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's fair to say the recent WBO Flyweight title fight between Sho Kimura and Kosei Tanaka created a lot of buzz with fans who perhaps haven't followed the Japanese scene too well. Thankfully this has been a brilliant year for Japanese fights, even if it's been a rather disappointing one for Japanese fighters on the global scene.
For those new fans, and for those who perhaps missed some of what has gone on this year, we've decided to look at some of the very best fights in Japan these year. For the sake of this particular piece we've only included fights that were either on Japanese TV or have been made freely available via online sources. This unfortunately means that anything on boxingraise won't be included, though I do suggest that fight fans do give Boxingraise a look, as it is a fantastic service well worthy of a subscription.
This is part one of a multi-part article and will look at 5 bouts that took place from February 8th to May 7th. More parts to this will be posted in the coming weeks, so please keep your eye on for those!
February 8th - Korakuen Hall
Hiroaki Teshigawara (15-2-2, 9) vs Jason Canoy (27-7-2, 19)
Back in February Japanese brawler Hiroaki Teshigawara looked to make his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight title, as he took on tough Filipino Jason Canoy. The bout has all the ingredients of being some fun and thrilling but what we got was a bout that greatly exceeded expectations and turned out to be something exciting and very evenly matched. It wasn't the most skilled bout of the year, but it was certainly one of the most exciting, hard hitting and intense. Although both guys are very flawed they combined for an all action war that will sadly be forgetten by many when it comes to talking about the best Japanese bout of 2018.
March 18th – Portopia Hotel
Reiya Konishi (15-0, 5) vs Carlos Canizales (19-0-1, 16)
The first world title bout on this list is March's WBA Light Flyweight war between Japan's Reiya Konishi and Venezuelan Carlos Canizales. This bout was a higher level of skill than the Teshigawara Vs Canoy bout, but also combined Canizales's frightening power with Konishi's insane heart and work rate. Both men had unbeaten records going into the bout, the winner would remain unbeaten and take a world title, albeit the “regular” version. The loser would have to rebuild and it was obvious both men had a lot riding on it. This is another bout that we think could end up being forgotten by some, but with Canizales later picking up a big win over Lu Bin in China we hope fans give this a shot.
April 4th – Korakuen Hall
Mark John Yap (28-12, 14) vs Takafumi Nakajima (29-9-1, 13)
Not every great bout needs to be an all out war, and that was proven in the OPBF Bantamweight title bout between Mark John Yap, the defending champion, and Takafumi Nakajima. Although not a war it was a high skilled and intensely fought contest. This bout wasn't actually televised though A-sign boxing made it available and we're glad they did as it was a really good solid bout between two men who didn't have outstanding records but had a point to prove, and knew how valuable the OPBF title was.
April 12th – Korakuen Hall
Keita Obara (19-2-1, 17) Vs Alvin Lagumbay (9-2, 8) I
Punchers collided on April 12th to give us a shoot out. Going in Keita Obara was heavily favoured, he had previously fought for a world title and was expected to go on to another world title fight down the line. Lagumbay on the other hand had been defeated by a Japanese Lightweight just 2 fights earlier and was stepping up to Welterweight to challenge Obara for the WBO Asia Pacific title, which he had already defended once. What we got was a shot, but thrilling fight that ended in a bizarre yet eye catching fashion, that will likely end up being replayed for years to come.
May 7th – Korakuen Hall
Valentine Hosokawa (22-6-3, 9) vs Vladimir Baez (24-3-2, 22)
Another war on Asign saw Japanese Light Welterweight champion Valentine Hosokawa battle mandatory challenger Vladimir Baez, also known as Destino Japan. This bout looked even on paper though maybe was a little bit over-looked given that Hosokawa was in his mid 30's and Baez was a Japanese Dominican without much of a following in his homeland. What they delivered however was something special with both men being dropped and fans being given something to remember in what might end up being the best Japanese title fight of 2018.
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.