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Analysis: The welterweight division

Manny Pacquiao
Matt Christie analyses one of the most highly rated weight classes in the sport - the welterweight division

10. Ray Robinson (USA)
Record: 24-3-2 (12) Age: 34 Height: 5ft 10ins
The American felt pressure the moment he walked into a boxing gym for the first time as an eight-year-old Ray Robinson (his birthname). “The New” Ray Robinson he might be, but you’re more likely to get a flying bat confused with a cricket bat than you are the Philadelphian with his legendary namesake. The crafty southpaw has lost to Shawn Porter and Yordenis Ugas but in his two most recent bouts the fancied Egidijus Kavaliauskas and Josh Kelly were denied with draws.

STRENGTHS: Ring-wise and savvy, Robinson takes the sting out of his opponent’s firepower with movement and excellent counterpunching skills.

WEAKNESSES: His reliance on his reactions and speed results in him getting tagged regularly. His lack of one-punch power doesn’t help.

BEST PERFORMANCE: Though he has looked better against lesser opposition, Robinson showcased why he’s so effective during the draw with Kelly.

WORST PERFORMANCE: Was outfought and out-boxed by 8-0 Brad Soloman in 2009.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: The ESPN film on Robinson – who beat Terence Crawford as an amateur – is worth a watch to further your education on his never-say-die character.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? He would start as a heavy underdog against all above him.

Ray Robinson

9. Egidijus Kavaliauskas (LTU)
Record: 21-1-1 (17) Age: 31 Height: 5ft 9 ins
The heavy-handed Lithuanian was not disgraced while losing to Terence Crawford in nine rounds in December, even having his moments in the early going before being stopped. An accomplished amateur who claimed bronze at the 2011 Worlds, where he stopped Cardiff’s Fred Evans along the way, he turned professional after losing to Evans in the first round of the Olympics the following year. Kavaliauskas is a solid contender.

STRENGTHS: When allowed to set his feet, “Mean Machine” lives up to his nickname. His right hand, either thrown straight or as a hook, is a tasty weapon.

WEAKNESSES: Can appear one-dimensional. As Crawford and to a lesser extent Robinson exhibited, he struggles with speed and smarts.

BEST PERFORMANCE: Stopping David Avanesyan in six rounds in 2018 highlighted his prowess.

WORST PERFORMANCE: Though several ringsiders felt he edged it, the draw against Robinson was disappointing.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: The battle with Crawford was entertaining throughout.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? Has the punch to trouble anyone and with Top Rank behind him, he can be moved towards another title shot. Long shot that he actually wins a belt, though.

Terence Crawford
Mikey Williams/Top Rank

8. Yordenis Ugas (CUB)
Record: 25-4 (12) Age: 33 Height: 5ft 9ins
Ugas stole headlines as an amateur when he netted bronze aged just 16 at the Cuban Nationals then won gold at the Worlds two years later. The professional ranks have been cruel. Each of his four losses came via contentious decisions, most notably to Shawn Porter in March 2019. The Cuban will get more chances, though: He is the WBA’s No.1 contender and the WBC place him at No.3.

STRENGTHS: His Cuban heritage shines through in his versatility; a better puncher than his KO percentage would attest, Ugas is comfortable throwing short hooks on the inside or long looping blows from range.

WEAKNESSES: Not afraid of taking one to land two, Ugas can make fights more competitive than they need to be.

BEST PERFORMANCE: Bouncing back from the Porter disappointment to hand Omar Figueroa his first loss.

WORST PERFORMANCE: A lacklustre Ugas struggled during a 10-round points loss to Amir Imam in 2014.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: Both Ugas and Thomas Dulorme hauled themselves off the canvas in 2017 during their entertaining 10-rounder.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? Of those beneath the illustrious leaders, Ugas is the most capable of breaking in by springing a surprise. But at 33, and with a lifetime of boxing behind him, he may need to move quickly.

Shawn Porter
Sean Michael Ham/TGB Promotions

7. Keith Thurman (USA)
Record: 29-1 (22) Age: 31 Height: 5ft 7 1/2in
Once mentioned as Floyd Mayweather’s possible successor, Thurman has spent much of the last four years battling the kind of injuries that spell the end for athletes. He looked unimpressive when he came back at the start of last year to edge Josesito Lopez and followed that by being convincingly outpointed by Manny Pacquiao in July. The road back is full of obstacles – not least his own body – but opportunities may arise now he’s viewed as damaged goods.

