Who is the number one welterweight?
Published: May 31, 2017
This past weekend on the other side of the pond, former Olympian and Texas native Errol Spence Jr. (22-0, 19 KOs) traveled to the United Kingdom and won impressively the IBF welterweight championship by stopping Kell Brook (36-2, 25 KOs) in the eleventh round. In a back and forth fight that featured moments for both men, Spence remained poised and calm never straying away from his game plan.
With the victory fans now await the next phase in the welterweight division to crown a true undisputed champion. The top three contenders for the current ranking as the number one welterweight are the three champions in the division. All three men are in different phases of their career with varying arguments to make the case that they belong at the number one spot.
Errol Spence Jr.
Starting with the newly crowned IBF champion, Spence has the look of becoming a dominant force at welterweight and beyond for years to come. After his victory over Brook, there wasn’t much of grand celebration but more of an acknowledgment of completing the first part of a larger plan. Spence is the biggest and youngest of all the champions at welterweight with the demeanor of an experienced veteran.
If one wants to rank Spence as the number on welterweight, it would be based on the potential that they see in the young fighter. Fights with the other champions seem unlikely this year. However, fights with other contenders in the division would help Spence keep the momentum of his victory over Brook going. Before facing Brook, Spence last fought in August 2016 against Leonard Bundu (33-2-2, 12 KOs). Another nine months between fights would not be beneficial for the IBF champion at this point. It would be better to test Spence against fighters like Shawn Porter (27-2-1, 17 KOs) and Danny Garcia (33-1, 19 KOs). Porter and Garcia are not only two top ten welterweights but also common opponents with unified welterweight champion Keith Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs). After his victory over Brook, Spence himself feels that he is the best welterweight.
The unified WBA/WBC welterweight champion has a strong case for the number one spot in the division as he holds the most gold. The Florida native is coming off of the two biggest victories of his career over Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia. Garcia was undefeated at the time he faced Thurman this past March. The fight was also just the tenth unification bout in the history of the welterweight division.
One of the issues fans have had with Thurman as of late is that his moniker of “One Time” has been more for how many times he fights a year versus his knockout ability. Thurman recently had elbow surgery, and it is unclear if he will return to the ring this year. While many may favor Spence over Thurman due to his recent performance over Brook, the unified champion’s power and ability to fight on the back foot make him capable of defeating any welterweight. Hopefully, Thurman recovers fully from his surgery and can perform at a more consistent rate in the future to throw his hand at the number one spot at welterweight.
The old man of the division is also it is most accomplished in WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao (59-6-2, 38 KOs). The Filipino Senator at 38 years of age is on the last leg of his career and clearly past his prime. Even with Pacquiao being past his best days many still believe he has enough left in the tank to defeat the other champions at welterweight.
Some in the sport have debated this, but when Pacquiao defeated Timothy Bradley in their rubber match in April 2016, he became the lineal welterweight champion and boxing’s only five division lineal champion. There are some entities like the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board that rank Pacquiao as the number one welterweight currently with Thurman and Spence right behind him.
The eight-division champion’s next fight will be in Australia against Australian fighter Jeff Horn (16-0-1, 11 KOs). Horn is relatively unknown in the United States and is seen as a tune-up for Pacquiao. Should Pacquiao come out victorious against Horn, there will be a high demand for him to face another champion at welterweight. Before the Horn fight, there was a vocal segment of fans that thought Pacquiao should take on Thurman instead of Horn. Now that Thurman may be out of the ring for the remainder of 2017, a bout with Spence may be pushed on the Filipino. There is, of course, the demand to face fellow Top Rank stablemate and 140-pound king Terence Crawford (31-0, 22 KOs).
As of now until Thurman, Spence, or Pacquiao step in the ring with one another the number one spot at welterweight is vacant. There are cases to be made for all three men but whoever is your choice as the best welterweight is an opinion, not fact. Fights are won in the ring, not on paper or social media. It may not happen in 2017, but a clear number one welterweight should be crowned by this time next year.
(Feature Photo: Amanda Wescott/Showtime Boxing)