It’s Still Good: Why The Featherweight Division Is Still Awesome And Might Actually Be Better After Juan Manuel Lopez’ Loss

When Roberto Ramirez jumped between Juan Manuel Lopez and Orlando Salido on Saturday night, many thought he was waving off featherweight’s time as one of the sport’s top divisions. It certainly looks like Bob Arum let JuanMa-Yuriorkis Gamboa go off, after marinating in the fridge for too long.

But there’s good news, if you’re optimistically inclined. The popularity of stretched marination metaphors is going to plummet, and featherweight is still a juicy, tender and spicy division (just for old time’s sake).

So what do we find if we pick through the post-apocalyptic rubble (new hot metaphor) of the division? Some shiny and interesting match ups that we might not have found, were it not for the bomb that Orlando Salido dropped on Saturday.

Juan Manuel Lopez OR Yuriorkis Gambo-Orlando Salido

JuanMa will get the rematch against Salido, most likely in August or November. We’ve got some pretty decent evidence that it’ll be a good fight. A motivated Lopez who doesn’t turn share the buffet table with Cris Arreola between fights may well do a lot better the second time round. Still, Salido is probably the toughest guy ever to be called Orlando, and it’d be a good, even money fight. If Salido wins again, then he can have another go at YURIORKIS GAMBOA, who may have something to prove after a somewhat lackadaisical effort last time they tangoed. And YG with something to prove is the YURIORKIS GAMBOA we all like to see. If that happens, then we may well see:

Juan Manuel Lopez-Yuriorkis Gamboa

Without going back to anything involving marination, Bob Arum really screwed this one up. But how soon were we going to see this fight anyway? Demand was growing after what Gamboa did to Jorge Solis, but I suspect it would have been three or four fights down the line anyway. Could it be possible that it’ll happen sooner this way round? Unless Lopez does something drastic to change his style, he’s going to lose again. Arum knows that. We know that. It still makes sense for these guys to get in there together; it’s not like boxing fans have completely lost interest. JuanMa is talking about moving up in weight after the Salido rematch, but I’m sure the price would be right for him to return or for Gamboa to move up, if the match were to be made. After a wee rehab project, Lopez will still be the best opponent for Gamboa. And since Lopez is going to lose eventually anyway, I wouldn’t put it past Arum to sacrifice him to Gamboa in a big event that attracts hardcore, casual and Puerto-Rican fans.

Chris John-Yuriorkis Gamboa

Ok, so this one remains a frustrating constant. John doesn’t like to leave Indonesia, where he makes a buttload of cash (that’s the technical term) and has a lot of fans. He’s been lured to the USA before though, and there’s long been talk of him facing Gamboa. Lopez losing might make that slightly more likely, since Gamboa seems sincere about wanting to become the legit top dog, and now he’s lost the other credible top opponent, at least for the time being. Gamboa may be becoming a bigger star too, increasing the financial incentive. You never know.

Juan Manuel Lopez-Rafael Marquez 2

Not going to lie, was pretty disinterested in the prospect of rematch between these two when it was being bandied about as the likely sequel to the Salido fight. Lopez dominated Marquez for the majority of the fight, despite flashes of brilliance from the Mexican veteran. Marquez claimed a shoulder injury, which could have had something to do with it, or he could have just got beaten up by a bigger, younger, stronger guy. Now, the shoulder is reportedly healed, that bigger, younger, stronger guy has a little more mileage on the clock and might have some confidence issues. Count me in.

Rafael Marquez-Jhonny Gonzalez

There’s some confusion as to whether this fight is a legitimate possibility at this stage. There were reports that the fight was a goer, which were then vehemently denied by Marquez and Nacho Beristain. But now that Marquez has to wait for Lopez to try again with Salido, Gonzalez seems like a smart option. Gonzalez is so hawt right now, coming off a 4th round knockout of Hozumi Hasegawa in Japan. He’s big, powerful and Mexican. Marquez is an offensive machine and he’s Mexican too. This fight could be big in… MEXICO. And everywhere else where people like to see skilled, aggressive little guys bang at each other. Like here.

Daniel Ponce De Leon-Anyone

How can you not love the guy? Apart from being a crazy knockout puncher, in his last fight he moved up a division, and came damn close to beating a hugely favoured up and comer in Adrien Broner. That takes guts. Sure, he’s a previous Lopez victim, but he’s improved a lot since that loss in 2008. He could make credible, and popular fights, with fellow Mexicans Marquez and Gonzalez. Or he could be part of the Lopez rebuilding project; he’s always wanted another shot. Or he could take on Gamboa. Apart from Gamboa, who would probably be a bit too much, Ponce De Leon is a live dog against any one of those men at this stage. And can you imagine them being bad fights?

So there you go. Every cloud has a silver lining. One door closes and another one opens. Life gives you lemons and you make lemonade. Or marinade.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.