Who are the best welterweights in boxing history?

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Danny Howard

October 13th, 2020

Along with the heavyweight division, the state of the welterweight division determines the state of boxing. Many of the all-time greats plied their trade at 147, transformed the sport, and expanded its audience beyond the hardcore faithful.

Let's take a look at five of the greatest welterweights of all time.

Floyd Mayweather Jr.

The contentious Mayweather is one of the biggest attractions the sport ever had, and he compiled an excellent résumé at 147.

In his fourth weight class, Mayweather was as accurate and untouchable as he had ever been and he disarmed the division's best along the way. His greatest achievement was a domination of contemporary rival Manny Pacquiao in 2015.

Kid Gavilan

Already a force of nature before he was in his prime, Gavilan's run from 1950-1953 was something to behold.

A murderous puncher with a supreme skill set, Gavilan ran afoul of the division during this time. The Cuban's run included a who's who of all-time greats, and he won more than he lost against them.

Barney Ross

One of the great eras of the welterweight division was the 1930s, and that was when Tony Canzoneri, Jimmy McLarnin, and Ross made up the three-headed dragon that dominated the decade. Ross was the best of them, and he beat Canzoneri and McLarnin twice.

With his legendary toughness and ring IQ, Ross reigned uncontested, until Henry Armstrong ended his long career in his 79th pro fight. 

Ross could also make this list for lightweights, but his run at welterweight was at another level.

Sugar Ray Leonard

Leonard is the best fighter of the modern era.

A perfect mix of power, speed, ring smarts, and heart, his run at welterweight showcased his legendary talent.

He outsmarted the counter-punching wizard Wilfred Benitez, made Roberto Duran quit out of frustration, and knocked out Thomas Hearns with one eye swollen shut.

There were very few fighters who could go 15 rounds with Leonard, but as great as he was, he wasn't the sweetest "Sugar."

Sugar Ray Robinson

Ray Robinson was so great that he is almost universally recognized as the best fighter of all time at both welterweight and middleweight. During his run at welterweight, he defeated everyone put in front of him.

Robinson's ungodly power and speed was well ahead of his time, and he certainly was the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, until later in his career.

There is nobody past, present, or future at welterweight who will hold a candle to the one and only Sugar Ray Robinson.