The Welterweight scene is an interesting one, though it's not got the most established or notable contenders out there. It has some well-known names, some emerging names, but little in terms of bankable contenders for the champions. On the other hand the division does look set for a shake up, and that is exciting.
Shawn Porter (30-3-1, 17)
The 32 year old Shawn Porter is one of the few really established contenders in the division. The former world champion is a nightmare to fighter with a high work rate, solid power, an impressive gas tanks and a real willingness to just take the fight to anyone. His chin isn't cast iron, and he has been down a couple of times, but it's rare to actually see him hurt and he's always gotten back up to continue giving opponents hell. Technically not the best, but with bull like strength Porter is not an easy out for anyone.
Danny Garcia (36-2, 21)
Another former world champion is Danny Garcia, who is another notable contender in the division. Garcia is a talented but someone who has really frustrated fans, as we saw recently in his win over Ivan Redkach. At his best he's genuinely world class, tough, and has a very heavy left hook. At his worst however he's predictable, and faces some pretty poor competition between his big bouts. With wins against the likes of Amir Khan, Lucas Matthysse, Erik Morales and Lamont Peterson he's certainly got a good resume, but at Welterweight he does lack an A tier win and has lost to 2 of the more notable fighters at the weight.
Keith Thurman (29-1-0-1, 22)
The final of the real big name contenders is 31 year old boxer-puncher Keith Thurman. Sadly Thurman's career has been rather a wasted one with the charismatic "One Time" being plagued by inactivity and injury. Last time out he was beaten by Manny Pacquiao. At his best Thurman was regarded as a top level talent, with the potential to be a genuine star. Sadly with just 4 fights since the start of 2016 his career really has failed to become what many had hoped. Although he has scored wins against Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia, two huge wins, his inactivity has really been a massive problem, and it's unclear when he'll be back in the ring.
Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (17-0, 9)
Unbeaten Uzbek Kudratillo Abdukakhorov is one of a number of contenders who is on the verge of a potential break out. The Top Rank promoted 26 year old is the IBF mandatory challenger and is expected to get his first world title fight later this year, with an IBF "interim" title bout being ordered for him. Although not the most exciting fighter out there Abdukakhorov is a talented boxer, with sharp punches, decent hand speed and a good boxing brain. Sadly however he does have a lack of power, which is likely to be an issue against the divisional elite. He's now gone the distance in 5 of his last 6 and we do wonder whether or not the top fighters will simply walk him down over 12 rounds.
Sergey Lipinets (16-1, 12)
Once beaten Kazakh born Russian Sergey Lipinets is the man that Abdukakhorov will likely be facing for the IBF interim title, with the IBF ordering the two men to face off. Lipinets is a former world champion at 140lbs who has moved up to Welterweight following a loss to Mikey Garcia back in 2018. He didn't look good on his debut at the weight, but a stoppage win over Lamont Peterson last year put him instantly in the mix and it's going to be very interesting to see what the 30 year old Russian can do this year. He's rugged, strong, powerful and heavy handed. Maybe not the biggest or most skilled, but still a genuine handful.
Vergil Ortiz Jr (15-0, 15)
Fast rising American youngster Virgil Ortiz Jr is a real one to watch, and at just 21 years old his future is really bright. So far the power punching youngster has only had 38 rounds as a professional but has already blasted through the likes of Mauricio Herrera, Antonio Orozco and Brad Solomon. Expect 2020 to be the year where Ortiz announces himself as a top contender, though may just miss out on a world title fight this year. If he's not managed a world title fight in 2020 he'll almost certainly be getting one in 2021. A real star in the making and the man who is likely to be a major part of the US boxing scene over the next decade or so.
Yordenis Ugas (24-4, 11)
It's rare to have exciting Cuban in the sport right now but Yordenis Ugas certainly does fit the role of exciting Cuban. The 33 year old is exciting, talented, aggressive and willing to test himself against the best without airs or graces. His record isn't the best but he has given everyone he's faced fits, whilst notching wins against the likes of Jamal James, Levan Ghvamichava, Thomas Dulorme, Ray Robinson and Omar Figueroa Jr. Last year he came up just short against Shawn Porter and has done enough to remain in the mix with another potential title fight later this year. First up for him will be a bout in February with Mike Dallas Jr, in what is a clear stay busy fight.
Gabriel Maestre (2-0, 2)
It might seem incredibly premature to be talking about Gabriel Maestre as a contender but the 33 year old Venezuelan is here on merit. The former amateur stand out made his professional debut in July and knew he had to move quickly. As an amateur he's a 2-time Olympian and as a professional he has already beaten the then 20-0 Jeovanis Barraza and the 27-5-1 Deigo Gabriel Chaves. Those wins have seen Maestre jump into the WBA top 15 and he's very much in the mix for a title fight in the near future. At 33 he really doesn't have time, and watching him more towards a title fight will be a lot of fun.
Jaron Ennis (25-0, 23)
The US really does have some great fighters making their mark at 147lbs. Already is Vergil Ortiz Jr and here we have Jaron Ennis. The 22 year old "Boots" has struggled with getting serious backing, but that looks likely to change this year and he was really impressive earlier this year when he beat Kazakh Bakhtiyar Eyubov. Ennis looks like a star in the making, and he can box or fight. He looks like a real star for the future and with 25 bouts already under his belt he's now ready for a big break out. We wouldn't be surprised if he, like Ortiz, had to wait until 2021 for a world title fight, but by then boxing fans will be talking about him, and will be very excited to see him get a shot at the big time.
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.