The Welterweight division has a real depth to it in terms of names, and has got a few lesser known fighters breaking into contender status.
If you want to look at the champion we covered them recently in this article - The state of the Division - Welterweight - The Champions
Yordenis Ugas (23-3, 11)
On paper 32 year old Cuban Yordenis Ugas might not look like a top contender, having 3 losses in 26 bouts, but his competition has been incredibly tough and he's had a fair bit of bad luck, losing close bouts to unbeaten fights. In fact from 26 bouts we've seen Ugas face 6 unbeaten men, as well as fellow contenders like Levan Ghvamichava, Thomas Dulorme, Ray Robinson and Cesar Miguel Barrionuevo. His current 8 fight winning run is solid and has earned him a shot at WBC champion Shawn Porter, with the two set to clash on March 9th. He's talent and should be able to give Porter real trouble when they meet in a couple of months.
Danny Garcia (34-2, 20)
Twice beaten 30 year old American Danny Garcia has had an interesting career which has seen him massively over achieve. Dubbed "Swift" Garcia isn't quick, he's not a massive puncher, but he is a skilled, confident, tough kid who has become a 2-weight world champion, unified titles at 140lbs. His career has been a really notable one with Garcia notching wins against Kendall Holt, Erik Morales, Amir Khan, Zab Judah, Lucas Matthysse, Lamont Peterson, Robert Guerrero and Brandon Rios. He has suffered 2 recent losses, coming up short against Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter, but he is still a top contender and should be seen as a legitimate threat to anyone in the division, despite the recent losses.
Jessie Vargas (28-2-2, 10)
American fighter Jessie Vargas is a 29 year old professional who debuted more than a decade ago and had a rather interesting rise through the ranks. Early in his career he fought Trenton Titsworth, in a bout that was memorable for Titsworth being deducted a point for kissing, later one he would beat the likes of Josesito Lopez and Wale Omotose before winning the WBA title from Khabib Allakhverdiev. After reaching world level Vargas has had mixed results, losing to Timothy Bradley, albeit in a fight that had a bizarre ending, and Manny Pacquiao, in what appeared to be a clear loss, beating Antonio DeMarco and Sadam Ali and earning draws with Adrien Broner and Thomas Dulorme. He's not an elite level fighter, by any stretch, but he does seem to be competitive against fellow contenders, and is a 2-weight world champion who is likely to get another world title fight in the near future.
Amir Khan (33-4, 20)
English speedster Amir Khan may get some love and some serious hate but it's hard not to be entertained by the incredibly quick, yet flawed, fighter. Khan made his name in the Olympics before making his debut at a young age, and despite some set backs he would go on to unify titles at Light Welterweight claim various minor titles at Welterweight then challenger for the WBC Middleweight title. Whether you love him or hate him it's hard not to respect Khan who has beaten the likes of Andriy Kotelnik, Marcos Maidana, Zab Judah, Luis Collazo and Devon Alexander. At his best he looks amazing, but it only takes one good shot to derail Khan, as we've seen several times during his rollercoaster career.
Jeff Horn (19-1-1, 13)
At the moment it's unclear which division Australian fighter Jeff Horn will fight at next, but we dare say his best weight at 147lbs, the division that he has held the WBO Welterweight title at. He's a decent boxer-puncher who has scored wins over the likes of Randall Bailey, Funeka, Anthony Mundine, and of course Manny Pacquiao. Although his win over Pacquiao was deemed controversial by some, to others it seemed to show how far Pacquiao had slipped. Horn's reign as the world champion was a short lived one, coming to end in his second defense, against Terence Crawford, but he certainly is still a contender and we suspect he will get another world title fight, though he has spoken about fighting anywhere from Welterweight to Middleweight.
