World Titles And Returning Kings: 2022 Could Be A Year Of Welter Belters

The 147-pound division promises a lot of excitement and intrigue for the year ahead
10:35, 08 Jan 2022

The first big welterweight clash of the year is close to being confirmed, as WBC and IBF champion Errol Spence Jr looks set to try and unify his titles with the WBA strap belonging to Yordenis Ugas. It’s a strong start to 2022 for a weight class that could well steal this new year. 147 pounds is stacked with pound-for-pound candidates, returning former kings, dangerous veterans and hot prospects. Here’s how one of boxing’s glamour divisions is shaping up for the year ahead.

The Champions

While Ugas vs Spence is an attractive fight, it is not the ultimate dream match the division can offer. That would be a meeting between Spence and WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford. ‘Bud’ is coming off the back of retiring Shawn Porter in an impressive November display. The former lightweight and undisputed light welterweight king is widely accepted as the best in the division, with Spence seen as the fighter most likely to trouble him.

Due to a horrific car wreck, followed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Errol Spence Jr has only boxed once in the last two years. That performance, a December 2020 dismantling of former champion Danny Garcia, showed he is still a world class fighter. His proposed bout with Ugas will provide another such measuring stick, and is not to be taken lightly.

Ugas catapulted himself into worldwide headlines when he successfully defended his WBA strap against Manny Pacquiao last summer. The 27-4 Cuban was considered an underdog, but a renewed focus has seen him lose just once since 2014, and he comfortably outpointed the aging ‘Pacman’. Spence is made of sterner stuff than the modern Pacquiao, and Ugas will have his work cut out if he wants to become a three-belt champion.

more to come: 2022 could be a big year for conor benn
more to come: 2022 could be a big year for conor benn

The Contenders

Below the belt-holders, there is a healthy stable of hungry hitters waiting for their shot at the big time. 18-0 Vergil Ortiz Jr has won every fight by stoppage, and has blasted out former world champion Maurice Hooker and title challengers Mauricio Herrera and Egidijus Kavaliauskas along the way. Look for the 23-year-old to make the step up to title contention any day now.

Unbeaten Jaron ‘Boots’ Ennis is a source of much excitement amongst American fight enthusiasts and insiders. His first-round stoppage of former Ugas and Crawford foe Thomas Dulorme last time out has sent the hype to fever pitch. He possesses strong world rankings with a number of governing bodies, and can’t be far from a title opportunity.

Dangerman David Avanesyan has held the WBA regular title before, and holds a win over Shane Mosley in the latter’s final fight. The current European welterweight champion seems to be improving all the time, particularly in the power department. Despite notching just 16 knockouts in his 28 wins, five of them have come in his last five outings. Kerman Lejarraga is the only fighter to make it past the halfway mark of a fight with ‘Ava’ since 2018, and he was brutalised in a single round in a rematch.

Conor Benn continued to make an impact in 2021, winning his three fights during the year. Samuel Vargas, who has mixed with a number of the division’s top names, was blasted out in a round. Next came the durable Adrian Granados, who frustrated ‘The Destroyer’ with his survival tactics but was well beaten. Saving the best until last, Benn knocked out former world champion Chris Algieri last month to go 20-0. Matchroom are expected to move the son of Nigel Benn quickly in 2022, with world title fights in their sights.

keep khan and carry on: amir returns against kell brook next month
keep khan and carry on: amir returns against kell brook next month

Remember Us?

Two of the ghosts of welterweight’s past will meet next month in Manchester, as Kell Brook and Amir Khan emerge from semi-retirement to swap punches. There is a time this would have been a superfight, a surefire world title clash with major implications for the very top of the division. As it stands, it is a battle between two men who haven’t won a major fight in years and were brutally wiped out in their last attempts to do so.

The bout will garner a huge amount of domestic interest though, and an impressive performance could see the winner net at least one more payday against an elite 147-pounder. Khan and Brook are both 35, just a year older than Crawford and the same age as Ugas. A dominant display in this battle of the forgotten will give the victor a semi-justifiable argument that they aren’t finished just yet.

Another top welter on the comeback trail in 2022 is Keith Thurman. ‘One Time’ has not fought since a 2019 loss to Manny Pacquiao, but was one of the best fighters around before that split decision defeat. He returns to the ring in February against former WBA regular light welterweight champion Mario Barrios. Should he impress against ‘El Azteca’, there are plenty of big fights to be made with the other contenders covered in this article.

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