In recent years, the junior welterweight division has been one of boxing's most entertaining, competitive, and dramatic divisions. We've seen the rises of Danny Garcia, Brandon Rios, Mike Alvarado, Amir Khan, Marcos Maidana, and Lucas Matthysse, among many others, with setbacks for all of them except for Garcia along the way.
Now, Rios, Alvarado, and Khan are all at welterweight, two of them struggling along (Rios and Alvarado) while another (Khan, obviously) still has plenty to prove, even after a good start beating Luis Collazo.
With Chris Algieri's win over Ruslan Provodnikov last night on HBO, we've got another top player in the division, for however long that lasts. Going into last night, Provodnikov was considered by most to be the second-best in the division, and maybe the best by those who thought Danny Garcia took a big hit with a narrow win over Mauricio Herrera in March.
But as we see all the time, there are few guarantees in boxing, and upsets happen -- often in the long run proving that the upset maybe shouldn't have been such an upset at all. Will Algieri last as a top fighter at 140? Time will tell. This is a sport with a high rate of turnover. Provodnikov was on top of the world last October, storming Mike Alvarado and taking the WBO title. Now, he's suffered a third loss, a major setback against an underdog opponent.
Here's my current top ten at 140 pounds.
Honorable mentions: John Molina, Thomas Dulorme, Cesar Cuenca, Johan Perez, Antonio DeMarco, Humberto Soto, Anton Novikov, Antonio Orozco.
10. Adrien Broner (28-1, 22 KO)
Broner has the talent to beat anyone on this list. I say talent, but I do not mean ability. To me, ability encompasses everything -- physical, mental, the whole nine yards. And I'm not sure Broner will ever be mentally strong enough to deal with top fighters, because he's proven highly vulnerable against them the three times he's fought them in his career, from rugged brawlers Marcos Maidana and Daniel Ponce De Leon to feather-fisted slickster Paulie Malignaggi. Broner has excellent physical tools, and thus far, that's about all we can say. Still, he's here because it's hard to say who else in the division is really a top fighter, either, once we get down around this area. Would Broner beat John Molina? I'm unsure. The style is tough on him. Would he beat Thomas Dulorme? That depends on how good Dulorme really is.
9. Khabib Allakhverdiev (19-1, 9 KO)
A former titleholder coming off of his first loss, Allakhverdiev was plenty competitive in the losing effort against Jessie Vargas in April, and remains a contending fighter. There's nothing special about his game. He's just a good, capable fighter with some solid boxing skills. He's not a puncher, and he's not elite, but he's proven more in the division than Broner has, and his loss to Vargas was better than Broner's May win over Carlos Molina.
8. Viktor Postol (26-0, 11 KO)
Postol made his HBO debut on May 17, knocking out the rugged veteran Selcuk Aydin in the 11th round. It wasn't the most inspiring performance overall, but like Allakhverdiev, the Ukrainian Postol is a good boxer who doesn't beat himself, and unless Aydin was really and truly shot, Postol's power might be a fair bit better than his mediocre KO percentage would lead one to believe, because he hurt Aydin a few times before knocking him out.
7. Jessie Vargas (24-0, 9 KO)
Vargas had sort of floundered under the Top Rank banner after leaving Mayweather Promotions in 2012, but he delivered when given a sink-or-swim title shot with Allakhverdiev, and is now the WBA "regular" champion. It was actually Vargas' first fight all the way down at 140 since 2010, as he'd competed just above the limit and then as a welterweight since then, a span of 10 fights. There were some questions about him getting down to the weight and remaining effective, but he did that. He makes his first defense on August 2 against Anton Novikov.
6. Lamont Peterson (32-2-1, 16 KO)
Something of the forgotten man in the division, IBF titleholder Peterson has rebounded from a catchweight loss to Lucas Matthysse in 2013 with a January win over Dierry Jean, his mandatory challenger. Peterson looked his usual effective, well-rounded self that night, handling the undefeated (until then) challenger over 12 rounds in his hometown of Washington, DC. He's got nothing on tap at the moment, but will probably be back late this summer or in the fall.