Adrien Broner (33-3-1-1, 24)
Once touted as the future star of American boxing Adrien Broner has become more well known for out of the ring issues than in the ring performances. Dubbed "The Problem", Broner's problem has been attitude and the perception that he is a special talent. On paper his accomplishments stack up well, as he's a 4-weight world champion, winning titles at 130, 135, 140 and 147, but the reality is that he's never made any division his division and has lost to his best opponents, such as Marcos Maidana, Shawn Porter and Mikey Garcia. If he had the mentality of a true fighter Broner would be star, with his divisive personality, but his inability to performance and reluctance to actually fight, as well as numerous out of the ring issues, have destroyed his once promising career. At the age of 29 he is set for a must win bout on January 19th when he faces Manny Pacquiao for the WBA "regular" title. Another loss there and it's really hard to see where goes.
Lamont Peterson (35-4-1, 17)
Another of the multi-weight world champions in the chasing pack at Welterweight is Lamont Peterson, who looks like he will be in his own must win bout next time out. Peterson is 34, soon to be 35, and had a relatively interesting rise through the Light Welterweight ranks until losing to Timoth Bradley back in 2009. Since then he has been a fixture in, and around, the world title scene. He fought to a draw with Victory Ortiz, scored wins over Amir Khan, Kendall Holt, Dierry Jean, Felix Diaz and David Avensyan, was stopped by both Lucas Matthysse and Errol Spence and narrowly decisioned by Danny Garcia. On March 24th he will battle Sergey Lipinets in what looks like a must win bout if he's to prolong his career and earn one more world title shot.
Sergey Lipinets (14-1, 10)
Heavy handed Russian-Kazakh Sergey Lipinets is best known for winning the IBF title at 140lbs, where he over-came Akihiro Kondo in a brilliant contest, and he is now looking to further build his name whilst fighting at 147lbs, following a loss to Mikey Garcia. Lipinets is a tough, steady fighter, with heavy hands, a good work rate and under-rated skills. Sadly though he is a bit basic and one-paced at times and despite being a very talented, fighter there is a feeling that the Welterweight division won't suit him, given the natural size advantages the division's top guys have over him. His upcoming, March 24th, should tell us a lot about what he has to offer us at Welterweight.
Alexander Besputin (12-0, 9)
Former Russian amateur stand out Alexander Besputin has raced into becoming a contender following his debut in December 2015. The 27 year old has taken steady steps up in class and has already defeats the likes of Breidis Prescott, a then 20-0 Juan Ruiz, Alan Sanchez and Juan Carlos Abreu. If he continues on his current trajectory he'll face a fellow contender this year and either be on the verge of a world title fight by the end of this year, even maybe even have had one. There is talk of him being in the running for a bout with Terence Crawford, and we really wouldn't be surprised by that bout coming off, sooner or later.
Kerman Lejarraga (27-0, 22)
Spanish destroyer Kerman Lejarraga was a bit of a Spanish secret until recently. His first 21 bouts all took place in Spain, and saw him battle against a mixture of journeymen and lesser known fighters, such as Laszlo Toth and Kim Poulsen. That changed in 2017, when he made his US debut and stopped Jose Antonio Abreu, and since then he has claimed the European title, stopping Bradley Skeete, and defended it against Frankie Gavin. There is crudeness to the "Pistol" but his power, work rate, physical strength and self belief will make him very hard to handle at this level. There is a feeling that the world champions are always going to be more skilled, but he is certainly a threat to anyone at 147lbs, if he can land cleanly.
Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (15-0, 9)
Unbeaten Uzbek Kudratillo Abdukakhorov is a 25 year old who has shown a lot of promise, but has seen his career stall recently. He debuted in late 2015 and seemed to be on the fast track after big wins in 2016 and 2017, defeating the likes of Adones Cabalquinto, Charles Manyuchi and Dmitry Mikhaylenko. Sadly in 2018 he failed to build on those wins with just a couple of low key bouts. He was supposedly pencilled in to face Keita Obara this month, but that bout appears to have fallen through and his immediate future is now unclear. He's still young, talented, a good boxer-mover but he'll need to get things back up and running soon if he's to make the most of his potential.
