The junior middleweight division is filled with talented fighters, but there is hardly a consensus as to who is No. 1, although many view Erislandy Lara, the longest reigning of the titleholders, as the top dog.
There figures to be a good amount of evidence presented on who is No. 1, however, by the time a card featuring three world title fights in the division on Oct. 14 (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET) ends at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The card will see Lara, Jermell Charlo and Jarrett Hurd all defending their titles against quality opponents.
Lara (24-2-2, 14 KOs), making his sixth title defense, will face unbeaten 2012 U.S. Olympian Terrell Gausha (20-0, 9 KOs) in the main event; Charlo (29-0, 14 KOs), making his second defense, will face 2016 ESPN.com prospect of the year Erikson Lubin (18-0, 13 KOs); and Hurd (20-0, 14 KOs) will defend his 154-pound belt for the first time when he takes on former world titleholder Austin Trout (30-3, 17 KOs).
"I'm excited to be part of this huge card. This is a great event. These are the best guys in the division," Lara said through a translator on Wednesday as the fighters gathered at Barclays Center for the kickoff press conference, where there was a lot of discussion about the depth of the card and the search for No. 1 in the division.
Showtime views the card as the start of an unofficial tournament in which it hopes to find clarity in the division, although Miguel Cotto, who returned to the ring last week after nearly a two-year layoff to win a vacant title, and unbeaten secondary titlist Demetrius Andrade are not part of the party.
"We had the world's attention for an unprecedented event in [Floyd] Mayweather versus [Conor] McGregor. What this sport needs to do to continue to expand is to follow that up with high-quality boxing matchups," said Stephen Espinoza, the Showtime Sports boss. "That's why this card is so important. It was critical that we had a top-to-bottom high-quality card to capture those people who started paying attention to boxing on Aug. 26.
"This is a talent-rich division we've been showcasing for years. I've never had any doubts about boxing's future. Boxing is very healthy. All you have to do is look at these six fighters in their prime, taking on top competition. I know that this sport is in very good health."Stephen Espinoza, Showtime Sports president
"This is a talent-rich division we've been showcasing for years. I've never had any doubts about boxing's future. Boxing is very healthy. All you have to do is look at these six fighters in their prime, taking on top competition. I know that this sport is in very good health."
Lara, an ultra-slick Cuban southpaw, will meet an opponent in Gausha who will be facing his first top foe but comes in with a perfect record, hunger and a deep amateur pedigree.
"Gausha is a good fighter. He's an Olympian and a guy who wants to win and become world champion," Lara said. "I know what that feels like, but I also know what it takes. We'll see how it plays out. I'm excited for this fight. I've beat champions, former champions and now I'll add an Olympian. After I take care of business, I look forward to unifying the division."
Gausha might not have much pro experience against top foes, but he said he believes he's ready for such a tough assignment.
"I was extremely excited to get the call for this fight," he said. "I've been working for this my whole career, and it's a great opportunity. Lara is considered to be the best in the division, and I want to fight the best. Now is my time. I'll have to make adjustments in there. Obviously, with Lara you have to cut the ring off. We have a game plan that I'm going to go in there and execute.
"I'm fighting a tough competitor. He's crafty. We all know he has skills. But I've prepared for this and I'm going to do what I have to do. I like to do my talking in the ring and I'll leave it all on the line on fight night."
Charlo won a vacant title by eighth-round knockout of John Jackson in May 2016 and defended it by sixth-round knockout of mandatory challenger Charles Hatley in April. However, Lubin, just 21, has been hailed by many as the future of the division.
"I laugh at people who say this is too soon for me. Mike Tyson was (20) when he dared to be great. This is the perfect time for me to show that I'm not a regular 21-year-old. This is a stacked card we have here and I'm ready to showcase my talent. I want to prove I'm the best in this division."Erickson Lubin
"It's interesting to see a guy as young as [Lubin] is come for a world title," Charlo said. "I've been here a long time in the pro game. It's a big stage for both of us. I've fought a lot of tough guys up to this point. This is what I've been preparing for.
"I want to fight Jarrett Hurd after this. I'd also like to get an opportunity to unify against Miguel Cotto. I want to show the old guard that the Charlo twins [along with brother Jermall] are as good as anyone. I got my hands full with Erickson Lubin and I know he comes to fight. He's a dog, but I'm an animal as well. I'm going to step up and do what I've done each time before."
Some think the fight might be a bit too soon for young Lubin, but he is not one of them.
"This is going to put me back to where I belong. Right back on top. This is for my legacy, so this is of the utmost importance. It's an honor to be on a card like this. I'm blessed to be a part of this great lineup of fighters."Austin Trout
"This is the fight I asked for," he said. "I've been training for this since my last fight. I'm even more motivated now to go get the belt.
"I laugh at people who say this is too soon for me. Mike Tyson was  when he dared to be great. This is the perfect time for me to show that I'm not a regular 21-year-old. This is a stacked card we have here, and I'm ready to showcase my talent. I want to prove I'm the best in this division."
Hurd knocked out Tony Harrison in February to win a vacant world title, but Trout, who owns a clear win against Cotto, looms as easily his best pro opponent.
"I'm going to keep the pressure on him. I'm planning on attacking the body and making sure I cut off the ring. He's going to be on the move, so I have to be prepared," Hurd said. "My fans can expect a stoppage on Oct. 14. He's got three losses against great opponents [Jermall Charlo, Lara and Canelo Alvarez] but none have been able to stop him. I'm going to separate myself by being the first to do it."
Trout hasn't fought since dropping a decision to Charlo in a May 2016 title bout, but a win could put him back near the top of the division, and he knows it.
"This is going to put me back to where I belong. Right back on top," Trout said. "This is for my legacy, so this is of the utmost importance. It's an honor to be on a card like this. I'm blessed to be a part of this great lineup of fighters."
At one point during the news conference, Lou DiBella, who is the promoter of the card, looked around the dais at the assembled talent and was speechless for a moment. But then, as DiBella always does, he had something to say.
"If you're a boxing fan, this is going to be an amazing show," he said. "It's going to bring some clarity to the division with six talented guys matching off. What boxing needs is the best matchups. Boxing needs shows like this. This card is about finding out who will be the last man standing in the 154-pound division. It starts on Oct. 14 and it'll all go down on Showtime."