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Ranking the Junior Welterweights: Terence Crawford reigns supreme

Terence Crawford is the unquestioned No. 1 fighter at 140. Can anyone touch him right now?

Terence Crawford v Viktor Postol Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images

1. Terence Crawford (31-0, 22 KO)

Crawford, 29, has established his dominance at 140, and the only thing left for him to do is unify the division, which he wants badly. That would require two things. (1) A fight with Julius Indongo, who holds the IBF and WBA belts, and (2) for the IBF to back off of its order for Indongo to face mandatory challenger Sergey Lipinets. It’s been expected that Indongo would relinquish that title instead of taking that fight. Unification is hard. That’s why it basically never happens anymore. But that’s what Crawford wants, and he’s shown clearly that it’s not just talk, as he’s stayed at 140 instead of moving up and looking for potentially bigger fights than he’s often been able to get in this division.

The question is really simple: can anyone at 140 touch Crawford? Viktor Postol was the clear No. 2 man in the division last summer. Crawford dominated him the same as he’s done to Thomas Dulorme, Dierry Jean, Hank Lundy, John Molina Jr, and now Felix Diaz. Dulorme had a couple of good rounds and that’s about as competitive as a Crawford fight has gotten at 140.

2. Julius Indongo (22-0, 11 KO)

Indongo, 34, has pretty much come out of left field to win two world titles and become a premier player in this division. Before last December, he wasn’t really on the radar for most of us. Then he knocked out Eduard Troyanovsky in 40 seconds to win the IBF belt in Russia, and followed that up in April with a shutout decision of Ricky Burns in Glasgow, adding the WBA title to his collection. (He also holds the IBO title, for whatever that’s worth, which is very little, for the record.)

Right now, Indongo is the most attractive fight for Crawford in this division, but there are complications, as there usually are in boxing. The Lipinets situation is one that could prevent that fight from being the full unification that the fighters and fans would want, and then you have the fact that Matchroom Boxing have an option on Indongo after his win over Burns, and it’s been said that they want to match him with Anthony Crolla. That doesn’t mean Crawford-Indongo can’t happen, just that it might not happen next, and it might not be for all four belts.

3. Viktor Postol (28-1, 12 KO)

Postol, 33, has perhaps had the career he’s really going to have at this point. He upset Lucas Matthysse in October 2015, making his name for real after his previous best wins came over Hank Lundy and Selcuk Aydin, and then his next fight was nine months later against Crawford, where he was flat outclassed over 12 rounds. He’s not getting any younger and unless Crawford leaves the division, that top spot isn’t really going to be his for the taking. He’s a good fighter and ultimately might be sort of a flash in the pan as far as being seen as more than that.

4. Rances Barthelemy (26-0, 13 KO)

Barthelemy, 30, is a former titleholder at 130 and 135, short reigns where he made one defense each time before deciding to move up. He’d fought at 140 before, beating Antonio DeMarco in 2015, dominating that fight. He looked good against Kiryl Relikh this past weekend in his official move to the junior welterweight ranks. He got dropped, but he was facing a good fighter who can punch, and he came back from that and won a clear and deserved decision. He’s now in the WBA mix.

5. Ricky Burns (41-6-1, 14 KO)

Here’s where we get to Tier 2. Burns, 34, is coming off of a one-sided loss, but he was on a good run before that, too, and didn’t immediately become a bad fighter like some folks believe happens when somebody loses to another good fighter. He’s gone as far as he’s going to go, but he’s had quite a strong career and will be remembered fondly by his fans.

6. Felix Diaz (19-2, 9 KO)

I mean, Diaz did about as well against Crawford as he had any right to do, and I’d still make him competitive against anyone in this division other than Crawford, probably. Not to say he’d win, but I wouldn’t totally count him out against Indongo or Postol or Barthelemy. He’s a pretty good fighter, and in a division that’s top heavy, that means you’re relevant.

7. Eduard Troyanovsky (25-1, 22 KO)

I could probably rate Troyanovsky, 36, alongside Burns, but I’m not as impressed with his better wins — two over Cesar Cuenca, who had never impressed me much, either. But like Burns, he didn’t suddenly become a bad fighter, even though his loss to Indongo wasn’t a 12-round rout, it was a stunning 40-second KO.

8. Sergey Lipinets (12-0, 10 KO)

Probably the top ready prospect in the division, Lipinets, 28, is the IBF mandatory challenger and might wind up fighting for the vacant belt if Indongo gives it up as most expect he will. A former kickboxer, I do wonder about his ceiling — he stopped but didn’t overwhelm Leonardo Zappavigna last December, which made me a little cautious projecting him as a top guy.

9. Antonio Orozco (26-0, 17 KO)

It’s probably just me, but Orozco, 29, has never overly impressed me. That said, he’s a solid talent, just unlikely to ever become a true top tier talent. He’s a little older than you might think, too, but he has solid wins over Emmanuel Taylor, Humberto Soto, and most recently, Keandre Gibson, where he arguably looked better than he ever has before. He’s on the cusp of getting his shot.

10. Kiryl Relikh (21-2, 19 KO)

Yeah, Relikh, 27, has lost two in a row and against his two best opponents, but he was competitive against both Burns and Barthelemy, and has proven he can fight at a high level. He may wind up something like Denis Shafikov at lightweight — a guy who no doubt can fight, but won’t ever get over the hump.

Youth Movement

This division might not thrill you at the moment, but the good news is there’s young talent on the way. Here’s a list of intriguing prospects on the rise:

David Haye vs Tony Bellew - Heavyweight Fight Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images
  • Ivan Baranchyk, 24, 15-0 (10 KO)
  • Mario Barrios, 22, 18-0 (10 KO)
  • Jack Catterall, 23, 18-0 (10 KO)
  • Jamontay Clark, 22, 11-0 (7 KO)
  • Ohara Davies (pictured), 25, 15-0 (12 KO)
  • Joel Diaz Jr, 25, 23-0 (19 KO)
  • Regis Prograis, 28, 19-0 (16 KO)
  • Eddie Ramirez, 24, 16-0 (11 KO)
  • Jose Ramirez, 24, 20-0 (15 KO)
  • Josh Taylor, 26, 9-0 (8 KO)
  • Anthony Yigit, 25, 19-0-1 (7 KO)

Four of these prospects will meet in fights coming up soon. Davies and Taylor will square off on July 8 in Glasgow, while Diaz and Prograis meet on the June 9 edition of ShoBox.

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