Ranking the 10 Best Boxers in the Loaded Welterweight Division

Kevin McRae@@McRaeWritesFeatured ColumnistAugust 18, 2014

Ranking the 10 Best Boxers in the Loaded Welterweight Division

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    Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez. 

    That might look like the top-tier of someone's pound-for-pound list, but that's just a start when it comes to the loaded 147-pound division.

    The welterweights are where it's at in boxing these days, with a talented mix of budding young stars and seasoned old veterans. The number of quality fighters and potential matches is truly staggering, and fight fans should have a lot to look forward to in the coming months and years. 

    Here we rank the 10 best fighters in the division, and like any ranking system, this is open to subjectivity. We make the case and you decide. 

    Let the discussion and debate begin.

    These are the 10 best fighters in the welterweight division today.

10. Amir Khan

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    2014 Year in Review: Amir Khan dominated former world champion Luis Collazo to win a pair of second-tier welterweight belts in just his second fight in the division on the Mayweather vs. Maidana undercard in May. It was an impressive performance, given Collazo's boxing ability, and it showed that the Brit has the talent to be a player in a very talented division. 

    Why He's Here: Khan is an extremely talented fighter with immense physical tools and gifts. He's a former junior welterweight champion, and he's spent the better part of the last year pursuing fights with the biggest names in the 147-pound division. None have panned out as yet, but he remains both an attractive name and a top-tier fighter.

    Why He's Not Higher: Khan has nowhere to go but up. In his two contests at 147 pounds, he's dominated Collazo and narrowly defeated shopworn former lightweight champion Julio Diaz. He's won just three of his past five fights and is still making adjustments under new trainer Virgil Hunter.

9. Robert Guerrero

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    2014 Year in Review: Robert Guerrero took a good long time to mentally and physically recover from his lopsided defeat against Mayweather last May. He returned in June, more than a year later, digging deep to take a decision from Yoshihiro Kamegai in a fight of the year contender.

    Why He’s Here: Guerrero is a former multi-weight world champion who showed he still has a lot left by going to war and beating Kamegai at his own game. His style is a handful, even for many of the best fighters in the division, and he’s an easy out for nobody not named Mayweather.

    Why He’s Not Higher: Kamegai was a quality victory, for sure, and it was impressive that Guerrero was able to win that type of fight after such a long layoff. But the Japanese tough guy isn’t a contender and wasn’t well known in the United States. Guerrero still has some work to do in order to show that he’s truly back and can compete with the big boys.

8. Shawn Porter

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    2014 Year in Review: Everything was roses for Shawn Porter until this past Saturday. The 26-year-old from Akron, Ohio, successfully defended his welterweight championship for the first time in March, blitzing the usually durable Paulie Malignaggi for a stunningly easy knockout. But he dropped that very same strap to Kell Brook on Saturday, and he didn’t look particularly good in doing it.

    Why He’s Here: Porter had to drop a few spots given his first defeat. Many lists had him above both Brook and—at the time—fellow undefeated welterweight belt holder Keith “One Time” Thurman. He obviously drops behind both of them in light of losing his title to a lower-ranked fighter, even if he was a No. 1 contender.

    Why He’s Not Higher: He was, but a loss drops you a few pegs. Porter still has a ton of talent and this could turn out to be a good learning experience for him. But he needs to add a few different wrinkles to his attack that make him less susceptible to slick boxers. 

7. Marcos Maidana

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    2014 Year in Review: No matter what happens on September 13, Marcos Maidana has had himself a banner year. The Argentine went toe-to-toe with Mayweather in May, pushing the pound-for-pound king to the limit in his most competitive contest in years. Maidana—rightly—was saddled with the loss, but he exceeded expectations and earned himself a rematch. 

    Why He's Here: Maidana is a former welterweight champion who has accumulated a 4-2 record since moving up from 140 pounds in 2012. That includes a win over Adrien Broner, which netted him a world title, and a better-than-expected showing against Mayweather. He forced the undefeated champion to dig deep and work hard for what was, perhaps, the physically toughest win of his illustrious career.

    Why He's Not Higher: Maidana is tough but still somewhat limited. He has big power, but landing his bombs isn't always easy. Mayweather ducked and dodged many of the incoming shots, creating opportunities to counter, and that was the decisive factor in the fight. Maidana is a handful for anyone—because of his power and physicality—but he seems to operate just a tick below the truly elite level.

6. Keith Thurman

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    2014 Year in Review: Thurman's only performance, thus far, in 2014 has to be viewed as somewhat disappointing. There was absolutely no reason for him to fight Diaz, who had lost two straight coming in, and the fight ended early on an injury. Obviously that's not his fault, but Thurman needs something to get back the momentum he built with a string of impressive wins in 2013.

