Crawford looks ready to compete with the very best the division has to offer.

Boxing traditionally has only eight weight classes. Boxing still only needs 8-9 weight classes. These ratings will help evaluate the sport in its former glory, allow fair comparisons between eras and show who are truly the current best. The Original Eight Welterweight Division is deep and talented. It arguably rivals the Original Eight Light Heavyweight Division as the best in boxing.

In 2017, “no-hoper” Jeff Horn took an upset unanimous decision win over Manny Pacquiao in controversial fashion. I had Pacquiao as the number 4 welterweight going into the fight in an Original Eight Division context, with the title vacant. Transnational and Ring also had the title vacant when rating 17 divisions instead of 8, and Transnational somehow had Pacquiao number 1. No matter how you saw Pacquiao-Horn, it was clear that neither was close to being the number one welter in the world, even though the 38-year old Pacquiao has had one of the greatest boxing careers of all-time. Horn fought again in December 2017 against unknown Brit Gary Corcoran in a fight that was reasonably entertaining but showed conclusively that Horn would be cannon fodder for Top Three Welter Terence Crawford. It was encouraging for the sport of boxing that the fight was seen by over 280,000 people live in the U.S., even though it started at 6:30 a.m. in the Eastern Time Zone.

These ratings are interesting because Horn’s surprise entry into the Top Ten added to the scramble that has taken place in 2017 after Thurman-Garcia and Spence-Brook. Top Ten action with entertaining fights helps move the sport forward like in its glory days. This division will likely come down to Spence, Thurman and Crawford over the next 18 months or so, something fight fans can truly look forward to. I’ll guess Thurman-Spence will crown a new lineal champ, with Crawford also fighting at 147 pounds against Jeff Horn, unless Horn prices himself out due to the hopeless situation of facing Crawford. Mikey Garcia is also entering the fray after thrashing Adrien Broner and scheduling a fight with a Top Ten entry in these rankings, Sergey Lipinets.

Criteria: A fighter’s overall record, perceived talent level, quality of opposition, quality wins and level of performance in wins and losses, where the fighter is ranked in the Transnational Boxing Ranking Board’s Welterweight and Junior Welterweight Rankings and The Ring’s Welterweight and Junior Welterweight Rankings. Also, strongly considered would be who would beat who and who and by how much one fighter would be favored over the other by odds makers were the fight to be signed tomorrow. The traditional standard of one year of inactivity will drop a fighter from the rankings will be taken into consideration but the fighter is eligible to re-enter as soon as he fights again. Champions will primarily be the recognized lineal champions, with consideration also given to champions recognized by the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board and The Ring. This is how the traditional welterweight division looks today:

Champion: Vacant

1. Errol Spence, Jr. (U.S. 22-0 19KO)
2. Keith Thurman (U.S. 28-0 22KO)
3. Terence Crawford (U.S. 32-0-0 23KO)
4. Kell Brook (U.K. 36-2 25KO)
5. Shawn Porter (U.S. 28-2-1 17KO)
6. Danny Garcia (U.S. 33-1 19KO)
7. Jeff Horn (Australia 18-0-1 12KO)
8. Manny Pacquiao (Philippines 59-7-2 38KO)
9. Mikey Garcia (U.S. 37-0 30KO
10. Sergey Lipinets (Russia 13-0 10KO)

Ratings Notes: Errol Spence will start 2018 with Lamont Peterson. Peterson is a solid, tested professional but doesn’t bring anything for Spence, and I don’t see him lasting past the sixth round, at best. Anything Peterson can do, Spence can do better. Spence proved he was the real thing with his highly impressive KO of Kell Brook. He looks like a present-day Sugar Ray Leonard and the victory was enough to make him the new Sheriff in town, vaulting him over Thurman, who he will be favored over. We have reached a point where Spence-Thurman would fill the vacant title and provide universal true-champion recognition. Remember, Spence’s victory over Brook was by KO in England and Brook had beaten Shawn Porter before Keith Thurman. Spence also dispatched of Leonard Bundu, a common opponent he has with Thurman, by KO, while Thurman went the route with him. Keith Thurman will apparently return from his elbow injury in 2018 against the relatively safe Jessie Vargas. An impressive performance will help his stock but if he struggles, he will be perceived to be further behind the Spence freight train. Thurman got the job done against Danny Garcia, but again turned boxer to do it. An injured elbow caused him to miss the rest of 2017. He also beat another legit Top Ten opponent in Shawn Porter, a feat that’s rare in today’s boxing world. He’s an excellent, versatile fighter. Terence Crawford has been ready for the best at welterweight but elected to take on Julius Indongo on ESPN on August 19 in Crawford’s home state of Nebraska, and as expected by those in touch with reality, won easily. Top Rank is obviously trying to get him in with Horn, who has suddenly have become a household name and has an alphabet belt. Top Rank obviously feels Crawford needs for some reason. It appears Horn’s asking price to be sacrificed to Crawford will be very high, maybe too high. Crawford is a favorite over all other welterweights except Spence and maybe Thurman, and that makes him number 3. Thurman has done enough, and their matchup would be close enough that Thurman remains ahead.

