Boxing

Move Over Spence, Pacquiao, Crawford– Here’s the Next Wave of Welters

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There’s still a logjam at the top of boxing’s welterweight glamour division. Errol Spence, Terence Crawford, and Manny Pacquiao stand at the very top.

Right below them are names such as Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia, Keith Thurman, and Yordenis Ugas– all good enough to topple one of the top dogs on any fortunate night.

Below that second tier is the rock-solid “others” workhorses– fighters also good enough to upset any of the top dogs on a great night, but with generally more limitations and/or a lower ceiling than the elites. In this group are names such as Mikey Garcia, Jessie Vargas, Egidijus “Mean Machine” Kavaliauskas, Sergey Lipinets, Josesito Lopez, Abelo Ramos, Kudratillo Abdukakhorov, Luis Collazo, and Maurice Hooker (among others).

But there are some fighters I left off of this tier structure and that’s because they are fast-movers and fighters who could very well be headed quickly for the very top of the 147 lb. class. Here’s a look at the movers and shakers of this upwardly-mobile class of future welterweight stars.

Jaron Ennis (27-0, 25 KOs)

The 24-year-old Philadelphia native just may be the most all-around talented fighter on this list and he’s been increasingly able to pull all the pieces together in eye-opening performances against higher levels of opposition. His recent stoppage victory this past April over crafty, durable former world champ Sergey Lipinets was the most impressive of his career thus far. A dominant TKO of the never-before-stopped Juan Carlos Abreu in September of last year was also mega-impressive.

Vergil Ortiz Jr. (17-0, 17 KOs)

Offensive machine Ortiz has been making waves at 147 for a couple years now. Brutally dominant wins over veterans such as Mauricio Herrera, Antonio Orozco, Brad Solomon, Samuel Vargas, and Maurice Hooker have earned him the (rightful) reputation of being a true KO-making beast at 147. And, at just 23 years of age, there’s plenty of time for him to get even better. He’s scheduled to face Egidijus “Mean Machine” Kavaliauskas on August 14, something which will provide him with the possibility of building his reputation even further.

Jamal James (27-1, 12 KOs)

The 33-year-old from Minneapolis, Minnesota has been steadily building his name value, as well as developing a consistent A game. Tall and lanky at 6-foot-2, James has been getting better at fighting the ideal style for a tall fighter and his recent performances show that progress. High-water mark win, so far, have come against Thomas Dulorme, Abel Ramos, Diego Chaves, and Jo Jo Dan.

Conor Benn (18-0, 12 KOs)

Possibly the rawest and greenest of this bunch, the second-generation 24-year-old prospect has been showing glimpses of possibly being something special. In his most recent bout, this past April, he demolished gatekeeper Samuel Vargas in the first round. Prior to that, he registered victories over Sebastian Formella and Steve Jamoye.

Eimantas Stanionis (13-0, 9 KOs)

Poised, steady, and mature beyond his 26 years, the decorated Lithuanian amateur, who represented his country in the 2016 Olympics, has been working his way up the ladder of contention. With a style that features constant, consistent pressure at a measured pace, Stanionis is a living, breathing test of will and conditioning for opposition. Coming off his biggest win to date against Thomas Dulorme, he’ll be taking another half-step forward against former world champ and 21-year veteran Luis Collzo this Saturday atop a FOX PBC fight card.

Rashidi Ellis (23-0, 14 KOs)

Undefeated, but still lagging behind other up-and-comers when it comes to media attention and acclaim, the 28-year-old Ellis is smart, skilled, and talented. His victory over similarly undefeated rising contender Alexis Rocha this past October was a welcomed (and needed) step up in class.

Gabriel Maestre (3-0, 3 KOs)

Venezuela’s two-time Olympian got a late start as a pro, making his debut just a couple months shy of his 33rd birthday. Talented and clearly mature in both skill set and mindset, he proved himself capable of moving up the ranks quickly when he battered and stopped veteran battler Diego Chavez in just his second pro fight. Maestre is set to face Mykal Fox this Saturday on the televised FOX PBC Stanionis-Collazo undercard.

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Paul Magno has over forty years of experience in and around the sport of boxing and has had his hand in everything, from officiating to training. As a writer, his work has appeared in several online publications, including Yahoo Sports, Fox Sports, FightHype, Max Boxing, Boxing.com, Inside Fights, The Boxing Tribune, The Queensberry Rules, and Premier Boxing Champions. You can reach him at: paulmagno@theboxingtribune.com

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