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Ranking the Welterweights: Spence arrives in the division’s top ranks

Errol Spence Jr is making his move in boxing’s glory division.

Kell Brook & Errol Spence Media Work Out Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

1. Manny Pacquiao (59-6-2, 38 KO)

Pacquiao, 38, does have two legitimate losses in the last five years. Those losses came to Juan Manuel Marquez and Floyd Mayweather. He has otherwise dominated fights with Brandon Rios, Tim Bradley Jr (twice), Chris Algieri, and Jessie Vargas. In the absence of Mayweather, I still think Manny is the best welterweight in the sport, but there is some debate to be had.

2. Keith Thurman (28-0, 22 KO)

Thurman, 28, is currently on the shelf following elbow surgery, meaning his mandatory rematch with Shawn Porter will have to wait. I remember when Thurman made his way to HBO some years back, and the network was very excited about him, framing him as a clear star of the future. He always talked a big game about wanting to fight the best. Now he’s there. His wins over Porter and Danny Garcia have established him as one of the best fighters in the sport today. Some might have him at No. 1, and I get it.

3. Errol Spence Jr (22-0, 19 KO)

Spence, 27, has fully arrived. Beating Kell Brook for the IBF title puts him into the elite ranks of boxing’s money division. He didn’t look unbeatable in that fight, but he did look smooth, constantly composed, intelligent, strong, and like a fighter with a well-rounded skill set. Brook started well in that fight, and Spence just stayed in it, stayed together, and eventually made the right adjustments that separated him. And even while I had him losing some early rounds, he was doing some work in those frames, too, and that paid off late. This is a terrific young fighter. What I wonder now is, how much better can he get? Is he about as good as he’s going to be? Or is there more and better coming from him? Also, listen: even if he’s at his ceiling, he’s going to have a good career, and he’ll have several more years as a top fighter.

4. Danny Garcia (33-1, 19 KO)

Garcia’s a very good fighter, but his résumé at 147 is relatively thin when you really look it over — a past-it Paulie Malignaggi, Robert Guerrero, and Samuel Vargas, before Garcia lost to Thurman. I went back-and-forth between Garcia and Porter, and edged to Garcia, in part thanks to his run at 140, which isn’t so far in the past or so removed from 147 that I just write it off here. I’m hoping Danny takes a good fight next, but he’s openly cautious about what he does with his career, so perhaps instead he’ll fight someone like Sammy Vasquez Jr or Ashley Theophane as a get-well fight.

5. Shawn Porter (27-2-1, 17 KO)

Shawn Porter v Andre Berto Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Porter, 29, is a rugged customer. He gave Keith Thurman hell last year in a losing effort, and was a tough out for Kell Brook back in 2014. But I thought both were legitimate losses. How do I rank Porter over Brook? Because if I think about them rematching right now, I see Porter winning. They’re at different points of their careers, and I think Porter is in the better groove. His wins over Adrien Broner and Andre Berto were solid displays, as he did what he should have done with both of them, really. He’s got a rematch coming with Thurman, whenever Thurman is healed up.

6. Kell Brook (36-2, 25 KO)

Brook, 31, is coming off of back-to-back hard losses. Gennady Golovkin overpowered him, which was predictable. And Errol Spence Jr just chopped away until he forced Brook to give it up on Saturday night. I don’t blame Brook for quitting, but, well, how much does he have left mentally? He’s taken beatings in back-to-back fights. The next time he gets in trouble in a fight, what will happen? Brook is a brave fighter, but bravery comes with a price.

7. Lamont Peterson (35-3-1, 17 KO)

Here’s where we reach the second tier of the division, I think. Peterson, 33, looked strong at the weight last time out, beating David Avanesyan in a competitive fight in February. Competitive, but I thought a deserved Peterson victory. He was the better man. But in his two other fights “at” the weight, he’s been a mixed big. At a 143-pound catchweight, he arguably deserved in a win in a loss to Danny Garcia. In a 144-pound catchweight with Felix Diaz, he arguably deserved a loss in a win. He’s a contender, though.

8. Jessie Vargas (27-2, 10 KO)

Former WBO titleholder Vargas, 28, was out of his depth against Pacquiao last year, and has lost two of three, going back to his 2015 defeat against Timothy Bradley Jr, who isn’t ranked here because he hasn’t fought in over one year. Vargas is a good, solid boxer — doesn’t have standout skills, but can hold his own in most fights, and has only suffered defeats against legitimate top fighters. Hopefully he’ll be back in action soon.

9. Adrien Broner (33-2, 24 KO)

Broner, 27, is such a weird case when doing these things. He’s a four-division world champion — four divisions! He’s coming off of a decent win. But that win was debatable, and here’s a question you should never be asking of a four-division world champion: has he ever beaten a real top fighter, someone truly among the best? What is his best win? Is it still Antonio DeMarco? He’s right now in what should be his prime, but his dedication is routinely and understandably questioned. What, in the end, will be the story of Adrien Broner’s career?

10. Adrian Granados (18-5-2, 12 KO)

Granados, 27, might well return to 140, but since fought his last fight at welterweight, I’m putting him here. He had an argument against Broner, and of the others I considered for this spot — Jeff Horn, Bradley Skeete, Sam Eggington, Jose Benavidez, Yordenis Ugas — I couldn’t come up with a good reason I’d favor any of them against the scrappy Granados. Maybe Lucas Matthysse will make some real noise? Maybe Omar Figueroa has a future at this weight?

I think there’s plenty of debate to be had with this division, so how do you see the 147-pound division right now?

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