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10th April 2020
By: Michael Frank
The welterweight class is one of the deepest and most talented divisions in all of boxing. To help understand the landscape of the crowded class, I’ve put together rankings based on the current WBO, WBC, WBA and IBF rankings. I’ve broken down the list of 13 boxers into 5 tiers. Two other fighters, while relevant, have been left off the list- Manny Pacquaio, who could retire any day, and Kell Brook of the super welterweight division.
These 15 fighters round out the impressive class, and at the end of this article, you’ll have a better understating of the scope of the division in 2020. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the boxing world has been placed on hold. Top Rank has already cancelled all events for March and April because of the global pandemic. 88-year-old promoter Bob Arum told CBS Sports that he has “no idea whether it will be two months, three months or even the rest of the year,” and that he’s “not making any plans right now.” Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn told IFL TV, “I’m hoping to see boxing back in June, and I believe and I’m confident we’ll see it back in July,”. Premier Boxing Champions has made the decision to postpone all events through the month of May.
The uncertainty of when we’ll see live boxing again has promoters, fighters and fans on the edge of their seats. In the meantime we can all dream of the matchup that everyone wants to see: Terence Crawford vs. Errol Spence Jr. The matchup between the two top dogs in their prime is still a few warm-up fights away, but neither fighter is getting younger. This downtime could prove to be critical for some of the older fighters, as 8 of my top 13 fighters are above the age of 30. Regardless, the welterweight class is full of studs and continues to be a fan favorite throughout the sport. Let’s hope we return to normality sooner rather than later so we can enjoy this entertaining division.
The star-studded welterweight division is spearheaded by the 3-division world champion Terence “Bud” Crawford. The undefeated (36-0) southpaw from Nebraska comes in at 5’8” with a reach of 74”. Bud is known for his speed, movement, and his impressive reach. In the last few years, he has worked on the ability to change his stances throughout a fight. He praises himself for being able to adjust on the fly while maintaining his strategy. He is also receiving high praise from Floyd “Money” Mayweather, who said in an interview with IFL TV, “I would have to say Terence Crawford is the #1 guy, pound-for-pound.” Not just the #1 welterweight, but the #1 fighter pound-for-pound in the world.
In order to keep the top dog title, Crawford will have to get through a tough veteran in Kell Brook. Brook is naturally a super welterweight and will have to drop weight to get to 147. His only losses have come against Errol Spence Jr. and Gennady Golovkin. The boxing world hopes to see the matchup of Crawford vs. Spence, but both fighters will have to take care of business to make this happen. Let’s hope Bob Arum is ready to unleash the fireworks.
To round out tier 1, undefeated Errol Spence Jr. comes in at #2. The 30-year-old southpaw from Desoto, Texas currently holds the IBF & WBC welterweight titles. He is 5’10” with a reach of 72”, and a record of 26-0 with 21 KO’s. Spence packs a lot of power and likes to approach his opponents quickly in fights. On June 16th of 2018, I personally saw him knock out Carlos Ocampo with a hard left to the body in round 1. The KO marked his eleventh straight victory via stoppage since 2014.
Only three fights out of his 26 victories have gone the distance, two of which being his most recent fights: a unanimous decision win over Mikey Garcia, and a split decision victory over Shawn Porter. Other impressive wins on his resume include a 5th round TKO over Chris Algeri, and an 11th round KO against Kell Brook. One sour note on Spence’s resume is a DWI charge from October 10th, 2019. Spence flipped his Ferrari 488 Spider at a high speed over a median in Dallas. He was ejected from the vehicle and was hospitalized in the Intensive Care Unit for 6 days. Luckily, he managed to walk away with no broken bones, and only a few facial lacerations.
Next up for Spence is Danny Garcia- WBC president Maurice Sulaiman confirmed that Garcia is the mandatory challenger. Unfortunately Errol will not get a warm up fight after his horrific accident, because he also has an IBF mandatory defense inline. Spence is already due to face the winner of the International Boxing Federation (IBF) interim welterweight title fight between Kudratillo Abdukhakarov and Sergey Lipinets, which won’t leave him much room to face anyone other than Garcia once he’s healthy. This next year will prove to be critical for Spence. If he defends both of his titles, he should then land the dream matchup with Crawford. In order to be #1, you must beat the #1. Lets hope this fight happens within the next two years, while both fighters are in their prime.
At the top of tier 2, and #3 overall, is former 2 division champion Danny Garcia. “Swift” is 36-2 with 21 KO’s, and has one of the meanest left hooks in all of boxing. The 5’9” Puerto Rican boxer is 32 years old and has a reach of 68.5”. Garcia is highly respected, as he’s ranked in the top two of WBO, WBC, and WBA for welterweights. His two career losses were handed to him by Shawn Porter and Keith Thurman.
