· Paddy Duffy dies of tuberculosis
Sadly, Duffy died in 1890 while still champion. Emerging as a possible successor was Danny Needham, who had beaten rival claimant “Texas” Jack Burke on 1st March 1892 in New Orleans. When “Mysterious” B illy Smith beat Needham on 14th December 1892 he was awarded acceptance as the new world champion. Smith held a win over Charles Gleason, who had previously lost a 4-round decision and scored two draws against Duffy. There was really no one else around at the time with a stronger claim than Smith.
· Tommy Ryan moves up to middleweight
With records often being vague in the 1890’s, it was not easy to verify exactly when Ryan abdicated his welterweight throne in favour of campaigning at middleweight. However, by 1898 it was clear that he would not be defending his 147 lb world title again. Former champion Smith was still in the main picture, most notably having avenged a loss to George Green and drawn three times with the talented Joe Walcott since losing the world crown to Ryan. Also in the picture was Matty Matthews, who had mixed with some decent contenders: Jack Everhardt (D 15), Charles McKeever (D 15, L 20), Kid McPartland (D 20) and Charley Johnson (ND 4), who held a win over Smith. When Smith outpointed Matthews on 25th August 1898 and re-claimed the world welterweight title, his claim was accepted.
An older Dixie Kid (left) with Young Jack Thompson (who also became world welterweight champion)
· Dixie Kid vacates the world championship
More accurately, it was agreed that he did. He won by disqualification against Joe Walcott on 29th April 1904. The following month, they engaged in a rematch which was a draw. Afterwards, the consensus view was that Dixie Kid (real name Aaron Brown) could no longer make the 147 lb limit and the world title became vacant. There is no clear evidence of the Kid himself formally relinquishing it, but simultaneously, there is also no clear evidence of him continuing to claim it. Once it became apparent that the Kid was exiting the division, Walcott began claiming the championship once again. He was certainly the best welterweight in the world at the time and he had only lost the crown on a controversial disqualification (the referee allegedly had a secret wager on the Kid to win). With the return bout ending in a draw, no one disputed Walcott’s re-claiming of the title and he resumed recognition.
· Mike Sullivan vacates the world championship
Sullivan lost in a shot at the vacant middleweight title on 22nd February 1908 when he was flattened in the 1st round by Stanley Ketchel. By the end of the year he had given up the welterweight crown due to an eye injury which would keep him out of action for several months, or at least the first quarter of 1909. What followed was a lengthy period of mayhem with claimants springing up from all directions. Vying for recognition were Frank Mantell, Jimmy Gardner, Tom McCormick and Matt Wells, among others, but nobody established outright authority. In 1915, a rivalry began between Ted “Kid” Lewis and Jack Britton and they quickly became viewed as the outstanding welterweights in the division. Lewis beat one of the claimants, Mike Glover, on 3rd August 1915 and later that month, on 31st, outpointed Britton and gained universal acknowledgement as the genuine world champion. Britton had also previously beaten Glover, on 22nd June that year.
A boxing card featuring Servo
· Marty Servo announces his retirement
Servo was blown out in two rounds by Rocky Graziano on 29th March 1946 in a non-title bout and retired later that year (inevitably he made a comeback). Waiting in the wings was the superb Sugar Ray Robinson and the most worthy opponent for him at the time was Tommy Bell. Although Bell had already been defeated by Robinson on 16th January 1945, it was no shame in losing to such a formidable force and Bell was essentially the only contender Robinson could face to win the vacant championship. Amazingly, Robinson had already beaten Fritzie Zivic, Servo, former three-division world champion Henry Armstrong, Sammy Angott (twice) and Jake LaMotta (four times). Robinson outpointed Bell in their rematch on 20th December 1946 and no one could sensibly deny him full recognition as the next true champ.
· Sugar Ray Robinson moves up to middleweight
On 14th February 1951, Robinson beat LaMotta for the world middleweight title in their 6th meeting and subsequently gave up his welterweight honours. Logically, the number one and number two in the division were Kid Gavilan and Johnny Bratton. Gavilan had bested Tony Janiro, Eugene Hairston (twice), Billy Graham, Ike Williams and Beau Jack (a wonderful record), while Bratton moved into contention with victories over Charley Fusari and Bobby Dykes. Bratton has been claiming the title since the Fusari fight on 14th March 1951, but could not receive recognition as the legitimate world champion until he had beaten Gavilan, which unfortunately for him he didn’t do. Gavilan got a decision over him on 18th May 1951 to pick up the world title lineage.
· Carmen Basilio moves up to middleweight
After reigning twice as welterweight champion, Basilio won the world middleweight title on 23rd September 1957 in a classic brawl with Robinson and opted to remain in the 160 lb division. Considered as the leaders of the welterweight pack were Virgil Akins and Vince Martinez. Akins had earned his high ranking with two wins over former welterweight champion Tony DeMarco, and he had also beaten Joe Miceli, Henry Hank and future lightweight champions Joe Brown and Bud Smith. Meanwhile, Martinez had beaten former welterweight champion Kid Gavilan (twice) and solid contenders in Art Aragon, Gil Turner and Armand Savoie. Akins and Martinez squared off on 6th June 1958, with Akins scoring a 4th round stoppage.
