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Boxing Year in Review 2015: The Junior Welterweights

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Terence Crawford and Viktor Postol staked their claims as the top guys in another division that experienced some significant changes in 2015.

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Year-End Top 10

  1. Terence Crawford (27-0, 19 KO)
  2. Viktor Postol (28-0, 12 KO)
  3. Lucas Matthysse (37-4, 34 KO)
  4. Mauricio Herrera (22-5, 7 KO)
  5. Adrien Broner (31-2, 23 KO)
  6. Ruslan Provodnikov (25-4, 18 KO)
  7. Antonio Orozco (23-0, 15 KO)
  8. Humberto Soto (65-9-2, 35 KO)
  9. Thomas Dulorme (22-2, 14 KO)
  10. Eduard Troyanovsky (23-0, 20 KO)

Crawford, 28, and Postol, 31, are the top dogs in the division in this post-Danny Garcia era, with both winning vacant titles this year. Crawford beat Thomas Dulorme on April 18 to win the WBO belt, then defended successfully against Dierry Jean in October. It's a question as to how long he'll stay at 140. There's bigger money at 147, potentially.

Postol beat Lucas Matthysse by knockout on October 3 to win the WBC belt that Garcia vacated. Garcia also gave up the WBA belt, which was won by Adrien Broner on a different October 3 card.

Despite the fact that Crawford and Postol are both with Top Rank, a fight between the two does not appear imminent. It could happen -- if Crawford is not chosen to face Manny Pacquiao, it would raise the probability. But even if that happens, it won't happen next. A unification fight takes a few more hoops, and getting the fight "marinated" properly could take time.

Matthysse, 33, is tough to rank, but we'll keep him at No. 3 for the time being at year's end. He looked like he gave up against Postol, unable to get inside the longer man's reach to do any damage, and it exposed how one-dimensional the Argentine slugger can be. Still, he'd be 50-50 at worst against anyone else here besides the top two.

Herrera, 35, is a fighter who's never going to get his due, but he's very good. He was the first to beat Ruslan Provodnikov in 2011, and his two recent losses to Danny Garcia and Jose Benavidez were both highly questionable. This year, he fought once, edging Hank Lundy by technical decision after five rounds.

Broner, 26, still has a lot of upside, and now has another belt, adding to his titles at 130, 135, and 147. The win over Allakhverdiev on October 3 was solid, and followed a welterweight loss to Shawn Porter in June, where Broner didn't look good at all. Broner has fought three times as a welterweight and really hasn't been impressive in any of those fights. He belongs at 140 for now, and this may really be his ceiling division.

Provodnikov, 31, is a rugged fighter but probably one of the more overrated in the sport in some ways. He's a contender at 140, but this is currently a fairly weak division past the top few guys, and Provodnikov's last two wins have come over an ancient Jose Luis Castillo and a woefully overmatched Jesus Alvarez Rodriguez, both in Russia. Between those fights, he was outboxed by Matthysse, whose limitations were exposed later by Postol. Provodnikov has one speed. It's an exciting speed to watch, but he's predictable and very beatable against good fighters.

Orozco, 28, and Soto, 35, met in a crossroads fight on October 3 where both came out looking pretty good, Orozco winning a decision that was wider than earned. Orozco showed he can dig deep and pull out a win, while Soto showed there's still a good bit left in the tank. For a pessimistic view, one might say that Orozco struggled against a past-prime fighter. Either way, in this division it looks good for now.

Dulorme, 25, is a good fighter, but seemingly below elite level. That said, a loss to Crawford isn't anything to be ashamed of, and he boxed well before Crawford flipped the switch and knocked him out. There aren't a lot of guys who can do what Crawford does.

Troyanovsky, 35, has flown under the radar for most of his six-year pro career, but knocked out previously-unbeaten Cesar Cuenca in November to lift the IBF belt in Russia. Cuenca was only notable at all for being outrageously feather fisted, and his title win came over Ik Yang, not exactly a serious contender. Troyanovsky is a good fighter with power, but his record is still fairly empty, unless you take beating Cuenca more very seriously than just seriously. If anyone wants to understand how someone can get to a record like 48-0 by really not taking any risks or fighting anyone good, don't look at Floyd Mayweather, look at Cuenca.

On the Cusp

Adrian Granados (17-4-2, 12 KO) is a legitimate threat right now. He doesn't have the prettiest record, but he's 26 years old and has learned on the job and gotten better, culminating in an upset stoppage of top prospect Amir Imam in November. He went 3-1 otherwise this year, with three wins over club guys at 147 and a tight loss to Brad Solomon, also at welterweight. Granados looked strong and iron-willed at 140 in the win over Imam.

Jose Benavidez (24-0, 16 KO) might be going to welterweight, but for now we'll mention him here. He scored a very questionable win over Herrera in late 2014, and this year went 2-0, beating Jorge Paez Jr in May and then Sidney Siqueira in December. The latter fight was a welterweight bout, and Benavidez missed weight by over five pounds. He was a blue chip prospect not long ago, but the shine is fading. Still, he's only 23.