    Why He's Here: Thurman holds the worthless interim WBA Welterweight Championship, but top-to-bottom he's the most talented of the young guns at 147 pounds. One Time can crack with both fists, knocking out 21 of his 23 foes, but he's also greatly improved his technical boxing skill of late. That's a dangerous mix for anyone who signs on to fight him.

    Why He's Not Higher: Thurman hasn't really done much yet in 2014. He strung together three straight impressive wins over quality opponents in 2013, but has only fought once this year. With one more fight likely on the docket in 2014, he has a chance to continue his climb up the ranks. 

5. Kell Brook

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    2014 Year in Review: Brook has only fought once in 2014, but on that night he showed beyond a shadow of a doubt that he belongs in the conversation among the best welterweights in the world. After having several championship opportunities postponed and ultimately cancelled, Brook traveled across the pond to America, using his stiff jab and straight right hand to outbox Porter and take the IBF Welterweight Championship back to the UK. 

    Why He's Here: Brook is the biggest mover up the welterweight ranks in 2014, supplanting Porter in the upper tier by virtue of his win. The Special One proved that he is a more-than-competent boxer and has the type of style to contend with the bigger and badder boys of the division. 

    Why He's Not Higher: In many eyes—at least on this side of the pond—Brook hadn't done a whole lot of note coming into his challenge of Porter. But after silencing the critics, proving his mettle and jumping up to a top-five position in a division with this much talent, there's no real reason for complaint. 

4. Juan Manuel Marquez

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    2014 Year in Review: Marquez doesn't fight a whole lot these days—he's in the long victory tour stage of his career—but he did unleash a pretty thorough beating on Mike Alvarado in May at the Forum in Inglewood, California. Given the age gap and Alvarado's clear size advantage, that victory was extremely impressive.

    Why He's Here: A combination of respect and the fact that, even at nearing 41 years old, Marquez is still among the very best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport. Not just in the welterweight division, in the sport

    Why He's Not Higher: Marquez is currently sitting in a half active/half retired phase. He's said that he might want to fight again, per BoxingScene.com, but only if the perfect opportunity comes along. The Mexican warrior has made no secret of his desire to capture a welterweight championship—which would make him the first Mexican five-division champion—but short of challenging his longtime rival Pacquiao it would seem that's going to be very difficult. 

3. Timothy Bradley

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    2014 Year in Review: Bradley spent months telling anyone who would listen that Pacquiao didn't have his killer instinct anymore, and that he was going to knock him out in their rematch. It was a swing and a miss on both counts, as Bradley went all out for the knockout in the early rounds, fading down the stretch and losing a clear decision.

    Why He's Here: Bradley is still one of the best pure boxers in the game, and you can't ignore his clear wins over Marquez and Ruslan Provodnikov from last year. There's no shame in losing to a fighter of Pacquiao's caliber, and Desert Storm remains a consensus (ESPN.com, The Ring Magazine) top-five pound-for-pound fighter. He ranks above Marquez by virtue of having beaten him last October.

    Why He's Not Higher: Bradley is an elite fighter, but he's just a notch below the stratosphere occupied by the top-two entrants on this list. There's no shame in that, but most questioned his decision win over Pacquiao in 2012, and he clearly lost the rematch, so he's stuck here for now.

2. Manny Pacquiao

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    2014 Year in Review: Pacquiao scored a measure of revenge, convincingly—again—beating Bradley to regain the welterweight title that most felt he never lost. He didn't look like the "old Pacquiao," but he had more than enough to take over the fight after weathering an early storm, pelting Bradley with big shots down the stretch to settle the score. His next fight, against WBO Junior Welterweight Champion Chris Algieri, is set for November in Macau.

    Why He's Here: For all the talk about Pacquiao not being the same fighter, not being committed to boxing and not having it anymore, he looked pretty darn good against a world-class opponent in Bradley. We can argue all day and night about the result of the first fight, but Bradley came into the rematch with a ton of momentum and credibility. Pacquiao beat him, and while he's not the same as once before, he's still one of the top two or three fighters in the world.

    Why He's Not Higher: See next slide.

1. Floyd Mayweather

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    2014 Year in Review: It's been some sort of year for Mayweather, right? The pound-for-pound king took a ton of flak for facing Maidana in what was perceived to be a gross mismatch in May, only to emerge squeaky clean with a hard-fought victory in a fight that exceeded all expectations. Promotional concerns stemming from the splintering of Golden Boy Promotions somewhat backed Mayweather into a corner, and he'll give Maidana a return bout next month.

    Why He's Here: Mayweather is undefeated, the consensus best fighter on the planet and the holder of the WBC/WBA Welterweight Championships and the WBC Junior Middleweight Championship. Both of his WBC straps will be on the line this September, making history by defending two belts in two separate weight classes in the same fight.

    Why He's Not Higher: For Mayweather, the last however many fights of his career are about securing his legacy and adding points to his already substantial resume. He's already the best fighter in the world, the best welterweight in the world, and is looking to move up the ladder among the all-time great fighters in boxing history.