only lightweight ever to defeat Roberto Duran, Esteban De Jesus, highlighted his first stint as a champion. His reign ended with a split decision loss to a then 17-year-old Wilfred Benitez.
The Hawk is one of the biggest “what could have been” careers in boxing history. Missing out on the 1976 Olympic boxing team hurt him. His career-defining win over Alexis Arguello was one of the greatest fights in the history of pugilism. His title reign was much shorter than it could have been, and unfortunately, that was of his own doing. He won the title by knocking out the great Antonio Cervantes in the 4th round at the Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati, Ohio. His resume might not be as good as some, but I don’t know of any fighters on this list that could have beat him.
Chavez cemented his legend in the junior welterweight division. His two victories over Meldrick Taylor were classics. He beat up Hector Camacho and punished Greg Haugen in front of well over 100,000 fans in Mexico. He lost fights to Pernell Whitaker(I don’t care what the judges say) and Frankie Randall and was dominated by Oscar De La Hoya.
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