A look at the hottest divisions in the sport today, particularly the 154-pound weight class, which features an exciting showdown this Saturday on SHOWTIME and takes center stage once again in the monster SHOWTIME PPV on September 26.
You can use many criteria to determine the best divisions in boxing.
You can look at the top end, the best three or four fighters in the weight class. You can focus on the fighters lower on the list, which can be an indication of depth. You can consider compelling potential matchups. And you can take star power into account.
No matter how you look at it, a division that takes center stage this week and next is near the top: super welterweight (or junior middleweight, depending on your taste). No matter what you call it, the 154-pound division is loaded with talent and intrigue.
Then, next Saturday, September 26, at the same site, Jermell Charlo and Jeison Rosario will collide in a 50-50, super welterweight world title unification bout. Charlo-Rosario is one of two main events on a stacked card featuring five world title bouts, live on SHOWTIME pay-per-view (7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT).
And there’s more to come at 154 pounds.
“The junior middleweight division is similar to what former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle said about parity in the NFL with the slogan ‘On any given Sunday …’ On any given Saturday night anyone in the 154-pound division can beat the other guy,” said Tim Smith, vice president of communications for PBC.
“We’ve seen it with Jermell Charlo vs. Erickson Lubin, Tony Harrison vs. Jermell Charlo, Jarrett Hurd vs. Tony Harrison, Erislandy Lara vs. Jarrett Hurd, Julian Williams vs. Jarrett Hurd, Jeison Rosario vs. Julian Williams. The talent is equally distributed among the top guys. They’re so evenly matched that you don’t really know what’s going to happen when they step into the ring against each other.
“And that’s the magic of the division. Every match is intriguing, because at the top all of these guys have held championships at one time or another.’'
In this article, the PBC is presenting the five best divisions in boxing in order of weight. We used the criteria mentioned above and based our selections on the Transnational Boxing Rankings (TBRB), which lists a champion in five divisions (the rest are vacant) and the next 10 in each of the 17 weight classes.
The TBRB Top 10 (in order): Tyson Fury (champion), Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder, Andy Ruiz Jr., Alexander Povetkin, Luis Ortiz, Michael Hunter, Dillian Whyte, Kubrat Pulev, Filip Hrgovic, Robert Helenius.
Titleholders: WBC – Fury, WBA, IBF, WBO – Joshua
Of course, the big men have an advantage over their smaller counterparts because of the natural fascination with behemoths. That said, the division boasts some big talents and big personalities.
The leader at the moment is Fury, whose skill and athleticism at his height – 6-foot-9 – and ability to market himself is remarkable. He’s the king. And a number of good heavyweights are on his tail. No. 2 at the moment is Joshua. Fury’s countryman, also one of the biggest stars in the sport, rebounded from his shocking knockout loss to Ruiz by outpointing him in the rematch. He’s expected to defend his titles against Pulev this year.
Lurking right behind Fury and Joshua is Wilder, the former champion with crushing punching power. Wilder drew with and then was stopped by Fury. He’ll get another crack at the champ and, largely because of his power, he can’t be counted out.
Two of the remaining big men are coming off big upsets that pumped extra life into the division. Povetkin just stunned everyone by spoiling Dillian Whyte’s title hopes with one epic uppercut. And Helenius recently upset rising star Adam Kownacki, also by KO.
The intrigue never ends.
“The heavyweight division isn’t as deep as some of the other divisions with Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua the top guys in the division and Andy Ruiz and Luis Ortiz still hovering somewhere near the top,” Smith said. “Wilder and Fury are slated for a third fight and the outcome could add some clarity to the top of the division.
“But there’s some very nice talent bubbling just underneath with younger guys. Whoever emerges at the top will face some tough competition to stay there.''
SUPER WELTERWEIGHT/JUNIOR MIDDLEWEIGHT
The TBRB Top 10 (in order): Jeison Rosario, Julian Williams, Jarrett Hurd, Jermell Charlo, Brian Castano, Erislandy Lara, Michel Soro, Tony Harrison, Patrick Teixeira, Sebastian Fundora.
