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Many found themselves at the wrong end of the prediction bandwagon when Juan Manuel Marquez once again provided rival Manny Pacquiao a highly-contested bout last November 12th. The Mexican boxing legend still has Pacquiao’s number after all, despite the obvious improvements and several northern trips on the scale the Filipino underwent since their classic second meeting in March 2008. At this point, it is safe to say that Pacquiao and Marquez are forever intertwined as rivals.

But while Pacquiao recently did a Houdini on Marquez, escaping with another hair-splitting victory over his Mexican foe along with the top spot of the welterweight house, it seems that the division is getting stacked with talents that are poised to shake and remake the standings. And if you are a boxing fan, you will find good reasons to rejoice with the recent developments.

"The huge contrast of their styles, culture, mindset, and approach made them each other's equal." - Kenneth Ragpala

Young guns. Fresh legs. Call them whatever you see fit. They are not exactly boxing novices, but having new names roaming in the welterweight scene is certainly a treat for any boxing fan.

Is Pacquiao’s reign as the world’s best welterweight slowly coming to an end? The answer is not yet set in stone. But for any boxing observer, whether casual or hardcore, the Floyd Mayweather bout is the only significant match-up left for the Fighting Congressman from the Philippines. But if that fight won’t happen for whatever reason, then you got these fighters who are definitely in a good position to make the welterweight division one of the most exciting boxing categories in the future.

Mike "Machine Gun" Jones

Mike Jones (24-0, 18 KOs)

The reigning NABA and NABO welterweight champion first burst into the world stage when he faced durable Mexican Jesus Soto-Karass in the undercard of the Manny Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito light middleweight title bout in November 2010. A noted power puncher who has stopped his first 12 opponents, Jones is also fused with ring savvy and deft footwork.

However, the native from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania failed to blast the very game yet limited Soto-Karass after stunning him in the early rounds and had to settle for a majority decision. They would meet again in the undercard of the Nonito Donaire-Fernando Montiel bantamweight title fight in February 2011. This time, Jones won convincingly via unanimous decision.

Currently, Jones is ranked #3 both by the IBF and the WBC and #1 by the WBO and is slated to face Sebastian Andres Lujan in an IBF eliminator on December 3rd, 2011 in the undercard of Antonio Margarito-Miguel Cotto II at the Madison Square Garden.

Kell Brook

Kell Brook (25-0, 17 KOs)

Brook has yet to make a name for himself on the global stage. But the 25-year old heavy hitter from Yorkshire, United Kingdom, boasts of a large fanbase in his home country that could potentially swell to equal the hordes of Ricky Hatton diehards if his career progresses on a positive note. Youthful and charismatic, the current WBO intercontinental welterweight titlist has faced off with two-time welterweight champion Lovemore Ndou and former WBO welterweight title challenger Michael Jennings.

Brook, who has never fought outside UK, will figure in his 26th fight in the undercard of the Super Six final showdown between American Andre Ward and Carl Froch of England on December 17th, 2011 at the Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City. Opposing the young Englishman will be Luis Gallarza of Puerto Rico.

Timothy Bradley (28-0, 12 KOs)

It’s no secret that Bradley wants to climb to welterweight if given the chance to face Pacquiao. That said, it would be no surprise if the reigning WBO light welterweight champion decides to vacate his title and become a welter in his next outing even if he’s pitted against someone else. Bradley has a strong American following and arranging a fight against any reigning champion in the division would be a breeze.

More of a technician rather than a puncher, Bradley is legitimate threat to any of the top welterweights with his ring skills. However, saying he can beat Pacquiao would be an exaggeration. And his recent dominance over the aging Joel Casamayor does not do anything to help his case in solidifying his challenge to dethrone the Pacman.

The Grandmaster returns

After his humiliating loss to Pacquiao, former IBF welterweight beltholder Joshua “Grandmaster” Clottey returns to the ring with an impressive 2nd-round TKO victory over journeyman Calvin Green last November 19th, 2011.

Clottey was highly criticized for his lackluster performance against Pacquiao last March 2010. Clottey tucked inside his patented high guard for most of the bout and threw punches sporadically while Pacquiao ripped away en route to a lopsided unanimous decision victory.

There are no updates for the former champion’s plans but it is clear that he needs to reestablish himself in the scene before he can be considered for another shot at a world title.

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Kenneth P. Ragpala is an award-winning sports blogger who has been covering the sport of boxing since 2008. His works have appeared in local newspapers in his home city in Cagayan de Oro and in several online publications abroad. Ragpala has written for several boxing websites, namely Fight Hype, 8 Count News, and Bleacher Report.