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Kell Brook took a tough fight in Errol Spence, but unfortunately for him and his fans, Spence ultimately exposed all the flaws we thought might exist in Brook. He hasn’t fared very well against Top Ten opposition. But as of now, he remains a welterweight and has still done enough to hold a high position. Losing to Gennady Golovkin and Errol Spence is not a disgrace, both of whom I have on the mythical top ten pound-for-pound list, especially in this era of padded resumes. But it appears he will leave the welterweight division for good in 2018 and will look to face easier opposition. Shawn Porter stayed busy with an ugly win over overmatched foes in the very limited Adrian Granados and over-the-hill Andre Berto. He’s obviously trying to remain in position for bigger things after two razor-thin losses, and he’s probably better than Brook at this point but Brook gets a slight edge because of his win. Porter has always been crude, but I see signs of a further deterioration in skill over these last two fights. Even as tough as he is, he’s probably a good target for someone looking for a Top Ten “name” win in 2018. Danny Garcia will follow a disappointing 2017 by opening 2018 with Brandon Rios, a guy who is only one fight removed from being stopped by the light-punching and since retired Timothy Bradley. Rios is defensively deficient and if Garcia can’t let his hands go and get an impressive stoppage in this fight, forget him ever threatening the top of the division again. Garcia gave the critics some ammunition with his performance against Thurman. Yes, credit him for tackling a Top Two guy but he just didn’t show much in the fight. The performance cost him some.

Jeff Horn was very unimpressive in his late stoppage win over unknown Brit Gary Corcoran after he scored a huge upset in his controversial win against the past-his-best but still legit Top Ten Manny Pacquiao. Truly coming to win was one of the key factors that made the difference for him, and he showed heart and aggressiveness, but the eye-test should’ve told you he and Pacquiao wouldn’t even be competitive against someone like Errol Spence. Horn is hard to rate because most observers felt he lost against Pacquiao, yet the judges gave him a unanimous decision. I thought he lost a close fight, but a lot of rounds could’ve gone either way. Add to this the fact that Pacquiao is 38. Horn’s time in the spot light is probably going to be short-lived, as he has shown nothing to indicate he can be competitive against Terence Crawford, but it appears he may price himself out of that fight. A Pacquiao rematch makes much more sense for him but Top Rank appears obsessed with Crawford collecting alphabet belts. Manny Pacquiao opted not to take an immediate Horn rematch and hasn’t tipped his future plans, except that it appears he will fight again. However, the end is at hand for one of the greatest careers of all-time, but if the Horn rematch happens it will sell. Mikey Garcia entered the Original Eight welterweight fray on July 29, with an easy decision over Adrien Broner. He has made his case for entering both the welterweight and lightweight ratings, as would be the case under boxing’s previous and rightful traditions. Next, he will fight Sergey Lipinets on February 10, a fellow Top Ten fighter. If Garcia beats Lipinets he will have scored another notable win within the traditional welterweight limit, and if he looks good, will possibly fall in right behind the very top of this division. He has campaigned at lightweight in 2017 and has indicated he may still fight in that division, so right now he is setting himself up for a lot of options. Sergey Lipinets continued the project of becoming a better boxer against Japanese fighter Akihiro Kondo, who had fought all his previous fights in one area of Japan and came into the fight with five loses, in an unimpressive decision win. He gets Mikey Garcia next in a fight he would not appear ready for, unless McGirt’s master plan of Lipinets’ original power and pressure style is now ready to be combined with his improved boxing skills. I still believe he would be a favorite over enough welters that he just cracks the ratings over some other worthy candidates.

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Fighters not in the Top Ten but worthy of mention and watching include: Regis Prograis is now 20-0 17KO. He was spectacular in blowing out the previously undefeated Joel Diaz, Jr. He appears to have it all in and out of the ring. He is also a true student and historian of the sport. The only reason he’s not in this Top Ten is because Mikey Garcia has entered the welterweight fray. He looks to be headed for a very interesting test and a chance for a star-making performance when he faces Viktor Postol in 2017. Postol has only lost to Terence Crawford and went the distance with him, though he has been inactive. I would already take Prograis over Horn and Pacquiao, for example. He’s got too much skill and power for the likes of even a Lamont Peterson or Luis Collazo. He and Lipinets would be a spectacular war that would seem conceivable. Prograis has offensive and defensive skill and is a southpaw. Viktor Postol hasn’t fought since July 23, 2016 when he suffered an unimpressive loss to Crawford, had nothing scheduled, and thus fell out of the rankings. He’ll get a chance to become a factor again in 2018 when he takes on Regis Prograis. Yordanis Ugas barely continued his impressive winning streak with a surprising candidate for Fight of the Year in his spectacular slugfest with Thomas Dulorme on the Mayweather-McGregor undercard. The fight was nationally televised on FOX in the U.S. and had everything, including multiple knockdowns. Ugas’ win over Jamal James looks even better after James’ blow out of Diego Chaves in December. Only the strength of the division keeps Ugas out of the Top Ten.