Keita Obara (20-3-1, 18)
Japan's heavy handed Keita Obara is a fighter who has a very suspect chin, as we've seen several times before, but is a very hard hitting boxer-puncher. His belief in his power outweighs his doubt in his chin and it's clear he will back himself in a shoot out, which is one reason why he has been so much fun to follow. Sadly he's best known for being part of a bizarre double knockdown in a loss to Alvin Lagumbay and for being knocked out of the ring by Eduard Troyanovsky. He was supposedly meant to face Kudratillo Abdukakhorov earlier in January, but the show fell through. Despite the original date with Abdukakhorov falling through the bout isn't dead in the water and we'd certainly love to see the two face off, especially given that the bout was supposed to be an IBF eliminator.
Egidijus Kavaliauskas (21-0, 17)
It's rare to see real talent emerge from Lithuania but in "Mean Machine" Egidijus Kavaliauskas the country has someone work talking about. The unbeaten 30 year old, who has been a professional since 2013, has slowly developed through the ranks and is now on the verge of a world title fight. During his career he has scored a number of solid wins, stopping David Avanesyan, taking a decision over Juan Carlos Abreu and beating a number of previously unbeaten fighters. Sadly he does appear to have reached his ceiling and it looks like he is just short of being a real top tier fighter, though hopefully we do see him fighting for a world title this year, as it's unlikely he will improve any further.
It is not often that I will write about things from outside of the Asian boxing world but today I have not been able to restrain myself. It is rare but it is about something I feel needs to be said.
Today we saw "The moment" the biggest American boxing show of the year and one of the biggest in recent years. It was sold on PPV in America for up to $74.99 and may well have done more to harm boxing than to anything else. In fact if anything it could well turn fans away from the sport.
The first issues arose in the show's first bout, a contest between Marco Antonio Periban and J'Leon Love. The referee for that bout was refereed by Jay Nady who made a serious mistake in allowing Love to take multiple shots when he was out on his feet. In other countries, notably Britain, that fight would have been stopped. He then followed that mistake up by allowing Periban to land several shots on Love when Love did eventually go down. Both of these issues came in round 5.
As well as the mistakes in round 5, by the referee, we then saw some confusing judging with a peculiar score of 95-93 handed in by David Sutherland. This would insinuate that their was either a 10-7 round or two 10-8's. Don't get me wrong neither of those are technically out of the question but both would appear some what peculiar given the action of the fight.
A second peculiar score in the bout was the 97-92 in favour of Love by Lisa Giampa. She effectively gave Love everything but the round he was knocked down in and 1 other.
I have no issues with Love winning, but those cards need close scrutiny. A 96-93, as handed in by Glenn Trowbridge, or a 95-94 card in favour of Love would have been in the "correct" range of scores.
We also saw a cut, on Periban, that changed the fight. Unfortunately it appeared to come from an elbow, an elbow that was missed by Jay Nady. It wouldn't have necessarily changed the bout that much but it could have been very significant had the bout been ended due to the cut.
In the second bout we from bad to worse. This bout saw former 3-weight world champion Adrien Broner put on a less than stellar performance against the limited and light hitting Carlos Molina. Broner was very slow out of the gate and appeared to lose at least 2, if not 3, of the opening rounds. He later threw Molina to the canvas in what seemed a clear foul that deserved a point deduction.
Despite clearly losing a number of the early rounds, and some of the later rounds being swing rounds, Broner managed to win with the ridiculously wide cards or 98-92, 99-91 and 100-90. Those cards, handed in by Patricia Morse Jarman, Richard Ocasio and Levi Martinez, respectively, were terrible. It was as if they didn't even watch the fight. Broner was never in trouble but he was losing rounds based on his lack of activity and that should have been reflected on the cards which at the widest should have been 97-93 for Broner, though I have seem some suggesting a 95-95 draw, which actually is closer to reality than the shut out from Levi Martinez.
