It looks like the welterweight division got more interesting after Errol Spence Jr. stopped Kell Brook in the 11th round over the weekend to annex the International Boxing Federation (IBF) world welterweight title. Now the question is: Are we going to see a repeat of the division’s golden era where the likes of Wilfred Benitez, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns and Roberto Duran mixed it up, just to show who is the best?
Or are we going to witness another era where the pretenders fell by the wayside, like when Oscar Dela Hoya and Felix Trinidad lorded it over the welterweight ranks because the rest were just, well, pretenders?
With his win, Former Olympian Spence now shares the limelight in the welterweight (147 pounds) division alongside Keith Thurman (World Boxing Council and World Boxing Association champion), Danny Garcia (formerly WBC 147-pound champion, and WBA [super], WBC and The Ring junior welterweight [140 pounds] champion); and our very own Manny Pacquiao (champion in a record eight weight divisions and current World Boxing Organization [WBO] 147-pound title holder).
Also, there’s Terence Crawford, who is The Ring, WBO and WBC junior welterweight champion who will likely invade the welterweight ranks like Garcia.
The Ring has no champion at welterweight but at No. 1 is Thurman followed by Spence. Perennial contender Shawn Porter, Pacquiao and Brook round up the Top 5 in The Ring’s rankings at 147 pounds.
Now, how does the present batch of top welterweights match up with the likes of Benitez, Leonard, Duran and Hearns? In my opinion, the present batch still has to prove itself as destined for the history books of the sport for the welter- weight division.
And the batch that gave the welterweight division one of its golden eras had diversity hardly seen before: Benitez was the youngest to win a world title at 17 and ring technician who would win world titles in three divisions; Leonard was a gold medallist in the Olympics whose speed baffled opponents; Duran was a feared champion at lightweight (130 pounds); and Hearns was a 6’1” freak who had power in both hands.
Although Benitez and Duran did not end up among the top two welterweights at the time, they will always be remembered as having the guts to square off with the best with money almost not the first thing in their minds. Leonard won against all of his three protagonists, but had difficulty stopping Hearns. Leonard also stopped Benitez with less than 30 seconds in the 15th round, while Duran beat him once.
The next logical thing for Spence is to face either Thurman or Garcia, although he is also interested in facing Pacquiao.
As for Pacquiao, the current level of competition at welterweight will give him the chance to cement his impressive legacy by facing either Spence, Thurman or Garcia. For sure, any of those young fighters will show no hesitation in stepping into the ring with the Filipino great especially if offered million-dollar paychecks. But Pacquiao should be wary he will be trading leather with mean punchers who can possibly can beat him.
Or Pacquiao can just retire after his fight against Jeff Horn on July 2.
As for Floyd Mayweather Jr., he can come out of retirement to fight the top welteweights and cement his own boxing legacy. And for sure, many boxing fans will want to see him beaten by either Thurman, Spence or Garcia. Or even Pacquiao.