5. Ruslan Provodnikov (23-3, 16 KO)
Despite the loss to Algieri last night, Ruslan Provodnikov should not be counted out. He remains one of the best punchers in the division, and a danger to any opponent he might face on any night, because he can put together a finishing surge at any time. Once Provodnikov gets opponents hurt, he's an animal, and it's up to them to find a way to tranquilize the beast. Algieri was able to do that, and even still there was a perfectly good argument that Provodnikov won the fight. He's going to be back, he's still going to be exciting, and yet he's still going to be vulnerable, too. He's the type of fighter everyone loves to watch, because anything can happen with Ruslan Provodnikov, except, it seems, Provodnikov getting knocked out.
4. Mauricio Herrera (20-4, 7 KO)
Herrera edges Ruslan for me based on their head-to-head matchup in 2011, a 12-round decision win for Herrera on ESPN Friday Night Fights. Stylistically, he's a nightmare for Provodnikov, as he's a good boxer, knows how to use the ring to his advantage, and is tough to boot. His controversial April loss to Danny Garcia simply upped his credibility and status in the sport. The guy can really fight. He won't get the rematch many felt he did deserve with Garcia, and instead faces Johan Perez on July 12. Perez is himself a pretty good fighter, and might very well win.
3. Chris Algieri (20-0, 8 KO)
I was extremely impressed by Algieri last night. To go back to what I was saying in the Broner paragraph, there's talent, and then there's ability. Algieri is pretty talented. He's got a really nice jab, he showed he can outbox a top-level slugger, and he's remarkably skilled for someone who came to the boxing game at 23, with literally zero amateur career. What he proved last night was ability. Ability to adapt. Toughness. Resilience. Mental strength. In other words, Chris Algieri showed he's got elite-level heart. He was fighting one-eyed for at least a third of the fight (he says the eye was OK until about round eight, and then by the 12th, he was blind), and he was in a bad way in the very first round. That might have been Algieri's One Shining Moment; maybe he's a one-hit wonder. But he deserves his standing as one of the division's best right now. He earned it with that victory.
2. Lucas Matthysse (35-3, 33 KO)
Matthysse lost to Danny Garcia last September, but his valiant and brutal KO win over John Molina earlier this year put him right back in the mix, and I think it's fair to say he's still the second-best in the division. The Argentine wants another crack at Garcia that he may or may not get, and he might have to move up to 147 pounds sooner than later, too, if he wants to find big fights. He's still the division's most powerful puncher. Anyone up for Matthysse-Provodnikov? Ruslan is with Banner, so in theory he could face Matthysse, an Al Haymon-advised fighter who, to the best of my knowledge, does have an actual contract with Golden Boy, meaning the fight just might be possible. Any network would love to have that fight.
1. Danny Garcia (28-0, 16 KO)
Though his hold is a lot more tenuous than it was before March 15, Garcia still has a lock on the top spot in the division. He's unbeaten, he's got quality wins over Matthysse, Amir Khan, Zab Judah, Erik Morales (one quality, one not so much), Zab Judah, and Kendall Holt. Herrera wound up a confounding style problem for Danny, but he was also due something of an off night, really, and even considering he had one and arguably lost the fight, it's not like he got blown out. So Garcia's worst effort in recent years was still a competitive fight, win or lose, with a guy who can fight. Not bad.
One of the great things about this is you probably noticed that the top six have all been in with some other member of the top six in this division:
- Garcia has beaten Matthysse and Herrera.
- Matthysse has beaten Peterson and lost to Garcia.
- Algieri has beaten Provodnikov.
- Herrera has beaten Provodnikov and lost to Garcia.
- Provodnikov has lost to Algieri and Herrera.
- Peterson has lost to Matthysse.
The good thing about this? These guys have all fought someone else who's legit, and even though four of the six of them have lost fights, we can all recognize that they're still really good fighters. Quality losses should be taken with pride in this sport, because a good loss means a hell of a lot more than a "whatever" win, generally speaking. This isn't a sport where everyone has to face everyone else, so when guys actually take good fights, it means something.
What's your top ten at 140?