The featherweight division has never been among the most glamorous divisions in the sweet science. It’s been ultra competitive and choc filled with A-level fights and fighters but they never garner the same attention as the Heavyweights or the big named pay per view sensations of the welterweight division or the talent-loaded middleweights, the featherweights have never been one of the glamour divisions, never one of the big money divisions. However, the 126-pound division has certainly had some memorable heydays. The original golden days of the division was the Willie Pep era of the 1940s’ The Will o The Wisp created an everlasting legacy by outmaneuvering the likes of Chalky Wright, Willie Joyce, and having back to back fight of the year candidates with arch nemesis Sandy Saddler. After the epic showdowns with Saddler, the Pep era continued as the legend defended his titles against Eddie Compo, Ray Famechon before losing twice more to Saddler handing him the featherweight crown and ending the first golden era of featherweight boxing. Pep Retired in1966 for good at the age of 43 with a final record of 229-11-1, Saddler retired in 1956 with a record of 145-16-2. The two men put together two of the finest careers in the history of the sweet science and mainstreamed the smaller weight classes for an era of time.
The 126-pound weight class had a major rejuvenation and a second golden era several decades later that was carried in like a tornado by a Prince. When Prince Naseem Hamed arrived in NYC’s Madison Square Garden in December of 1997 the featherweight division was reduced to obscurity to all but the hardest of hardcore. His December 19th war with New York native Kevin Kelly which was described as the featherweight version of Hagler-Hearns by HBO’s Larry Merchant changed all that and bought in a decades-long run of great featherweight boxing. An era that saw the rise of the legendary Manny Pacquiao and Mexican Icons like Juan Manuel Marquez, Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barera other great names like Paulie Ayala and Johnny Tapia also made one last run in this division during this era.
As with all things history repeats itself and the featherweight division is on the verge of another golden era this time with such a strong international flavor and unprecedented depth that the division can have a worldwide intergenerational reign as one of the most exciting, deep and talent loaded divisions in the sport. The division has already given us fight of the year candidates like Cruz Vs Mares I & II plus the red-hot rumors of a Santa Cruz vs Gary Russell Jr showdown has all the makings of yet another fight of the year candidate for 2019. Additionally, add on top of that international stars like Josh Warrington and Carl Frampton. Plus a range of megastar prospects from all over the world such as Oscar Valdez, Shakur Stevenson, Michael Conlon, Manny Robles III, and Brandon Figuerora plus the strong possibility of the aging legend Guillermo Rigondeaux. Get ready for the third generation of the featherweight golden era.