Khabib Allakhverdiev (19-2, 9 KO) fought just once this year, losing to Broner in October. He looked outclassed in that fight, as the good version of AB showed up. Allakhverdiev is a B/B-/C+ type of fighter, good enough to hang but probably not beat top guys. He's lost two straight against that sort of opposition.

Cesar Cuenca (48-1, 2 KO) can box some and did win a world title this year, beating Ik Yang in July, but he was smashed by Troyanovsky in November. He has absolutely zero power and that completely limits him against better opponents.

Keita Obara (15-1-1, 14 KO) and Walter Castillo (26-3-1, 19 KO) fought to a draw in November in an IBF eliminator, so both are on the radar for a shot at Troyanovsky. Japan's Obara had two wins on the year before that, and Nicaragua's Castillo had lost to Amir Imam in April, and beaten veteran Ammeth Diaz in July. Castillo shouldn't have been in an eliminator, really, but that's life.

Filipino fighter Jason Pagara (37-2, 23 KO) hasn't lost a fight since 2011, going 10-0 (7 KO) over that stretch, and he was 3-0 this year, including his first two fights outside of his home country, winning in Dubai in August and the United States in October.

Emmanuel Taylor (18-4, 12 KO) has lost three of his last four, dropping fights to Chris Algieri, Adrien Broner, and Antonio Orozco, with a win over Karim Mayfield in 2014 his only win since 2013. But he's a solid fighter and on the right night could pull an upset. He gave Broner hell last year, and was competitive with Orozco in his only fight this year.

Hank Lundy (26-5-1, 13 KO) floats between 135 and 140, we'll mention him here. He's another guy like Taylor who, though he has a habit of coming up short against his better opponents, is a handful. He went 1-1 this year, including a technical decision loss in July to Mauricio Herrera, a majority decision after five rounds.

The Titleholders

WBC: Viktor Postol

  • def. Lucas Matthysse (KO-10, 10/3 - WON VACANT TITLE)

WBA: Adrien Broner

  • def. Khabib Allakhverdiev (TKO-12, 10/3 - WON VACANT TITLE)

IBF: Eduard Troyanovsky

  • Cesar Cuenca def. Ik Yang (UD-12, 7/18 - WON VACANT TITLE)
  • def. Cesar Cuenca (TKO-6, 11/4 - TITLE CHANGE)

WBO: Terence Crawford

  • def. Thomas Dulorme (TKO-6, 4/18 - WON VACANT TITLE)
  • def. Dierry Jean (TKO-10, 10/24)

Top 5 Prospects

Boxing: Ramirez vs Arellano Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
  1. Jose Ramirez (16-0, 12 KO)
  2. Regis Prograis (16-0, 13 KO)
  3. Ivan Baranchyk (9-0, 8 KO)
  4. Sergey Lipinets (8-0, 6 KO)
  5. Amir Imam (18-1, 15 KO)

Wild Card: Frankie Gomez (19-0, 13 KO)

Ramirez, 23, was a 2012 U.S. Olympian, one of the few who did not sign with Al Haymon out of the Olympics. Instead, he went with Top Rank. This has resulted in less notable TV exposure, but no less legitimate development. This year he went 3-0 and battled a thumb injury that kept him inactive from July until December.

Prograis, 26, went 4-0 this year, with two fights on ShoBox to close the year. The southpaw from New Orleans, now fighting out of Houston, beat fellow prospects Amos Cowart (UD-8) and Abel Ramos (RTD-8) in those fights, showing a nice blend of skill and power.

Baranchyk, 22, is a wicked puncher out of Amursk, Russia, now living in and fighting out of Brooklyn, where he's been running over opposition since turning pro in June 2014. This year, Baranchyk went 6-0, fighting in January, February, March, June, July, and December.

Lipinets, 26, was 3-0 on the year and showed some upside in his win over Lydell Rhodes on the October 30 PBC on Bounce card, where he won a 10-round decision. He beat Cosme Rivera and Kendal Mena earlier in 2015.

Imam, 25, may still have the highest ceiling of any of these guys, but I can't rank him higher than fifth thanks to his loss to Adrian Granados in November, a real upset. That was a fight against a guy who had proven plenty tough in the past that Imam really didn't have to face, but he did it. He also dropped Granados in round one, showing off his power, but things unraveled from there, and he was stopped in the eighth round. But Imam is young, has a load of talent, and can certainly bounce back from that loss. He may not, of course; sometimes good fighters don't handle defeat well, especially defeat like that one. But if he can deal with it, the future is still plenty bright, and he deserves mention even with the loss.

Gomez, 23, is a terrific prospect when he's in the ring, when he's focused and in shape, but the latter part of that is a real issue. He fought one time in 2015, beating Jorge Silva in a north of welterweight catchweight bout in October, and had to cancel a fight with Humberto Soto earlier in the year when he badly missed weight. If Gomez could be considered reliable, he'd possibly be the No. 1 prospect in the division.

Other prospects, in alphabetical order: Pedro Campa, Jack Catterall, Jose Felix Jr, Maurice Hooker, Zachary Ochoa, Hiroki Okada, Eddie Ramirez, Mike Reed, Julian Rodriguez, Giovanni Santillan, Cletus Seldin, Anthony Yigit.