Unfortunately I'd have loved the scoring to have been the only gripe I had with the Broner bout but sadly it wasn't. After the fight Broner was his typical brash self and over-stepped the mark by saying that the contest was like "sparring". If you want fans to pay big money to see you, they don't want you to treat it like a sparring bout. If they have paid big money, like they have here, to see you pretty much sparring with a limited opponent this time around it's likely they will avoid the next PPV you're on, and maybe even the next PPV full stop. An issues that should really annoy both your promoted and the network carrying the fight and paying you the inflated purse.
The third show was the most interesting bout on paper as Amir Khan took on Luis Collazo. This bout was one many, including myself, were backing Collazo to come out victorious in. I'll hold my hands up and say well done to Amir for a very good victory and one that showed he belonged in the top 10 or so fighters at Welterweight.
Unfortunately the bout was marred with holding, low blows, elbows and, once again, poor officiating. Referee Vic Drakulich allowed Khan off with an awful lot of holding before taking a point, whilst Khan was in trouble for possibly the only time in the fight. Later Khan was holding, leaning on the head of Collazo and utilising headlocks that all went unpunished in a bout that seemed to suggest Drakulich hadn't managed to keep control of the issues that really thwarted the second half of the contest.
If the holding by Khan was bad then the main event was also blighted by the same issue with Floyd Mayweather Jr holding regularly in his disputed victory over Marcos Maidana. Both men traded low blows and both men bent the rules on a regular basis, though the referee often turned a blind eye the fouls by Mayweather to admonish Maidana.
Thankfully the actual action and fight made up for the questionable tactics of both. In fact the fight was thrilling through out with Maidana starting like a steam train, Mayweather fighting back hard in the middle of the fight then both trying to close the show late. It was close with each men clearly winning some rounds and some rounds being up for debate. Unfortunately for one judge, Burt A. Clements, the bout seemed one sided as he turned in a 117-111 score card. Effectively Clements had suggested Mayweather had won 9 of the 12 rounds, something that seemed almost impossible.
Mayweather managed to take a majority decision over all with Dave Moretti scoring the contest 116-112 to Mayweather and Michael Pernick scoring the bout a draw at 114-114. I'd suggest 113-115 , 114-114 or 115-113 would have been the right "range" of scores.
Whilst we did get a great fight in the Mayweather/Maidana one I know, looking back, the show wasn't worth the $74.99 that US customers were charged for it. We had great bout but we had awful officiating through out, we have a man admit that he was fighting a sparring partner, we had an insanely high price and maybe most tellingly we had several fighters being paid far more than they should have, which in tern caused the price for the PPV to be so much.
Mayweather earned a minimum of $32,000,000, Maidana, Khan and Broner earned between $1,000,000 and $2,000,000. Khan and Maidana certainly earned every penny they got, though Broner really did rip off the paying public and admitted as much. This certainly left a bad taste in my mouth and I didn't pay the ridiculously high price for the fight with it being televised in the UK as part of the subscription based Boxnation.
This actually brings me, nicely, to my next point. World title bouts in Japan are usually televised on free to air TV, the same also applies in Thailand. This coming Wednesday fans in Japan will get the chance to see some world title action with TBS televising two world title fights at peak time with no bumper payment. I'm not saying the Japanese way is right but but many of these fights on this PPV were not worth being on a PPV card, in fact 3 were of a similar level, in terms of match up, to what one would see on ESPN on the under-card of a free card.
For me the PPV model depends on the show being an advert of the sport. A good PPV lures in an audience, lets fans see what professional boxing is about and should be used to make fans come back again. It should be exciting, it should be fun to watch fighters together and feature bouts that will get the heart pumping. Instead this show may well have done more harm than good. Many will question the legitimacy of the judging whilst others will be wondering whether or not they should be paying top dollar for the likes of Broner, Love, Periban, Molina and Collazo.
I'm not going to say stop buying PPV's, that'd be silly, but I do recommend that you, who pay for it, question the quality of what you're getting. For me this show needed a second big bout, not a couple of show case contests.
(Image courtesy of Golden Boy Promotions and Showtime)
Takahiro Onaga is a regular contributor to Asian Boxing and will now be a featured writer in his own column where his takes his shot at various things in the boxing world.