When Adrien Broner announced that he would be vacating his WBO super featherweight title in favor of a move to the more lucrative lightweight division, a deathly-dull division appeared to be destined to become even more devoid of intrigue.
While it's true that the 130 lb. class hasn't had much star power recently, things definitely seem to be picking up.
Last Saturday, Cuban Olympic gold medalist and former featherweight titlist, Yuriorkis Gamboa, made his official return to the ring as a super featherweight. Before that, another former featherweight titlist, Juan Manuel Lopez, made it known that he was now a full-time 130-pound fighter.
Scratch below the surface of the division and you'll also find a nice crop of young talent just waiting to emerge while veteran battlers are still prowling the fringes of the division, good enough and tough enough to shake things up.
With this in mind, here's a look at five fights that should be made in the super featherweight division:
Yuriorkis Gamboa vs. Juan Manuel Lopez
Just a couple of years ago, this one was included among everyone's dream fights, right along with Pacquiao-Mayweather and Klitschko-Haye. Since then, Lopez's star has fallen after two stoppage losses to Orlando Salido while Gamboa fell into a career-sidelining dispute with his promoter. However, Gamboa is now back to active duty and Lopez is currently looking for a comeback opponent. Gamboa-Lopez is still an intriguing match-up for all the reasons it was so sought after back when both were undefeated featherweight champs. Lopez's heavy hands vs. Gamboa's all-around talent would make for "Must See" TV.
Takashi Uchiyama vs. Juan Carlos Salgado
A title unification! What better way to create some easy buzz while establishing division clarity-especially between two fighters who have a history? Japan's Uchiyama has been at or near the top of the 130 lb. class since winning the WBA title via TKO 12 from Salgado in January of 2010. Since then, Mexico's Salgado has rebounded nicely, winning the vacant IBF belt just three fights later. A return match with both titles on the line would make for a compelling bout and establish a true no. 1 fighter in the division (for the time being, of course).
Javier Fortuna vs. Diego Magdaleno
Fortuna may currently be competing at featherweight, but the move up in weight for the 23-year-old is clearly going to be in the plans for the not-too-distant future. The 26-year-old Magdaleno is already firmly planted in the super featherweight division and quickly making his way up the rankings. This prospect vs. prospect battle would firmly establish one of these future stars as the division's next big thing.
Roman "Rocky" Martinez vs. Vicente Escobedo
In his last bout, Escobedo was demolished by an over-the-weight-limit Adrien Broner and easily battered into submission. Escobedo is not as bad as Broner made him look and would prove himself a worthy contender for the newly-crowned WBO super featherweight titlist, Martinez. Both fighters are long and lean, both can box, and both absolutely love to fight when the action gets heated. Martinez-Escobedo would be a stylistically-pleasant showcase and a truly competitive battle.
Rocky Juarez vs. Bernabe Concepcion
Juarez-Concepcion would feature two hard-luck fighters entering "The Last Chance Saloon" for the right to keep chugging along in a career that has almost completely stalled. Juarez was once a well-regarded prospect and a gem in the Golden Boy stable of fighters, but is currently on a horrible 1-6-1 run. Filipino, Concepcion had dreams of Pacquiao-like success, but has found it hard to compete at the world class level, going 3-4 in his last seven bouts. Hardly a headliner, this contest would surely be fought fiercely, though, as both beleaguered pros strive for a win to stay even somewhat relevant.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing.
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