The list of impressive wins on his resume include: Amir Khan, Lucas Matthysse, Lamont Peterson and Brandon Rios. On April 20th of 2019, he claimed the vacant WBC Silver welterweight title in a victory over Adrián Granados. He was most recently in the ring on January 25th, 2020, taking a 12-round UD victory over Ivan Redkach. Garcia is the mandatory challenger for the WBC title, so next up is the dominant Errol Spence Jr. With his one-of-a-kind left hook, “Swift” has the chance to knock out anyone he faces. He does however leave himself open for counterpunches, which could prove fatal against Spence. Overall, he has the chance to stay at the top of the division. I personally don’t see him beating either Spence or Crawford to reach that #1 spot.
Number 4 overall is two-time welterweight titleholder Shawn Porter. “Showtime” is 30-3-1 with 17 KO’s, and is the number 1 contender in the WBC. At the age of 32, many are discounting his impressive resume. He’s coming off a SD defeat against Errol Spence Jr on September 28th of 2019. The slugfest was named PBC’s fight of the year as it was toe-to-toe all 12 rounds. His only other losses have come against Keith Thurman and Kell Brook in hard-fought matches. Pair those slight losses with victories over Danny Garcia, Adrien Broner, Andre Berto and Yordenis Ugas, and you have yourself a very notable resume. In his victory over Garcia, he used an inside approach landing body shots. He took over in the second half of the fight, doubling up on his jab.
Porter is typically known for his aggressive pressing style, as he uses his strength to compensate for his smaller size. At 5’7”, what he lacks in height he makes up for with his power and 69.7” reach. Currently “Showtime” doesn’t have any fights lined up, but a rematch versus either Keith Thurman or Yordenis Ugas would prove entertaining. Porter deserves more attention and could beat almost any contender in the division.
Coming in at #5 is veteran workhorse Mikey Garcia. Though undersized at 5’6”, he uses an inside approach combined with a hard work ethic to control his fights. Recently he has started slow, while gaining momentum in the later rounds. His last five fights have gone the full 12 rounds. Garcia started his professional career going 39-0 with an impressive 30 KO’s. He has won titles in four different weight classes- 126, 130, 135, and 140- joining the company of Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez as the only boxers in history to do so. A few of his significant wins have come against the likes of Adrien Broner, Sergey Lipinets, Robert Easter Jr and Jessie Vargas. Mikey easily took care of Vargas on February 29th, 2020, controlling the entire fight on his way to a UD victory.
The lone loss on his resume comes against powerhouse Errol Spence Jr. Garcia was dominated throughout the 12 round unanimous decision, failing to win a single round on all three scorecards. His gamble of jumping two weight divisions proved to be too much for the courageous fighter. Although it would be unfair to discount his ability to go the distance with the powerful Spence. At the age of 32, the light at the end of the tunnel is inching closer, but Garcia has the speed and power to contend with the best of them. The matchup the fans are asking for pairs Garcia with Manny Pacquiao. That fight gives Garcia a chance to prove to the world that he’s elite. Expect this matchup to go the distance in what could be the most exciting fight of 2020.
In tier 3, four boxers that all have the chance to take the next step in the division, with little separating each rank. Arguably each one of these fighters can compete with the best in the class. The top fighter of the tier, coming in at #6 overall, is Kudratillo Abdukakhorov. “The Punisher” from Uzbekistan is 17-0 with 9 KO’s. His first five professional fights resulted in knock out victories. At age 26, he still has a lot to prove with room to refine his skill set, which should intimidate his older opponents.
Next up on the list is #7 WBA World champion Alexander Besputin. The 5”9 fighter from Russia uses an aggressive approach with great movement. Being stablemates with superstar Vasiliy Lomachenko definitely has its advantages. He’s off to a 14-0 start with 9 KO’s, and has recently defeated fellow Russian Radzhab Butaev to claim the vacant WBA title. After the November 2019 fight, a mandatory doping test revealed the presence of a banned substance, Ligandrol, in his system. Due to COVID-19, his last doping test has been cancelled, leaving his 2020 season in jeopardy. Regardless, any undefeated titleholder deserves some attention.
Coming in at #8 overall is Cuban journeyman Yordenis Ugas. The 33-year-old is 25-4 with 12 knockouts and has never lost via a TKO or KO. After back-to-back losses in 2014, Ugas has rattled off a record of 10-1 with impressive wins against Thomas Dulorme and Jamal James. His only loss during that stretch was against Shawn Porter in a controversial split decision. In his most recent fight, Ugas put on a dominating performance over Mike Dallas Jr, scoring a seventh round TKO victory. He thinks he deserves a chance at a title fight, but a rematch against Porter seems more likely at this point in his career.
The last fighter in tier 3 is the former kickboxer from Kazakhstan, Sergey Lipinets. The 31-year-old is 16-1 with 12 KO’s and held the IBF light-welterweight title from 2017 to 2018. The PBC fighter lost his 140-pound world title by unanimous decision to Mikey Garcia in March of 2018. He then moved up to the welterweight division, and has rattled off three wins in a row, including sending former world champion Lamont Peterson into retirement. The time is now for Sergey, as IBF has ordered Abdukakhorov and Lipinets to meet for its interim title. The winner of this fight will get a chance against Errol Spence Jr for the IBF title. All four fighters within tier 3 will look to build upon their impressive resumes and make the jump to the top of the division.
