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Boxing Ranks in Review: Junior Lightweights

Photo Courtesy of AP

Welcome to Today’s Knockout’s “Boxing Ranks in Review,” a feature where we examine one boxing division, starting with the heavyweights and ending with the 105-pound minimumweights. Our champions will be the men who have earned it the ring, not been handed a belt by a combination of letters, and our rankings come from the computers of boxing’s most valuable website, BoxRec.

Today, we are looking at the junior lightweights. Like many of the “junior” or “super” weight classes, 130 pounds has often been a stopping point for fighters on their way to bigger and better things. Both Floyd Mayweather Jr. and his uncle Roger have held the 130-point title, as did Manny Pacquiao.

CHAMPION: Takashi Uchiyama (23-0-1, Japan)

If it is New Year’s Eve, Uchiyama is fighting somewhere in his home country. In each of the last four years, he’s had a major fight on Dec. 31, and on the last day of 2013, he beat Daiki Kaneko to win the 130-pound title vacated by Yuriorkis Gamboa.

He went a full year before defending, but knocked out Israel Hector Enrique Perez in nine rounds on New Year’s Eve 2014, then took out Jomthong Chuwatana in the second round on May. He’s currently recovering from an elbow injury, but hopes to be back in time to ring in 2016 with another title defense.

No. 1 Contender: Javier Fortuna (29-0-1, Dominican Republic)

Fortuna has been fairly well protected during his career, but stepped up to win a vacant alphabet title by beating Bryan Vasquez in May. He defended the belt with a 10th-round TKO of Carlos Ivan Velasquez last month, but he’s never fought anyone close to Uchiyama’s class.

No. 2 Contender: Takashi Miura (29-2-2, Japan)

He’s probably more deserving of the No. 1 spot than Fortuna, but he got his shot at Uchiyama in 2011, and while he did knock his countryman down, his corner stopped at the end of the eighth round with him taking a beating and well behind on the cards.

He’s got a big fight coming up in November against No. 3 contender Francisco Vargas, with his alphabet title on the line. The winner could go after Fortuna to unify those belts, with the winner looking for a shot with a healthy Uchiyama.

No. 3 Contender: Francisco Vargas (22-0-1, Mexico)

Vargas got a late start to his career, fighting for Mexico in the 2008 Olympics, and not turning pro until the age of 25. He didn’t fight much in his first 20 bouts, but made his mark in a big way by knocking out Juan Manuel Lopez last year. Lopez has now lost three of his last four fights, but it got Vargas some attention.

It also put him in position to fight Miura on the undercard of Miguel Cotto’s middleweight title defense against Canelo Alvarez, which will put a big spotlight on the winner.

No. 4 Contender: Jose Pedraza (21-0, Puerto Rico)

Put a big asterisk next to the zero in his loss column, because judges George Hill and Scott Maddox were about the only people in Cincinnati who thought “The Sniper” beat Jamaican veteran Edner Cherry on Oct. 3. It was a close fight that Cherry appeared to edge, but those two judges both had it 117-111 for Pedraza.

His next fight should be a rematch with Cherry, since he doesn’t have any wins on his record that are good enough to overcome the taint of this decision.

No. 5 Contender: Roman Martinez (29-2-3, Puerto Rico)

Martinez has been a contender in the 130-pound class for years without getting a shot at the title, although he has held alphabet belts. He’s currently two fights deep into a rivalry with No. 9 contender Orlando Salido.

Martinez won an exciting brawl in April, and they were rematched in September on the undercard of Mayweather-Berto. This time, they fought to a draw that many people thought Salido had edged, so a third fight in early 2016 is already being discussed.

If you’ve missed out on any of our previous rankings, be sure to check them out below:

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