Griffith with his bride
· Emile Griffith moves up to middleweight
After cleaning out the division over the course of three impressive reigns, Griffith vacated the welterweight title (reluctantly) after he became middleweight champion. Curtis Cokes collected the WBA title by beating former world champion Luis Rodriguez on 6th July 1966 with a stoppage in the 15th round. On 28th November that year, he added the WBC belt by beating Europe’s best, Jean Josselin, but more importantly he gained universal recognition as the true world champion. Throw in his previous win over the highly-regarded Manuel Gonzalez on 24th August 1966, and there is no reason to question why Cokes had earned such a status.
· Sugar Ray Leonard announces his retirement
While training for a planned defence against Roger Stafford in 1982, Leonard unfortunately discovered that he had suffered a detached retina and immediately quit boxing (though he made several comebacks over the succeeding years). Predictably, the alphabet groups disagreed on a rightful successor. Donald Curry ended up with the WBA and IBF belts while Milton McCrory seized the WBC belt. Both had striking records; Curry had beaten Marlon Starling (twice), Stafford and Nino LaRocca, among others, and McCrory had decisioned British champion Colin Jones. But neither could be considered the true world champion until they had faced each other, which they did on 6th December 1985. Curry won by a blistering KO in the 2nd round.
Trinidad in training
· Felix Trinidad moves up to middleweight
On 18th September 1999, Felix Trinidad won a highly-controversial decision over Oscar De La Hoya to win the welterweight title, a decision that has been debated ever since. Sadly, there was no rematch and in 2000, Trinidad ventured into the middleweight class. On 17th June 2000, De La Hoya fought Shane Mosley for the vacant world championship. Why should this bout have been recognized? To begin with, De La Hoya was almost certainly the best welterweight in the division and he had only lost the world crown on a disputed decision that many fans and journalists felt should have gone his way. He had beaten Pernell Whitaker, Julio Cesar Chavez (twice) and Ike Quartey, and been a consummate champion on his previous reign.
Forget the alphabet belts. Quartey had been the WBA title-holder before he was unfairly deprived of it prior to his challenge of De La Hoya for the proper world title. Trinidad had held the IBF belt and none of the other alphabet belts are even worth mentioning. Any bout for the true vacant world championship had to involve De La Hoya. Mosley had been an outstanding lightweight contender before moving up to welterweight. He had beaten veteran contender Wilfredo Rivera and Willy Wise, the journeyman who had scored a surprise upset victory over Chavez. Talent-wise, De La Hoya and Mosley were in a league of their own. Mosley won on points to become regarded as the next genuine champ (the Cyber Boxing Zone website also recognized this bout).
· Floyd Mayweather announces his retirement
Surprisingly, in June 2008 Mayweather revealed that his boxing career had come to an end, indicating that he wished to pursue interests elsewhere. This decision certainly seemed premature as he had only just crept into superstar status, courtesy of his wins over an aging Oscar De La Hoya (at middleweight) and Ricky Hatton (in defence of his welterweight crown). Having had plenty of TV exposure (he had starred on a show called “Dancing With The Stars”) he was establishing himself as a household name and had a bright future ahead of him in boxing. Predictably, he made a comeback the following year, but of course the welterweight championship had become vacant upon his retirement announcement.
During his reign as the welterweight king, Mayweather never came close to cleaning out the division and left behind a plethora of contenders that he showed little interest in facing at the time; Miguel Cotto, Shane Mosley, Antonio Margarito, Paul Williams, Luis Collazo, Paulie Malignaggi, Tim Bradley, etc. Following Mayweather's temporary settlement into his "retirement" (which presumably involved him sitting by the fireside, a blanket over his knees, talking endlessly about the "good ole days"), the welterweight picture slowly became clear. The talented, dangerous Williams moved up to middleweight and the trio of Cotto, Mosley and Margarito were considered to be the best in the division. In a sort of round-robin, they fought each other. Former world champion Mosley, who had outpointed tricky southpaw Collazo on 10th February 2007, lost a narrow decision to Cotto on 10th November the same year at Madison Square Garden. It was not the kind of loss that would send Mosley tumbling down the ratings; it was a competitive bout and the scores were 115-113 (twice) and 116-113, which reflected the closeness. At this stage, Cotto had something of a glittering record. He was undefeated and had scored wins over the aforementioned Malignaggi and former world champion Zab Judah. But on 26th July 2008, he suffered a shocking loss to Margarito at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, being stopped in the 11th round. This led to Margarito being deemed the division's top banana and who was the most lucrative opponent for him next? Mosley, of course. Mosley and Margarito faced each other on 24th January 2009 at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles. In what was perhaps his most amazing victory, Mosley prevailed via a 9th round KO and afterwards could be deemed as the recognized world champion. The Cyber Boxing Zone website also acknowledged him as such.
