The Welterweight division has a really interesting, exciting, and varied collection of fighters from across the planet. In fact we don't think any other division has the national variance in prospects that the Welterweight division currently has.
If you missed our previous looks into the Welterweight division they are available here:
The state of the Division - Welterweight - The Champions
The state of the Division - Welterweight - The Contender
Thulani Mbenge (15-0, 12)
Unbeaten South African Thulani Mbenge put himself on the map in 2018. Last he went from a 12-0 (10) prospect that was best known winning the South African national title and holding a win over Jayar Inson to a 15-0 (12) fringe contender/prospect with stoppage wins over Diego Gabriel Chaves and Miguel Vazquez. Not only were his bouts shown in South Africa but he also got exposure in the UK, via Boxnation, and looks set to have another big year ahead. He's a tall, wiry, big punching fighter, who has some raw edges, but a lot of promise.
Josh Kelly (8-0, 6)
"Pretty Boy" Josh Kelly is arguably the most promising fighter in England, and is one of the most pleasing to watch fighters coming through the Welterweight division. He was a stellar amateur, who competed in numerous international competitions and won medals in things like the World Youth Championships in 2012, and the European Championships in 2015. The 24 year old is being fast tracked, and has already scored notable wins over Carlos Molina and Kris George, and was looking to fight David Avanesyan prior to an illness forcing that bout to be cancelled at late notice.
Custio Clayton (15-0, 10)
At the age of 31 Canadian fighter Custio Clayton hasn't got time to waste, and we suspect that in 2019 he will be ramping up the level of competition he's facing. He's yet to score a big win, bug has got solid victories over Cristian Rafael Coria, Johnny Navarrete and Stanislas Salmon. Clayton is aggressive, exciting, heavy-handed and very talented, with a strong amateur background. His age is the big worry when it comes to Clayton, but he has got the ability to go a long way, if his team pushes him aggressively this year.
Jaron Ennis (22-0, 20)
At the age of 21 American hopeful Jaron "Boots" Ennis is one of the most promising American fighters out there, He turned professional back in 2016 and has been incredibly busy since then, fighting 22 pro bouts in less than 3 years. Not only is he active but he's heavy-handed, and has stopped his last 12 opponents, with no one lasting more than 4 rounds with Ennis. Despite his high level of activity his competition hasn't been great, but he does have notable names on his record like Ayi Bruce, Mike Arnaoutis and Raymond Serrano. He has time on his side, a lot of ability and great power. There is so much to like about Ennis, and we expect he will become a major player over the next few years.
Kudura Kaneko (9-0, 6)
Afghan born Japanese based 20 year old Kudura Kaneko has had a remarkable rise though the Japanese domestic system since debuting in 2015. He won the Japanese Youth title in 2018 before going on to beat former national champion Toshio Arikawa in an excellent performance late in the year. Although clearly a boxing baby Arikawa is a hungry talented fighter, who hits hard and looks to be improving with every fight. We suspect he'll get a senior title bout in 2019 and then look to face decent international tests in 2020, before potentially climbing into the rankings. As with anyone who has seen war in Afghanistan it's hard to doubt the mental toughness of Kaneko and his desire to build a school in Afghanistan is something that will drive him and his career.
Jordy Weiss (21-0, 3)
Unbeaten Frenchman Jordy Weiss, "El Gitano", is a 25 year old who has already claimed the European Union Welterweight title and scored solid wins at that type of level against the likes of Steven Bloyer and Aitor Nieto. There's a long way for him to go, but he has shown plenty of promise and skills. One of the big question marks about Weiss is how he reacts to fighters walking through his shots, which will happen sooner rather than later. It seems like he won't have the power to get opponents respect at a higher level, but we have been surprised in the past and he certainly has the potential to mix on a very competitive basis on the European title scene.
Sergey Lubkovich (10-0, 7)
Fats rising Russian 23 year old Sergey Lubkovich made his debut in 2016 and already has notable wins over Jose Ocampo, Viktor Plotnikov, Karim Mayfield and Juan Ruiz. He's talented, hits hard, and looks like he has the belief of his team, who haven't tried to protect at all during his short career. He still needs a bit more maturing before taking on a true world-class fighter, but it seems inevitable that he will fight at world level sooner rather than later, and there's a good chance, given his age, that he does pick up a title down the line.
Gor Yeritsyan (9-0, 8)
Scary hard hitting Armenian fighter Gor Yeritsyan is one of the division's "hidden gem" fighters. He made his debut in May 2017 and has fought all but 1 of his fights in Russia, hiding away on cards that Western fans may not have seen. Despite being hidden from most fans Yeritsyan has scored notable wins over Ali Funeka, Jose Luis Prieto and Alvin Lagumbay. With 5 bouts in 2018 his team have kept him busy and if he continues that level of activity in 2019 there's a real chance he will crash into the world rankings by the end of the year.
Eimantas Stanionis (7-0, 5)
Baby faced Lithuainian fighter Eimantas Stanionis debuted in 2017 and has climbed up the rankings gradually, with a huge win last August over Levan Ghvamichava being the pick of his victories. Aged 24 Stanionis has time on his side and has a strong amateur background, that saw him reaching the second round of the 2016 Olympics. Based in Oxnard it's clear Stanionis has got top sparring and training on offer and there is real potential for 2019 to be a big break out year for him.
