The featherweight division -capped by a 126-pound ceiling- is held in high esteem by boxing fans who view it as one of the classic weight classes. Featherweight is currently enjoying a strong roster of champions.
Gary holds the WBC crown and is fresh off the back of an impressive defence over undefeated challenger Joseph ‘JoJo’ Diaz in May. Russell Jr is an incredibly fast-handed southpaw and makes a strong argument for being the division’s number one. Russell, however, does not fight often enough and is in need of a career-defining win.
Leo Santa Cruz is the WBA ‘Super’ champion. As usual the WBA wasted little time introducing other belts and have Jhack Tepora as the interim holder and Jesus Rojas as the regular champion. Quite why Santa Cruz is not just the standard WBA holder is anyone’s guess.
The Mexican-born West Coast attraction was recently seen defeating Abner Mares for the second time and is expected to unify with the aforementioned Russell Jr in the near future. That would be a real clash of contrasting styles.
Oscar Valdez is injured so his WBO belt is floating in mid air as he convalesces, waiting for the next opportunity to arise. Carl Frampton won the interim title against Nonito Donaire and will contest the WBO belt proper against Australia’s Luke Jackson while waiting
for Valdez to recover from the jaw injury he suffered after battering oversized an version of Scott Quigg in March of this year.
Josh Warrington took the IBF title off Lee Selby in their May 19 clash in front of Warrington’s Leeds faithful. Welsh mover Selby was bruised and battered in Elland Road that night and he looked frail and weight drained. Warrington is expected to make a defence of the title before the end of the year and his name is constantly linked to Frampton, but promoter Frank Warren may wish to keep his two big ticket selling cash cows in their respective domains for the time being.
Abner Mares remains relevant in the division despite his losses to Santa Cruz. Mares has made a lot of money throughout his career and may choose to hang up the gloves rather than improve upon his 31-3-1 slate.
Nyambayar may not have the easiest name to remember (or, indeed, pronounce) but the California-based Mongolian is making waves with his 10-0 (nine knockouts) record. The 26-year-old knocked out ex-world title challenger Oscar Escandon having already outpointed
19-0 Harmonito Dela Torre in Las Vegas late last year.
One of the longest reigning featherweight champions in history was Indonesian WBA king Chris John. A solid technical boxer with few frills, John won his portion of the silverware in 2003 when his interim title was upgraded and a 10-year run of 18 consecutive defences
began. The highest moment of that stretch was surely the 2006 unanimous decision win over modern great Juan Manuel Marquez, which was controversial (Marquez had points deducted for low blows) and strange, considering that Juan Manuel had the option of a Manny Pacquiao rematch on the table and instead opted to travel to Indonesia for this mandatory opportunity.
John defeated a host of lesser name after the Marquez win before travelling to the United States to box to a draw with Rocky Juarez in a highly entertaining 2009 scrap. John won the rematch on points later in the same year. His tremendous record continued until
2013 when, severely depleted by weight struggles, Chris retired against Simpiwe Vetyeka in Vetyeka’s native South Africa. Chris John hung up the gloves after the bout and never returned to the ring.
Thelongest-reigning featherweight champion of all time, Eusebio Pedroza, also held the WBA crown and made one more defence than John (19 in total). Excellent Panamanian Pedroza won the title in 1978 against Spain’s Cecilio Lastra and made subsequent defences against the likes of Royal Kobayashi and Spider Nemoto (both in Japan), quality veteran Ruben Olivares, unbeaten Rocky Lockridge (first in the US and a rematch in Italy) and Juan Laporte. It wasn’t until seven years after winning the title (in 1985) that Barry
McGuigan took the title from Pedroza in Loftus Road on a historic night in boxing history.
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