· Floyd Mayweather announces his retirement....again
Retiring undefeated seemed more of an obsession for Mayweather, rather than an ambition. He seemed to think that such an achievement would guarantee his greatness, even though some pretty soft so-called 'world champions' had gone through an entire career without experiencing a loss, for example Terry Marsh, who fought with spirit but had only limited ability and his quality of opposition was appalling. Mayweather often claimed that he was the greatest boxer of all time, but this boast was nothing new; Muhammad Ali frequently made the same claim. Of course, Mayweather possessed excellent speed, reflexes and defensive techniques, but there's no need to go back too far in history to find another boxer who could match Mayweather; namely Pernell Whitaker. The amazing Whitaker possessed the same kind of speed, reflexes and defensive techniques as Mayweather and was more fun to watch because he wasn't as cautious. There is much more to establishing greatness than just being undefeated; it's about who a fighter beats and how he beats them, it's about overcoming adversity, it's about demonstrating courage and determination, it's about having fans mesmerized and on the edge of their seats, it's about taking on the biggest challenges and being an inspiration. Mayweather never roared, "I'll fight anyone! Bring on the best and let me at 'em!"
Being realistic, Mayweather wasn't even the greatest fighter in any division he fought in. At lightweight, the likes of Joe Gans, Benny Leonard, Roberto Duran, Julio Cesar Chavez and Whitaker all accomplished more. And there is little doubt that the greatest welterweight of all time is Sugar Ray Robinson. The one major issue that spoils Mayweather's claim is that he didn't beat all the leading contenders in the divisions in which he was champion of. Robinson totally cleaned up the welterweight division during his reign as the champ but Mayweather didn't during either of his reigns. During his second reign as the welterweight kingpin, he beat some good fighters, including fellow legend Manny Pacquaio, but he had rightly earned a reputation for carefully picking opponents he had a clear edge over, and when it came to defending against Pacquaio, he certainly waited until Pacquiao was past his prime and showing clear signs of wear and tear before finally stepping into the ring with him. Why didn't Mayweather face him in 2010 or 2011 when Pacquiao was a formidable whirlwind? Why wait until 2015 when the Filippino was obviously no longer the force he once was? Mayweather's second reign at welterweight began in 2010 when he beat a fading Shane Mosley and ended in 2015 when he outpointed the clearly beatable, undeserving Andre Berto. Within that time span there was a string of worthy challengers that Mayweather showed no interest in facing; Tim Bradley, Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia, Kell Brook, Devon Alexander, Amir Khan and Keith Thurman, all of whom at various times were viable for a shot at the champ. It's a shame that although Mayweather bragged about being the best, he was never inclined to go out and try to prove it.
Subsequently, it turned out to be his old rival Pacquiao who could stake a claim to be the next lineal welterweight champion when he outpointed Tim Bradley on 9th April 2016. This was actually their rubber match. Pacquiao and Bradley had first squared off on 9th June 2012, with Bradley winning by a controversial split decision. Even though Pacquiao had dominated the bout overall, two inept judges somehow made Bradley the winner. The writers of this website scored it 116-112 for Pacquiao, and even that was being quite generous to Bradley. There was a rematch on 12th April 2014 and this time Pacquiao was awarded the decision he deserved. Entering 2016, Pacquiao and Bradley were the two most accomplished welterweights in the world, which made their third meeting a logical choice from which to recognize a new welterweight champ.
Since first moving up to welterweight in 2008, Pacquiao had beaten a string of top class opponents; Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cottto, Joshua Clottey, Shane Mosley, Juan Manuel Marquez, Brandon Rios and Chris Algieri. He suffered a surprising KO defeat to Marquez on 8th December 2012, but this was essentially an aberration; it was the fourth clash between them and Marquez had never come close to knocking Pacquiao out in any of their previous encounters (they had boxed to a draw at featherweight in 2004, Pacquiao had won on points at lightweight in 2008 and Pacquiao won again on points at welterweight in 2011). Marquez lost his next fight, which was to Bradley on 12th October 2013, and Bradley went on to lose to Pacquiao the following year. Even though by 2016 Pacquiao was past his prime and had dropped a decision to Mayweather the previous year, his record still overshadowed everyone else's in the division.
As for Bradley, who was from Palm Springs in California, he had an impressive run of victories over world class contenders, having bested the likes of Junior Witter, Lamont Peterson, Devon Alexander, Ruslan Provodnikov, Marquez, Jesse Vargas and Brandon Rios. Although the welterweight division contained talented fighters such as Kell Brook and Keith Thurman, both Pacquiao and Bradley headed the pack in terms of comprehensive achievements. In addition, the Cyber Boxing Zone website and the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, both of which promote the concept of one world champion per division, recognized the winner of Pacquiao-Bradley III as the legitimate champion.