Daniyar Yeleussinov (5-0, 3)
Unbeaten Kazakh fighter Daniyar Yeleussinov is a 27 year Matchroom promoted southpaw who won Olympic gold in 2016 and has over-come some early career problems. Originally Yeleussinov didn't look suited to the professional side of boxing, but impressive performances against Matt Doherty and Marcos Mojica have seen Yeleussinov show amazing improvements and the plan for 2019 is for him to fight in his first title bouts. An announcement on his next bout is expected shortly and there is real expectations on his shoulders to continue to shine following his last two wins.
Jon Miguez (9-0, 5)
Spanish hope Jon Miguez, the "Goodboy", is a 22 year old who has shown promise but is still finding his feet in terms of competition. He took a good step up in class last time out, against Abdessamad Nechchad and looks to be stepping up again in early 2019, taking on Vasyl Kurasov in February. A win there should help Miguez find his feet at a new level and hopefully he'll continue moving forward through the rest of the year. He's still not developed his man strength, but has scored a stoppage over durable Spanish based Nicaraguan Miguel Aguilar and clearly has sting on his punches, even if he's not a KO artist.
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.
One of the most highly regarded and celebrated divisions in the sport right now is the Welterweight division, which has some of the biggest names in it, and some of the most recognisable fighters in it. It also has major issues with actual match making, and almost all the champions have got less than amazing match ups lined up for the first half of 2019.
Shawn Porter (29-2-1, 17) - WBC (0 defenses)
Rough and tumble American fighter Shawn Porter won the WBC title last September, winning an ultra competitive bout with Danny Garcia to become a 2-time world champion. Sadly the win over Garcia was his only bout in 2018, and he has only fought 4 times since the start of 2016, losing one of those bouts to Keith Thurman. With 2 losses to his name we know he's not unbeatable, but he's exciting, heavy handed and enjoys a fight. During his career he has faced a relative who's who including Devon Alexander, Paulie Malignaggi, Kell Brook, Adrien Broner, Keith Thurman, Andre Berto and Danny Garcia. He'll be back in the ring on March 9th to defend his title against the unbeaten Yordenis Ugas.
Errol Spence (24-0, 21) - IBF (2 defenses)
The unbeaten Errol Spence is one of the real rising stars of American boxing and was regarded as one of the top Welterweights before he took the IBF crown from Kell Brook in May 2017. He was a standout amateur who has became a major offensive force in the professional ranks. He's aggressive, exciting, has a personality that will keep fans onside and a real desire to show what he can do in the ring. Sadly he's not been mega active, with just 3 fights in 2017 and 2018 combined, but he has been fighting at a high level with wins against the likes of Chris Algieri, Leonardo Bundo, Kell Brook, Lamont Peterson. He's stopped his last 11 opponents and is a real threat to anyone in the division. His next defense comes on March 9th, when he takes on Lightweight champion Mikey Garcia.
Terence Crawford (34-0, 25) - WBO (1 defense)
The sensational switch hitting Terence Crawford is a 3-weight champion and arguably the #1 pound-for-pound fighter on the planet. At Lightweight he dominated the likes of Ricky Burns and Raymundo Beltran before moving up in weight and unifying all 4 titles at Light Welterweight, defeating the likes of Thomas Dulorme, Henry Lundy, Viktor Postol and Julius Indongo. He moved up in weight last year and popped the cherry's of both Jeff Horn and Jose Benevidez Jr, and showed that he may finally be at his best weight. He's a slippery skilled fighter, who has under-rated power, exceptional skills and speed and is one of the most naturally talented fighters in the sport. His next defense if set for April against Amir Khan, in a bout that has the fell of a stay busy defense, rather than a reputation enhancing one.
Keith Thurman (28-0-0-1, 22) WBA "Super" (0 defenses)
Highly regarded American Keith Thurman has become one of the most frustrating fighters in the sport today. He's a brilliantly talented boxer-puncher with fantastic charisma but the activity that makes fans question whether or not he is an active fighter. He was last in the ring in March 2017 and has once fought 4 times since the start of 2015. He is a former WBA "interim", WBA "regular" and WBC champion, though was stripped of the WBC title due to lack of activity. We're not currently aware of any fighter, in the sport, who still holds a world title after 22 months of inactivity but the WBA do seem to have been very nice in not stripping Thurman. Thankfully he is set to make his ring return on January 26th, it's just unfortunately going to be against Josesito Lopez. Lopez was a great fighter back in the day but he has fought just 3 times since being stopped by Andre Berto in 2015! The situation with Thurman very much feels like the WBA have played politics due to his popularity. We like him, but he shouldn't have been able to hold up the top WBA title for so long without fighting.
Manny Pacquiao (60-7-2, 39) WBA "regular" (0 defenses)
Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao is still going strong at the age of 40. The former multi-weight world champion the WBA "regular" Welterweight title in July 2017, when he beat Lucas Matthysse in 7 rounds in Malaysia. That was Pacquiao's first bout in over a year, following his loss to Jeff Horn in 2017. He's not the fighter he was in his pomp, destroying the likes of Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto, but is still one of the biggest names in the sport. It's hard to know what he has left, but he did look sharp stopping Matthysse and will be looking to show that there is a lot more life in the old dog later this month, when he takes on the controversial Adrien Broner, on January 19th. At his best he was destrutive little fireball with incredible power, speed and unpredictable movement, as he's gotten older he's had to depend more on his boxing ability, and whilst that's solid he's certainly not closer to the fighter he once was.
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.