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Ranking the Welterweights: Top-heavy division remains one of boxing’s best

There are elite fighters, good fighters, and a logjam at the back end of the top 10.

Terence Crawford v Jeff Horn Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images

This past weekend, we saw some notable welterweight action, with Andre Berto winning a questionable decision over Devon Alexander, and Sergey Lipinets struggling to another questionable win in his move up to 147.

We just did welterweight rankings a couple months ago, but a little bit has changed in the division, even if not much has changed at the top.

Here’s how I had it in June:

  1. Keith Thurman
  2. Errol Spence Jr
  3. Terence Crawford
  4. Danny Garcia
  5. Shawn Porter
  6. Manny Pacquiao
  7. Jeff Horn
  8. Jessie Vargas
  9. Lucas Matthysse
  10. Yordenis Ugas

So let’s do a quick update.

1) Keith Thurman (28-0, 22 KO)

Still not a popular pick for top dog, still my pick. That said, I’m giving Thurman, 29, until the end of 2018 to actually schedule a fight or I’m dumping him. That’s more ground than most very serious boxing rankings give, but I have a limit, too. He’s still just got the best résumé in the division, in my view. Next: TBA

2) Errol Spence Jr (24-0, 21 KO)

Spence, 28, is a wrecking ball and had just shown us that against unqualified mandatory challenger Carlos Ocampo last time I did these rankings. It looks for all the world like he’s going to fight lightweight titleholder and pound-for-pound contender Mikey Garcia next. I don’t see it being a very good fight, as much as I admire Garcia’s ambition. Next: TBA

3) Terence Crawford (33-0, 24 KO)

Crawford, 30, is the pound-for-pound best fighter in the division. He beat Jeff Horn in June, and did so convincingly. He’s being lined up for a fall return on ESPN or ESPN+, and it’s doubtful he’s going to face any serious threat to his WBO title. Right now, the top 10 contenders for the WBO — and these are your usual three-quarters-horseshit inexplicable sanctioning body rankings — are Custio Clayton, Egidijus Kavaliauskas (who is with Top Rank), Jessie Vargas, Adrien Broner, Giovanni Santillan, Roberto Arriaza, Luis Alberto Veron, Mikka Shonena, Jeff Horn, and Kerman Lejarraga. Vargas and Broner ain’t it, and outside of Kavaliauskas, who could get served up after an unimpressive win of his own in July, and Horn, who also ain’t it, those are the only guys most boxing fans have even heard of, so it’s not exactly an ideal list. Like, Clayton’s a decent fighter, but it would be nonsense to put him in a ring with Crawford right now. Next: vs TBA, October 13

4) Danny Garcia (34-1, 20 KO)
5) Shawn Porter (28-2-1, 17 KO)

Set to meet for the vacant WBC title, with the winner in a prime spot in the division and potentially headed for a big fight with ... Andre Berto. Next: vs each other, September 8

6) Manny Pacquiao (60-7-2, 38 KO)

Manny Pacquiao v Lucas Matthysse - WBA Welterweight Title Bout Photo by How Foo Yeen/Getty Images

Pacquiao, 39, looked good in his demolition of Lucas Matthysse, sending Matthysse into retirement, and I’d give him a pretty good chance, based on that outing, against anyone on this list other than maybe Spence and Crawford, both of whom I think are too skilled and young for Pacquiao to handle at this point. (I think Thurman would struggle more with Manny’s style than either of them would, not even counting the fact that Thurman may not be 100% again, or fully invested in the sport.) Manny looked fresher, more energetic than he did in his controversial 2017 loss to Horn, and had the power to rip through Matthysse with relative ease. If Pac found something that’s awakened him again, it could be an interesting final couple of years in his career, if he finds the chance to face marquee opponents again. Next: TBA

7) Jeff Horn (18-1-1, 12 KO)

Horn, 30, is what he is, a tough fighter with limited skills who got badly exposed by Terence Crawford. But the division is top-heavy, and he deserves a place in the top 10 for now. He could be headed for a half-novelty fight with Anthony Mundine, though at least some members of his team seem to want to avoid that at all costs. Next: TBA

8) Jessie Vargas (28-2-1, 10 KO)

Former titleholder Vargas, 29, is still in the race. He’s coming off of a debatable draw with Adrien Broner and has signed on with Eddie Hearn and DAZN, and is set to return on October 6 in Chicago. It won’t be against Broner, which was Vargas’ first plan coming off of the draw. Next: vs TBA, October 6

9) Yordenis Ugas (22-3, 11 KO)

Ugas, 32, has been on a tear, but hasn’t gotten the big headlines because none of the wins were of the elite variety. Since dropping two straight to Emmanuel Robles and Amir Imam in 2014, he’s beaten Jamal James (took an 0), Bryant Perrella (took an 0), Levan Ghvamichava, Nelson Lara, Thomas Dulorme, Ray Robinson, and Jonathan Batista. He’s scheduled to return on September 8 in another fight that isn’t going to set anyone’s hair on fire, but will be on the Showtime card. Next: vs Cesar Miguel Barrionuevo, September 8

10) Lamont Peterson (35-4-1, 17 KO)

I mean, it’s gotta be someone, so I’ll go with Peterson, 34, who is coming off of a beatdown loss to Spence. But pick your poison here. There’s Peterson. There’s Egidijus Kavaliauskas, who probably would have taken the spot for me this time if he had been more impressive against Juan Carlos Abreu in July. There’s Amir Khan, who doesn’t want to fight at 154 but also has no need to boil all the way down to 147 if he’s just going to fight the likes of Phil Lo Greco and Samuel Vargas. Adrien Broner wants to fight at 140, not 147. There’s Andre Berto, whose decision win over Devon Alexander was, again, plenty questionable. There’s Devon Alexander, too, who has arguably gotten the shaft twice this year while looking pretty good in both fights. There’s Sergey Lipinets, who won on Saturday but arguably didn’t deserve the victory over Erick Bone, who is a professional opponent. There’s Josh Kelly, who is young and largely untested but a great-looking prospect. Kudratillo Abdukakhorov has the WBC silver title, for whatever that’s worth. Jamal James is out there, but he didn’t look great in his last fight, either. Kerman Lejarraga has the European title and might be dangerous. Remember blue chipper Jose Benavidez? Well, he’s fighting again. I mean, the point is, there are a lot of people you could look at for this spot. I don’t think there’s by any means a clear No. 10 pick. I went with Peterson for the moment, and he got his ass kicked last time out, so take your pick, basically.

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