By Andreas Hale
Last week, Danny Garcia drilled Brandon Rios with a picture perfect right hand and secured a 9th round TKO after being out of the ring for nearly a year. The highlight reel knockout put Garcia back in the mix of an incredibly crowded 147 pound division.
But that wasn’t the real story.
The real story was brewing in the media room a couple of hours before the main event. Earlier in the day, Keith Thurman — along with several other PBC and Showtime fighters — spoke with media about their respective futures. Everyone was curious about the WBA and WBC welterweight champion’s next fight and who he plans to face after what is expected to be a tuneup fight when he steps into the ring on May 19th for the first time since beating Garcia and having surgery on his right elbow.
As Thurman addressed the possibilities of facing Danny Garcia, Shawn Porter and Errol Spence with the elusiveness of a Floyd Mayweather shoulder roll, Shawn Porter held court at a separate table. It’s no secret that Porter has been openly campaigning for a fight against either Thurman or Garcia, and his levels of annoyance were peaking as media members questioned who his next opponent would be. Eventually, Porter crashed Thurman’s sit-down with the media and the two had a war of words with insults being hurled. Clearly a man on a mission, Porter would pop up in the ring to challenge Garcia after Swift stopped Brandon Rios.
If nothing else, it certainly got the internet buzzing and brought excitement to the welterweight division. And although there’s this triangle rivalry of Thurman-Porter-Garcia going on, there’s still a guy named Errol Spence Jr. waiting in the wings. Oh, and another guy who you may have heard of that goes by the name of Terence Crawford.
Outside of those gentlemen, there’s Jessie Vargas, Manny Pacquiao, Lucas Matthysse and Jeff Horn (who is slated to face Crawford in April). Mikey Garcia has teased moving up to 147 as well, which makes this one crowded party.
There is a problem, however. For one reason or another, nobody is really interested in fighting the elite. Obviously, Shawn Porter made his intentions known and Spence appears to be the boogeyman that nobody wants to fight. But Thurman and Garcia have been circling the wagons when it comes to facing the best opposition out there. Thurman is content with making one of these names wait while he gets his tuneup fight in while Garcia has routinely been called “Cherry Picker” over the past few years. Terence Crawford is going to face Jeff Horn for Horn’s WBO title in a fight nobody expects him to lose while Manny Pacquiao is taking on Mike Alvarado in a fight that appears to be just as ridiculous in real life as it does on paper. But Crawford and Pacquiao remain the odd men out in this 147 dance as PBC/Showtime holds the rights to Thurman, Garcia, Porter, Vargas, Matthysse and Spence. And we all know how well PBC and Top Rank have played together.
Something has to be done and that something should be a 147 pound tournament to settle who the best welterweight in the world is, once and for all.
I know, wishful thinking. But hear me out.
If, by the grace of the boxing gods, Top Rank, ESPN, PBC and Showtime could play nice together, it would be an absolutely extraordinary way to ensure that the best face the best with no more tuneup fights in between.
For now, let’s imagine that the April 14th card with Crawford-Horn and Pacquiao-Alvarado didn’t exist so we can free Pacquiao, Crawford and Horn up. With the six PBC welterweights, three Top Rank fighters and the addition of Mikey Garcia, Kell Brook, Omar Figueroa, Lamont Peterson and Adrien Broner, we have a 14-man field. Give Keith Thurman and Jeff Horn a bye considering they have three of the four major titles (sorry, Spence, we’d prefer to see you fight) and you have a clear path to settle this over the next two years.
The first round matchups could look something like this:
- Pacquiao vs. Broner
- Crawford vs. Matthysse
- Mikey Garcia vs. Brook (winner faces Horn)
- Spence vs. Vargas
- Porter vs. Danny Garcia
- Figueroa vs. Peterson (winner faces Thurman)
Thurman gets the “easiest” matchup considering that he’s the top seed with two titles. But there are plenty of intriguing first round matchups that would keep people engaged. Barring injuries, the second round is just as good as the first with possible matchups including Pacquiao vs. Crawford and Spence vs. Porter. And who would be upset about the possibility of a Bracket A final with Crawford facing Mikey Garcia or a Bracket B final with Thurman vs. Spence.
Then you have the ultimate payoff that could find Terence Crawford facing Errol Spence or Mikey Garcia facing Keith Thurman.
All of these matchups make a world of sense when it comes to figuring out who the top dog of the 147 pound division would be. Not to mention that these are all marketable matchups and there’s an opportunity for the promoters to have close to equal footing in the promotion, as long as their fighters remain involved. Obviously, injuries and promoters can and will be a headache. We saw just how long the Super Six took. But it did create a bonafide pound for pound fighter with Andre Ward emerging victorious.
But do you know what we wouldn’t get? A bunch of fighters facing subpar opponents. There won’t be any calls to Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado for tuneup fights. Instead, each fighter has to step up to the challenge and prove they are the best. It’s also not like some of these matchups can take place later on if, say, Danny Garcia loses a controversial decision and ends up facing the winner of the tournament once its over.
This is one step in fixing the welterweight problem. Although it certainly has next to no chance of happening, it would be fun, wouldn’t it?