Ahead of this weekend’s triple world title bill from The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas - broadcast live on BoxNation – Glynn Evans orders the finest champions since the 154lb division’s inception back in 1962.
A minimum requirement of three world championship wins at 11 stone was observed which excludes legends Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran who briefly passed through the division. Kudos was given for the longevity of reigns and quality of competition conquered at 154.
7) Oscar De La Hoya
Six of the ‘Golden Boy’s’ 29 world title fights were conducted in the 11 stone category during two reigns between 2001 and 2007.
All were against fellow world champions with the classy Californian sharp shooter triumphing in four; dethroning Spain’s Javier Castillo (pts12, 2001) and Nicaragua’s Ricardo Mayorga (rsc6, 2006) and retaining against bitter rival Fernando Vargas (rsc11) and ‘Yori Boy’ Campas (rsc7).
His reigns were curtailed in superfights against fellow legends Shane Mosley and Floyd Mayweather – both 12 round decisions – but all six spats featured on PPV generating 5 ¾ million buys and grossing $294m!
6) Wilfred Benitez
This 1996 Hall of Fame inductee is a front runner for Puerto Rico’s greatest ever fighter plus one of the most naturally blessed talents, any nation, any weight.
A professional world light-welter champion at just 17 years and five months (!), the prodigy was still just 22 when he netted the WBC light-middle crown by sending Hackney’s Maurice Hope into the land of nod with a booming right hand in 1981.
Dubbed ‘El Radar’ due to an inexplicable capacity for avoiding punishment whilst hovering ‘in the pocket’, the silver quick Latino hypnotised fellow world champs Carlos Santos and Roberto Duran over 15 rounds in title defences before finally conceding a wafer thin majority decision to a prime Tommy Hearns.
5) Floyd Mayweather Jr.
The ‘Money’ man only fought three times at 154. Nevertheless, master class 12 round points wins over the revered trinity of De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto and ‘Canelo’ Alvarez demand his inclusion in the top five.
Like De La Hoya, phantom Floyd debuted down in the 130lb super-featherweight class and had already been punching for pay for 11 years when he finally dipped his toes into the light-middle pool against the ‘Golden Boy’ in 2007.
His defensive wizardry and brilliant tactical mind enabled ‘TBE’ to flourish against all three despite conceding natural weight. The three blockbusters combined attracted 6.2 million PPV buys and netted $380m. Tidy business!
4) Mike McCallum
Messrs Leonard, Hearns, Duran and Benitez all inhabited the 154lb playground whilst ‘The Body Snatcher’ was nestled on the WBA throne between 1984-1987. However, they collectively slalomed around him and with good cause.
The native Jamaican was high risk, low reward; a cagey, granite chinned master technician blessed with a lung puncturing body attack.
Schooled by ring professors Eddie Futch and Georgie Benton, mighty Mike lifted the title from Irish iron man Sean Mannion (pts 15) and successfully retained the belt half a dozen times – all by stoppage – with the scalp list included Julian Jackson, Milton McCrory and Donald Curry.
3) Tommy Hearns
Detroit anaesthetist Hearns entered the division by touching out the aforementioned Benitez in a riveting 15 round boxer-banger match-up in 1982.
‘The Hitman’ utilised his 6ft 2in height and 78in wingspan to exact optimum leverage and generate hitting power that belonged several divisions higher.
While maiden challenger Luigi Minchillo, the European champ, scuttled through to the finish, the next three were ruined long before the scheduled close. Four weight world champ Roberto ‘Hands of Stone’ Duran dropped like a rock – motionless for minutes – after Hearns clipped him with his nuclear right cross in round two of a 1984 Las Vegas superfight.
2) ‘Winky’ Wright
As a 22 year old, this St Petersburg road warrior was clobbered to the canvas five times during a humiliating 12 round WBA challenge to Argentina’s Julio Cesar Vasquez in France.
But he recovered from that painful initiation to triumph in 11 of 13 subsequent 154lb world title gigs, spanning two reigns between 1996 and 2004.
Blessed with a hurtful southpaw jab and a near impregnable guard, wily ‘Winky’ repelled Brits Ensley Bingham, Steve Foster and Adrian Dodson on these shores, before twice upsetting the heavily fancied Shane Mosley in Vegas. Though sometimes hard to watch, the minister of defence was even harder to defeat.
1) Terry Norris
Unlike all others listed, ‘Terrible Terry’ conducted his entire 25 fight world title career at 11 stone and was victorious 19 times, beating 16 world champions!
A vicious two fisted puncher, the Texan’s time on the throne exceeded seven years (across two reigns) and commenced with a sensational first round countout of Ugandan dangerman John ‘The Beast’ Mugabi that was honoured as Ring magazine’s Knockout of the Year for 1990.
Other scalps mounted included that of a shop soiled Sugar Ray Leonard plus quality compatriots Donald Curry (ko8) and Meldrick Taylor (rsc4).
Though 15 wins came by stoppage, his kamikaze mindset meant he was halted four times himself and disqualified twice, making his matches unmissable. Definitely the ‘Daddy of the Division’.