Lem’s Corner: Vibrant 147-pound division piques Floyd Mayweather’s interest

Count Floyd Mayweather Jr. among those who are just a little more than curious with what’s happening in the 147-pound division right now.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Badou Jack

Floyd Mayweather Jr. congratulates Badou Jack following the latter's fight Saturday with Lucian Bute. Prior to the bout, Mayweather hinted about a possible comeback in the 147-pound division. (Esther Lin/Showtime)

In an interview that aired on Showtime prior to the Badou Jack-Lucian Bute 168-pound title match Saturday night, Mayweather revealed that he has been talking with CBS and Showtime about the possibility of a big-money comeback. “Some crazy numbers have been thrown my way—upward of, you know, nine figures,” he said.

But in the next breath, the undefeated legend—who last fought September 12 when he easily defeated Andre Berto—indicated that he’s happy running his fight promotions company, Mayweather Promotions.

“I’m truly blessed way beyond belief,” he said. “I don’t really know what we’re going to do, but right now, I’m happy on this side, helping fighters.”

Mayweather left a void at the top of the sport in general and the welterweight division in particular when he retired with a record of 49-0 following his unanimous decision over Berto.

While nobody has jumped up to claim the top spot that Mayweather once held at 147 pounds, there has been plenty of activity at the upper levels of the weight class since January. That’s when Danny Garcia, who moved up from 140, defeated Robert Guerrero to grab Mayweather’s vacated title.

After that, Britain’s Kell Brook successfully defended his 147-pound crown for a third time with a second-round KO of Kevin Bizier in March; rising star Errol Spence Jr. obliterated veteran Chris Algieri via fifth-round TKO in April; and former champ Berto scored a fourth-round TKO of Victor Ortiz on Saturday.

Next month, another huge 147-pound bout is on tap when Keith Thurman (26-0, 22 KOs) puts his title on the line against Shawn Porter (26-1-1, 16 KOs) on June 25 in Brooklyn, New York (CBS, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT)

“Welterweight is undergoing a bit of a makeover with Floyd and Manny [Pacquiao] having stated their retirement,” said Stephen Espinoza, vice president and general manager for Showtime Sports. “The top is wide open. The fight between Thurman and Porter could establish the top dog in the division, although Kell Brook would have an argument, as well.

“After that, the younger guys like Errol Spence and Danny Garcia, who is new to the division, give you a really interesting mix of up-and-coming contenders and solid established stars who make for an interesting six to 12 months of sorting out who is who in the division.”

Promoter Lou DiBella likes the developing storylines.

“You’ve got the rise of Errol Spence, you have Danny Garcia, who, in my mind, doesn’t get the credit he deserves—he’s fun to watch, and all he does is win,” DiBella said. “You had Berto winning a pretty good fight this weekend, and then, you have Thurman-Porter.

“And who knows down the line if Floyd Mayweather comes out of retirement? You put everything together, and you have a narrative and round robin and potentially a Super Bowl in the welterweight division.”

Shawn Porter and Keith Thurman

Shawn Porter (left) and Keith Thurman will square off in a much-anticipated 147-pound match on June 25 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. (Amy Westcott/Showtime)

THURMAN, PORTER RETURN TO BARCLAYS

Thurman and Porter will bring winning traditions to Barclays Center in Brooklyn when they meet in their long-awaited and highly anticipated showdown next month.

Thurman won a shutout unanimous decision over previously unbeaten ex-champ Jan Zaveck at Barclays in March 2013, and Porter scored a unanimous decision over Devon Alexander at the venue in December 2013.

When Porter and Thurman get together, they expect a who’s who of the welterweight division to be in attendance.

“Practically the whole welterweight division should be there at Barclays,” Thurman said. “I mean the situation that the welterweight division is in right now is that we’re kind of in a frenzy.”

Thurman’s trainer, Dan Birmingham, called Thurman’s triumph against Zaveck “a showcase performance.’’ Thurman, a 27-year-old from Clearwater, Fla., outlanded Zaveck 217-110 in total punches, including 150-77 in power punches and 67-33 in jabs.

The 28-year-old Porter, who hails from Akron, Ohio, but lives in Las Vegas, became a world champ with his win over Alexander. He then defended the crown by dropping and stopping two-division champion Paulie Malignaggi in April 2014 before losing it by majority decision to Brook (36-0, 25 KOs) in August 2014.

Brook’s English promoter, Eddie Hearn, wants his fighter to face the Thurman-Porter winner in a title unification bout. If that doesn’t happen, he’ll settle for Garcia, onetime welterweight champ Adrien Broner or Jessie Vargas, who won a vacant 147-pound title in March.

“In my opinion, the best 147-pounder is Kell Brook,’’ Hearn said. “Thurman is a really good fighter, and I think he’ll beat Porter. Before Kell Brook beat Shawn Porter, everyone was saying he’s the new Mike Tyson at 147. Kell Brook beat [Porter] in his own backyard, and everyone said he’s not really that good."

Dan Birmingham and Keith Thurman

Having survived a near fatal bout with pneumonia 3 1/2 years ago, trainer Dan Birmingham (left) will be in Keith Thurman's corner when Thurman battles Shawn Porter on June 25. (Lucas Noonan/Premier Boxing Champions)

DAN BIRMINGHAM: 'THEY SAVED MY LIFE'

Birmingham will be more grateful than most to be in attendance at Barclays when he works Thurman's corner for the battle against Porter.

The trainer nearly died from pneumonia four days before Thurman’s fourth-round knockout of Carlos Quintana on November 24, 2012, the day before Thurman’s 24th birthday.

After having lost 20 pounds, Birmingham could barely walk or talk, and required his wife to drive him to a St. Petersburg, Florida, hospital, where he spent a week receiving care.

“They gave me antibiotics and packed me in ice,” Birmingham said. “The doctor told me that I was only a few hours from death. They saved my life.”

The Birmingham family has a history of issues with pneumonia.

“Both of my grandparents died of it. My father’s mother died on his eighth birthday, and his father died when he was 12—both from pneumonia," said Birmingham, 65. “I’m so fortunate that God was looking out for me. He had another plan. Otherwise I'd have been gone. I pray that I never contract that disease again.”

Lem’s Corner is published each Wednesday at PremierBoxingChampions.com.

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