On September 12, Floyd Mayweather will fight Andre Berto in what he claims will be the last fight of his career. Like most, I’m far from convinced that he will truly hang up the gloves for good after Berto. Retirement rarely happens just once for an elite prizefighter. From Joe Louis to Sugar Ray Robinson to Muhammad Ali to Sugar Ray Leonard, few legends find themselves able to walk away for good, at least the first time they try.
But maybe Mayweather will be different. Maybe he’ll tie Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 record and then follow the Rock’s example and retire just once, for good. Either way, it’s worth looking at the young talent waiting to replace him in the welterweight division.
The 147-pound division has historically been filled with tremendous talent. While stepping right into Mayweather’s shoes won’t exactly be easy, a number of would-be superstars are ready to stake their own claims on the division.
The spot at the top of that list at this point has to belong to Kell Brook of England. The IBF belt holder travelled over from his native England in August 2014 and turned in an outstanding performance to take his title from Shawn Porter. He’s scheduled to face the rough-housing Diego Chaves of Argentina in October, in what will be his third defense of the year. I don’t believe a fighter as skilled and durable as Brook will lose to a brawler like Chaves. Ultimately, I’d love to see Brook fight his countryman Amir Khan, to establish the true “King of Britain.”
The winner of that fight would be positioned for a slew of superfights with the American stars in the weight class. While I feel Timothy Bradley has seen better days, he’s still the WBO belt holder and far too tough a man and talented a fighter to write off out of hand. Until he loses to one of the young lions, he is still relevant at the top of the division.
Keith Thurman is a smart boxer with fight-ending power. When you watch him fight, it’s tough not to think you are watching the future of the sport. But he’s also overdue now for a fight against a true, top 10 contender (although he did knockout Chaves in 2013). Thurman vs. Brook, Khan or Bradley could be one of the major fights of early 2016. There’s still time for him to schedule a fight this year with either Danny Garcia or Porter. Both of those matchups would draw major numbers for Al Haymon’s PBC series.
Just outside of the top 10 at this point, but rising fast, is 2012 Olympian Errol Spence Jr. 17-0 with 14 stoppages, he’s shown skill, athleticism and power. He fights in Canada on September 11 against Chris van Heerden, a tough, South African southpaw who should find himself physically overmatched against Spence. Expect to see big moves from Spence in 2016.
Although he’s currently still fighting at 140 pounds, two-division world champion Terence Crawford could end up being the best of them all.