Boxing traditionally has only eight weight classes. Boxing still only needs 8-9 weight classes, as evidenced by its history and the success of the UFC in returning combat sports to eight weight classes. In my initial series of Original Eight Ratings, I provided some of the history and the fighters’ standing in respected and legitimate ratings, specifically The Ring and Transnational Boxing Board, even though those ratings are not perfect. I also provided The Ring Ratings in each division for the years 1950 and 1980. I plan to revisit that one to two times a year, and in the meantime, update the ratings to reflect significant action. The criteria will remain the same, however, I will also be seriously contemplating what the standards should be for winning and retaining a legitimate lineal-universal championship in each of these divisions, i.e. what fight should be considered for a vacant title, and if we have reached the point where a lineal champion can be “stripped” and the title vacated and under what conditions.
I do believe we have reached a point in the sport where there must be some limits, though not to take away from the spirit of championships being decided in the ring, regarding lineal title recognition. A fighter will also be dropped from the rankings if inactive for a year, unless he has an opponent scheduled for a future fight within that time period. On the lineal front, at heavyweight and light heavyweight, Tyson Fury and Adonis Stevenson are on the verge of losing recognition while Canelo Alvarez has saved his status with the scheduling of his Super Fight with Gennady Golovkin for universal middleweight title recognition.
The welterweights remain one of the most exciting Original Eight divisions in boxing, and I put them barely behind the light heavyweights. Since my last ratings, as expected, the winners of Thurman-Garcia and Brook-Spence have fought their way into the top two spots. Terence Crawford also stopped a fighter in Felix Diaz, who had been on the fringe of the welterweight ratings, including these. Quietly coming off two top ten level victories in 2016, 38 year-old Manny Pacquiao lost momentum, considering all the other great action when he signed to fight no-hoper Jeff Horn. Shawn Porter stopped Andre Berto, a guy who was not near the top ten.
With all the high-quality action over the last three months, the welterweight division has lived up to its promise to create a new Golden Era. The title remains vacant, for the sake of the fans and the sport, we can only hope Keith Thurman and Errol Spence tangle in a classic, ideally on CBS, to crown a new lineal welterweight champion.
Criteria: Fighters 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:
1. Errol Spence, Jr. (U.S. 22-0 19KO)
2. Keith Thurman (U.S. 28-0 22KO)
3. Terence Crawford (U.S. 31-0-0 22KO)
4. Manny Pacquiao (Philippines 59-6-2 38K0)
5. Kell Brook (U.K. 36-2 25KO)
6. Shawn Porter (U.S. 27-2-1 17KO)
7. Tim Bradley (U.S. 33-2-1 13KO)
8. Danny Garcia (U.S. 33-1 19KO)
9. Viktor Postol (Ukraine 28-1 12KO)
10. Sergey Lipinets (Russia 12-0 10KO)
Ratings Notes: Errol 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 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. Keith Thurman got the job done against Danny Garcia, but again turned boxer to do it. He has an injured elbow and is out for the rest of 2017. He’s an excellent, versatile fighter, but is now an underdog against Spence. Terence Crawford wore down a solid but not quite top ten fighter in Felix Diaz, but Spence was so impressive he is now probably a slight favorite over Crawford. But the reality is, Crawford is a favorite over all other welterweights and that makes him number 3. Thurman has done enough and their matchup would be close enough that Thurman remains ahead. Manny Pacquiao had a 2016 that was underrated because he spent 2016 fighting top ten guys on PPVs no one bought. But while others stepped it up in 2017, he looked like he wants to go on a retirement tour more than step into the fray. Jeff Horn just isn’t an acceptable opponent and it hurts Pacquiao to a degree because even he doesn’t have much time left. A blow out in that fight wouldn’t hurt, Pac hasn’t had a KO since the Ice Age. 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. A cash out against Khan in the U.K. makes sense. Shawn Porter stayed busy with an ugly win over an overmatched and over-the-hill Andre Berto. He’s obviously trying to remain in position for bigger things after two razor-thin losses.
Tim Bradley is still awaiting his next move and a Crawford fight would at least be somewhat interesting, though Crawford would be a big favorite. Danny Garcia unfortunately 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. Viktor Postol hasn’t fought since last July’s unimpressive loss to Crawford, he needs to schedule something soon or he will fall out of the rankings. Sergey Lipinets quietly continued to make his case to be projected as a dangerous opponent for almost all by stopping a guy who had never been stopped in Clarence Booth. Lipinets is supposed to be mandated to fight Julius Indongo by an alphabet organization and if the fight happens I think Lipinets stops him. I’m sure Indongo and his camp would rather get the Terence Crawford payday. I am projecting some in putting Lipinets at number 10, but in an era where few legit top ten fighters fight each other, I believe some projection is needed. While Lipinets is not Errol Spence, I had to project some with him as did others and those projections were warranted. I still believe he would be a favorite over enough welters that he just cracks the ratings over some other worthy candidates.
Fighters not in the Top Ten but worthy of mention and watching include: Yordanis Ugas stayed active by blowing out a no-hoper on short notice. He now has four straight impressive wins. Question is, who will want to fight him now and can PBC get a top ten guy in there with him? Konstantin Ponomarev got back in action with a unanimous decision win over Ed Paredes on the Crawford-Diaz undercard. He’s a guy that would be a good Crawford opponent as well, and the fight could be made, but isn’t talked about. Jesse Vargas hasn’t fought since an unimpressive loss to Manny Pacquiao. It would be reasonable for him to be one of Crawford’s step-up possibilities. Amir Khan is inactive, and one can easily see him and Brook cashing-out against each other in a fight in the U.K. 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. Luis Collazo, may be taking on a comebacking Devon Alexander, that’s a good chance for second straight win for him. Quadratillo Abduqaxorov, a huge-punching fighter from Uzbekistan, is now 11-0 with 8KO and ended the momentum of Charles Manyuchi with a first round KO. Manyuchi had a huge upset win over Dmitry Mikhaylenko. Adrien Broner could be headed for a fight with Mikey Garcia which is unlikely to work out for him in lots of ways. He has the name and enough ability to still get big fights but simply doesn’t have enough to break through in this division.
Lamont Peterson 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 but I think he falls just short. In fact, I’d guess a final hurrah as an Errol Spence victim could be around the corner. Regis Prograis is a true power hitter who is ready for better opposition and may get that test against Joel Diaz, Jr. on June 9. Prograis power is very impressive. Taras “The Real Deal” Shelestyuk hasn’t fought since November and at 31 years-old the former Ukrainian amateur star really needs to make a move now. 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 younger days. Julius Indongo scored a shocking win over Troyanovsky with a first round bomb, but as shown by his KO percentage and decision win over Ricky Burns, punching power is not in his overall history. Promoters and a TV network who want to sell a fight between him and Crawford have sold some on wildly overrating him. He has virtually no chance against Crawford and the odds reflect that, and he can’t crack this top ten. I rate Postol and Lipinets over him.