Ranking the Welterweights: Spence, Crawford challenging for top spot

The 147-pound division remains arguably boxing’s best and most intriguing overall.

Amanda Westcott/SHOWTIME

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

I know Thurman, 29, is technically inactive, but he’s tentatively slated to return on August 4 and I don’t see a great reason to ignore his existence for the purpose of one dude’s silly top 10 list. I have him No. 1 due to marquee wins over Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia in his last two fights — as good and impressive as Errol Spence Jr and Terence Crawford are, their wins aren’t quite at that level (save for Spence’s win over Kell Brook, to be fair).

I don’t even know if I’d pick Thurman to beat those guys, either one of them. I just find it hard to rank either of them over him until one of them — or someone else, I suppose — actually beats Thurman. Hopefully when he gets back, he’s healthy, looks good, and gets in the ring with a top dog again sooner than later. If not, well, the clock is definitely ticking for me with him in this spot. Spence and Crawford are kicking the door down.

I do not expect this to be a popular choice for the No. 1 slot, for a variety of reasons, but it’s what my dumb brain is telling me is still the right choice. For now. Very “for now.”

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

Well, that fight last night was certainly a bust, huh? Kind of a big ass waste of time, when you really break it down. A totally overmatched, unprepared mandatory challenger shoved in by the IBF. Spence had to take care of it eventually, so it’s good he just got it out of the way, at least. I mean, I don’t mean to disrespect Carlos Ocampo, I don’t blame him for not being ready for Errol Jr, but he never should have been in the ring with Spence at this point in his development. He wasn’t ready. Spence landed a body shot, saw him react poorly, and then went back to it and put it away in one.

At least he didn’t fiddle fart around, I guess. He zeroed in and got the guy out. Now I look forward to seeing him take on some real challenges, but I suspect it may be a while before we see him in with a Garcia, Porter, or Thurman, as they’re all busy at the moment.

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

My pick for the pound-for-pound top fighter currently plying his trade in this division, and that probably goes for most people. But he’s still just 1-0 as a welterweight, a good win over Jeff Horn, one-sided and dominant, but what everyone expected unless they were delusional and/or from Australia.

I’m very interested to see how Bud would do against the other guys in the top five here. They’re all better fighters than Horn, and probably all better (and bigger) fighters than anyone Crawford has faced so far. It’s just a whole new level at the top of this division compared to what Crawford faced at 135 and 140, where he was outstanding, and obviously I think enough of him that I’m slotting him in this high already. I’m excited to see him potentially face these guys. He’s a must-see fighter, as entertaining for me as he is skilled. Promotionally and TV-wise it could be tough, though.

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

I’ll lump these two together since they’re fighting each other on August 25. They’re fighting for the WBC title but as much as that, I think they’re fighting to be the fourth guy in the true elite ranks of this division. They both lost to Keith Thurman, though neither of them came away seeming overmatched. They just lost to a guy who was better that night. These are two very good fighters who have proven themselves. Are they on the level of the top three? I’m not so sure, but they’re barely behind it if anything, and good enough on the right night to hang with any potentially beat anyone, I think.

6) Manny Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38 KO)

Manny Pacquiao v Jeff HornPhoto by Chris Hyde/Getty Images

Man, I’ll tell you something. What Crawford’s destruction of Horn made me think of most was not how great Crawford was (he did as I mostly expected him to do), and it wasn’t the idea of Horn being overrated (I still think he’s a pretty good fighter, just limited against a guy like TC).

It was how far Manny Pacquiao has slipped. Look, I thought Pacquiao beat Horn, but I wasn’t impressed with Pacquiao in that fight, either. And now he’s a year older, about to return in mid-July against Lucas Matthysse, and I’ll say it here and now: Matthysse may not be a great welterweight, but I think he’s plenty dangerous against a 39-year-old Manny Pacquiao who fired his longtime coach. Maybe Pacquiao will look better with Buboy Fernandez leading his camp. Maybe he’s grasping at straws at this point. He’s faded, no question. On his last legs. Almost nobody is really talking that much about the fight yet, but I’ve been having the growing feeling that we’re seeing Manny Pacquiao for the last time in about a month. The ingredients are there.

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

I still think Jeff Horn is a pretty decent fighter. I rank him here because he did officially beat Manny Pacquiao, and he did better against Pacquiao than the next guy on the list, even if you think Horn didn’t deserve the win. So for now he’s here. But we’re now at the point where we’re going to learn exactly how good Horn is. He’s better than Gary Corcoran, sure, but he’s no Terence Crawford, and his team is out of their GD minds if they think a rematch in Australia or anywhere else would go any differently than the first fight. Horn was out of his depth. But he’s a likable guy, I think, and matched on the right level can be an entertaining fighter.

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

Vargas is coming off of a disputed draw with Adrien Broner at a catchweight between 140 and 147. He did pretty recently hold a title, which he lost to Pacquiao convincingly, and his win over Sadam Ali looked great when Ali beat Cotto and not as great now that Ali has been ripped apart by Jaime Munguia, but then Munguia might be even better than those who called him a blue chipper thought, too, and that was at 154, anyway, as was the Cotto fight. I have nothing much to say about Jessie Vargas, really — he’s a good, solid fighter with a ceiling. We’ve seen what he is. He’s a contender, but he doesn’t match up well with most of the guys I have above him. I’d probably pick him to outbox Horn.

9) Lucas Matthysse (39-4, 36 KO)

In fact, I’ll call my shot, which I don’t do a lot, and please God don’t bet money on this take: Matthysse’s going to knock Pacquiao out in Kuala Lumpur. He wasn’t amazing last time out against Tewa Kiram, but he still scored the KO in the end, and I just think the timing is right, the stars are aligned.

Going against my call is the fact that Matthysse has generally fallen short against better opponents, losing to Zab Judah (controversially), Devon Alexander (controversially), Danny Garcia, and Viktor Postol. But I think he’s beating Pacquiao. He’ll have to KO him to do it — I don’t think Matthysse can win on points against even a faded Manny — but I think he’s got the power and Manny is old and ripe for the picking.

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

I am going with Ugas in the No. 10 spot. You could go with lots of people. For instance:

  • Lamont Peterson (35-4-1, 17 KO) was dominated by Errol Spence Jr in January, but is still a worthwhile veteran fighter in the division at age 34.
  • Adrien Broner (33-3-1, 24 KO) is still hovering around this division, though he seems to want to fight at 140, not 147.
  • Josh Kelly (7-0, 5 KO) just won the Commonwealth title and is a long way off from the world stage, but the 24-year-old is a prospect you definitely want to have an eye on.
  • Jamal James (23-1, 10 KO) has won three straight since losing to Ugas in August 2016 and has kept himself in the mix in the second tier of the division.
  • Adrian Granados (18-6-2, 12 KO) is a dog, whether at 140 or 147.
  • Omar Figueroa (27-0-1, 19 KO) is a hell of a lot of fun to watch — when he fights, anyway. It’s been a year next month and he has nothing scheduled.
  • Egis Kavaliauskas (19-0, 16 KO) stopped David Avanesyan last time out nd is set to return on July 7 with a sideways step.

But I’ll go with the Cuban Ugas, who stayed busy this past weekend with an easy win, making it seven straight overall.

How do you have the top fighters ordered? This is still a really hot division and the talent at the top is incredible. Who wins out for you?

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