Errol Spence Jr. breaks down his potential future opponents at welterweight, including Terence Crawford

While it's true that boxing's mainstream health is often dictated by the strength and depth of the heavyweight division, the weight class that has consistently put forth the sport's biggest and best fights has been at 147 pounds. 

The current crop of promising young stars is no slouch either, coming into full bloom in the aftermath of a boxing era controlled by welterweight stars Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. In fact, today's top welterweights just might be the deepest group in two decades, dating back to the early rise of Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad, Shane Mosley and Vernon Forrest. 

The leader of that group of 147-pound studs could very well be IBF champion Errol Spence Jr. (24-0, 21 KOs), who is rated high among the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world, and has been touted by Mayweather himself as the next heir to the welterweight throne. But fans and critics alike won't know for sure, of course, until he faces the best the division has to offer.

For the 28-year-old Spence, a former U.S. Olympian from Desoto, Texas, that has become a somewhat curious issue despite the fact that he's aligned perfectly with the same cable network (Showtime) and manager (Premier Boxing Champions founder Al Haymon) as every top welterweight not named Terence Crawford.

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While the talk of most boxing fans in recent weeks following Crawford's successful move to 147 pounds after he stopped WBO champion Jeff Horn has rightfully been about the longterm potential of Crawford-Spence super fight that remains -- at the very minimum -- likely one year out because of how difficult politically it would be to make. Spence would be more than happy facing the other top welterweights who haven't shown much interest in meeting him. 

Although Spence owns a career-defining knockout of Kell Brook in England last year to win his first world title (and followed it up with a stoppage of respected contender Lamont Peterson in January), the phone hasn't necessarily been ringing from the likes of WBA champion Keith Thurman and top contenders Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter, who are expected to meet in August for the WBC title that was stripped from Thurman due to inactivity caused by injury. 

Last Saturday, Spence was forced to take a bout against IBF mandatory contender Carlos Ocampo -- an unheralded Mexican fighter who lacked a significant victory (and Spence admitted he had never heard of) -- just to stay busy. The bout, which ended via first-round KO on a body shot, did at least help Spence promote his star (pun intended) as the homecoming fight took place at the Dallas Cowboys training facility in Frisco, Texas, with Jerry Jones and Dak Prescott among the big names in attendance. 

"It's kind of frustrating a little bit because of the whole politics, but once you learn this is how the game works, you just have to play the game how it goes," Spence told CBS Sports' "In This Corner" podcast on Tuesday. "That's how it works. You had the organization, the IBF, who gives you the mandatory and that's the guy you have to fight. But now I'm free. Now I'm free to fight who I want so hopefully we can get a big name in the ring and I can fight by the time the year is over with."

While the mild-mannered and respectful Spence, who refers to himself as an "old school" fighter, may have said he understands how "the game" is played, he does admit to getting an urge to want to call out his fellow PBC stars now and then for not facing him. High up on that list is the 29-year-old Thurman, who hasn't fought since March 2017 due to elbow surgery and a recent hand injury which now has him looking at multiple comeback fights against inferior opponents. 

"That's what you want to say; I want to fight Keith Thurman but he is 'so-called' injured," Spence said. "Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter are supposed to be fighting each other for the WBC belt. You've got Jessie Vargas, Amir Khan and other big names out there. It's a lot of guys to pick from so Al Haymon is going to pick somebody to fight for the end of this year and that's what my whole game plan was, to stay busy and stay in the public eye and keep fighting."

Spence gave his take on the potential of fighting each top welterweight: 

Keith Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs): "I think [he's avoiding me]. I want to see the old Thurman come back, the 'quit ducking me, son' [version] come back. Hopefully this long layoff will give him some renewed energy and give him some renewed motivation to basically spark that fire under his butt to make him want to make these fights happen. Timing is everything and we will see how everything plays itself out."

Amir Khan (32-4, 20 KOs): "I don't think he is one of the leading names on my list. Somebody mentioned him [after the Ocampo fight] and basically all I said is that he has Al Haymon's number so give him a call. He knows how to make the fight happen so try to get that fight. Especially since we are signed with the same manager and are on the same network as Showtime. I don't believe in talking when you have the number of the person who can make that fight happen. If you really want it, you know who to call."

Danny Garcia (34-1, 20 KOs): "It's hard to go against Danny Garcia. Every time you go against him, he pulls it out. He doesn't do anything great but he does a lot of little stuff good. I would like to fight Danny Garcia just because he has a bigger name [than Porter] and a better style to fight. He has accomplished more. Shawn Porter is a good fighter but he hasn't accomplished nearly as much as Danny Garcia has accomplished or beat the fighters who he has beat."

Shawn Porter (28-2-1, 17 KOs): "He is a tough fight for anyone just because of his style but if I was betting, I would have to go with Danny Garcia [beating him]. Shawn Porter is a tough style for anybody but if he does win, I would welcome fighting Shawn Porter. I don't care if he has a rough style or tactics. I feel like I am stronger than Shawn."

Terence Crawford (33-0, 24 KOs): "[Being on a collision course with Crawford] is very exciting. Much respect to Terence Crawford, he's a great fighter. I feel like that fight is going to happen but it's all about timing. We are on two different sides of the street. He's with ESPN, I'm with Showtime. He has a promoter [Bob Arum of Top Rank] and my manager and his promoter doesn't work that well together. It's a lot of stuff that is going to have to play in for that to happen and timing is everything. It's going to happen when it's supposed to. As long as he keeps winning and looking good, and I keep winning and looking great, it's going to happen. I can't give you a timeline but it's going to happen. It will be epic. That will be a legacy fight.

"There is no interaction between us. I don't really know him like that. There is just a mutual respect and he feels my presence and I feel what he's doing."

Spence, who predicted Crawford would stop the unbeaten Horn, rated the performance as "good" and credited the poise of Crawford, who he believes hasn't lost any of the advantages he holds against opponents after moving up from 140 pounds, where Crawford unified all four recognized titles last year. 

According to Arum, a Crawford-Spence fight would require ESPN and Showtime to take part in a joint pay-per-view in order for it to work (similar to recent HBO-Showtime partnerships for Mayweather-Pacquiao and Anthony Joshua-Wladimir Klitschko). In order for that to work financially, however, the star power and respective brands of both fighters will first need to be grown.

Spence is confident he can get there but admits there appears to be more urgency on the side of Crawford.

"We have to keep winning and looking good and keep fighting the best competition out there," Spence said. "On Showtime, on my side of the street, I have guys like Garcia, Porter, Thurman, Vargas and more. I think the reason why Top Rank wants this fight so bad is because they don't really have anybody on that side of the street. Who is he going to fight besides probably Manny Pacquiao? 

"They are in a rush to make this fight happen. I have a lot of big names on my side that I'm willing to fight and I'm pretty sure they are willing to fight me too. It's going to get built up but it's definitely not going to happen right now."

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Brian Campbell covers MMA, boxing and WWE. The Connecticut native joined CBS Sports in 2017 and has covered combat sports since 2010. He has written and hosted various podcasts and digital shows for ESPN... Full Bio

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