Ranking the Welterweights: Crawford or Spence at No. 1?

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Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr have made a case, but neither has made THE case yet at 147 pounds.

People love rankings! And lists! I also love rankings and lists, but boxing is a weird sport where the best don’t always face the best, and you’re guessing more often than not. Everything is a big argument because we too often lack the hard evidence, but everyone gets super confident in their opinions anyway.

So here’s a list of rankings at 147 pounds, in one person’s opinion. You can have your say in the comments and we’ll get a stew goin’.

1) Terence Crawford (35-0, 26 KO, WBO Titleholder)
2) Errol Spence Jr (25-0, 21 KO, IBF Titleholder)

Switch them if you want, the debate is just debate. They’re the 1-2 in the division at this point.

Arguments against Crawford center largely on the fact that while he won world titles at 135 and 140, his run at 147 has consisted of wins over Jeff Horn, Jose Benavidez Jr, and Amir Khan. Fair enough on the surface, but Spence’s last three fights have been wins over Lamont Peterson, Carlos Ocampo, and Mikey Garcia.

Horn never deserved to be a titleholder, Benavidez was once thought of as a top prospect but had long since stagnated, and Khan is just Khan. On the other side, Peterson was past his prime, Ocampo was a totally overmatched mandatory, and Garcia was a blown up lightweight who didn’t belong at 147.

So it’s mostly going by the eye test here, or potentially favoring whatever side you want to politically align yourself with, I suppose. I slightly edge to Bud Crawford, personally. I just think he’s a little bit better of a fighter, as good as Spence is. But I want to see them fight. I don’t think I will any time soon, but like everyone I do badly want to see them settle the debate in the ring and take it off the internet.

I’ll include a poll down at the bottom of this post so that you all can vote your pick for No. 1. It won’t include any other options, but if you were going to vote for someone else right now, I don’t know that you should be given voting privileges in the first place.

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3) Manny Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 KO)
4) Keith Thurman (29-0, 22 KO, WBA Titleholder)
5) Shawn Porter (30-2-1, 17 KO, WBC Titleholder)
6) Danny Garcia (35-2, 21 KO)

Here’s “Group B,” not that they’re B-level fighters, but that these four could be shuffled in various orders and I’m not going to disagree with you much about it.

I’m going with the 40-year-old Pacquiao, who is the WBA’s secondary “world” titleholder, at No. 3, because I didn’t love what we saw out of Thurman in his January win over Josesito Lopez. Thurman, 30, hadn’t fought in almost two years after various injuries and surgeries and what have you, and he looked notably rusty against the game Lopez, suffering a little scare and ultimately winning a majority decision. The big question about Thurman is whether that was just rust from time out of the ring, or if it’s an indication that maybe his best days are behind him.

Pacquiao, meanwhile, is absolutely past his best days but has shown real life in his last two, knocking out Lucas Matthysse last July and routing Adrien Broner in January. Manny is craftier than he is devastating these days, but it’s pretty damn good craft and I still think he gives all these guys — and the top two, for that matter — a hell of a challenge at worst.

But I have Thurman at No. 4 because he does have wins over both Porter and Garcia. Porter got a very debatable decision win over Yordenis Ugas last time out, while Garcia just smashed Adrian Granados this past weekend. But Porter also beat Garcia last September, so I’m keeping Porter a slot above Danny for now.

There’s a pretty good chance that in the coming months, we get two fights out of the PBC group of Spence, Thurman, Pacquiao, Porter, and Garcia. The working ideas have been Spence-Porter and Pacquiao-Thurman, with Garcia perhaps out in the cold, but in line for another shot at the WBC belt, too. None of it is official, and we could very well wind up with five fights we don’t want to see instead of two we do.

7) Yordenis Ugas (23-4, 11 KO)

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Ugas is in his own tier for me. He’s below that second group, though perhaps not by much. Listen, styles make fights and I don’t think the Cuban gives everyone up there the hell he gave Porter, but he gave Porter hell. I scored it for Ugas, 115-113.

The 32-year-old Ugas has really fought his way into having a career at this stage. He was considered a real prospect back in 2012, before he was shockingly beaten on ShoBox by Johnny Garcia, and then he lost back-to-back fights to Emanuel Robles and Amir Imam in 2014. He was out of the ring for over two years when he returned as a welterweight to beat prospect Jamal James in Aug. 2016, and won seven more fights to get the shot at Porter.

He doesn’t have a fan base, he’s not a particularly exciting fighter to watch usually, and he’s high-risk, low-reward at this point. This is the kind of guy that gets avoided. He’s not a world-beater by any means, but that shot at Porter might have been the last one he’s going to get unless he claws and forces his way into another mandatory shot. He’d be a terrific, actually risky opponent for Danny Garcia, for instance, if Garcia were to get left out of the mix by PBC matching Spence-Porter and Pacquiao-Thurman. Maybe the WBC could order Garcia-Ugas as an official eliminator and we’d have three actually intriguing PBC welterweight scraps to look forward to, but that might be asking too much if you don’t want to just be let down.

