In recent memory the only division which has attracted attention similar to the Heavyweight division has been the Welterweight division, which has created a lot of buzz in recent times with several of the top names in the sport fighting there. Today the division is certainly an interesting one, but one where the obvious massive fights aren't being made.
WBA "super" - Manny Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39)
The biggest name in the division is WBA "Super" champion Manny Pacquiao, who rolled back the clock last year when he defeated both Adrien Broner and Keith Thurman. The now 41 year old Filipino certainly has the clock ticking down on his career, but we suspect that until he loses again he's pretty the man that everyone in the division wants. He's not the mega star he once was, but he's still the biggest name in the division, and the one true PPV fighter at Welterweight. Essentially he's the one guy who can pick who fights, when he fights.
WBC and IBF - Errol Spence (26-0, 21)
Unified champion Errol Spence is widely regarded by fans and media in America despite having a relatively thin resume. His best wins have been over Kel Brook, Shawn Porter and a very under-sized Mikey Garcia. Whilst not bad, it does lack depth. In 2019 Spence was involved in a series traffic accident which is currently putting his career on ice, until medical and legal issues are sorted out. At the age of 30 time is on his side for a full return to the ring, and given he's a very fighter to watch, with a likeable personality the future is still bright for Spence. Fingers crossed he concentrates on his career for the next few years, then can party to his hearts content, with his finances and legacy assured.
WBO - Terence Crawford (36-0, 27)
With most of the top Welterweights over on the PBC side of the boxing street WBO champion Terence Crawford has found himself struggling to secure career defining bouts at 147lbs. Regardless his legacy is already a strong one, having won a Lightweight title, become the undisputed Light Welterweight champion and claimed a Welterweight title. As a 3 weight champion, the 32 year old "Bud" has a solid resume, and is one of the most adaptable and smart men in the ring. Able to box, brawl and punch Crawford is a fantastic fighter, but sadly his reign at Welterweight desperately needs a big fight after a string of solid but uninspired opponents.
WBA "Regular" - Alexander Besputin (14-0, 9)
At the moment the future is unclear on Russian 28 year old Alexander Besputin, who has had a drug testing anomaly in his A sample. At the moment we're awaiting the results of the B sample, and whatever investigation takes place. He impressively won the WBA "regular" title last year when he defeated Radzhab Butaev in Monaco. In the ring Besputin looks to be a lot of fun, and a bit like a discount store version of Vasyl Lomachenko, which is certainly not a complain. His drug situation is going to be a very interesting story to follow over the coming weeks.
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.