The Welterweight division has long been a glamour division with the likes of Leonard and Robinson. The division has held great super fights and maybe over the last one hundred years has been the most consistently good division in all of Boxing.
Lewis was, without doubt, one of Britain’s greatest ever pugilists, having engaged in over three hundred bouts before retiring. His greatest successes came at 147, where he won the world title after repeatedly facing off against bitter rival Jack Britton for it.
They referred to Britton as “The Boxing Marvel,” and for a good reason. A true ring master, this prolific champion with 37 title bouts to his name made up for his lack of punching power with technical proficiency and ring smarts. He defeated such top talents as Mike O’Dowd, Charley White, Mickey Walker and his great rival Ted “Kid” Lewis in impressive victories.
Oscar De La Hoya is one of the greatest boxers of our modern era and deserves to be included among the greatest welterweight boxers of all time.
De La Hoya achieved remarkable success between 1992 and 2008, winning 11 major world titles across six weight classes – three of them becoming lineal champions. As welterweight, he held both the WBC and IBF welterweight titles, successfully defending both seven times.
Pacquiao has beaten a who’s who list of fighters, including Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito and Tim Bradley, to name a few. He is not higher because the great Juan Manuel Marquez knocked him out. That is why he is rated below Mayweather at this moment. Of course.
In a win over Marquez, it was the fact that it was Marquez’s first fight moving up to 147 from 135. Hard to rate an undefeated fighter any lower than this. There are wins like the Ricky Hatton fight, which probably should have occurred a couple of years earlier in the junior welterweight division. But, overall, most of the Mayweather wins in the last few years have been against excellent fighters. Still, when you refuse to face a Paul Williams, your career at Welterweight leaves a lot to be desired.
Sweet Pea” Whitaker earned titles across four weight classes, his most notable stints being lightweight and welterweight. At 147 pounds, Whitaker beat James McGirt to capture the WBC and lineal titles in March 1993 and retained them until losing to Oscar De La Hoya in April 1997. Recognized as one of boxing’s great defensive specialists, Whitaker made rapid progress through welterweight division until age allowed younger fighters to catch up to him.
Trinidad began his professional career 40-0 before finally succumbing to Bernard Hopkins in a middleweight bout – after having already moved from welterweight to junior middleweight. In June 1993, Trinidad defeated Maurice Blocker for the IBF Welterweight title, which he successfully defended 15 times, including a highly questionable decision victory over Oscar De La Hoya. Additionally, he held victories over Hector Camacho and Pernell Whitaker and was the first man to defeat Yori Boy Campas at this level.
McLarnin faced 5 World Champions: Jackie Fields, “Young” Jack Thompson, Lou Brouillard, Young Corbett III and Barney Ross. A case can be made that he was at his best at lightweight, but he still faced a consistently faced a demanding schedule in the ring. He retired at 29 and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991. Arguably McLarnin’s most significant victory was winning over the great Young Corbett III to win the title in 1933 via first-round knockout.
He was a gifted boxer who became the first man to simultaneously hold the Lineal Title in three divisions. The third came when he beat the legendary Jimmy McLarnin to win the Welterweight Championship. Ross also beat the highly-rated Ceferino Garcia three times. He won 2 out of 3 against McLarnin and would be an inaugural inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.
Hearns was a great fighter, but a lot of his success occurred at higher weight classes. He is on this list for his brief dominance in the welterweight division. Had Hearns not fought Sugar Ray Leonard, he might not be here. He outboxed Leonard and won the fight before getting knocked out after running out of gas in the 14th round of their first fight. Hearns beat some excellent welterweight contenders such as Randy Shields, Bruce Curry and Harold Weston. His knockout of Pipino Cuevas in 1980 earned him Ring Magazine’s Fighter of the Year award.
Emile Griffith was a fast-handed boxer with decent power and the strength to persevere despite adversity. He made for an exciting fighter, and most historians believe he was even better than his record indicated after defeating Benny Paret in 1962. Griffith knocked Paret out in Round 12 of an intense battle that tragically resulted in Paret slipping into a coma and eventually succumbing to his injuries.
His best days may have been at lightweight also. Still, it is hard to argue with a man that faced and beat five welterweight titlists in Curtis Cokes, Emilie Griffith, Hedgemon Lewis, John Stracey and Billy Backus—known as “Mantequilla” because he was smooth as butter in the ring.
Few would consider “The Toy Bulldog” among the greatest fighters of all-time, pound-for-pound. However, Walker did his best work as a welterweight with wins over Jack Britton, Pete Latzo, Lew Tendler, Sailor Friedman, Mike McTigue and Dave Shade before moving up to face Harry Greb, Tiger Flowers, Tommy Loughran Maxie Rosenbloom, and Jack Sharkey.
Gavilan was an incredible fighter to watch and one of history’s more aggressive great welterweight champions. While lacking power, he threw his punches with volume as if he did possess it–much like Timothy Bradley does today–but Gavilan far outpaced Bradley in every respect.
He was fast, vicious and confident enough to take on Ray Robinson in two rounds and give him all he could handle. Additionally, he defeated legendary tennis great Carmen Basilio in 1954.
Before there was “Jersey Joe”, there was the “Barbados Demon”. Walcott beat 5 World Champions: “Mysterious” Billy Smith, Rube Ferns, Dixie Kid, Honey Melody and Jimmy Gardner. Amazingly, Walcott fought a draw with the legendary Sam Langford and the great lightweight Joe Gans. Walcott fought all comers no matter what size they were and was fearless and heavy-handed. He was a true pioneer and seminal historical figure in the sport of boxing.
I believe Henry Armstrong was one of the top-3 fighters ever. As stated earlier in this article, Armstrong not only ranks as one of the top lightweights of all time but also one of the best welterweights ever. “Homicide Hank” only really fought three great welterweights in Barney Ross, Fritzie Zivic and Sugar Ray Robinson. He moved up to welterweight to win the title over Barney Ross, between winning the featherweight and lightweight crowns. Undersized and often fighting below 140lbs while welterweight champion, Armstrong still defended the title 18 times over two years.
In my opinion, the top two on this list are no-brainers. On his way to the title, Leonard beat almost every top contender possible. He won the title in 1979 over the great Wilfredo Benitez, stopping Benitez at the end of the 15th round. That set up a fight with Panamanian legend Roberto Duran. Leonard stood toe-to-toe with Duran, almost beating him at his own game. He lost a close decision but proved to everyone that there should be no doubt about his bravery in the ring. In the rematch, Leonard moved, boxed and frustrated Duran to the point where, in the eighth round, Duran turned and walked away. Leonard’s toughness was unquestioned after his epic confrontation with Thomas Hearns. Trailing going into the 14th round, Leonard mounted a furious assault, leaving Hearns battered and broken. The win cemented Leonard’s legendary status at welterweight.
This list is Robinson and then everyone else. Robinson had an unbelievable record as a welterweight of 110-1-2! Robinson beat the likes of Jake LaMotta, Marty Servo, Fritzie Zivic, Kid Gavilan and Henry Armstrong. There should be no question that Sugar Ray Robinson was indeed the best!
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