STRENGTHS: At his best, Thurman can combine aggressiveness with elusiveness. Fast and powerful, his lead right hand can break through defences when thrown with care.

WEAKNESSES: Wear and tear to his joints appear to have robbed him of his speed.

BEST PERFORMANCE: His 2015 thrashing of Luis Collazo.

WORST PERFORMANCE: Thurman should get credit for making it back, but the January 2019 win over Lopez was riddled with ring rust.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: Avoid the countless videos of him calling out every man and his dog and instead watch him outclass and break down Jesus Soto Karass in 2013.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? Currently in the process of bickering with Adrien Broner with view to earning a nice payday, Thurman’s career is far from over but it appears his best days are.

welterweight
Stephanie Trapp/TGB

6. Mikey Garcia (USA)
Record: 40-1 (30) Age: 32 Height: 5ft 6ins
Mikey Garcia’s reputation, built from winning alphabet belts for fun in four weight classes, plummeted when Errol Spence Jnr – a natural welterweight – dominated their 2019 showdown. The fans’ reaction to that one-sided loss was cruel; he wasn’t the first boxer to aim too high. Logic dictated that Garcia would step back down in his next bout. However, the big money opportunities remain at 147 and so does he.

STRENGTHS: There are few better boxers out there than Garcia. A master at closing the distance and working on the inside, he invites errors from his opponents and punishes them swiftly.

WEAKNESSES: He is not a natural welter. It has slowed him down and made him easier to hit. It was obvious while beating Jessie Vargas in February.

BEST PERFORMANCE: Pick any one from the consecutive thrashings of Orlando Salido, Juan Manuel Lopez and Roman Martinez in 2013.

WORST PERFORMANCE: Couldn’t get anywhere near the brilliant Spence last year.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: The violent finish of Dejan Zlaticanin in 2017 is worthy of a spot on any highlight reel.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? Though nobody should blame Garcia for staying at welter to chase the big money, it makes his quest for another belt difficult.

Mikey Garcia
Scott Hirmano/SHOWTIME

5. Danny Garcia (USA)
Record: 36-2 (21) Age: 32 Height: 5ft 8ins
Danny Garcia, once one of the brightest young champions in the sport, might now be facing a slow decline at the age of 32. Probably at his best at 140lbs, where he defeated Amir Khan, Erik Morales, Zab Judah and Lucas Matthysse, Garcia – despite periods of inactivity – has nonetheless developed into a welterweight too good for all but the very best.

STRENGTHS: Though more patient and less gung-ho than he used to be, that left hook of his remains a formidable punch.

WEAKNESSES: His clumsy footwork has been exposed several times, both in victory and defeat. A fighter who boxes and moves particularly well is problematic for Garcia.

BEST PERFORMANCE: The hard-fought 2013 victory over a still-dangerous Mattysse on the undercard of Floyd Mayweather-Canelo Alvarez in Las Vegas.

WORST PERFORMANCE: Very fortunate to get the decision over Mauricio Herrera, who highlighted how beatable Garcia can look against the wrong style.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: The seek and destroy manner in which he defeated Amir Khan.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? The Philadelphian remains a marketable foe for the leaders yet would be given little chance against Spence Jnr or Crawford. Even so, his place in the top 10 is secure for the time being.

Danny Garcia
Nabeel Ahmad/Premier Boxing Champions

5. Manny Pacquiao (PHL)
Record: 62-7-2 (13) Age: 41 Height: 5ft 5 1/2in
Considering that Pacquiao turned professional 25 years ago and has been written off several times during the last 10 of those, it’s a genuine miracle that he can still operate at this level. But Pacquiao is here on merit. Since Floyd Mayweather beat him in 2015, he’s won five of six against fighters like Timothy Bradley, Jessie Vargas, Adrien Broner and Keith Thurman. A phenomenon.

STRENGTHS: Though his power has faded he remains a formidable attacking force with the ability to put the kind of combinations together few other fighters in history can match.

