Mexico is facing a shortage of star boxers as the career of Juan Manuel Marquez winds down. Here are 10 fighters from that country who could fill the void (in order of weight class):
Alfred Angulo (16-1, 13 KOs), unrated by THE RING at junior middleweight: The precise-punching pressure fighter showed grit by closing hard against veteran Kermit Cintron in his first loss earlier this year. He looked sharp dispatching Gabriel Rosado in two rounds on ESPN in his comeback bout last month and if he defeats Harry Joe Yorgey in the HBO-televised co-feature to Dawson-Johnson II in November, he’ll be back on track as a potential Mexican attraction. A rematch with Cintron, future slugfests with James Kirkland and Deandre Latimore and a possible showdown with deposed former welterweight titleholder Antonio Margarito can make Angulo a bona fide star — if he wins those bouts.
Antonio DeMarco (22-1-1, 16 KOs), THE RING’s No. 10-rated lightweight: The crafty and gutsy southpaw has skill and patience that belie his age (23). As the WBC’s No. 1 contender, DeMarco’s in line to face extremely dangerous puncher Edwin Valero, but he has the kind of patience and versatility to give the explosive Venezuelan a fight. An upset could instantly make him a name in both Mexico and the U.S., where he has fought on Showtime numerous times.
Humberto Soto (48-7-2, 31 KOs), THE RING’s No. 1-rated junior lightweight: The 29-year-old veteran titleholder has the aggressive style, physical tools and experience to be “the man” of the junior lightweight division, where fan-friendly challenges exist in the form of unbeaten titleholder Rocky Martinez and recently crowned beltholder Robert Guerrero. Victories over the Puerto Rican slugger and Mexican-American southpaw would earn him the loyalty of Mexican fans. But potential stardom probably exists at lightweight, where fights with the likes of Valero, Juan Diaz, Michael Katsidis and former champ Joel Casamayor can be made.
Daniel Ponce De Leon (37-2, 31), unrated by THE RING at featherweight: The former junior featherweight titleholder lacks skill but makes up for his technical shortcomings with brute strength, punching power and superb conditioning. After getting crushed in one round by Juan Manuel Lopez last year, the 29-year-old southpaw jumped to featherweight, where high-profile showdowns with pound-for-pound-rated countrymen Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez could be made. De Leon’s take-no-prisoners style could also make for fun challenges against less-charismatic but better-skilled countrymen Cristobal Cruz and Jorge Solis. His last fight, a 12-round decision over Roinet Caballero made him the mandatory challenger for superbly talented WBA beltholder Yuriokis Gamboa, a fight he probably can’t win but would turn into a barnburner given his punching power and the Cuban’s habit of getting clipped early.
Antonio Escalante (21-2, 13), THE RING’s No. 9-rated junior featherweight: The all-action banger has regained the momentum he lost by losing to Mauricio Pastrana in 2007 with consecutive victories over fringe contenders Mike Oliver, Gary Stark Jr. and Cornelius Lock. The 24-year-old left hooker-body banger has the style and fearless mentality that sells tickets in his adopted hometown of El Paso, Texas.
Fernando Montiel (38-2-1, 28 KOs), THE RING’s No. 10-rated bantamweight: The 30-year-old Los Mochis native is arguably the most naturally gifted active fighter from Mexico. His combination of skill, speed and savvy have made him a titleholder at flyweight and junior bantamweight. He’ll probably win a third title this weekend but what will finally earn him the recognition his superb talent merits is a high-profile victory over a worthy challenger. A long talked about fight with former flyweight titleholder Eric Morel is all but made for the Cotto-Pacquiao Pay-Per-View undercard. If Montiel beats Morel, it could set up a showdown with Nonito Donaire, which could make him a star if he wins.
Abner Mares (19-0, 12 KOs), THE RING’s No. 7-rated bantamweight: The 23-year-old 2004 Olympian has the most potential of any young fighter out of Mexico. The aggressive boxer-puncher, who has underrated defensive ability, exhibited title-winning form in his last bout — a sixth-round KO of Carlos Fulgencio — despite a recent layoff due to an eye injury. He will probably fight for the WBC title that excellent Japanese vet Hozumi Hasegawa is expected to vacate soon. However, future showdowns with JuanMa Lopez, Montiel and Donaire are what will make him a star.
Hugo Cazares (26-5-1, 19 KOs), THE RING’s No. 9-rated junior bantamweight: the 31-year-old former junior flyweight champ is a wild, switch-hitting puncher short on skill but long on athletic ability and guts. If Cazares beats former beltholder Nobuo Nashiro for the WBA title in Japan later this month, he can earn potential televised clashes with unified titlist Vic Darchinyan, Donaire or popular Mexican vet Jorge Arce that would garner the attention that eluded him at 108 pounds.
Giovanni Segura (21-1-1, 17 KOs), THE RING’s No. 3-rated junior flyweight: like De Leon and Cazares, the southpaw slugger isn’t the most refined boxer out there but he’s all heart and action once the bell rings, which is what Mexican fans demand from their fighters. Segura, the holder of the WBA belt, is lucky that he’s promoted by Top Rank, which also has 108-pound champ Ivan Calderon and IBF titleholder Brian Viloria under its banner. A fight with either Calderon or Viloria would put the 27-year-old puncher on the map.
Raul Garcia (27-0-1, 16 KOs), THE RING’s No. 2-ranked strawweight: The skilled 26-year-old southpaw is in boxing’s lightest and most-overlooked division but Mexican fans are aware of the 105-pound weight class thanks to former champ Ricardo Lopez‘s record-breaking reign there. Garcia is lucky that intriguing matchups exist with Filipino standouts, WBO titleholder Donnie Nietes and former foe Florante Condes, which could lead to a RING championship showdown with the magazine’s No. 1-rated strawweight Roman Gonzalez, the fabulous undefeated WBA titleholder from Nicaragua.
Doug Fischer can be reached at email@example.com