8) Sergey Lipinets (15-1, 11 KO)
9) Amir Khan (33-5, 20 KO)
10) Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (16-0, 9 KO)

Everything after Ugas is a ratings crapshoot at 147 right now. People talk about the depth of the division, and there is a lot of it in terms of decent fighters and those with at least some remaining name value, but after Ugas, everything gets a lot more questionable. After Ugas, you’re getting into more than a dozen guys who would be basically interchangeable.

Lipinets looked good in March stopping Lamont Peterson, but he’d struggled badly in his move to 147 last year against Erick Bone.

Khan … is Khan, and I understand nobody wants to hear that this guy might still be top 10 at welterweight, but God, he lost to Terence Crawford. Is there anyone you’re sure would beat him that I haven’t ranked above him? I think Lipinets’ pressure would get to Khan, but then again I’m not convinced of it. Lipinets ain’t Crawford.

Take Abdukakhorov, who beat Keita Obara in an IBF eliminator on March 30. Abdukakhorov didn’t look amazing in that fight. His power wasn’t anything special, and that’s against a guy who had been stopped in all three of his previous losses. Abdukakhorov looked solid and competent. I didn’t expect Errol Spence Jr to be quaking in his boots because this guy became the mandatory, and while I think he might be able to beat Khan, again, I’m not sure of it.

Khan looks terrible right this second because he got smoked by Crawford, and because he quit and is trying to save face by insisting he didn’t. But he’s not actually terrible. He’s just not good enough to beat Crawford, or even seriously compete with him. Neither is Abdukakhorov, and neither are Adrien Broner, David Avanesyan, Sadam Ali, Andre Berto, Devon Alexander, Omar Figueroa Jr, Egidijus Kavaliauskas, Alexander Besputin, Jamal James, Jose Benavidez Jr, or Luis Collazo.

And I wouldn’t risk a sweet American dime on any of those guys beating Khan, either — two of them (Alexander and Collazo) were wiped out by Khan when they fought him. (OK, I might bet on Omar Figueroa to bust Khan up, but Figueroa’s fought twice since 2015 and once since 2017, and it’s always a question as to how much he really cares about his career.)

Rising Names

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I mentioned Alexander Besputin (13-0, 9 KO), a 27-year-old Russian based in Oxnard, California, who dominated Alfredo Blanco on the Lomachenko-Crolla prelims. I said after that fight that he “isn’t a super overwhelming prospect, but he has skills and fights in an entertaining style.”

South Africa’s Thulani Mbenge (15-0, 12 KO) is intriguing on paper. In his last two, he’s stopped veterans Diego Chaves and Miguel Vazquez, and he faces Sebastian Formella on July 6 in Germany, which will be Mbenge’s first fight outside of his home country. Mbenge’s age isn’t listed, so it’s hard to guess his potential.

Philly’s Jaron Ennis (22-0, 20 KO) has been a beast thus far in his pro career. At 21 and with a 74-inch reach, this is a guy to remember. He doesn’t have the big promoter yet, but he’s featured on ShoBox a couple times already, and it seems just a matter of time before one of the big outfits scoops him up.

Josh Kelly (9-0, 6 KO) is a little tricky to guess about. The 25-year-old Brit was an Olympian and is unbeaten so far as a pro, including a win this past weekend over Pzemyslaw Runowski. But his flashy style is the sort that could get him wrecked when he starts facing those who have the ability to truly fight back. The talent is there, the gifts are there, we’ll see how it all works out. They’re talking again about matching him with European champion David Avanesyan, a solid pro who probably doesn’t have the natural ability to beat Kelly in many ways, but might be good enough to at least give Kelly a legitimate eye-opener about what it’s going to be like going from Runowski and Kris George to real opposition.

Canada’s Custio Clayton (16-0, 11 KO) is a decent fighter and a former Olympian himself, but he’s also 31 years old and just returned from a 10-month absence to fight 44-year-old DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley.

Golden Boy’s Rashidi Ellis (21-0, 14 KO) remains unbeaten, but at 25 he hasn’t progressed the way you would have liked to see by now.

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Shakhram Giyasov (7-0, 6 KO) and Batyr Akhmedov (6-0, 5 KO) have beaten some vets already, and 2016 Olympic silver medalist Giyasov is slated to return this Friday against Emanuel Taylor on the Rungvisai-Estarada II card. They are both managed by Vadim Kornilov, who also handles Dmitry Bivol, Viktor Postol, Denis Lebedev, Sergey Kuzmin, and Murodjon Akhmadaliev, among several others. Giyasov and Akhmedov are 25 and 28, respectively. 24-year-old Armenian Gor Yeritsyan (10-0, 9 KO) has done a similar job thus far as a pro.

20-year-old Hawaiian Logan Yoon (15-0, 12 KO) is under the radar at this point and might settle in at 140 first, but let’s give him a shout, too. He’s recently fought on a few Heavyweight Factory cards in Florida, and last time out he was on the Bivol-Pascal Main Events card in Atlantic City.

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