WEAKNESSES: Despite his successes, has been carefully matched in recent years. Taking on someone at their peak, like Spence or Crawford, might be something of a shock to the veteran’s system.

BEST PERFORMANCE: The night he terrorised Ricky Hatton in May 2009.

WORST PERFORMANCE: Always struggled to produce his best against old rival Juan Manuel Marquez.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: Fascinating to watch his early fight. The 1998 win over Chatchai Sasakul is worth revisiting.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? Of the three men above him, you’d give him a chance against Porter but little against the other two. The miracle man is surely close to the end.

welterweight

3. Shawn Porter (USA)
Record: 30-3-1 (17) Age: 32 Height: 5ft 7ins
Though Porter has lost his biggest fights (and he would argue he didn’t deserve to lose a single one of them), the Las Vegas resident is perhaps the most consistent fighter in the Top 10. Nobody could ever accuse Porter of not giving his all nor of shirking a challenge. His aggression makes him a handful for all, and his self-belief and dedication should be an example to all aspiring young boxers.

STRENGTHS: When he swarms it’s not always pretty but it’s nearly always effective – either the opponent is overrun or forced into the kind of fight they don’t want.

WEAKNESSES: Styles so unkempt are susceptible to being outboxed and Porter – if you’re good enough – leaves enough holes to take advantage.

BEST PERFORMANCE: Outscoring Danny Garcia in 2018.

WORST PERFORMANCE: Seemed to be trying new things, at the expense of what truly makes him effective, while edging past Yordenis Ugas over 12 rounds last March.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: The stirring scrap with Errol Spence Jnr was one of the best fights of last year.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? One of the few fighters out there you’d pick to give Crawford and Spence a hard time but that’s as far as it goes for the Las Vegas-based warrior.

Errol Spence vs Shawn Porter
Stephanie Trapp/TGB Promotions

2. Terence Crawford (USA)
Record: 36-0 (27) Age: 32 Height: 5ft 8ins
It really is a crying shame that a boxer of Crawford’s talents is yet to meet an opponent capable of bringing out the best in him. Though the southpaw’s record is immaculate and decorated with decent names, he hasn’t fought a single rival given any chance of beating him since he won his first world belt in 2014. That’s why a failure to meet Errol Spence Jnr would be unforgivable.

STRENGTHS: How long have you got? The hand and foot speed, the ability to switch stances, the power and spite and the manner he adapts mid-fight to break down his more stubborn rivals.

WEAKNESSES: Has occasionally looked uncomfortable when under pressure. At 32, one wonders much how longer his peak will last.

BEST PERFORMANCE: Turned his unification match with Julius Indongo – previously unbeaten – into the most savage of mismatches.

WORST PERFORMANCE: Though Amir Khan was criticised for failing to continue last April, Crawford didn’t exactly cover himself in glory by securing victory with a blatant low blow.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: The battle with Yuriorkis Gamboa was competitive for a few rounds.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? Fighting the man above him in the rankings should be his only priority.

Terence Crawford
Mikey Williams/Top Rank

1. Errol Spence (USA)
Record: 26-0 (21) Age: 30 Height: 5ft 9 1/2ins
Spence Jnr’s career hit a dramatic pause when he was thrown out of his car at high speed last year. Though he made a full recovery, reports that Spence had been drinking before crashing his car soon surfaced and concerns over his future soared. One hopes the incident provided the wake-up call required because, from all the evidence we have so far, Spence is a special talent.

STRENGTHS: A southpaw with a piston jab is always a problem. He can also boast exceptional movement and a fast and potent left hand.

WEAKNESSES: Porter made life for Spence – so used to dictating the pace and distance – exceptionally uncomfortable on the inside.

BEST PERFORMANCE: The IBF title-winning effort against Kell Brook, in the champion’s backyard, was hard not be impressed by.

WORST PERFORMANCE: That aforementioned struggle with Porter almost cost him his title and unbeaten record.

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: The manner in which he knocked out Leonard Bundu.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO? Though he’s at No.1 by virtue of his win over Brook (who was the BN leader at the time), only a victory over Crawford will allow him to gain universal recognition as the best welterweight on the planet.

Errol Spence

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