Titleholders: WBC – Charlo, WBA, IBF – Rosario, WBO – Teixeira.
The super welterweight division is strong at the top and deep.
Charlo is ranked only No. 4 by the TBR but, presumably, that’s because he had to bounce back from a disputed 2018 decision loss to Tony Harrison. Charlo, who stopped Harrison in the rematch, is considered by many to be the best 154-pounder. And Rosario, coming off his stunning KO of Julian Williams, is right there with him. That’s what makes their upcoming showdown so compelling.
Then, going down the list, you’ll find one elite fighter after another – Williams, Hurd, Castano, Lara, Soro, Harrison, Teixeira and the latest entry, Fundora.
Lara is considered one of the better fighters in the world and he’s only No. 6 on the list. And Teixeira, No. 9, holds one of the four major titles. You know you have a strong division when fighters like that are almost afterthoughts.
Many observers believe welterweight as the best division in the sport but, if that’s so, super welterweight isn’t far behind.
The TBRB Top 10 (in order): Errol Spence Jr., Manny Pacquiao, Terence Crawford, Shawn Porter, Yordenis Ugas, Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia, Mikey Garcia, Kudratillo Abdukakhorov, Sergey Lipinets.
Titleholders: WBC, IBF – Spence, WBA – Pacquiao, WBO – Crawford.
Welterweight is traditionally one of the glamour divisions in the sport. And the current crop of 147-pounders is no exception. The division has it all – the stars, the depth, the potential matchups, the drama.
One indication of 147-pound dominance: The Top 3 on the TBR list are on Top 10 pound-for-pound lists, meaning 30% of the best fighters in the world are welterweights. Two more 147-pounders -- Mikey Garcia and Porter -- are on the fringe of such lists.
And others, including Ugas, Thurman and Danny Garcia, are among the most-respected boxers of any weight.
On top of that, no division – with the possible exception of heavyweight – has name recognition like the welterweights. Pacquiao, coming off his victory over Thurman, remains one of the most-recognizable athletes worldwide at 41. And a number of others – led by Spence – are among those who drive the sport.
And, finally, potential and actual matchups in the division are mouthwatering. Pacquiao already beat Thurman. Spence faces Danny Garcia on Nov. 21. Spence beat Porter and Mikey Garcia. Porter beat Ugas. And, if these stars stay at 147, we’re only getting started.
It doesn’t get better than welterweight.
“What makes the welterweight division so interesting is that everyone has been jockeying for that top spot since Floyd Mayweather exited the big stage,” Smith said. “It looked like Keith Thurman was the heir apparent, but Manny Pacquiao made a surprise re-emergence.
“And Errol Spence Jr. has said ‘not so fast’ to them. There are so many top guys circling at 147 pounds it looks like LaGuardia Airport at rush hour. We’re going to know a lot after Spence and Danny Garcia tangle on Nov. 21 in their big FOX PPV.”
The TBRB Top 10 (in order): Vasiliy Lomachenko, Teofimo Lopez, Rances Barthelemy, Devin Haney, Luke Campbell, Richard Commey, Ryan Garcia, Yvan Mendy, Emmanuel Tagoe, Gervonta Davis.
Titleholders: WBC, WBA, WBO – Lomachenko, IBF – Lopez.
Another of the traditionally dominant divisions is on this list as much for its immense promise as anything else.
The name currently on top – Lomachenko – already is legendary, based both on his amateur career and what he’s been able to accomplish in relatively few fights as a professional. He’s at or near the top of all pound-for-pound lists.
Below him are several immensely talented young fighters who could be the faces of the sport in the near future.
You can start with Lopez, who faces Lomachenko in a major showdown on Oct. 17. The Honduran-American seems to have it all, although he’ll have to prove that against one of the most-gifted fighters of his generation.
Then there’s Haney, another newbie bursting with talent and waiting to take on the winner of the Ryan Garcia-Luke Campbell fight. There’s Garcia, a charismatic knockout artist with an immense social media following. And Gervonta Davis, who faces Leo Santa Cruz on Oct. 24, could end up on top. His combination of skill, athleticism, power and popularity is rare.
Few divisions are more interesting than lightweight.