Boxing traditionally has only eight weight classes. In an introduction to my first edition of the Original Eight Ratings, The Middleweights, I briefly recapped how the sport traveled from its glory days of eight weight classes with one champ per division, to the mess that we have today thanks to the alphabet sanctioning bodies and TV networks and promoters who think fans are so stupid they need to see a plastic belt attached to every fight, when quite the opposite is true. Ranking today’s fighters in only the Original Eight weight classes with one champ per division provides fans, those in the sport, historians, and fighters who wish to show that they are truly the best, how their accomplishments stack up with previous eras. It also keeps MMA from looking more reasonable than boxing by having only eight weight classes, even though boxing originated the eight weight classes.
This is the second installment of the Original Eight Ratings—The Welterweights. This is a division that has star power, great potential, and the type of fights coming up that can bring back true Top Ten-level matchups to the sport, as it was in past “Golden Eras”.
Criteria: Fighters overall record, perceived talent level, quality of opposition, quality wins and level of performance in wins and losses, where the fighter is ranked in the Transnational Boxing Ranking Board’s Welterweight and Junior Welterweight Rankings, and The Ring’s Welterweight and Junior Welterweight Rankings. Also, strongly considered would be who would beat who and by how much one fighter would be favored over the other by odds makers were the fight to be signed tomorrow. The traditional standard of one year of inactivity to drop a fighter from the rankings will be taken into consideration but the fighter is eligible to re-enter as soon as he fights again. Champions will primarily be the recognized lineal champions, with consideration also given to champions recognized by the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board and The Ring. This is how the traditional welterweight division looks today:
1. Manny Pacquiao (Philippines 59-6-2 38K0)
2. Keith Thurman (U.S. 27-0 22KO)
3. Kell Brook (U.K. 36-1 25KO)
4 Terence Crawford (U.S. 30-0-0 21KO)
5. Danny Garcia (U.S. 33-0 19KO)
6. Shawn Porter (U.S. 26-2-1 16KO)
7. Tim Bradley (U.S. 33-2-1 13KO)
8. Errol Spence, Jr. (U.S. 21-0 18KO)
9. Viktor Postol (Ukraine 28-1 12KO)
10. Sergey Lipinets (Russia 11-0 9KO)
Ratings Notes: Manny Pacquiao may not have given us the fights we wanted to see in 2016 but what he did do was clearly beat one guy: Tim Bradley, who was undoubtedly near the top of the welterweight Top Ten, even when ranking only eight divisions, and decisively beat Jessie Vargas, a guy probably just inside the Top Ten at the time. One wonders if Pacquiao didn’t inject the unnecessary retirement talk to promote the Bradley fight if the boxing consensus might now be viewing him as the new lineal welterweight champ. In addition, he had a competitive loss to Mayweather, then-champion, even if the fight was dreadful. That’s just enough to put him over the next three: Thurman, Brook and Crawford, a case of which could be made for either being No. 1. Keith Thurman, with his exciting and impressive win over Shawn Porter in a tight fight, gets the number 2 spot over Brook and Crawford. Kell Brook, like Keith Thurman, only has one win against a true welterweight Top Ten opponent—also, Shawn Porter. But Thurman’s performance was better than Brook’s against Porter as is the rest of his resume. While lineal champions who move up to fight in another Original Eight division may not lose their title if they attempt to move up a full weight class and lose, a welterweight contender like Brook who didn’t go six rounds with middleweight Gennady Golovkin drops in status by his KO loss—he doesn’t gain status. To gain or maintain status, he needs to do something like lose a competitive decision, or drop Golovkin, or something along those lines to gain points—that didn’t happen. Give Brook credit for fighting Errol Spence; it’s the kind of fight boxing needs and will answer many questions. Terence Crawford is taking the Roberto Duran-type route of lineal lightweight champion who is right in the top of the welterweight ranks upon gaining weight. The reality, which shows the needless nature of the junior divisions, is that Crawford would be favored over anyone in the welterweight division right now; that’s his claim to the number 1 slot. He’s also ranked over all of them in the mythical P4P rankings and the seven-pound difference as opposed to the other welterweights isn’t a big enough of a deal to matter in evaluating their respective talents.
Barely below the Top Four is the needlessly disrespected Danny Garcia. However, I concur with the odds makers that Garcia’s recent performances have been unimpressive enough to make Thurman a favorite in their upcoming titanic showdown on CBS. I always thought this would be a fight I’d favor Garcia but his lack of activity during fights looks like an Achilles heel now. But Garcia’s resume is very similar to Crawford’s. You can at least make an argument Shawn Porter could be undefeated, as his two losses to Brook and Thurman could’ve gone either way, though he performed much better against Thurman. I thought Porter got edged in both fights. The constant holding by Brook made that fight less of a plus for both Porter and Brook. Tim Bradley is always too competitive to be discounted but he doesn’t bring power, and at his age and size, it’s going to get difficult to win fights at this stage in a division this tough.
