The list of fighters who have held court in the 147 lb class is one of the most impressive in boxing folklore. Henry Armstrong, Sugar Ray Robinson, Emile Griffith, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Donald Curry, Pernell Whitaker, Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather Jr, Miguel Cotto and Manny Pacquiao are just some the champions who have graced one of the deepest and strongest divisions in history. Fights between several of the above have been of a colossal nature, Leonard v Hearns 1 being the standard bearer. Now the names of Keith Thurman, Errol Spence Jr, Terence Crawford, Danny Garcia, Amir Khan and Jeff Horn are aiming to add their own growing legacies to that legendary list.
Regarded by many as the consensus choice as division leader, Thurman added the WBC title to sit alongside his WBA “super” trinket when he outpointed Garcia last time out. Since then an operation on his elbow has kept him on the sidelines, although his return is expected to be announced shortly. He first won the WBA “interim” title with a tenth round knockout of Diego Chaves, and then saw this upgraded twice, retaining all versions seven times in total. Originally known more for his power, Thurman has adapted his game of recent, relying more on his skills with four of his last five fights going the full twelve, running his record to 28-0, 22 KO’s, 1 no-contest.
But since his last fight, new threats have emerged. The highly touted Spence lived up to all expectations when he impressively stopped Kell Brook in eleven to become IBF champion and then followed that with a dominant seventh round win over Lamont Peterson. Combining sharp skills with heavy hands, southpaw Spence (23-0, 20 KO’s) carries star quality and is already ranked higher on most experts pound for pound list than Thurman. But his efforts to entice the dual champion into a unification match have so far been rebuffed. So his attention has turned towards another pound for pound entrant.
Former WBO lightweight and undisputed super lightweight champion Crawford set his sights on welterweight gold when he was scheduled to face WBO titleholder Horn earlier this year, with the fight now rearranged for June. Rated by several independent rankings as the best pound for pound fighter in the world, Crawford (32-0, 23 KO’s) has produced some outstanding displays, effortlessly switching between orthodox and southpaw whilst dismantling the best in two divisions. He is the overwhelming favourite to beat Horn and then move on to a mooted “Superfight” with Spence.
But Horn no doubt has his own ideas about how things will pan out. Having shocked all-time great Manny Pacquiao by debatable decision to win the crown, the unheralded Horn (18-0-1, 12 KO’s) has made one defence, stopping Gary Corcoran in eleven. With solid hand and foot speed, Horn’s determination to win could give Crawford a more uncomfortable time than he could imagine.
This weekend, Amir Khan returns to the ring to start his campaign for a world championship in a second division. Phil Lo Greco is expected to help Khan shed some rust before falling into the Brits “W” column. Khan (31-4, 19 KO’s) knows that he is now approaching the final stretch in a 13-year career that, in fairness, he has probably underachieved. Despite being a two-time champion at 140, much was expected from him and, up until now, he has been found wanting in his biggest tests. His tremendous speed and ability provide him with an advantage over many, but questions over his durability will make him a decided underdog against the likes of Spence, Thurman and Garcia.
Like former victim Khan, Danny Garcia (34-1, 20 KO’s) is anxious to punch his way back into the big time. Since losing WBC title on a razor-thin split decision to Thurman, Garcia has fought just once, a highlight reel ninth-round knockout of Brandon Rios, a display that exhibited all that he is: a solid all-rounder, not exceptional at anything, but good at everything, a style that has seen him crowned champion in two divisions and sit on the peripherals of the pound for pound best in the world. He is craving to prove that it is he, and NOT Thurman or Spence, who is the best welterweight on the planet.
Below this group sits a trio who also believe that they can emerge as the dominant force at 147. Former IBF titlist Shawn Porter (28-2-1, 17 KO’s) dropped close decisions to Kell Brook, losing his belt, and Thurman. His aggressive, high-pressure style is a massive test for anyone and they would certainly need to be at their best to repel his challenge.
Veterans Manny Pacquiao and Lucas Matthysse meet in July in a bout that could well send the loser into retirement. Pacquiao was once considered the best fighter around, but now aged 39, and after nearly 70 fights (59-7-2, 38 KO’s), boxing’s first and only eight-division champion is starting to resemble a shadow of the whirlwind that once dissected the elite, although it is impressive that he can still compete at this level. The 35-year-old Matthysse (39-4, 36 KO’s, 1 NC) knows that he too, will not get another title opportunity if he loses here. He looked past his best in his last fight before his vaunted power rescued him. These two may well be meeting at a point that could make for a surprisingly good fight.
Propping up the list is this weekend’s meeting of former champions Jessie Vargas and Adrian Broner. Vargas (28-2, 10 KO’s) is looking to use this fight as a springboard back into the top echelon, whilst the inconsistent but talented Broner (33-3, 24 KO’s, 1 NC) knows that an impressive victory here is a must before he falls into the role of gatekeeper.
As you can see, matching any of the above fighters together can pretty much guarantee excitement. Hopefully, the promoters and networks, or maybe the World Boxing Super Series, can put them together and we will find out who will emerge as the next great welterweight.