The 4th tier in the rankings includes veteran Keith Thurman and rising star Vergil Ortiz Jr. Thurman gets the slight nod here, as he’s been going toe-to-toe with the best in the division for years. The only reason he’s this far down the list, at 10th overall, is due to injuries and inactivity within the last few years. At 29-1 with 22 knockouts, “One Time” is a power-puncher and a force to be reckoned with. He’s coming off the only loss of his career against legend Manny Pacquiao, a close split decision. Pac-Man dropped Thurman in the first round, marking the second time in his career to be knocked down. Thurman gained his feet throughout and controlled the fight from the sixth round on. Before his lone career defeat, he scored three formidable victories over big names, beating Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia and Josesito López in three straight fights. If Thurman can stay healthy, he deserves another primetime fight against a big name. A rematch against Pacquiao or Porter could be in the cards, and a chance against Crawford prove monumental for his career.
The 11th ranked boxer on this list is 22-year-old and WBA Gold titleholder Vergil Ortiz Jr. Ortiz is off to a ridiculously strong start to his career (15-0) while knocking out all 15 opponents. Impressively, out of his last 5 fights, only Antonio Orozco made it to the 6th round. At 5’10” with a reach of 72”, he has all the characteristics of a superstar in the making. He was scheduled to face off against Samuel Vargas before COVID-19 forced boxing’s suspension. The heavy handed southpaw recently came out and told DAZN reporters, “I think I’ll be ready for Errol Spence in less than two years.” Both fighters are from the Dallas area and trained at the same facility. 2020 and 2021 could see Ortiz emerge as one of the top contenders, with admirations of the dream fight with Spence.
The 5th and final tier of the welterweight rankings includes two speedy youngsters. Number 12 on the list is 22-year-old American, Jaron Ennis. Considered one of the top prospects in the division, Ennis is off to a 25-0 start with 23 knockouts. “Bones” is a flashy showman that backs it up with power and defensive prowess. The Philadelphia native inherits great work ethic from his father, former boxer Derek “Bozy” Ennis. At an early age he was taught to become ambidextrous with his approach. “Bones” is looking for 2 to 3 more fights before challenging for a title. The fans would love to see a matchup between him and Vergil Ortiz Jr, as both are undefeated and only 22. Ennis will be a contender for years to come.
The final fighter on the list is CBC Commonwealth Champion, Josh Kelly. The 26-year-old from the United Kingdom is 10-0-1 with 6 knockouts. The one blemish on his record is a draw against Ray Robinson. He started to unravel in the second half of the fight, showing signs of fatigue. “Pretty Boy” Kelly is 5’10” and uses his quickness and counterpunches to gain control of fights. He often fights with his hands down, dodging punches left and right with head movement. This could come back to haunt him in his next fight against David Avanesyan, who uses inside punches and pressures his opponents against the ropes. If Kelly can get past Avanesyan, he has the chance to rise in the rankings.
The post-Mayweather era of the welterweight class is in great hands with these boxers. On top of the 13 boxers ranked, both Manny Pacqiuao and Kell Brook deserve to be mentioned in every welterweight ranking conversation. I chose to leave them out of the list for different reasons. The timing of COVID-19 couldn’t be worse for legend and Senator Manny Pacquiao. At the age of 41, Pac-Man was expected to have 2 more fights to conclude his career, one being in the summer of 2020. The longer this takes, the closer retirement gets. Kell Brook on the other hand is a natural light middleweight and typically doesn’t land on the welterweight rankings. He does have the chance to claim one of the top spots when he matches up against superstar Terence Crawford.
Once live boxing resumes, it will still take time for boxers to train and finish their camps. The time off is going to shake things up, as some contenders may get pushed up the rankings and land bigger fights. The Athletic Box reports that WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman has reiterated his call for all four major governing bodies (WBA, WBC, IBF, & WBO) to cooperate on unification tournaments which would crown one undisputed champion of a division. This has Crawford vs Spence written all over it. The boxing world needs Top Rank and Premier Boxing Champions to work together on what would need to be a joint pay-per-view showdown. They recently proved they can coincide by working together for the Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder heavyweight championship. There would be no better way to reintroduce live boxing to the world. Realistically, it looks like they’ll each get at least one warm up fight before the big one. When boxing returns, the welterweight class will be one to watch. There are already seven fights lined up which include top 20 boxers going head-to-head. After all this downtime, we will be rewarded with a jam-packed, entertaining restart of the sport we all love.
Terence Crawford vs Kell Brook
Errol Spence Jr. vs Danny Garcia
Kudratillo Abdukakhorov vs. Sergey Lipinets
Vergil Ortiz Jr vs Samuel Vargas
Josh Kelly vs. David Avanesyan
Regis Prograis vs Maurice Hooker (143lbs Catchweight): Battle of former 140-pound champions
Jamal James vs Thomas Dulorme
Manny Pacquiao vs. Mikey Garcia
Shawn Porter vs. Keith Thurman
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