Errol Spence only seems to be being held back by his level of competition. He did to Algieri and Bundu what you would think a top welterweight should do, yet his performances against them were worlds above Pacquiao’s and Thurman’s. He will be fighting a real upper-level Top Ten guy in Kell Brook, so the moment of truth has arrived. I think he’ll pass the test. Only the competitiveness of the division keeps Spence from being elevated in these rankings based on the eye test and who the odds makers would favor him over, which would probably be everyone except possibly Crawford. Viktor Postol has the size to be fighting at 147 pounds. One wonders why he bothers making 140. He has only one loss to Crawford, which makes a reasonable observer think he’d be tough fight for the other top welters. Sergey Lipinets is a bit under the radar but it’s always been obvious he brings a lot of power, stamina and strength. Lipinets’ trainer, Buddy McGirt, is one of the few trainers out there who makes changes you can actually see evidence of and has Lipinets working on his boxing. Initially, the decision seemed puzzling but now Lipinets shows flashes of slick boxing. This should enable him to mix up styles where needed, making him more of a threat. I believe he would be a favorite over enough welters that he just cracks the ratings over some other worthy candidates.
Fighters not in the Top Ten but worthy of mention and watching include: Yordanis Ugas, who has a great amateur pedigree as an Olympic medalist and a product of the Cuban program. He is coming off three impressive wins against Jamal James, Bryant Perrella and Levan Ghvamichava. All his losses were to undefeated fighters by decision, two of them split. He’s ready to get in with anyone, even if he may not come out on top. Konstantin Ponomarev is a slick, defensive-oriented Russian who has amateur pedigree and is the type of guy who will be a difficult fight for many. He’s unbeaten and very close to being in this Top Ten. Jessie Vargas hurt Tim Bradley and then showed shocking power against Sadam Ali, but looked to be back to the light-punching form that typified most of his career in an unimpressive recent showing. Amir Khan hasn’t had a win against a true Top Ten-type in recent years and like Brook against Golovkin, he loses some points for getting knocked cold in the first half of the fight against Canelo Alvarez, even if the fight was at middleweight. Felix Diaz also has amateur pedigree, gave Lamont Peterson hell in a close loss and edged out and bloodied Sammy Vasquez. That win isn’t looking quite as good now after Vasquez was knocked out by Luis Collazo, who also hurt Keith Thurman badly to the body. Every time it seems Collazo is done, he gets back into the mix; the Vasquez KO was simply impressive. Charles Manyuchi had a huge upset win over Dmitry Mikhaylenko. Adrien Broner earned a close win over Adrian Granados but it reminded us what we already knew about Broner; he could’ve been a great lightweight or even featherweight if he was really disciplined weight wise but as a welterweight he’s only going to be good enough to hang around the fringes of the Top Ten. He’s not physically strong enough nor does he throw enough punches to beat the best welterweights. Lamont Peterson has a win over Felix Diaz, a close loss to Garcia and came back from a layoff to win a hard-fought, unanimous decision over David Avanesyan at 147 pounds. Regis Prograis is a true power hitter who is ready for better opposition. Taras “The Real Deal” Shelestyuk is undefeated and has tremendous amateur pedigree as a member of the Ukrainian National Team. However, he is 31 years old and has mixed extremely impressive performances with shaky ones.
Various fighters rankings in the Ring and Transnational Boxing Rankings Board’s Welterweight and Junior Welterweight rankings at the time of this compilation; (Note: both Ring and Transnational have the welter weight championship as “Vacant”) Pacquiao (Ring Welter-4 Transnational Welter-1,) Thurman (Ring W-2, TN W-3) Brook (R W-1, TN W-2), Crawford (R JW-C, TN JW-C) Garcia (R W-7 TN W-7) Porter (R W-3 TN W-5) Bradley (R W-5 TN W-4) Spence (R W-8 TN W-6) Postol (R JW-1 TN JW-1) Lipinets (R JW-10 TN JW-4)
For Comparison look at the Ring Ratings for the end of the years 1980 and 1950:
Champion: Ray Leonard
1. Thomas Hearns
2. Wilfred Benitez
3. Pipino Cuevas
4. Roberto Duran
5. Randy Shields
6. Pete Ranzany
7. Adolfo Viruet
8. Jorgen Hansen
9. Luis Primera
10. Clint Jackson
Champion: Ray Robinson
1. Kid Gavilan
2. Billy Graham
3. Charlie Fusari
4. Johnny Bratton
5. Eddie Thomas
6. Johnny Saxton
7. Mickey Tollis
8. Charley Cotton
9. Joe Miceli
10. Charley Salas
An important note regarding 1980, as further evidence that “no one cared” about junior divisions in this era, only one junior welterweight was capable of cracking the Top Ten, Aaron Pryor. It is critical to note, he was still the Ring’s number 4 rated lightweight at the end of 1980, as it was always his desire to get a lightweight title shot but could not secure one, so he took a fight for the junior welterweight plastic. He maintained this rating for a time even after he was the WBA junior welterweight champion.
Even though today’s welterweight division is loaded, and is widely viewed that way, the top five of the division does not stack up well with the legends at the top of the division in 1980 and 1950, that is clear. It’s more of a reason for fights like Thurman-Garcia and Brook-Spence to occur and give someone the chance to leave more of a mark at the top. Pacquiao-Horn will do nothing to help. Though Pacquiao has had a legendary career, he’s near the end and hasn’t scored a stoppage since the Ice Age. However, the bottom half of the Top Ten is probably better than the other eras.