- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 4, 2003

Tonight at the D.C. Armory, two fighters will square off for a version of the world championship in their division.
Combined they weigh less than heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis. It's a good bet that they weigh less than some of the ring card girls.
Felix Machado and Luis Perez meet as part of the return of boxing to the Armory in a show promoted by Don King and the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission. It is the co-main event, along with another fight that hardly features giants local favorite DeMarcus "Chop Chop" Corley defending his World Boxing Organization junior welterweight (140 pounds) championship against former title holder Randall Bailey.
These are tiny men, often with big hearts and fast fists, boxing in a world that barely registers on the scale of public interest in America but is big among Hispanic and Far East fans.
Machado (22-3-1, 11 knockouts) defends his International Boxing Federation junior bantamweight title against Perez (20-2, 14 knockouts), the World Boxing Association Latin Americas championship. It's remarkable that there is a junior bantamweight division, since bantamweights only weigh 118 pounds.
"Americans are tuned into the heavier weight classes," said boxing author Bert Sugar. "Our interest doesn't go much below the featherweight (126 pound) division."
The best known small men in boxing history were probably Willie Pep and Sandy Sadler, both featherweights who fought each other four times in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
There have been fighters who occasionally have captured the attention of the American boxing public Johnny Tapia started his career as a junior bantamweight, and his fight against Danny Romero attracted a share of attention.
Not only is there a junior bantamweight class 115 pounds but there are actually five lower weight classes There's super flyweight, flyweight, junior flyweight, mini-flyweight and strawweight, the bottom rung of the boxing ladder, at 105 pounds.
One of the greatest small men in recent history was Ricardo Lopez from Mexico. He captured the strawweight championship in 1990, and successfully defended his title 25 times before retiring undefeated as the junior flyweight champion in 2001. He had a career mark of 50-0-1, with 37 knockouts. "Ricardo Lopez was a beautiful boxer," said boxing historian Hank Caplan. "True boxer fans loved watching him because he was such a stylist."
Yet Christy Martin, a female boxer, made twice as much as Lopez ever earned (about $50,000) in any title defense.
The 105-pound weight class didn't exist until 1987. The 108-pound division was created by the WBC in 1975. Before that, anyone who weighed 112 pounds or less fought as a flyweight. Jimmy Wilde, a Welsh fighter who was the flyweight champion from 1916 to 1923, reportedly never weighed more than 100 pounds.
American fight fans, for the most part, have little interest in these lower weights, though that wasn't always the case. "In the late 1920s and early 1930s, there was an explosion of interest here in the bantamweight division, and, in some cases, flyweights as well," Caplan said. "But as Americans started to get bigger, there were no home-grown fighters that represented those weight classes and interest faded."
Look at the top 10 IBF fighters in the junior bantamweight to see where interests lie: Only one, Martin Castillo, is American. The rest are from Mexico, Nicaragua, Thailand, Colombia, Venezuela and Japan.
There are few American fighters who have made their mark in those weight classes recently, save for Mark "Too Sharp" Johnson, the former flyweight and junior bantamweight champion from the District. But in order to make his mark in those weight classes, Johnson had to establish himself in the Los Angeles area against Hispanic fighters.
Caplan said that American fight fans should pay more attention to small men like Machado and Perez. "The heavyweights are not the great fighters," he said. "The small guys have the speed, the good boxing moves and the great boxing ability. If you like the nuances of boxing, you can appreciate the smaller weights."
If you want to see true boxing skills, tonight's matchup at the Armory between Machado and Lopez should be appealing. And if you are bored by watching two 115-pound guys hit each other, it could have been worse: the Machado-Lopez fight was a last minute replacement for Rosendo Alvarez defending his WBA title against Beibis Mendoza.
They weigh 108 pounds.

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