Jamal James showed the one element missing from his game in a spectacular KO of the tough Diego Chaves in December. Thomas Dulorme gained about as much as anyone could from a loss on the scorecards: A nationally televised Fight of the Year candidate that answered previous questions about his heart, toughness and chin. His stock went up with the loss to Ugas. If James continues to punch with that authority, he’s a threat to anyone in the bottom-half of the Top Ten. Konstantin Ponomarev got back in action with a unanimous decision win over Ed Paredes on the Crawford-Diaz undercard. The problem is, Top Rank hasn’t gotten him a fight since and it was his only outing in 2016. He’s wasting away. He’s a guy that would be a good Crawford opponent as well, and the fight could be made, but isn’t talked about.

Jessie Vargas returned under the PBC banner with an ordinary decision over Aaron Herrera in December. To Vargas’ credit, he wasn’t satisfied with the performance.  In 2018 he’ll get Keith Thurman in Thurman’s return from the elbow injury. If Thurman is right, one doesn’t see how Vargas wins this. He doesn’t punch hard enough and isn’t active enough with his hands. Felix Diaz took a beating and didn’t show a lot against Terence Crawford. He doesn’t punch hard and while he has skills, he’s forced to move forward because of his size, which leaves him vulnerable since he can’t punch. He was to fight in late December but was injured in training. Luis Collazo may be taking on a come-backing Devon Alexander and that’s a good chance for second straight win for him.

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Quadratillo Abduqaxorov is good enough to be in this Top Ten but is just kept out by the quality of the division. He has an appropriate nickname: The Punisher. He’s a huge-punching fighter from Uzbekistan and is now 11-0 with 8KO, and ended the momentum of Charles Manyuchi with a first round KO. Manyuchi had had a huge upset win over Dmitry Mikhaylenko. Abduqaxorov then beat Mikhaylenko by unanimous decision over 12 rounds in Russia. Adrien Broner again didn’t let his hands go in getting dominated by Mikey Garcia. Lamont Peterson, again, is a solid, tested veteran professional. But he brings nothing for Errol Spence and I don’t think he can make it past the sixth round at best. He has a win over Felix Diaz, a close loss to Garcia and came back from a layoff to win a hard-fought, unanimous decision over David Avanesyan at 147 pounds. Many think he cracks this Top Ten and he’s now closer than ever after the fall of some of the other veterans, but I think he falls just short. Though it was awhile back, he was blown out by Matthysse, who is back campaigning.

Taras “The Real Deal” Shelestyuk finally returned in July with a win. He needs to make a move now. When he is at his best he looks like a threat, but he is 31 years-old and is erratic. He is the Ponomarev of the other side of the U.S. promotional TV divide: he’s undefeated, only fought once in 2017 and his talent is wasting away. Lucas Matthysse returned with a reasonably impressive KO over Emmanuel Taylor on the undercard of Canelo-Chavez. Because of power alone, he’s a guy who could spring one more upset before it’s over, but does not have enough left for a sustained run in this stacked division considering his falling short against Garcia and Postol in his younger days. He’s 35 years-old but because he’s with Golden Boy who is locked in with an HBO deal, he gets a high-profile appearance there against an undefeated but unknown fighter in Tewa Kiram. Kiram is a 25-year-old Thai fighter with a 28KO in 38 wins and hasn’t fought anyone notable but the records of his opponents are relatively good, indicating maybe he could surprise us because Matthysse probably doesn’t have much left. Julius Indongo folded by not getting out of the first round with Terence Crawford in Nebraska on ESPN on August.

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Miguel Cruz is an American-based in Florida who remains unbeaten at 17-0 11KO and scored an impressive four wins in 2017. He’s now been in with some under the radar tough guys, which should help prepare him. He’s got good size for a welter at 5’11” and decent power. I doubt he’s good enough to ever crack this Top Ten but is worthy of mention because he fights on PBC cards and is the type of guy who could end up in with a Top Ten fighter soon. Bryant Perrella returned to action in December for the first time in 2017 against a decent opponent in Alex Martin and scored a knockdown on the way to a win. He looks like he will be vulnerable and entertaining at the same time, as he looks to have a weak chin but punches like a mule. John Molina, Jr. may not be a threat to the Top Ten but got himself more fights with a thrilling Fight of the Year caliber KO over a tough Ivan Redkach on National TV in the U.S. in December. Redkach was inspiring enough in his own right that PBC, who is loyal to its fighters, will surely show him again. Redkach had been making the move up from lightweight.

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