The Jr. Welterweight division has long been one of Boxing’s most talent rich divisions. Such great fighters as Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. Pernell Whitaker, Oscar De La Hoya, Arturo Gatti, Micky Ward, Floyd Mayweather and many others at one time or another plied their craft in 140lb. weight class.
Presently the division is dominated by two world champions the undefeated unified WBC/WBA World Jr. Welterweight champion Danny Garcia and the IBF world champion Lamont Peterson. Although it is tempting to assume that it is only a matter of time before Garcia and Peterson square off to determine Jr. Welterweight supremacy, it is important to remember that the division is deep when it comes to top contenders each looking for their chance to knock either champion off his pedestal.
One such contender is the undefeated Dierry Jean. Jean may be one of the division’s dark horses. Despite compiling a record of 24-0, with 16 Knockouts, an argument of some could be made that Jean had not been put in with fighters who could give him a test. In covering his last bout against Juan Jesus Rivera this observer stated that he respectfully disagreed. Prior Jean’s fight with Rivera, he was tested by some grizzled veterans such as Francisco Lorenzo, Lanardo Tyner, and Ivan Cano all of whom were able to extend Jean into the late rounds where he had never previously been and in the case of Lorenzo and Tyner were able to go the distance.
Of course it can be all too tempting sometimes when talking about an undefeated fighter on the cusp of a world title shot to say that he hasn’t faced top level opposition. This observer believes that Jean is ready to face fighters who are considered to be the elite of the division.
The final test for Jean who had previously captured both the North American Boxing Association (NABA) and the North American Boxing Federation (NABF) Jr. Welterweight titles and was ranked number three by the International Boxing Federation (IBF) came when he faced fellow contender Cleotis Pendarvis on May 10th in Miami, Oklahoma. Pendarvis, who entered the fight ranked number seven by the IBF was riding a six bout winning streak entering the fight with a record of 17-3-2, with 6 Knockouts.
The fight began with a tactical feeling out process where both fighters were able to have their moments. Pendarvis seemed to be able to give Jean some difficulty in the early going by not being a stationary target with his ability to give angles and turn Jean. Pendarvis was able to somewhat nullify Jean’s right hand which Jean was able to use so effectively in his second round knockout win over Juan Jesus Rivera in February of this year.
Pendarvis was able to connect with a beautifully timed short right hand that briefly knocked Jean off balance midway through the second round however Jean was not hurt. Pendarvis clearly showed that he was there to fight. The first two rounds were very close and you could easily see an argument for either fighter having won those rounds but this observer scored it one round a piece.
Despite suffering a nasty cut over the right eye as the result of an accidental clash of heads in round three, Jean was able to win that round in my opinion based on being slightly more active. It was however in the fourth round where all questions as to who might be ahead in this fight became academic.
Jean brought matters to a sudden and dramatic conclusion in the fourth round when he connected with a vicious overhand right that landed flush on Pendarvis’ face sending him down to the canvas. Pendarvis gamely staggered to his feet and nearly went through the ropes. Although technically the fight was allowed to briefly continue which saw Jean unloading a barrage of offense on Pendarvis who was unable to fire back, for all intents and purposes this fight ended with a one punch knockout.
In some ways Jean’s knockout of Pendarvis reminded this observer of Iran Barkley’s World Middleweight championship winning knockout of the legendary Thomas Hearns in 1988. Similar only because of the sudden and devastating way in which the fight was brought to an end after Barkley floored Hearns with two vicious right hands in a fight that was named the upset of the year by Ring Magazine. It was also similar due to the fight being briefly allowed to continue as Hearns was able to beat the count before a brief barrage from Barkley sent Hearns through the ropes forcing Referee Richard Steele to stop the fight.
Although I do not want to be too critical of the stoppage in this fight I do believe that Referee Gary Ritter should have stopped the fight when Pendarvis nearly stumbled through the ropes. It is certainly understandable that a referee would want to give a fighter the benefit of doubt and give that fighter a chance to recover but it was all academic and Pendarvis simply could not defend himself after the knockdown.
The bout which determined who would be the mandatory challenger for Lamont Peterson’s IBF Jr. Welterweight crown now moves Dierry Jean into position to fight for a world championship. Jean however faces a bit of a wait as Lamont Peterson will face Lucas Matthysee on May 18th in what is being billed as a bout fought at a catch weight of 141lbs. where Peterson’s title will not be on the line.
Although it is plausible to assume that Lamont Peterson will still be the IBF champion no matter the outcome of that fight, there is always the possibility of something delaying Jean’s title shot whether it be injuries or, elements of the “Business” of Boxing which may in one way or another delay things.
It is also worth noting that prior to his fight with Juan Luis Rivera that Jean was rated number one in the world by the World Boxing Council (WBC) Jean however instead of being rated as the would be top contender in two of the five recognized governing bodies at 140 lbs. mysteriously lost his number one rating by the WBC and in fact removed from their ratings in favor of their naming former Jr. Welterweight world champion Amir Khan as their top contender behind only Lucas Mattysee who holds interim status and of course the champion Danny Garcia. Although it is questionable as to why Jean lost his number one rating seeing as he has not lost a fight and has remained active, the more relevant question might be should Dierry Jean take a fight while waiting for his title shot against Lamont Peterson and risk his number one ranking?
Only Dierry Jean can answer that question but I think it is clear that off his last two performances, two devastating knockouts, that we may be witnessing the emergence of what may be another superstar of the Jr. Welterweight division. For now at least he has earned his opportunity to face the elite of the division.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
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